8.22.2018

THIS IS HARDCORE

Noun: an incredible event put on by some of the hardest working rockers ever. This fest means a lot of different things to me and every year I look at it differently. I want to dissect it here for you now.

For the past three years of the fest, I have caught myself having a private moment during some band's set where I suddenly become introspective and insanely aware of what exactly is going on around me. I become aware of what this fest has accomplished and what it symbolizes and I am moved by the very existence of it and the grand thing we all call hardcore punk rock.

This is Hardcore as a title for a fest is bold. It says, "this is what we as organizers believe to be the perfect example of hardcore." The fest's lineup is full of various types of punk, every single sub-genre under the sun, all the crossovers you could ever dream of as well. However, it isn't the music that title refers to alone. The name sums up the scene as a whole and it is easy to miss if you don't step back and look at the big picture.

From top to bottom, the fest mirrors what hardcore is at its simplest: a gathering of people that normal society let down to the point where we started to seek comfort in another world entirely. People come from all over the world to attend and play. You can strike up a casual conversation with someone from Helsinki that you would not have met otherwise thanks to this festival. We suspend our differences for one weekend because we are focusing on what makes us all alike: the love we share for this music. 

Every year I go, I learn something and I get to watch hardcore evolve. It's the perfect benchmark for seeing how the scene is doing. This year, there was literally zero bullshit that happened. That's shocking. There's always some weird undercurrent of tension at festivals because they throw socialization in the mix and emotions that run high tend to come out for the worst. This year felt like summer camp! Everyone got along, I saw so many new faces and everyone was so friendly and just enjoying the fest.

This year, Joe and the others took action to set a new precedent for festivals in general: they created a code of conduct. I was lucky enough to get to put it together for them but the idea was all theirs. That's unheard of at festivals, even the mainstream ones. I put together a vocabulary sheet to allow everyone to have the ability to have the conversation that is missing from things like this on a scale that large. Hearing Joe's speech during Shattered Realm about respecting people in the scene, getting consent, and not alienating different people filled me with hope. I know years ago, say in 2010 or earlier, that never would have happened.

Now, that's not to say Joe or anyone on staff didn't care then, but the climate of hardcore wasn't conducive to the conversations we are having today. Honestly, I don't think anyone cares more about the safety of their attendees than Joe. I talked to him about how my friend got roofied at the fest last year and it broke his heart. He asked me "where do we begin to get things like this to stop?" which is a question that so few people ask and even fewer attempt to answer.

This year's fest was reflective of this wish of his as well. The energy was so open. I had a fantastic time just answering questions and having discussions on this with other people attending the fest to the point where I wanted to give a speech myself. Being able to talk to people about trying to get a hold on the way we interact with each other is incredible. This fest facilitated both the tools and the setting to have these important conversations.

Every year people who are committed to talking shit about hardcore try to pick apart this fest. The people who say hardcore is "toxic" but had no interest in trying to fix what they felt was wrong. Every year I watch these people out do themselves in trying to cause a change in the way the fest caters to its audience and in some ways, how hardcore works. Nothing is ever perfect, least of all this scene, but tearing apart people for trying when you do nothing but bitch and moan is pathetic and they should be ashamed of themselves.

In summation, this festival does more for the scene than I think the organizers and attendees both realize. We're lucky to have something so huge and consistent in a scene that can't appreciate what its got until it's gone. Don't wait until this festival becomes defunct to show your thankfulness about it. It can't exist without patrons but it can't continue if those patrons take it for granted either.


5.01.2018

AN INTERVIEW WITH BENJAMIN BAKER

AN INTERVIEW WITH BENJAMIN BAKER

Better known as “fuckyoubaker”. Your favorite digital menace.

When did you get into art? Are you formally trained at all?
I’m a lifer, and as such am unsurprisingly and deeply untrained.

My skill set is developed from creating things from an early age, a decade or so of freelance work for bands and anyone ill advised enough to give me a desk job doing design while I watched YouTube tutorial videos for things I said I could do.

Three years ago I decided to share my personal work online more actively and it’s all I’ve done since.

