Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Posted by xCHIPxSEM |
Again, coming through like a champ, xYosefx sent me an interview he conducted with Brian D. of Catharsis/Requiem/Inside Front zine fame. This one again did not get placed into a zine like it should have been but here it is in all its glory. Huge thanks again to xYosefx for helping us out yet again.


Interview with Brian D. (Catharsis/Requiem/Inside Front zine)
conducted in the backyard of the Cedar St. house in Santa Cruz, spring 2005

xYosefx : How long have you been involved in hardcore and punk ?

Brian D. : I guess I went to my first punk show in 1989. I’m a late bloomer, though. I was 15 then. Some people get into it when they’re 10 or 12. And I didn’t really see any DIY bands. The first bands I saw were high school bands from my scene but we didn’t know that we were DIY exactly. I think that was important for me that the first bands that I saw were bands from my circle of friends - not my immediate circle of friends but the kids a year older that maybe left the right kind of impression of what punk was.

xYosefx : What was the first band or first show or first album that got you really into hardcore/punk, that made it more than just a style of music to you ?

Brian D. : It’s hard to remember. JUDGE was important to me but before that I listened to THE EXPLOITED a lot. I don’t think anything was ever just a style of music for me just because I’m such a dramatic person. I’m always interested in things that seem to have a storyline to them. Even in THE EXPLOITED, because there definitely seems to be a different storyline to their music than there was for the suburban waste I was living in. I was a teenager and when I first got into things I had long hair and eventually a mohawk. I was considering myself straight-edge the whole time and then eventually started listening to more hardcore stuff when YOUTH OF TODAY was the main straight-edge band that was around. I thought they sucked. I was listening to AGNOSTIC FRONT and not them - and then JUDGE came out and I was more interested.

xYosefx : What year did you start INSIDE FRONT ?

Brian D. : ’94 - the very beginning of ’94.

xYosefx : What inspired you to do that ? Were there other zines you found inspiring, or did you just feel a need that wasn’t being met in your community ?

Brian D. : I didn’t really have any perspective or any sense of what I was doing. I had just moved to Los Angeles and was working three jobs there, minimum wage jobs to pay the rent. I wasn’t really part of the hardcore community there, which in retrospect probably wasn’t such a bad thing. I didn’t really have that much perspective on what a zine was, either. What happened, really, was that I got the idea that there was such thing as a zine and I quit one of my three jobs and with the little bit of time that was freed up I found myself naturally doing the same thing, which happened to be a zine. And if you had seen any of the early issues of INSIDE FRONT, it was one of the worst zines that has ever been done. I like to think of a slow evolution of INSIDE FRONT, from the awful thing that was in the beginning to the mediocre thing it was in the middle to the pretty good thing it was in the end.

xYosefx : The best hardcore zine ever, some would say.

Brian D. : Some. People say all sorts of crazy shit. I’d like to think that’s a testament to the way that just learning by doing can help anybody figure out how to do something well.

xYosefx : What year did CATHARSIS start playing ? Was CATHARSIS your first band ? Were you involved in any bands before that ?

Brian D. : Alexei and I were in two bands before that, starting in ’89. We were in two high school punk bands. We always had the idea that we would have another band together which we finally cashed in - in the summer of ’94 we started practicing with CATHARSIS.

xYosefx : When you started CATHARSIS, what was your intent ? Was it just to have a band, or did you already by that point have a message that you wanted to share with the world ?

Brian D. : I don’t know. I mean, at that point in my life, I think I was sort of conservative still in some ways. I went through a punk rock teenage period and then went through a reactionary period around 18 or 19. It wasn’t really entirely finished when I was 20. I wouldn’t describe myself at 20 as the smartest person. I think CATHARSIS was just an effort to express myself. We had a message of sorts, but I think that the message started out just being about individual toughness and individual freedom in the way that a lot of the hardcore scene is. And the difference would be that over time, it became clear to me that if I really wanted my freedom I was going to have to drop out of all of this bullshit. Just the experience of quitting one of my jobs and starting INSIDE FRONT sort of pointed in that direction. I got this crazy idea that if I’m going to be free I’m not going to have to be working for these people. I wasn’t influenced by other people. I wasn’t around a dropout community at the time. I just came to the idea on my own. And eventually it became clear that if I was going to make my life my own that I would have to do that with other people. The people that I called hippies who served Food Not Bombs were my friends if anybody was. And the other tough hardcore kids, who were trying to prove how self-sufficient they were while totally giving up their lives because they wouldn’t collectively solve the problem of their own freedom, were not my friends.

xYosefx : When you started CATHARSIS it seems like one of the obvious influences was INTEGRITY, both in the music and also in the “evil” lyrics, the whole “holy terror” hardcore style. What were the other bands inspiring you at the time ?

