WARNING: There is virtually nothing new in this issue that has not been previously published on our web blog. There is no cover price and money being charged here is to nominally cover printing, shipping and bank fees. You may be able to get a copy for free or small donation from touring bands or at Extreme Noise Records, Long Haul Info Shop and other cool DIY places
KRANG are a new band birthed from Chicago’s DIY punk underbelly. They play a brutally powerful brand of thrashy riff-laden crustcore and have an intense live presence. They have recently recorded for a few vinyl projects, including PE’s own 7″ singles series. Check ‘em out!
Interviewed by Brian Poulin (NEGLIGENCE). All photos by Adam DeGross.
PE Who’s in the band and what does each of you do?
AUSTIN: guitars / backing vocals / song writing (synth & keyboard on 12″)
ADAM: bass / backing vocals / song writing
BRENDAN: lead vocals / lyrical content
DEVAN: drums & percussion / backing vocals
PE: What’s a brief history of the band and how did you guys form?
Austin: We started circa 2009. We had an additional guitarist: Louis C. He went on to start a blackened crust band called Welkin Dusk, based in Chicago that he plays drums & lead vocals for. We used to have an additional lead singer as well: Hannah B. Hannah was a part of our first two releases: the out of print “Onward Desolation” demo tape, and also the out of print “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″. Hannah is now the front-woman in a band called Despise, based out of Minneapolis. Our original drummer, Brett, is on the two recordings I mentioned before, as well as our “Sounds of Death” 12″. Brett now drums for a Chicago / northwest Indiana band called Asphixiate. Devan is now our permanent drummer and he will have his first appearance on the “Broken Waves” 7″, released by Profane Existence, which is coming out in June. Devan will also be on our next 12″: “Bad Moon”, which we are writing right now. I, as well as Krang, are totally stoked on Devan and really happy to have them. Devan is active outside of percussion as well with assisting in writing, assistance in lyrical content & structure, and the internet stuff. This line up has been solidified for over a year and is totally fucking Krang! It just works perfectly.
PE: You guys are based out of Chicago. What are your favorite parts of the scene there? What are your least favorite things about Chicago’s scene?
Devan: Chicago’s an interesting place. I feel like the pros and cons are often directly related to one-another. For example, the mere size of the city. There are so many people – new to here, young, old, whatever – that there is basically always something going on and a handful of solid DIY spaces at all times, regardless of whether people leave or places get busted or whatever. The downside is that the physical structure of the city makes it difficult and/or terribly time-consuming to navigate. Especially if you don’t have a car. And even if you do, parking sucks. Anyway, as a result of the city being as segregated as it is, people are often inclined to just stick to what’s going on in their neighborhood and it results in a lack of exposure or attention paid to some really cool things. It’s unfortunate. But then there are some events like the annual Black and Brown Punk Show (shout-out to Monika!) or other fest-type shows where the attendance is crazy and bullshit is minimal. It’s rad.
Austin: I used to live in CHI. I reside in northwest Indiana (NWI). It’s really close. You can compare it to how close Jersey is to NYC. The rest of the band does live in CHI. My favorite things about Chicago is the “don’t take shit” attitude that at least me and the scene we’re involved with has. We’ll kick you out if your a piece of shit human or kick your ass if we have to. I also like The Void Haus in NWI for gigs. My personal least favorite things are cliques, hype, division, etc… the things that you see in every rather large city, I suppose.
Adam: I love Chicago’s unspoken rule of everyone being down to get down when shit hits the fan and nobody lets bogus comments or derogatory gestures fly. My complaint for the longest time was how there is the same hierarchy that we all hate in daily life at a lot of the gigs. It seems like those “in crowd” wanks have come and gone though, or maybe I just don’t surround myself with such fools anymore. My main complaint, and I know I am sounding super negative, but for such a large city there is a lack of bands playing what I am into personally. There are a lot of great bands doing great things…but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am into them musically. Haha! I have a particular taste and its not being fulfilled. I usually go to shows to hang out and have a good time and just show support but its rare that I actually shit over a band that I see locally. I do really, really get down to Population though. White boy can’t dance but when I see this band I start doing shit I didn’t know I was capable of.
Brendan: Chicago is simultaneously the best & worst place to live; which I’d imagine is a critique most other big-city dwellers share. There is no shortage of great folks, bands, eats, cool nerd-haunts (comic & record collectors rejoice!), and beautiful neighborhoods/communities in which to live. The same is true for all of the awful yuppies, gold cost bourgeois, & assholes who get your friends hooked on hard drugs. A lot of the time I wish that I lived in a vast expanse of lush nature with no human presence save myself. When I’m not wishing for seclusion, I’m loving how hard of a time I have sorting out which of the 5 awesome punk shows I get to go see any given night. Chicago has everything I love & hate at once; most of the time its worth it.
PE: Musically what are you guys going for?
Devan: I’d say sincerity, first and foremost. In sound, words, and delivery. And the connections we can and have made with people based on that. My musician’s answer would be just to write the best songs we can and perform them at the highest level at all times.
Austin: I just want to stick out and be a little different sounding. I still want to have that essential formula for great punk. I personally believe we found the introduction to our sound with the “Sounds of Death” 12″. We have two formulas: triumphant, galloping crust metal and simplified, pissed off, to-the-point stuff.
Brendan: Initially we formed with the idea of writing over the top odes to crust circa late 80’s/early 90’s; stuff you could flail your overgrown dreadlocks around to. We all fell into a groove with each other over time, where we don’t really need to define what we’re gonna write before we do. We approach releases with general outlines (theme,length, format etc.), but when writing songs I’d say we aim for mean, earnest & impactful.
Adam: I think naturally all being into different types of musical backgrounds, our finished product ends up being a thing of its own, but we all have similar enough interests to where we end up with the result that we initially were trying to go for. I personally am really into trying to sound like the bands I am into. It doesn’t end up exactly that way which is good but I love when bands obsess over old school sounds/bands/records and try to make their contemporary music sound as authentic as possible whether it be tone or style or whatever. At the end of the day we are trying to sound pissed, like we worship the 80s and have our music sound anarchy as fuck!
PE: What bands inspire you the most?
Austin: I listen to EVERYTHING. I don’t know where to begin but musically, keeping personal interest aside, I think we’re inspired by 80’s UK crust and a lot of Japanese stuff as far as writing collectively. This is something me and you will have to nerd out on when we’re in Boston next. Haha!
Adam: For Krang, bands that influence the writing process for me are Masskontroll, Deathraid, Sacrilege, Hellshock, Deviated Instinct, Sodom, Axegrinder and Amebix as well as Instinct of Survival. Personally I am all over the water but my all time 2 favorite punk bands have always and will always be Discharge and the Dead Boys.
Devan: I could go on a long rant about every band I’ve ever loved and how they’ve all stuck with and influence me to this day and blah blah blah, but I’ll spare you the cost of ink and just say Sacrilege, Crude, Amebix and Discharge. That said, we are quite the eclectic bunch.
Brendan: Musically, anything running the gamut from Paintbox to Elliot Smith. I enjoy a lot of soaring Japanese hardcore with that Burning Spirits feel, 90’s screamo, early black metal & hip hop. Any band that has a way with words gets me going, but mostly I enjoy music that you can’t help but feel.
PE: What are most of your songs about? What inspires the lyrics?
Brendan: Lemme preface by saying that Discharge is rad & “The More I See…” could be the soundtrack to my daily tedium… but i think punk rock has much more potential than to rehash our dogmatic & oftentimes simplistic politics. Having been a few places where the punk scene eats itself inside out with depression, addiction, & apathy towards the struggles of those around us, I think its real important to allow ourselves to be more open in the way we express all of the things exploding in our minds. I am not blowing my own horn, or any horn for that matter, but I really enjoy taking the personal route when it comes to writing & am constantly attempting to better address the common threads that run through all of our lives. Our first wave of songs covered some of our political leanings in regards to vivisection, arms manufacturing, rape culture & the willful destruction of our Earth. The “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″ reflects on the weight of stagnation on the “politically motivated”. “Sounds of Death” is the result of an obsession with death and a years worth of hurt; friends making irreversible decisions in regards to their lives & some of us falling into those spirals ourselves. There is absolution in acceptance though & I think a glint of hope in such dark subject matter. Our upcoming 7″ deals with cycles of change in our lives, moments of mania & madness; a counterpoint to our last 7″. The songs we are writing & playing now are an extension of that, focusing on moments of change in our lives, wanderlust & really just form one big, loud, pissed love letter to the DIY community, punk rock & time spent on the road. Inspiration comes from any human I’ve met that has dared to be open, honest & shameless about it.
Devan: Passion in all its forms and extremities is what inspires us. Totally.
PE: You guys have done a few extensive tours. What’s your favorite city you guys haveplayed in? What’s your least favorite?
Austin: I love Boston. Detroit, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis) are up there too. I don’t really have a least favorite. We have had some bad experiences, though. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and not mention them. Hopefully things will be better when we return.
Devan: New Orleans is my favorite city ever, and our most recent gig in Boston totally ruled. I’d have to say, though, that many of my favorite shows have been in non-major cities. Birmingham AL was awesome, Asheville NC, Cincinatti OH, Grand Rapids MI…basically anywhere with a really tight-knit but wide-ranging DIY scene in terms of age, music, spaces, projects, etc. It’s always super encouraging to see.
Brendan: I’ll echo the others in saying that NOLA, Asheville, Cincy, Birmingham, Boston & Baltimore all kick ass. I’m usually super appreciative of all the towns we’ve been lucky enough to play in, though of course we’ve played in towns that seemed to embrace the anti-PC attitude/sense of humor that I am so fucking sick of. Some cities are really 50/50 because you’ll either play an amazing show with bad-ass folks & have the time of your life, or you might end up wanting to eviscerate some fuckhead who only listens to GG Allin & doesn’t get why a confederate flag hanging at a show space might ruffle some feathers.
Austin: We as a band aren’t about making sure we are politically correct all the time, but we definitely are hellbent on showing one another respect and are willing to give respect back to those who are legit. No single city is bad. Like I said before, sometimes there are some bad experiences. Fuckheads are everywhere.
Adam: Yes, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Boston, but most of all NOLA and Minneapolis. New Orleans and Minneapolis…no other city can live up to the debauchery that is expected to happen when we arrive in these two places. We need a week of recovery after being in either place for just a day. Also I love playing Madison a lot. Fuck, I love touring. So many amazing friends are being missed right now as we speak.
PE: What are some of your favorite bands you guys have played with?
Lord Krang: Scum from Detroit, Appalachian Terror Unit, Antisect, In Defense, Nu-kle-ar Blast Suntan, Kontrasekt, Cognitive Dissonance, The Skuds, Coelacanth, WrathCobra, Wartorn, Negligence, In Ruins, and definitely D-Clone; but honestly, it’s great to play with anyone and everyone who aren’t assholes and give a shit about “punk rock”.
PE: What are some of your favorite local bands from Chicago?
Lord Krang: Asphyxiate, Decay After Death (Decay A.D.), Cemetery (RIP), Culo, Die Time, Slag, Escalofrio, Sex Bunker (RIP), Birth Deformities, Gas Rag, Welkin Dusk, Daylight Robbery, Dirty Surgeon Insurgency, The Breathing Light, La Armada, Black September, Kontaminat, Ooze, Tensions, The Busy Sugnals, Population, More that we’re forgetting to mention….