What does your work aim to say? 
Aim is a generous term but I try to make work that feels genuine, clever and bold while being unshy about being grotesque, uncomfortable and uncommon. Success on those fronts is arguable, but I’m making things that feel as “real” to me as I can.


Your work is full of a wide range of emotions, yet can be summed up as “playfully nihilistic”, does this reflect your own personality at all?
“Playfully nihilistic” hits the nail on the head pretty solidly.

I find myself at the odd crossroads of being a very dark & moody prick with an inability to take anything too seriously.

At times, you'll catch me further down one of those avenues than the other, but you can draw a line between my personality and my work pretty directly most of the time: a discourteous pervert who's ideal to laugh over a beer with provided you’re not entirely full of shit.

...I prefer to be the one full of shit if possible. 

Who are your biggest influences, artistic or otherwise?
Growing up I’d gravitate towards anything brutal, cartoony or that my mum would take issue with me looking at; I was into metal shirts, Rob Schrab, hardcore wrestling and problematic flash cartoons... which outside of Rob are all pretty horrible role models.

These days I’m surrounded by influential artists but I try to avoid absorbing too much of what makes them amazing in hopes of pushing my own work into more rarefied air.

Outside of art I’d credit most of my success to a permanent hangover and unprescribed nootropic abuse.

Your popularity has taken off pretty rapidly, how do you deal with the responses you get from people who are more unfamiliar with your work?
I’m really grateful if it’s positive. If it's negative, I'm grateful in a sick way too, because it feeds my love of publicly ripping the shit out of people.

I try to remain patient answering the same questions everyday because i’m not so arrogant to think people should just know this stuff about my work (yes, you can get my work tattooed), but if you roll in to be a edgy dickhead I will do my best to staple gun a metaphorical dunce cap to your head so at least we all get a laugh out of it.

Is there any specific message you want people to take away from your work?
If you can walk away from an artwork of mine with any sense of commonality no matter how ugly, I’m a happy person.

If not that, I’d settle for people walking away with a shirt, I got bills.

You put out five pieces of work a week, kind of like a job. Do you ever hit creative blocks and how do you overcome them?
As unromantic as it sounds, I try to treat it like a job and make sure that I punch the clock no matter what.
I hit walls as much as anyone does I’d imagine but I’ve found in lieu of out-of-nowhere inspiration, diversifying my style and disciplines gives me room to always expand the scope of my capabilities while making stuff I like. 

I started just trying to make better work and increase my skill set so keeping process in sight over purpose and application has provided me with more art that means something to me than if I was sitting there straining to take a palatable-to-everyone, social-media-changing-art shit.

At the end of every season giveaway, you make a video of yourself destroying whatever is left over. Is this just to get ahead of the “do you still have these” questions or does it serve another purpose?
It was to curtail that, but it doesn’t work.
I think the restraint of limiting the drop gives it value and a real finality to myself and the people who purchase it. Burning the last of the stock is a symbol that we all did something that isn’t happening again, no matter how frustrating it is to people who missed out and a genuinely shitty move from a business perspective.

Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I share my studio with a black Pomeranian/piss factory mix named Foley. He’s a shitty therapy dog but he’s doing his best.

Are there any plans for art shows in your future?
Not overly, at any given time I have a couple of projects I’m chipping away at. I enjoy the immediacy of directly dealing with people who follow my work but shit, who knows? Ask again in three months… imposter syndrome has a knack for keeping galleries open.


What can you tell me about next season’s run?
One thing that bothers me about the seasons is how impractical it is for me to screenprint them myself, so I offset this by handling as much of the rest of the process as possible and employing people to do a job at a much higher quality than I could when I don’t, but part of me still feels a little hollow about it all.

To combat this, I bought an embroidery machine and intend on making a veeeeerrrry limited run of accompanying pieces, currently I’m looking at things like hats, pennants and hoodies but intend on graduating to one-off jackets and wilder things as soon as I work out how to stop stabbing myself in the hand with it.

Any final remarks, or a message to the readers?
Nah, I’m spent.


4.21.2018

AN INTERVIEW WITH DWID HELLION

AN INTERVIEW WITH DWID HELLION

The Man, The Myth, The Singer of Integrity. 
(Photo by Oede)

How did you find punk music and what made it stick as something important in your life?
Actually, I fell into it through skateboarding in the early 1980s. Thrasher magazine had many music reviews & interviews with punk bands and back then, (before the internet) that was how we discovered many great bands. Some bands that I came across back then, I still enjoy today. Samhain, Septic Death, G.I.S.M.