Brian D. : That’s a good question. BLOODLET was a really good band for the first few years of their existence. And MAYDAY is one of the contemporaries of that band and INTEGRITY that has been largely forgotten. Another band that was in that vein in those days was LASH OUT from Norway. They had a split with CONTENTION that was really good. I was lucky that I did a hardcore zine so I got to be exposed to a lot of interesting stuff. Especially stuff from other countries.

xYosefx : When I look through the review section of INSIDE FRONT and I compare it to any other zine from the time, especially other American zines, you were not only reviewing far more material, but more in depth, and a much wider variety of hardcore/punk from all different countries.

Brian D. : It was whatever people sent in. I got exposed to the Swedish stuff coming out of Umea when it was just starting. That stuff came in for review and I’d correspond with those people. This great band that no one in the States knows about, KRITICKA SITUACE. Some Czech kids sent in that Lp in trade for something. When it came out it was an amazing record, and still today nobody knows them in the Usa.

xYosefx : When you started CATHARSIS, did you know Dwid personally ?

Brian D. : I was corresponding with him and talking to him on the phone.

xYosefx : You and Dwid were pretty close friends for a while.

Brian D. : It’s been a while since I’ve thought about this, but yeah, we’ve kept up with each other some. The artwork that he had done, the music, the lyrics on "In contrast of sin" had been really important to me. It’s been many years now, maybe nine years since I’ve last been in touch with him. That would be the most recent. But at the time, it was important to me that he was a unique person. Maybe not a person with particularly good social skills, but a person who wasn’t on the life path everybody else was on. And I was definitely looking for evidence that other life paths were possible.

xYosefx : You live in a way that’s pretty alien to the mainstream of American culture. Would you say he was one of the folks that influenced the direction that your life has taken ?

Brian D. : One of many. I mean, I was definitely inspired by my friends in GEHENNA, the whole small-time crime kind of lifestyle. We sort of found the same stuff independently but it was exciting to know that was what they were doing. For that matter when I grew up I was in the same part of the country with Al Burian who does BURN COLLECTOR zine now and was in MILEMARKER. I met him when he was touring with his old band HELLBENDER. I remember having some sort of conversation with him where I was like, “you - you don’t have any work - you’re just on tour ?” He was like “well, sort of, yeah.” Then I was like “okay, there are people who don’t have jobs. I’m not going to have a job”. And years later he was telling me “no, I worked at coffee shops that whole time. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I think a lot of that is sort of indicative of the way that people will project onto others the things that they need to believe are possible in order to make the life choices they need to get to where they’re going. And I’m sure that people have done that now with myself with the circle of friends that I’m involved in.

xYosefx : Absolutely. There are a lot of people right now who’s first exposure to any radical ideas is through CRIMETHINC., whether it be through the music, or through books like "Days of War, Nights of Love" or "Evasion", or zines like HARBINGER, HUNTER/GATHERER or even INSIDE FRONT. You have definitely had a larger impact on the anarchist scene in that sense than anybody else around today.

Brian D. : I don’t know about the largeness of the impact. It’s definitely not like we’re trying to beat other anarchists to the punch to seduce the youth or whatever. I feel like the points of entry into an anarchist community or way of thinking or sort of life trajectory have to be accessible for people.

xYosefx : You were talking about Mike Cheese and GEHENNA earlier. When you say the small-time crime lifestyle they led, I assume you’re referring to things like shoplifting, scams...

Brian D. : Scams and other kinds of stuff like that. For instance, we all had these phone dialers that we talked to each other on. Just daily small illegal acts. Reappropriate the means of survival.

xYosefx : Are you still in contact with Mike Cheese ?

Brian D. : I still talk to him. I last talked to him when I was in Olympia, it was late 2002. He was living down in Southern California, but I hear he’s moved to Reno. I don’t know. He had to make a bunch of changes in his lifestyle because of the court case he was involved in. And so now I think he works a lot and has property of his own. He’s gone down sort of a different path, a different set of life choices then I have but at the same time I like him. I think he’s a good guy and he’s my friend regardless of whether we see each other or not, even if I do see interviews in which he talks shit about me or whatever.

xYosefx : Did CATHARSIS and GEHENNA do a lot of touring together or was it just the one European tour ?

