Amanda Habel 8:46 p.m., Sept. 2
Local Scenes: Dark Metal, Racist Rock, Christian Goths, Hip-Hop Quest, Rave Culture
Hello Satan, Goths for Jesus, Skinheads, Hip-Hop VS Rap, & Creepy Old Guy Goes to a Rave
Hello Satan, Goths for Jesus, Skinheads, Hip-Hop VS Rap, & Creepy Old Guy Goes to a Rave
1 Hello Satan: Dark Metal In Dago
2 History Of Death Metal – comic strip by JAS & Scott Pentzer
3 Goths For Jesus: Pastor Dave’s Christian Goths
4 Racist Rock: Do The White Thing
5 Creepy Old Guy Goes To A Rave
6 The Quest For Local Hip-Hop
7 Local Fashion Wearabouts
1 HELLO SATAN: DARK METAL IN SAN DIEGO
HELLO SATAN: BLACK METAL IN SAN DIEGO
"Some rock and roll groups stand in a circle and drink cups of blood. Some get on their knees and pray to the devil. Rock and roll hypnotizes us and controls our senses." (Little Richard, quoted in 1974)
The L.A. band Slayer, formed in 1982, was among the first black metal groups to forge this permutation of heavy metal music, characterized by fast strumming, hyperactive guitar solos, distorted tones, chromatic note progressions, fractured rhythms and guttural, barely coherent vocals.
Mid-eighties headbangers like Sodom, Sepultura, Entombed and Morbid Angel willingly encouraged the term “death metal” in reference to their music, more than appropriate considering the atmosphere created by bloody album graphics, nihilist themes and lyrical obsessions with death and Apocalypticism.
Glorifying Satan (portrayed as an actual anthropomorphic being) became a popular motif and marketing axis for groups like Venom, Hellhammer, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, and Danzig, amusing rock critics and horrifying PMRC-minded parents. Most of these bands - tho not all - have one thing in common; using morbid narrative ideals and grotesque imagery as their greatest focus and priority, often (IMO) at the expense of musical form.
Followers of these bands differ as to what constitutes “Black” Metal compared to subgenres dubbed “Death,” “Thrash,” “Hardcore,” “Grindcore” “Speed metal,” etc. For our purposes, the term black/dark metal applies to bands whose music is loud, fast, aggressive, and thematically focused on pain, death and/or occultism.
Norway and Sweden have been and remain hotbeds of black metal, due in part to political and sociological issues too complex and contradictory to go into here. In Norway, the scene, its fans and musicians are inexorably linked to – perhaps not surprisingly – church vandalism and arson.
The only Norwegian band most Americans have heard of is A-ha, but that country's black metal scene has long been home to Satanic cults, onstage animal sacrifices, and over 100 burned churches, some of them torched by Varg Vikernes of the band Burzum.
A local film company - ZU33 – recently made a movie based on the book Lords of Chaos, about Vikernes and his conviction in the early '90s for killing Øystein Aarseth of Mayhem. Directed and co-written by local avant-garde musician Hans Fjellestad (who also helmed the 2004 electronic-music documentary Moog), the film is a somewhat fictionalized account of the infamous "Black Circle" of Norwegian black metallers.
Some people think any band that makes “devil finger” gestures with their hand… …is somehow invoking Satan. While this may sometimes be the case, nowadays the devil fingers are thrown up by anyone and everyone who’s ever been inclined to bang their head. Devil fingers alone do not a black metal band make.
Just ask Ronnie James Dio, who gave a local-centric example in a 2001 interview with Rudezine: “We were doing one of the last ‘Inferno [To Hull And Back]’ shows at a college in San Diego [SDSU 8-3-98] and the audience was full of 20-year-old blonde surfers and short haired college kids, all giving me the [two-fingered devil] sign, which you know I’m the one who made it famous but, I mean, you can see that now at an N’ Synch show where they’re doing the same thing with their hands! It’s lost its meaning, so I hardly ever do it now.”
“The Devil diddled my mom, and I don’t care
Satan whizzed in her mouth but she swallowed and wouldn’t share.”
(“I Saw Mommy Ripped By Satan’s Claws” by Bloodbat)
North County record collector Ivan Torres founded and played guitar with one of the area’s earliest dark metal groups, Bloodbat, from 1987 through the band’s breakup in 1994. “Our bass player was a member of this Satanic cult called Rainbow, so a lot of times we’d have actual factual animal-sacrificing devil worshippers in the audience! Sometimes we’d do covers of King Diamond stuff but we were so sloppy nobody recognized the covers.”
“The most common thing people would say to us after our set was ‘I can’t tell your songs apart, they all sound the same.’ Instead of being insulted, we told ourselves ‘Cool, we have a consistent theme…our own sound!’ We didn’t want to be compared with anyone, not even ourselves.”
Torres recalls “We used to play the old downtown Soma building, and we’d project black and white horror movies on the walls around us while we played. Like, 8 millimeter loops of giant spiders and ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ stuff, way before Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson came along. We weren’t playing for laughs…we were seriously into serial killers and building replicas of torture devices to use onstage.”
“I found a box of 16 millimeter ‘educational’ films at a county auction, and one of them was that bloody driver’s ed movie they used to show to scare the kids…with car accidents and ripped up bodies, brains on the pavement, that kind of thing. Girls in the audience would be screaming and covering their eyes and crying, but those were the same girls who were first in line trying to get backstage and get closer to sick f--ks like us.”
As to their name Bloodbat, "It started as a Kinko's error.,” according to Torres. “We originally called ourselves Bloodbath, but the first time we had show flyers printed up, they cut [the flyers] at the wrong size and cut off the H. We went ahead and got a refund from Kinko's, but we kept the name Bloodbat because we're goth, so blood and bats make sense."
Torres stopped following the local black metal scene around the time Club Xanth on 30th Street near North Park took over the goth club Empire. He says he attended a few editions of “The Catacombs,” Xanth’s monthly dark metal event, featuring area acts with morbidly descriptive names like Noctuary, Gutrot, Mortuus Terror, Abysmal Nocturne and Crematorium.
“But there were too many little vampire girls running around dressed like Morticia,” says Torres, “and I stopped going.” So did a lot of other people - Club Xanth closed down.
Torres says Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon is still his favorite pick as the best local source for related recordings, as well as opportunities for face-to-face time with acts like Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral, both of whom have done CD signings at the shop.
“Dark metal started underground, and the real sincere stuff is still on indie labels or self-released,” he says. “I’d rather go see any of the local metal bands than sellouts from the mainstream who try to imitate [dark metal]. Bands like Pantera and Anal C-nt are for rich suburban kids who desperately want to pretend they’re ‘alienated,’ when really they’re just looking for something guaranteed to p-ss their parents off. Some kids think all you have to do is gross out your audience, and you’re playing in the devil’s league.”
“Torn apart, upon a hook, limb from f--king bloody limb.
Carbonized and oxidized, pancreatic ducts ripped out.
Cleaned of all its organs, nephrons smother in their wake.
Bludgeoned with a steak knife, prepare a tasty meal.”
(“Bludgeoned, Beaten, and Barbequed” by Cattle Decapitation)
According to their press bio, “Cattle Decapitation brings forth the ideas of vegetarianism with the utmost brutal approach in expression, both musically and imagery…[their] sound will bring elements of older death/grind, inbred with utterly impossible low vocals, while being stabbed by immense drumming.” The group is known for wearing masks made of beef jerky onstage, an apparent statement regarding the trivialization of animal remains for human consumption.
Cattle Decap was originally formed as a member-swapping side project of the Locust (drummer Dave Astor founded the Locust, and former Cattle Decapitation guitarist Gabe Serbian has played drums for the Locust). A good introduction to the band is the remastered "Human Jerky" CD, enhanced with bonus CD-Rom type content playable on any computer, such as live footage from the jerky mask shows, downloadable desktops and a link to the band's website.
Song titles on Human Jerky include “Colon Blo,” “Constipation Camp,” “Roadkill Removal Technician,” and “Parasitic Infestation (Extracted Pus Mistaken For Yogurt, And Gargled).”
The band really began to take off after being signed to Metal Blade Records, home of Satan-loving, makeup-wearing 2008 Grammy Award nominee King Diamond.
On signing with Metal Blade, guitarist Travis Ryan said "To us it is an honor to be chosen by a label that is responsible for such greats as Rigor Mortis, Cryptic Slaughter, Cannibal Corpse and King Diamond as a theater to present to the unfortunate public our brand of extreme music. Being on Metal Blade is going to allow us to reach a higher level of exposure and ability to play in places and in front of crowds that we wouldn't normally be able to, and that is something we need right now."
The group’s debut for Metal Blade, “To Serve Man,” was named after a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone” TV series, wherein nine-foot tall alien “Canamits” utilize an intergalactic cookbook to make lunchmeat out of human beings.
“Alive you are no more
Let them see what my anger's for
Temper's rise - No disguise
I've done my deed - I'll watch you bleed.”