PE: What does the future hold for Krang?
Devan: As Austin mentioned earlier, we have our “Broken Waves” 7″ being released in June, at which point we’ll be doing a small tour with Coelacanth. Also, as previously stated, we are well along in the writing process for our next full-length LP. Look for us around the Mid-west this summer and keep up-to-date and get in touch via the following:
crustardpunx[AT]gmail.com – krangcrustards.bandcamp.com – krangcrustards.blogspot.com
Austin: More touring, more albums, more blood spit nights, more everything! We’ll do a more extensive tour when the new LP comes out.
Brendan: “Bad Moon” 12″ – Skull Fest – Split(s?) – Self-Destruction With A Gusto
Lord Krang: Record labels that are interested in helping us with our next 12″ (which is more than half way written) get in touch with us!!! It will be even more galloping, pist, and triumphant than our still available “Sounds of Death” 12″!
For those of you who don’t know DEADLY REIGN, Its time to get with the program! DEADLY REIGN is a 3 piece D-BEAT killing machine with a legendary line up comprised of members from GLYICNE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, SCARRED FOR LIFE, WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, KEGCHARGE, CENTURY OF WAR AND TILL DEATH. These guys have been at it for a long time and don’t fuck around when it comes to bringing you punk rock authentic and true to its sound and with their new single released on PE entitled SLAVE! These guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So let’s get to the brass tacks and see what these guys have been up to. (INTERVIEW BY DUTCH WELCH FROM KRIGBLAST)
PE: So what are your names, what do you play, and how did you guys come together?
(RAYGUNN) I MOVED TO AUSTIN AND RAN INTO GUERINOT AT HIS DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY. UNKNOWN TO ME, MY WIFE WAS AND STILL IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS WIFE AT THE TIME AND HE AND I KNEW EACH OTHER FROM THE PAST WHEN OUR PREVIOUS BANDS HAD PLAYED TOGETHER. WE GOT TO TALKING AND DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD START A BAND. I SAID, WE JUST NEED A BASS PLAYER/SINGER, AND HE SAID HE HAD ONE. HE CALLED HIS FRIEND GUSHAMMER AND HE WAS INTO IT. THEY HAD BEEN WANTING TO START SOMETHING TOGETHER FOR A WHILE. AND EVENTUALLY WE GOT THE BALL ROLLING (OR SHOULD I SAY, THE BEERS FLOWING?).
PE: You guys have all been in some pretty kick ass bands in the past. who played in what?
RAYGUNN – GLYCINE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, KONTRAKLASE, AND SCARRED FOR LIFE.
GUERINOT – WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, AND KEGCHARGE.
GUSHAMMER – CENTURY OF WAR, AND TILL DEATH.
PE: Who came up with the name Deadly Reign?
(RAYGUNN) I USED TO HANG OUT WITH A KICK ASS BAND IN THE EARLY 80’s CALLED BODY COUNT. THEY WERE AN EARLY D-BEAT STYLE OF BAND (BEFORE THE TERM D-BEAT WAS AROUND) AND THEY HAD A SONG CALLED DEADLY REIGN. SO I TOOK IT FROM THAT. (AND YES, I AM AWARE THAT THERE WAS A BAND CALLED DEADLY REIGN FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BACK IN THE EARLY 80’s, BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE I GOT THE NAME FROM).
PE: The music of DR is furious, in your face politically and socially. Whats the motivation behind your song writing?
(RAYGUNN) MUSICALLY, WE JUST TRY TO WRITE MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. THE KIND OF STUFF WE WOULD LISTEN TO AT HOME. NOT SO MUCH TRYING TO BE ORIGINAL OR GROUND BREAKING. MORE OF JUST PLAYING THE HARD AGGRESIVE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. WE GET IT ALL TOGETHER AND THEN GUSHAMMER WRITES SOME LYRICS.
(GUERINOT) I’VE ALWAYS SAID I CAN’T AND WON’T BE IN A BAND THAT I COULDN’T ALSO LISTEN TO. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT OF PLAYING SHIT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE? WE AREN’T DOING THIS TO PLEASE OTHERS, JUST OURSELVES.
(GUS) SOME LYRICS HIT RIGHT TO THE POINT, RELIGION. IT’S FUCKING 2013 AND HERE WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS NONSENSE! PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER ARE BEING PERSECUTED, MISLEAD, AND OUT RIGHT SLAUGHTERED OVER RELIGION. RATHER IT’S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS, OR WHATEVER FICTITIOUS BULLSHIT SECT THEY ARE IN. RELIGION IN ANY FORM IS UNCALLED FOR AND DANGEROUS! AND THIS COUNTRY USES IT TO PULL OFF SOME SERIOUSLY HEINOUS ACTS OF PURE AND UTTER VIOLENCE AND WAR. WE TOUCH ON THIS OF COURSE ON THIS RECORD, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT’S DIRECTED TOWARD THE WORKING CLASS FOLKS AND THEIR DAILY STRUGGLE JUST TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE OLDER WE GET, THE SAME STRUGGLE REMAINS, EXCEPT NOW WE MUST NOT ONLY FIGHT TO FEED OURSELVES BUT FIRST FEED OUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES AND THEN WITH WHAT IS LEFT OVER, TAKE CARE OF OURSLEVES. SO WE CAN SLAVE ANOTHER DAY FOR A LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE WAGE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED OUR (PUNK) COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WORK IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS FOR SHIT WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS AND NO HOPE OF MOVING UPWARD IN THESE POSITIONS. AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY HAVE A SMALL CHECK THAT IS OVER TAXED AND A SORE ACHING BODY, THAT CONTINUES TO GET WORSE. “TELL ME IS THIS THE LIFE I’M FORCED TO LIVE TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY?”…THE ANSWER IS NO! BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO POINT OUT THESE CONCERNS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN.
PE: You guys did a split with HELLKRUSHER not to long ago entitled Continuous Warfare. How did this collaboration come about?
(RAYGUNN) I HAVE KNOWN SCOTTY (HELLKRUSHER) SINCE THE MID 80’s WHEN HE WAS IN HELLBASTARD, AND I WAS IN GLYCINE MAX. WE USED TO BE PEN PALS, AND WOULD SEND EACH OTHER TAPES OF OUR BANDS, AND OUR FRIENDS BANDS. WE EVENTUALLY LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER AND THEN YEARS LATER FOUND EACHOTHER VIA THE INTERNET. I SENT HIM SOME DEADLY REIGN AND HE LIKED IT. AND WE DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.
PE: You guys all have family’s now and continue to tour, play shows, practice, record and work. How has DIY punk changed in your lives and how do you make it work?
(GUERINOT) WELL, I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS BUT HAVING AN UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER IS KEY. HAVING KIDS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE SO IN MY OPINION, THEY COME FIRST. WORKING AROUND THEM AND WORK IS USALLY PRETTY EASY. LATELY IT HAS BEEN A BIT MORE DIFFICULT BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT THE KINKS IN A SITUATION AND PUT PIECES BACK TOGETHER IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
PE: The new single from Profane Existence entitled SLAVE, what can we expect and do you have any future releases coming out?
(RAYGUNN) IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN OUR LAST TWO RECORDS, BUT STILL THE DEADLY REIGN STYLE. NEXT WE WILL BE WRITING FOR A SPLIT 12″ WITH OUR FRIENDS KONTRASEKT.
PE: Closing comments, any last words?
THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS THE WORLD OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. ALSO, THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND BE SURE TO PICK UP THE NEW DEADLY REIGN ‘SLAVE’ EP ON PROFANE EXISTENCE! AS WELL AS OUR LP AND THE SPLIT WITH HELLKRUSHER. ALSO, WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO EUROPE SOMEDAY, IF ANYONE OVER THERE WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUR BROKE ASSES OUT. HAHA! CHEERS – DEADLY REIGN
WARTORN are a whirlwind of thrash punk goodness hailing from Wisconsin. Since 2004, they’ve been hitting the touring and record release circuit with no looking back. Here’s a quick interview I did to let people know about their two latest releases, Domestic Terrorist 7″ (Profane Existence) & Iconic Nightmare 12″ (Southern Lord). – Andy Leffer
(This interview also appears in CVLT NATION)
PE: You know the drill, just give us the basics on who’s who and what’s changed in the past, in regards to any line up changes, etc. Also, give us some insight on where WARTORN is going. We want to know tours, records, riots, protests, arrests….the whole back story on WARTORN’s origins.
Bitty: (Vocals) The band started in 2004, with Ryan, Hart (on drums) and myself as a three-piece. Within half a year I got a call with an offer for our first tour, which was with Municipal Waste. We did a mini tour with them and ever since then we have been able to go on tours with amazing bands each year such as Los Dolares, ATU, CYP, Krang, In Defence, Pyroklast, Hellshock, and up next Raw Power . We have been to 13 countries and have done lots of releases on many different labels.
Ryan: guitar / low vocals / whiskey enthusiast. Well we started as a 3-piece and over a span of over 8 years, have ended up with 6 members. With 3 of us being guitar players we are able to diversify our songs in ways that we could only do in a studio setting. This obviously makes a difference live as well.
Ela: I’ve been the bass player for over the last 6 years. Recently, we came out with an LP/CD on Southern Lord Records called “Iconic Nightmare” and a 7-inch, “Domestic Terrorist”, released on Profane Existence (which is part of their limited edition singles series).
Toban: (Guitar) I think I might have the most arrests out of anyone in the band. Not like its anything to brag about. I did narrowly avoid another arrest a few weeks ago.
Derek: Guitar as well. I’ve been in the band for a few months and have been on two tours so far.
PE: The music is dynamic, to say the least. You’re not getting any half-assed riffs or mindlessly thrown together lyrics or production with your music. Elaborate on the process and what is the driving force for doing such a band. Punk is a political movement, it’s always been a political movement. Are you a part of this fray as a whole, or is this more of a personal, therapeutic outlet?
Ryan: I definitely believe in the power of the riff. Heavy and raging. Punk is a political movement, but I also see it as a community (full of musicians, artists, writers, photographers, open thinkers etc). A lot of us live/ have lived in punk houses and have been booking DIY shows for years. It’s something we do to contribute to it as a whole.
Toban: Ryan is the riff-master general of the band. He does a great job of coming up with some of the most incredible riffs of anyone I’ve been in a band with. Adding Bitty’s smartly composed lyrics and Hart’s hard hitting/tight drum style makes a great concoction.
Bitty: As far as what I write lyrically, I mainly write about personal experiences or historical events. I don’t tell people what they need to think, that is for them to figure out on their own. Also, I could not label myself as more than a realist and a situationalist.
Ela: Well in my opinion, I would say that we are a part of this as a whole, but it also is a personal outlet for me. We have all contributed to the movement in one way or another, but I think of punk as more than just a political movement. For me it is also about a unified community… where people come together, whether it is for political reasons, to share a passion for music, a hobby, art, etc. … and we definitely have that in Appleton, which is awesome.