Brian D. : We were supposed to tour the whole US, but Mike spent most of that time underground and then the band was broken up anyway. We played two shows together. The specter of GEHENNA played more shows with us than GEHENNA did themselves. And we did half of a tour in Europe but we had to part ways and they went home early because they were causing just so much trouble.

xYosefx : They destroyed the rental van, right ?

Brian D. : Well, they cut the seatbelts out of it and knocked the rear view mirror off it. That wasn’t the main problem, though. Unfortunately that van broke down anyway. We had to get it replaced in a country foreign to the one where we picked it up. So, we never had to pay the piper for the damage they’d done to it.

xYosefx : Speaking of Europe, you were talking about your early exposure to the Umea scene, bands that definitely became pretty big for a time here in the States and in Europe, with REFUSED most obviously but also bands like DOUGHNUTS, ABHINANDA, PURUSAM, SHIELD and SAIDIWAS. So, your first exposure to that back in the ’90s was through doing INSIDE FRONT ?

Brian D. : Yeah, ’94. I thought REFUSED sucked actually until I saw them play in 1998 on my birthday. I thought they were just this not very good band that obviously was popular where they were from. I guess when "Songs to fan the flames of discontent" came out I thought that was better than their stuff before, but then I saw them live and I was just in tears for four hours. The funny story about them is that I liked FINAL EXIT. So I was corresponding with this guy, Dave Exit, we talked shit about REFUSED together in our correspondence and he was like “yeah, they’re softies”. And I’m writing back that I don’t like them very much either. And the last letter we exchanged just before I went to Europe - the tour in which I saw them - he signed off his letter : “P.S. : There is just one secret which I absolutely refuse to tell you” and I figured it out. It was really funny.

xYosefx : FINAL EXIT was mostly members of REFUSED.

Brian D. : Yeah, mostly.

xYosefx : CATHARSIS played on REFUSED’s last tour when they broke up in the States, right ?

Brian D. : Yeah, we played with them in North Carolina, the third show from the end. They were amazing. I had just been in Sweden and I saw one of those kids, their guitarist Chris, who is a wonderful guy. I guess that band was just one of those intersections of different energies that makes something exciting enough that people are still talking about it now even when everyone is trying to get on with their lives, which can be difficult. Those legacies can be difficult, too, to have behind you. Chris, in fact, wants to be a filmmaker and he’s been working on that since the band broke up, but the first movie he’s made is a documentary about them.

xYosefx : CATHARSIS also played with HIS HERO IS GONE’s last show, right ?

Brian D. : Yeah, we played that, too. No, I think we played their second to last show. We played the show at which they decided to break up. I was waiting to hang out with Yannick and he and Todd are like “hold on, we need to take a walk.” And then they were like, “yeah, we’re breaking up”. Fuck. I had just gotten the news of a friend’s death the day before (Dan, the guitarist in CATHARSIS in 1997) so that was a pretty intense night for many people, I think. My lover over the last eleven years off and on was at that show and we weren’t talking at the time and I remember Moe from ZEGOTA was there sleeping in his truck and everything in his life was fucked up. The whole room was just really distraught.

xYosefx : It seems like there was a definite transition in the views you put across in the early issues compared to the later issues of INSIDE FRONTt. Earlier on there were a lot of stereotypical hardcore ideas about what you might call “scene unity.” In issue number four you wrote :
"Hardcore will not survive segregation. If we all only support bands we agree with politically 100% (and haven’t heard any bullshit rumors about), the scene will become so divided that the individual parts will shrink away into nothing. Then there will be no forum in which to make statements in the first place. Go see a band, even if you’ve heard some bad shit about them... Get in a fucking brawl with them, whatever, just be there so shit will be able to continue. You know what they say : divide and conquer, subdivide. You’ve been warned - so Don’t Fuck It Up.
A number of years later it seems you went from being, in a lot of ways, a fairly typical straight edge hardcore kid to being an outspoken anarchist and much more involved in the more political hardcore/punk scene. I’ve been reading your old stuff and you almost come across as the kind of straight edge kid you’d want to avoid.