(“My Dying God,” by Daemos)
The four piece band Daemos has been playing San Diego venues since the early-90s, as well as landing slots opening for Judas Priest at L.A.’s House of Blues and for Testament at the Whisky A Go-Go. Guest appearances on local radio stations like KIOZ and San Francisco’s KSJO have elevated interest in the band’s website, Daemos.com, which claims to receive over 275,000 hits yearly.
The group has performed various cover versions of songs by other, on tribute albums like “Megaded” (Megadeth songs – Daemos plays “Looking Down The Cross”) and “SuperCharger Hell” (they cover White Zombie’s “SuperCharger Heaven”). "We're really combining two different worlds," according to bassist Jason St. Aubin. "Our music appeals to the new school crowd as well as diehard metalers."
Guitarist and vocalist Eric Nunes says “Basically my take on music is that any music style can be good if the musicians like what they are doing. That's not to say that everyone can play well. But those that can and stick to their heart are great in my book. One thing that really p-sses me off is a band that is obviously writing and playing music to become rich and/or famous. It makes the rest of us look bad. Plus, if you try to play something that you don't like, it will never sound good.”
“I'm all for having influences,” says Nunes, “that's great, but you need to grow away from those influences and let your own unique style come through. The record labels will come around, once they see people digging your music. At that point you can either tell them to f--k off or give you the freedom you deserve.”
“Raise the battle-axe unto the skulls,
In the bliss of spilling blood on enemy soil.
Towards the synagogue, with thirst for Semite blood,
From a trail of churches burning.
Under the Haunting Moon, with sword in hand I ride
and I exalt the horns of battle towards the sky.
I slay the souls of the Jesuit creed, and bathe in their curdled blood.”
(“Raise The Horns Of Battle,” by Crimson Moon)
Crimson Moon is a recording unit only, comprised of two members and a drum machine. Bassist/vocalist/lyricist Scorpios and his bandmate Nocturnal Overlord (guitars, keyboards, drum programming) wear King Diamond/Kiss style Kabuki makeup – whiteface with black patches curling and dripping around their eyes and mouths to present a patina of WWF level ferocity.
They first surfaced in San Diego in 1994 with a self titled demo release, followed by 1995’s “Into the Nocturnal Forest” demo collection, earning both praise and notoriety for their straightforward and straight-faced obsession with all things occult.
Scorpios is a well-read and fascinating character who writes lengthy, learned manifestos on lucid dreaming, medieval theology and astral projection which he posts on websites (www.geocities.com/kthuluproductions) and emails to fans by request.
In songs like “The Stormbringer,” Scorpios seems to be reading incantation spells direct from some arcane text, summoning “creatures of darkness and hatred” and intoning “For I have consumed the blood that lives forever more, the blood of the Draconis, I drink the blood, the hate of Kingu rages on, the furious tempest unleashes black storms and the chaos crawls beyond the stars, to unleash fury amongst the blackened earth.”
The end passage of “Raise The Horns Of Battle,” after praising the destruction of churches and synagogues and the murder of Jews and Jesuits, includes conjurations to the unholy trinity of Lucifer, Beelzebuth and Astaroth, each ending with a cheeky “Amen.”
Crimson Moon’s 1996 debut CD “To Embrace The Vampyric Blood” (Abyss Productions) contained nine tracks and was recorded on a 4-track machine, as was a 1997 rehearsal performed with a third player on synthesizers, Khaija Ausar, which was later circulated as an “unofficial release” called “Under The Serpentine Spell.”
With no new material and no stage performances over the ensuing years, it seemed the group had disbanded, but Nocturnal Overlord says Crimson Moon has recorded an album archiving all the music they have done to date, including re-recordings of their demos plus three unreleased songs.
“My lyrics in Crimson Moon are occult based and not from a horror movie or fiction book,” according to Scorpios. “It is not an image. It is what we do and we will not change this because it is getting too trendy or too hated, etc. We do this for ourselves.”
He says he rarely reads fiction and especially hates “vampire novels,” but admits his lyrics are often inspired from arcane mythology. “I have studied the myths, magick and lore of not only Sumerian but Babylonian mythology as well. When I say study, I mean going further than just reading and practicing rituals from the Necronomicon."
He seems so sincere, it’s simply buzzkill to point out that the “Necronomicon” is a fictional invention of 20th century gothic writer HP Lovecraft, and texts purporting to have originated in this tome are of recent construct or from other sources entirely.
Discussing his views about Christianity versus Satanism on the San Diego Metal website (www.geocities.com/s_b_resistor/local.html), Scorpios said “They are actually very similar in many ways and they both need each other to exist! Satanism is not what I am into. I have studied much about it but it is basically a Judeo-Christian mutation of a religion. I prefer to go back much further in history to seek information.”
Scorpios says he’s familiar with – but doesn’t place much stock in - the Satanic Bible, written by Anton Szandor LaVey, the man who formed the Church of Satan in 1966. Scorpios claims not to ally himself with the philosophies set forth in this notorious book, which has sold more than 600,000 copies since it was first published by Avon Books in 1969.
“If you read Ragnar Redbeard’s book ‘Might is Right,’ which came out much before LaVey was around, it is interesting to see how many of the same ideas LaVey had! I don’t consider his form of Satanism to be…true Satanism. To me, true Satanism is a form of devil worship, not psychology. The Church of Satan is not much different than any other church, perhaps a bit more honest. They still feed off their followers’ money.”
Scorpios wraps up his commentary with an unctuous grab for the wallets of his own followers – “May chaos reign…and contact Nocturnal Overlord for merchandise (shirts, long sleeves, cds stickers, new promo tape, etc.).”
After all, ancient scrolls, eyes of newt and faux Necronomicons don’t come cheap!
According to Scorpios, “I have another ritual/acoustic project totally devoted to the Dieties of Sumeria/Babylonia called ‘Akrabu.’”
Crimson Moon never performed live until 2006. Core members Scorpios (bass, vocals, lyrics) and Nocturnal Overlord (guitars, keyboards, drum programming) have split and are now battling over the bandname, especially after Overlord announced an impending new CM album (sans Scorpios), with rehearsals already posted online.
“[This] material was recorded between 1997-2000 solely by Overlord on a portable four-track and with an old drum machine,” reads a post on Overlord’s MySpace page.
“Overlord was kicked out [of Crimson Moon] in September of 2006,” according to Scorpios. “This [new CM album] is another one of Overlord's desperate attempts to cause confusion…just because Overlord played in Crimson Moon in the past and decided to steal the logo, name, artwork and concepts that are beyond his limits of understanding, bought out a bunch of domain names and made a MySpace page, doesn't change the fact that he was and will forever remain, kicked out of the band.”
Scorpios has grouped with three others (including a synthesizer player from previous CM recordings) for his own version of CM, with its own new album in progress. “Overlord was not even a member of Crimson Moon when it started in 1994 and released the debut self-titled demo,” he says.
Replies Overlord, “In actuality, Scorpios was released from Crimson Moon in 2006, and has gone around making a fuss, and started childish internet drama ever since. He has even gone as far as to steal artwork, image files, HTML coding, avatars, sound files…[it’s] simply pathetic, and there is no need to explain why he was kicked out. I won’t waste any more time on this.”
Dueling MySpace pages are titled “crimsonmoon666” (Nocturnal Overlord) and “crimsonmoonofficial” (Scorpios).
It was billed as "Hell and Heaven United," with Satan-loving Slayer co-headlining with Christian rockers Stryper. However, this Monterrey Metal Fest event in Nuevo LeÃƒÂ³n, Mexico, scheduled for September 23rd ’06, was derailed "due to Slayer not wanting to share the stage with Stryper," according to an e-mail from show promoters.
"This came as a shock to us after eight months of long and very complicated negotiations with Slayer's booking agent,” said promoters. Even before Slayer's cancellation was announced, the band's website had indicated that they'd be appearing in Mexico City on the same day as the Monterrey festival. A band press release cited "personal reasons" for the pullout.
"I was literally booking our plane and hotel reservations when they sent word not to confirm anything yet," says Veronica Freeman, singer for local band Benedictum.
Slayer's album Christ Illusion, was released 6-6-06; on their website that day, the band urged fans to "desecrate a few churches." The entreaty was removed a day later, after several churches reported being defaced by depictions of the band's logo.
Since not all black metal bands have Satanism in common, nor is grotesque imagery mandatory to qualify, what DO most all black and dark metal bands have in common?
All the band logos look like they were designed by the same guy!!!!!!!!
- HISTORY OF DEATH METAL - COMIC STRIP BY JAS & SCOTT PENTZER
YOUTUBE GEM: Here's "Humanure: The Art Show," inspired by the veggies-no-meat music of our own Cattle Decapitation:
- GOTHS FOR JESUS: PASTOR DAVE’S CHRISTIAN GOTHS
"The Lord said...'Stretch your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread...darkness that can be felt.'" Exodus 10:21
Old school “goth” can be traced back to the third and fourth centuries, when a Germanic tribe known as the Visigoths waged war against the Roman empire throughout Eastern and Southern Europe. They didn’t wear eyeliner but they did collect skulls and gaudy silver jewelry. Later, an architectural style called “gothic” became popular, favoring wrought iron trim, gargoyle draped columns, cathedral spires and belfries suitable for bats.