I guess what made it stick was that particular music seemed to resonate with me. The bands that I felt the strongest connections with, were often the bands who were more dark with a strong creative aspect to them. While being explosive and dangerous and deep. Many of those bands still have a loving place in my life to this very day.

When did you start creating art? Are you formally trained?
I started creating artwork at a very young age. I was always drawing. I was actually drawing before I could walk. When I was about 13, my stepmother exposed me to xerography/collage and that was also around the same time that I was getting into punk, metal and hardcore music. It all seemed like pieces of a greater puzzle were starting to come together for me. 

In my late teens (18-19), I attended the Cleveland Institute of Art for a short while, but dropped out because of my band touring. Which led to my own personal experimentations with art over the years. 

I actually look at and create music through the lens of creating collage. Arranging sound like it was shapes and color, lyrics like they were victorian etching I meticulously cut out of old French pulp books.

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating your pieces?
Inspiration comes from many facets. Often from necessity, but generally I try to have a story behind the imagery. A story always affords a greater depth to an image. I find it important to have a foundational voice within the art. When the artwork is a part of an album or song, I try to illustrate one another in a complimentary fashion, while still allowing interpretation from the observer, so that the observer participates in the creation process. The observers interaction is an alchemical component of Integrity.

Name your biggest artistic influences.
There are many. Let’s see... Francis Bacon, Max Ernst, Pushead, Sakevi Yokoyama, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ted McKeever, John Heartfield, Rozz Williams, Ashley Wood, Ralph Steadman, Jack Kirby, etc. I am also influenced by a variety of unlikely sources towards art. It’s almost like synesthesia, where senses reflect an uncommon result. Like smelling color or tasting sound. 

What was growing up in the Midwest like? How have Indiana and Ohio influenced you?
I was born in Indiana and raised in Kentucky. I was rather isolated for the most part, and that isolation greatly helped to foster aspects my imagination. I was able to create for my own entertainment and that afforded me many freedoms. I learned at a young age how to sew my own dolls and obviously to draw. Having the ability to create whatever I imagined allowed me to delve deeper into the imagery that attracted me and it would utterly consume me. Hours would pass like seconds, its been quite a wonderful gift of escape and creation.

How do you feel about the internet’s effects on the subculture?
I think many positive things have happened as a result of the internet. Musical boundaries have greatly vanished, you see musicians blending a wide variety of musical influences into their work. Same with visual artists. Being able to have access to any question, the fact that you can type into a search engine, “how do I create a homemade synthesizer” or “how do I build an electric guitar from scraps” and be able to find not only hundreds of articles with photo explanations, but also Youtube videos that will teach you these skills in real-time, I find that a remarkable tool for creative people to have at their finger tips.

You once said that when you want to hear a new record, you make one. With that in mind, who are your favorite bands right now?
G.I.S.M., Como Mamas, Brenoritvrezorkre, James Brown, Captain Beefheart, Jim Steinman, Howlin Wolf, Pastor T.L. Barrett, Danzig/Samhain, Ozzy, Jacques Brel, ZOUO, Motorhead, The Cure, Charles Bradley, Throbbing Gristle, Slayer, Chet Baker, too many to list.

Name your biggest non-musical influences on who you are as a person. 
As a boy, I used to look forward to every late night Saturday horror tv show that was hosted by Sammy Terry. Watching those classic horror films alone at night would open up a fantastic world for me. I would have a sketch pad and draw the creatures that passed across my flickering television screen and dream myself into their world. 

Francis Bacon (the painter) as a reluctant philosopher. He had a tremendous impact on my youth. His way of seeing the world seemed to speak to me on many levels. 

Tristan Tzara, Paul Eluard and Andre Breton's manipulation of words had a deep and lasting influence upon me. As did Rimbaud and DeSade and of course, The Bible.