Brian D. : Yeah, I’d say so. It was really important to me to be self-sufficient, which in retrospect I wasn’t at all. Just to be self-sustaining. And anybody who wasn’t interested in being tough was anathema as far as I was concerned. I think a lot of people go through that transition that you were talking about - the difference is that they don’t go through it so publicly. And maybe not so late in life either. There’s something interesting about going through that transition in a public way and trying to stay connected to the community that you were involved in before. It opens up spaces for other people to make that same movement with you if they’re interested, if the forces that you’re responding to are also acting on them, if the desires that you are pursuing are actually desires they have too. Fuck being part of the little anarchist ghetto. People who are just getting interested in anarchism but are also connected to a community that isn’t explicitly anarchist or doesn’t have any good power dynamics in it at all like can be really positive as far as getting other people involved. They understand the reasoning and the rationale and the way of thinking and the value system of the people round them. What they’re doing makes sense - they’re doing it for a reason. It might not be the best thing that they’re doing but it doesn’t come out of nowhere either.

xYosefx : I’m presuming at one point you would have been a guy who wore Xs on your hands

Brian D. : I never wore Xs on my hands. Although I’ve been straight edge the whole time.

xYosefx : That’s pretty surprising for somebody who listens to JUDGE. Anyway, you were definitely involved in the straight edge hardcore scene, right ?

Brian D. : There was never really a straight edge hardcore scene that I was actually a part of in the sense that I got to be part of the crew or whatever. I lived in North Carolina where there wasn’t very much of anything. Then I lived in Southern California where I wasn’t connected to anything. I think that might have been important to developing my own critical thinking or to have to come up with a lot of ideas on my own. But the first ideas I came up with were really dumb ideas.

xYosefx : They were your own ideas, though. You don’t see many people involved in crews coming up with their own ideas. There’s a lot of social pressures there that you don’t face when you’re more on your own.

Brian D. : Yeah, that might be a vantage point where we definitely can’t see in. The important thing for me is finding common causes with people that actually establish anti-authoritarian dynamics. Groups that are involved with the sort of crew mentality don’t lend themselves to that, but I’m certainly not interested in all that stuff just to think of myself as better than other people. I want to figure out how to actually establish good relationships.

xYosefx : You’re still claiming straight edge, have claimed straight edge since 1989 and have been sober your whole life. So how has your perspective on straight edge has changed to you over those years ?

Brian D. : I don’t know if it was ever the center of gravity for me exactly. I mean that whole “I’m straight edge, I’m clear thinking, I’m alert and in control of my life, la la la”, that’s just become less the center of gravity for me, although to this day as we develop the anarchist community in the town that I live in, we still put conscious effort into creating sober fun environments for people to be together. It’s still an issue - the kinds of intoxication people choose. You can definitely make the argument that it’s more difficult to work things out in a voluntary communication-based basis when some people are not operating at their full mental capacity, which I think is a fair description of people who are drunk or high. But for me, the essence of it now is just that I don’t drink coffee so I won’t need coffee in the morning when I wake up in the mornings - so I can just wake up on my own, although I was a bit late this morning. Likewise, I don’t want to have to depend on some kind of other drug to get through my day - that’s such a North American capitalist mentality, to need to take a pill to get to wherever you’re going.

xYosefx : So to follow up the straight edge question, how long have you been vegan for ?

Brian D. : Just since ’99. Back in the mid-nineties, I was freegan before anyone else was freegan and that went along with my whole “I’m going to quit my job and nobody else around me has done that, so I have to make it my own ways of doing things” attitude. I guess I first heard the word freegan from Al Burian in some zine he wrote. And that just seemed to make a lot more sense to me at the time. I would talk to all my vegan friends, like, “you all are buying things. I can’t buy things.” To this day there are these vegan folks who say, “let’s go to this vegan cafĂ©,” and they’ve got you, you’re a consumer. Just like The Simpsons gets people to watch TV. I was a really late bloomer. All my friends were vegan before I was and I was giving them trouble about it. I noticed I was sort of being defensive myself. I finally realized, “I tell everybody I’m not vegan because I can’t be vegan because I can’t be while eating out of the trash. Maybe I better test that to see if it’s true.” And I tested it and it wasn’t true. I don’t think that it’s right or wrong to buy food necessarily. For the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, it’s a practical impossibility. I talk about this with some of my friends and they feel like they need to eat whatever they dumpster in this sort of exotic attempt to metabolize the sins of this society out of existence in this society. Some stuff is just trash. Donuts - they’re trash from the moment they’re produced. It’s tragic that they’re produced. They’re not good for our bodies, there’s no sense in us eating them. You can get just as much pleasure from an orange or something. Maybe I’m being moralistic.

xYosefx : [laughter] I get a lot of pleasure out of vegan ice cream, and it serves no function other than to give me the pleasure of eating vegan ice cream.