As far as ideology and fashion goes, 19th century poet Lord Byron and Frankenstein author Mary Shelley were most certainly goth, with their dark clothes, powdered white faces, poofy laced sleeves, depressive outlooks and morbid imaginations. Musically, goth culture coalesced with the minor-chord melancholy of 80s bands like Joy Division, The Cure, Fields of the Nephilim, Sisters Of Mercy and Siouxsie And The Banshees.
Back then, the darkly dressed in San Diego congregated at now defunct venues such as the Skeleton Club, the original downtown Soma and clubs like Stratus and SubNation. In the late 90s, the place to be pale was Crocodile Rock, which regularly held goth-themed events like Soil, Savage Garden and Seventh Chamber. Trenchcoats and jewelry in the form of a religious cross were common, but one older gentleman haunting the scene wore both in a somewhat more official capacity - Christian Pastor Dave Hart, who was there not to dance but to find what he calls “disenfranchised youth” in need of counsel and guidance.
“I became one of those ‘born-agains’ back in 1970, during the Jesus People days” says Hart, or Pastor Dave, as he likes to be referred. “I had a hard time settling on a church or denomination, because like most hippies in those days, I was distrustful of organizations and institutions and I suppose I retain some of that attitude to this day.”
He says he originally had no intention of going to seminary school, considering organized religion “just another institution that ultimately would crush my faith. But eventually I became convinced that I was ‘called’ to be a minister of some kind, and found myself at Talbot - the graduate seminary connected to BIOLA College in Orange Country. After I graduated [with a Master's Degree in Christian Education], I tried my hand at youth work, but found myself unable to steer successfully through the politics of the church system, and kept getting fired.”
After a stint in the Navy, as a drug and alcohol counselor, he noticed young people increasingly warming up to the word of God, at least when those words were dressed in rock and roll clothes. This led to him promoting local mid-eighties concerts by Christian heavy metal bands, such as Stryper and others.
He recalls one show at the Fox Theater featuring Christian punk rockers Undercover. “The Dead Kennedys had been in that theater two weeks before and the fans had torn the place apart. The vice squad was on the alert for any punk bands and shut us down while they [the band] were trying to load in - just on general principle."
"They ‘discovered’ that we were missing a permit. This was at 4:45 pm and the permit office shut down at 5pm so there was no time to go get the permit - convenient, huh?” He says he’d secured all the same approvals utilized at previous events with no problems. “Refunding the money back to twelve different Christian bookstores all over the county was a real headache.”
In the course of promoting shows, Pastor Dave says many of the young people he met yearned for spiritual guidance, while disdaining most forms of organized religion. “These kids already tend to view the traditional church with disgust and distrust. Feeling they have been misjudged, misunderstood, and/or manipulated by the church, they have rejected Christianity as hypocritical, cruel and irrelevant.”
This inspired him to launch a rock and roll driven youth ministry. “I had a meeting with a young Christian metal-head named Steve Gray, who was DJing a metal show on Palomar College radio. Soon we had a regular group meeting in my apartment on Monday nights, which we called The Rock and Roll Refuge. We did this for about two years with about 30-35 kids crammed into my tiny living room.”
When Hart heard about a similarly named group operating in Redondo Beach near L.A., he sensed a perfect match for his own San Diego ministry. Founded in the mid-80s, Pastor Bob Beeman’s “Sanctuary: The Rock And Roll Refuge” attracted hundreds of people to its Sunday services, as well as promoting events featuring the big name Christian rockers of the day – Barren Cross, Deliverance, Precious Death and others.
“Both ministries were birthed out of our relationship to Stryper," he says. "The only difference was that what I had been doing for three months, he'd been doing for two or three years…I was eventually ordained through Pastor's Bob's Sanctuary, and I became the infamous Pastor Dave.”
From the start, he was particularly interested in goth kids. He saw in them a fondness for the iconography and rituals endemic to church tradition (crosses, candles, incantations, etc.), as well as great intellectual capacity, emotional depth and spiritual yearning. “[Goths] are into art, poetry, and music. They are passive, introspective, and can be dramatically emotional. They can also be too self-absorbed, brood to a fault, and they internalize everything, even things that have nothing to do with them! As a group and as a rule, goths take their stress and pain out on themselves, not on others - cutters, piercers, slicers, suicide addicts - they will beat themselves up in their guilt and their sorrow to prove how real their pain is.”
Instead of trying to bring teens into church, Pastor Dave took his pulpit to wherever goths gathered - the Empire Club (30th Street North Park, later Club Xanth), which hosted mostly 18+ and all-age events, the Sin-Klub (inside Club Elements on University Avenue), Club Luminal (Tuesday nights at Hamburger Mary's) and Therapy, then held the first Friday of every month at Club Xanth (North Park) and every other Friday at The Flame in Hillcrest. “I try to go wherever there might be interesting sub-culture experiences…last summer I went to Comic-Con and the Tattoo Convention. I have been to a Wiccan Handfasting and occasionally get into a confrontation with a Satanist or two.”
Today’s most notable goth gatherings take place on Wednesdays at Kadan (Darkwave Garden) and Sundays at Club Montage on Hancock Street (Underworld).
A local volunteer organization called Goth Help Us regularly organizes beach clean-ups and other civic-minded endeavors.
Those who seek Pastor Dave’s advice aren’t told that aligning themselves with the goth lifestyle is a mistake, but they are counseled on its negative aspects.
"These kids romanticize death," he says. "They romanticize the blade, the blood that trickles down.” He says he was once invited by a fifteen-year old goth girl to attend a ceremony where her friends cut themselves and drank each other’s blood from a cup, believing the ritual to be a rite of passage into vampirism.
Rather than shrink away in horror or scream “Blasphemy,” the pastor clinically instructed them on health risks such as A.I.D.S. and Hepatitis. He says the girl ended up dedicating herself to Christianity.
The Sanctuary website is promoted as "a fellowship of Christian misfits.” Though delivered in an unusual manner, in unorthodox places, the message preached by Pastor Dave is textbook – or “Good Book” - Christianity. He urges young people not to use drugs, to avoid promiscuity, not to cut themselves and to steer clear of other self-destructive habits. He reminds them that Jesus himself was a social outcast and political iconoclast whose best friends didn’t understand him.
He points out that vampirism is a poor man’s translation of the salvation and personal power given to humanity via the blood of Jesus, and that Christ’s crucifixion was the most intense body piercing session in recorded history. These commonalities make it possible, he says, to embrace both goth and Christianity, while remaining true to the ideals of both.
Liquid Grey is a local DJ I contacted some time ago, when we were both members of the online mailing list and discussion group sdgoth.org. Replying to a list of queries I posted to the group soliciting their opinions about Christian Goths, Grey said “That would be kinda like the Homosexual Nazis or something paradoxical...the whole idea behind the [gothic] culture is freedom of the mind and soul, not imprisonment of them. A place to exist without judgment and forced conformity.”
Asked whether it’s possible to be a Christian goth, Grey says “I have met a couple people who have tried to have this point of view, but they were bigots and people have a way of contradicting themselves anyway…when I think of goth rock and the subculture around it, there is definitely a religious influence to it, in that it is averse to Christianity. However, in the current culture that exists locally, it is more of a complete separation from this or any religion.”
Bynner Drake responded to my post to say “Reconciling ‘Goth’ and ‘Christian’ is like reconciling Hip-Hop and Islam...or Folk Guitar and Zoroastrianism. One is an aesthetic and one a spirituality. And few things have caused greater suffering on this Earth than the implication that the depth or validity of one's faith can be judged by the outward forms of its expression, or lack thereof. The very notion creates a culture of convert-by-the-sword conformism where people are persecuted for not being sufficiently conspicuous in their ‘Rendering unto Caesar,’ as it were. Dangerous ground for a free society.”
Another sdgoth list member, Nick, AKA “DJ Aeon,” says the gothic scene has nothing to do with religion. “I was raised Christian and realized that it was completely the wrong thing for me when I was about fourteen. I've been following a Wiccan path since I was sixteen. According to the Christian/ Catholic bible, I should be killed for that. ‘Suffer not a witch to live’.” He says Christianity still makes him uncomfortable. “Everyone I know is strong enough that they find their own path everyone in this scene is very tolerant of every spiritual path. No one really cares what you believe as long as it doesn't involve hurting anyone.”
These insights from sdgoth members were offered in defiance of dozens of message posts warning them not to speak with me, citing the media’s tendency to portray goths as Satanic cultists seething with hate and malevolence and prone to violence against others.
It’s easy to understand their paranoia, especially considering the reporting that followed the shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado. In the weeks following the shootings, Pastor Dave was interviewed by radio, TV and newspaper reporters convinced that the killing somehow stemmed from adherence to goth culture.
