Run With The Hunted: We Ebb and Flow and Grow and Change

Run with the Hunted is a hardcore band from Phoenix, Arizona that formed in early 2007. They play a technical but heavy style of hardcore akin to Indecision and Shai Hulud intermixed with strong noisy flourishes reminiscent of Turmoil or Botch. Lyrically, the band explores political and personal subject matter in equal parts but with the same introspective angle and emotional vulnerability the band has become known for. Interview via email from 2010.

Let’s start with an introduction to your band. Who are you and why form the band? Is it because of the need to express some certain beliefs or ideas or you just wanted to start playing hardcore influenced by you favorite bands? We’ve already done interviews with Trial, Die Young, Gather, 7 Generations, aren’t they some of your main influences? Have any of you been in any other bands prior to Run With The Hunted?

Drew: Our band is called Run With The Hunted. There are five of us. My name is Drew, I am the vocalist, Jason plays bass, Jonathan plays guitar, Ian also plays guitar and Matt plays drums. We formed in early 2007 in our hometown of Phoenix, Arizona in the United States. Most of us were in previous bands that were breaking up and we wanted to start something totally new and different from anything we’d ever done before. The band was not started to express any certain set of ideological beliefs; it was meant to be an outlet for expression for us as individuals. Along the way the band has taken on a life of its own; all of us have discovered new things about ourselves and the world we live in and our views and beliefs have changed accordingly. I like to think of our band as a living organism in that sense; we ebb and flow and grow and change as our relationships with each other deepen and our experiences in the world broaden. We’ve been fortunate to establish personal relationships with all of the bands you mentioned above, and in some way, those bands have indeed influenced us. On a personal level, 7 Generations was instrumental in my journey into veganism and exploration of radical politics within hardcore/punk. Trial has played an equally important role in my life are one of my absolute favorite bands. I wouldn’t say these bands were our main influences when we started, but throughout the course of the band they have all inspired, helped, or touched us in some meaningful way.

Your name is coming from Charles Bukowski, why did you choose the name Run With The Hunted and what other literature you enjoy reading?

Jonathan: Run With The Hunted, for those who didn’t already know, is the title of the posthumously published collection of the works of author Charles Bukowski. I find Charles Bukowski’s writing to be pointedly harsh and decidedly unapologetic; that’s exactly the type of message we wished to send through our music. As a reflection of these qualities, we adopted the title of his finest work as our own. During my earliest experiences with Bukowski’s writing, I found him obscene and crudely entertaining, but the more I read (and the deeper I delved in to his poetry) the more I grew to enjoy and embrace his straightforward approach and the honesty with which he wrote. Once the shock value of his foul language and raunchy subject matter wore off, I found a subtle and unexpected beauty to his work. When I was able to uncover that beauty, I felt I’d found his true essence. I can only hope that we should embody even a percentage of that beauty through our own work.

A lot of vegan straight edge kids from the USA talk about the book “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. I doubt it will ever be translated into Bulgarian and it’s not easy to get my hands on this book, but I have watched the movie “Instinct” with Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. Can you go into more details why so much hardcore kids like Daniel Quinn’s books and what they are all about?

Jason: Daniel Quinn’s books are very easy to read, enjoyable, and incredibly accessible. It’s the beginner’s handbook to first contemplating anti-civ ideas and lifestyle choices. I would surmise that because of this, and because it’s the most read book discussing these ideas, is why you hear so many kids talking about it. I never saw Instinct, but I remember it looking like Silence of the Lambs without the semen throwing, which is not a movie I care to see.

What do you think is the best lifestyle for humans to live in harmony on this planet and to share it with others? You spread messages like “Destroy All Calendars” and see you’re aware of the ideas imposed by thinkers like John Zerzan or Derrick Jensen, are you really serious with this primitivist stuff? Are you familiar with the concept of Social Ecology by Murray Bookchin?

