xxx Interview de Karl Beuchner xxx

Interview de Karl Beuchner, chanteur d'Earth Crisis, pris à un vieux zine anglais depuis disparu.


Ok, well I was going to go with what I guess for you is know the bog standard interview. Some questions and opinions on the whole sXe scene and some of the ideas and some of the things in terms of what you do.
I'm not straight edge, but I don't smoke or do drugs. I like to think I'm fairly open minded, but I question a lot of things, possibly in terms of what you're doing, some of the ideas. So I was wondering if you could explain things against my point of view which might be naive in some instances.

Ok, straight edge is a life time commitment to never drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, take illegal narcotics for escapism or to engage in promiscuous sexual behaviour. I know I'm separating myself from poisons, not people. I don't feel that because I'm 100% toxic free that I'm superior to someone who does drink alcohol or smokes pot. Not at all.

That's kind of one of the things that I feel I get from people (that there is some kind of feeling of superiority). Some interviews that I've read is that that's how it comes across at times, and it's why I perhaps take the alternative point of view.

When I was younger and growing up, I was the only sXe person I knew. All the kids that I was hanging around with, they were drinking, then they started smoking pot, then they started to trip and get into harder drugs. Then towards the end of high school as we got out of it, there were a lot of kids start dealing and handling their problems with violence making things worse for themselves. So songs like Asphyxiate, Situation Degenerates and Wither are descriptions lyrically of things I've witnessed happen to people I care about, who became addicts and got out of control.

A relative of mine died from lung cancer from smoking, one of my friends passed away last summer after almost 12 years of excessive drinking. His liver couldn't filter it out anymore, and I was there in the hospital with him and his family the day before he passed on.

Wither is a song off the new record, where I show through the lyrics how a kid I know was being destroyed by heroin for almost 2 years before his family intervened and got him o the road to recovery. So I don't preach, I just try and let people know what they can expect from certain behaviours.

Yeah, but it's a point I keep coming back to, that within music I feel there are certain cliques. Like I'm "typical metal" and I go to hardcore gigs and I feel a little bit wary that I'm not suitably dressed to fit in, same with punk and stuff.

See, that's the thing, my band has been trying really hard from the beginning to knock down barriers. It's like we've toured with Crown Of Thorns, Madball, Skarhead, Hatebreed, Ignite. All those bands don't have a single either drug free member let alone vegetarian or vegan or sXe person. And we did tours with them, and some of them were for like 2 months here in Europe and the US as well.

And I totally cherish them as friends because while they might be rowdy, they really have loyalty to their friends and care about things.

That's what matters to me the most. The only time I have a problem is when people and addicts neglect their family and the people around them. They stop caring about things and become apathetic to the point where it's destructive.

They're stealing to feed their habit, they're driving drunk.

Thins like that disgust me. All these people I just named in the bands are totally stand up guys and great musicians and they're friends. And we've tried to reach out to people outside hardcore by playing with different types of bands who still play aggressive music. Like we played with Skrew who are industrial in Texas, we did a tour with Downset who are hip-hop, so we got a lot of new kids at the shows, and it was their first introduction to the concept of living drug free or animal liberation. And that's what makes me feel good y'know, when people are like "your band got me into straight edge" or "I'm not straight edge but I'm drug free."

"I learned about vegetarianism and veganism through your records or the essay on the new album" You know, kids write us letters from all over the planet, and they'll credit us with opening the doorway for them. And that's the point, that's why we're on RoadRunner.

Do you feel that there's potentially a risk though in that people who, for want of a better word, "discover" something by a band. I mean, I saw Biafra do spoken word before Xmas, and he was talking, not about sXe, but the whole punk ethic and how he had his legs broken because he wasn't considered by some to be extreme enough in his views.

And as he said, there's two extremes, and some people would slingshot back and forth because they didn't have a full enough understanding of something to make the full commitment. So like with the sXe I fear people will jump into it after hearing the music and the message, but then because they don't really know enough about it, it's such a big commitment in some respects, that they'll slingshot totally the other way back into drugs.

It happens all the time, and I've got to credit them for at least trying to save themselves. And with all my heart I would encourage all those people to return to living drug free. But the truth is, they would never be worthy of the honour the title straight edge holds again if they had claimed straight edge and then gone back to drinking, smoking or doing drugs.

The problem with people that I have who sell out, is the ones who then turn out of spite and mock the belief and mock the people who live true to it, and cause problems and get in people's faces. That's ridiculous.

