Interviews

Fight Liar With Fire – politically mindful punk & metal bands fight against the erosion of civil liberties

There’s no question that the head of state and government of the United States, Mr Donald Trump, is a controversial individual that attracts loads of negative feelings, and has been a consistent lightning rod, especially for DIY punk and metal musicians. A lot of them are drawing a line in the sand by gearing up to organize all kinds of mind-provoking actions and charities in support of the very core of punk ethics: free artistic expression, wide variance in identity, sexuality, and ethnicity. In a number of IDIOTEQ interviews we’ve rounded up dozens of artists who took their stance on this matter, but what better way to dig deep into the details of current affairs in the political and social scene in America than by discussing it directly with participants of one of the many anti-Trump compilations and records unveiled this year. “Fight Liar With Fire“, the recent 16-track offering from Iowa based Sassbologna Records gathers 9 worthile acts that, instead of watch helplessly from the sidelines, have put their pens to paper and spoken up to condemn Trump’s executive orders and irrational actions and outbursts. We sat down with them to discuss the compilation, their projects, and various aspects of Trump’s policies and their impact on America.

In an act of resistance against the current administration of the United States., all proceeds from “Fight Liar With Fire” are split between the ACLU and Planned Parenthood charities (back in March this year, Trump stated that Planned Parenthood could keep its federal funding if it stopped offering abortions).

In an era when the value of artistic expression, scientific research and truth itself have all come under attack, musicians across the country feel compelled to make a statement of resistance. Fight Liar with Fire is a DIY compilation of new, politically motivated metal and punk songs that will stand as a document of these uncertain times. 

Released by the Iowa-based DIY label, Sassbologna Records, the album features a varied assortment of artists from all over the U.S. The proceedings begin with a pair of ripping tunes from Chicago metallic hardcore band Nequient before slowing down for an unsettling track of droning, noise-laden doom by Rhode Islanders Tovarish. Iowa grind/hardcore quartet Closet Witch brings maximum intensity to three ferocious songs, and DeKalb, IL duo “Richardson” Richardson harnesses the stripped-down sounds of drum machine and bass guitar into a hardcore punk anthem. Portland, Maine feminist digital hardcore collective Phallus Über Alles offers a message of hope and belonging before Quad Cities crusties Tong Po deliver a dire warning of doom. The anonymous figure behind Bone Machine experiments in the cryptic margins of metal, and Memphis’s HellThrasher (featuring the former guitarist of His Hero is Gone) injects a potent dose of blackened thrash. Finally, Those Darn Gnomes out of San Diego conclude the album with a Sylvia Plath-inspired avant garde freakout.

Album Art & Layout by Metro Catpiss of TONG PO. Scroll down to read the full interview.

Hi guys! Thanks for joining us! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Please drop us a couple of lines about your band and tell us how you teamed up with Sassbologna label for this project.

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): I am Metro Catpiss, the bass player, and co-vocalist of TONG PO. We are a crust/hardcore band from the Quad Cities, which is on the Iowa/Illinois border. We got involved with the project when Jason from NEQUIENT reached out to us about putting something together after the circus of an election we had. We all felt we wanted to do SOMEthing to make a statement against the atrocious behavior of the newly elected president. Our friends in CLOSET WITCH became involved at the same time, and Cory stepped up to use Sassbologna as the vessel for our project.

Jason (TONG PO): I’m Jason, I play guitar and sing in TONG PO. We started in 2014. I’d wanted to do a crusty hardcore band for a long time and finally decided to try it again after a few failed attempts like a decade ago. Got (really) lucky this time. I was heavily influenced by a lot of metal when I was a kid, and later on in the punk scene got into a lot of the Tennessee crust stuff like HHIG, FROM ASHES RISE, etc. I also listen to a lot of David Bowie, Nick Cave and stuff with more involved chord work and wanted to do something that incorporated that, so I started writing a lot of heavy stuff with full barre chords, goofy chords, made up chords, and somehow it worked. We’re all pretty heavy into politics, and are of the opinion that musicians/artists are a large portion of the antidote to oppression in all forms. Punk rock is the ultimate raw expression of one’s self/views, to me anyway, so TONG PO is a very organic expression of our contempt for the American empire…which is now in the (tiny) hands of a racist, reality show megalomaniac who wears a toupe’ instead of a white hood. Metro pretty well summed up our involvement with this (awesome) project.

Jason (NEQUIENT): NEQUIENT is a metal/hardcore band from Chicago. We have toured regionally to support various shorter releases over the past few years, including our Infinite Regress EP, and we’re currently working on a full-length.

The comp was an idea I came up almost immediately after the election. I felt an overwhelming need to do something to express my frustration while also somehow contributing to genuine resistance against the new administration’s destructive agenda. I initially thought of recruiting just a couple other DIY metal bands for a benefit split, but I soon found there were enough acts interested to populate a full-length compilation album. Once Cory from CLOSET WITCH/Sassbologna Records agreed to provide a label and my old friend Graham Butler volunteered to handle the mastering, the project really came together.

BONE MACHINE: BONE MACHINE is a one-man experimental metal project. I’m primarily a percussionist and I tend to gravitate toward raw, percussive sounds as the driving force in BonE MACHINE’s music. I know Jason Kolkey of NEQUIENT through an online metal community, and wanted to contribute to the project when he started putting it together.