What is the best lifestyle for humans to live in harmony with the planet? That’s sort of a tricky question because answering it presumes that I know what’s best for every single person on this planet, and that’s not a position I would ever try to take. I know what works for me and that’s enough. However, it seems obvious to me that Western industrialized society is living well beyond its means and our natural environment can no longer support us. Capitalism and globalization have created an unprecedented standard of living for millions of people in this world (while billions of others starve, bleed, and slave out of sight) but this luxury comes at a heavy price. Our ecosystems are in ruins and it’s been my experience that even with all of this material well being, stability, and wealth people are still – for the most part – unhappy. So is it really worth it? I don’t know I guess that’s up to the individual to decide but to me it’s not. If you gave me a choice between a simpler life and lower standard of living in exchange for a vibrant healthy balanced natural environment I know what I would choose. I don’t think there is one single way to live that is the “best” because dozens of cultures throughout history have found their own unique ways to live in harmony with their natural environment and with each other. But generally speaking, I would say that indigenous cultures have the best model I’ve seen; they adapt to their surroundings, rarely take more than they need, and treat the entire living world with the respect and reverence it deserves. I think ideologies like primitivism are very important and they were instrumental in my personal political journey, but I don’t think they are the definitive ultimate answer to all of society’s woes. They are largely impractical and are for the most part predicated on the belief that there must be a drastic reduction in the human population to bring things back into balance. But who decides who lives and who dies? I don’t want that responsibility and no one should have it. Most people are so out of touch with what it truly takes to survive (i.e. any sort of hunting, gathering, farming, foraging) skills if you were to suddenly “shut off” the machine tomorrow millions of people wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do. It needs to be a gradual process, and an individual one at that. I understand the arguments for bringing down civilization as soon as possible, and I want to free myself from the chains of this culture as much as anybody, but I understand that it’s not something that can happen overnight. It’s a process – a journey – and it takes time, practice, patience and experience to give yourself the independence and knowledge required to live outside the system. I also understand why this is a hypocritical position to take, but for where I am in life right now, consistency isn’t the most important goal – trying to make the best with what I’ve got is. I’m not familiar with Murray Bookchin or his ideas, but a quick glance at his wikipedia has peaked my interest and I’ll check him out soon, thanks!

What do you do outside of the band? Do you have any views on what a life worth living should means? Do you all have day to day jobs? Are you involved in some kind of activism?

Drew: Outside of the band I really enjoy cooking, reading, writing, skateboarding, playing guitar, travelling, hiking and bike riding. I like being outdoors more than just about anything and try to explore new places and go hiking as much as possible. Right now, I have a pretty typical day job in a call center, but it’s not something I’m looking to do forever. It’s a way to make ends meet between tours.

I live a vegan lifestyle, which I consider to be a form of activism (though by no means is it the most I could be doing) and I’m planning on doing some volunteer work at local animal shelters this summer. I also help my mom and some of our friends gather and distribute clothing and household items to a local refugee center sometimes. I think a life worth living is a highly personal and individualized thing to say the least so I can only speak for myself here. To me, it’s about striving to give more than I take. So much of the culture I was born into is about taking, consuming, buying, etc. everything in this culture is about “me, me, me, me, me”. I feel like we’re taught to be unapologetically selfish, and that’s something I’ve been fighting against for years. Sometimes I find it really difficult to push back against tendencies that were deeply ingrained in how I was brought up especially given the fact that these tendencies are reinforced – and rewarded – by our culture constantly. Being vegan fits into this idea of giving more than taking for me; I see it as the best lifestyle choice possible while still living within the framework of this culture. It isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t solve every problem (in fact, it inherently creates some) but like so many aspects of living in this culture, it’s about making the best choice you have available.

Jason: A life worth living is not working a job.

Jonathan: I work in the theatre as a stagehand and a live sound engineer. I’m also an educated graphic designer, but I’m currently not doing much in the way of that field. When I’m not working, I try to spend time outside (when it’s not too hot out here in the deserts of Arizona) hiking and biking and travelling. I mostly focus on spending quality time with my friends and family and I’m really interested in music and film so I tend to watch a lot of movies and documentaries and listen to a lot of music. I feel like my life is always worth living even when it strays further and further from the ideal. I used to work really strenuous hours at my job (an average of 10 hours per day, 5/6 days a week) and my life was very very busy, but it was always worth living and I’ve always found happiness. I think there’s an important balance to living in this industrialized capitalist nation that’s important to find. Balancing the necessity to acquire some level of income with the desire to enjoy and experience as much of your life as possible (when it isn’t focused on that monetary necessity) has been an essential part of my livelihood. Over time, the scale will inevitably shift from one side to other, but it’s how and when that shift occurs that is what is important, for me. I’ve got a good balance going right now, but I feel like I’m always struggling with it to some degree.

Ian: Other than the band, I work full time as an auto mechanic. It’ not the greatest occupation (mostly due to working outside during AZ’s hellish summers), but it does have it’s advantages. It keeps our tour van in good running condition for relatively cheap, so that’s always a good thing. Other than that, I pretty much just watch a ton of movies (I’m a total Netflix junkie), hang out with friends, write music, and go to shows. I’m not currently involved with any activist groups here in AZ or elsewhere. Mostly due to a lack of time to devote to it. I attend protests and rallies when I can, but that’s really all I have had time for lately. Hopefully that will change soon. As for what a life worth living should mean… that’s a tough one. I think it should be different for each individual though. For me, it’s about trying to see and do as much as I can in my lifetime, and to reach the best understanding of the world around me as I possibly can. If I can make a mark somehow in the process, then I can die happy.

Do you believe there is such a thing as speciesism that is equal to racism or sexism? And what more there is to veganism than a consumer choice and lifestyle? How can you try to persuade someone that eating meat has anything to do with racism or class inequality?