Integrity is the premier cult band in hardcore. Th lyrics and imagery work together ultimately to polarize your fan base. It is easy to say there are no “casual” Integrity fans. Why do you think that is and is that something you like about your band?
Thank you, I hope that I can live up to your kind description. I try to invest a certain purity into my recordings and imagery. To some people, this purity seems to connect with their own sensibilities. To others, they may find it repulsive. Ultimately, I am creating in order to entertain and educate myself, first and foremost. The added bonus is that other people also connect with the albums and their interpretation breathes new life into the process. 

The fact that people usually have very strong reactions to my work, is a wonderful blessing. Whether good or bad. To vehemently despise it or to religiously devour it with love. While being two sides of a very similar coin, these feelings still both seem to evoke a passion from exposure and the purity conjures those strong emotions.  

As for the occult aspect, I spend a great deal of time reading and researching religion and philosophy, processing these ideas through my own mental filters where they eventually mutate into song content and/or imagery.

What is your favorite Integrity album and why?
The next album is always my favorite. I get to uncover what has been hidden within me and reveal it. 

How has hardcore punk influenced your take on “every day” life?
I suppose the DIY attitude that I had as a child was reinforced in me through my involvement with hardcore punk and metal music.

You’ve got more than a few tours under your belt, what are your favorite and least favorite aspects of being on the road?
I love to travel and see new places, especially those locations blessed with a rich history. Interacting with the audience on and off stage is also a great blessing for me. 

Least favorite would probably be the long drives/flights between the concerts. Though the quiet isolation of the flights can sometimes have a soothing quality. 

I’ve noticed that you keep certain speeches in your set, like the intro that you do before “Micha”, the same for decades. Why the consistency?
That speech that you are referring to was the introduction track to the song, "Those Who Fear Tomorrow”. It was originally a narrative sample that opened the album. The intro works together with the song to inform the listener of the songs intention. It began as a sample but over the years, I started to take on the narration myself and embellished upon it as it slowly developed and morphed. The speech adds a sinister aspect to the songs conclusion, while conjuring up a fire and brimstone styled sermon.

Describe an Integrity set in one word. 
Gospel. 

Any final remarks, a message to the readers?
Thank you Shatice for your wonderful interview.

4.13.2018

JUST US: A LOOK AT PUNK'S SELF-GOVERNING WAYS

ACAB. 1312. Fuck the police. These are all archaic sentiments projected by any and every punk. Where did they come from though? Do any of the new punks understand why we all hate the government and the police that serve to guard it? Or do they just go with the flow, thinking it’s just an anti-authority statement made from a childish stand point?

Hardcore punk stands on entirely independent foundations. DIY was, is, and always will be the name of this game. It’s no surprise that we came to develop our own code of morality and law. We are a tribe of deviant outcasts at best but we aren’t savages. Presumably because we have watched the way the rest of the world works and we refuse to accept or repeat their shit.

In the real world, where people work in offices and shops, they are ruled by laws made up for them by a nearly faceless entity known as the U.S. Government. Essentially, normal people get bossed around by law books because the government assumes humanity too stupid and murderous to exist without the threat of prison.

Enter punk rock. We have long since railed against the prison-industrial complex, the police state, and the president. We have set out rules for ourselves to follow that aren’t morally ambiguous and leave no room for misinterpretation. There is no punk rock jail, no island prison we could ship you off to if you break any of these rules. As a matter of fact, the hallmark of justice in our community is that it is, more often that not, delivered swiftly and personally. In the street, where we actually exist.

We do not seek a middleman in our pursuit of justice. Another thing from the DO IT YOURSELF mentality. If someone wrongs you or breaks this short set of rules we have, you don’t run to the cops or your mom. Hell. Sometimes you can’t even run to your friends. Dealing with situations that most humans would call in a mediator or authority figure to settle terms in a one on one way is what we do. But why do we do it? Because it’s just what we were taught from the lyrics that speak to us through our record collections or because this subculture is truly one of a kind and is filled with people with the initiative to make their own choices and claim their own justice?

There’s something about being a punk, living off the beaten path in your head and heart that makes you realize that you don’t need people to handle things for you. The cops have helped how many people, ever? How many people have they murdered instead? When is the last time a president ever had views that truly respresented you and your interests? It is this shock and wake up call that punk provides that allows us to search inside ourselves for our own laws. The founding fathers had no great ideas because they couldn’t even make rape illegal.