TOVARISH: We’re TOVARISH, a Soviet-inspired doom/noise band from Providence, Rhode Island. We’ve been around for about 8 years. Our latest album “This Terrible Burden” was released in 2015 via Argonauta Records. We were approached by Jason from NEQUIENT to contribute a song to this compilation and were excited to be included. We’re grateful that Sassbologna were able to step up and make sure our voices were heard.

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES (PÜA for short) is a digital hardcore / riot grrrl / electronic punk band out of Portland, Maine. We were put in touch with Sassbologna Records about the project by way of our friends in Tovarish, with whom we have played shows via various bands & side-projects of ours. They thought we would be a great fit for the comp, between our sound and our views in general.

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): Hi, thanks for having us! My name’s Christian and I play guitar and flute in THOSE DARN GNOMES. I think we got involved with the comp much the same way everyone else did; Jason mentioned the idea of a politically-motivated compilation album to benefit charity on Facebook and from there he and Cory at Sassbologna graciously put everything together.

“RICHARDSON” RICHARDSON: We are Tony and Jason. We’re “Richardson” Richardson from DeKalb, Illinois. Jason from NEQUIENT is an old pal and he put out requests for bands for this compilation and we jumped at the chance.

CLOSET WITCH: CLOSET WITCH is from South-East Iowa. Members being scattered in a few different towns along the Mississippi. We played with NEQUIENT a couple of years ago in Iowa City. Since then we have stayed in touch a bit with them/ Jason Kolkey (vocalist of NEQUIENT). Jason basically came up with the idea for the comp and did most of the work organizing it. We decided Sassbologna would be a good fit for the project simply because none of the other bands had a label/bandcamp page and I (Cory, bassist/CLOSET WITCH) did. We figured it would be easier to release via S.B. rather than fish it around to other labels or just create a new page/label just for this project.

HELLTHRASHER: HELLTHRASHER was formed in the spring of 2014 by myself Pat Davis aka Jotunn -Guitar and Ian Brown- Drums, we were originally calling ourselves Dark Hammer back then but as additional members joined the band we decided to include them in the band name selection process and thus landed with the name Hellthrasher. It took us several months to find Patrick Gresham- Bass and Michael Anderson- Vocals. I first saw Ian way back in 1995 playing drums for Memphis death metal legends INCINERATION, in fact they were playing a show with Memphis hardcore/ punk legends Copout and looking back… i remember thinking to myself how rad it would be to play with a drummer that could blast-beat and hammer out the double kick. Patrick Gresham (bass) and I go way way back, actually to highschool days and this is where modern technology and social media come into play. Patrick and I played metal music together in the mid 80’s we were both huge fans of bands like CELTIC FROST, KREATOR and VOIVOD and over the past few years reconnected thru social media. Ian and myself had just decided to try a new bass player because our current one didnt seem to be the right fit. The next is history, Patrrick was assaulting our hearing with his non-stop thunder. Next we acquired Michael through a musicians classified ad that we placed on the internet. Michael is a lover of music and is very flexible, although our music might not be Michael’s first choice in relation to his personal taste, he has consistently delivered the fury and roar that we wanted for this project.

Jason Humphrey’ s of TONG PO invited us to be a part of the Fight Liar comp. Jason and I became friends awhile back through a mutual love for heavy underground music. Jason was a huge fan of my previous band HIS HERO IS GONE and was really blown away when he heard the Hellthrasher stuff and I’m the same exact way about TONG PO. Jason and I have become real good friends, we’ve even shared stuff that’s beneath the surface about our lives. We share alot of the same beliefs and when he asked us to join I told Jason that we aren’t really a political band. Our music is more of a reflection upon the end result of humanity, a glimpse of the fate of mankind but… we despise Trump and therefore here we are.

Thanks so much! Obviously, the compilation has a political undertone and motive behind. What made you want to take part? Also, what aspects of the U.S. politics attract your attention these days? What concerns you the most?

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): Man, that’s a loaded question. Where to start? I’m gonna answer that in reverse, i think. What concerns me the most is that we (and by that i don’t mean “The People”, as the popular vote obviously means exactly nothing apparently) have handed the keys to someone who is more concerned with lashing out on Twitter at people who said a mean thing about him, than he is with ACTUALLY improving our country. One would assume that the leader of a nation would be above throwing tantrums on the internet. My own son, even when he was an infant, was never as cranky as Mr. Drumph is on a daily basis. It would be laughable were it not so disgraceful.
That being said, when we were approached by our friends about this, we couldn’t refuse. As Jason previously stated, music is a strong vehicle for change, so we all have a duty to do what we feel is right. And so F.L.W.F was born.

Jason (TONGPO): For me the most pressing concerns are climate change and the threat of nuclear war. That’s what ‘The End’ is about. The Doomsday Clock, established in 1947 by the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists as a threat alert (based for years now on climate change as well as nuclear war) had already been pushed to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015. When Trump took office it was immediately pushed to 2 ½ minutes. The closest we’ve been to midnight was 2 ‘o’clock, in 1953. Midnight means we’re finished. We now have a political party that has taken the presidency, the house and the senate that are all climate change deniers, war mongers and petulant bullies. The biggest one of all now has his hands on the nuclear launch codes and claims climate change is a hoax created by China. As Noam Chomsky said, they are the most dangerous political party in human history.