Jason: First off, I want to preface that I don’t think there are expectations attached to “Veganism” besides consumer habits, and moreover really only dietary choices. I personally view veganism as a purely economic protest that is in direct defiance to this culture’s treatment of life. On this token veganism is just as much a product of this culture as the slaughter houses themselves. To say that meat eaters are “speciesist” and vegans are above this notion doesn’t make any sense to me. In fact, for the sake of argument, I’ll go as far as to say that veganism further places us outside of the food chain and above other scavengers such as ourselves. In the same respect, torturing and enslaving living creatures in the name of human progress is definitely speciesist in my book.

I would also like to point out that I feel there is no ethical way to consume another animal’s milk. Not only is it completely against nature, but to take the milk from an animal designed only for it’s young is nothing short of slavery in my book. I guess I didn’t really come through with persuasive arguments which I actually find really interesting. I’m just as confused as anyone else. I’m confident in my veganism and my decisions as an “activist” but am always questioning myself.

What’s the main focus on your lyrics, is it the struggle people face every day through the social and economic conditions they’re put in or it is the personal struggle of the individual?

Drew: There isn’t really a main focus to my lyrics, at least not consciously. They’re a form of expression for me, so they’re based primarily on my experiences, moods, and feelings. Oftentimes they branch out into broader ideas like those you mentioned, but at the end of the day, I write about what I know – and what I know about this world is derived from my perception of my place in it and what my five sense tell me about it. Lately, they’ve been much more personal than they have in the past. I recently went through some really painful personal growth; I took a long hard look in the mirror and didn’t like a lot of what I saw, so a lot of my lyrics have been about personal reconciliation. I think a lot of that will show on our upcoming LP. I’ve been trying to write from a much more emotional place than ever before as well. it’s a totally different feeling, at least for me. The lyrics aren’t as lengthy or wordy as they used to be – they’re more directly connected to the emotions they’re trying to convey rather than just trying to abstractly describe them.

In the past, I tackled a lot of issues “outside” of myself – namely political, social, and philosophical topics (I still struggle with these). People have said things like Run With The Hunted has “questionable primitivist politics” and while I find that humorous on the surface, I think it shows a real misunderstanding of what I’ve attempted to convey in my lyrics. When I talk about politics in a song, I’m attempting – above all else – to express my personal struggles with these ideals. The common perception is “oh, you’re in a band, you must have all the answers” or “if you’re expressing an idea/ideology, you must be pushing it on me and defending it.” That may be the case for bands who establish themselves for a specific political or ideological purpose from the beginning, but that has never been the goal in the Run With The Hunted. I’m just a confused kid looking for answers the same as anybody in this scene, or in this world even. Just because I get to be on stage with a microphone doesn’t mean I know it all; it doesn’t even mean you have to listen. It simply means, I’ve found the means and desire to say to the world “this is who I am, and this is how I feel.” All of this puts our band in a strange limbo. I don’t know if we’ll ever be “radical” enough for politically-motivated punk/hardcore kids and likewise, we probably appear “too” political for the average hardcore kid, which is a shame really; if anyone should have a political consciousness and be aware of counter-cultural ideas, I would think it would be someone involved in punk. But it’s been my experience that that’s simply not the case. So we remain stuck in the middle – which is actually OK by me too. I’ve spent my life trying not to fit a mold, trying not to be what other people want or expect me to be – why wouldn’t I carry that ideal through within the context of punk and hardcore? At the end of day, I think Run With The Hunted is a band with a political consciousness, but not a political agenda. I guess to some people it’s a clearer distinction than it is to others, but it’s just what works for us. It reflects how we feel as individuals, and how we operate as a band. It makes me really sad that there even has to be these rigid classifications on what bands “are” and I’m not trying to reinforce them here; but I’ve experienced them firsthand throughout the course of this band and thought it was worth addressing.

Is there anything interesting you have experienced when touring and you would like to talk about? How do your shows look like? Are you trying to be different than the average hardcore band when on stage and how would that be possible? Do you enjoy talking between the songs even if the crowd is not very enthusiastic about hearing talks about different issues that the band is trying to spread?