Brian D. : We had vegan ice cream last night, but as a way of life I’d rather be eating oranges.

xYosefx : Absolutely, but you still had root beer floats with us. I don’t think there’s much arguing with the idea that it’s a very good thing to be eating fresh fruits and vegetables, I mean, unless you’re an idiot. So you’ve been vegan for six years now ?

Brian D. : Yeah, I guess that’s a fairly long time now, but it doesn’t seem like it because I was one of the last people in my generation to go vegan, and all those kids aren’t vegan anymore.

xYosefx : That’s where I was leading with the question. Most of the folks you knew who used to be vegan aren’t. It seems like there’s definitely been a trend among most of the Hardline bands and the vegan straight edge bands of the ’90s, the militant people talking about these issues, to give up on them. Very, very, very few of those people are still vegan, which would lead me to look at why most of those people went vegan to begin with, whether it was genuinely out of compassion or whether it was out of this sense of toughness, to gain scene points, like being vegan was the thing you were supposed to do.

Brian D. : Probably a mixture of both. Trying to get to a position of righteousness is really important for people who are trying to be rebellious and establish themselves as something different in this society, and veganism offered people the opportunity to take a righteous stance, which is a really hard thing to resist when you come from a society that puts so much emphasis on being right and being able to judge others. Maybe it’s okay those folks aren’t vegan now, maybe we can have other folks who would offer a different example of why one would be vegan. Also, I don’t want to say about those people that their veganism was totally meaningless. I’m sure it was based on good things as well as bad things. It’s not good that they’re buying beef now, I’m not thrilled that that happened. It’s too bad.

xYosefx : I don’t doubt that pretty much everyone who goes vegan, even if a lot of it is for what I might think of as the wrong reasons, I don’t doubt that all of them to a greater or lesser degree are coming from a place of compassion. I don’t doubt people’s sincerity when they see the horrors of animal suffering, that that really moves them. But people do change, and I think when part of your reasoning is something like wanting to be seen as righteous, wanting to be seen as this tough militant, those kind of postures tend to fade with time for most people and the compassion can fade with it. It can be pretty easy when you have a lot of yourself tied up in this identity, this image in your head of the vegan straight edge warrior with Xs on his hands going out and killing the vivisectors and the hunters for the sake of the poor innocent animals.

Brian D. : As far as the killing hunters and hunting vivisectors and so on, I think it’s really important not to talk more than you can do, because eventually people do get demoralized. They’re like, “It’s been really empowering and exciting for me for the last year and a half to talk about how we’re going to kill all the meat eaters or whatever, but we haven’t killed anybody. What the fuck is going on here ?” Eventually that kind of grandiose rhetoric., that isn’t coupled with effective action, of course people get cynical and jaded. I think it’s really important to talk about the things we can do. That was my criticism of EARTH CRISIS from the very beginning, even before I was vegan, even before I had any kind of perspective on anything, I was just like, “These motherfuckers are totally fake. They’re not lining anybody in their sights. They’re singing adolescent fantasies of revenge.” I think that still being a revolutionary anarchist in a band who talks a lot of shit at this point, it’s really important to me to be as ready to go as I am ready to talk.

xYosefx : So continuing in the same vein, you were around in the hardcore scene when Hardline first started in the late ’80s and early ’90s. When did you first become aware of Hardline ?

Brian D. : Probably around ’93 or ’94.

xYosefx : So around the time EARTH CRISIS and the whole vegan straight edge thing started getting really big. What were your first impressions of that whole scene ?

