Thursday, November 4, 2010
Radix Media is a vegan, anarchist print and design company based in Portland, OR. Their design and printing services are offered to activist groups, non-profit organizations, musicians, independent filmmakers, zinesters and many more at affordable prices. Often printed on recycled paper and usually delivered by bicycle, their practices are ones that should set the ethical standard for printing companies worldwide. Their offset printing methods create classical and rustic pieces, paired with radical literature that you rarely find printed with such care and grace. Generous with their contributions to their local community and donations to activist causes, Radix is a printing company that will definitely stand out as a true asset to animal rights and other movements worldwide. The Revolution Began Yesterday!
This interview was conducted by Mike XVX via email in October 2010
Contact: radixmedia.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born on Long Island, New York. When I was four, I moved to a really small town in New Jersey and lived there until I was about 13, and then moved to South Florida, which is where I spent most of my life. I went to college to study film and photography and graduated with a Bachelor of Science. Not surprisingly, I’ve been working in food service ever since!
About four years ago, I moved to Portland, Oregon and my life sure is different here. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with this city but I have to say, it’s really changed me for the better. This is where I was first exposed to truly radical politics and the joys and practicality of riding a bicycle as transportation. I’ve made a lot of great friends and worked on myself a ton. There’s definitely still work to be done, but I’m happy with the way the process has gone so far.
As far as politics go, I’m an anarchist. I try not to beat people over the head with it, but I’m also not scared or ashamed of that word. I think it’s a very reasonable ideology with a rich, complex history, and it can easily be put into practice. I would venture to say that many people engage in anarchism in their every day lives, but because that word has such a stigma, they don’t really think about it. I’m not really into the Crimethinc-y type of lifestyle anarchism, but I’m not really a theory head either. I just think that every living creature has the right to self-determination and that the world would be better off without hierarchy or coercive government. No gods, no masters!
What was your motivation behind starting your own printing company? What are some of your own personal goals with Radix?
My love of books and literature stems from when I was a kid. I would always write weird little short stories and imagine them in my head. Truth be told, I never had a whole lot of friends when I was young, so it was up to me to entertain myself. That love only grew stronger as I got older, but the printing aspect of it is relatively new. I started apprenticing with Charles at Eberhardt Press in March 2010; before that, I knew nothing about printing of any sort. I had never screenprinted or anything, like the rest of my DIY punk friends. I was pretty focused on the graphic design aspect but usually just printed out flyers and zines on my laser printer at home, or at Kinkos (shudder).
Learning to print on an offset press has been really empowering. It’s really old technology. When I load a plate onto the press and start running it, I’m doing the same thing as someone a hundred years ago was doing. There are differences, sure, but the technique is the same, and that’s really exciting to me.
My main goal with Radix, from the very beginning, has been to make beautiful propaganda. I consider it a form of activism, but it’s a factor that many times gets overlooked. Humans are very visual; if something doesn’t look good, people just aren’t going to pick it up, and they’re definitely not going to digest whatever message you’re trying to send. So I started out by helping my other activist friends with graphic design, making flyers and laying out pamphlets. And I’ve just kept on doing that. I’m very inspired by poster art and radical printmaking from the 1960s, such as the flyers that the Weather Underground made for demonstrations. There’s also a really amazing book I want to get on poster art from the Cuban Revolution. Of course, I also really like the work of my contemporaries, such as the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, the Beehive Collective and the Design Action Collective.
Publishing is also becoming more of a priority for me, which is really exciting. Owning the means of production gives me the advantage to publish and print whatever I want, whenever I want, at a fraction of the cost of paying another printer to do it for me. DIY or DIE!
You have been apprenticing with Eberhardt Press for almost a year now. Can you tell us a little about what they do and what that experience has been like?
Eberhardt Press is an anarchist publisher and printer here in Portland. It’s really just one person named Charles. He’s an incredibly talented graphic designer and printer and I’ve learned so much from him! Eberhardt Press has printed, gosh, THOUSANDS of zines, flyers, books, posters, album covers, notepads and more.
One of the things that I’ve really learned from Charles is that you have to make due with what you have. Eberhardt Press has existed for just over five years now, and almost that entire time, he was stuck with this really janky offset duplicator that he got for free. It was meant for really short runs, and stuff like stationery and envelopes. He really pushed it to its limit, becoming a huge resource for the radical community in Portland and beyond, and I think that’s really incredible. His earlier work is far from perfect, but it doesn’t matter, because you know it’s coming from a do-it-yourself underground printer. And once you know what he’s working with, all of a sudden your perspective changes. Like, “Wow, you printed this on THAT??” You should have seen how he started off binding books. We won’t talk about it – it’s too crazy, even for the internet! Fortunately for him, though, he’s been able to make some equipment upgrades.
In all honesty, Radix Media wouldn’t be where it is today without Charles. When I first started out, he would always give me free paper, ink, plates and other supplies. He’s answered countless phone calls (and stupid questions!) from me. He still hooks me up when he can. I’m really grateful to have him around. I can’t imagine I would have been able to do this by myself.
What are some of the zines you've printed so far? What do you generally look for when choosing literature that you'd like to publish or reprint?
The first zine I really printed for someone was issue number one of “When Language Runs Dry,” which is a really great zine for people with chronic pain and their allies. They're up to issue three now, I think, and they’re always really good. The people that put it together are wonderful, too. I printed “Towards a Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle” around the same time, and then got to work on a re-print of “A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse” for my friends at Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. I most recently did a re-print of a zine called “Revolution Summer.” It was written by Josh Hooten from Herbivore Clothing / Books. He’s currently working on another zine that he’ll want me to print, too, and I can’t wait to read it. Damn, I love zines. Oh yeah, and I just finished Mike XVX’s zine, “Stand Up Fight Back” about his European 2010 tour. Wheeee!
I’m not sure if there’s a theme to the stuff I print, necessarily. Most of the ones I’ve printed so far have been because people have asked me to do so, and have actually paid me to do it. That’s pretty sweet! Though I already know and respect those people, and actively support their projects. In most cases, I had already read and bought a copy of the zine long before I ever re-printed it. I think it would be a lot different if it was someone that I didn’t know at all. I’d want to read the work before I agreed to print it. There’s a story behind Nick Riotfag’s zine though.
I first heard about “Towards a Less Fucked Up World” from Rachel, my amazing partner. She had been trying to get a copy of it for a super long time, but Nick can be pretty hard to get ahold of. It never materialized but from everything she mentioned about it, I knew I had to read it at some point. Not too long ago, PM Press came out with a book called “Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge and Radical Politics” edited by a guy named Gabriel Kuhn, and it included that zine. I bought the book, mostly for that zine alone (though it’s got lots of other great stuff in it, too) and read it on an airplane when I was going to visit my parents in Florida.
Around that time, I had been really bummed about straightedge because of the way some people in the scene act. I felt really out of place and disconnected with those folks and started to wonder if I was a black sheep among black sheep. And while I’ve never considered “breaking edge,” as they say, I was unsure if I wanted to keep using the label “straightedge.” After reading Nick’s zine, I fell in love with straightedge all over again. I knew I had to re-print that zine and make it available to the public again. I contacted Nick and he responded to me pretty quickly, probably because I signed my e-mail “XlantzX”! He sent me the file and I re-did the layout and re-designed the cover. It was printed with a two-color cover and title page on 100% recycled paper, and even though there are so many rookie mistakes in it, it still means so much to me. I dreamed of re-printing that zine, and now I’ve got a box of them in my living room. Come on, you gotta admit, that rules.
What initially got you interested in Veganism and animal rights?