Hart: I honestly wouldn’t say punk’s always been a political movement at all. The fact that DK, Meatmen, and the Germs, for example, all existed during one heyday suggests more of a harsh musical and broad social changeover than anything to me. For me personally, punk rock, metal and hardcore have always been a therapeutic and vindicating way of life that has consistently solved a lot of my life’s most harrowing, fucked-up times. It had a total bottleneck effect on how I raised myself mentally and emotionally. It was a really great thing to find out about when I was trying to figure out how to express myself when everything just infuriated or bored the shit out of me. Later, after I was free as an adult, I quickly found out it came replete with its own sense of community, and a totally viscous following I was never aware existed at all. This band is fucking great, cause we never throw a blind rhetorical blanket over our lyrical ideals, or even necessarily our instrumentation for that matter. We have a rough format that we’ve stuck to, but we all come from slightly different scenes and upbringings, and I’ve always thought it showed at least a little in our styles. I honestly don’t think the excitement of being in this band has worn off for any of us. Sure, growing pains have slowed our progress a couple of times, but whenever the next lightbulb goes on over our heads, it’s all go no slow!
Derek: For me, this is definitely a personal outlet. That’s what music has always been for me. Being the young’n metalhead in the group, I’ve kind of just been exposed to the world of punk houses and DIY shows recently. From what I’ve gathered so far I can at least say that the sense of community is beautiful.
PE: Your latest singles release on Profane Existence “Domestic Terrorist”. There’s no beating around the bush on this subject matter. Once again, can you elaborate on this specific release and the intention behind the subject?
Bitty: There have been a few times where I had local law enforcement “protect and serve” the shit out of me. As a kid in the 80’s from a small hometown, I’ve had guns in my face from the cops, hammers pulled back and screaming in my face. I have also had an off-duty cop put a gun in my face and ask me if I thought it was funny while he was wasted. You know of all the times I was ever robbed or assaulted, at least I knew if I fought back I stood a chance; I even survived an attempted homicide! But, it’s not so easy when you have to fight back against law enforcement. They just beat your ass and lock you up, even if they are totally in the wrong. I’ve witnessed so much personal corruption; to me it seems to be an extension of an abuse of absolute power. Now that, to me, strikes terror in any citizen.
PE: Bitty, you’re straight edge…maybe not self-proclaimed, but you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. Considering the genre of punk and it’s history of abuse with these elements, has this hindered your views on the movement?
Hart: Total interjection here! Dude, Bitty’s optimism actually astounds me. He’s seen more friends either die or completely lose their vitality as humans due to drug and alcohol use than I’d like to ponder. He’s remained pretty fucking pragmatic in his attitude toward his friends’ choices in that sense. I myself get pretty fed-up at times about my own friend’s use of drugs, especially certain ones. I’ve had plenty problems controlling my drinking in the past. I do believe I have a fairly good idea these days of when to dry out, but it can pull me into a real bad place. I start questioning what even matters anymore, and I start fighting everything that means the most to me. However, that’s where that community comes in again! I’m learning to seek out the right punks or no one at all when the time feels right, and I’ve been keeping up on it for a while now.
Bitty: Not at all. You don’t need to be like me in order for me to like you. The real moment that reinforced my decision was when I came home to a friend that lived with me and I found him in a pool of his own blood. He had tried to cut his hand off with a butcher knife while he was completely wasted and ended up with more stiches then an average shark attack. It really put a bad taste in my mouth about how substances can amplify bad decision-making skills. Although I am aware that most just use it to have a good time, truth be told, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But as long as you’re not hurting me or others in any way shape or form it’s your deal not mine. This is just a suggestion, have fun and do what you need to do to deal with things or get by, but try not to destroy yourself in the process. You might end up missing out on some good things in life.
PE: WARTORN is a great band, so with that….does WARTORN have anything they’d like to say to the world, it’s listeners or the masses in general?
Toban: In the words of country music legend Kris Kristofferson “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. Ryan: Thanks for the interview.
Ela: Thanks for all the support. We can’t wait to hit the road and tear it up again in a couple months!
Derek: May the force be with you. But seriously, I can’t wait to hit the road and I hope to see everyone reading this there.
Hart: As always, start 4 bands tomorrow and eat your fiber!
Bitty: Thanks for the interview Andy and everyone that helped us out and we’ll see you on the road. If you’d like to help us out with booking or have any questions, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DESPISE are a four piece punk/crust/metal unit from the depths of the Minneapolis underground. Their 7″ release is a line of single’s being released by Profane Existence this year.
Interview by Andy (Leffer) of War//Plague
Let’s get this party started. First off…like most all interviews let’s start with who you are, what you do and what DESPISE is up to? What does the future hold after this PE single release? Also, expand on some each of your backgrounds, and what you were involved with prior to the band.
I’m Hannah, I do vocals and write the lyrics. I moved to Minneapolis from Chicago in 2010. I played bass and did vocals in Securicor from Chicago, and also vocals in Krang.
Zach: Hopefully we can put out some full length records seeing as we have a lot of material. As for before despise. I started going to shows at age 13 or 14. Played in a band called EZ Bleeders. We were rock/metal/funk/punk so everyone hated us but we just wanted to play. Grew up in uptown Mpls around a lot of older punks.
Hi. my name is Mike. I play bass real loud. moved to Minneapolis in 2009. its rad here.
What’s your thoughts on the Minneapolis punk community and how DESPISE falls into the DIY mix. There seems to be quite a good mix of punk and crust rising from the ashes of other previous projects within the Minneapolis scene. We had the 90’s and early 00’s that brought us DESTROY, STATE OF FEAR, ASSRASH, PROVOKED, PONTIUSPILATE, and needless to say MISERY, which is still going strong. Do you feel DESPISE is a part of this element of resurgence and is there still that dedicated @narcho thought process within the band?
Hannah: Definatly. Minneapolis has such a awesome punk scene/ community. So many rad bands that I have grown up listening to and have influenced me are from here.
Mike: well, if you want my grossly unimportant opinion, the scene and the music within it are two separate entities. the music is fucking fantastic. and only getting better.so many new bands and new faces. as far as where Despise fits into everything, i think we fit right in. if ive learned anything about minneapolis since ive lived here, its that its a weird fucking place filled with weird fucking people who like weeeeeeeeeeeiiiirrd fucking music. and if you havent met us, were a bunch of weird motherfuckers too. i fucking love it here.
Mitch: The scene has really picked up , it’s awesome to see so much activity now, it reminds me of how much was going on in the 90’s, so many awesome bands going on these days that local shows are always “stacked”, can’t even go grocery shopping without seeing people from bands or shows. It reminds me to be grateful , a lot of towns don’t have that. I definitely feel that Despise fits right in with what’s been going on.
Zach: I think despise takes a whole different approach to the punk scene. I don’t think of our music as being punk or even being really a part of this “scene”. I don’t make music for other people. I do it because its what I want to do
I know you folks had a bit simpler sound when you began. Straight up D-beat hardcore punk, but now it seems you’ve melded into a more crust, metallic sound. Was this an evolution of the band you knew would take shape, or was it more “fly by the seat” type thing?
Hannah: I think its the result of a combination of all of us taking influence from different sub genres of punk…grind, crust, black metal, d-beat, hardcore, etc…throw it all in a mix and you get Despise.
Mitch: It’s been a pretty natural thing as far as songwriting, the musicianship has lent itself to more technical stuff without losing our roots, really had no idea it would progress that way. Stay tuned for some good old fashioned though.
Mike: We always kinda had a general idea of what we wanted the band to sound like. the first batch of songs we wrote were very black and white, crust or metal. after that, everything just kind of naturally progressed into whateverthefuck it is today. zach is so talented when it comes to songwriting. he’s responsible for the metal parts. i just try to keep up and take care of the wicked awesome bass solos. we’ve become who we are together because thats all we can be. ourselves. when people ask what genre of music we play, i usually just say “loud as fuck” because i honestly have no fucking clue haha.
Zach: Crust is fun to play but as far as what I enjoy playing I usually drift more towards metal. Black metal at that. Probably we’re a lot of the metallic elements of our music comes out. Definitely don’t want to take all the credit for that because everybody helps meld the song.
What’s the ideology behind the lyrics and how the music is written?
Mitch: As far as the music goes it’s really just as simple as playing solid riffs and piecing the songs together as it sounds good, we’ll always come to a consensus before a song is finished, that way we all like the finished product. We try keeping things heavy and not being afraid to test the waters. Hannah will have to field the lyrics side.
Hannah: I write most of the lyrics…Most of which pertain to animal rights, vivisection, mental disorders, depression, drug addictions, negative effects humans have on the planet and our ecosystem, and of course cute bunnies taking over and killing humans.
Mike:Hannah has the voice of 10,000 angels. …burning alive in the fires of hell hahahaha. her voice is as much a part of our sound as our guitar and bass tones. but yea she takes care of the lyrics. all of our songs are about things that truly matter to us and to her. you can really hear that she means what she’s saying. we have some political stuff, animal rights, war is bad, so is jesus, blahblahblah. but the ones that stand out to me, the ones that make my cry a little every time we play them, are about real fucking shit. like how drug addiction is killing the scene from the inside out, watching all of our friends (and ourselves) die and lose their minds right in front of us and not being able to do anything about it, that feeling of hopelessness and desperation and shame you get every morning when you wake up and realize the world is still shit. im really grateful that i get to make music with three no shit honestly good hearted human beings.
Zach: Lyrics? We have lyrics?
Are you guys gonna tour and what about local gigs…big plans?
Mitch: Would be nice to do at least a little touring either east or west some time this year, locally, we definitely play our share. lol. Really want to get the rest of our recording released and get back in the studio, lots of newer songs. Hoping for all that this year.
Mike: I think so. i hope so. i let them do the planning for the most part. im down to party whenever wherever and however long they tell me to. but yea. another 7″ comin out soon, followed by what is bound to be the most epic full length record you’ll be listening to while you listen to it as long as you’re not playing a more epic record at the same time.
Hannah: We are planning on touring the east coast this summer. Hopefully the south and west coast after that. We’ve been playing a lot of local shows lately, especially with the release of the 7″. Hoping to record again soon!
Let’s end this interview the normal way. Last words or comments for the world?
Hannah:Up the punks! Ha.
Mitch: Thanks to Profane Existence for releasing the e.p. We can be contacted via Facebook or despisecrust@gmail we’ll have some merch available online soon.
Mike: Be yourself. fuck anyone who tells you you’re not cool or not good enough. this shit belongs to all of us. and if we want it to live forever, we need every single one of you. oh yea. and dont be a dick. seriously. why the fuck cant we all just get along? yea. sorry. fuck everything. upthapuuunnnxxxxx.
Matt Sidney is an artist from Victoria, B.C. Canada. His drawings are powerful, dark and unsettling. They give the viewer a disturbed, though unspecified gasp of revulsion. We felt that finding out what makes someone that creates such imagery tick was too much to pass up. This interview was conducted by Karl online.
P/E: How/when did you get into drawing? What led you to your specific medium?
Matt: I drew constantly, just for my own satisfaction. I never showed it to anyone. never did a full piece until 2 years ago. No one within the punk scene or my friends knew i did art until i put some drawings up in Copy Curse (artshow/ punk show) and Mark from Six Brew Batha saw it, I’ve known him for a bit, and he asked if i wanted to do something for them. which ended up being their 7″ with Suffering Mind. which got my step in the door. I’ve always liked using pen, its very controllable. I’ve always just liked lines. prefect disgusting lines. Nic Blinko is my biggest inspiration. which is very obvious to those who know his work. Stephen Gammell, his work too. Any great painters, I always liked looking at their sketches more so, just for the rough sketchy lines. I’ve always liked stuff that was ambiguous and disturbing. Stuff that makes you uncomfortable. Music, art film. So naturally most everything i do is dark looking. I’d like to be able to use it in a more political way. I love what Gord Hill has done with his comics. and other work. And Tomi Ungerer’s political posters in the 70s were so harsh and packed a punch i would love to do something like that. but in a more political context.