Brian D. : I wasn’t even vegetarian at the time, and I was just coming to liberation struggles from a totally different, much more selfish direction, so of course my perspective is skewed by that, but from the moment that it came out I was not into it. I guess I was a really self righteous person and it seemed like a competing brand of self righteousness. In retrospect I don’t think my criticisms of it were wrong. Making the center of gravity the suffering of innocents who have to be protected is a very patriarchal approach to things, and it gives you the right to feel justified doing anything. It’s an approach often used by fascism of various stripes, like the KKK has to protect white women from rapists of color, that was definitely their main selling point for decades. Or currently in Europe the European heritage is seen as being eroded, or the heritage of certain countries in Europe is being eroded by the world market and internationalism...

xYosefx : And the perceived threat of Islam...

Brian D. : Yeah, and fascism is there to protect people from the terrorists. So I think that’s a really dangerous way to frame things. It goes back to a quote, which I don’t remember word for word, something like “If you’re here to liberate me,gohome.If your struggle for liberation is tied up with mine, welcome.” I don’t think of myself as having to liberate animals, I’m a living thing, part of a liberation struggle for life.

xYosefx : There are two different ways to come about what you might call liberation struggles. What you’re describing as the patriarchal way is selfless or self-denying, what it claims ideally is a selflessness in acting for the benefit of others...

Brian D. : And what actually happens is that by presenting themselves as selfless they’re not calling attention to the ways in which their self is involved in their way of thinking about things, and that enables a lot of self righteousness and self importance to go unquestioned because there’s not a look to what kind of self involvement or self interest is going on. I think it’s much better for people to be more upfront about why they’re personally involved and where they’re coming from so that you can have some awareness about that.

xYosefx : You’ve been having vocal issues since CATHARSIS and you’ve pretty much destroyed your voice in some ways, your screaming voice...

Brian D. : And I’ll probably never sing opera.

xYosefx : Which is a damn shame. If you had to give any basic advice to folks out there who are screaming for hardcore bands, as to what not to do, what would that be ?

Brian D. : Even having destroyed my voice, and everything else, I would still just say, don’t half-ass it. I would just say go for it. Learn everything you can about vocal care, but most of all just do something creative. If it hurts you, fine. If you have to do something that damages you to be able to make something meaningful or honest, to have the opportunity to physically push up against your limitations, that’s an honor. Most people don’t ever get as far as their physical limitations. Most people are limited by other things a long time before they get there. That’s not very good advice. Greg Bennick of course would say the opposite thing. He’d say it’s important to conserve, blah blah blah. I just don’t want to die with everything I have intact, with my hearing, my voice, everything still there because I never used it. At the same time, I’m in this for distance, I’m not in this for speed. Sure, I wear earplugs when bands play. Not when my band plays. There’s a lot of good stuff out there for vocalists to learn from. I can’t add to it any more than I already have. If I was going to say anything to vocalists, fuck vocal care tips, I would say that every time you open your mouth, that’s a moment of your life and the lives of everyone around you passing. Don’t waste it.

xYosefx : A lot of what you’ve written over the years, in INSIDE FRONT, in your lyrics for CATHARSIS and REQUIEM and in many interviews, has a distinctive, recognizable style, the “CRIMETHINC. style,” using a lot of romantic or melodramatic language, coming across with a definite sense of immediacy, of urgency, like “this is your life, seize it now,” “every moment is the most important moment,” that sort of thing... Do you feel that the language that you use is intrinsically tied to the message itself ?

Brian D. : Well, I could expound at length about the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach. I feel that the medium is the message, often. For me, words or expressions don’t matter, it’s what comes out of them, what results from them, that really matters. I don’t care if a statement is objective or true, I don’t even believe in such a thing, I care more about what it enables. Oftentimes people will get involved in ideological perspectives because of the lives that those perspective enable them to have. Like if being interested in anarchism enables me to actually live without hierarchies or constraints then that’s great. But if it just results in me being part of some hierarchy of abstract thinkers, then it doesn’t do anybody any good at all, and it doesn’t matter how well I can speak about anarchism or anything else, it’s not doing me any good. In that regard I’m not too worried about the style of writing, more about what it enables. You were talking about individualism earlier, and the things you were saying about that make some sense to somebody here in North America, in a really individualistic society. My friends in Brazil, who translated the second issue of HARBINGER there into Portuguese, said that in some of the cities people really saw eye to eye with the more individualistic perspective... the front cover article is “How to get what you want,” which is totally a North American way of thinking about things. They said that the people in more rural Brazil were like “This isn’t really the way we think about things by and large. We don’t think of ourselves as separate from our community”. Which is fucking awesome. Maybe if you were writing for people in that context or with that way of thinking you would write differently. One of the essential things about capitalism is that it pretends that it’s going to offer us all of these things, and it never does. All the romantic language about a new brand of light bulbs or carpet cleaner, it doesn’t pay off in terms of real life, or anything really exciting. It’s not actually romantic, it’s the total opposite of it. It’s totally sordid, totally banal. One could argue that using romantic language to describe potentially exciting, potentially real life romantic experiences is redirecting an existing energy and longing from this society, from this social context, toward something that can actually offer the carrot that’s always at the end of the stick, for people going about things in the capitalist model.

