Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND, they are a UK band formed in 82. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
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 email@example.com.
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
I like books a lot, yet it is rare that I find a book that brings together so many of the elements I look for. Green Is the New Red documents the criminalization of activists, and the history of various struggles for liberation in the face of state repression.
Will Potter is an wonderful writer, and this book is absolutely necessary. His book reads in a highly accessible language, yet asks challenging questions and tackles difficult subject matter. Will Potter is a professional writer, and it really shows. At times highly poetic, at times very personal with narratives from his own life experiences, breaking between analysis, documenting history, and then back to personal anecdotes and stories of listening to punk rock albums with Jake Conroy (SHAC 7), or walking through the forest with Daniel McGowen the day before he was to go to jail as a ‘terrorist’.
His story begins with the FBI coming to Potter’s door and threatening to place him on a terrorist list after he goes leafleting with some friends in a campaign against a multinational animal testing lab, HLS. Potter deals with his fears
and mistakes with a striking honesty and humility that allows you to relate to his experience, rather than the macho posturing typical of many activists. Potter uses his own story as a jumping off point to bring the reader on a journey that will introduce them to the struggles of many of his friends and other activists as they go through court battles, police raids, and prison. He places all of this in a historical context by showing t
he connection to McCarthy era repression, as well as the earlier criminalization faced by anarchists and socialists during the turn of the century. This book contains so much excellent history that it would be worth reading it for that alone; from the beginning of one of the most effective animal rights campaigns ever (SHAC), stories of activists shutting down breeders who supply animals for labs, to the founding of the ALF and ELF, and activists like Judi Bari who was car bombed by the FBI. Will exposes how industry controls the development of legislation that will be used to imprison activists organizing against them, making the complex workings of the judicial and legislative systems easy to understand.
Green Is the New Red has quickly become one of my favorite books, and easy yet worthwhile read that you will learn so much from. Even better, you can get the first chapter for free as a sample simply by clicking on the link on the top of his website Green Is The New Red. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
500 animals per day die in the labs of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), one of the largest contract testing companies in the world. Beagles, primates, rabbits, mice, rats, cats and other species are burned, cut open, or injected with poisons all while alive to ensure products like Viagra and diet pills will make it to the shelves of stores around the world; as well as GMO crops, pesticides, fertilizers and house hold cleaners. A small handful of dedicated activists started a campaign that nearly brought the giant to its knees as over 500 companies quit doing business with HLS, including their insurance company. Activists also managed to get HLS dropped from the New York Stock Exchange, eventually stopping their stocks from being publicly traded altogether.
Jake Conroy was one of the activists involved in Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign (SHAC) in the USA, helping to run the website, and lead demos. For this, Jake was sentenced to 4 years in jail.
PE: How did you get involved with animal activism, and more specially the SHAC campaign?
JAKE: I’ve always had strong feelings for the underdog throughout my life. It didn’t really occur to me until I was 19 that some of the biggest underdogs in the world were non-human animals. I had spent a long time thinking about the issues and reading books and pamphlets I picked up at hardcore/punk shows, and watching videos wherever I could find them (which actually was pretty hard to do in a pre-YouTube era). But I was somewhat on the fence about making that leap to get involved.
I was living in Seattle at the time, walking downtown to school, when I passed some folks protesting against the circus as they paraded the elephants for miles through the city. I passed them and didn’t say a word but it sat heavily in my mind that I should. So I turned around and walked back and asked what they were doing and who they were and how I could get in touch with them. They simply replied, “We’re in the Yellow Pages”. Sure enough, under Animal Rights, there was one listing – The Northwest Animal Rights Network. I called the number and listened to the info about the upcoming circus protests, and I went down that weekend by myself to join in.
The next 5 years I would participate in civil disobediences, run successful campaigns to close fur salons, help transform Seattle into one of the most animal-friendly cities in the country, and be arrested (with my current co-defendant Josh Harper) for engaging in the first whale hunt sabotage in US coastal waters by piloting a boat between whales and hunters.
In 2001 I had been working locally on the anti-HLS campaign in the Seattle area, when I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to move out east for a few months to help start the office for this group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA. I had nothing else to do, so I packed up my belongings, put them in storage, and headed out to Philadelphia. I became so excited and inspired by our first 3 months that I never went back. I would spend the next 5 years helping run one of the most exciting campaigns of my life.
PE: What can people learn from SHAC, and from the repression you faced?
JAKE:I think the most important thing people can learn is that their activism needs to be strategic, smart, and creative, while being thoughtful, careful, and calculated. We shouldn’t rush in head first because that’s the way it’s always been done; rather prepare for all outcomes, be ready to accept them, and not fear them. We need to realize that we are under a microscope, so our actions need to be significant and have a focus on duration and long term strategy.
PE: What do you think made SHAC so successful?