“I tried to tell people that the [Columbine] gunmen were not gothic,"says Pastor Dave, "and most of the true goths I know were bright, talented, young people who could never perpetrate something like this. But after all was said and done, it's a moot point. This tragedy has put the gothic sub-culture in the public eye in a way that not even a year of [Marilyn] Manson's ‘Anti-Christ Superstar’ tour could…all things dark and black will now be labeled gothic. Anyone singing sad songs in a black dress will automatically become gothic.”
Sanctuary’s cyber-minister “Wayno” Guerrini witnessed this damning misconception in action while watching a TV news report on KGTV Channel 10, focusing on local goth culture. Dismayed by the portrayal of goths as obsessed with evil and hate, he e-mailed Bill Griffith, the station’s morning and midday news anchor.
Griffith has been with KGTV since 1976, hosting the long-running daily show "Inside San Diego" as well as the station’s “Charger Report” which, for ten years, followed ABC’s “Monday Night Football” coverage. Wayno’s initial letter and the subsequent volley of e-mail is posted at www.gothic.net, samples of which include the following:
Cyber Minister Wayno: “Dear Bill, I work with Pastor Dave Hart, whom your station interviewed last night. That same interview re-ran on the 11am news, which you anchor, today. You made a statement today which is totally false: You said that most goths are into Adolph Hitler. You could not be farther from the truth! Most of these kids are into Philosophers like Nietzche (sp), not Hitler. Please, don't start a witch hunt where none is warranted. As Dave said last night, goths are into self-inflicted pain, not into inflicting pain on others.”
Bill Griffith's response: “Thanks much for the e-mail. I respect your viewpoint – and Pastor Hart’s – as coming from someone who works with ‘goths,’ but I plead with you not to excuse or underestimate the deeply disturbed nature of this movement. It takes only a cursory look through the internet under ‘goth’ to see the kind of Satanic, nihilistic, anti-Christian credo the ‘goth’ culture adheres to. Just because some goths don’t follow every tenet doesn’t mean we should ignore their world view.”
Sanctuary’s ministry stresses that the world view of Goth culture is anything but anti-Christian. The gothic lifestyle values the importance and value of individuality. Passivity and tolerance of others are treasured ideals, and vegetarianism, volunteerism and humanitarianism are common in practice. Goth kids have even cultivated an image of themselves as a “chosen people,” special in the eyes of a contemporary, post-Millenium God.
This concept is encouraged and reinforced by Pastor Dave. “I believe that the Christian gothic/industrial community has been called for [in] such times as these,” he preaches on the Sanctuary website. “Who else is more prepared to deal with dark days and painful times? You are a tribe of poet/priests and poet/warriors called to fight the darkness you know so well. Like Stryder and the Northern Rangers in ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ you will be used to fight the shadows of fear and terror in the dark forests and murky swamps which lie outside the boundaries of the land of the Hobbits…be confident in your unique calling. You are a chosen tribe, a holy nation of priests.”
“Be ready to die,” says Pastor Dave. “To your old life, to your dreams, to your glory, to your sin-nature, to this world, to this body. Remember it's all going to burn. Remember that our suffering will not last forever.”
- RACIST ROCK: DO THE WHITE THING
"Throughout history, music has been used to recruit and unify ultra-right movements. A lot of people think the Third Reich couldn’t have happened without Wagner. For Skinheads, who follow the concept of leaderless resistance, white power music is what binds them." (Carl Raschke, Professor Of Religious Studies, University of Denver)
"White power" rock music provides the rallying call which unites racists and Nazi-inclined "Skinheads" hoping to develop a common culture - or at least present the appearance of one. Bands like Ethnic Cleansing, Extreme Hatred, Grinded Nig and Angry Aryans expouse hostile ideology directed against non-whites, particularly anyone of Negro or Jewish descent.
Racist rock is angry, nihilistic music, advocating intolerance, if not actual violence, against minorities. The great-grandaddy of the genre is 1960s singer Johnny Rebel, who recorded songs like "Some N--rs Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)."
Later, pro-white rock was dubbed "Oi!" music, goosestepping from the skinhead and punk subcultures of the '70s ("Oi" was a common greeting in the British Cockney dialect).
Skinhead style - shaved heads, Doc Marten boots, thin suspenders, rough trade tattoos and reverence for weight training and beer - originated as the working class antithesis of the hippie look and philosphy.
Adherants were prone to violence and criminal hooliganism from the start but turned toward national socialism and racial issues in the early '80s. Not all Skinhead groups are racist but, for the purposes of this essay, the term is used to refer to white supremacist variety.
The first rock stars embraced by the Skinhead movement came out of England - Ian Stuart Donaldson (Skrewdriver), Ken McLellan (Brutal Attack) and Paul Burnley (No Remorse), for example. In 1982, Skrewdriver headlined the first of many "White Power" concerts, though the event was called "Rock Against Communism" to disguise its theme.
By 1987, band leader Ian Stuart Donaldson was publishing a magazine called "Blood & Honour," the same words inscribed on daggers issued by Hitler to the SS Youth Corps. America's entry in the hate sweepstakes came out of Minnesota with the album "Warrior's Glory," the first call to arms from Bound For Glory, and soon Skinheads and neo-Nazis alike were pogo-ing and pounding each other to the strains of similar U.S. based knuckleheads like the Bully Boys and Midtown Bootboys.
The Oi! Boys, a neo-Nazi skinhead club, established one of the first internet websites devoted to racist rock music. It makes constant reference to the music of Skrewdriver's Ian Stuart Donaldson, who died in a 1993 car accident, advocating violence even more directly than Donaldson's in-your-face lyrics.
The Oi! Boys site also includes a page called "BootParty," featuring people said to deserve being kicked in the head by Skins wearing steel-toed boots. "This here is N--r Nate. Him and his mama are holding a N--r hunting tag that was gave [sic] to him. This story made the front page in the newspaper 'cause his mama is in the NAACP. N--rs Are Always Causing Problems. The one thing that his mama doesn't know is that her son is a gangbanger and his getto-slang [sic] name is Chicago. Well if you see this N--r, kick him in the [expletive] head."
American hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Hammerskin Nation (a Skinhead enclave originating in Dallas in 1989) didn't take long to realize the potential of hatecore music, and of the internet, to attract and convert alienated, antisocial young people to the white supremacist movement.
White Aryan Resistance (WAR) is based in San Diego, headed by KKK poster boy and white warlord Tom Metzger, who refers to Skinhead followers as his "shock troops for the white revolution." The WAR website features crude cartoon caricatures of blacks and Mexicans intended to celebrate worldwide "racial and cultural separatism."
Metzer declares white skinned people as "Nature's finest handiwork...your race and only your race must be your religion." WAR offers not just ideological guidance but also tactical advice on how to use violence to squash minorities and non-white cultural influences. In 1987, he booked several Skinhead bands for an "international punk white power record album." That record was "The Spirit Of Oi," released on London-based White Noise Records.
Metzger, who is well into his sixties, went bankrupt after a $12.5 million civil judgment was levied against him for his part in encouraging behavior which resulted in the beating death of an Ethiopian man by skinhead followers. However, Metzger still manages to publish an inflammatory tabloid magazine (also titled "WAR") which promotes Holocaust denial and ethnic cleansing, targeting the Skinhead demographic with ads for mail order racist rock recordings and videos of hatecore music festivals. The magazine is distributed from vendor booths at white rock gatherings and concerts as well as on the internet by most of the supremacist record labels.
These white power labels became prolific between 1992 and 1997, many of them founded in Sweden (Ragnarock Records, Nordland Records) and elsewhere in Europe, benefitting from the fall of Communism and relaxed trade restrictions. U.S. labels specializing in hate-themed music also thrived, such as Tri-State Terror of Pennsylvania, whose roster includes Mudoven. The cover of Mudoven's CD "Aryan Vs. Alien" sports a photo of corpses in a German concentration camp.
Another Tri-State act, Blue Eyed Devils, has a record called "Murder Squad" featuring a cover photo of three lynched Jews. However, it is Michigan-based Resistance Records which has, from the start, been America's best-known racist rock label, even publishing its own propaganda magazine.
Resistance was incorporated in 1994 by George Burdi and members of WCOTC, a Canadian chapter of an anti-Semitic group calling itself the World Church of the Creator. "Music alone cannot save our Race," Burdi said on his website, "but our music is precious to us, and highly effective as a recruiting tool."
He says supremacist rockers had difficulty getting recorded until Resistance came along. "Suddenly, it went from a couple of white power labels to a couple of hundred...I let everyone use our stuff. After all, I was motivated by altruism." At the time, Burdi sang and wrote lyrics for the Skinhead rock group RaHoWa, an acronym for "racial holy war."
"The concerts were crazy," remembers Burdi. "Friends would beat each other up and then laugh about it afterwards, with their eyes swollen shut and their noses broken and picking their teeth up off the ground."
"Kill all the n--s and you gas all the jews.
Kill a gypsy and a coloured too.
You just killed a k-ke. Don't it feel right?