And how did we get here? That’s what ‘Just Who’s To Blame?’ is about. There’s no way to fully theorize the rise of this party, but there are many obvious factors addressed in the song, the most fucking aggravating being the DNC’s rigging against the only candidate that could have (and I think would have) defeated Trump, Bernie Sanders, and that they won’t accept any blame for their failure to stop a megalomaniac, racist, sexist con-man with a dick complex and a non-stop Twitter tantrum from becoming the most powerful figure on Earth. They and their partisan fluffers blame “Bernie bros”, Jill Stein, James Comey, and endless conspiracy theories about Russia backed with no evidence at all (poking at an age-old U.S. government enemy armed to the teeth with nukes) instead of accepting any culpability for putting out an enormously unpopular candidate and imploding their own party by betraying again and again the poor and working class people that supported them with atrocious trade deals, mass incarceration, corporate shilling, war mongering of their own, etc etc etc.

Photo: TONG PO live, by Michael Herrick Imaging

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): I agree. The thing that hurt us the most, i’d say, was the Left’s inability to not sabotage themselves (and us in the process). And then continue on as if they hadn’t. It’s a broken system. Both sides (of the same coin, mind you) keep plugging along, each blaming the other, blocking the other side’s bills, etc. They don’t have our country’s best interests at heart, they have their own party’s. And until people start to recognize how destructive that really is, we’re doomed to continue our freefall. Voters need to stop voting based on the side they believe to be “the good guys”. Because in this, there ARE no “good guys”.

Jason (NEQUIENT): I have a great many concerns with the state of politics in the U.S. and elsewhere. We’ve seen a resurgence of openly nationalistic, ethnocentric, and racist sentiments, along with ongoing proliferation of nuclear arms, widespread mistreatment of workers, and irresponsible neglect of the environment. The world’s nations seem headed toward the biggest shake-up since WWII. Meanwhile, a combination of widespread apathy or outright nihilism among the populace, grasping opportunism among politicians and corporate leaders, viral misinformation made possible by the Internet, and an archaic electoral system has put kleptocrats firmly in charge of the country that supposedly leads the free world. These are uncertain, frightening times, and we only make them worse if we pretend otherwise. It’s vital to speak up and take action in whatever ways we can, even if our reach is limited.

TOVARISH: We are all very politically aware and active. Every day there seems to be a new action or outrage committed by the current administration. They are harming large swaths of this country and putting our future at risk. Women’s rights, Voting rights, Environmental laws, are all being attacked. It is incredibly frustrating and terrifying. Being able to express not only our feelings but the feelings of countless other while helping important causes was a no-brainer. Fight Liar With Fire lets people know that they are not alone and that people are resisting in different ways.

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): We’ve been increasingly horrified by the current administration’s attempts so far this year to erode and roll back so many hard-fought freedoms for oppressed groups in this country, including women (reproductive rights, workplace equality), minorities (police violence, religious freedoms), immigrants (travel bans, deportations), GLBTQ people (marriage rights, bathroom access), and the poor (healthcare, taxation). We’ve watched in disgust as those in power have been working tirelessly to transform this country even more into an oligarchy whose policies are designed to benefit only those in power, corporations, and the wealthy 1%. We don’t support the administration’s warmongering efforts in the form of foreign arms sales, domestic military spending, and offensive strikes overseas, and we likewise think it’s disastrous to de-fund and de-prioritize our educational systems and environmental protections. Basically, it feels like an attack on all fronts.

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): More than ever before, the current administration seems poised and ready to plunge the entire planet into complete devastation over petty personal vanities or its own lack of any experience. It’s no exaggeration to call the current state of affairs a real existential threat to all life on the planet.

Of course even if we don’t die our rights are still under constant attack, which is why it’s important to support groups like the ACLU, even when we disagree with them. I don’t hold on to any belief that music is going to change anyone’s mind or transform the world just by existing, but I do like the idea of financially supporting in even the smallest way organizations that are going to fight for the people’s freedom in meaningful ways.

BONE MACHINE: I wanted to be involved in the compilation in order to direct the anger and frustration that I, along with most American citizens, have felt since the election. The album has a very caustic, pissed-off vibe from top to bottom and you can hear the raw bitterness that all the participants feel toward our pathetic excuse for a president. There are so many horrible aspects of American politics right now, but the primary thing that both attracts my attention and disturbs me is the feeling of regression. All three branches of government are getting hijacked in some way to “make America great again,” which really just means painfully cutting down human rights, environmental health, and socioeconomic equality. Not to mention giving closeted racists and bigots a new platform.

“RICHARDSON” RICHARDSON: I say this at every show, but it’s the truth: we aren’t a political band, we don’t like being the only ones with microphones that can loudly articulate our beliefs to people. However, we felt like it was time to express a sense of outrage through our art. We have done more benefits and more direct action. When it comes to US politics, I’m (Tony) personally fixated on racial justice and the prison industrial complex, and Jason tends to be more interested in economics and income inequality issues. I think we’re both concerned about reactionary politics and the mobilization of the alt-right, and it takes me back to being a scared Jewish boy knowing the KKK were marching through my suburb of Skokie, Illinois and how powerless I felt. We want to help people feel empowered to control their own sense of autonomy.

CLOSET WITCH: We agree with the cause. It was a way for us to support something we believe in via our music.

Honestly, I (Cory) don’t pay a huge amount of attention to politics. Much of it is quite confusing and depressing. Currently, I have slight concerns / interest in the decrease in funding to assist persons with cognitive and phsyical dissabilities. I am also concerned with the lack of attention given to the correlation between factory farming and environmental deterioration. I also think people should be forced to recycle more. Also men making decisions regarding womans bodies and rights is discouraging.

