Brian from Catharsis has always been a bit of a mystery man for me. In all honesty, I was a little late getting into Catharsis. Many of my friends practically worshipped them back in the day, but for whatever reason I didn’t give them the attention I should have. However, I was always really captivated by the ideas coming out of Crimethinc.; I loved reading Inside Front, Harbinger, I probably read Evasion faster than any book I’ve ever touched. There was always a romantic mysticism coming from Crimethinc literature; the good guys always won, the system; if not smashed, was always mocked, was always left looking soulless and belittled. My friends loved the band but for the most part couldn’t care less about the politics; I was fascinated by the politics but mostly ignored the band.
I never saw Catharsis but I did have one experience with Brian. It was during a workshop he held in the parking lot at the More Than Music Fest in Columbus, Ohio in probably 97 or 98. He talked about the centrality of fear in our lives, how it cripples us, forces us into a posture of conformity. The talk dramatically crescendoed with Brian branding himself in the arm with a hot iron which was one of the most intense things I've ever seen; I could literally hear his skin sizzling. I walked away not knowing whether to be completely amazed or completely terrified. I think I was both. It was that experience which created the sense of awe and mystery I’ve always felt when I thought about Brian and Catharsis.
Late last year when I heard the band would be playing a handful of shows and that their discography was going to be re-released on vinyl, I assumed there would be a slew of press, interviews, that the underground would be buzzing. Perhaps I was just looking in the wrong places, but aside from a couple show announcements I didn’t see or hear anything.
I started listening to the Exploited and the Subhumans and Agnostic Front, we formed a band in 10th grade, and the rest is (invisible to) history.
Now the only remaining powerful forces in Egypt are the army and the people in the street: hierarchical centralized power versus horizontal decentralized power. Of course, many people see the army as representing their wishes and carrying out their demands, and this is extremely dangerous. But the kind of chaos that has unfolded there--both in the streets, and in the conflicts between muddled ideological positions--always accompanies revolutionary struggles. The anarchist project is different from all other political projects in that it means trying to make governing impossible, rather than trying to perfect it. That means that anarchist revolution is an ongoing process of struggling against all power structures. It's messy and it can be confusing. But the ongoing power of government is worse, in that it can make the violence it is based on practically invisible.
I'm also curious to get your thoughts on the relevance of anarchism in the US context, where we see the Obama administration continuing Bush's policies in certain areas, and where in areas that his policies might move in a more progressive direction the Republicans stand in unified opposition.
The discography only coincided with the reunion shows by coincidence. We'd been planning to release the discography for a long time, but it was only very recently that we could imagine playing together again. The band is not "back"--if we were, we would be writing new material and throwing ourselves completely into being a band, the way we did then, and all of us have other major commitments now. But we still passionately feel and believe everything that we said and did before, and we are very grateful for the chance to play music together and perform those songs for others.
Many of my memories from back in the day were of conflicts with the audience--we were a controversial, confrontational band. It was almost strange to be at shows where people were radiating pure love and support at us. As for what we're looking forward to in Europe--for me, it's not any particular show or city, but above all the chance to connect with people, to push ourselves, to transform spaces together. The same things that always drove us.
I sort of imagine that of the people who are really excited to see the band active again that a small portion are probably still heavily engaged in activism but that the majority are probably more in my boat; which is to say very busy with families, careers, etc. No doubt still interested in politics and counter-cultural activity, but probably not able to engage at anywhere near the level of intensity that you're still operating at. I guess I'm curious what sort of reaction or inspiration (if any) you're hoping to evoke from people who have one foot in the revolutionary fervor Catharsis may have stirred for them 15 years ago and another foot in their current situation which may be more.....traditional for lack of a better term, haha.
There are a lot of different ways to contribute to the kind of struggles we're talking about. Most of the important ones have nothing to do with wearing a mask and fighting police. For things like that to have any meaning or effectiveness, there have to be a lot more people of all walks of life supporting them and engaging in other kinds of transformative action. I don't want people to see the things I do as "more radical" on some kind of one-dimensional spectrum--I do what I do because I feel it is the best way to make use of my particular skills, in my particular position. But everyone can act and fight from wherever they are, and that diversity is the most important thing. You know your own conditions better than anyone, and you know best what is possible and worthwhile in them. Be there for your children or your friends' children--speak up whenever you see subtle sexism or racism--make it clear to everybody you don't trust the NSA. And sure, when some maniacs go to jail for rioting when the police kill someone, help raise bail for them. There are all sorts of things a person can do, from a wide variety of positions and places in life.
On that note, one of the most iconic Catharsis songs "Every Man for Himself and God Against Us All" clearly expresses your fierce criticism of organized religion and while the historical ledger (the contemporary ledger for that matter as well!) in this area is rife with genocide, discrimination and oppression emanating from those who claim to be doing "God's will", people of faith also have a long history of being active in various progressive social causes including abolitionism, Civil Rights, the anti-nuclear movement, just to name a few.
So I guess I have two questions here:
A) Are your personal feelings on religion/spirituality still as black and white as they were presented during your time in Catharsis?
B) Do you see any role for people and communities of faith in the types of activism that you're engaged with?
Beyond the handful of shows we are about to play, the future is murky. But we haven't ruled out the possibility that we might do more.
Keep your head up. Thanks so much for the interview.