My best friend at the time and I both went vegetarian at the same time, so that it would be easier for us to transition. I was vegetarian for a year before I went vegan and have been so ever since. It’s been like 6 years now! The first protest I went to was a KFC protest in Ft. Lauderdale. It was pretty much not effective at all, but it’s what got me into animal rights. From then on, I just kept doing a lot of research, reading really horrific things and watching gnarly videos. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it. It’s only strengthened my resolve and I’ve never looked back. When I first moved to Portland, I was focused on animal rights almost exclusively, though there was a lot of overlap into the radical environmental movement as well. I read a lot of books and articles on the Green Scare, and I’m a big fan of Will Potter’s reporting. Animal rights is still a big part of my political identity, but I also see the connection between that and other struggles and have broadened my horizons in recent years to include labor struggles, feminism and anarchism.
Interestingly, the first research paper I ever wrote in community college was a paper on vivisection and how it was no longer necessary with the advancements of modern technology. That was in 1999, before I was ever vegetarian or vegan. Go figure.
What correlation do you see between anarchism and veganism?
Anarchism, to me, means that no one is above me, and that I am above no one. This includes non-human creatures. I think anarchism and veganism are highly compatible because they both focus on liberation and autonomy. It baffles me to see vegans who are otherwise quite liberal or reformist in their other politics. They’re talking about animal liberation on the one hand, but are voting for politicians on the other hand, politicians that are only perpetuating the evils of capitalism and striving to make america an actual empire at the expense of the rest of the world. If that’s where they’re at, though, that’s cool. I just wish some people could be more open-minded. I guess the same could be true of a lot of subcultures and scenes, though.
A phrase I use a lot is, “one struggle, one fight.” It means a lot to me, and I believe it with every ounce of my being. It bums me out when vegan kids I know don’t go to events outside of the animal rights movement. All struggles are linked; it is useless to fight for animal liberation if you’re not also fighting for human liberation, for the rights of human beings, whether they be people of color, queers, immigrants or anyone else. Solidarity is so important.
You just recently reprinted "Towards A Less Fucked Up World" By Nick Riotfag. What role do you see sobriety playing in radical politics?
Sobriety has played a huge role in my life. It’s one of the defining factors of myself and I don’t shy away from that at all, even though I still feel slightly disconnected and alienated from both sober and non-sober folks. I know a lot of people who are not sober (and who are not vegan, of course) who do really amazing work. But I always think about how much more effective they would be if they didn’t indulge in alcohol or drugs. Anyway, anything I can say here will make me sound like a self-righteous asshole, and that’s not how I want to come off. I would encourage anyone who’s interested in the overlap between radical politics and sobriety to read Nick Riotfag’s zine. It’s what made me want to start calling myself straightedge again!
Above all, I think it’s really crucial to practice self-care. Whatever choice you make for yourself, you should ensure that you’re not hurting anyone else in the process. This can actually be quite difficult when it comes to substance use, as Nick explains in his essay. But I’m a pretty big believer in harm-reduction. No one is perfect. You just have to do the best you can and be willing to go further when necessary.
Other than Radix, what other projects or collectives are you currently involved with?
I’m a collective member and co-owner of the Red and Black Café, where I’ve worked for about 3 years. We’re an anarchist, worker-owned all vegan café in Southeast Portland. We host a lot of events, like film screenings, readings, music and presentations by activist groups, authors, and stuff like that. That place has been the most influential for me since I moved to Portland. I feel really lucky to have met all the people that I’ve met there, both workers and customers.
I’m also a member of the Portland IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), a radical labor union that started in 1905. Because Radix stuff has been getting really busy, I took a big step back from the union but am still a supporter.
You usually table at events like the Portland Zine Symposium. How important do you think it is to have an Anarchist presence at gatherings like this?
So important! I could be wrong, but it seems as if a lot of zinesters are pretty apolitical. Most of what you see are little handmade zines, and comics, and sometimes kind of silly things. And that’s totally fine; I only got two zines at this most recent Zine Symposium – mostly because I was so overwhelmed! – and they were both comics. But I think it’s important to have a radical presence at these events because it gives you a chance to do some outreach to people who may be down for the cause but are outside of your “scene.” As I said before, most people already practice anarchism in some way, so you never know who’s going to be really receptive to you. And anyway, anarchism should be accessible; it’s not about some sort of fictional utopia, it’s about the notion that we can live without masters, that we can organize ourselves horizontally and thrive the way others have thrived and are thriving, in a truly egalitarian structure. Preaching to the choir will only get you so far. So get out there and talk to people!
As a company that's just starting out, what are the biggest obstacles Radix faces right now?
Equipment, by far. My press needs so many repairs, it’s absurd. I think I kind of got ripped off when I bought it! Just off the top of my head, I can think of three or four things that need to be replaced or bought because they’re missing altogether. I need to put a lot of money into the press to have it truly be functional, but if I can’t run jobs to make that money, I’m pretty screwed. That’s why I budgeted for press repairs in my Kickstarter project. I hope I’ll get over this hurdle soon, though. I mean, it never really ends – even the new, more expensive presses constantly have to be maintained and worked on. You kind of have to learn to be half-press operator, half-mechanic. A pity for me, because I’m actually quite stupid when it comes to mechanics. Guess I’ll have to learn!
Any last words?
Please check out Radix Media on Kickstarter! I’m trying to raise $5,000 for equipment upgrades and press repairs so that I can keep making rad stuff for rad people. I can hardly keep up with the demand for print jobs right now, but it’s a real drag to print on a machine that barely works, and to do all the bindery stuff by hand. I’m trying to buy a collating machine and a bookletmaker, which means I can assemble 500 zines in three hours instead of.. uh.. three days! You can check out the link here:
If you have the means, please consider donating to the project. You can even put the money on a credit card, and you actually only charged if the project achieves its goal. If you really don’t have the money, though, you can also help us out by spreading the word. Tell everyone you know! Independent publishers and underground printers are so crucial. Let’s make sure we survive!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Mike XVX is an advocate for animal liberation, radical environmentalism, anarchism, feminism, social revolution, industrial collapse and political sobriety. He uses music as his means to ignite dialogue and catalyze action. As a musician, he has toured in over 30 states and in 16 countries abroad. Mike’s music captures moods of solace, joy, adventure, angst, tension, hate, love, cynicism and hope, all the while being accessible to a wide range of audiences. Such a spectrum of emotions surprisingly resonates only from his voice and acoustic guitar. Mike’s lyrics focus on topics ranging from animal exploitation, domestic violence, rewilding, and friendship. His talents have made the often murky and isolated world of radicalism and animal rights approachable. This interview was conducted via email by Justin Kay in August of 2010.
1. What circumstances sparked your interest in becoming a touring musician? How long have you been doing it?
I've been in a lot of bands over the years, all of which didn't go anywhere, and I constantly felt misrepresented or overruled by other members. In my hometown it was nearly impossible to get a vegan straight edge band together and I was sick of constantly feeling unsatisfied with the music I was playing and the message we were putting out there. I started playing acoustic music about 4 years ago, and from the beginning I dedicated this project to bringing animal rights/veganism, sobriety and radical environmentalism to the "acoustic-punk" scene; some things which I felt it was really lacking. I love animals and the environment, I love to travel and I love playing music so everything just fell into place for me. With the exception of a select few people and bands, I really wasn't hearing a lot of heartfelt acoustic music that was about anything other than shallow, unhealthy relationships or drug addiction. Basically, I wanted to be able to spread the ethics of vegan straight edge to a group of people that I felt hadn't previously been exposed to it. I have an incredible privilege as a musician to speak for the animals and the environment and I'm trying to make good use of that.
2. You recently finished several-month long European and Australian tours, making a total of 16 countries that you have traveled to as part of your music. What kind of reception has your intended message received globally? How has it varied from region to region?