HELLTHRASHER: My biggest concern with modern politics is pretty much the same as it was 20 years ago, deception and greed.
In my opinion all politics are driven by banks, investments and big business also the military industrial complex. Also the government using tax dollars to create underground shelters for the “rich” paid by you and I and all other members of the working class but When it’s time to use these shelters, general tax payers (the makority of the population) will be locked out and left to watch the bombs fall.

HELLTHRASHER!

Photo: HELLTHRASHER live

From the insider’s point of view, 9 months since the elections, how has the situation evolved? Is there a gap between what Americans think about how rational your new government is, and what most people fed by the international media think?

Metro Catpiss (TONG PO): I try not to think about what the international community says. It’s probably safer that way. Haha. It’s bad enough to have to put up with it. When we started this ride, I was frightened by the possibilities. But as we go on, more and more, we see absurdity become reality. Things I didn’t even bother to be afraid of before because I would have assumed there was no way a president could be quite THIS dumb, are now everyday commonplace occurrences. It’s baffling. Every new day, there’s some new sideshow served up to confuse, irritate, and enrage.

The biggest, and possibly the most dangerous, aspect of it all is the newfound emboldening of the radical right. All their pent up racism from having an African-American president finally has, in what they view, a “legitimate” outlet. The amount of hate-fueled rhetoric has risen substantially. It’s really sad. I can’t wrap my mind around the school of thought that the only way we are great is by keeping everybody different than us out. I guess, looking at that now, is how inbreeding starts, and how that stunts the genetic growth of a species. So I supposed that’s what we’re seeing now, especially if you look at where that political/physical inbreeding is coming from. Usually accompanied by something about keeping a bloodline “pure”. Political inbreeding. Did I just coin that?

Jason (TONG PO): I can’t really speak for non-Americans, and it’s not possible to make a general statement because it would depend on what country or part of the world you’re talking about, but I can say that response to American politics and foreign policy for a long time has ranged from laughter, to disgust, to outright contempt. I haven’t looked too much lately at international opinion yet, but under Trump those sentiments will surely intensify as a Gallup poll as recently as 2013 (under Obama) showed the U.S. to be the biggest threat to world peace by far. Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord. That’s obviously being met with contempt. Threatening nuclear armed countries like China and North Korea I’m sure is thrilling to anyone not wanting a nuclear holocaust.

Disgust over the Trump regime’s attacks against the climate, Muslims, healthcare and every other disgusting Authoritarian thing they’re doing has been met with fierce resistance in the streets here in the States since day one and continues to, which is invigorating. Unfortunately, opinions haven’t changed much about Trump with the poverty-stricken people he’s conned, even though he’s quickly refilled “the swamp” and proven himself not to be the outsider that would save them from the insider politicians that put them in the predicament they’re in. Also unfortunately, like I was saying, partisan dems have had their head so far up their fucking ass they don’t take Trump as serious a threat as they say, so they continue to do nothing. Many Americans feel so hopeless and helpless to do anything they just disengage.

For those of us fighting back, I think political author and dissident Naomi Klein’s message of “No is not enough” in her new book is so important. We need to start envisioning a future we want. One that is egalitarian and sustainable. When we can do that we can have hope of shaking the apathy off of our country (40% of Americans when faced with the option of Trump or Clinton just stayed home on election day) and start building towards something better. Despite Trump’s election, national opinions largely support a lot of progressive policies like universal health care, ending destructive trade deals etc. It’s also pretty universal here that almost no one wants the wars we’re fighting. No one wants the sprawling surveillance state. Nobody but wants an authoritarian corporate state but the mega rich imposing it. So there is glue that binds us, but we allow ourselves to be factioned and pitted against one another so we otherise each other instead of uniting in solidarity for things we want and need.

Photo: NEQUIENT live by John Mourlas.

Jason (NEQUIENT): It seems like people in other countries have a pretty clear sense of how absurd the situation in the U.S. has become. Trump is a living burlesque of supposed American ideals, and his arrival in the greatest position of authority serves as confirmation for every negative stereotype of the national character and values, or lack thereof. I would just remind our friends elsewhere that the majority of us did not vote for this administration and many are working actively to resist it. At the same time, I would warn that the level of incompetence displayed by Trump and his lackeys does not make them any less dangerous.

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): Perhaps my view is somewhat pessimistic but I feel the situation has hardly changed; each new revelation of the depths of this administration’s wrongdoing (be it the Comey hearings or the recent pseudo-admission of election fraud) is met simply by each side digging in their heels further. On occasion an especially terrible or tragic misdeed occurs that seems to sway public opinion against the President, such as the attack on Syria a few months ago — I just wish it didn’t take so extreme a toll to change minds.

As for foreign observers, I think it’s important to recognize the current wave of right-wing nationalism and ethnocentrism currently spreading all over the world. Trump’s election and movements abroad like Brexit are inward maneuvers motivated by fears of multiculturalism and outside influence by minorities.

Still, it’s important to remember not all or even necessarily most people (in the US or elsewhere) support the decisions made by those currently in power. Our country’s traditionally dismal voter turnout meant barely more than half of eligible citizens even bothered to cast their ballots and the popular vote didn’t even go to the actual winner simply because of how the electoral system is designed. That means only about a quarter of the country actually voted for our current leader. Despite suffering attacks based on xenophobia and racial hatred (especially anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments), France still elected a relative moderate as opposed to a far-right demagogue. Milquetoast neoliberalism is hardly anyone’s ideal political ideology, but Western nations like Canada and Germany still represent alternatives to the Trumps and Putins of the world. There’s no sense in giving up hope quite yet.