Goodness gracious, darn right"
(From "Third Reich" by RaHoWa)
Burdi's record label was soon selling upwards of 50,000 white power CDs annually. However, the company was thrown into chaos in 1997 due to an American tax dispute and prosecution in Canada for distributing "hate material."
At the time, Burdi was serving a one-year prison sentence for kicking a female anti-racism protestor in the face at a 1993 RaHoWa concert. The Resistance catalog had grown to over two hundred titles and the label reportedly shipped around fifty orders each day, grossing nearly a million dollars yearly.
Resistance moved its headquarters to California and changed hands in April 1999, falling under the ownership of William Pierce, one-time head of an American neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
Pierce paid $250,000.00 for the label and its assets. "All too often we turn [our anger] against ourselves," said Pierce. "We need to give a proper direction to that anger…[Resistance Records] will be the music of the great, cleansing revolution which is coming." Pierce also bought the Swedish hatecore label Nordland, including its inventory stock and American band contracts, for $50,000.00.
Pierce had previously outlined his views on the importance Skinhead recruitment in March 1995 on his "American Dissident Voices" radio show. "What we have to do is encourage in every way we can the growth of the racially conscious portion of the Skinhead community...we have to give young people back their sense of identity. We have to give them purpose and direction again."
Around the same time that Pierce took control of Resistance, Aggressive Force was emerging as Orange County's flagship white power rock band. Their songs bear unmistakably racist titles like "It's O' Kay To Be White."
"Our first gig was at a place here in OC about two years ago," says the group's singer Brian online, "and we played with Youngland and Extreme Hatred. Well, the lady who booked the show for us had also booked a show for Extreme Hatred a few years back...[that] turned into a riot and the place was totalled. Little did she know that she had just booked them again plus two other WP [white power] bands."
"You should've seen the look on her face when carloads of Skins started pulling up. All I know is I heard her screaming 'Oh no, not again,' waving her muddy arms up in the air, 'it's the Nazi's again!' Capitalistic mud wench finally shut her face when she saw all the people paying to get in and all the bar sales."
"Since then, we have gotten our own place that loves to have us play and splits the door money with us to get other bands out here to play. We have our own security team and they keep the muds [dark skinned people] out, for the most part. One time this beaner [Mexican] just happened to cruise in, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We gave him a party and kindly showed him the door where a police escort was waiting for him that the owners had called...he was 'starting fights,' ha ha."
Regarding the racial climate in southern California, Brian says "There are n--rs here but the majority of the dung is Mexican and g--ks. The zipperheads out here have a town called Little Saigon, a name apply given to this large cesspool filled with ornamental written signs, g--k gangs, and dry cleaners. The beans are 'equal opportunity invaders' and pretty much ruin any place in O.C. they can get their greasy mittens on to. A common scene here is a pregnant bean pushing a double-stroller with a string of four baby beans being drug behind her on the way to the welfare office. We dig it because they do not use the crosswalks, are slow, and having such a large litter with them they equal more points!"
This statement refers to a game called "Death Race" wherein point values are assigned to pedestrians who can be hit with a motor vehicle.
By the late '90s, the U.S. was infested with the likes of Angry White Youth, Kick To Kill, Gestapo SS, H8Machine (formerly known as Dying Breed), Hatemonger, Final Solution, Mullet, Patriotic Front and The Brawlers. The latter band, from Kansas City, is known for their song "Dead N--r Storage Box":
"We're open for business and we're packing them in.
Got forty n--s in a garbage bin.
On the streets they're selling crack,
got ten more in a burlap sack.
Roll down the window, say 'What's up cuz?'
They reply back 'Not much, blood.'
Stick the shotgun out the window,
guess what, yo, you know where you're going to go?"
Though never signed to a hatecore label, the Santee based group InSanitee managed to earn some national press by provoking audience violence during performances.
Among their first gigs was a festival in Lake Havasau Arizona - not a racist event but promotors were apparantly unaware of set list titles like "Jewboy Roasting On A Fiery Cross" and "El Cajon Sand N--s." As the band played the all-age event, horrified parents hustled children away from the stage and delighted skinheads - many of them friends of the band - formed a rowdy mosh pit.
Anti-racist bystanders shouted angrily at bandmembers and were rewarded with beatings administered by Skinheads, seven of whom were arrested for assault. InSanitee also promoted itself as a "high school dance band" without disclosing their racist focus, instigating at least one teenage riot in Escondido in 1999.
Some concert events willingly announce themselves as racist gatherings. Using the Internet as a promotional vehicle, the Ku Klux Klan has staged successful hate rock concerts.
In May 2000, the Imperial Klans of America held a three day concert, Nordic Fest, in Powderly, Kentucky, co-sponsored by Panzerfaust Records (founded in September 1998 by former Resistance Records employee Eric Davidson). Around 500 American and overseas attendees accessed transportation and event information using the guestbook at Panzerfaust's password-protected website (guestbooks serve as electronic bulletin boards).
Another Nordic Fest was held in May 2001 and other recent gatherings include Peckerwoodstock, Skinfest '98, Oi Bash '99 and Oi2K.
Even skinhead extremists Hammerskin Nation now sponsor a travelling racist rock festival called Hammerfest. The Hammerskin website announces "The exact location will not be disclosed until the weekend of the concert...beginning Friday before the show. A cell phone will also be activated for people to contact, for directions."
The Eastern Hammerskins once had to cancel an event in Baltimore, Maryland at the last minute after local music venues became aware that the concert's theme was white supremacy.
Locally, hatecore concerts are difficult to stage, even with the James Bondian subterfuge. A "benefit" show sponsored by the California branch of Blood And Honor, intended to raise money for a CD compilation featuring neo-Nazi bands, was scheduled for August 19th 2001 at an Anaheim club called the Shack.
The bar was overwhelmed by angry phone calls from anti-racist activists, picket lines and negative media attention in the days before the event and it was subsequently cancelled.
Part of the Shack's reluctance to follow through with the concert stemmed from local reaction to an earlier event on June 24th, headlined by Brutal Attack, Aggressive Force and Extreme Hatred. Press reports had expressed particular outrage over the band Youngland, which performed a song called "Thank God I'm A White Boy" to the tune of John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," followed by a cover of Johnny Rebel's "N--r Hatin' Me."
The Nationalist Observer and its website loves white rock and roll too. They provide links to other supremacist clubs and hatecore music distributors on their website, as well as offering daily propaganda via an old school telephone message line.
The Observer was founded by Alex Curtis, operating out of what used to be his family's laundry room in Lemon Grove. Curtis uses the website to promote cooperation between "White nationalists, White separatists, Skinheads, National Socialists, Ku Klux Klansmen and Identity Christians." His "Tribute to Jewry" is a doctored photo of what he calls "Jew York City," after being blown up by an atom bomb.
On the Nationalist Observer website, he nominated the teen-agers charged with brutally beating field workers in Carmel Valley as "Aryans of the Month"
Among the organizations championed by the Observer are the Hammerskins, The American Nazi Party, Wake Up Or Die ("Powerful [web]page for regaining our forgotten courage"), Vinland Records ("Source for foreign music"), S.S. Enterprises ("Racist record producer") and White Power Music Dot Com, as well as the ubiquious record labels Panzerfaust and Resistance.
While attending SDSU in 1997, Curtis was charged with using La Mesa Police insignia without permission on flyers he'd distributed which described La Mesa as a "nonwhite sewer" and urged citizens to work with police in identifying undesirable "criminal minorities" and "interracial couples."
Curtis once told a reporter, via email, about watching news reports about the Columbine High School shootout in Littleton Colorado. "I did not feel remorse. Instead I was ecstatic and prayed that the shooters were open racists."
On the other side of the battlefield, pointedly anti-racist bands are popping up, such as the Red Skins and International Jet Set. Many feature mixed-race lineups, called "two-tone" groups, and this sort of activism is music to the ears of an organization founded in San Diego known as S.H.A.R.P., or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.
Anti-Nazi fanzines like Zoot and Spy Kids have also raised their profiles in recent years, as more and more teenagers react against the incursion of Skinheads and other race-baiters in high schools and mosh pits all over America.
After his release from prison, Resistance Records founder George Burdi severed his ties with the white power movement. He joined a band which included two black members, and now looks back with wry amusement at his attempts to recruit Skinheads to help achieve white supremacy.
"A large percentage of Skinheads, especially in North America, are really hardcore alcoholics," he says now. "It’s too much to expect them to put fliers on cars, but they’ll jump at the chance to buy beer. There’s a real irony in the fact that Hitler would have exterminated most of these guys as social deviants."
Asked how he feels today about calling for racial extermination in songs like "Third Reich," Burdi says "I didn’t write the music or the lyrics for that song...but the people who bought it, they wanted to listen to it and probably already had those ideas in their heads."
Mark Noah's punk band Anti-Heros records for San Diego-based Taang! Records. In the '80s, the group wrote several observational songs about the Skinhead movement for their albums "That's Right" and "Don't Tread On Me."
"It's 'reality rock,'" he says, admitting that, at one time, Anti-Heros didn't mind the occasional audience riot. "We don't try to get all of our crowd to come out and smash things up, or kick people...but it does have a very strong anti-social bent to the lyric construction, or the texture of the music, and, you know, it attracts people that are angry."