I've had a lot of people come up to me at a show or write me emails and letters about how my music, literature or something I had said on stage had effected them. Not all of their reactions are positive and supportive on the surface, but it does open up dialogue and challenge other people about things that they may not have considered before; and I think that's a really important element of my music and presence at shows. I have had mostly positive experiences though; over the past few years I've had a ton of kids tell me they'd gone vegan, took a critical look at their activism, adopted a sober lifestyle, had started to identify as anarchists or even just simply seeing me play live was the first time they'd ever been exposed to any of those things. I generally try to have as much literature with me as possible when I travel as well, so there will always be kids leaving with arms full of stuff that they're super excited to read or post on the wall of their bedroom. As far as region to region goes, I'd say the best responses I've had were from this last European tour that I did... but there are rad kids everywhere, and I've met people all over with so much passion and commitment to fight for total liberation. Whether it's exposing someone to Veganism for the first time or just reigniting the fire in another activist, it's enough to keep me motivated and committed to this music project.
3. Can you compare and contrast the radical communities and movements of the US and abroad?
I wasn't really exposed to the radical community in Australia, but I'd met people here and there that shared with me a little bit of their perspective on some social aspects. Australians are not unlike Americans in the sense that we have a very similar history, a similar denial of that history, and a continuos displacement, assimilation and annihilation of the indigenous peoples of the continent. It's important to emphasize the physical and cultural genocide of American Indians and Aboriginal Australians because so much is left out of our history books and everyday language. As far as racial tolerance goes I feel Australia is basically at a point now where the United States was 40 years ago. Although in my opinion simply "tolerating" another group perpetuates race and gender boundaries, embracing differences is a step in a better direction. The United States has set a precedent for genocide, assimilation, impoverishment and denial that Australia is sure to follow if people don't resist what they've been socialized to believe. It was unbelievable how much blatant racism, sexism, homophobia and specieism there was, even at punk and hardcore shows where "progressive" bands were playing. Then again, those things are also present in the American punk and hardcore scenes. Anyway, if you have someone in your scene or activist community saying blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic things don't let that go unchallenged! Remind them that we are trying to build a counterculture to what's been offered us, and that punk shows, demonstrations etc. are meant to be safe and welcoming spaces. There were a lot of kids that I had met during my 2 months there that actively resisted and challenged these inequalities, but often I saw them struggling alone or amidst a very small network of people.
As far as Europe goes there's a lot of glorification of European activism, and seemingly now more than ever since the riots in Greece this past year. I feel that in the US anarchism is regarded more as a fringe movement rather than a serious threat and we try to adhere mostly to a "European Model" of radical activism. Insurrectionists in Europe are seemingly a bit more bold about taking action, and I think that it has a lot to do with their history of resistance against fascists governments. There are so many intense and residual feelings from WWII, and I had an experience myself where I was verbally (and nearly physically) attacked for comparing the nazi holocaust to the yearly mass murder of non-humyn animals. Though I still stand by that comparison, it made me take a hard look at how I was expressing it. As Dropdead says: "In the united states alone, an animal is killed every 6 seconds in the name of scientific experimentation. A holocaust the likes of man has never known, taking place right before our very eyes." Also, for anyone interested there is a book called "Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust" by Charles Patterson that makes some pretty sound arguments and comparisons. But honestly it's difficult to compare European and American activism. In some ways I feel activists in Europe have it together in ways that Americans don't, but I can't say if either is a stronger movement. I think we can take ideas and methods from nearly all social movements and campaigns and apply them to our own.
4. What are some of the most important experiences you have had while traveling?
What's really important to me is the opportunity to reach out to so many people while I'm on tour. This last trip through Europe was 46 shows in 14 different countries, and we played for over 2,000 people in that time. One of my favorite things about that was visiting towns in countries I had never been to and seeing kids singing along to all the words of my songs! It was unbelievable how excited everyone was that we were coming through their city. Having conversations, learning new strategies, getting a glimpse of their lives, hugging, dancing, sharing stories.. just all of the things that keep encouraging me to grow as a person and hold my ground on my beliefs.
5. Why did you choose to use music as your platform for igniting change and discussion? Why not more conventional approaches?
Growing up in the punk and hardcore scene, my first exposure to radical politics came through the shows I attended and the bands I listened to. Art can be really powerful and expressive, and music in general is something that can really cut into me and ignite feelings and emotions that may have otherwise laid dormant. I enjoy playing acoustic music because it gives me an opportunity to connect with people on a personal level, I can cram my ideals down someone's throat all night but that doesn't mean they'll be receptive to it... in fact they'll probably be less open to new things if they feel I'm being authoritarian (understandably so). So I mostly just try to let my life be an example of those beliefs, and share stories about how anarchism, animal rights, feminism and sobriety have affected it and changed me for the better. By no means do I disagree with any of the "conventional" approaches, but music is something I feel I'm good at, and if it not only gives me an outlet for my emotions but also helps others then it's something worth doing.
6. What do you feel are the limitations of music within the context of overall movement efficacy?
Not everyone responds to music the same way that I do, and it takes different approaches to open someone's eyes to animal cruelty. Some people are more visual, some are more physical.. I mean, me playing music for people is really just an introduction to where their food, clothing, science and entertainment come from and how it's produced. All I can do is simply encourage them to scratch the surface and start to identify the problems within our society and within civilization; whether they take the necessary steps for change is entirely up to them. It can be frustrating because of the level of urgency in knowing that animals are dying every minute of every day, and the longer we wait the more animal and plant species disappear from this planet forever, but I try to be as patient as I can with people and attempt to offer the tools to dismantle their previous apathetic or uneducated perceptions. I feel limited myself sometimes just because it takes so much work and dedication to book tours, write music and essays, record, make cd's etc. that I imagine I could be doing something more constructive for animals than playing my silly songs for people. Anyway, other than music I attend and plan animal rights demonstrations, do prisoner support for fellow activists, and try to combat speciesism and other forms of oppression every chance I have. Though I'm not satisfied with my contributions and I don't think anyone should be... we should always be asking ourselves how we can step it up as activists.
7. Obviously, you're a part of the vegan straightedge movement. What role do you see sobriety playing in radicalism?
I can go on for days about why I think sobriety is the right decision on every level, but I'll try to make this a little more succinct. There are so many blatantly obvious reasons that inebriation is detrimental to activist and non-activist communities that I feel ridiculous having to constantly explain to people why I don't drink or take drugs. So many social justice movements and communities have been ripped apart by drug addiction and alcoholism, often times at the encouragement of the United States government. The Black Panthers, the anti-war movement, the American Indian Movement and many other once powerful groups have been suppressed because of intoxication and addiction that destroyed leadership and decayed the movement from the inside, leaving them more vulnerable to destabilization at the hands of the US. If we want to be effective activists we need to start taking our lives and campaigns a bit more seriously, and if not commit to a sober lifestyle then at the very LEAST provide safe spaces for people that choose not to participate in drug culture during events and concerts. There's actually a really awesome zine that came out a few years ago called "Towards A Less Fucked Up World" by Nick Riotfag that I think EVERYONE should read, sober or not.
8. On a personal level, what circumstances led to you living a sober life?
Drug addiction and alcoholism runs rampant in my biological family, but it was always easy for me to turn away from it. I grew up in a violent and male dominated household where alcohol seemed to just escalate or amplify already fucked up behaviors and attitudes. At the time, for me, alcoholism was synonymous with domestic violence, marital rape, child abuse and neglect, racism, homophobia, sexism, speciesism and male dominance; and so much so that those connections stayed with me for years afterward. The smell of alcohol on someone's breath when they came near me just triggered a flurry of terrible memories and feelings about my past... I couldn't handle being around people who drank at all, let alone drink myself. Don't misunderstand, I don't think everyone who drinks or uses drugs is a potential rapist or child abuser, but statistically the majority of reported rapes and child abuse cases involve drugs or alcohol in some way. Now I recognize that those behaviors are a byproduct of social conditioning, but it would just be downright ignorant to ignore those connections. It baffles me that people actually advocate drugs and alcohol as a positive part of their life; a social crutch, experience enhancer, mind opener whatever whatever. Those people are either selectively blind or living in denial.
