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May 2005
What Are We Fighting For? '90s Vegan Hardcore—Back With a Vengeance

By Maureen C. Wyse

 

Photo: Mo Wyse
Chris Rouse, singer of Seven Generations and Eva Genie, singer of Gather in Los Angeles. Photo: Mo Wyse

What are we fighting for? The answer: total liberation.

Kids are finally getting their priorities straight. The 1990s brought an era of consciousness, of kids advocating for animal rights. The means to this consciousness—a metal, rock, and punk-based music deemed vegan hardcore. It sounds to some like rage and noise, but the music and words are what these kids believe in and live by. They are screaming a message that should be universal—suffering for none. Through music, the spirit of liberation is created and kept alive. Vegan hardcore begs us all to go beyond self purity, to cleanse all societal evils, especially those against animals. Coming into the scene, kids unite through music, dancing, and friends, but more importantly by sharing an ethical lifestyle. They are presented with crucial issues that cause them to pursue and question dominant society, and are given a positive influence against our culture’s “ideal” lifestyles.

It all began with ideas floating around at the beginning of the hardcore and punk movement of the 1980s. Rebellion—anything against our parents, school systems and governments—fueled early hardcore, creating a drug-induced, ripped clothing music culture. But somewhere along the way the kids got a conscience and some began to associate rebellion not with drinking or drugs but with straight-edge—no drinking, no drugs, and no promiscuous sex. More importantly, kids were realizing that the oppressive society went beyond poisoning and violating the human body and mind. The notion was born that to oppose the world’s oppression they had to include nonhuman animals as well. And in 1989, the influential New York hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits released a song called “Cats and Dogs” with the lyrics: “Full is all you want to feel. We eat to stay alive, but it’s their lives we steal. I think we’d like to change, but most of us are stuck, that’s why cats and dogs have all the luck.” Through their lyrics, Gorilla Biscuits, along with hardcore icons Youth of Today, planted the seed of vegetarianism that sprouted into the vegan hardcore explosion of the early 90s.

Earth Crisis and the 90s
In 1992 one band took these ideas to the next level and set the standard for vegan hardcore. From Syracuse, NY, Earth Crisis fused the straight-edge side of hardcore with veganism and liberation ideals. They promoted new alternatives to the oppressive mainstream society within every song and with every word spoken between songs at their shows. Their music could be heard as nothing more than screaming, but underneath are ideals that Earth Crisis and all vegan hardcore kids live by. Off their Destroy the Machines album, the song “New Ethic” says it all: “This is the new ethic. Animals’ lives are their own and must be given respect. Reject the anthropocentric falsehood that maintains the oppressive hierarchy of mankind over the animals. It’s time to set them free… To make a civilization worthy of the word civilized, the cruelty must end, starting within our own lives… Veganism is the essence of compassion and peaceful living. The animals are not ours to abuse or dominate.”

With this benchmark other bands formed around the same ideals of veganism, social justice, personal cleansing, and liberation. One King Down, for example, released their album Bloodlust Revenge in 1996 with the song, “Prey To Human Silence” with the lyrics, “Caged and oppressed. Their cries remain suppressed. Falling victim to human violence. Falling prey to human silence.” These lyrics and many more embody the spirit of vegan hardcore of the 90s.

After the explosion of bands like Earth Crisis and One King Down, as well as Trial, Day of Suffering, Vegan Reich, Path of Resistance, Catharsis, Chokehold and Birthright, there was a period in the late 90s and early 2000s where the vegan spirit quieted. Kids still went on eating a vegan food and living vegan ideals, but the music slowly receded into the small circles of those who already believed. Yet, in 2004 the spirit of the 90s returned with a vengeance in bands like California-based Seven Generations, Gather, and Tears of Gaia; Undying (NC), Caninus (NY), Cherem (UT), and This Time Tomorrow (WA); and internationally with Purification (Italy), Purified in Blood (Norway), and Maroon (Germany). Along with the bands, there is also the all-vegan record label New Eden Records, and Rebuilding Communications Distribution, which carries almost all vegan hardcore.

The New Generation
Today’s vegan hardcore bands truly live the message they promote. In particular, Seven Generations from Southern California does everything they can for those nonhuman animals still enslaved. They get their name from the Iroquois belief that “in our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Chris Rouse, lead singer, not only writes the lyrics, he writes essays explaining the meanings of the songs. He also spends time between performing to explain the songs and shares stories of animal abuse and liberation. Chris explains, “Seven Generations formed and exists for the purpose of spreading revolutionary ideals through the underground hardcore and punk rock communities and to use our band as a vehicle for social and political change. We denounce with a feverish hatred the teachings of a patriarchal culture that thrives on anthropocentrism, sexism, racism, classism, nationalism and capitalism. We encourage all to become politically and socially aware and get involved in the struggles for animal liberation, humyn liberation and earth liberation… We have all lived in the chains of a culture that has starved our bodies and spirits for far too long. A new dawn is breaking and the sun of freedom will shine again someday.”

Gather, from North California, is another gem within this movement united in the idea of playing music “with a message.” The members of Gather were “convinced that the scene was thirsty for a political message and that the waning interest in animal liberation needed to be changed.” More so than anything else, Gather is rooted in their mantra: Total Liberation. Eva, Gather’s singer, believes that veganism is one step, but another step needs to be taken because “their lives are in your hands.” She believes those who work within the system in order to change the abuse animals endure must wake up and realize that this process is not quick enough for the beagles in the Huntingdon Life Sciences laboratories or for the battery hen in the transportation truck. Dustin, drummer of Gather, challenges us to constantly educate ourselves about all forms of liberation: “always challenge yourself to ‘improve’ your way of existing, be it by complying with more sustainable diets or questioning even long held personal ideologies (like veganism or straight-edge).”

Vegan hardcore is still fighting—perhaps stronger and harder than ever. Beyond veganism, it is the liberation of all animals—human and non—and the earth. This is not just about the performance, singing, moshing, or carousing, it is in memorizing the lyrics, singing along, listening to the talks between the songs, gaining consciousness through the music, living the messages, and acting out together. “We are,” as my 17 year-old brother Casey, a vegan straight-edge hardcore kid, says, “in a movement that is actually fighting for something—fighting a threat that still exists.” Contrasting that with a decade earlier, when I was 13, seeing Trial and listening to Earth Crisis for the first time—making the connection between society’s problems and animal exploitation—I saw the destruction I was personally causing and what I could do to change. The decade gap between does not exist, vegan hardcore unites us all—total liberation now!

Maureen C. Wyse is an organizer of New York University’s Students for Education on Animal Liberation. She is a photographer and vegan hardcore enthusiast. For more information on vegan hardcore visit New Eden Records at www.newedenrecords.comand Rebuilding Communications Distribution, www.xrebuildingx.com.


 


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