But the band is adament about not being considered part of the Skinhead scene. New Line Cinema recently approached Taang! about using Anti-Heros music in a movie about Nazi skinheads. "They wanted to have the inside of this Nazi's room covered with Anti-Heros posters and lyrics, and have him listening to us, and I was like, 'F--- that! Who wants to be painted up like that?' That's the Hollywood version of what this music is, and it's wrong."
Hard rock hero Henry Rollins, who headed one of punk's original front line bands Black Flag, laughs at the notion that white people in America are being driven to extinction. "White people in this country have no clue as to what oppression is," he told VH1 for a Race Rock special.
"I do not know what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and have the staff go, 'Okay, skin color - dodgy. Make 'em pay before they get their order.' My whiteness gives me credibility. I can look low rent, but with this white skin, I will get served. I never understood why rap guys wore the gold on the outside until I started hanging out with some of them...they have to say 'see, I can afford my Grand Slam at Denny’s because I have enough gold. I’m good for the bill.' "
Rollins downplays the influence racist rock bands have on young people. "Let’s not overestimate the sway these corny bands have. They’re really bad. They got no beats, no chops, and just read text when they sing. Their music is like Jamiroquai. It sucks. At the end of the day, people go for better music, but these guys won’t become better musicians."
WHITE THING ADDENDUM
While visiting family in rural northern Georgia, I learned that Hammerfest, aka "The Racist Woodstock," would take place nearby. The event would include sometime-Fallbrook resident Tom Metzger performing karaoke between sets by Whitelaw, Kremator, and Definite Hate.
Metzger, onetime Grand Dragon of the California Ku Klux Klan, was one of the first people to recognize the recruiting potential of white-power music. He has released tape and CD compilations to raise money for his causes.
Hammerfest organizers kept the locale secret until Thursday, only telling attendees (via the stormfront.org website) to book rooms near Douglasville and Lithia Springs. A number of tattooed skinheads and bikers arrived and filled area hotels. When directions were posted online, they indicated that the show would take place Saturday and Sunday at the Georgia Peach Restaurant and Museum, which is run by a convicted sex offender. The museum's relics include black lawn jockeys eating watermelon, "Whites Only" signs, and photos of lynchings.
I hid my long hair under a beanie and drove to the concert site (at which the NAACP later protested). Police were milling around, and I could see people gathered in a field alongside a ramshackle barn building near the restaurant. A security checkpoint had been set up by "Hammerskin Nation Security Personnel," who wore red shirts and black armbands.
I could hear a band playing (badly) and I saw several dozen people walking in and out of the fenced-in area. I don't think there were more than 400 people in attendance, though I was unwilling to pay $35 to enter and see. I asked a guard when Metzger's karaoke session was scheduled.
"He's your hero, too, huh?" said the guard. I nodded slightly, attempting neither affirmative nor negative conviction. The guard assumed the former, possibly sparing my skull from being summarily split. "He's going on [stage] tomorrow, but he's here today; I heard he's walking around, talking to people and checking out the bands."
I returned Sunday to catch Metzger's act, but, near midnight, another band was abusing their equipment and nobody knew when he'd go on.
- CREEPY OLD GUY GOES TO A RAVE
Okay, I know chances are good that my sideburns are older than a lotta people reading this blog. I’m old. How old AM I? I'm old enough to have…
a) …bought Beatles records while they were still together…
b) …witnessed Yaz in action, back when the name made you think of Fenway Park, not PMS pills, in a time when guys thought menstrual cycles were Italian bikes…
c) …carried an HR Pufnstuf lunchbox to school, with actual lunches inside rather than half-ounces of leafy, green puffin’ stuff…
d) …seen the first moon landing, live, as it was actually being faked…
e) …mailed in my vote for Quisp over Quake, for the Rabbit to get some Trix, and letters demanding the return of Star Trek (the FIRST time it was cancelled) and Lost In Space (if only in hopes of seeing the Robinsons finally throw Doctor Smith out the airlock once and for all)…
f) …played Pong on a sit-down arcade console…
g) …paid 65 cents for the first gallon of gas I ever bought, for the first car I ever drove (an AMC Gremlin...green)…
h) …watched Battlestar Galactica back when the fleet was led by the guy from Bonanza, Starbuck was still a guy, and the Cylons still wore silver painted pants and were ruled by an ambulatory bubble gum dispenser (who sounded suspiciously like the aforementioned Doc Smith)…
i) …seen Zeppelin with Bonham…
j) …Pink Floyd with Waters…
k) …Van Halen with Diamond Dave…
l) …Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny…
m) …Tull with John Glasscock (five times!)…
n) …Sabbath with Ozzy/before Dio…
o) …and Skynyrd with Ronnie & Wilkeson & Collins & Gaines AND the other Gaines!
So, yeah, I’m old. Worth bearing in mind as you read this account of my exploratory trips awhile back to three local rave parties.
For a tutorial in rave fashion, I first read the message board archives at socal-raves. The group philosophy stresses individualism and a come-as-you-are acceptance of all who enter. However, at the parties I attended, an unmistakable “dress to impress” code was evident, with certain constants seeming to be at least preferred, if not required.
Bellbottoms and black vinyl pants were common among both sexes, with the males leaning toward the extra baggy look while females wore their pants low on the hips, often riding below the visible straps of their thong underwear or bikini bottoms. Piercings and platform shoes were just as likely to be seen on boys as girls.
Oversized T-shirts and brightly colored sweatshirts were everywhere, though many guys shed these and went bare-chested after the first few hours of dancing. A majority of the girls wore their hair short, often in barrettes or kiddie pigtails. Bras seemed to be an endangered, almost non-existent relic.
Babydoll ruffled dresses and cut-off Ts were common, and the proliferation of people sucking on baby pacifiers or wearing these around their necks on candy-colored necklaces heightened the return-to-childhood (or never surrender childhood) infantilism prevalent in all aspects of rave culture.
I saw dozens of girls carrying stuffed animals and licking giant lollipops (a guaranteed attention getter that caused at least one four-male collision I witnessed). TV cartoon illustrations emblazoned more underdeveloped chests than the usual corporate or band logos seen on the shirts of female mallrats in the light of day.
Drugs have been a part of the rave scene from its inception, though it’s certainly possible to go to a rave and have a good time without being high. Among ravers administrating a buzz to the brain, MDMA (aka Ecstasy or “E”), tops the chemical chart and the most common fashion accessories – those baby pacifiers, as well as facemasks treated with menthol rubs like Icy Hot or Vicks Vapor Rub – often double as agents intended to assist the high (Ecstasy users say pacifiers keep their teeth from grinding together and menthol rubs sharpen the buzz).
In its pure form, it is a white crystalline powder, but the form sold at raves is usually a pill with a picture stamped into its surface, going under names like Green Nipples, Green Clovers, Pink Turbo and White CK. Ecstasy tablets come primarily from Western Europe where they can be purchased for around a dollar each. By the time they reach America, they regularly sell for between $10 and $45 per dose.
The drug is sometimes cut with amphetamines (speed), baking powder, caffeine pills or even pesticides or poisons. At the parties I attended, I saw various pills selling for between $10 and $20. Ecstasy can be swallowed, snorted or injected but the effects last longest when swallowed. Users on Ecstasy describe the phases of their high as "rolling" or "dropping." The initial rush can be accompanied by exhilaration and a tingling feeling like “butterflies” in the stomach, with the high lasting anywhere from four to six hours.
E instills energy and skin sensitivity is heightened, which is why people at raves are constantly seen touching, giving each other backrubs and, yes, since sexual sensations are heightened while in this state, lots of uninhibited bumping and grinding goes on.
“E is the ultimate aphrodesiac,” purrs one young lady in Cindy Brady pigtails who overhears me asking someone what the pill’s attraction is. “It brakes down barriers and makes you drop your inhibitions, so you feel at one with everything and everyone. I made out with a girl for the first time on E,” she says, “and, until I came down, I thought I was in love with her! I found out later she was just trying to get me to buy more E from her but, wow, we had an awesome time before I found out she was a pro [dealer].”
Others told me about their own favorite things to do while on Ecstasy:
“Dancing and jumping up and down makes you feel weightless.”
“Touching and being touched feels magical, even if it’s someone just blowing air into your face or your hair through a straw.” (This explains why I see so many people with straws in their mouths)
“It’s incredible to fall back and have someone catch you and slowly lift you back up…feels like slow motion.”
“Chewing hard candy, especially Wint-O-Green Lifesavers, because they make little flashing sparks in your mouth!”
“Being touched with a vibrator.” Actually, that particular conversation, with a young woman I’m positive was of legal age, went in directions best left unreported…
Ecstasy causes the body to easily overheat, so those dancing in close quarters can be in danger of heatstroke or dehydration if they don’t take in enough water. These are, in fact, about the only known causes of death while on Ecstasy.