xYosefx : There’s a lot of different models in the world. We definitely come from a society that values a certain type of pseudo-individualism. I personally think that there can be something revolutionary about reclaiming individualism, or egoism. The two of us, and most of the people that we know, have been raised in that North American or Western European context, where ideas will make sense to us on a gut level that might not make the same sense to people raised in other contexts, and vice versa.

Brian D. : Capitalism takes everything from us and turns it into its opposite. Instead of community, we have community watch organizations, or neighborhood associations where people vote about how people can’t have laundry hanging in their yard or whatever. And that’s the opposite of community. If you want to come at this from an individualist standpoint, you can ask, how much individual freedom do you have ? Fucking none. And the more that you try to be a free-standing individual, the more you’re fucked and dependent on this whole social system that doesn’t allow you your individual freedom. You can come at this from a collective perspective and say that the kind of community we have here isn’t community. We need to build a real community. Both of them get to the same place.

xYosefx : So have you reread "Society of the Spectacle" recently ?

Brian D. : It’s been a long time, actually. And I could barely fucking read it the first time.

xYosefx : When you said that “capitalism turns everything into its opposite” that seemed reminiscent of Debord to me.

Brian D. : I didn’t understand that when Debord said it, I think I came up with it again on my own. Just by luck. Just by trying to figure things out on my own. The thing about capitalism and everything becoming its opposite, that came from discussions with a friend, not from Debord. I’ve tried to read Debord, but that’s not what I got out of him.

xYosefx : Is REQUIEM the only major project your currently involved in ?

Brian D. : Right now I am part of the writing collective that’s associated with "Rolling thunder". And besides that I am involved in a bunch of local projects. We have an anarchist community where we come from. We try to do a bunch of good things. I’ve been on tour since the beginning of August, so in that regard I’ve been pretty much immobilized as far as being able to contribute locally which is too bad. Fortunately there are other people I trust and care about who are there keeping things going and together. And I hope to get back and add my momentum and energy to that.

xYosefx : How’s everything going with REQUIEM ?

Brian D. : We’re a bunch of high stress sort of fucked up people so we’re just barely holding it together. But, we’re together.

xYosefx : You guys seem really passionate about what you’re doing and when you’re playing it seems like you’re giving it your all, which is something nice to see in an era where you have bands calling themselves hardcore or punk appearing on MTV, and a lot of people don’t seem to be putting their all into the music anymore.

Brian D. : Maybe those bands on MTV are putting their all into it and it’s just going to the wrong place.

xYosefx : Yeah, or maybe their all isn’t very much.

Brian D. : For me at least it’s a struggle actually to still be really invested in something like a punk-rock band because I was in another punk-rock band before, and the world didn’t in fact change. Little tiny pieces of it did, maybe. I know from experience that just because I hit a guitar chord or sing a note - and it’s harder to sing a note now than it was before - the world isn’t going to immediately shift. My life might change a bit but at this point I’ve spent - if you add it together - an entire three years of my life in vans on tour. It’s not actually great. It’s a lot of fucking sitting around doing nothing. It’s a lot of not living the life I want to live. I’m lucky to be able to do this and I don’t want to take that for granted, but I will say it’s not a no-brainer. I definitely have to be thinking all the time about whether this is the right place for my energy and time. And I guess every time I decide to invest my time in this, it’s up to me to make it something worthwhile.

xYosefx : With CATHARSIS, were you the vocalist, the traditional hardcore front man, the one who generally did the interviews and presented a face to the audience...

Brian D. : Everybody in that band was capable of speaking for us all, but there was a division of labor that often happens. I definitely want to resist that in this band.

xYosefx : It seems like in hardcore just as in the rest of the world the front man gets an exalted status and they get seen as embodying the band. Vocalists tend to get the interviews, vocalists tend to get the accolades, vocalists tend to write the songs.