P/E: What do you see as the function or role of visual art in punk? Is it as integral as music?
Matt: It for sure has its part to play. I feel most people appreciate good album artwork, and for me, and I’m sure other artists who listen to punk or just music in general, it solidifies classic albums. Axegrinder’s Rise Of The Serpent Men, Napalm Death Scum, Bolthrower In Battle There Is No Law, Deviated Instinct Rock and Roll Conformity, even Miles Davis Bitches Brew. It’s for sure something that if you are unfamiliar with the band, will grab youre attention. but most certainly not as integral as the music itself. A great album is a great album no matter the cover art.
P/E: How long does it take to complete a piece and what do you think technology’s impact has been on art? Kind of a broad question I know.
Matt: It depends on the piece. I do alot of work in a small amount of time. The longest it’s taken was about 24 hours, and spread over a few days, but that was pen and ink and it was much larger then what I usually do. My normal size ink drawings take about 5 hours. On technology, like most everything there are positives and negatives. I personally am not a fan of digital artwork, i just feel it looks so clean and hollow. Though technology also allows me to make several cheap prints for people to have, or to be able to sharpen it up and fix it, to be used for album covers and what not. Technology, yes, is a broad term. For sure destroying the art of film, which has never been an area I’ve wanted to explore but i do appreciate good films. and directors who had to have a team of artists to physically create things.
P/E: I guess more specifically I am referring to the position artists are put into in relation to the new album formats ie digital vs physical.
Matt: Yeah not a fan of digital. I myself would never use a computer to create art.
P/E: But the growing obsolescence of material physical albums and the growing dominance of iTunes and the like, where will an artist fit in?
Matt: Mostly the punk scene. Almost everyone puts out physical copies. Either a tape or 7″ or a 12″. I prefer a physical copy without a doubt. Like i know for my band, we are going to put out a demo just online for free, and once we get material we are comfortable with we will release a physical copy.
P/E: So what is next for Matt Sidney?
Matt: Not entirely sure. I’m thinking about starting a new house with some people. Hopefully to be used as a political/ venue/ arts collective.
“The drifting night / begets my footsteps / I press this pavement / until my feet scrape / in the back of my head I / saw you in the back of / my head I found a knife / dangling from your face” – Pg. 99
ffffffFFFUUUUUUCKK. I shoot bolt upright in the midst of a terribly vivid nightmare and find myself both relieved and disappointed all at once as I hear the pattering of the rain on my tent. Relieved to be out of the nightmarish hellscape that was playing in my head, but disappointed because now I know I face another difficult morning, and probably another difficult day. I decide not to dawdle, the longer I stay warm in my sleeping bag the less I want to leave, and this kind of situation can be an incredibly slippery slope. I have a long ride today, since I didn’t get as far as I intended to yesterday, so to stay on schedule I really need to put in a solid day of riding.
I pack up most of my things, put on my now slimy and still-soaked shoes that I stupidly left out in the rain all night, and patted along the muddy path to the bathroom in my sleeping outfit to brush my teeth. Every step I take I feel my toes squish in my canvas sneakers and pretty soon a sickening, off-colored bubble of foam starts to form from the toes of my shoes from all the friction. I spot Dan and Zach at the entrance to the showers and I greet them. I’m incredibly fortunate to see them it turns out, as I was in such a rush to leave Beverly Beach yesterday that I forgot my Glucosamine, MSM and vegan multi-vitamins I take for my joints. Zach thoughtfully packed them in his bag, carried them all this way and now hands them over. Vegans stick together! Turns out they had to get a regular campsite last night, as all the hiker/biker sites were either taken by the time they got there, or horribly flooded from the heavy rain. They had to bite the bullet and shell out the money for a regular campsite, which is never fun. Zach checks his phone for vegan spots in Reedsport, since that’ll be the next town we roll through. He always seems to use the seemingly now obsolete website Happy Cow, which I actually hadn’t even thought about it in years since it never gets updated. Often times you check that site for vegan friendly places in towns and upon arriving at the restaurants you find out that it’s been closed for 5 years. I make jabs at him every once in a while for still using the site, but I respect the fact that people want to keep it alive.
I walk back to my tent and reluctantly dress back into my already wet and freezing cold clothes. At least I don’t have to go through the whole process of getting soaked again, I guess. I packed as quickly as my cloudy head would allow me and I pushed my bike out of the now mucky campsite and out of the state park altogether. Still regretting not being able to check out the sand dunes yesterday that lay not 100 ft from where my tent was. There’ll be a next time I’m sure, but this thought brings me no comfort unfortunately.
Biking soon warms me up and I forget about the rain for a little while. I make it into Reedsport, which definitely has a very southern Oregon feel to it. I pull over at a Mcdonalds to steal their wifi and I spot the Canadian bike trio I saw up in Lincoln City inside at a booth. I’m pretty sure I recognized their tent last night at the campsite as I was settling down for bed, but I’m not positive. I’m not totally sure either if they actually ate any food here or if they were just getting out of the rain, but I’d be amazed if they actually ingested any of that garbage and intended to bike the rest of the day. Ethical issues with Mcdonalds aside, the most iron-clad stomach couldn’t hold down their food and bike 80 miles afterward, this I’d be willing to bet on. As I was checking for tea houses nearby they all poured out of the Mcdonalds and one of the women greeted me. They told me they’ll be staying in a cabin tonight at a KOA site just to get out of the rain and dry themselves. KOA is the biggest ripoff campground chain that has ever existed, and I implore you NOT to spend your money on that garbage. They managed to find a cabin there though for $80 that they said they’d split between the 3 of them. They assured me it was a good deal, but I remain unconvinced. Nothing good can come of a KOA campground, even if it means sleeping indoors for a night.
I internet finds me a natural food store up the road and so I bike over and lock up out front, leaving my panniers on the bike. There’s nothing all that valuable in them, and at this point I’m confident that the likelihood of someone robbing me in these small towns is pretty low. I slosh in through the double doors, leaving a trail of muddy water behind me. I try to walk in circles in the store to try and disguise the fact that it’s me, but I doubt that it worked. I find the coffee shop in the back and order a hot chai from the incredibly unfriendly proprietor. I kept trying to be cheery and gracious but I was met with indifference at every turn. As I take a seat a tourist couple comes in and the woman uses the bathroom, but as she’s about to exit she neglects to buy anything. She seemed genuinely interested in getting something from the lunch counter, but she audibly complained that they were sold out of soup. Immediately the cashier fires back “So what, you just use my bathroom and don’t buy anything???”. Flabbergasted she gives half an explanation and then quickly walks out. “Dude, what IS this place?” As I settle in my chair and take my first sip of tea, Careless Whisper by George Michael comes on the overhead. I decide that life is ok in this moment, as the corniest saxophone line that has ever been written wails across the cafe.
I make my visit to the unfriendly health food store brief, and as I leave I reconsider my position about the “one meal out” blanket rule I had for this trip. I noticed in my online search earlier that there was a chinese restaurant at the end of town that seemed to have a lot of vegan options. I’m not going to lie either, the photos made their food look irresistible. I decide to treat myself considering the night I had, and the day that lay ahead of me. I parked my bike near a booth window so I could keep an eye on my stuff, and the server was friendly and said she was glad to see me out riding my bike. Another table full of older folks nearby jumped into the conversation and said the same, that they were glad I was out here on my bike getting exercise and seeing the coast. Then they all started talking amongst themselves about biking and how important it is for personal and environmental health, with the server encouraging them to get bikes and start riding around town, even if it’s just “biking to church on Sundays!” (I do not recommend this destination). She was super helpful when it came to the menu too, and when I ordered a tofu dish she warned me that it had beef broth in it (seriously? why??). She told me it could be made vegan though, and as she entered the kitchen I heard her shout at full volume “HEY JEFF HE’S A VEE-GUN. NO BEEF BROTH!” and heard an affirmative sound in response, not unlike a grunt.
My food turned out to be glorious, and I drank the entire pot of green tea they gave me. It was a good idea to stop here. No regrets here at all. Even better is I look outside and see the sun start to poke out from the clouds! Knowing Oregon this is going to be short lived, but for the moment I’m glad that I don’t have to go back out into the storm. Out front I change out of my wet socks and into my last dry pair. My shoes are still soaked, but I fear getting a rash if I continue on with my socks as wet as they are.
I leave Reedsport on a good note and continue on through the forest with the sun shining weakly down on me. I finally feel my rain shell start to dry, and within an hour my shorts are almost completely dried out as well. I start to make good progress again despite the howling wind threatening to blow me over into the road. Pretty soon I’m racing down the side of a hill, holding one hand on the handlebars and the other on the top of my head to prevent my hat from flying off. All of a sudden I hear a massive *ROARRRR* as a motorcycle flies up from behind me, dips into my emergency lane and comes within a foot of hitting me while revving his engine as aggressively as he could. I hold my ground in the lane and try not to be shaken by it, if I lose control of my bike at this speed there’s no way to get it back and I’ll end up going over a railing into who knows what. As he passes I see it’s one of those typical Harley Davidson-loving, cool dad-vacationing, wild-hogs watching fuckers that I see every once awhile at campsites. His motorcycle is purple, with a stupid looking tribal decal on the back and a woman riding behind him who he was probably trying to impress. I am seething with fucking anger, especially since this piece of shit is supposed to be on my side. Two wheels, you fucking bastard. I burn the image of his bike in my mind, hoping and wishing to myself that we happen to stay at the same campsite this evening so I can greet him with a face-full of bear mace which he so rightfully earned.
I reach another bridge, which typically means I’ll soon be entering a town. This time it’s North Bend, and as per usual I hit the “Bikes on Roadway” button to alert cars of my presence. I decide to bike on the sidewalk as I have on the other bridges so far, even though the signs advise you not to. I find it to be much safer than riding in the road on some of these bridges. I’m greeted by stormy winds that I fight with on the narrow sidewalk so I don’t topple off the 2 ft high curb into the road. The bridge is so long it takes me about 20 minutes to get all the way across it, and with such intense focus it’s a relief to relax my arms as I roll off the sidewalk and into the road on the other side. North Bend seems nice, and it reminds me of a mix of equal parts Astoria and North Lake Tahoe, if you’ve been to either. I also get a strange military feel from it, but I think that’s due in part to a Coast Guard Helicopter swooping low over the town over and over again.
After a brief ride across town I find a Safeway and park my bike. Dan, one of the Seattle guys, joked with me that it seemed that all the riff raff in these small towns seem to congregate around the Safeway parking lot. I decide to test his theory as I eat lunch on a bench out front. Sure enough I see a lot of sketchy characters drift through in my half hour there, including a bearded man with a basketball leering at a couple of teenage women, crouched forward, and talking to himself while holding the basketball at crotch level. I also see a woman yelling at her kids as they’re unloading the cart into her fancy SUV. The little girl is standing halfway on the cart and the mother starts to yell “STOP it! You’re starting to make me really MYADUHHH!” in a way that leads me to believe she’s shouted that way since she was a child.