Water bottles are probably the most commonly seen and most important accessories at any rave. Unfortunately, sometimes security guards don’t let patrons bring their own, because water is being sold by concessionaires inside for $3 to $6 per small bottle!
“Smart Drinks” are usually sold on site, made with amino acids and vitamin combinations - nutrients that supply the precursors and cofactors the body uses to manufacture neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry impulses in the brain. These neurotransmitters are depleted by heavy physical activity, stimulant drugs and lack of sleep and “smart drinks” are thought to battle these detrimental effects.
DMT, GHB and LSD can be found at many raves (I was offered several types of acid at two of the three raves I attended, and a surprising number of kids asked ME if I had acid to SELL...are old guys at raves typically there to sell drugs???).
Nitrous Oxide - “laughing gas” - has become popular, and I was offered this a few times too. Hard drugs have also moved into the scene, including crystal meth and even heroin, though I saw no overt use myself (I sure saw some suspected users, tho).
“Flipping” is taking a combination of Ecstasy and another drug. Some popular flips - Candy Flipping (LSD & E):
Elephant Flipping (PCP & E):
Hippie Flipping (Shrooms & E):
And Kitty Flipping (Ketamine & E).
However, many people I spoke with, in person and online, stress that drugs are frowned on and discouraged by many ravers, and even banned at some events with high enforcement by security to deter on-site drug use. Judging from the usual media preoccupation with drugs in connection with rave culture, this seems wise if ravers want to avoid being legislated out of existence.
Especially in light of the Congressional bill known as H.R. 3782, approved by the Senate and House Of Representatives on February 14th, 2002. The bill amends the Controlled Substance Act by inserting section 416A (21 U.S.C. 856), titled “Promoters Of Drug Oriented Entertainment.”
It reads, in part, “Whoever knowingly promotes any rave, dance, music, or other entertainment event, that takes place under circumstances where the promoter knows or reasonably ought to know that a controlled substance will be used or distributed in violation of Federal law or the law of the place were the event is held, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned for not more than 9 years, or both.”
When federal law says anyone who throws a rave “ought to know” on-site drug use is likely and can go to jail for up to nine years, you can believe that a lot less people are anxious to promote raves nowadays.
Still, it’s no secret that even drug-free ravers can be seen sporting a wicked, knowing grin every time they see a commercial for the "E: Entertainment Network.”
Nothing much else interesting happened at the raves I attended, so here are some things I found out in researching the throbbing, concussive music that rang my eardrums like Quasimodo on a meth bender at Notre Dame…
The mostly electronic techno music favored at raves first took hold in gay dance clubs and discos in Chicago and Detroit, inspired by and often built from samples of progressive music by European artists like Philip Glass and Depeche Mode. DJs mix different prerecorded dance songs together using a drum synthesizer, alternate pitches, varying speeds and an equalizer, spontaneously creating “house” music - hybrid songs that change with every new spin.
Techno is anchored by a reverberating beat and the use of rhythm as a hypnotic tool. The music has a high concentration of bass in the forefront, with everything pumped up to a fast repeating beat, around 115 BPM [beats per minute] on up to 300 BPM. Songs programmed at 120 BPM create a trance-like effect because that’s the rate of your average heartbeat, and that subliminally recreates the sound unborn babies hear inside the womb.
Acid House has a lot of squeaks and samples, all stacked to play simultaneously. A synthesizer like a Roland 303 is good for mixing different layers and pitches that way, and what comes out is called a ‘funky worm’ sound…very liquid.
Trance is slow and steady, very melodic repetitive to create a hypnotizing effect.
Breakbeat uses sped-up hip-hop and reggae samples and it’s great for getting the crowd moving, but it has no hypnotic qualities.
Jungle is about percussion…bongos and drums and layers of chanting in the background.
Darkside is mostly minor chords, like a horror movie soundtrack.
Hardcore is basically a speed-metal tune treated with a beat-inducer like a TR-909 drum machine. When you advertise hardcore, it brings a lot of heavy metal and industrial fans into the rave fold and makes them feel at home.
Gabba is an extreme kind of hardcore, played fast with the bass so low [that] the walls rattle and your bones shake…it can run up to 400 or 500 BPM, which some people think is dangerous. I’ve heard stories about how gabba, along with flashing strobe lights, can actually give people seizures.
Of course, so can the drugs some people are taking, so don’t ask me how to tell what causes someone to end up twitching on the floor with foam coming out their mouth.
Maybe some jailbait chick just kicked him in the balls for rubbing her ass with a glowstick, or for blowing air up her nose with one of those damned straws.
- WHERE’S THE READER’S HIP-HOP COVERAGE?
We get a lot of emails asking this, and (hopefully) readers have noticed increased coverage throughout the music section, including Blurt, Lists, Of Note, and Club Crawler. It wasn’t that we avoided hip-hop before – in my case, at least, I did and do talk to a lot of people involved in the local hip-hop scene.
Unfortunately, I don’t always find stories that fit what we look for at the Reader, which is topical, offbeat, backstage stuff, in particular stuff that HASN’T BEEN COVERED ELSEWHERE (both mandate and mantra for all Reader contribs).
With that in mind, I set out awhile back to check out a grass-roots hip-hop event in person.
Porter’s Pub, on the UCSD campus, was doing a Thursday night open mic hip-hop night, with an open invitation to area DJs, musicians, performance artists, lyricists, and spoken word poets (aka rappers). On the night I attended, three-quarters of the participants were white males.
Seven guys had co-opted tables and chairs throughout the room to set up and fiddle with their gear. A 20-something black guy wearing sunglasses was testing his Yamaha DX7 keyboard with sampled voice tracks loaded to play at his touch. I wasn’t aware that such a vintage instrument was good for laying down hip-hop tracks.
I mentioned this to the guy, and he introduced himself as “Kev-4Play” (at least that’s how he wrote it in my notebook).
In answer to my question, he said, “Yeah, but it weighs, like, a half pound, and it’s got mad beats…drum tracks, vocal snaps, orchestra hits, and everything I need. I just hook up my master blaster,” he said, indicating an Ampeg bass amp that’s at least 15 years old, ”with a mic,” whereupon he plugged his microphone in, “and I’m rollin’ out the rhymes.”
He launched into beat-backed rap that lasts ten seconds before he’s shushed by fellow contestants and patrons. Outside on the patio, I spotted a post-teen, Irish-looking guy with bushy red hair teased out to Carrot Top proportions. He had no gear, but he was reading to himself from a ream of handwritten papers scotch-taped together into one long toilet paper-like roll.
He looked like David Caruso in a wig.
I heard his solo a cappella rap later -- an amphetamine-paced verbal barrage that appeared to be about McDonalds, Iraq, the San Diego Police Department, something about Britney Spears’ panties (or lack thereof) and…Vikings? Hard to tell -- his enunciation was hampered by the way he inserted the microphone partway down his esophagus, as if trying to swallow it.
Is this really hip-hop, I wondered?
”Rap isn’t synonymous with hip-hop,” I’m told by DJ EVS (real name Evan McGinnis), of the three-piece Mission Infinite.
“I think KRS-One [a social/political rapper, co-founder of Boogie Down Productions] defined it best: ‘Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live.’ Rap is the style of how you compose your words, the rhyming and rhythm. Kind of like scat. Hip-hop is how you talk, how you wear your clothes, more of the lifestyle.”
It doesn’t surprise McGinnis that most people lump rap and hip-hop together. “I think people will see what they want to see. Since mainstream rap music is all about being a gangster and having shiny cars and watches, that’s all the people know, because it’s all over MTV and the radio.”
Public perception makes it hard to get local gigs because promoters, venue owners, and booking agents have the impression that rap and hip-hop shows are synonymous with violence. After a stabbing murder took place in the Coors VIP parking lot during an October 2002 Nelly concert, it was hard to downplay the concern.
”The best thing about the San Diego scene is that it still exists at all,” says Mission Infinite “rhyme master” Eye Focus. He says he’s never seen anything unduly violent at a hip-hop show, but admits that things can get pretty wild. “We did a show at the Boars Cross’n Bar [in Carlsbad], and while I was doing my verse for ‘Champion Sound,’ some lady in her late ‘30s came up to the stage and handed me a drink. Then she just lifted up her dress, showed her jewels, and started wildin' out. She was so drunk.”
”All I know is that I looked up, and saw her ghostly flapping white -ss and her nasty mint green granny panties,” says DJ EVS. “I almost forgot what I was doing on stage.”
Twenty-seven-year-old John Cornett writes the content for sandiegoundaground.com, an online hip-hop e-zine. He admits the hip-hop nation hasn’t planted many longstanding flags in southern California soil.
“I would say about three or fours years ago, the local hip-hop scene was really in high speed, with a lot of local groups putting out albums and doing shows all over San Diego, and there were hip-hop functions being held every weekend. There was always something to do. Now, you really have to be involved in the scene to know what’s happening.”