BONE MACHINE: I feel like the situation has gone exactly how it was expected to go, which is to say that we’ve really taken some backwards steps as a country. Education is constantly moving down as a priority, proposed budget plans favor the extremely wealthy even more than they already did, xenophobia is to be at a fever pitch, lawmakers seem to be scrambling to push through completely unthought-out plans to undo Obama era progress, and all while our stupid president whines about being picked on on Twitter. It is exactly as unorganized and irrational as you would think, but Trump supporters are constantly digging in and finding new ways to justify his actions.

“RICHARDSON” RICHARDSON: Since the elections, we are seeing the divide between the ideological left and right continue to widen. Rationality regarding this administration doesn’t seem to exist as people simply write off what they choose not to accept as biased and therefore inherently untrue. While the international media may cover all of the daily scandals we are living through everyday, those among the left are experiencing total burnout and in some cases apathy simply based on the sheer amount of scandals from the past few months. It’s disorienting and to be honest it’s hard to not feel fatigued as every day it feels like there is some sort of rupture in another portion of the social fabric of this country.

TOVARISH: Devolved is a better word. Everyone thinks they have the answer and no one wants to listen. Now we’re all trapped in a cycle of rage and react.

PUA

Photo: PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES live, supporting DOWNTOWN BOYS.

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): In our opinion, there’s definitely a gap between the (generally critical) global perception of the new US administration and supporters who consume a steady diet of conservative information sources. More than that, the divide between Americans who support the current regime and those who oppose it is growing ever wider. Rather than adopting a civil approach where both sides agree to disagree on various points of policy while still working together in a general sense to improve conditions for everyone, the discourse seems to be growing increasingly toxic, with both sides hating the other; refusing to collaborate or compromise and opting instead for an “all or nothing” strategy of political gridlock, government shutdowns, and legislative impasses; and in some cases, wanting the other side to either lose their rights or even come to harm. There is an endless garbage heap of misinformation and outright propaganda, making it harder to filter out the noise and get accurate info on the issues.

CLOSET WITCH: Hard to say. As stated I don’t pay too much attention to specific politics and I don’t regularly encounter folks explicitly expressing their political opinions
to me personally. I will say though that the people who thought our current President was a rediculous joke prior to the election still share similar sentiments.
I also feel that there is a certain group of ignorant and immature people on the internet, and otherwise that follow his example and or are empowered by his
bigoted and bully-like personality.

 

HELLTHRASHER: I think most conscience people know that Donald Trump is an idiot (even those who support him, if they are honest) and as he continues to make public statements he further solidifies that for them but at the same token I feel the majority of those same people have a deep sense of fear that their is a madman at the wheel yet choose to deal with it through the many stimulating distractions that are available.

Is there some particular action you fear from Trump?

Metro Catpiss (TONG PO)::You mean besides the end of the world? Haha. I think, in general, the thing i fear most is his blatant disregard for science, logic, and rational thought. It’s especially laughable when he runs his mouth, slamming every news source that he doesn’t agree with as “Fake News”, while he himself spews as many false “facts”. Yet he is beyond reproach? I have always been wary of someone who goes on at length about how great they, and all the things they do, are.

Jason (TONG PO): Yeah, exactly. He’s already pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate deal, now he’s puffing out his chest at North Korea.

Metro Catpiss (TONG PO): And we can all see that turning out roses. As if NK needed a reason to escalate their aggressive stance towards the west. Now we have Trump’s posturing.

Jason (TONG PO): We all saw the mass G 20 protests in Hamburg the other day. There have been non-stop protests against Trump here. People don’t want this, but it’s not about what people want or need. That’s of course nothing new for politicians, but Trump ran on an unhinged, authoritarian campaign where his pronounced policies, inciting of violence, blatant racism (Mexican rapists), sexism (grab em’ by the pussy) were either cheered on, ignored, or not taken seriously enough to stop him. And it’s terrifying that he actually started doing every terrible thing he said he was going to do on day one. Obama couldn’t keep promises of progressive actions, but Trump and his rogue’s gallery cabinet got right to work. And the terrifying thing is that all it took for partisan dems to start thinking of him as President and not The Next Hitler (at least for a time) was to bomb an airbase in Syria (without investigation into the reason he did it, the chemical weapon attack in Syria). Then suddenly you have Brian Williams on MSNBC talking about the “beautiful” bombs, and even invoking the late Leonard Cohen’s name. So there are a million things I’m terrified of Trump doing, and though he has been thwarted in some things, there is not enough being done, and so-called liberal news outlets and partisan dems just keep making fools of themselves while ordinary people suffer and die.

Metro Catpiss (TONG PO): I think what i fear more than his actions, though, are the ones he “inspires” in his supporters here stateside. We’ve seen a lot of Islamophobia pop up, as well as emboldened rednecks telling people they need to “get out, because Trump’s in charge now”. The empowerment of racist bastards dooms us all.

Jason (TONG PO): Journalist Matt Taibbi tweeted a picture from a Trump rally of a guy (standing next to a little kid) wearing a shirt that said “Fuck off. We’re full.”, in reference to Syrian refugees.

