Early Days and first issue
The Thugs' story begins in France, in Angers with two brothers, Eric and Christophe Sourice. The Sourice brothers were teenagers in 1977 and were influenced by the English punk wave that had swept through France. Without knowing how to play any instruments, the band adopted a "Do it yourself" style towards the musical movement. The band was founded in 1979 as a group called IVG. They then played in the group Dazibao, then in Stress, with Gérald Chabaud, Thierry Méanard and a fifth member (Philippe Brix) as singer.
In April 1983, following the departure of the lead singer, Les Thugs officially formed. The band's name refers to the historical brotherhood of the Thuggee, a following of the goddess Kali and not directly to the related English loan word thug. Eric then became the lead singer, the band quickly created its own repertoire and performed its first concerts in bars in Angers and surrounding towns. In July 1984, during a concert in Juvisy, near Paris, Les Thugs met the very young independent label Gougnaf Mouvement with whom they decided to release a 45 rpm. Frenetic Dancing, the group's first record, released in January 1985 at Gougnaf Mouvement. This 45 rpm includes two tracks Night Dance and Femme Fatale. Both were recorded in a basement in Juvisy with an 8 track tape recorder. The success of the record was well beyond the expectations of the group: the single, although limited, was internationally distributed and sold more than 3000 copies. Specialized fanzines reception was good; the group got reviews in maximumrocknroll in the United States and in Sounds in England. One hundred copies were sold in Vinyl Solution, a shop and a label in London run by two French expatriates in England. Greg Shaw, protagonist of the underground scene in California, put the track Femme Fatale in the United States on the compilation Battle of garage of Bomp! Records.
It was then the time for Les Thugs to record their first mini album. Many labels proposals arrived (New Rose records in France or Midnight in United States ...). Finally, the band chose Closer, a French independent label more important than Gougnaf Mouvement. Radical Hystery released in 1986 and sales were honorable with 3000 copies sold in France and 2000 abroad.
In 1987, the Thugs left Closer to join the English label Vinyl Solution. The seven titles of the mini album Electric Troubles was recorded in London in July. On November 8, during their first tour of England, they participated in Peel Sessions by John Peel on BBC Radio 1.
The year 1988 was occupied mostly by endless tours throughout Europe. In June Gerald, bassist, left the band and was replaced by Pierre-Yves Sourice, little brother of Eric and Christophe Sourice and roadie of the group. At the start out the maxi 4 tracks Dirty White Race in Europe, and on 11 October, the French quartet played in Berlin at Independence days festival, their performance will allow the group to get noticed by the American label Sub Pop. Later, Jonathan Poneman, founder of the label recall
"I remember back in 1988, Bruce Pavitt and I scammed a trip to Berlin with Mudhoney, who were scheduled to play the then state-funded, now defunct Berlin Independence Days music festival. As an unofficial representative of the insurgent American Rock Underground I was pleased to note that most of the European bands that were playing this extravaganza were godawful. Wondering just how horrible it could get, I decided to go check out a French rock band for laffs. Maybe they would play some Mink DeVille covers. The band was Les Thugs and they effortlessly blew my shit away."
This meeting will result by the signing of the group with the Seattle label that will distribute the band's catalog in North America. During the 1989 summer, the group performed a two-month tour in North America with precarious conditions. They played in Seattle with PIL then toured with Blood Circus in the USA then with SNFU in Canada, and with Tad in Washington. This experience allows them to cross paths with Jello Biafra.
In the fall 1989 they released in Europe their first album Still Angry, Still Hungry. This album has been recorded in May in Wales by Iain Burgess (Big Black) and then mixed in Chicago. Les Thugs toured in England with Mega City Four, and performed many dates in France, supporting Noir Désir at the Olympia in Paris. Still Hungry, Still Angry will be available by Sub Pop in North America in 1993 under the title of Still Angry.
