Howitzer: glory, decline and delight of the Spanish heavy hitter who reigned within the neighborhoods | Culture | EUROtoday

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A cigarette hanging from the nook of his mouth. One leg resting on the displays. Red vinyl stretch pants. The curly mane. The ecstatic face. Hanging from the neck, a bass within the form of an axe. The picture of Juan Luis Serrano on stage represented a great a part of what Obús was: perspective, cockiness, toughness. In 1980, Serrano based, along with guitarist Paco Laguna Obús, the banner of Spanish heavy steel. He was the lyricist of the quartet's nice songs, these sonic polaroids of life within the eighties in a neighborhood like Entrevías (Puente de Vallecas district, Madrid), the place you have been both heavy otherwise you died. The characters who inhabited these streets overwhelmed by unemployment, heroin, crime, police mistrust and a youth wanting to dwell within the current are the protagonists of themes comparable to The shell goes to blow up, Dose of heavy steel, Whoever else, We're going very effectively, Shut up…It's pointed heavy steel; easy and direct, honest and visceral. The group continues to carry out these songs dwell 4 a long time after their first album. These days, they’re additionally releasing a documentary that tells their story, Howitzer. 40 years by and for music, by Adrián García Cuadrado.

Juan Luis Serrano, 68 years previous, left Obús in 2004, “because he was fed up with lies,” he says from Horcajo de Santiago (Cuenca), the place he went to dwell exactly 20 years in the past, when he left the group. He speaks with issue since he has “a beautiful hole in his windpipe.” During the dialog he apologizes for not being exact along with his phrases. He takes just a few seconds, clears his throat, collects himself and returns to the assault. The story of Obús itself. Juan Luis was recognized with throat most cancers and underwent surgical procedure in 2009. With the logical issue in vocalizing, he continues to dwell his life and get on stage: just a few days in the past he performed with Guadaña and can quickly accompany Coz. He has three kids and one grandson. When issues went badly for Obús (and for all Spanish arduous rock), on the finish of the eighties, he recycled himself right into a transporter. First driving and later with a fleet of 4 autos. He has been his breadwinner for 33 years till he retired in 2020. What he earned with Obús beginning within the nineties was an additional. “Spanish heavy metal declined because it lost the connection with the street. Bands came that talked about flutists and knights, a topic that mattered little in the working-class neighborhoods,” he says.

Paco Laguna and Fortu Sánchez, the two classic members of Howitzers who continue, posing in Vallecas (Madrid), last Wednesday.
Paco Laguna and Fortu Sánchez, the 2 basic members of Obús who proceed, posing in Vallecas (Madrid), final Wednesday. Mario Bermudo

Serrano all the time had a left-wing political conscience, voting for the Communist Party of Spain and serving as a union consultant for Workers' Commissions in his workplace job within the late seventies. He talks concerning the lyrics he wrote for The one who most, the basic Obús, which says: “Whoever else, lifting a car. / The most, costing you. / The most, pulling a bag. / The most, outwitting the police.” “I was inspired by a boy who I met every day at a traffic light in Vallecas and who always wanted to sell me radio cassettes or a cheap Chinese one. In my lyrics he talked about the people he saw in the environment where he moved, the neighborhood,” he says. Those songs nonetheless sound at the moment because of the tenacity and unbreakable enthusiasm of Fortu Sánchez (70 years previous, voice) and Paco Laguna (67, guitar), the one two remaining members of the basic group in Obús. Serrano left in 2004 and Fernando Sánchez, the drummer, in 2010.

Fortu and Paco meet EL PAÍS in Vallecas, the place the band was fashioned. Laguna remembers pictures from the early eighties within the Madrid suburbs: “Heroin was everywhere. Many people fell. But not only in Entrevías, in many peripheral neighborhoods. I remember being rehearsing and kids coming to see us. At one point they sat leaning against the wall and began to poke each other and exchange syringes. There was no information and AIDS was at the doors. We didn't fall because those scenes with the syringes made us sick and afraid.” One night time, his personal colleagues entered the rehearsal room and stole guitars, amplifiers, microphones… “to pay for their kicks. We had to go to rehearse in other places, outside the neighborhood,” says Laguna.

What Obús meant in these early 80s in Spanish music is defined by phone by Fernando Galicia, writer of Stainless. Formation, crystallization and development of heavy steel in Spain 1978-1985: “Obús brought to Spanish heavy metal the leather and studs aesthetic that Judas Priest had already popularized in England. That image, together with a defiant attitude, made them the prototype of a thug group, arousing suspicion in certain social and cultural circles. In front of the colorful and cosmopolitan new wavefrom Vallecas Obús they positioned themselves as references for the youth of the Madrid suburbs, of the humble neighborhoods, managing to generate a feeling of belonging in which many kids saw themselves reflected.”

Tino Casal (second from the left) in the studio with Obús (seated opposite) producing the group's first album, in 1981.
Tino Casal (second from the left) in the studio with Obús (seated opposite) producing the group's first album, in 1981.