9. Much of your lyrical focus deals with the subjugation of non-human animals and the struggle for their liberation. Why?
I speak out for animals because I feel a connection with them stronger than I do with most humyns. Every time I tour I can name nearly every animal I've come into contact with, whether or not I can remember most of the names of the people I've met. I don't think animal liberation is any more or less important then the struggle for earth and humyn liberation in any way, but it is something that I feel a more personal connection to.
Non-humyn animal's voices and needs are largely not recognized or simply ignored, and because of this I feel it is my responsibility to speak out and attempt to dismantle a speciesist and anthropocentric society that views them as nothing more than a commodity. In my opinion, people who take advantage and exploit other sentient beings are no better than rapists and child molesters. That may sound extreme to a lot of people, but I will explain: people who make a profit off of animal suffering constantly make the argument that "might makes right" when trying to justify their business or lifestyle. From their perspective, a non-humyn animal's existence revolves around the utilization of their fur, skin or meat, and because they perceive these animals as weaker to their species, they feel entitled to harvest what they desire from them and cast them aside. How is it that a child molester does not apply these same principles to his or her victims in the pursuit of their own selfish desires? How many of us have known womyn in our lives that have been sexually assaulted by men who are raised to believe that female-bodied people are inferior to their sex and are available to use at their disposal? I recommend checking out a book called "Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory" by Carol J. Adams for a more in depth look at the connections between the subjugation of non-humyn animals and violence against womyn.
Another argument from animal abusers is that they're simply trying to provide a living for themselves and their families, and that they don't necessarily enjoy what they do. Now, I'm supportive of workers rights to an extent, but should I support a working humyn being who makes a living off of the rape, torture and murder of living, breathing, sentient creatures? I've seen enough undercover footage of the sadistic perverts who get off on shoving their fingers into the anus of a turkey on an assembly line, stabbing cows in their udders with pitchforks, slamming chickens into concrete floors, ripping the skin off of a still living mink and punching beagle puppies in the face to believe that no one could possibly be forced or even coerced into doing those disgusting and wretched things. Even the most apathetic and desensitized person couldn't see those images without cringing.
I have nothing but love for those animals, and with that love comes the pain, sorrow and rage when seeing what humyns are capable of doing to them. Animals need humyns to fight alongside them, so I will stand with them as long as it takes.
10. Although animal rights is central to your work, song topics range from friendship to domestic abuse to deforestation. Do you feel that there is a single persistent motif that manifests itself in these various discussions? If so, how would you articulate it?
Hmm... I think maybe you're picking up something that I never intended to bring across. I wouldn't say that I have a singular motive behind my music project as a whole. I generally just write songs that are relevant to my life at that particular moment, and usually just things that I think largely go undiscussed. I can, and always will only write songs from my personal experiences and perspective. I try to be as honest as I can when it comes to writing lyrics; it kind of drives me nuts when musicians write songs about situations or people that never existed, and rely heavily on confusing symbolism and metaphors to try and make a vague point. If you have something important and relevant to say be direct about it.
11. Music can act as the great equalizer for different communities. Have you found that your performances or music has catalyzed dialogue between different social movements or communities that can all find something in your music?
My stances on anarchism, feminism, animal rights, environmental issues and sobriety aren't things that obviously everyone agrees with; but discussing these topics allow me the opportunity to play for a variety of different groups. I can remember playing a show in New Mexico a few years ago for a room full Wobblies for the memorial of Utah Phillips. Most people didn't like what I had to say about the environment and animal abuse, but there were a few in the crowd that approached me later and thanked me for bringing those issues to the surface. I in no way feel that my presence is enough to unite different social movements, but even if people leave a show in total disagreement about something I've said at the very least maybe they'll spend some time doing independent research on the topic and probably find more in common with me then they originally thought. I just try to be approachable, friendly and open about my stances at shows and events in hopes that people can "pick up what I'm putting down" if you know what I mean.
12. A recurring theme of your work seems to deal with human civilization as the epicenter of domination. To what extent do you see civilization as culpable for the injustices of the world? As a follow-up, what do you think anti-civilization resistance should look like?
Civilization, in it's current manifestation, cannot exist without exploitation. Whether or not that falls under animal, earth or humyn exploitation is irrelevant. We are all part of the same cycle, and when individual species start to disappear it sets off a chain reaction for the rest to follow. We kill off predatory animals so their prey overpopulates and decimates the ecosystem, we kill bees with cell phone towers that are necessary for pollinating plants, we poison the air we breathe with fossil fuels and factory farming, we are in the process of destroying all sea life with industrial fishing methods and pollution, we make excuses for our destructive behaviors and come up with ridiculous and half-thought out plans to make our lifestyles more "green" and "sustainable". Civilization can never be sustainable, and it spreads over the earth and will consume every natural resource we have.
We don't have many alternatives to this lifestyle, even Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) living off the grid in Lincoln, Montana couldn't escape civilization, so he attempted to take out airplanes after he watched them fly over his cabin. I am in no way saying that is what anti-civ activism should look like, nor am I even implying that Kaczynksi was an activist, but it gives a bit more context of the situation we currently live in (Clarification: I'm not encouraging anyone to follow in his footsteps). I also don't want to imply that attempts to be more sustainable shouldn't be taken, because anything that relieves our mother earth in the slightest amount from the chokehold we have her in should be seriously considered. Set up greywater systems in your home, if you must drive look into a veggie oil conversion for your vehicle, don't use or eat anything that comes in plastic packaging, support a small, organic, local farm, or go the luddite route and start taking out new technology whenever you see it. In any case, the end is coming and we should all learn to embrace it and make life a little easier for the earth and the animals that live on it until that time comes. "The earth isn't dying, it's being killed. And those killing it have names and addresses." -Utah Phillips
13. Radical environmentalism and animal liberation seem to function as two separate movements. Your music seems to blur those lines; Do you make distinctions between where environmentalism ends and animal rights begins?
No, I don't make any distinction between the two. Like I had said before neither animals nor the environment can exist without the other, and I do think the two movements should be more unified then they are currently. It's rare to go to a non-animal rights related gathering and meet many other vegans there, it's frustrating and really disappointing. People who are totally against one form of oppression wholeheartedly support other forms, refusing to recognize that every species on this planet is equally as valuable as the other. I hope more people will be willing to facilitate discussions about solidarity with other movements in the years to come, because we definitely can't fight these battles alone.
14. For those who know you personally, you are a fairly well-read person. What books have you finished recently or are you reading now? Do you have any particular recommendations?
I just recently finished "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond and "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. Both were books I'd been putting off reading for some time, but I highly recommend them. I would also like to encourage people to read Keith Mann's book "From Dusk Till Dawn: An insider's view of the growth of the Animal Liberation Movement" which was incredibly powerful and captivating. I read the entire thing in 3 weeks while I was on tour in Europe. "Feminism is for Everybody" by Bell Hooks was also my first exposure to feminist theories and a big encouragement into identifying as a feminist, and I recommend everything else that she's written as well. "Sober Living for the Revolution" by Gabriel Kuhn is an awesome collection of interviews and essays about straight edge as a radical social movement and not just a macho, white male dominated social clique. As I mentioned before, "Towards A Less Fucked Up World" by Nick Riotfag is also a pretty amazing zine about radical sobriety if you can get your hands on it. For anti-civ stuff I'd recommend the journal "Species Traitor" and authors like Derek Jensen and John Zerzan.
15. What has and continues to inspire you, musically or otherwise?
Sometimes when I'm touring I see these other musicians perform that just COMPLETELY blow me away with what they're doing. I get so inspired (and kind of intimidated) by people who just go up and do something so creative and original. Granted I have to sit through some awful bands here and there to get to the good stuff, but sometimes I'll be part of a show that's just so incredible that I can't even put it into words. Just realizing that there are no limits to art and music is enough for me to want to search deeper into my own mind and manifest more of my artistic visions. Using them of course as an outlet for my frustrations on personal and political levels, and hopefully inciting something positive and pro-active in others.