Our wide eyed view of the world, a world where everyone minds their business and isn’t a motherfucker, is how we retain enough child-like innocence to maintain a set of laws that are about as official as a “No Losers Allowed” sign on a clubhouse door. It is the idea that a place exists where people will not prosper if they are rapists, homophobes, transphobes, racists, sexists, or otherwise bigoted that lends us the ability to keep ourselves and each other in line.

We have survived for four decades without outside influence or help from the suits who wants us to live by their rules. They wants us to have the same complacent attitudes towards evil that they do. We have managed not to crash and burn. We are living proof that anarchy in a government-less society is possible. We not only survive, we thrive. We have created such that if one chooses, they never have to abide by the strict laws of the land called Western civilization, because it is the self-chosen, self-abided laws of punk that keep us out of jail... most of the time.

1.30.2018

THE DANGERS OF CALL OUT CULTURE

THE DANGERS OF CALL OUT CULTURE

This post should come as no surprise. Call out culture is an increasingly prevalent thing in our society. It is the practice, in social justice circles, of publicly criticizing people for violating accepted behavioral standards. Now, that doesn't sound all that bad. Shame those who need to be shamed and raise awareness of people deemed unfit to function by a culture's standards. A suitable punishment for most offenses. 

However, this simple and effective means of getting a sense of justice from a situation is too often turned into a blank check people can cash in on their enemies. In the beginning, when Tumblr was still a widely used blogging platform, people would "dox" and call out others with irrevocable proof to their actions. Things were clear cut and everyone could gather the information they needed about a person or situation from reading a post someone made. This got the job done.

People being brave enough to out people from their own personal accounts online, not just via word of mouth, is what makes call out culture so effective. We all know how the American criminal justice system works. It does not. So, to get any justice people (especially those in DIY cultures) turn to voicing extremely intimate details of crimes or abuses they've dealt with to get both justice for themselves and some start to closure, because as a survivor I can tell you there is nothing more painful than trying to pretend nothing ever happened.

That brings us to the latest fiasco going on in hardcore. The anonymous "hardcorepredators" instagram page. Let me start off by saying that I've seen better exposé journalism done by children who were tattling on their siblings. The account was ran by two people, whose identities we will get into later. Right now, let's break down what's wrong with this just from the surface level.
The bio. "#victimrights" is not a real movement nor is it ever going to be one. People who have been through sexual abuse are called survivors in all verbiage about them. That's day one stuff. 

"Making the world a better place" ...by drumming up a witch hunt, posting stories from third parties and people even when they asked to not have their accounts posted? Sounds like a great place. 

Notice, there's not one shred of identity to the people running the account in the bio. That's a giant red flag in and of itself. They could have been anyone. They wanted to make this safe for survivors but if you look at your social media you'll see nearly everyone talking about how much this constant barrage of "predator" information did nothing but trigger them. 

Now let's look at the content of the continually updating instagram stories they would post. This may be triggering to some so this is a content warning. 




 Okay, overlooking the poor vocabulary choices here. They say the stories must come from survivors*, not a third party but when reading their posts, it contained a lot of "my friend..." and "I heard..." statements. They weren't vetting the stories the way they claimed to be and that's highly problematic for such a topic. Obviously, they mainly wanted to get the information out there but there's a right and wrong way to do that. The way they kept updating every few minutes turned the page from "raising awareness" to trauma porn very quickly. Repetitive exposure to accounts of assault does nothing for anyone but bring up memories of what had happened in their past or make them recoil in disgust. 

The public records, this is what I find the second biggest problem with this entire thing. They posted the arrest records of several people as some sort of "evidence" against them. Now, with the exception of the guy who was charged with possession of child pornography, they were mostly violent crimes of non-domestic nature. One being a felony charge for destruction of property. My problem with this is that you cannot equate someone having a violent side or being a criminal of one kind to them being a sexual abusive person. That's a false correlation and an extremely dangerous assumption to make. 