A wider success
In 1991, in the midst of the Gulf War, the song Stop the War and the album IABF are issued in the US, by Alternative Tentacles, the Jello Biafra’s label. Recorded in England, IABF (International Anti-Boredom Front) contains one of the best known tune of the group: I Love You So. A new European tour accompanied the album's release in spring 1991, followed by a US tour of 33 dates in autumn. During this, the band recorded at Smart Studios in Madison with Butch Vig (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Garbage ...) the Dead Kennedys’ cover : Moon Over Marin. Indeed, for the 10 years of Alternative Tentacles, for the hundredth issues of the Californian label, the Thugs were invited by Jello Biafra to participate to a tribute album to the Dead Kennedys: Virus 100, alongside Faith No More, Sepultura or L7 ...
In 1993, the Thugs recorded in Seattle with Kurt Bloch (Mudhoney, Tad) the album As Happy as possible, this album will be their best commercial success with 40,000 copies sold worldwide, including 15,000 in USA, and as in France.
On February 19, 1994, the Thugs performed the first part of Nirvana during their concert in Neuchâtel in Switzerland, it is one of the last Nirvana concert before Kurt Cobain death. In May, the Thugs tourned in major French theaters (Le Zenith de Paris...) opening for The Breeders.
In 1996, Sub Pop produced the album Strike, recorded by Steve Albini. In May the group performed its last US tour opening for Therapy? and Girls Against Boys. Despite a good critical reception, the commercial impact of Strike is going down compared to the previous album, the band emerged disappointed by the collaboration with Steve Albini. The wish of the group is to compose and record as soon as possible a new album.
Decline and separation
In 1997, the waltz of the labels continued, the Thugs themselves producing Nineteen Something, licensed by Virgin in France, and Sub Pop for the United States. This album was recorded in Angers with Kurt Bloch once again. The album showed the band moving towards a more melodic style of rock than the previous albums. For the first time, they sang in French on the track “Les lendemains qui chantent”. A tour of sixty dates in France and Switzerland followed the release of the album. It launched with a volunteer gig at the Stadium of Vitrolles with Noir Désir in support of the association “Le sous-marin”, private of grants by the National Front municipality. Despite again having a good critical reception and a good start in the American College Radio Charts, sales of Nineteen Something did not exceed 10,000 copies.
For reasons of internal dissension, drummer Christophe Sourice decided to stop his participation in the band. Before ending their careers, Les Thugs recorded their latest album titled Tout doit disparaître, produced by Christophe Sourice himself. This album was released only on the French market in 1999. They performed their last tour with twenty dates in France. Les Thugs, who have played more than 700 concerts in their careers, performed their farewell show at La Roche-sur-Yon in December 1999.
- Femme Fatale demo – 1984
- Les Thugs demo – 1984
- Never Get Older With Les Thugs demo – 1988
- Frenetic Dancing – Gougnaf Mouvement, 1984
- Something's Gone Wrong Again – (Included with the Fanzine Rock Hardi) 1988
- Chess & Crimes / Sunday Time – Sub Pop, 1989
- As Happy As Possible – Sub Pop, 1993
- K.E.X.P. SESSION 10-07-2008, live radio, Seattle - Slow Death, 2011
- Birds Of Ill Omen / Motörhead - Pitshark Records, 2011
- Radical Hystery – 1986
- Electric Troubles – Vinyl Solution, 1987
- Dirty White Race – 1988
- Still Angry Still Hungry – 1989
- I.A.B.F. – Alternative Tentacles, 1991
- As Happy As Possible – Sub Pop, 1993
- Strike – Sub Pop, 1996
- Nineteen Something – Sub Pop, 1998
- Tout Doit Disparaître – Labels, 1999
- Les Héros Du Peuple Sont Immortels – 1985
- Raw Cuts Vol. 1 Garage French – 1985
- Ultraviolette 2 demo – 1985
- Battle Of The Garage Vol. 4 Tomorrow The World – 1986
- Eyes On You – 1987
- Alternative Tentacles Virus 100 – 1992
- SP 20 Casual Nostalgia Fest – 2010
This review is mainly a translation of the French article : Les Thugs (fr)