And I think it's a sign of stupidity on their part. It's like I said, most of the kids I grew up with. The truth is that most all of them were totally nto drugs and stuff like that, and drinking, and when I started to become more and more a part of the scene, in Syracuse which is where 'm from, slowly the few straight edge people that there were, we started to gravitate towards each other. And we did then, what we do now. It's like we started when I was a teenager, and back then there was almost no straight edge people where I come from, and now the scene is like 99%.

The one thing that I guess worries me there, and maybe this goes back to my own insecurity, is where you said "people who return to it wouldn't be worthy of the title straight edge again". I've just printed something out that was on the message board from Rock City. (The article in question was in the last issue of the zine. It was about sXe, and a guy saying how he would bump into people to spill their pints, then walk away or point to someone else. How he hated going home smelling of smoke, that people should eat vegan etc. Also, accused EC of being phonies. And other stuff.)

Karl takes the sheet and reads it.

Do you think that perhaps represented well or was a bad representation of sXe and the people, because it's the sort of thing that I myself seem to get exposed to, and it doesn't give an ideal viewpoint on it. It strikes me as this "superior than others" sort of thing.

You see I would never knock a beer out of someone's hand. "I feel it's a cowardly way". Yeah, that doesn't make sense you know. It's like, I want to help people not hurt them, or insult them, or make them feel threatened. And if you're going to go in a bar, of course people are going to be smoking. That's the reality of the situation. And I'm used to it. We tour 8 months out of the year and there's lots of people support our band.

Maybe they don't agree on every level with how we live or the message that we forward. But they can see that we have enough in common that they know they're going to have a good time. And that doesn't make sense to me to knock a beer out of someone's hand or insult them for smoking. Your in a bar, there's going to be smoke. It's not that big of a deal y'know.

Yeah, it's where I feel that I don't need to be straight edge to be able to reason about various points of view and perspectives. As I say, I don't smoke but if I go to the bar and I'm not driving, I'll have a drink. But I still think that I'm a fairly reasonable person because of that.

Right. It's like if people are in control of their lives, I honestly don't care if they're smoking pot or drinking beer, it really doesn't matter.

I don't know if you read the last bit there about Earth Crisis being phonies. He reads on.

No, that's not true. I don't wear leather sneakers.

It's where I feel it's almost a competition, y'know, like the "I'm more punk than you are".

Sure you're going to get kids like that. I mean, I've been straight edge since I was 16, never at any point before that did I ever drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or take illegal drugs for escapism or have like a one night stand with some girl. When I discovered straight edge I recognised it as a title that fit with what I'd already been always living, and will always continue to do. And I wouldn't wear suede sneakers or leather sneakers or a wool hat because I believe in animal liberation.

Can I ask what the hat you're wearing now is? Karl is wearing what "looks" like a woollen hat. I take it that it's synthetic? "Yeah, it's just cotton". It look s woollen to me from a distance.

Yeah, someone in public could make the mistake y'know. I mean I think that's some guy talking on the computer and the truth is talking on the computer really is no different to talking on the telephone. Unfortunately the world can see it. And once people read something in print on the computer, they unfortunately a lot of the time don't look into it or investigate it or question it, they just believe it. That's why I think the Internet in a lot of ways hurts hardcore, because it can cause a lot of confusion and suck a lot of fun and the energy out of things.

People want to be overly critical or hostile, and it doesn't make sense. You can read any Earth Crisis interview and I don't talk trash about hardcore bands or hardcore people, because the truth is you might meet that person in two years and find out they're a nice person y'know. Or maybe their band isn't that good now, but six months down the road after they've taken some more music lessons, they'll be incredible. So it doesn't pay to be negative.

It's a medium that has both good and bad points.

I honestly just don't think that whoever wrote that about me wearing leather or suede sneakers wasn't thinking about it. I've been pushing for animal liberation with my band for 10 years. Like most other vegan straight edge bands or piece punk bands have long ago since sold out. We're one of the few that have stayed true and are still strong and up and running. We've proven to the scene that we're not going away and that we're going to live up to what we're about which is vegan straight edge. And so I really appreciate it when people recognise that and give the credit due.

I can't prove that this is legitimate.

Yeah, it might just be someone trying to cause confusion. So I think the smartest thing to do would be not put it in the zine, or take out the name.

Well, if you saw the zine last time, you'll know I left it in. I thought about removing it, but it's something where I believe some of these issues should be raised. If it was a crank, then I hope that the people into the scene are strong enough to see through it. If you like, this interview is proving the chance for them, or at least one of them, to have their say. Both sides of the story so to speak. Anyway, back to where we were.