16. Do you believe that maintaining a gluten-free diet is a political choice?
I can see how it could be perceived that way, but I think any of our lifestyle or dietary choices could be rationalized as political. As far as gluten goes, I originally chose to stop eating it because for me it was a representation of colonialism and the annihilation of native americans. I also learned that indigenous cultures never ate grain in that manner; since the process of hulling the seeds of wheat stems was so labor intensive they never bothered to make use of it. Even descendants of humyns that lived in the Fertile Crescent who were among the first to utilize agriculture still haven't fully adapted to processing gluten properly. "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond is a pretty thorough analysis about how cultures come to dominate others, and draws the lines pretty clearly about how agriculture paved the way for the destruction of so many indigenous cultures.
On a personal level, I care about my physical and mental health and take measures to ensure that I maintain those. Gluten is terrible for your digestion, and leaves you lethargic because your body is using so much energy to break it down. For me personally it elevates other allergies as well when I have it. It's not difficult cutting foods like that out of your diet, and once you realize how much better you feel without it being present in your system you'll never want to go back.
17. any last words?
Take care of your friends, fight for total liberation and GO VEGAN!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
VeganTHIS is an organization that started in Southern California as a simple myspace account and literature table at punk and hardcore shows. Today, vT has grown into an internationally recognized source for information on the struggle for animal rights and radical activism. Not only do they combat speciesism, but also emphasize the connections that veganism has with environmental and humyn struggles as well. You have undoubtedly seen the now famous "LIBERATE" shirts with a photo of a restrained primate around, as well as one of the several other designs that vT is now well known for. Though many people contribute to vT through artwork, writing and sometimes assistance tabling at punk shows; the individual who started VeganTHIS is assuredly the foundation. His home has been raided, he has been arrested several times on bogus charges, and has had his myspace deleted several times since it's original inception for the alleged "explicit content" contained therein. That content being photos of cows with their throats slit, mink being skinned alive, and baby calves being torn away from their mothers. Of course all of these things are not just simply offensive photographs, but the reality of the fur, meat, dairy and entertainment industries. His drive and his passion has helped countless people adopt a vegan lifestyle and get involved in the struggle for animal liberation. NOW THIS WAR HAS TWO SIDES.
this interview was conducted by Mike XVX in June of 2010.
How about we start with some basic info like, what are the origins of VeganTHIS (name, how you got started etc.) and how long have you been doing this for?
Well, to be honest, the name really just came about because that's the first name I thought of when myspace made me pick a URL address for the account I started, which was the original veganTHIS. It was just a page with horrific animal exploitation pictures and reasons why it's in your best interest to go vegan. After myspace deleted me several times I realized that I needed to make my own website so I wouldn't have to rely on corporate owned social networking web sites to get the message out there. Around the same time the web site was just starting up I began to realize that I never saw any vegan outreach tables at any punk or hardcore shows I was going to. I knew I had to change this. I think punk and hardcore shows are such a good opportunity to do vegan outreach and give lots of cool info to kids. Gather says it best, ''Punk is about doing what's right, even if it means going against the majority''. The punk scene was built by pissed off kids wanting social change. Animal exploitation is happening everywhere in so many different forms, if we don't stop it, who will? I table shows because kids attending shows have the passion, the dedication, and the inspiration to do anything. You just need to help them realize it. I have been doing veganTHIS since 2004, so, around 6 years.
You usually tour the country and table with big name punk bands like The Subhumans, Citizen Fish, The Locust, Conflict etc. Can you tell us a little about these experiences? Things you like/don't like about doing outreach at punk shows? The responses you get from people?
Being able to tour with the punk bands I grew up listening to has been a very rewarding experience. Being able to know them as not just legendary musicians, but awesome fucking people. Traveling from city to city, eating food, seeing rad shows, meeting and talking with punks and activists night after night has solidified the dedication I have for veganTHIS and my hope for the animal liberation movement in the U.S. My favorite thing about touring with bigger bands is that the shows are usually a lot bigger, bringing a lot more people. The more people to see the vT table, the better. Most of the responses we get are very positive. Its either people thanking us for being at the show, or people getting stoked on reading literature, or people just becoming aware about how the animals they eat were treated before being put into their mouths. To be honest, I don't get negative feedback too often. I suppose some people may just keep quiet if they have a negative opinion on the information I give out. Even if a certain show wasn't as receptive to the info table as other shows have been; if one single person took some lit for the first time, or caught a glimpse of the movie Earthlings for the first time, it was definitely worth it. That kid is going to leave the show knowing how serious the war on animals is, and hopefully they are going to want to help fight back in some way or another.
Your t-shirts are worn by people all over the world, all from a simple project you started yourself. Did you ever expect VeganTHIS to become as much as an influence as it has been? What are your personal goals for this project?
I initially didn't have any plans to make veganTHIS more than just a myspace full of graphic animal exploitation pictures on it. People liked the approach that I took, and veganTHIS developed rather fast, and here we are. I had no idea that this project would be as popular as it has become. My current goals for veganTHIS.org are to make the web site a very reliable source of information regarding anything from vegan outreach, animal liberation to government oppression within the animal and earth liberation movements. I am very excited about new vT projects, and am excited about the possibility for the web site to become a better source of information for beginners or long time activists.
Have you had a lot of people over the years tell you that vT specifically helped them go vegan?
I certainly have had countless individuals tell me that they have gone vegan because of the web site. Although veganTHIS has existed for a couple years without having a web site, we did constant vegan outreach across the country with punk rock and hardcore tours; so I am sure we got to a great amount of people that way. The web site has gotten nearly 5 million hits since its start in 2007, so one can only hope that it has made a difference.
I was actually tabling a punk show in the north west not too long ago and someone came up to me and told me that they saw me tabling a show in southern california 3 years prior and had since gone vegan because of their exposure to animal cruelty via veganTHIS.
Hearing stories like that is what keeps this project going. Knowing that we are being effective.
Would you say vT's primary focus is education considering all the outreach you do?
Public outreach is definitely the main focus. We table information on veganism, animal rights, animal liberation, know your rights, and information discussing why the FBI and police are not our friends in this movement. Shit, even the t-shirts we sell are for outreach purposes. Each shirt has veganTHIS.org on the back for everyone to see!
Any advice for activists currently living in the "Green Scare" and are facing state oppression for legal, first amendment protected activism?
We are all the help that the animals have. Don't let the police scare you into settling for facebook activism. Be creative, go out and organize protests, and help the animals in anyway that you can. Every activist should know their rights, its crucial. It helps to make friends with like minded lawyers, they may help you out someday. Protest, Protest, Protest. Never give up, never give in.
Your home has been raided, you're myspace has been deleted several times and you have experienced a lot of police and FBI oppression simply from running a vegan outreach website. Has this deterred you in any way or made you rethink any of your methods? and do you think these tactics have slowed down the animal liberation movement in the past few years?
Being a legal above-ground working activist and having the FBI raid my home, being arrested multiple times, and being a target for police oppression has done nothing but make my determination even stronger. They have let me know that my actions are not going unnoticed, but most importantly, they have helped me realize that I am being effective. I am doing the same things now, as I have been doing when my home was raided, or the first time I was handcuffed and put in a squad car. If my methods have changed at all, they were done to become more creative and effective. Police and FBI oppression on activists have definitely slowed down legal street demonstrations in some area's, people are scared to come to protests due to bogus arrests and jail time, its a really frustrating result of the green scare. If you don't know what the Green Scare is, please check out a web site called GreenIstheNewRed.com. Even though some street protests have slowed down, the green scare hasn't been able to slow down illegal direct action for animal liberation one bit.