Breezing through North Bend, and passing over a small section of Coo’s Bay, I finally find myself in Charleston. Here I teeter across an insanely windy bridge as I make my way into the tiny fishing village. The town reeks of fish and it instantly rubs me the wrong way as I see a “breakfast barn” with 5 ft tall letters spelling “BACON” on the side of their roof. I stop at a convenience store to use the bathroom briefly, see a few really depressed looking teenagers and decide I can benefit nothing from hanging around this place.
Soon I’m climbing a hill on the south end of Charleston which encompasses the last few miles before my sleeping spot for the evening. I come to a fork that I don’t remember clearly from the map, so I take out the now tattered and soggy piece of paper to take a brief glance and get my bearings. As I’m standing in the road partly up the hill, a kid on a mountain bike comes FLYING down the hill past me, screaming as he passes “THE STORM IS COMING, MAN!” I instinctively wave and thank him as I take a look to the sky, where near-black clouds are forming and the wind begins to howl even stronger. Fucking shit, what’s next?!? I hop on my bike and start working my way up the hill as quickly as my legs will allow to race against the impending doom looming above me. Eventually I reach the turnoff for the state park, which is about 2 miles off the main bike route, meaning that it’s 4 miles roundtrip to get out here. According to my map this place is the only park in the area that has hot showers, so I think it’s going to be worth the extra distance and effort. I follow the signs for Bastendorf Beach, now nearly frantic as I power up into the state park. Eager to set my tent up as quickly as I can before the sky opens up and I spend another night in a soaking wet tent. The hectic winds are already spraying me with light moisture so I know a heavier rain is coming soon.
After my last and frantic sprint up the hill into the park I finally roll into the campground and bike straight toward the check in station. The building that normally houses a park ranger that you check in with upon entry is closed, so I bike over to a self-check in station a few yards past it. SHIT! It’s cash only, and I don’t see any information about hiker/biker sites on the campground. I think as I realize there’s no card to fill out credit card information. Unfortunately for, and unwisely of me I didn’t stop to get cash out before I got here. There also wasn’t any indication on the map about any of the cheap hiker/biker stations, but that’s not unusual as the park rangers usually have a difficult time locating them on the state park maps as well.
I see the camp host scooting around in a golf cart near another area of the campground and I wave her over. A small girl is running alongside the cart as well, who I assumed was here with her family. When the golf cart reaches me the woman jerks the wheel to the right to come to an abrupt stop just as the little girl side steps to her left while running alongside. The cart comes screeching to a halt and misses taking the girl out by literal inches. “SEE! That’s why you can’t run alongside the cart, honey!”. I try to return my eyes to their normal size and get a hold of what I’m sure was clearly a very shocked look on my face before I start to speak to her. I had no time to waste, so our conversation is as follows:
“Hey, how’s it going? I don’t see any information on here about hiker/biker sites on the campground. Can you show me where they are?”
“Oh… yeah… well there aren’t any hiker spots here.”
“Well, on this state map I have *unfolding my map* it says this place has the cheap hiker/biker sites.”
“Oh, well then yes… yeah we have those. You can camp in any of these spots on this loop behind me.”
“yeah, but they’re not hiker/biker are they? They’re not listed that way on this map and there are cars over there. It says here it’s $16 to camp instead of the usual $5.”
“Well… yeah… they’re uh… hiker spots. Just choose whichever one you want and fill out the card. They’re $16.”
“Uh… ok… thanks”
As she drives off panic starts to hit me. I don’t have any cash, I’m miles from anywhere I could get it, and even if I had it there’s no way I’m paying $16 just to camp here for the night. It’s too stormy to even have a fire, so essentially I’d just be paying to sleep in a dirt lot and use the shower. I get back on my bike and start to pedal past the sites in the camp loop, seeing that the camp host went off in the direction of her trailer. I bike to the far corner to a campsite that seems to have the most privacy; the back of the site touches some open woods, and on either side of it are head-high bushes that obstruct the view to most of the camp. I set my bike on it’s kickstand and stand there for a minute, weighing my options and trying to think as quickly as I can. The sun’s going down, and it must be around 8 o’clock at this point, so I wonder if the host is done with her rounds for the night. I could potentially just set up camp, sleep here for the night, and get up early like I’ve been doing and leave before she even has the chance to check on me. The storm could also be a deterrent for her as well, since the wind has now picked up to an eerily forceful strength. No, I think. She already saw me roll in here and there’s no way she’s not going to come by later to make sure I paid. Ugh. At last I glance behind me and gaze off into the woods. There’s a small and rarely used path leading up and over a grassy hill into a very evil looking forest. Without hesitation I grab my bike and start pushing it down the path, momentarily glancing over my shoulder to make sure the older guy camping solo next to my site can’t see where I’m headed. As quickly and as silently as I’m able, I drag my bike up and over the grassy hill, and head in a straight line out into the dark woods.
A short distance into the woods I come to the rim of a cliff. Just below me is the road I biked in on, and there’s a small patch of open and level ground that I deem good enough to pitch my busted tent on. I clear some logs and debris out of the patch and realize the ground is incredibly soft due to the thick top layer of moss. I set up my tent as best as I can in the howling wind, and quickly place everything (bike included) inside. On nights where I felt questionable about the safety of my bike I’ve brought it inside my spacious 3 person tent, and tonight is no exception. After loading all of my gear into my tent I stand and hover just outside of it, feeling extreme anxiety about being discovered out here. I’m filled with dread thinking about having to repack all of my gear, bike the few miles back into town and have to find another place to sleep in this storm. My paranoia only increases as I hear children playing and yelling off somewhere in the campground, terrified that they might run out into my guarded nook in the forest. I could just see them returning to their campsites to regale their parents with tales of a strange, bearded, tattooed man sleeping illegally out in the woods. Well, to be fair I really have no idea if sleeping out here is legal or not. If I’m discovered I decide that I will assure whoever finds me that I somehow have the states permission to be camping out here on an undesignated plot. Who knows, it could even be true. That doesn’t matter really though, if the camp host doesn’t know what a hiker/biker site is I’m willing to bet that she doesn’t know the law concerning public lands, and regardless of what the law actually says I’ll still attempt to bullshit my way out of it. I’m willing to fight tooth and nail to just put an end to this day and be able to sleep peacefully.
I stand outside my tent studying my map for about 45 minutes, and I decide that if by 9:30 I still haven’t seen anyone come up and over that hill than I’ll be safe for the evening. This is of course a totally arbitrary deadline, other than having a placebo effect on my ability to settle in and finally get comfortable. So I check my map and mentally calculate how many days I’ll have till I’m in California to keep my mind occupied, but the thought of that even overwhelms me. I then focus on my days ride tomorrow, which is around 55 miles spanning from the edge of Charleston to a campsite just south of Port Orford called Humbug Mountain State Park. The forecast calls for rain again tomorrow, according to a sign I saw at the entrance to the park. Every day of this trip so far I’ve decided the night before how far I’m willing to ride the next day, always having fall back places to camp if for whatever reason I’m unable or unwilling to reach the park I’m trying to get to. According to my map there are a few state parks between here and Port Orford, but they’re all miles off my main route and from what I can tell not worth the extra effort, so it looks like it’s all or nothing out to Humbug Mountain.
9:30 comes and goes, and I finally decide to climb into my tent and settle in for the night. The wind is still howling and rain is starting to fall steadily; though the gnarled, dry trees that make up this forest are doing a decent job of protecting me from the elements. I still fear that a dead branch is going to break free from the tree and land on my tent, but that’s something I’ll worry about when the time comes. I get into my sleepy shorts (aka basketball shorts, because I’m a bro) and climb into my sleeping bag. Now that I’ve been off my bike for a couple hours I actually start to feel the cold air again so I’m thankful to have the 0 degree mummy bag I brought along. I realize I haven’t drank enough water today as I’m feeling strangely dehydrated, which is odd considering how damp I’ve been for the last 48 hours. I pull out the book I’ve been reading on this trip, “Different Seasons” by Stephen King, and I read a considerable amount of one of the 4 novellas in the book called “Summer of Corruption”. Without giving away any of the story, it is fucking brutal, and the suspense was amplified greatly by the storm rattling my tent and the silhouettes of the gnarled trees moving around outside the canvas. Every branch cracking or leaves brushing the forest floor put me on alert for being discovered, and only added to the suspense of my book. This is where my life has lead me this evening, reading this intense book in the middle of a primeval forest and braving a storm with nothing but a rickety fabric tent and a sleeping bag. As unpleasant as a lot of this day has been, I recognize that it is nights like this one that serve as a bench-marker for the times that I’ve felt truly alive, regardless if that was a pleasant experience or not. I envy your safe sleeping quarters this evening my friends, but I’m still thankful to be out in the world tonight. Sleep well.
“This is why events unnerve me / they find it all, a different story / notice whom for wheels are turning / turn again and turn towards this time” – New Order
I awake to the sound of songbirds and running water from the creek just a few feet from my head. It’s probably about 8 am or so, and I rise feeling calm and rested as the sun just barely peeks out from behind the trees. There’s not much to do or see in this part of Tillamook State Forest, so I end up making my morning brief by eating a couple protein bars, pack my things up in about 15 minutes time and head on my way.
It’s about a mile walk uphill on this unpaved road before I get back to the main highway, and it is a constant struggle to push my bike up this steep hill with loose gravel under my feet. Last night I was too tired to care about hitting rocks and potholes in the road on my way down, so I stayed on my bike and coasted down; but now on my way back up I’m amazed I didn’t pop a tire or break a spoke in doing so. I need to be more careful about things like that, I’m not used to biking with this much weight and I could ruin my wheels even before I get to the coast; this thing has got to really last me.
I make it up to the highway in about 15 minutes with my arms already worn out and little rocks in the bottom of my shoes, a perfect recipe to drive you completely insane. I stop for a moment to clean out my shoes and socks in the cool morning air, mount my bike and then continue on toward the summit. According to the map I’m just a few miles from the peak, but none of that seems to matter in this moment as I’m met with an immediate and extremely steep grade right out of the gate of the state park. It’s not even 9 am and here I am sweating profusely and greedily gasping for air due to the elevation change. Thankfully traffic is lighter this morning, and it certainly makes the difference on some sections of the hill where there’s no shoulder, or the shoulder is obstructed by debris, or in some cases where the shoulder disappears and drops 100 feet down the side of a cliff. Definitely not nerve-wracking at all… not even a little bit.
After much swearing, pleading and sweating the ground levels out and I approach the summit. I know this because the summit is clearly marked with the elevation by a very official looking sign; something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Though it could be just something I’ve just never noticed because riding in a car doesn’t necessarily prompt you to look for things like that. Even though this is only day 2 and I’ve hardly made any progress on the trip as a whole, this still feels like a considerable victory and I feel triumphant as I pass the elevation sign. This is the highest elevation I’ll need to climb on the entire trip, and it tops out at a massive 1,586 feet. The air up here is so thin that even now that I’m resting for a moment I still feel on the verge of passing out. I stop for an extensive photo op at the sign and then continue on my way down the other side of the mountain.