JAKE: Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, once said that in order to be successful you have to capture the imagination of the people, and the anti-Huntingdon Life Sciences campaign and SHAC USA did just that. It began in North America at a time when national welfare organizations started to dangle paychecks in front of grassroots organizers, when they began shifting the debate away from liberation to welfarism, and when they made you feel like you were doing your part by voting every couple of years and sending in your donations to cover their expanding paychecks. They were disenfranchising the animal rights movement and getting folks to fall into line. But deep inside, we all wanted more.
SHAC USA sprang into action quickly and furiously. It said loudly and proudly that we weren’t going to sit back and accept bigger cages, and we were going to hold everyone and anyone accountable for their actions and support of animal cruelty, no matter when or where. We were happy to push the envelope and support radical ideas and tactics when others wouldn’t. We believed in people power, horizontal and autonomous organizing, and supporting and using every tool in the toolbox to enact change. Within months, we managed to gain victories as an all-volunteer organization of 4 where huge national organizations couldn’t. We captured the hearts and minds of activist communities and the general public, and we were off and running, bulldozing anyone that got in our way.
PE: SHAC centers on vivisection, specifically contract testing for consumer products like viagra and diet pills. Why focus on vivisection rather than fur, circuses, or the horrors of the pet industries, food/meat, or other areas of animal exploitation?
JAKE: There are so many atrocities perpetrated against the earth, and the animals, both human and non-human, that live on it. It’s very easy to fall into a pattern of trying to save the entire planet all at once. But we need to be strategic about our campaigns and smart about how we go about them. There had been a campaign against HLS since the late 80’s, with some amazing actions, but it just wasn’t getting the job done. But the late 90s saw a perfect storm of sorts in England. Activists had closed Consort Beagle Breeder, Hillgrove Cat Farm, Regal Rabbits and they were closing in on Shamrock Primate Farm and Newchurch Guinea Pig Farm. Energy was extremely high and victories were coming in swiftly. Meanwhile, Huntingdon had two undercover investigations released against them in the UK and the US, and it had almost bankrupt them. They were a huge target, teetering on the brink of foreclosure, and they needed a firm kick to push them over the edge. It would be a gamble, but it was part of a larger overall campaign strategy that was proving to be successful. HLS is the third largest contract research organization in the world and they were on the brink of being brought to their knees by grassroots activists. The time was just right.
PE: Do you still think that the SHAC Campaign can succeed at this point? What is the relevance of the campaign today?
JAKE: Martin Luther King Jr said that the arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice. And to add a footnote by Becky Tarbotton, “sometimes we don’t see it bend, sometimes it feels like it flattening out. And other times we can see that arc perceptively bending towards justice.” We didn’t close down Huntingdon Life Sciences according to our timeline, but I still believe the campaign can and will be successful. It’s suffered some major blows to it’s infrastructure, but like all good things, it keeps moving forward, it continues to bend towards justice. People are still active all over the world in the quest to shut it down for good and HLS is still financially hemorrhaging.
I think the relevance of the campaign is that it represents the tenacity, passion, and drive we as a global movement has to see justice served, no matter how long that might take. The tactics the SHAC campaign used were innovative and powerful, and they continue to be replicated by a broad spectrum of movements around the world to fight back. That alone is a testament to the relevance of the campaign and how successful it was and continues to be, regardless of the outcome of our explicit goals.
PE: How can activists today become more effective?
JAKE: Effectiveness and success is going to come by studying our collective histories, working hard and being creative today, while keeping long term future strategies in mind.
As activists today we have a unique opportunity to still talk to and learn from some of the greatest revolutionaries of decades past. These folks are still involved decades later and they want to sit with you, to have you learn from their mistakes, and understand their successes. We need to take advantage of these opportunities any chance we get before it’s too late.
We need to recognize that we are living in one of the most oppressive times to be an activist. Our targets wield more power than ever before and are getting away with using every tool in the toolbox to silence and imprison us. We need to take their lead and fight back in kind. We as activists need to realize that perhaps our old ways and tactics aren’t going to work anymore and we need to start thinking outside the box; to be more creative and look for other ways around the blockades before us in order to reach our desired goal.
Finally, we need to be smart. We can no longer rush in head down, into brick walls. We need to pick our heads up and look forward and see how we can strategically plan not just for this year but the next generation. We need to look deeper and with more thoughtfulness into how we are making change and how we can make it lasting.
PE: Are you still involved with animal activism now that you are out of prison?
JAKE: I’m involved with animal activism as much as I can be. I am currently finishing my third year of probation (out of 3), which puts restrictive conditions on you and your actions. Your whereabouts, employment status and financial records are all monitored by the federal government. I have a list of 30 or so rules, some very specific, some very broad, that I am required to live by. If I violate any of these rules, the probation office has the right to yank me off of probation and put me back in prison. So while they can be lax about certain things, getting in trouble doing animal activism is a sure way to end back in prison.