The next thing, I've just taken a quote from the inside sleeve of the new album. The part that says "cows milk, eggs, meat, fur and leather are the end products of the torture and murder of animals." And if I can, I'd like to move on to the whole idea of this animal liberation stuff. The consuming of milk or eggs. Are you against that in terms of the principle of consuming that. It seems to be me that you seem to blame the industry for that rather than the actual consumption. Is it an industry thing that you disagree with?

Totally. Unfortunately now in the modern world, animals are viewed as bio-machines that exist solely for human usage. And I think when people learn how severe the exploitation is.

That some of these animals never see sunlight, chickens have their beaks severed off so that they don't peck at themselves or eat the other animals around them because they're in such a miserable crowded condition. Or when people learn about how veal calves are chained to tiny crates unable to turn around.

I think that there are a lot of people who have the sense and the heart who won't us to promote that with our dollars and are not going to want to put the flesh of that murdered creature into their bodies. So the industry, the meat and dairy industry make multi billion dollars per year and they go out of their way to paint a negative picture of vegetarianism and veganism. "Oh it's unhealthy".

It's like you can watch a lot of commercials in American where they'll make subtle jabs and mock vegetarians to discredit it. You know, stuff like that to discredit it and sway people away from looking into it to the depth that they should.

So songs like New Ethic and Edens' Demise and Dictates, we try and paint a picture with the words and show exactly the kind of suffering those creatures go through before they're finally killed for their meat or for the fur. And then on the new record we have a five paragraph essay about veganism.

Which is where I took that quote from. So what I was wondering is this, I spoke to another guy recently in an interview (Karl from the Earthtone 9 interview in this very issue), and he was saying that it was in terms of the treatment was what he was against. So what I wondered there was this. If they were breeding cows and chickens or whatever organically, and there was none of this industry production ... (he interrupts.)

I definitely think that's a lot better.

It's a principle that comes across to me that, armchair politics if you like, that I see the way it's said, then if you drink milk it's a no-no WHICHEVER way it's been produced.

Well the truth is there's other reasons why veganism makes sense. In order for those cows to be out there in the field grazing a forest was levelled, cut right to the ground and it's divided up into sections. In one area the cattle will be grazing, other areas things like grain and corn are grown to be fed to the livestock over the winter. So it disrupts the natural world in the sense that wildlife's habitats are destroyed to make way for all these cows. Where you could perhaps just cut down one section of the forest and grow Soya beans that would be fed directly to humans. It's just kind of a wasteful thing.

I can see it to an extent, but wonder how much it's to do then with the population of the world and the way that's progressed and that it deems that we need to continue a lifestyle that we have at the moment.

The thing is you can feed more people through vegetarianism and veganism. I'm going to go back to what I was trying to describe. In order for people to get that flesh from the cow, or the milk when they're still alive, it takes a lot of land and a lot of water to just get what's wrapped in the plastic or in the carton. Like let's say a huge section of the forest is cut down. One area the cattle graze, in other areas there's fields where the crops are grown.

So let's say it would just take one area to rather than the extra three to grow the Soya beans to be fed directly to humans. And the food would be healthier to.

It's like no-one wins when animals are exploited. The animals loose if they're confined, and the humans and the animals lose and the natural world, and the wildlife looses when they're out in the fields. So I think it's better for more people to learn about vegetarianism and once they understand it, and learnt out to live it, progress on from that towards veganism.

Are you worried though that the forces that dominate the industries will interfere with the veganism. I'm thinking about, I don't know if you've had all the stories in the States about genetically modified foods. And Soya beans I believe is one of the foods that was said to be genetically modified. How would you feel about that.

I don't know much about it.

Would you eat a genetically modified product? It strikes me as where you're advocating veganism, then the industry can throw a spanner in the works in terms of how it's produced.

Well if you take things that are organically grown, it doesn't hurt the natural world and the food is healthier for people. That's what makes sense.

Yeah, but are you going to know that it's organically grown or genetically modified.

Well I'm sure that the company would have to say that this product is created from genetically modified product or organically grown.

I'm just wondering if there'll be anything that is actually available that is purely organic.

We'll just have to see. I mean if anyone does have any information on this feel free to send us some information. I'd like to know about it.

The other area you've mentioned a few times that I wanted to come to was the animal liberation. Again, I disagree with the use of animals for cosmetic product testing, but was wondering you're point of views on the use of animal in drug testing and medical science.

Thing is right now, there's millions of people dying from diseases like, we'll use AIDS and cancer as examples. Every day they get closer and closer to death. And every day thousands of creatures die in a laboratory who have been tortured for months and months being injected with drugs in experimental stages of development.