All of a sudden I’m thrust from making slow and labored progress up the side of this mountain to flying down the other side. Never have I climbed a hill that had such a dramatic and abrupt transition as this one. I’m flying past rest stops, parked cars, over bridges with no emergency lane and even taking the car lane for myself on occasions when the shoulder didn’t provide enough room. I’m nearly matching the speeds of cars on the road and it’s both an exhilarating and terrifying sensation. I don’t pedal for at least an hour, and I’m riding the brakes most of the way down to try and keep my speed at a manageable level. Another promise I made to friends before I left was to watch my speed coming down the capes and mountains here, haha. I consider myself a bit of a thrill seeker so I’m tempted to see how fast I can get this thing down the side of this mountain, but I know I’ll disappoint a couple people back home if I go flying off a cliff at 50 miles an hour. The compromises we make for our friends, am I right?
Eventually I make a stop at a place called “Lee’s camp store” which was marked on one of my maps as being the only convenience store in the state park. This stop is coming not a minute too soon as my water jug is nearly empty and I needed to pick up a couple of small things that I forgot to grab before I left Portland. I get a gallon of water from “Lee”, the proprietor, who is actually not Lee at all. I think his name is Gary or something; I overheard him talking to a regular customer at one point. I also grab a lighter for future campfires (one of the few uses straightedge kids actually have for them) and an impulse buy of a tiny packet of Emergen-C just to ensure that the cold air last night won’t give me a cough. The instructions encourage you to mix these Emergen-C packets in water, but doing it that way tastes horrible, so I usually just eat them dry and let the sand-like granules dissolve in my mouth and foam up like I have rabies. Usually Icrack a goofy smile at someone while doing so as well. It is both childish and delicious, these things of course not being mutually exclusive. I recommend giving it a try.
I get a lot of odd looks from the locals as I’m taking a rest on the bench out front, and I assume it’s not just because I have a mouthful of foam. It’s probably a combination of the foam, my smell, my ancient and overloaded bike and the Conflict “Ungovernable Force” sleeveless shirt I’m wearing that has a photo of riot cops getting their asses’ kicked. They probably don’t get a lot of people biking down this highway and climbing that mountain too often either, which is understandable because climbing that thing was total bullshit.
After my brief rest I continue on my way down the mountain, quickly passing the 2 other state campsites on that touch Highway 6 and eventually the grade starts to level out. I can tell I’m getting close to the coast because I can smell the salty air and feel a slight ocean breeze blowing through this valley. I grew up a 10 minute walk from the ocean in Southern California, and whenever I come out to the coast it always feels like I’m heading home. Unfortunately this also means that the headwind starts to increase in strength, but I don’t mind as the breeze is refreshing and cooling me off after a long day in the sun. I eventually get spit out of the valley after following a beautiful and roaring river for miles, with houses on the other side that are only accessible by bridge, and bottom out in some farmland on the outskirts of Tillamook. The wind is now roaring against me, and fighting it is like pedaling through mud. This wind immediately goes from refreshing to irritating over the course of an hour, and what’s worse is that a bump I hit on my way down the mountain knocked my back wheel out of true, giving it a slight wobble. It’s not bad enough to effect the brakes or how the bike handles, but just seeing the wobble bothers me enough to where I obsessively look back at it to see if it’s getting worse every few miles.
Man, it stinks out here too. I mean, it really, REALLY stinks out here, and the refreshing sea air can’t mask it in the slightest. There are dairy farms on either side of this stretch of highway for miles, which gives Tillamook it’s reputation for being such a foul smelling town. The TIllamook cheese factory is out here as well, which I’m sure you’ve heard of or seen their products in stores, and from billboards I pass I learn they offer tours across their production line. I’m sure though that they don’t offer to take you out to the barns where female cows are forcefully impregnated, kept in small enclosures and eventually have their babies ripped away from them as they scream and struggle to protect their young. I’m sure they also don’t tell you that if the cow is born female that they’re sent off to be impregnated as well and live out the same fate as their mothers. Lastly, they CERTAINLY wouldn’t tell you that if the calf is born male they’re sold off to a veal farm or raised as veal right there on the same grounds. It’s truly a despicable industry, but I digress. All I’ll say is the best way to put an end to violence such as this is to go vegan and leave the cheese out of your diet completely. Otherwise you end up with smelly towns, sad mother cows, tortured calves and rich, asshole ranchers. It’s a losing combination, I assure you.
I was in the fight of my life against this headwind, but eventually I power through it and arrive in downtown Tillamook. This town is a lot busier than I expected it to be, but I realize when I arrive in the city center that it serves as a junction for a few major roads, and also is a necessary fly over if you’re going anywhere up or down the coast. Highway 6 deadends at the 101, which will be my Highway for the rest of the trip. I’m thankful for that, as the 101 is one of the most beautiful and scenic highways in the world, in my humble opinion. I coast through downtown for a bit looking at the various tourist shops, but I’m mostly interested in finding a cafe with wifi, tea and a bathroom; the three basic needs I have when stopping in town. I also promised a couple folks that since I don’t have a phone on this trip that I’ll check in with them via email at least once every two days, even if it’s just to say “hey, I’m not dead”. This is actually a responsibility that comes up quite often in my life, if you can believe it.
I spot a Safeway at the edge of town, and across the street from it I see a small cafe with a big “WE HAVE WIFI” sign hanging out front. Business owners – be sure to advertise this fact; you will at the very least be receiving my patronage when I’m traveling. I lock up my bike and decide to visit the cafe first, and while entering I realize that it’s just a single diners table and a few booths in what looks like the hallway of an indoor mall. Kind of an odd set up, but not too surprising as these small towns usually have multiple businesses that share one big room like this. I sit in a booth and order a cup of tea and the only vegan and gluten free thing on the menu – the tomato soup. At first I was a little bummed to only see one thing on the menu I could eat, but the tomato soup turns out to be amazing, and I regret not ordering a bigger portion as soon as I’m done. I check my email and write to concerned parties as to my whereabouts (i.e. I’m still not dead) and try to cool down from the difficult ride I just finished before I get up to leave. I tip the server generously, as she’s the only one working and was extremely helpful with finding me vegan stuff on the menu. Also, as a general rule you should just tip service workers. That’s how they make a living. Seriously. Give them money.
I leave my bike locked up out in front of the cafe and cross the street to make a stop at the Safeway for supplies. While crossing the parking lot I see a red-faced cyclist with two touring bikes parked next to him. I get the impression he’s taking 5 while his touring buddy is inside getting snacks. I give him a wave and he waves back as I drag my heavy bags through the entrance of the store.
With my business concluded at Safeway I return to my bike and follow my map to the state park I’ll be sleeping at tonight, a place just South West of here called Cape Lookout. “Cape” on the Oregon Coast is just a fancy word for “huge hill next to the ocean that you have to climb on your bike”, and that’s exactly what lay in store from me as soon as I leave town. Having already had a pretty strenuous day due to the headwind, this was a challenge for my leg muscles. There are a lot of little side routes posted on my map that are deemed safer and more scenic for cyclists than some sections of the 101, but in this moment I start to doubt the decision to take this route and the added few miles it requires. My cares drift away though as they usually do when I start descending the other side of the cape, and after I leave the more populated areas of Tillamook behind I enter the state park, where the view of the ocean is breathtaking. I mean, it is so unbelievably beautiful out here that I can hardly describe it, so I might as well spare you in hopes that you’ll travel out here on your own to experience it for yourself. It’s late in the day, so the sun is starting to drift closer to the ocean, soon to be entering what us photographers like to call “the magic hour”. In this hour, with the wind blowing past me as I’m descending the cape, I have a view of the most dramatic landscape my eyes have ever had the privilege to be laid upon. My only regret in this moment is not making enough room for my SLR camera so I could take photos.
As I’m enjoying myself and bombing the cape down the other side, I slowly start to feel the wind sweep underneath the brim of my hat and begin lifting it off my head. Before I can get a hold of it, it goes flying off me and sails through the air as my hand comes down on the top of my hatless head. FUCK!!! I gently apply the brakes and dip to the left to make a u-turn and start the climb back to where my hat lay in the road. Upon arrival, and as I’m trying to set my bike on the kickstand in just a way so it won’t tip over, I see an SUV climbing up and over the hill and approach my hat at a considerable speed. I decide it’s all or nothing at this point, so I ditch my bike and bolt out into the road, grab my hat, and frantically run back to the other side again to dodge the car without looking back, thinking looking over my shoulder would only slow me down. I realize how foolish this act was as I look up and see that the guy had slowed and then completely stopped on the side of the road to allow me to grab it. I then remember hm, sometimes people stop for you when you run out into the middle of the road, since (and I don’t know why) I just assumed this person would run over my hat for whatever reason. The guy then pulls up alongside me and rolls down his window, just as I notice a “Bike Portland” decal stuck to the side of the car. I’m not sure what that company is exactly, but I agree with the sentiment. YEAH! BIKE PORTLAND! He asks if I’m from Portland as well and I respond that I am. He takes a glance at my bike and says “interesting set up!”, which is both a nice way of saying “what were you thinking when you made that thing?” and also what I imagine to be a common phrase I’ll be hearing on this trip from this moment on. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a fancy bike setup, and I hope that people realize that as I’m kicking their ass climbing these capes with a beat up old Schwinn while they’re on their $1,000 bikes.He seems nice enough though, and I’m sure he didn’t mean any offense, so I remain polite. We have a pleasant exchange, aside from the awkward pauses between topics of conversation where we either just kinda stare at each other or a car squeezes past us, irritated that we’re in the road. He’s apparently taking a group from PDX on a bike tour down certain sections of the coast. He drops them off and they bike down the 101 and then meet up with him again at the campsites. Seriously? People pay for the privilege of doing that? Do they not know how easy it is to get a map and do it yourself? I finally end the conversation as I’m eager to get to the campground and wish him a good day and a “maybe I’ll see you at the hiker-biker sites!”, which is another exchange that I think will become very prevalent on this trip.
I roll into Cape Lookout with a fair amount of daylight left, and I seem to be the only one here so far. The hiker-biker sites are cheap here as usual, $6 as opposed to the expected $5, but I can’t complain as the campground is really well maintained and the biker sites are far away from the the inane conversations and horrible country music being blasted over in the RV area. There are also free showers here, which are the two sweetest words one can hear after biking all day in the hot sun. Soon after I get my camp set up, I’m joined by two other guys claim the spot directly across from mine. I recognize one of the guys as the fellow I said hello to at the Safeway back in town. They seem like nice dudes, so when I head out to take a shower I ask if they can keep an eye on my stuff for me, since the showers are a 5 – 10 minute walk from this section of the campground. They give me the thumbs up and once I reach the bathrooms I have the most exhilarating and refreshing shower of my life. The water is only one temperature, which is luke-warm, but I feel like the luckiest guy in the world in this moment.