A really important thing to keep in mind is that Trump isn’t alone. He has an entire cabinet of unhinged people alongside him. Despite what he portrays, this isn’t just The Trump Show. Impeachment and other simplistic answers aren’t enough. This shit would all continue without him.

Jason (NEQUIENT): There’s a lot that can go wrong with a narcissistic, short-tempered fool in charge of the world’s most powerful military. We’ve already seen some seriously questionable actions from our armed forces operating without serious civilian leadership. The withdrawal from the Paris Accords is also a major blow of potentially apocalyptic proportions. Our environment is in grave danger, and when the top economy in the world turns a blind eye to the urgent need to protect against climate change, that’s a huge problem.

Nequient

Photo: NEQUIENT live

TOVARISH: It’s hard to pick just one because every action so far has been terrible and just keep getting worse.

BONE MACHINE: There’s a lot to fear from his general stubborn and willful ignorance, but that is especially damaging when it comes to climate change. His “business and money first” mentality is threatening toward the health of the entire planet.

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): The actions I feared most from this administration were those that would lead to loss of life or curtailing of civil rights, both within our country and internationally. Trump has continued unabated the campaign of drone strikes led by his predecessor and barred countless civilians from immigrating into this country, and his advisers in every arena are without exception the least qualified people for the job. The US recently exited the Paris climate accord on the counsel of Scott Pruitt, the man responsible for burying an ocean of wastewater under his home state of Oklahoma and increasing earthquakes by 22 times. The entire administration is a long series of personal failings with no end in sight.

RICHARDSONRICHARDSON: Regarding specific actions, his attempts to repeal the ACA, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, his desire to further charter and religious based education programs at the expense of the public sector, his continued attempts to deny immigration from other countries, a pissing contest with North Korea, the possibility of more actions against Syria, strengthening ties with foreign administrations that promote terrorism at home and abroad, yeah. It’s a hell of a list. However, my biggest fears are symbolic. Trump is obviously an incompetent President, but the notion of celebrity as politician both belittles our democratic system and puts people at risk. Look at Reagan, the guy didn’t know anything about politics, he was just the smooth talking mouthpiece for a dangerous conservative ideological platform. Trump is like Reagan in the age of social media. He’s going to continue to babble on and turn our national discourse into a dick measuring contest, while the real monsters (Pence, Ryan, McConnell and others) go out there and try to push their xenophobic and patriarchal version of “America.” Trump is the symptom, not the disease.

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): War? Screwing things up for the USA with the UN and NATO? Crashing the domestic economy due to bad policies, and getting us cut out of beneficial global trade agreements? Dismantling healthcare, renewable energy programs, and public transportation? Bolstering and/or emboldening dangerous fringe groups within America who have violent, anti-science, anti-education, bigoted agendas, either directly or indirectly? Causing the US to look so disorganized, unstable, and uncoordinated so as to invite attacks from hostile entities who see an opportunity to strike?

CLOSET WITCH: Nothing too specific. Just potential furthering of injustices.

HELLTHRASHER: My biggest fear with Trump and probably most people’s as well is that he is like a monkey with a machine gun. He could have one of his bipolar infantile temper tantrums and literally push the button to destroy the world. I fear that we are on the brink of a doomsday scenario that will no doubt be instigated by ignorance selfish pride greed as well as political and religious dogma. An end that will be long and painful but ultimately will end all life here on earth.

Ok, so finally, if you could fix one thing about your country in 2017, what would it be?

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): Only one thing? I personally would like to see more resources devoted to genuinely helping improve the lives of the people who live in our country, and release the stranglehold that the financial elite hold over those of us who weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths. And i mean that in a very broad sense. I’d like to see complete prison reform. I’d like to see banks that uselessly hoard empty properties provide shelter for those who have none. I’d like to see some goddamn compassion. And not as the exception, but the rule. Now, i have no illusions of how far-fetched that is, as i understand how deeply rooted greed is in humanity. I just want to see more people living, and less financial hoarding.

But if i had one more choice, it would be that we actually make an attempt to prevent this rock we live on from dying. Those in charge don’t seem too concerned about that. Maybe it’s because they can afford a spaceship to escape when the earth’s crust splits open and devours us all…who knows.

Jason (TONGPO): The pressing issue of the 21st century is the dismantling of the corporate state. Until that happens, nothing will truly be fixed. Indeed, we are racing to our own extinction with our current power structure. So I’m not sure we can really fix anything in an immediate context, but we can improve. Improvements are what are attainable, and as far as the improvement I’d like to see most of all in 2017, I’d like to see the broader anti-Trump crowd step outside of a lot of the parameters I see them reside in and, as we’ve illustrated, look at the bigger picture of the dystopian nightmare now at our doorstep.

The nightmare didn’t start with Trump, and it won’t end with him. What is happening under his administration is a vast acceleration of the long-established corporate cabal’s assault on the broader population and the planet to stuff their bank accounts and gain ever more power for themselves regardless of or in spite of any destructive (even suicidal) consequences. They only understand one word, and that word is more.

The so-called #Resistance of the DNC is a joke. They could be using Trump’s massive unpopularity to push through progressive agendas, but they are now just another tentacle of the corporate state. They don’t want to push through progressive policies, so they chant RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA as a means to continue to ignore real problems. We can’t rely on them, and we can’t rely on the Russia thing as a silver bullet to take down Trump.

