Chris Rouse: The Vegan Straight Edge, 7 Generations, Life & Politics
An in-depth interview with 7 Generations' singer Chris Rouse
Being largely inspired and empowered by their music and message, interviewing 7 Generations before they split up was a must do, so I’ve sent my questions via email to both Chris Rouse (singer) and Adrian Castillo (Guitar player) when I’ve heard they are calling it quits. However, Crhis replied me with answers to questions that I’ve never sent to him. It turned out that these were the interview questions emailed to him by The Only Way I Know How Zine and he had lost mine. Here I’m posting Chris’s answers to that interview (beware, it’s the longest interview you’ll ever read!) XVX
As a vegan straight edge kid what is your stance on abortion? Does it seem contradictory to you if a pro-life or anti-choice stance is taken in the vegan and/or straight edge communities or at least in the hardcore scene at large?
Chris: I am ardently pro-choice and this is one of the issues in which I am most personally invested. I would not say that the pro-life/anti-choice perspective is contradictory when viewed through the prism of veganism or straightedge. It is just horrendously misinformed and this problem is exacerbated by the tendency for kids within the vegan straightedge to get their information on the issue solely from Hardline literature, which is both a dubious source of information and philosophically bankrupt.
Fortunately the numbers of people within the hardcore scene naïve enough to buy into this ridiculous movement are shrinking on a rapid scale. Hardline, rivaled only by conservative Christians, indulges itself in a wildly inaccurate framing of the debate by using tremendously loaded words that only hold meaning when utilized within an Abrahamic religious context. At every step of the way in both the religious Right’s and Hardline’s case against abortion rights they make their case by building upon the exceedingly dubious foundation of “ensoulment;” the notion that a personified essence is extant within a fertilized egg from the earliest moment of conception which is somehow morally relevant, and eternally so, and expands from this purely speculative and fantastical basis to then accord to a fetus nomenclatures that are obviously inaccurate. An example of this inaccurate bestowment would be the frequently utilized and banal proclamation that abortion is the “murder of an innocent child.”
It is quite obvious that we could dismiss the term “innocent” immediately because it evokes far too many dogmas that are themselves philosophically sophomoric. Anyone not beholden to Abrahamic morality would be wise not to avail themselves of this term in this context. The appearance of “murder” is also philosophically questionable, not to the extent to which “innocent” would be, but still so problematic when applied to the fetus as to be undesirable in an honest debate. This brings us to the third flaw in this five word fragment: the usage of the word “child.”
This accords to the fetus a status which it has not yet attained, that of a birthed and vital individual life, and a status which it may not attain given the commonality of complications during all stages of pregnancy that result in miscarriage. Invariably when putting forth a case against abortion rights, pro-life/anti-choice advocates will parade out such flawed and imprecise sloganeering and whether or not the individual advocate adheres to the most orthodox notions of ensoulment or would balk at the idea, the meat of their position rests upon speculative spiritualizing and the conspicuous errors that take root in Biblical or Qur’anic perspectives that have not evolved since the bronze age and the medieval age, respectively. In nearly every case, a philosopher that has striven to augment the intellectual merit of pro-life/anti-choice on secular terms has failed and either abandoned the effort as fruitless or found his or herself in need of a vast alteration of his or her perspective.
Even respectable philosophers thought of as the lions of the pro-life/anti-choice movement, such as Don Marquis, have found themselves worked into a philosophical corner from which there is no secular escape. Those individuals who accord to the fetus the privilege of being likened to non-human animals for the purpose of trying to force some sort of symmetry between veganism and the anti-choice movement are doing the animals a great disservice. A fetus is a life wholly dependent on the pregnant woman for survival. A fetus is not its own individual life YET, at the stages during which that lion’s share of abortions occur it does not have self-concepts, it is not conscious, it cannot communicate, it cannot reason. These are all morally relevant criteria and what makes the likening of animals and fetuses so insidious is that these are all traits possessed by all animals oppressed by the factory farming industry and the vast, vast majority of animals mutilated by the vivisection industry. By trying to establish a link between the fetus and animals these supposed defenders of the “natural order” greatly diminish the ethical individuality and relevance of animals for the anthropocentric purposes of defending an antiquated and delusional perspective of a POTENTIAL human.