After I return to the campsite, I scrounge up the wood left behind in my fire pit and build a decent sized fire to cook my dinner. After I heat up my Masala and a small box of quinoa pasta I got in town, I wash out my bike shorts at the water tap and hang them on a stick over the flames to dry them out. I sit and enjoy my food while keeping an eye on my shorts to make sure they don’t fall off the flimsy and stick and into the fire. After I’m done eating I head next door to chat with the two guys across from me, feeling like it’s important to familiarize myself with other folks I’ll be sharing spaces with. Their names are Zach and Dan and they’re both from Seattle, and it turns out Zach is vegan as well and knows some folks that I’m familiar with from California. They’re both friendly guys, but as I fear more and more that I’m encroaching on someone’s personal space and their private vacation I head out and take a walk around the grounds to see the sites. There are some pretty awesome sand dunes on the other end of the park according to this map I got at the front desk, so I hop on my bike to ride to the other side of the park and check them out. After riding with so much weight on the front, riding my bike like this feels awkward and my arms uncontrollably shake from side to side. It’s the strangest feeling, almost as if my arms are flailing about as if independent from my body. Thankfully I don’t crash and I make my rounds before returning to my tent. My tent itself is actually only about 10 steps from the beach, I realize I forgot to mention. On my return to my site I notice a few new groups of cyclists in the campground; 3 people, who I find out are Canadian, taking the spot off to my left and a group of 3 women set up just behind me. I can hear the waves crashing from my tent site and it’s a familiar and well appreciated feeling, so I grab the Townshend’s Kombucha (my favorite brand of botch) I bought at Safeway and decide to drink it on the hill overlooking the ocean just down the path from me. As I’m enjoying my beverage and watching the sun sink below the horizon I think that I wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world right now; this is where I want to be today, and any care I have in the world has instantly dissolved, if only temporarily.
Pretty soon the quiet is broken by shuffling behind me, and I see Dan and Zach hopping a fence I’m sitting near with a frisbee in hand. They tell me they’re going to go toss it around on the beach and invite me to come with, I agree and tag along down to the shore. We have a fun and rambunctious game of catch with the frisbee, which Zach tells me he bought at the thrift store back in town for a quarter. We all joke about how when we see other people tossing a frisbee around we typically make fun of them, but like most things you don’t realize how awesome it is until you start playing. We’re zipping it over our heads, catching and throwing from between our legs, making dramatic running catches, and daring each other to really go for it and dive hard into the sand. We all keep reminding each other repeatedly that whoever chucks it into the ocean has to swim and get it, and we have a few close calls and some wet shoes when the disc lands in the shallows and starts getting dragged out to see with the tide. We all also get thoroughly covered in sand by the time it gets dark, even though none of us dove headfirst for a catch, but we decide to call it as the sun drifts further toward the horizon. Afterward I return to my perch on the hill to watch the waves, and Dan (who tells me he’s an Arborist by profession) climbs a very dry and extremely tall tree a few feet behind me to get what he claims will be ultimately a better view. He gets probably 40 ft up in the tree, and he’s even so far up that it’s impossible for me to photograph him with my little ipod camera in this rapidly dimming light. He shouts down that to his dismay the tree branches are blocking what he expected to be an amazing view. We both sit in silence for quite a while, and as he begins to climb down I spot a couple walking down the beach far off in the distance. They’re walking just along the edge of where the water touches, when they both stop for a moment and face the ocean. I assumed at first that they were just taking in this glorious view we were having. But oops, no. Wait. No, he just dropped his shorts and is peeing on the sand. He’s pulling the “I’m just looking at something” move while he pees with one hand on top of his head and the other clutching a beer can. Meanwhile, the woman just stares off in a random direction until he finishes, not convincing anyone that nothing weird is going on because she’s not even looking at the ocean. He then zips up his fly and struggles to pull his shorts back on properly with one hand, not wanting to let go of his brewski even for a second. What a precious moment.
After they leave I decide I’ve had my fill of both beautiful sunsets and people urinating on public beaches for the day, so I head back to my tent and start getting ready for bed. Zach and Dan are still up so I chat with them for a while, but as yawns start to spread around the circle we eventually call it a day and wish each other goodnight. Last thing I tell them I say before heading off to my tent is that if we’re leaving at the same time in the morning and they wanted to roll down to Lincoln City together that it could be a lot of fun. Even though I’m doing this trip solo it’s always nice to meet cool folks, and there will be plenty of opportunities to have time to myself when I need it. Plus, they told me they have a pretty rad stereo they blast music from as they ride.
I finally climb into my tent, change into the basketball shorts I like to sleep in and unpack my sleeping bag from my pannier. Another night of being pleasantly and thoroughly exhausted, so I’m thinking I won’t have any trouble falling asleep. The sound of the waves and the salty air are a soothing presence as they drift through the mosquito net of my tent, and it’s a gentle end to a difficult but fulfilling day. Goodnight world, I hope you’re all as happy as I am in this moment.
So the last article concerned labor law. But we need a workplace organization capable of enforcing the minimum standards of the law. Without this organization the boss can violate our rights, manipulate and control us collectively and pretty much do as he/she wishes with us. When we organize to enforce the minimum standards, we not only improve our conditions and sometimes wages, but we also create, in the process, the bare-bones infrastructure that makes bigger and bolder actions and campaigns possible. The ability to enforce our minimum rights is a necessary precondition to gaining the ability to increase our rights as well as wages. If we are going to sell our ability to work, at the least we should be paid well, and have some say in how our labor power is used. If our rights go unenforced, they are one step from being abolished since no collective, organized force exists to make those rights a reality, there will be no force to prevent those in government who are beholden to our bosses ( all of them )from doing away with those rights. This means less say in how our labor power is used by our bosses.
So how do we build an organization capable of this? First off, we need to discard the idea that we need to have the full workplace, 100% in our union before we are able to carry out actions. It’s just not true. Don’t get me wrong, it is always better to have as close to all of the workers in a workplace as possible. But it is not necessary. Even in strongly organized workplaces it is usually a minority of workers who carry out the day to day tasks of organizing actions and campaigns. The minimum number of members necessary is dependent on the tactics used or are planned on being used in the future. A good objective to aim for would be to have 15% of the workplace as fully active members. So if you work in a factory with 1000 workers, you would aim at having 150 members. This would be a strong organization and the reason why is that each member would be responsible for less than 10 nonmembers, thus the organizational burdens and duties are equally shared and no one is overwhelmed. We would have an effective and efficient organization stronger than the company’s supervisor to worker ratio most likely. We would be able to pull off activities such as leafleting, newsletter distribution etc. quicker than management can stamp it out through divide and conquer or carrot and stick tactics. But we can still pull off actions with less members ( say 5 even ), that can lay the foundation for building our numbers. A petition hardly ever works as far as gaining any concessions from a company. From this perspective it is a weak tactic. And it generally is. But nonetheless, people generally see it as a legitimate means of struggle. From that perspective, the success of a petition is the number of new members gained through the collection of signatures. And it does not generally require a large number of members to pull off a petition action. If you had five people in your group and each member got 10 signatures, you would have 50 signatures. If all five members recruited one other member to help with the petitioning you would gain an additional 50 plus 5 new members bringing you to 10 members and 50 signatures. Etc. then you would organize a new group to present the petition ( may be outside groups can help here). The Point is that you may only be strong enough to pull off small and weak actions. But those actions are the stepping stones to larger organization if planned correctly.
So this leads into the next question. How do we get to that 15%? Through actions like above. Petitions, parking lot rallies or meetings etc. You will only build power through actions. You may occasionally and marginally recruit new members by just asking or preaching to the choir. But actions change people. Activity breeds more activity especially when they are victorious. The best course of action is to set yourself, as a group, a strategic plan. The ultimate goal being the 15%. When achieved , you should set yourself a new strategic plan for bigger goals. Your first big milestone should be 7.5%. Half The minimum necessary. So again in a factory of 1000 workers, we would set our sights on 75 members. But that is still a little ways off. So let’s shave that down even. 25 members would be a better and less overwhelming short-term goal. If we only have five members what would it take to pump that up to 25. We could do a petition campaign and recruit , say ,five more people. Maybe do a leafleting action a couple of weeks after the petition and gain five more members which would put us at 15. That would be good. But all the while the boss will be focusing his efforts against us. All of those actions should be done. But we should also be keeping our eye out for more drastic opportunities. Those are the ones that will gain the respect of coworkers. Directly resolving coworkers grievances through confrontations with management. Once we hit our milestone of 25 members it then becomes necessary to engage in more drastic actions if we are to gain members in larger numbers proportional to our size. at that point petitioning ( or whatever median or average tactic makes sense in your workplace) will no longer be enough. It could still be used for some issues, but it will no longer be the primary tactic. You will have to find another, more aggressive one, that fits your size. But not one so militant that it will alienate you from the rest of the workforce, unless they are up for it. You will have to feel these things out.
So seeing as the last article was something more along the lines of an introduction. I thought I would dive right in and give something more like a proper first. I want to lay a solid foundation, so I am going to deal with the issue of labor law right off the bat.
So the primary law governing labor activism in the United States ( the body of law I am most familiar with ) is the National Labor Relations Act, commonly referred to as the Wagner Act. The law is without a doubt intended to restrict our rights as workers especially since it was amended in 1947 by a piece of legislation known as the Taft Hartley Act. That piece of legislation was a response to a militant strike wave that threatened the ability of corporations and capitalist institutions to govern profitably. Understanding this from the outset does not mean we can realistically ignore the law, any more then it means we have to helplessly and futilely obey it. It just means knowing what we can do legally and what we are not supposed to do, as well as what your boss can and cannot do legally. But be aware, if he/she is threatened, make no mistake, your boss will be prepared to break laws to achieve his/her objectives.
So what is the significance of the NLRA? What many labor activists throughout history recognized is that the difference between slave labor and free labor hinged on the right to strike. The right to refuse work. If you are unable to refuse work then a situation exists no different then involuntary servitude. Hence the frequent reference to wage slavery by labor movements even prior to the US Civil War. But just being able to quit your job has no meaning if that means you substitute one horrible boss for another. The ability to quit work only has meaning collectively as that is the only way to effect a company or employer. The NLRA acknowledged this in law and so recognized the right to strike. It was a piece of legislation that merely rubberstamped what the workers at the time had essentially already legalized in practice, through many mass strikes. The intent was to concede just enough to prevent revolution. Just after World War II, and during, workers were striking on a mass scale again. This time Congress sought to reign that activity in by passing legislation to restrict strike activity. All of this legislation is still in effect today. Which means our strengths and weaknesses are still institutionalized in current labor law.
The key language in the NLRA for our purposes is section 7 a which states that
“employees shall have the right to self organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective-bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8 a 3 “
The issue here is that workers with or without a union, in any workplace, has the right to organize and take actions ( strikes etc ) and cannot be retaliated against. In theory at least. But subsequent legislation and court decisions have severely restricted these basic rights. For one thing, striking in sympathy with another group of workers at a different company is not protected by law. Though many have done just this and won, it has been in spite of courts that they have had their victories. Certain picketline activity is unprotected, such as mass pickets that physically prevent strikebreakers from going to work. Though again, many have used this tactic and won. Again in spite of the courts.
Other activities have also been restricted. Deliberate slowdowns have been found by courts to be unprotected. And again, see above. Do you detect a theme here? We cannot rely on courts to protect our rights. We have to get knowledgeable about what those rights are, and vigilantly defend them against unjust laws that have amended them to the point of being meaningless.
So what are the restrictions on employers? For one ,they, by law anyway, cannot retaliate against you for participating in or initiating actions to improve wages or conditions of work. This applies to union and nonunion alike. It is known as concerted protected activities. Leafleting, meetings, strikes, demonstrations all fall within this concerted protected activities category. They cannot knowingly Institute any kind of surveillance or otherwise try to control or influence a group of workers wanting to organize. We all know that without a force capable of enforcing the law on bosses, the law goes unrespected. So on to our next topic.