We have to rely on ourselves. We have to put aside differences, stop allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another. We have to empathize, acknowledge each other’s causes and not get bogged down in singular issues. We need to stop looking for Kremlin agents lurking around every corner, stop getting so excited about Nazi-punching and other simplistic and ineffective measures, and stop looking for saviors. We need to start finding common ground, start looking at the long series of events that put a fucking authoritarian clown like Trump in office, stop feeling apathetic or ineffectual or afraid, and ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE. That’s improvement, and something we can all be doing right now in the U.S., and if we can improve (myself included) in becoming more of a community we can potentially see an end to the Trump presidency just like we did with Nixon, start envisioning a future free from this craziness and start a real grassroots battle against the corporate state while we still have time left.

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): Also, we want to thank everyone for checking out the comp, and thank you Karol for the time put into the interview across all these bands.

Jason (NEQUIENT): I don’t know if it’s one thing really, but we desperately need an informed, engaged electorate with easy access to the polls. Conservatives keep trying to make it harder to vote, especially for minorities and young people, because they know that widening the franchise hurts their chances. Election Day should be a national holiday, and voting should be made as simple as possible. At the same time, I think politicians are exactly as honest as people force them to be, so it’s vital to break down the reality-free bubbles in which many people from all over the political spectrum consume information. That’s only becoming harder to accomplish, but far too many people simply deny any facts that conflict with their prejudices in order to protect their own fragile egos.

TOVARISH: Less talking, more listening and more action.

TOVARISH by by Ben McCanna

Photo: TOVARISH by Ben McCanna

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): There are so many things we’d like to pick that revolve around the empowerment of the people, including broader implementation of ranked choice voting, the end of gerrymandering, abolishing the electoral college, and banishing corporate lobbyists & super PACs; but, if we have to pick one, it would probably be universal healthcare. So many people are in perpetual suffering, bankrupt, homeless, or dead from not being able to afford the care they needed. Plenty of other countries are able to accommodate this just fine– why can’t we?

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): This is a tough question! There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that could fix every problem out there. I suppose in the most general sense I’d wish to rid the world of ignorance or close-minded stupidity but that’s such an open idea it ends up pretty meaningless, haha.

BONE MACHINE: It’s really difficult to narrow it down to one thing, but we just need backward, overly conservative ways of thinking to stop. The rich don’t need more tax breaks, we don’t need to take away assistance to the needy, and we HAVE to put more money where it matters. Increased education and properly run social programs will do wonders for us.

RICHARDSONRICHARDSON: SINGLE. FUCKING. PAYER. HEALTH. CARE. I personally (Tony) want the complete eradication of capitalism, but an issue that profoundly affects us all is health care, and it’s probably more realistic to fight for single payer.

CLOSET WITCH: I don’t think I can give you an answer to this question that I feel comfortable with.

HELLTHRASHER: If I could change anything, I would like to eliminate classes altogether, meaning no more rich or poor, no better than no less than….everybody equal, so in other words completely do away with money or capital no more profiteering.

How political is your local punk and metal scene? Do you believe the newer bands aren’t as political as they were back 20 or 30 years ago?

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): The community we have here is pretty active about various causes. Even apolitical bands usually have a member or two who are passionate about politics. I don’t believe new bands are less political, as a rule. There have always been both sides in music. I feel like sometimes you need the mindless stuff after politics being drilled into your head non-stop all the time. Sometimes you need an escape. And even love songs n shit, because it’s important to remember why we fight for the causes we do…so that life gets better. And love is a big part of that. From teenage pop punk songs about their crushes to songs about lifelong partners. There’s enough room across the spectrum for songs about everything. But politics has always been represented. Maybe just not at the forefront at some times as opposed to others. But there have always been songs in protest to some form of injustice. They’re just easier to find in times of social upheaval such as we are currently in.

Jason (NEQUIENT): People respond to politics through art in many different ways. There are almost certainly fewer bands around Chicago today that call out particular politicians by name or write songs about specific controversies than there were back in the 80s (not that I was really conscious of things then, having been born in 85), but many are definitely responding to political issues. There’s a strong DIY scene here that generally takes ideals about inclusivity and standing up for marginalized populations seriously. And I know many other musicians have also been working on raising money for the same kinds of causes we are with this comp. Maintaining that kind of culture is probably more important in a scene than having everyone yell “Fuck Trump” at shows – though I have no objection to doing that as well.

TOVARISH: Providence is very forward-thinking. There are plenty of fundraiser shows for worthy programs such as Planned Parenthood and great non-profits like Girls Rock RI. I think newer bands are political, just in a different way in the past. They may not identify specifically as a “political” band, but when push comes to shove, they voice their beliefs and opinions.

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): The punk & metal scenes in Maine are certainly political– there are plenty of bands with strong messages, we regularly attend/play shows that have tables of anarchist & activist literature, there are all sorts of benefit shows for causes such as political prisoner Herman Bell and local homeless shelters… but there are also a handful here that are super conservative, and/or support Trump, and/or think it’s OK to exclude or disparage people based on their gender or GLBTQ affiliation. So not everyone in the local scene is on the same page politically, either.

Those Darn Gnomes, by Noah Souza

Photo: THOSE DARN GNOMES live, by Noah Souza

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): I don’t know of a whole lot of politically-motivated artists from our area but they’re certainly out here. Just the other day I caught a show by INUS (featuring Bobby from THE LOCUST), whose performances incorporate comedy and politics in a pretty novel way. I’ve also got to give a shoutout to TALL CAN (LNC/Snail Cage/420 Noize) who in addition to being my favorite rapper and all-around person in town also does more real-life activist work than anyone I know. Tall Can’s a real dude doing the actual work.