It's like animals aren't realistic representations of humans. It's more logical to go to the people who have very little time left and try out the medicines on them now, because either way, they're going to die. And let's say the worst thing possible happened, and the medicine killed them. The doctors could then figure out what happened and I'm sure modify the drug or change the chemicals around so that it was suitable and it would work. You'd get to the end result so much faster which would be saving humans from diseases.

Right, I'd wondered what your alternative would be to the use of animals.

It's to test the drugs immediately on people having problems.

That's one of the alternatives I'd heard.

There's people who are going to die that would be willing to try it.

Do you think that would cause an uproar ethically?

I don't think so because like in the United States at the moment, there's commercials on TV constantly for all these new drugs that have just been put on the market. And there's all sorts of warnings on them, like "can cause stomach problems" things like that. so it's talk to your physician, and they'll look at you and figure out how your system works and what's appropriate. Or if you have these other health problems then you don't somehow complicate them. So I think that its better when people can get to medicines quicker that can help them. Vivisection is an industry.

I saw a program where the suggestion was to test them on people serving life sentences, or in America I guess people on death row.

That sounds a little barbaric to me to be honest. But maybe if the person was feeling remorse for horrible things they'd done to some innocent victim and they wanted to do something to try and help society, then that could make sense if they were willing.

I feel in a tricky situation. I don't like the idea of testing on animals, but I think you need to test before humans are given it as a cure.

But there's so many people that are in such pain.

I probably owe my life to it, in that when I was born I had a tumour and they had to perform surgery that was fairly new at the time and which was the only way I'd be saved. And I "assume" that it or the drugs were probably tested on animals before. I mean, we're going back almost 30 years now.

The thing is to, a lot of procedures and a lot of medicines now people know that scientists and doctors know what works and what doesn't. A lot of that knowledge is gained. It's like going through a procedure in vivisection almost because it is an industry. It's like the ranches that breed these animals are making money.

Maybe in a way this follows on better than I thought it would in that just before Xmas one of the questions that I was asking bands was about Jack Kervorkian in the States had just performed an assisted suicide on TV. I read this week that he's just been sentenced to 10 years minimal for second degree murder. The whole process of euthanasia, do you have opinions on that?

I mean if someone in total agony and they're going to die anyway, why should they just lay there suffering? It doesn't make sense. I think it sounds reasonable to me that the persons' family would want that to stop. Better sooner than later. Why should someone lay there withering in pain? That's hideous.

Hideous for the person and also for the family watching, as it destroys the memories of the person. You take the band memories instead of the good and remember the final tortured moments rather than the peaceful ones of the rest of their life.

Yeah, that's horrible.

So could you see a stage then where you could get these people to potentially test the new drugs, in this instance.

If the person has enough of their mind and say yes and that they're willing, then of course.

Do you think it is, in a realistic world, likely to happen?

It totally could you know.

But if Kervorkian has received 10 years for doing this.

It's like of course the big pharmaceutical companies want people to stay alive as long as they can so they can keep pumping drugs into them and keep getting this money. Of course they're not going to like that. A lot of big industries, because they're making billions of dollars, are going to have some political power to, so it'll be hard to have it come into existence, but I think it would be possible. If enough people start thinking about it and catching on to what's happening.

So you think businesses have too much power in the judicial system?

Well anyone that has a lot of money is going to end up with some political power one way or the other as a result of it.

One thing was one of the lyrics from the song Ultramilitance. "Legal channels have been exhausted. Uncruel alternatives rejected. Awareness created and ignored. Direct action is the last recourse." Do you feel that direct action IS the ONLY way that some of these messages can be put forward.

It depends on the instance.

In that song, Ultramilitance is about 3 historical events that you won't hear much about on the nightly news. One: how over 2000 mink were rescued from a ranch north of near where we live. ? (can’t make it out) will sink 2 whaling ships in Iceland and there's a tribe in Western Brazil that's using earth first style tactics to prevent an ? (or this one) from coming into their lands to open it up for either logging or mining. Then we've done that a lot, documented various specific things in our own way.

Whether I choose to sing it in the first person or describe it in a story, it's about something that happened.

It's like in the late 80s early 90s, there were a lot of areas in Syracuse that were totally destabilised by the drug plague in America. I could look around and see people getting shot down on the sidewalk by accident because games were feuding over drug selling territory. Addicts breaking into cars and stealing things. Just taking a bad situation and making it far far worse.

And I read a book called Seas of Time about the Black Panthers and some other books about what they were trying to accomplish as far as they were resisting the drug dealers, and the police were a part of the problem.

So I thought their tactics made sense. And that's what Firestorm is about. It's about people who are resisting that with force. Fighting fire with fire so to speak.