What sort of tactics do employers use to squash attempts by workers to improve their lot? Number one, divide and conquer. They like to create a segment of the workforce that is loyal to management, and use that force to create fear and dissent amongst and between those that want to organize and those who are undecided. They often like to back this up with discipline against labor activists and/ or promises to improve the situation of undecided workers. One common tactic is the ” captive audience meeting “, in which the employer brings everybody together to either scare and intimidate, or to build sympathy towards management. Most employer tactics fall under the categories of the carrot or the stick.
So how do you respond to these tactics? In a word, intensifying activity. People do not organize for the sake of organization, actions organize people. A strike is not just an event, it is an organization. Actions that neutralize the employer’s ability to discipline can take the stick away from him/her. And if that carrot is too small, our actions can make the boss come back with a bigger carrot. If after a leafleting action one activist is written up for a petty offense in retaliation, a group of workers can respond with a two hour strike for instance. Making it known that retaliation will not be tolerated. This lays the groundwork for future actions. You have to judge the forces at hand, and work hard at building those forces continuously in order to pull off progressively more daring actions. But that topic is for a future article.
So in conclusion, there is law on the books that is useful, if severely limiting. But we need to know it. And we need to know how to and how not to use it. We need to be organized enough to at least defend these minimum rights if we are to advance towards bolder ones. Punks can play an important role since we are not predisposed ,on the average, to taking the bosses word for it. My next article will cover the issue of building a core organization at the workplace capable of at least enforcing minimum rights. So bear with me. Cheers and solidarity!!!
Over the past twenty years a lot has happened in the world of work, and by extension the labor movement. We can use the passage of NAFTA as a convenient marker to assess where we are at currently, since the Zapatistas wisely understood that things would never be the same. I won’t be going over the history since that event, but will merely give a brief overview of some issues that have developed since then that directly affects the punk community and why I think punk and labor issues are related, thereby (hopefully) justifying why a punk labor column is needed.
Firstly, all the avenues the punk scene had created for itself to refuse wage labor, or at least provide a basis for struggling to resist the worst aspects, have one by one been narrowing or closing all together. From the institutional schemes ( unemployment benefits, welfare, student grants etc.) to the autonomous DIY ones ( labels, bands, squats etc.), “the scene” has been torn apart and restructured just as much and in parallel ways to industry and society as a whole. So the punk scene is being forced out of it’s enclave ( an enclave not without it’s problems ) and into the labor market. That is not to say that punks were not “in” that market before, but if many a song were any indication, it was obvious that a job was a necessary evil at best, and one to be avoided if it were possible at all. And many found ways. But neoliberalism has changed the game on us. From a potentially liberatory file-sharing phenomenon, Napster ,through the courts had become a means of attacking one of the pillars of our communities’ infrastructure. The independent labels. Once central institutions capable of coordinating ( along with zines, clubs etc ) our activities, today it is more and more difficult to financially sustain them, with the predictable effect of less new labels being formed on the old models, and more existing ones being either driven out or coopted. New, effective models have yet to be found to counter and overcome these attacks.
Secondly, punk has always had a militant direct action strain that the labor movement could sure as hell learn something from if it wants to actually achieve any of it’s goals and demands and not just sit atop it’s rhetoric. It is clear that the capitalists have no interest in negotiating with a “partner” or loyal opposition, so that route is a dead end from the start. Labor leaders who try to sell negotiations and compromises are already obsolete. What we need to look to are models like Earth First!, the old IWW and direct actions today that are providing models of how to win, by any means necessary. What strike tactics are effective in shutting down production? How can a small group of workers on a job make the greatest impact in slowing production to a trickle? How can we build solidarity with groups outside our workplace, in the community, so we are a political ( not in terms of elections, but in terms of the power to make sure all hell breaks loose if we are screwed ) force. These are questions we need to be asking if we are to build the kind of world we want to live in.
So with that said, I’d like to move on to a more positive note. Obviously, it’s not all doom and gloom. People ARE resisting. Maybe it hasn’t reached the point of critical mass on the social level, but there are plenty of local examples right now to point to. One of the most significant, in my opinion, are the recent waves of fast-food strikes. Really taking off in 2012, these strikes are momentous for what they signify. One section of the working class that has been used as a threat against the established and more powerful sectors of the class ( “Don’t lose your factory job or you could be flipping burgers” ) has increasingly been refusing to play that role any longer. This signals to the corporations that the old game won’t work any more. If nothing would be the same for us after NAFTA, then nothing would be the same for them after these strikes. Several companies have acknowledged that they have been effective, and though none have actually achieved the demand of “$15/hr and a union” yet, several cities have been forced to consider giving in by raising the minimum wage. And the movement does not look to be withering anytime soon. These developments directly involve the punk scene since no doubt some of our brothers and sisters will have been involved directly or indirectly, and so we should be keeping our eyes on expanding and supporting their efforts, as well as initiating more of our own.
So, in the future I will be writing some articles on practical nuts and bolts issues for punks who want to organize at work. Topics such as how to organize to win specific grievances. effective tactics and structures. Legalities and theory, etc. Hopefully my writing will improve with time. I would greatly appreciate any correspondence and feedback going into this. Cheers and Solidarity!
In recent weeks there have been a number of mass shootings throughout North America which is becoming increasingly normalized in modern society. John Zerzan has written and spoken extensively about the phenomenon of shootings, never shying away from the difficult subjects and questions that many others actively avoid.
PE: I remember you once saying on your radio show that when the media talks about mass shootings they use a set of buzz words and often present it as though these acts are incomprehensible. Can you explain what you meant and why this is problematic?
Zerzan: First, let me say that my focus has been on the unprecedented rise in what are commonly called “random” multiple shooting; those that, as you say, are presented as incomprehensible. Of course they are not incomprehensible and speak to the nature of modern mass society. They are deeply symptomatic of the growing isolation, a product of the disappearance of community. Society becomes rapidly more technological and – contrary to the propaganda claims of the tech agenda – people are ever more adrift and lonely. With less and less to hang on to unspeakable things happen.
PE: Often mass shootings get blamed on mental health, yet many of these killers had no history of known mental illness?
Zerzan: Yes, most of the shooters have no history of mental illness. More often one reads what has become a kind of cliche description: ‘he was the quietest guy, very nice, never missed work or made trouble, etc’
PE: A while back there was an article about kids being bored by mass shootings. Do you think they have become part of the spectacle? Or are they the cracks?
Zerzan: It’s possible that as these multiple homicide acts become almost daily occurrences events they are tuned out or even become boring. Think what else is routinely tuned among the common horrors of civilization…
PE: I saw a feminist blogger recently write that all these shootings have one thing in common, that the perpetrators are all men. What’s your take?
Zerzan: Not all the shooters are male. A horrible part of of the phenomenon in recent years has been family slaughters, including mothers murdering their children.
PE: I have heard you say that mass shootings are a phenomenon that appears to be unique to both the modern times and certain parts of the world? What is the connection between privilege and this type of violent act?
Zerzan: Roughly speaking, these rampage killings happen in the more technological societies and are spreading from the US to other technologically advanced countries. Thus one wonders how ‘advanced’ or ‘privileged’ these places really are. In terms of individuals it is less often poorer people committing theses acts, more likely white suburbanites, with some exceptions.
PE: Ever since Chris Dorner opened fire killing a couple cops, more people are beginning to target the police. As an anarchist, what do you make of this?
Zerzan: Police brutality and the militarization of the cops seems to be increasing. So, not a big surprise that more folks would strike back.
PE: Another interesting aspect of the more recent shootings, starting with Dorner – is that the killers used facebook or other social media to post statements before committing their killings. I am certain this will justify increased profiling and surveilence. What’s your thoughts on this?
Zerzan: Social media usage is of course extremely widespread so we see more use of it by shooters e.g. the Isla Vista killer recently.
PE: Layla AbdelRahim writes about how politeness and manners are a form of civilized violence that helps to hide the violence of our society. We live in a horribly violent culture that pretends the violence doesn’t exist; what do you make of these outbursts of very public violence in the spectacle of polite society?
Zerzan:Layla refers to how domestication represses the violence, if less effectively these days, eh? The violence is less hidden than ever but denial reigns and the ‘solutions’ put forth are very superficial. For example, gun control laws which miss the basic reality. That is, guns have always been very prevalent in this country, since colonial times in fact. But the shooting rampages as a common phenomenon is quite recent historically. A year before Adam Lanza killed twenty-some children at a school in Connecticut he called Anarchy Radio to tell of a chimpanzee who attacked its owner. The chimp had been dressed in human clothes, fed human food, provided with TV – and snapped because of the degrading domestication it was subject to. The bitter irony was that Lanza himself snapped and killed two dozen people about a year later.
PE: When Ted Kazcinski was arrested as the Unabomber, you wrote him letters and visited him in jail; how do his acts of violence differ from these others? Is it simple a difference in ideology?What can we learn from “Uncle Ted’s” actions?
Zerzan: Kaczynski’s acts were in no way random. They were part of an exclusively anti-technology campaign.
PE: Is there a connection between how we as a society treat animals and the land with this type of violence?
Zerzan: I think it’s quite reasonable to see the mass cruelty of industrialized agriculture – to use a big example of how animals are treated – as cheapening life in general and thus contributing to these explosions of violence among humans.
PE: I remember when the Columbine shooting happened which seemed to be one of the first; followed by another highschool shooting in Taber Alberta not far from where I grew up only a week or two later. As a kid in a highscool that was tormented and bullied nearly to the point of committing suicide myself; having a couple kids pick up guns and shoot back was something I paid close attention to. But things didn’t seem to get better in the aftermath, rather kids like me were treated like we were all potential psychopaths and nothing else really changed.
Zerzan: Bullying is one triggering factor in some of the mass killings. But bullying is nothing new whereas there is something unprecedented going on as mass society shows such pathologies. I went to a rough high school where, in addition to beatings by some of the priests, there was a fair degree of bullying. No-one brought a gun to school and started blowing folks away.
PE: Fredy Perlman described civilization as a monster that keeps growing and consuming, while telling the story of people who either resisted by running away until the monster caught up to them or by fighting back – often becoming more like the monster they resisted in order to stop it until it collapsed and they took it’s place as the new monster. How do we resist without becoming recuperated into the machine we seek to destroy?
Zerzan: Civilization must be attacked at a deep enough level to hit its target. Activism that lacks critique, lacks a qualitatively different vision or paradigm is doomed to be quite limited in my opinion. This means, among other things, that we must not shrink from embracing property destruction, which is hard to co-opt.
PE: You have argued that technology alienates us further. Are these shootings a symptom individualism? Capitalism? Lack of nature? Or something else?
Zerzan: It’s all these things even if technology is major – and generally overlooked. Domination is a totality and needs to be seen as such to avoid single-issue reformism.
As Adorno put it, in terms of causes: “It is idle to search for what might have been a cause within a monolithic society. Only that society itself remains the cause.”
PE: You have written about hope, where as the trend seems to be moving towards nihilism. Where do you find hope in times like these?
Zerzan: I am hopeful because I see the energy of resistance alive in many places. It has not gone away. And because I think that the system of domination is actually quite hollow and weak. It is plainly losing the allegiance of many on many levels, has no answers to the myriad problems it has created.
If you are interested in more of John Zerzan’s work check out his radio show Anarchy Radio, live every tuesday at 7pm PST. You can also read many of his writings at: http://www.johnzerzan.net/articles/