Furthermore, these individuals attempt to claim that abortion is something that occurs only within technological, city-building civilization. Again, they are completely wrong and misinformed. Terminations of pregnancies have been observed within a great many tribal cultures as well as non-human animals such as wolves, apes, various aquatic mammals and others through myriad techniques. Abortion has long been a practice within the fecund community, a practice that predates the religions that themselves emerged from the very domesticated, technological civilizations they criticize. One can find a vast and brilliant array of defenses of abortion rights all over the philosophical world. This information is so broad and potent that I feel it would not be a successful effort to summarize it all within this interview, especially given that the question specifically addressed those aspects which were relevant to the vegan and/or straightedge cultures, but nevertheless I feel I must at least point one in the right direction in finding this material.
Peter Singer has addressed this issue effectively and compellingly on numerous occasions, one may wish to consult his works such as Practical Ethics or Writings on an Ethical Life, amongst others. Mary Anne Warren’s essay “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” is a fantastic piece of work philosophically defending abortion. In this essay, Warren lays out the concept of “personhood” as being that which is necessary to lay legitimate claim to moral rights and makes the assertion that personhood is roughly defined by five approximate traits (consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the capacity to communicate, and the presence of self-concepts,) traits which deny the personhood of some humans (such as those individuals in comas who have had their sentience completely and irretrievably destroyed) and accord personhood to the vast majority of animals while acknowledging that one day the fetus may become a person that possesses these traits and thusly may lay claim to a right, but does not at any stage during which abortion is legal. Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” is also a very vital essay.
What brand of shirts does the band use for its merch and how does the band feel about and address the issue of labor rights, if at all?
Chris: I feel as though this is an issue severely overlooked in hardcore despite its gross contradictions within the scene. I agree that the issue of labor rights is tragically absent from the popular discourse of the hardcore scene. 7 Generations has always addressed labor rights, beginning with our first show and persistently ever since. The song “Slave Trade” addresses the issue of globalization and its subsequent manifestations in organizations such as the W.T.O., F.T.A.A., World Bank and I.M.F. I feel that the issue of labor rights is absolutely central, if not primary, in any discussion about globalization.
Furthermore, all the members of 7 Generations have been publically outspoken about the rights of workers to unionize and the necessity of international labor standards to be improved, augmented and enforced throughout the world, including our own nation (which ranked 3 lowest amongst the industrial nations of the western and northern hemispheres in terms of compliance with international labor standards.) 7 Generations has used a number of different companies shirts, all of which were checked out before hand for adherence to labor standards. We currently use Gildan shirts, which is the shirt of choice for our screening company, Hellfish. The owner of Hellfish has researched Gildan fairly thoroughly and is quite willing and capable of answering questions in regards to the company’s labor practices. He can be contacted at www.fuckhellfish.com
What would you say to someone that said it takes just as much faith to believe in atheism as it does to believe in a god or higher power, regardless of what religion it is associated with?
Chris: I would say there is a fundamental failure to understand the nature of atheism inherent in such a question. Atheism, in contrast to any sort of religion, is not something someone believes in because there is a set of doctrines and dogmas available that one must become intimate with and adhere to in order to be an atheist. Atheism is rather a statement that one is not compelled by any of the notions of god or gods that have been promulgated throughout the ages, there need be no further statement on the subject, one need not claim to know that the “Big Bang” created the universe or what happens after you die. Some atheists do this, but that is a result of the individual’s sometimes inappropriate sense of certitude, not atheism itself.
Atheism simply says there is no reason to believe in god that is good enough to make palatable the completely fantastical and outlandish claims that religions make. Consider the most prominent religion in the west: Christianity. Is there anything about the experience of living that makes it likely that a man was born to a virgin when there is no objective record or credible erudite source to vouch for such an occurrence? So far as can be discovered, such a thing has never happened. So does it take as much faith to say “I think this never happened,” as to say “Yes, the virgin birth was real?” Absolutely not! As Carl Sagan once offered when paraphrasing a colleague “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Yet we have no such extraordinary evidence of any such thing ever occurring and this is not even the most fantastic claim made by Christianity. We do not even have mildly compelling evidence that may potentially suggest that this could have happened.