The quartet was bold in these early years when it interacted with Tino Casal, a modern at the antipodes of the neighborhood colleague. Fortu: “Almost no one knew Tino Casal at that time. When we saw him we were amazed. He captivated us and taught us a lot. He was a great producer, a great arranger… I spent hours with him. He helped me a lot with my voice.” Casal was accountable for the sound of the primary two Obús albums, creating the brand that they nonetheless show and dressing them. Paco: “He had a lot of clothes because he went to London frequently. We opened his closet and took what fit our mood. He also designed things that we loved.”

The success of Obús was immediate. Four months after publishing his first album, Get ready (1981), they filled the capital's heavy venue, the Real Madrid Sports Pavilion (5,000 people). They caught the good wave of hard rock, when young people devoured the music of international bands like Judas Priest, AC/DC, Saxon, Motörhead, Iron Maiden… They sounded just as dizzying, but they spoke to the kids in their slang. “They used direct language, without mincing words and with colloquial expressions that placed it in an eminently plain and popular framework,” says Galicia. Their first job was the one that paved the way for them, and the third, The one who most (1983), the most complete. They spent money on pyrotechnic stage sets: skulls covering the amplifiers, bombs, fire, cannons… Their concerts were powerful and fun with a dominating vocalist at the front. The rivalry with the other great Spanish hard rock band, Barón Rojo, became unpleasant. In the documentary, the manager of the first years of Obús, Darío McBrian, affirms that Barón Rojo vetoed the Vallecanos in several festivals: either them or us. Fortu affirms today: “If Darío says it, it means that this veto is true.” “Lately things have changed and last year we shared the bill with Barón Rojo without problems,” Paco says.

At the end of the eighties the decline came and the group broke up in the early nineties. “Our lyrics were important for the generation of the eighties, but in the nineties they no longer reached as much. Furthermore, the grunge and Nirvana swept hard rock,” assumes the guitarist. In the nineties, Obús's proletarian message deflated. Spain opens up to the world, the Barcelona Olympic Games arrive, the Seville Expo… Life is good. Urban speculation is flowing. The public wants colors, not guys dressed in black who sing to them about the miseries of a decade ago.

Fortu joined Saratoga and Juan Luis and Fernando set up Venganza. But they had to leave in search of other jobs. The singer focused on the hospitality industry, setting up and dismantling restaurants and pubs; Paco found employment in an advertising agency; Juan Luis as a transporter… “Yes, we generated money to buy a house and a sports car, but before we didn't earn what we did decades later. One year passes, another; You have a family, you don't get in… We had to look for other jobs,” explains Fortu. At the end of the nineties the four original members felt strong enough to return. In 2000 they recorded From the bottom of the abyss, a modern sounding album, which some place among the best of their career. They didn't have the audience of the eighties, but they were plugged in again.

Fortu Sanchez, Juan Luis Serrano and Paco Laguna.  Howitzer performing in 1981 at the festivities of San Isidro in Madrid.
Fortu Sánchez, Juan Luis Serrano and Paco Laguna. Howitzer performing in 1981 at the San Isidro festivities in Madrid. RING FERNANDEZ.

However, a short time later tensions shook the atmosphere. Juan Luis: “It was 2004 and the company called us to agree on the editorial rights. When I read the contract, it was signed by people from the company and Fortu. The most logical thing is that the four of us were there howitzer in that contract. It seemed like a stab in the back and I left.” Fortu denies this version and points out that Juan Luis left them stranded in the middle of a tour. The drummer, Fernando, was in 2010. This is what he argues in the documentary: “I had a back problem, I had surgery and during my convalescence the reaction of my colleagues was not what I expected.” In 2012, Fortu captured the media spotlight more than in his entire career as the vocalist of Obús. He went to defend his daughter on the reality show Big Brother and the organizers saw a vein in it. The following years he participated in Survivors, Look who's jumping!, Your face sounds familiar, Big Brother Duo… “I did it to give visibility to the group, for money and because I like challenges. I think it wasn't detrimental to the group; On the contrary, there were many people who told me: 'Come on, I didn't know you had a rock group.' “He gave us a lot of promotion,” says the singer.

Will a reunion of the four classic Howitzers emerge? Paco and Fortu affirm that Fernando “is a gentleman” and that they have suggested that he play in a concert on the Obús tour; They trust that it is possible. They have also proposed it to Juan Luis, but the bassist and lyricist does not want to. “I told them no because of my convictions and my way of being. But put in the report, please, that for me Fernando, Fortu and Paco are the best musicians that Vallecas has produced. “We can each have our vibes, but for me they are the most.”

Accompanied by two other musicians (drummer Carlos Mirat and bassist Luisma Hernández), Paco and Fortu proudly continue forward. This week they published Until the last station, preview song from a new album, and they continue touring. “We add about 40 concerts per year and that allows us to live off the group without having another job. But the months when we don't have a concert we spend it financially regular,” says Paco, who lives on the outskirts of Madrid. Fortu moved to Almería with his partner. “I always wanted to live in the Mediterranean. But I'm worried. I recently got into a mortgage on a house and I don't know how long my health will last. Because I have to continue playing, the minimum retirement awaits me.” And he states: “We have to continue with our heads held high and looking ahead, always. What we did is important, but we must continue breaking stones every day.”

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