It's common knowledge that adopting a Vegan lifestyle is a simple and easy way to reduce animal suffering. But, in your opinion, what are some other ways to help animals that an average person can partake in on a day to day basis?
I highly suggest you find some friends and form a group. Having a group makes it easier to go inform a local fur shop about why they should stop selling fur, or inform people about how the Circus that is in town abuses and exploits animals, etc. Like I said before, animal exploitation is everywhere. Its our job to help the animals by fighting back.
Do you think starting a DIY outreach group is a realistic goal that kids can set for themselves? What kind of resources and websites do you recommend they look into for help starting up?
Not only do I believe that starting up a DIY outreach group is certainly a realistic goal, but I feel as if it is not enough. Why start an outreach group, when you can form a trusted group of friends and go out and make direct action for the animals? I'm not telling you to go out and break windows and burn down a fur shop, I'm just telling you to get active and stay active.
If you want to start out with an outreach group, i know VeganOutreach.org is a good source to get 'Why Vegan' pamphlets. Viva.org.uk is also an excellent source of information. Feel free to google 'vegan literature' and see what pops up!
Police and FBI informants are unfortunately a reality in the animal rights movement, what do you recommend for people who are suspicious of someone in their group?
This is always a hard subject to talk about. First of all, don't snitch jacket someone unless you know for a fucking fact that the person that is in question is working with the cops or not. I am talking about video or documentation evidence. Snitch jacketing doesn't do a damn thing but divide the movement.
Do some investigative work. Study their behavior; are they out of line? Are they pushing the legal boundary? Where are they from? Where do they live? Where did they used to live? Where does their money come from? Can anyone vouch for them? Can you vouch for the people who vouch for them? Get creative and find out who they are.
If they are indeed a snitch working with the FBI or cops, tell them they are no longer welcome in the movement and let them know why. Force them out.
What kind of resources can you recommend to look into security culture and protecting yourself in a legal sense?
My go to source for anything legal related is the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, OR. You can find them at CLDC.org. One of my favorite sources for Security Culture can be found at: http://security.resist.ca/personal/securebooklet.pdf
Know your rights. Don't talk to cops or the FBI. Be safe
Any last words?
Go out and fight for animal liberation. Whether you work above ground, or under ground. Do something. Why? Because We Must.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Lawyer, filmmaker, and activist, Shannon Keith is a prominent entity in animal defense and education. Her films "Behind the Mask: The Story of the People Who Risk Everything To Save Animals" and her most recent documentary "Skin Trade" are well known and received not only among the animal rights community, but have even had red carpet screenings amongst Hollywood's elite. Aside from her award winning films, Shannon is also the founder of ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education) who's main goals are rescuing homeless animals and releasing educational films. Shannon's achievements and methods are notable and effective in the struggle for animal rights, and I encourage everyone (seasoned activist or not) to take the time to view these powerful films.
this interview was conducted in May 2010 over email by Mike XVX.
what initially got you interested in veganism and animal rights?
I received an unsolicited mailing from PETA about animals on factory farms. I always thought I loved animals but still ate them. When I read the information, I immediately went vegetarian and a few years later I went vegan.
Animal rights issues were always of high value to me, especially being an only child, animals were my best friends and I was fascinated by them, so I studied them. When I learned that animals were considered "property" in the law, I was shocked and set out to make it my life's goal to change that.
you're currently screening your new film "Skin Trade". Can you tell us a little about it? are you happy with the attention it's receiving?
Skin Trade is an eye-opening, visually stunning comprehensive expose on the fur and fashion industries. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say that even people who thought they knew everything there was to know
about fur, learned a few more things in this film. People who knew nothing about fur have been shocked and dismayed and even began throwing out their LEATHER items!
The response has been amazing. We have had limited viewings so far and the responses from them have been overwhelmingly positive.
I did not set out to make a film with a happy ending; because there is no happy ending for these animals. I made a real film that people can touch and feel - it's palpable.
With the help of my extraordinary editor/producer/composer, Gene Blalock, we were able to make a beautiful film that tells a real story of deception and lies.
have you had people outside the vegan and animal rights community attend the screenings?
Yes, especially at our industry premiere at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA, where it was mainly industry executives. After the premiere, I received attention from various cable networks and
distributors who felt compelled to get the message out there. We hope that these connections will pan out so more of the mainstream world will be exposed to the truth behind the bloody fur and fashion industries.
For activists currently living in the "Green Scare", what advice would you give those who face state oppression at every turn for completely legal activity?
That's a great question. I know that post AETA some activists are intimidated and some people may be deterred from being active. My response is that, while our civil liberties are being quickly eroded, we do still have a little something called
The First Amendment - Freedom of Speech. Our country was founded on this very concept.
I urge people to utilize their rights and continue to fight for what they believe in. Without social conflict, challenging the laws, igniting revolution, we will get nowhere for the animals. Luckily, there are many more attorneys that are representing activists and specializing
in animal rights and environmental law, so that these new repressive laws can be challenged and activists represented by competent, caring counsel.
Considering the recent arrests and lengthy jail sentences handed out to the SHAC 7, AETA 4 etc, do you think these trials set a precedent for the government to further criminalize legal, first amendment protected activism? Do you think these scare tactics will bring harm to the animal rights movement the way the federal government intends?
Thank you for asking this important question. The federal government certainly intended the SHAC 7 case as well as the AETA 4 case to set a precedent and scare people into stopping their activism.
At the core, we must all remember that the First Amendment has not been abolished, therefore, even though we are facing severe government repression, now is the time to fight even harder and be
proactive instead of reactive. If we let the government know via lawsuits and protest that we will not stand for our Constitutional rights to be stripped away, we will prevail.
However, this means taking risks and it means not allowing the government to stop protest activity. I encourage all activists to continue even harder than before in their fight for the freedom of animals.
Your first film "Behind the Mask: The Story of the People Who Risk Everything To Save Animals" has been largely distributed and well received. Was it your intention to make the documentary geared more towards the average person who has no previous knowledge of the animal rights movement? do you feel this can be attributed to it's success?
Yes, that was my goal. However, it seemed to have gone both ways: educating those without any prior knowledge as well as inspiring activists to take more action. I think the film is so successful because it is the first film to put human faces to those who really risked their freedom
as well as their lives for the animals. I can see from an outsiders point of view how it may be difficult to empathize with someone who sets fire to a slaughterhouse, when all you see is a person with a black mask on. I was able to pull that layer off and expose these humans for who they really
are: heroes, and people saw that.
in 2004 you started ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education) which is a group dedicated to rescuing homeless animals and education. Have you seen an escalation in animal abuse and neglect over the past few years because of the current economic situation in the United States?
Yes, in many ways. Right now I am dealing with the serious issue of animal abandonment. Homes have been foreclosed in record numbers, and the people there just leave their animals in these houses. No food. No water. Nothing.
Much of any spare time I have is spent distributing food to people to feed these animals and finding homes for them.
what advice can you give the average person if they find an abandoned pet or are witness to animal abuse and neglect?
If you see an abandoned animal, take action. Do not assume someone else will handle it. It wont happen. It is YOUR duty to help that animal. Call a local rescue organization to come in and help, and if you cannot reach one,take the animal yourself. If you cannot bring the animal into your home, you can always board the animal until you get further assistance. People complain about the cost, but most boarding facilities offer a discount for rescued animals.
Give up your alcohol and soy lattes for a month to save a life. It's easier than you think.
If you witness animal abuse, immediately report it to the authorities. But, that's not enough. Follow up is key! Animal abuse is at the bottom of the list for law enforcement officials. Keep calling. Have others call. Make sure that the issue is not
forgotten and that something is being done about it.
A good example: A few years ago, my neighbors' dog was stolen. They told me about it 3 days after the incident. They knew he was stolen because people saw it happen. A white van pulled up to the gate of the yard, opened it, grabbed the puppy,
threw him in the truck, and sped off. Witnesses were able to get 4 digits of the 7 digit license plate, however, nothing was being done! The "detective" on the case from the local police department still had not run the plate.