Brian D. : Singers are the ones we identify with in the same way of the protagonist of the soap opera. That is kind of ridiculous, it leads to some bad power dynamics.

xYosefx : That’s one great thing about REQUIEM, most of the band members do vocals.

Brian D. : I know Al Burian keeps coming up in this interview but that’s a theory that he mentioned. I don’t think I’ve ever made so many references to him in an interview. He mentioned to me once that he had a theory if you made everyone in the band sing, you’d have everyone invested in the band because it’s actually their voice or a part of their body that’s in it. That makes sense. I feel like what we are doing is a starting place. And if we can get from here to something interesting, it’ll be good. There have been punk bands before with guitars and drums and so on - I’d like to see something more unique. We’ll see if we can get there.

xYosefx : Well, if you guys can improve from your first record to your next to the one after that as much as CATHARSIS did, then we have something really amazing to look forward to.

Brian D. : Aw, you’re generous.

xYosefx : I think you guys are great. I mean, I’m not going to deny that. It’d be kind of silly to do so. Last question, basic hardcore zine question. What are some underrated bands, either bands from the past that people probably haven’t listened to or bands that are around now that they might not have heard of,
that you would recommend ?

Brian D. : Okay, there’s that KRITICKA SITUACE. Amazing. Ummm. . . We were just on tour in Europe. I should have seen some bands that are good. I guess people are getting into CHILDREN OF FALL. I really liked PLEDGE ALLIANCE. Those people are in that band PLAGUE MASS now. But the last PLEDGE ALLIANCE recording was a split with HK - they were an Austrian band. PLAGUE MASSis the same people minus the singer. But anyway, the last PLEDGE ALLIANCE stuff I feel was phenomenal. I’m going to go slowly. I really liked BY ALL EMANS from Italy. They were another band that evolved and changed over time. I mean you can go through the old INSIDE FRONTs to find out the bands that I liked. HEADWAY was great.

xYosefx : And STARKWEATHER, I heard STARKWEATHER have a new album out ?

Brian D. : I haven’t heard it. They played in Europe like a day after us but we totally missed them.

xYosefx : Are you still in touch with Remy ?

Brian D. : No. It’s been years - it’s been years and years. Although I’d love to see them. I bet they’re still great people. We played with MORSER, the German band, when we were in Europe last year. I was totally prepared for it to be like the “Morser in Vegas” years or something. But they were amazing. They were just heart-droppingly amazing in this sort of heavy metal ridiculous way that it was almost embarrassing to be that moved by. But I was moved - they were phenomenal. Really unique, really powerful. Mostly at this point I’m more interested in what a singer says between songs than the music usually. I really like GREYSKULL. It’s really nice to be able to play with them. The band that I’ve discovered in the last couple of years I’m most excited about is CONTROPOTERE, from Sicily in Italy from the late ’80s, beginning of the ’90s. Really phenomenal, explicitly anarchist, really experimental anarcho-punk band. Just such intense, scary, passionate music, better than anything I can think of.

xYosefx : They have a great name, “counterpower”.

Brian D. : Yeah, exactly. At first, I thought it was “against power.” But it’s like “counterforce.” In the ’70s, during the autonomia struggles, when people started to actually exchange gun fire to police at demos, if you were carrying a pistol, it was described as “contropotere.” That’s the word for that.

xYosefx : That was a social situation like we’ve never even seen in the United States. Have you ever read the Elephant Editions/Bratach Dubh book "Armed struggle in Italy 1976-1978" ? It’s mostly a chronology of political and anti-political violence. For three years it was pretty much every day. Bombings, shootings, clashes between the police and armed groups. Anarchists, Maoists, Trotskyists, Autonomists, everybody was picking up the gun. I wouldn’t say that was necessarily a great thing, because a lot of it was just pointless and sick sectarian violence, but the social situation is something we’ve never experienced here. The tension was just unbelievable, unimaginable.

Brian D. : Yeah, I think it’s a great book. Maybe we can learn from those experiences. They mean different things in different contexts. In Italy, it may have been a sustainable level of struggle that capitalism could handle. In the United States, it wouldn’t be. If it got to that point, shit would be serious.

xYosefx : Yeah. Maybe we’ll live to see the day.


max said...

awesome interview. good read

Ben said...

It was great reading this. Makes me want to go get out all my old zines!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Nice to get some news from Brian...

Smileyhxc said...