Now, we have the this veritable "hit list" that was posted. (Blurred by me to avoid a lawsuit on my end, the unblurred version is out there. Find it yourself.) 
This is the original one, before they started crossing off names and changed the verbiage to "looking for more survivors." This is TMZ journalism at its finest. The sentence "need more victims" invokes anyone who has ever felt remotely victimized to say something pertaining to these people, relevant to the situation at hand or not. Some of the people on this list are well-known abusers who have made their exit from hardcore long ago (adam22) or have been outed for their crimes on a much larger scale multiple times before now (Curtis Lepore). The problem with posting a list and just asking for "stories" is the "blank check" I mentioned earlier. A poorly executed anonymous account that is more concentrated on just generating content than making solid call out posts is a weapon for anyone with an issue with someone else.

The biggest problem with this page and any page like this is simple: it does nothing for survivors in the end. Talking to just my friends and seeing their tweets, this event triggered so many people that it won't be remembered for any shred of good it could have caused. The people running it were insensitive to people asking for trigger warnings or to have certain things made private and that makes their intentions sit on a rockier foundation even without all the previous evidence against them. 


The email I was sent says they had nothing but good intentions. That something like this should be ran by a multitude of people who go through training and schooling and are qualified. Meanwhile telling a concerned survivor to "unfollow if you feel triggered." In reality, there should have been content warnings on everything and a slower release of information. The question is, was this a realization or something they knew from the beginning when asking for contributors via an instagram story? This of course will not be the end of holding those who break from the hard rules of society accountable. This account was never a safe haven because it very quickly became a gossip rag trauma porn mess that we all got to experience digitally. Like a catastrophic, first-hand episode of Black Mirror. 

If you take anything at all from this post, it should be that accountability and awareness is important but the safety and comfort of survivors is foremost. Too many people were hurt by this for anyone to call it a victory. Hopefully by writing this I can keep this bleak part of hardcore's history from repeating. 

Also, a personal note: I want to let all the survivors who contributed to this know how brave they are for what they've done. And those of you who have come forward in the past and those of us who have yet to do so, just living our lives is a sign and a symbol. None of us are ever alone and even when things like this occur and make you feel pressure to come forward, know that you're the only one who make that choice and no one should ever tell you otherwise. I love you.

1.26.2018

UNITED BLOOD XII LINEUP

UNITED BLOOD XII LINEUP

It's the dead of winter. Your seasonal depression is beating your ass, college is running your pockets, and you probably have a cold. Life seems bleak... then the United Blood announcement drops.
Look at this beautiful thing. Madball. Death Threat. Race Traitor. Can you believe Count Me Out is on a flyer with Shark Attack in the year 2018? I can't, but leave it to Foster and Braces to make something like this happen.

It's nice to see Higher Power coming back to America and that Fire Burn is making their east coast debut at UB this year. I'm really excited for that set. Dead Heat is playing too, I caught them at FYA a couple weeks ago and let me tell you something about that band – they are truly incredible. Dead Heat is one of those special bands that comes along once in a blue moon. They're definitely going to steal the fest. That's my first prediction for the weekend.

My second prediction for the weekend? Cult behavior during Vein that results in someone else losing their teeth. Didn't a kid bite his lip off during one of their sets recently? Their music makes people do insidious things to friend and foe alike. One of the newer bands that creates that old school feeling of straight up fear in a venue that I know so many of us missed.

Prediction three: Someone (I won't name any names) is gonna get kicked out of the Buffalo Wild Wings up the street for fighting inside... again.

Prediction four: Helen's sees more money this weekend than they will all April.

Prediction five: Omni after-party.

Prediction six: Florida VS Everybody boxing match breaks out during Day By Day's set.

I wonder what the preshow and aftershows look like. Judging by last year, I'd have to guess somewhere between "this is irresponsible of them" and "I'm glad I have health insurance."

How much money will be spent on candy camo pants leading up to this fest? How many nasty people will tweet about eating Cookout like they serve anything edible that isn't ice cream? Will the Sheetz/Wawa beef come to a physical head this year? How many kids will get finessed during dice games? Will I go into a coma during Madball because I ate too many hot wings?

The answers to these questions await you at the fest. Tickets go on sale on the 31st. In the meantime, tweet your predictions with the tag #UB18Predictions and let us all gaze into your crystal ball.