So, I emailed every single person in my address book. I asked them to politely call and email this detective. The next morning, he called me at 7 a.m. and told me that he was "annoyed" by receiving thousands of calls and emails and so he ran the plate.
Later that afternoon, they found the perpetrator and found the dog!
are there any books, groups or organizations you recommend for people who are just starting to get involved with animal rights?
Yes. I would suggest reading "Free the Animals" by Ingrid Newkirk and get involved with local vegan and activist meetups to meet new people and get involved.
Sometimes it's hard to know where to start. I also think the following websites are great: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/action-center.aspx, http://www.peta.org/actioncenter/community.asp, http://ca.cok.net/lists/, and http://www.directaction.info/
Though you're currently busy with Skin Trade, do you have any other projects planned for the near future?
Yes! I am now in pre-production on 3 new documentaries that I hope to complete within the next year. I can't tell you what they are, but they are all very different and of course about animals!
Thank you so much for your time. do you have any last words?
Thank you! What you do is so critical. The more we get the message out there about animal exploitation, the more consciousness will change.
www.uncagedfilms.com, www.skintradethemovie.com, www.arme.tv
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Matt Gauck is a Vegan Straight Edge artist currently residing in Portland, OR. He has worked with such notable organizations and bands as Microcosm Publishing, To Live A Lie Records, From the Depths, Comadre, xBrainiax, Coke Bust, Bridge and Tunnel, Hyperrealist Records, Food Fight! Grocery, Civil Liberties Defense Center and many others. Matt's artwork is so diverse and widespread that chances are you've already seen his illustrations, t-shirts or patches. His style is often charming, humorous and playful but he has also created some incredibly intricate, beautiful and moving pieces. Always relevant, biting and eye-catching, his art is not only aesthetically pleasing but also has tones of serious struggles within activist communities. Generous with his illustrations for benefits to animal rights prisoners and organizations, Matt's talents are a great asset to the AR community. This interview was conducted by Mike XVX through e-mail in March and April of 2010.
You can check out more of his work here:
what initially got you interested in doing illustrations? how long have you been doing it for?
I've been drawing since i was a kid - pretty much right when i started school, and in high school i started drawing things specifically for zines, mostly in the punk / diy vein. the whole arc of my 'art career' started there, and just continued, based around the diy scene. my interest stemmed from liking calvin and hobbes a lot, but mostly because i just liked to draw. i've been doing "real" illustrations - that is, beyond just sketching stuff and sending them to record labels/zines - for about 13 years.
are there any artists or friends/relatives out there that you feel inspire you?
i feel most inspired by my friends, as well as bands within the diy scene. I feel more comfortable looking up to them, since i feel like we're on the same level, which is a more realistic and healthy way of looking at creativity and making things. somewhere in there (i think it was pg 99) i learned that passion meant an ability to create. Beyond that, however, the print maker kathe kollowitz, bill watterson, rene magritte, and then a handful of forgotten french painters from the 1800's. oh, and mark tansey - that dude is brilliant - his conceptual methods are incredible.
you currently work for Microcosm publishing in Portland, OR. has that been a rewarding experience?
it's been really interesting, mostly to have a job that i care about, as opposed to the normal "crappy cleaning / bike delivery / pay the bills" job. Learning the back end of book publishing, copy editing, and then all the billions of things that go with trying to actually sell a book...it's really crazy to see the entire process; it seems much more 'hit or miss' than i ever imagined. it's extremely comforting to work with a 'larger' diy organization and for them to still retain totally down to earth diy ideals. it's a good reminder that you don't need to compromise your ideals to grow larger.
do you feel you have a lot re-occuring themes in your artwork?
totally, and i kind of don't know why sometimes. I paint and draw strings all the time, like some kind of kinetic painting, and i think it's because i can't paint an image if there isn't a story present. I need the image to be the beginning point for a much larger idea, and sometimes using and reusing elements from older paintings helps. I have a small cast of characters (a concrete monster, trees, jellyfish, birds, a robot, etc) that i put in situations to explore emotions and ideas. I develop a concept, establish an environment, and then put a character in a situation within it.
I notice you put a lot of humor into your illustrations even though some of the topics can be somewhat serious. do you feel this can be mirrored in your personal life?
yeah, i've always felt humor is essential to life, even in very, very important subjects. I just find that in almost any argument, maintaining a sense of humor and the ability to laugh helps to help communicate effectively while not just cramming your agenda down someone's throat. My problem with the hyper dogmatic ideology writings is that they leave no room for a human element - it's too robotic and staged sounding. To make this more realistic and understandable, i use humor because we laugh when we see things that are ridiculous, but that doesn't mean we miss the point. Some things are so crazy, so forwardly wrong, we have to laugh in disbelief, and i don't think that's a bad thing.
have you set any personal goals for yourself to achieve through your artwork?
Inspiration. that's the most important thing to me; i love seeing other paintings and immediately thinking "i've gotta go home and draw!" it's also a good way to start a conversation about things i care about - environmental things, animal things, education...
so, tell me about your movie idea: "Death Challenger!"?
it's freaking brilliaint, that's what! in short, it's a movie about a guy who gets so mad that people die everyday for whatever reason (specifically sickness and old age) that he goes the direct action route and starts punching wildly in a graveyard to 'fight death'. the strange thing is that it works, and for all the time he's punching around this graveyard, no one in the town is dying, as death is pre-occupied. it would be like a long twilight zone episode. well, it WILL be like one, when i finally film it. hopefully at the premier i'll be doing free death challenger tattoos after the screening. not kidding.
how do you feel about artists like Shepard Fairey who started out displaying their work in a DIY fashion and now have installments all over the world?
I think it's important to understand, even when you start, where to put your 'cap' on things - like, defining a stopping point where you DON'T want to end up. It's really hard to say 'no' when you're starting an art career - it seems like any job that can pay is super rare, and the "i can't believe they're going to pay me!" mentality is sort of what you start with... i mean, getting paid for doing what you love is the best possible scenario, but there's a point where you need to be able to maintain your personal politics and say no to things you don't agree with. Getting popular is fine, and making money for a specific talent is fine too - and on that level, it's great that Shephard Fairey is being recognized on a large scale. However, feeling unconnected to the group that you initially make art for (in this case, the small scale diy scene) is a by-product of getting 'big' or being 'discovered' or whatever. I can't expect everyone to be content with barely getting by with almost no money, dumpstering food or whatever, while still working another job a couple hours a week - but at the same time, I was never doing this for money, I did this for the message and the need to create things; if i get paid, that's awesome. If not, i'm still going to make art; the money can be helpful, but it's never, never been the goal. Just staying afloat is okay with me. It's confusing; and it's easily the hardest question in the diy scene, and i think the best thing to do is constantly ask yourself if you're okay with where you are, and what it is that you're doing.
do you consider this "selling out" even if an artist keeps their work social and/or political?
Selling out...oh man. Well, keeping it political and relevant is necessary; when you stop being relevant, or augment your content to be less political, that's when you've sold out. If you change yourself to fit in with a culture that's asking you to join them, then you've totally missed a great opportunity - that's like half the plots of all 80's movies; nerdy outcast wants to assimilate with the cool kids, succeeds by some method, but then loses all his original friends in the process, thus selling them all out. I'm thinking of 'can't buy me love' specifically, though there are definitely others. Heck, i think Billie Jean, of "the Legend of Billie Jean" fame had it right - she got famous, she was selling shirts and whatnot - but all she wanted was to see her goal met, it had nothing to do with fame or money. Then, when everyone burns all the merch at the end, it's like everyone understood that message. Everyone has a different 'selling out' line they're wary of crossing, i know where mine is in the broad sense, but in some ways it's easy, since i'm so far from it - like, advertising for Coke or Nike or really any corporation. Since they're not asking, i don't have to worry about that. Personal growth as an artist is necessary; but keeping that growth focused on yourself is the key - not to let the greater culture push and pull you into a position where you've lost your identity.