When asked, Kev-4Play emails me a set of lyrics that directly address his experiences in the San Diego scene. “Slartibartfast” is one such cut (spelling and punctuation left intact, at his insistence):
”Spacey-O, Oreo, Wendy Whitebread on a niggah roll,
Workin the Trax, Brother gotcha Ace in the Hole
When ya bangbang, yinying, tippin the scales
While they be trippin with whales,
I can’t afford no f--k’n Sea World
Cuz I barely made my bail!”
Another one by Kev-4Play, called “Fo Zample”:
”Hip-hop’s something ya gotta feel in your soul,” volunteers Kev-4Play. ”And, I tell you what, you ain’t black, so you ain’t got the soul, you ain’t never gonna feel it. I mean, really, really feel it, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Pause. I’m guessing I was fairly expressionless, which seemed to challenge him for clarification.
“You say this clear so I don’t sound like some kinda f--kin’ racist, but the reason San Diego’s so-called hip-hop scene is so lame is because it’s soooo white.”
Another piece later e-mailed to me by Kev-4Play is entitled “You Lite Up My Pipe”:
”Lite the Pizzo, burn the pipe, aight, aight
Rocky rules the ghetto, dimebag Gepetto
Make you feel like REAL boyz
But they got serious toyz, get the lead out, ballzout, headzup
AK-47 spray the night.
Cha lite yer pipe and its all right,
Ya never even saw the sight or heard the fight or seen the blood
through the glass o yo pipe.”
Kev tells me in an email “San Diego, I mean, it’s expensive; a yuppie, yacht club, rich b-tch, paint-the-ghetto, psychedelic kind of city, right? So you’re gonna see a lot of white guys slangin hip-hop. That’s lamelop… the whole f--kin’ thing makes it too f--kin’ white, too f--kin’ Blondie…I call it turning gabba to Abba…”
”Gabba” is an extreme kind of hardcore, a fast 4/4 beat with the bass low so that walls rattle (along with your bones), and it sonicates your organs. It can run up to 400 or 500 BPM (beats per minute). “Abba,” I’m assuming, refers to the ‘70s pop band.
Kev-4Play also says ”You go to any other city, hip-hop is gonna be a black thing, at least on the performance side…white kids’ll listen…but the shot callers [top talent] dropping beats on the street, DJing, rapping, graffing [which he later tells me is ‘bombing and tagging,’ explaining precisely nothing], those’re gonna be brothers most o’ the time…”
I can see that there’s some truth to what he says, at least about San Diego having a honky hip-hop scene.
Bad Credit fits the bill, a local guitar/bass/drum hip-hop trio of middle-aged white guys who call their craft “financial rap.”
”It’s a different kind of hip-hop,” Dr. Cliff Mixtable told me awhile back. “It’s not about girls, unless the girl owes you money.”
The group’s lyrics are inspired by subjects like Wall Street Journal articles and personal bank statements, with song titles such as “Balance Your Checkbook” and “Bill Gates Owes Me Five Bucks.”
“Yo, I got the dough and I’ll spend it on a whim
’cause I got more cash than an ATM.
Don’t give me no check or no C.O.D.,
I want cold hard cash, show me the mo-ney!”
Listening to Bad Credit, I feel that at least I’ve discovered what hip-hop is NOT. I mention this to Kev-4Play.
”Yo,” he says disdainfully, “that’s what I’m telling ya…Gabba to Abba!”
(Yabba Dabba Do!)
- LOCAL FASHION WEARABOUTS
Much as it pains me to say, one can no longer stock their entire wardrobe at K-Mart and the occasional Gap without being mocked every time you go out in public. And, unless you're still high school age or below, Hot Topic is clearly outta the question. So here are some 'round town sartorial suggestions, for us working and wanna-be-hip-as-we-used-to-be adults.
Buffalo Exchange (Hillcrest) lives up to its name by inviting patrons to bring in fur apparel and accessories for exchange, as part of its “Coats For Cubs” program. “The furs are used as bedding to comfort orphaned and injured wildlife,” informs their website. The proffered “exchange” is tax deduction paperwork from the Humane Society, not to mention that smug Samaritan glow that comes with doing something cool for critters. That, and knowing you’re safe from PETA throwing red paint on you. www.buffaloexchange.com
Buzz Clothing is “a men’s lifestyle boutique and online retailer specializing in exclusive and up-and-coming national and international designers,” according to its virtual sales pitch. At this writing, online specials include tropical Boardies beach shorts ($70), wool Fila warmup jackets styled for the gym but priced for the VIP lounge ($225 to $250) and several styles of Frank Dandy men’s undershorts, including a pair with side panels decorated in pink paisley flowers ($29) which, if it’s not available in break-away style, really should be. www.buzzclothing.com
The Enchantress Boutique (Old Town) is all about romance, so its erotic sleepwear is perfectly suited for two upstairs bedrooms of the old Victorian Burton House on Heritage Row. Available sizes from 30AAA to 52DDD make the Boutique a utilitarian – and affordable - source for real world women, as opposed to the limited selection of supermodel-sized, sugar-daddy priced inventory available at some…many…at most lingerie specialty shops. Owner operated, and patrons can visit the tea room on the bottom floor, which is also available for wedding parties, baby showers and photo shoots rated G through R.
Flashbacks (Hillcrest) has a surfboard-shaped sign out front so psychedelic, it looks like a kaleidoscope threw up on it. So it shouldn’t surprise that their retread threads are a total 8-track flashback. Whether you’re building a Brady Bunch or boogieing nights away with Donna Summer all winter until you fall, they’ve probably got everything you need, no matter how funkadelic your parliament; Platforms, go-go boots, jumpsuits, Angel Flight jeans, and hip-huggers with bellbottoms wide enough for Arlo Guthrie to smuggle two or three keys into Los Angel-eeze with.
Frock You Vintage (University Heights) declares on their website “We eat, drink and sleep old clothes,” but one assumes they wash ‘em before selling to you. Their cottage-like retail locale offers everything from red carpet staples like Yves Saint Laurent vests and jackets to more bohemian blouses, vintage shoes, oh-so-chic tees and billowy pajama-style lounge pants. If you like fighting for your frocks, selected wares are frequently auctioned on eBay. www.myspace.com/frockyouvintage, www.frockyouvintage.com
Jep Boutique (La Jolla) offers recent store arrivals for the ladies, like super-snug Serfontaine Rocksteady jeans and a L.A.M.B. winged blazer - in leopard print - with a formidably large golden buckle that interlocks across the navel like fortress gates protecting your valuable belly piercings. Other items said to be hot include Trovata crew shirts (a fave at Barneys NYC) and a variety of hoodies, including several with large round “rudder” zippers resembling door knockers which – on ladies anyways – possibly serve the same function (“knock knock, pardon me, may I enter your hoodie for a nip?”).
Off 5th (Mission Valley) is a discount outlet for the blue-chip Saks chain. Discounts average 25%, though more than a few fashion bloggers have waxed digital about finding stuff up to 75% off during periodic clearance sales that reportedly pack ’em in like the homely little sister who puts out for burritos instead of lobsters (which is what Off 5th is to big-sistah Saks, after all). All the bling slingers are here - Prada, Armani, gold-and-sequin pumps by BCBG – in a folksy shop that belies its mallrat locale, and also offers a tasteful selection of picture frames and fine china.
Steady Boutique (Little Italy) invites passersby with attention-grabbing orange bucket seats out front that just scream “hang out with me.” This is the place to go if you like your designer labels to read “organic cotton,” said to make for more environmentally friendly manufacture and disposal. Organic cotton jeans by Loomstate can cost upwards of $175, but there’s a variety of denims available from Japanese designers that’ll leave a few shekels in the pockets of your transcontinental trousers. www.steadyboutique.com
Wear it Again Sam (Hillcrest) is the kind of timeless second-hander where you’d expect the ladies from the B52s and the cast of Anne Rice’s novels to shop, with frock-of-ages gear representative of the nineteenth century through the fifties. Attention to condition is almost archival, making them hard to sell to (only mint items will do) and pricey, but an excellent source of authentic and intact fashions of yesteryear. In addition to pre-worn dresses, pre-donned hats and pre-handled gloves, there’s usually a good selection of pre-disposed sunglasses that have gone in and out of style at least two or three dozen times since the date of their likely manufacture.
ALSO WORTH A LOOK:
Arline Fisch designs jewelry influenced and inspired by historical events. “Exalt the wearer" is her mantra, which she explains at length in her 1975 book Textile Techniques in Metal for Jewelers, wherein her singular metal-knitting style is the subject of a definitive tutorial. An SDSU professor since 1961, works of hers are on display at Rome’s Vatican Museum, Boston’s Museum Of Fine Arts, the Smithstonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and locally at the San Diego Historical Society.
Wearhaus is the co-operative effort of five locals; Krystina Grammatica (Grammatique), Sally Smith (Sally Bee designs), Carman Stalker (Stalker Designs), Vanessa Salazar (Alterwear, Vichi designs), and Julie Anstedt (Rambunctious Designs). According to their website, “The goal of Wearhaus is to develop a network of local San Diego designers who can learn, create and prosper together as a community.” Why not? Beats being a Crip or a Blood. www.wearhouse.org