Ian: I can’t really say that there’s much that happens on tour that is out of the ordinary. Well, what I mean is that there aren’t any super crazy stories from the road that really come to mind. To be honest, our tours thus far have actually been pretty tame, sadly. Our shows vary in size. Most of them are usually at warehouses, basements/houses, or art spaces, but every once in a while we’ll squeeze our way on to a bigger show at a larger venue. We actually prefer playing smaller places. It is much more intimate and real, and we really feel like we connect with the people that are there. Larger venues can be fun in their own way, but I’ve always felt that they take quite a bit away from the experience. Especially when there’s a huge stage and the crowd is like 4 to 5 feet below you. It just doesn’t feel the same. As far as how we are on stage, I can only say that we do what comes natural to us. Some might think that we’re no different on stage than any other hardcore band, and some might think otherwise. It’s really all dependent on who you ask. We don’t go out of our way to be different in terms of “stage presence” but I think we do put everything we have into playing live, and that’s all we really strive to do. For us it’s all about reacting to the music while we play it. That way it remains honest and doesn’t turn into something fake or contrived. We always make a point to connect with the crowd though. Sometimes we do that through talking in between songs, and other times we just play and connect with them that way. Regardless of whether or not the crowd is receptive to what we have to say, if it’s something we feel we want to express that particular night, we’ll do so.

What is the most meaningful thing you have heard at a hardcore show? Is there any band that you’ve seen live and something what they said between the songs have strucked in your head?

Ian: There are so many that I don’t even know if I could pick just one. I’ve always enjoyed what Greg Bennik, Jake Bannon, and Chris Colohan have had to say the few times I have seen their bands. I know they’ve said things that made me think or moved me in some way, but at the risk of completely slaughtering their words… I’ll just leave it at that.

Jonathan: The most meaningful thing I’ve ever heard at a show came from Greg Bennick of Trial, but he wasn’t performing with Trial on this occasion. We were on the road with Swedish hardcore band Anchor travelling through the Northwestern United States at the time and our tour had brought us up to Vancouver, B.C.. Greg lives in Seattle, Washington, but we were lucky enough to see him on this night because he was in Vancouver recording for his newest musical project called Between Earth and Sky. The show was going really well and Anchor was putting on a great show (they have such an energetic live show, I was lucky to have toured with them and watched them play every night). All the sudden, Cleas (Anchor’s vocalist) asks Greg to take the mic and sing a Trial song with them. Greg agreed and took the mic and started up with a seemingly impromptu speech. I’ll never forget the way those words made me feel. Greg imparted his feelings to us about the cover they were about to perform and about the way you truly embody your pursuits and take ownership of your lives, whatever it/they may be. To the best of my memory, his words went something like this, “for this time and in this room, this is yours. right now. This music is yours and these words are yours. When you play a Trial song, it’s no longer a Trial song, it’s your song. You own it.” He continued by paralleling his sentiments, in regards to hardcore music, with the ownership of your communities and political/humane movements therein. His words washed over the room with such an inspiring empowerment and I carry them with me to this day.

How’s the DIY hardcore scene in your area? Are there a lot of people sharing your views about the hardcore scene and politics?

Jason: The DIY music scene is actually really strong in Phoenix, AZ. Kids are booking house shows 5 days a week, there are multiple zines floating around at any given point, and we are bordering on the point of too many local bands. We really do have some great bands though. My personal favorites are Andrew Jackson Jihad, Smokus Pokus, Royal Monsters, Red Son, Steven Steinbrink, Chandails, Naïve, and Mouth of Man. Radical politics are present but essentially unspoken. It seems that the general consensus at this point is “Apathetic and proud of it”. While this is a hard pill for me to swallow, I completely relate and understand it. I constantly need to keep reminding myself how important the small changes can be at the most fundamental levels.

Future plans for the band? What do you want to achieve in the near the future?

Jonathan: Well, we’re currently finishing up writing our next release, which will be our debut full length. We’re set to record this summer and it looks like we’re in line for a Fall release which is really exciting. We don’t have an announcement with release details yet, but should have everything wrapped up and announced in the next few months. Right now, we’re ironing out the tracks and preparing for our upcoming recording session with Cory Spotts of Blue Light Audio here in Phoenix, Arizona. This next release looks to be a strong follow up to our previous EP Destroy All Calendars (which we released with the California, U.S. record label Glory Kid Records; it can also be found on our collection, titled Everything Familiar, which we released with Refoundation Records). If we stay on schedule, with a fall release, we’ll tour the United States for the rest of 2010 and we’re currently working on a possible European tour in the Spring of 2011. We’ve been planning a European tour for years now, so it’d be such a wonderful feeling to finally see it happen. Whatever the future holds, ultimately we started Run with the Hunted to write and play music together. We’ve grown and learned together as fellow musicians and, more importantly, as friends. We may not like to admit it very often but as a group can accomplish so much more then we ever could apart. Our goal from the beginning has always been to push ourselves to take our band, emotionally and musically, as far as we’re capable and to never settle for anything less then our full potential. We only hope that, when this record is recorded and released, we’ve kept up our end of that goal and given you all a record that you can embrace and take strength from the way we intended.

Mittens XVX

Positive person bringing a small fragment of warmth and light in a dark and cold world. Editor of Tigersuit Zine. Founder of DIY Conspiracy webzine. Contact him at: mitkoxvx@gmail.com