Some of your drawings have a theme of comical violence towards record executives and others that make a profit off exploiting another person's talents; do you feel that corporate interest dilutes the original message and meaning of a piece? would you ever consider selling your artwork for an advertisement?
Corporate anything is awful. The distinction separating us and them is that they ONLY see dollar signs, and we still are grounded enough to see things like suffering, inhumane work conditions, and the list of problems with most "money is our goal" companies. For a long time, companies like Odwalla seemed totally down and punk, and then they got bought out, and then we stuck to Naked juice, but then THEY got bought out...But you can always choose not to 'get bought out'. Corporate interest ruins the strength of anything, because it automatically changes the agenda from what the individual had felt/thought, and the result is a 'borrowed and changed' meaning, repossessed to serve different interests. If Gap started selling shirts with a Banksy graphic on them, it wouldn't be because Gap was secretly 'down', it would be to sell shirts. That's it. As for the advertisement question - i would only ever help out smaller, diy entities in the advertising world, like small distros, music labels, etc. Small, heartfelt stuff.
what initially got you interested in veganism and animal rights?
I remember right when the internet 'came out' and my family had a mindspring.com address (this is in 1998), i was working at a kroger grocery store on the weekends during high school, and i saw something online about proctor and gamble doing animal testing, and i wrote whoever it was that was hosting that story (most likely PETA) and i really wanted to help do something, and they wrote back saying i could donate money for literature and stuff, and i remember thinking "i don't HAVE money, i wanted to know what i could DO..." Beyond that, I crept into veganism pretty slowly; i'll openly admit i haven't been "fully vegan" for a very long time - but i was vegetarian when i got to college in 1999, and then adopted a hardcore dumpster diving regimen, and for a solid 5 years i did not buy food at all. I literally was not buying anything for over 5 years of my life. I even kept a tally of all the stuff i would find, and then i added up the prices to see what i was "saving". I didn't eat any meat during this period, but i did eat some cheese (though it was really, really rare). My thing was more ecological impact from spending money rather than checking ingredients lists with a flashlight in a dumpster. If i dumpstered free ice cream, i'd eat it. Understanding how the money you spend IS your choice in food economics, i chose to opt out of all of it. The only things i would buy at all during this span were vegan things, and i'm reasonably certain it was only earth balance, since eating toast with nothing on it is ridiculous. Anyway, that was my background, and then, as most people, i read a bunch of books, saw a bunch of documentaries, and then went vegan for real. Mostly it was the dilemma of not being able to find food i could survive on (read: 'moving to portland') and then realizing what i would be supporting if i wasn't eating vegan. In my mind, it's a totally straight foward, logical thing to be vegan, you just need to get all the facts and draw your own, rational conclusion. It baffles me that more people aren't. I will say, on a side note, I was first introduced to veganism in 2000 (the term 'vegan' that is) through hardcore music, and the kids i saw play in bands that were vegan were so unapproachable and dogmatic about it that i had no interest in talking to them for fear of being beaten up. I wanted to learn about their beliefs, ask questions about their lyrics, but i saw SO MANY fights at shows, and so many "not in my neighborhood motherf-er" mentalities that i didn't feel safe about it. In short, you can be militant, just be approachable about it. Nobody goes vegan because they're afraid of getting their head kicked in. Besides, I think a lot of those kids sold out anyway. Go figure.
as a straight edge artist how do you feel about other artists who draw their inspiration from drug and alcohol use?
ugh. such a bummer. I'm not gonna cram any choice of mine down anyone's throat, but I do think that it's silly to rely on something else to aid you in creating something that's SUPPOSED TO BE a reflection of yourself. Getting high and drawing is like allowing pot to draw for you. You might as well call some random dude in the phone book and ask them to paint something for you.
how has sobriety affected your life and your art?
Actually, it's rarely affected my art, save the fact that it's kept me on the path of hardcore bands, diy ethics, etc. It's kind of another anchor to the scene. As far as my life, I just can't imagine doing things differently - i've never desired to drink or do drugs or anything like that, and frankly i don't know why anyone does. Again, it's probably my mathematical side coming out, but it simply doesn't make any sense. If i'm bummed on life (haha yeah right) i'll paint something, or go out and skate, or bike someplace. These are all outward actions - you're getting something OUT of you. Drinking or shooting up or whatever is an inward action, and you internalize whatever problem you had, and end up with more issues later. I just wanted a functioning brain, and to be accountable to only myself.
you've done a lot of work to benefit animal rights groups and prisoners, do you feel it's important to share your talents to help others in the struggle for animal liberation?
In every essay on Animal Liberation or, well, really any political or social struggle at all, there's a talk of having 'different degrees of help' - the need of the entire system of help, like, people to write >letters, people to leaflet, people to book shows, people to PLAY shows, people to do literally everything - and I somehow fit into the 'helping with art' thing really well. I believe human beings as being very visual people, almost before they're logical - the same reason that hearing that animals suffer is one thing, but then SEEING it is a whole other thing. There's a reason Earthlings isn't a book. Anyway, i hope to use my ability to make art that conveys a message to further other people's involvement with wanting to help a situation; in this case, animal liberation. The groups that i get to help out are so important, and i feel unbelievably lucky to be helping such meaningful endeavors. Honestly, it never gets old.
have you ever turned down an offer from a band or organization for artwork because of their messages or affiliations? do you think it's important to make the lines clear on what you do and don't support with your art?
I turned down a couple tattoo designs, and maybe two bands because of a difference of politics. Mostly it came down to having a band that had lyrics that i disagreed with (almost always dealing with women, and creating a negative 'it's cool to womanize since i'm in a band' thing) - so yeah, i have to maintain what i agree with and therefore support, and then i also have to turn down bands i don't agree with. I told both bands as well as some kids that wanted tattoos that i wouldn't help them because of these things, because i disagreed and didn't feel comfortable lending my name to that. It gets hard to draw the lines, though, because i've heard stories of totally awful people getting tattoos of things i've drawn without ever asking or tell me, so some d-bag in virginia might be eating a hamburger at Wendy's, drinking beer, hitting his dog, and then abusing his girlfriend, all the while he's got a tattoo i drew on his arm, maybe even wearing a shirt i did a design for. Dang. I don't support his lifestyle at all, and yet, there i am, appearing all over him. One of those funny problems we run into in the 21st century...ha.
what book(s) are you currently reading?
I've been reading a book called "Rule of Secrecy" by Jim Marrs - it's about the history of the freemasons, the pyramids, things like that...I'm also reading "Sailing Alone Around the World" - i'm way into books about crazy sailing stuff. "Kon-tiki" is one of my favorite - dude builds a raft from wood and goes out for over a hundred days on the ocean. Insane. Additionally i wind up reading random zines a lot, mostly because i work at a zine shop -'Big Hands' is a definite favorite. Next up on my list is "Alien Agenda" as well as this book on speciesism i got with a gift card i won at a raffle...
any new bands or artists you recommend people should check out?
Hmmm...i'm awful about new bands, i always miss the boat on stuff like that. Though the new 'Get Rad' LP is freaking amazing - anything that To Live a Lie records puts out...Basically super fast powerviolence, and old mid 90's pop punk. Artists though - that's a tough one, since i don't really keep up with current art too much, but Drew Speziale is always an inspiration, Nate Powell draws SO well it's insane, Micahel Porten is an old friend from SCAD who can paint better that i know how to handle. Drives me crazy. I respect technical ability a lot.
any last words?
Get outside and do something fun. And when summer hits, i strongly suggest riding your bike for 60 - 100 miles in some direction away from where you live, camp there, and then wake up the next day and do whatever you want. More adventure, less normal crap! Thanks mike! You rule!