However, I still do as much animal activism, prisoner support, and outreach that I can. I am also employed by a non-profit environmental organization that uses non-violent direct action and pressure campaigns against global corporate targets to affect change. In a sense it’s much like SHAC, minus the radical aggressiveness that landed us in prison.
PE: If we truly want to be effective in our activism, it seems like in today’s atmosphere we should get prepared for the very real possibility of prison. Do you have any advice on how to prepare or was there anything that helped you get trough it?
JAKE: While I think activists today need to be very aware of the repression going on around the globe and learn how they can fight back, I wouldn’t say that prison is a very real possibility for a large majority of us. In the grand scheme of things, very few of us have actually been imprisoned for the amount of actions and campaigns that have been going on. Unfortunately, while the number of folks in prison right now is rising, it doesn’t mean that we all are going to end up there some day.
The SHAC7 case was a perfect example of that. Thousands of people in North America alone participated in the campaign in their own way and it came down to a half dozen of us in court. The odds are in your favor.
If you are in the small minority of people facing prison time, I would highly suggest turning to those who have been or are currently incarcerated, for advice and counsel. Prison is a place like no other; nothing can possibly compare to it. It’s a place filled with bizarre rules and expectations and nothing can really prepare you for it outside of the experience of others. I spent a lot of time leading up to my incarceration writing friends that were serving time as political prisoners, asking them every thing I could possibly think of. We would write tomes back and forth. But ultimately nothing can fully prepare you for the experience.
Ultimately, prison is a dark and lonely and depressing place. And one of the few things that can put a smile on an inmate’s face is a letter. It is what makes the experience survivable. So I would encourage everyone to look through the lists of political prisoners and find a couple that resonate with you, and write them. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy diatribe on your political beliefs (its better that it’s not), rather, write them about your day, the last back packing trip you took, the last meal you made. Send a photo or a postcard. Anything will brighten their day. Take the time to foster a relationship with them and help them get through their experience. What may seem like an insignificant 20 minutes to you writing a letter, it can be a total life saver when on the receiving end while in prison.
PE: How much dose having a terrorist enhancement effect your life? And how do you feel about being considered a terrorist in the eyes of the government?
JAKE: Just to be clear, none of the SHAC 7 received a terrorist enhancement during sentencing. We were, however, classified by the Bureau of Prisons as domestic terrorists. This meant that during our stay in prison and our time on probation (and I’m sure afterwards), that label followed us around wherever we went. In prison, for me, that meant all of my phone calls were monitored and recorded, all of my incoming and outgoing mail was opened, read, and photocopied if they desired, and my ability to have my friends come visit me was drastically reduced. It also meant that I was put onto a ‘high visibility inmate’ watch list inside of the prison. I was one of 10 to 15 inmates that the administration said posed the biggest security threat to the institution, in a population of around 1300 inmates incarcerated for murder, rape, bank robbery, high-level gang activity, etc..
PE: Could you please recap what the charges against you were, and what you were accused of doing?
JAKE: Kevin Kjonaas, Lauren Gazolla and I were found guilty of 6 charges based on our direct involvement and so-called “leadership” roles with SHAC USA. They were one count of conspiracy to violate the 1934 Telecommunications Harrassment Act, one count of conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (now called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), one count of conspiring to commit interstate stalking, and 3 counts of interstate stalking.
Essentially we were found guilty of running a webpage that advertised and editorialized events, actions, and strategy; that published write-ups of those events and actions after the fact (much like an online newspaper); that shared ideas, and supported the thinking of controversial ideologies. By doing all of this online, we crossed state lines to enter into a conspiracy with essentially anyone who had ever used the internet. By simply publishing and editorializing ideas and actions, we were encouraging anyone who accessed our webpage to go out and do the same things.
It was a far-fetched (yet successful) attempt at criminalizing controversial, yet legal, forms of demonstrations, supporting radical and controversial ideologies like non-violent direct action, and the sharing of ideas.
PE: Can you talk about the role music & subcultures can play in Animal Liberation and other activism?
JAKE: Subcultures and music has played a very influential role in grassroots and radical movements. The first time I was introduced to the idea of black power and the Black Panther Movement was after buying the album Fight The Power by Public Enemy when I was in junior high. As a white, suburban kid growing up in New England, those radical ideas didn’t make it into our classrooms. Soon after I would be introduced to hardcore and punk rock, which would open the doors to a do-it-yourself subculture, the straightedge philosophy, and veganism. Bands, ‘zines, and literature acquired at record stores and shows filled my imagination and passion with big ideas about grassroots organizing and direct action; the idea that we didn’t need large organizations and governments to enact the change we wanted to see in the world. That change was something we could bring about on our own and on our own terms. This idea wasn’t just mine – this self-empowerment and introduction to direct action through music communities was shared by 5 of the 6 individuals in the SHAC7 case, and direct action legends like Rod Coronado and Keith Mann. It introduced a whole generation of young people in the mid 90’s to veganism, activism, and direct action, that would eventually shape the entire animal rights movement.