As for how newer bands compare to those of previous generations, I think the breakdown between politically active artists and those who refuse to make any statements is probably roughly the same. Decades ago, thrash and hardcore bands railed against the conservative political machine embodied by Reagan and Thatcher, but there were still plenty of boring pizza-mosh bands to go around just like today. If anything, I’d argue more art was made decrying the Bush administration in the early 2000s than about Reagan or the USSR in the 80s.

BONE MACHINE: Honestly, it’s not very political. My state is very, very conservative in general and I don’t think there’s much interest in rocking the boat. While I’m touring with my other band I do see a lot of politically charged bands throughout the country, so I think there are plenty of bands these days that are really taking a strong and openly progressive stance with their music. Not in my area, though.

RICHARDSONRICHARDSON: I’m really proud of the scene in our small college town in IL. We’re extremely inclusive and have benefit shows frequently to raise money for all kinds of vital community issues. As for bands losing a political edge in the last few years, I think there is a natural decline in open politicking in music since the rise of social media has given people platforms where they can in theory talk about issues to the people who don’t have access to their music or about issues on a grander scale. I don’t think it’s gone away, it’s just manifesting in different ways. I think that’s a good thing, because it creates dialogue instead of going to an Anti-Flag show or whatever where the one person with a microphone lectures to a room full of people who feel the exact same way he does.

CLOSET WITCH!

Photo: CLOSET WITCH live

CLOSET WITCH: Not super political around my particular area.. sometimes traveling bands are a bit more politically charged. Especially in the last year or so with more focus on mistreatment of p.o.c. and or the trans population by law enforcement etc. I think you get a lot more bands with emotional lyrics expressing anger/loss of hope etc. maybe caused by political/social issues but not expressedly referring to specific politics..if that makes any sense at all. I don’t know.. I live in Iowa. lol.

HELLTHRASHER: There are definitely fewer politically minded bands these days compared to say the 90’s and in fact we (Hellthrasher) are not a “political band” we do however try to reflect on the consequences, the plight and the end result of humanity.

Ok guys, thanks so much for your time and loads of insightful thoughts. It’s always great to see more socially and politically charged projects like this. Congratulations on your work and good luck with your future efforts! The last words are yours.

Metro Catpiss (TONGPO): hey, thanks for all the work you put into this interview across 9 bands. I’m sure THAT was no easy task. We really appreciate the interest in the comp, and the heart and soul behind it. We are very proud to be a part of it, so for anybody reading that hasn’t listened, please take a few moments to stream it, and if you like what you hear, throw a couple bucks down to help these great organizations help humans remain free. All the bands should have physical CD copies at their upcoming live shows, so look for that as well. I did the design work on it, so i’m extra proud of those, haha. I know Kolkey (NEQUIENT) wants to get as many bands together for a show sometime in the not too distant future, so look for that. It will probably be in Chicago.

Jason (TONGPO): Yeah, thank you so much for doing this. We really appreciate your giving us all a space to expand on our thoughts and explain our songs in detail.

Music and the arts should never be underestimated in their ability to inspire and provoke thought, and we’re so honored to be part such a great comp dedicated to that fact, that puts all its proceeds towards such important organizations. There’s definitely a lot more that needs to be done of course, and doing this doesn’t make us special by any means, but when you have a talent, you use it. This is a creative and heartfelt means to convey our thoughts and to make them felt. Activist and writer Emma Goldman wisely said, “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution.”

Jason (NEQUIENT): Thank you for undertaking this massive interview and spreading the word about this project. We in NEQUIENT, and I personally, really appreciate everyone who has stepped up to help make this comp a reality, sent donations, or shared the Bandcamp page with friends. Things are only going to get worse in U.S. politics before they get any better, and I hope to see many more musicians and artists finding their own ways to contribute to threatened communities and oppose this administration.

TOVARISH: It is always darkest before the dawn. You are not alone. Work together and be the change you want to see.

Remy & Sam (PHALLUS ÜBER ALLES): We’ll close with this thought: No one else should dictate your behavior. It’s your choice to be a shitty, selfish, unevolved human, or to instead to strive toward improving life on this planet for all people and not just an elite few. Thanks again for doing this!

Christian (THOSE DARN GNOMES): I just want to give my most sincere thanks to IDIOTEQ for taking the time to put together this interview and Jason for assembling this whole album. I’d urge anyone reading this to support artists whose work speaks to them and to stay motivated in the fight against injustice. Thanks everyone for reading!

BONE MACHINE: Thanks for wrangling all of this in!

RICHARDSONRICHARDSON: we’re all lucky enough to write, play, and perform music and it’s been a lot of fun to do it for a cause. We’re all privileged in that sense, and we should all feel responsible to use our privilege to help those who are worse off than we are. However you do it, thank you for what you do to protect marginalized populations in your community.

CLOSET WITCH: Thanks for the interest. We appreciate you helping us get the word out!

HELLTHRASHER: For me…the core of Hellthrasher’s music comes from the way I view and feel about the world’s injustices, its deceptions, its leaders and the overall arrogance and self destructivness of mankind.

We are honored to be a part of the Fight Liar with Fire compilation.

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