In the early 90s there was an incident where a vivisectionist was struck down in Tennessee by a group I think called The Liberators. And we have two songs about it called Wrath of Sanity and Deliverance. The Order is about anti poaching teams in Africa. They actually have snipers who kill the people that are out there hunting the endangered animals.

That's the bit that worries me about the direct action.

Right, the song Ultramilitiance on the new one is for a lot of people going to be their introduction to the people that are out there putting the neck on the block for the animals and saving their lives.

And on the same record we've got the essay about veganism, so basically the only thing that we're asking, y'know we're not telling kids to go out and take direct action, because honestly when young people go out and try to do stuff, there are a lot of times it doesn't get pulled off properly or they get in trouble. And it hurts their activism along with the rest of their lives when they start to have legal problems. So I document the ones that were successful and that I think got it right.

All I ask is if people are vegetarians and can get it and progress from that to veganism the world will start to become a more peaceful place.

It's the first stepping stone and building block towards making things change because the animals are at the very bottom of the pile of oppression so to speak.

There are people out here who are fighting for human rights, but if you look at the big picture and the grand scheme of it all, very few are even know what's happening behind the walls of the vivisectionists laboratory or a fur ranch of a factory farm. And it's like maybe here in England a lot of people know about vegetarianism and veganism, and that's incredible, that's wonderful.

In America, y'know, most people do not. Most people who listen to industrial music or metal music, it's still totally new, and I mean in a hardcore show, when we play and everyone there is already into a lot of the same things, it's beautiful because it's a celebration of shared beliefs. But we want to take our message out into the world. Anyone that says we haven't had an impact on the hardcore scene is an outright liar. We definitely have and I want to make an impression on history itself if it's possible.

Personally I prefer the way it's being done by music and I agree in terms of education of people in general rather than action.

I understand. The thing is this though, I believe in justice. And I believe in the people who are literally cutting the padlocks away from cages and setting the animals free, rescuing the monkeys from the vivisectionists laboratories. They are heroes and they should be recognised as such. Because that's the point of animal liberation, saving the lives of those creatures.

As long as humans aren't injured and killed as well.

I don't want to see people get hurt. But some people seriously do have blood on their hands. It's like burning the eyes out o f monkeys or scalding cats. It's demonic and they're evil, and I think it's a lie to say anything otherwise. I mean they can look down and their hands are creating unbelievable pain to these totally defenceless being. It's sick.

People should be clubbing those scientists in the street. Because if you saw someone pouring gas on a dog and setting fire to it on the sidewalk, you'd probably run over and try and save the dog and knock the person out. So the thing is this, what's the difference between that happening on the sidewalk or that happening behind a 10ft high fence covered with barbedwire within the walls the of a research complex. It's no different except it's hidden.

The thing I would say is that hopefully if you saw that sort of thing on the streets and you went over, then you wouldn't actually club the person to death, which is the view that sometimes comes through. And the fear for me is that people will see an extreme action and retort with an extreme action.

Yeah, but there it's these people that are committing an atrocity against a defenceless animal, they're the instigators. They're in the wrong. To retaliate on behalf of the animals makes sense. I believe in standing up for the lives of innocent beings. I believe in self defence, and I believe in standing up for those who can't resist their presence themselves. Acting on their behalf. It's like the ALF or the liberators they're those creatures who have electrodes in their brains, they're their final wish.

I can understand, I just feel that people look for a black or white solution to things, and the reality of life is that compromise is what's going to get results ultimately if anything does. It's like the whole questions of drugs and legalising them. Drugs aren't a nice thing, but if you keep them criminalised or illegal, then it points out the issue, but I don't think enough people are morally or ethically inclined to take notice.

I mean we're talking about a very extreme circumstance - vivisection. It's like people who eat meat or drink milk I do not view them as enemies. T hey're supporting something that's evil with their money and their ingesting it and it's bad for them and hurting their karma. But there are actual people out there who are selling crack and heroin to pregnant women. I mean think about that. People who are burning monkeys alive.

I agree. It's just that I think you have to realise it and work to resolve it rather than appear blind to it, and go "well, if we say it's not right to do this, not moral" then fine. It's a moral solution, but it doesn't resolve the real problem.

Yeah, that's the thing. Of course you have to change peoples beliefs, and I think most people if they were presented with the truth, I think they do have enough of a conscious that they would be motivated. Slowly. But at least somewhat motivated. Unfortunately other people's actions, there's people out there whose actions are totally motivated by their own greed or they're sadistic. And it's an unfortunate fact of life, but they're real and they exist and they have victims.


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