So conversely, claims of such nature require no evidence to dismiss because the onus is upon those who make the claim to defend it and effectively advocate it, not those upon whose ears it falls to find proper reason to dismiss it. One of the most quintessential features of theists is the tendency to proclaim knowledge of some divine metaphysical “reality” when in fact such knowledge is completely absent and at best one is functioning on intuition, but more likely socialization. In order to be an atheist one must not make claims to know what they do not know, they may simply assert that one does not believe in what is purely speculative. This flaw in perception is quite common to theists in that consistently, if you read some of the works of modern religious apologists, you will find that theists succumb to viewing atheism through the theistic prism, but there is an entire separate paradigm at work that makes any such assertation crucially flawed. Essentially, the rebuttal to such an argument would be that not all claims are equally meretricious. Religion has not the intellectual merit to stand on equal footing with doubt.
What are you going to school for, how far along are you and what do you plan on doing with your education after schooling is completed?
Chris: I am going to school in order to eventually receive my doctorate and become a history professor. I am approximately half way through this process as of the summer of 2009.
Do you have any plans, musical and non-musical, after 7 Generations is done?
Chris: My vision for my post-7gen life is to finish school and hopefully become a history professor. Other than that, I plan on doing a zine again; it has been about 11 years since I did one last. I have gotten in contact with a couple of people and we are speaking of doing a much more low-level band than 7 Generations has been with a strong anti-theist and DIY ethic that would be musically influenced largely by the likes of Bloodlet, Kiss it Goodbye and Nineironspitfire.
Do any of the other members of 7 Generations have any particular plans after the band is done?
Chris: There are various plans, but none so set in stone as to be able to attest to them publically and I would hate to put any sort of stumbling block in their way by misrepresenting them. Undoubtedly Adrian, Kevan and Nicholas will all do another band eventually. Tim will likely continue his work with the Animal Rights movement (obviously within a legal capacity). Kevan is attending school full time, Nicholas is working on some projects with various socialist political parties and considering running for office in some capacity, Adrian is a body-piercer and I am not sure if he has any articulable ambitions beyond that at the moment.
In “Endymion” what are you getting at with that song?
Chris: That song was written for a number of reasons, the most salient of which being the literal meaning most prevalent in the lyrics which is the overwhelming feeling of isolation by which I am continuously haunted. I struggle against this feeling and strive to establish relationships that can be something more than transient, but it seems nearly invariably that I end up alienating the people in my life and find myself seemingly alone again and again. I wrote this song when this Sisyphean relationship with isolation returned after a period of what, at the time, felt like my most ardent and dire efforts to offer the individuals in my life something worth holding on to, but those efforts failed and I was facing losing someone very important to me.
So, essentially the song is somewhat of a jeremiad, lamenting my own social, emotional and familial short comings. I am sure you have noticed that apolitical, personal songs are anything but the calling card of seven generations, so this song naturally stands out as somewhat of an oddity that might require some explaining in terms of why on earth I thought anyone needed to know about how I was feeling about my relationships. I am of the opinion that there is an unnecessary dichotomy between political hardcore and emotional hardcore that is an understandable result of the overabundance of emotional hardcore existing simultaneously as a near complete vacuum of political hardcore. It seems every single band wants to press their diary onto CD format, but nearly nobody is willing to extend themselves beyond their own solipsistic existence and begin to struggle for others.
Quite obviously I too find this situation regrettable, but I find it additionally regrettable that the resulting effect of this commonality causes political hardcore kids to feel as though there is no room for emotional expression and to do so is to relent to frivolity. There is no doubt that balance is a difficult thing to achieve, but I would stress that in this situation it behooves all of us to find an appropriate balance between being politically outspoken and emotionally available. One of the benefits of political hardcore enjoying a degree of reunification with emotional hardcore would be that the hyper-masculine posturing that is so prevalent in hardcore would in some way be at least mildly diminished within political circles and we could perhaps become willing as a culture to admit our own vulnerability, which I would say possesses a great deal more potential for creating a vital counter-culture than the previously mentioned stale and banal, pride-based masculinity. In terms of how this song has played out for seven generations supporters, I would say that it has pleasantly surprised me how much this particular song means to them and I think it adds a nice touch of dynamism to our existence because it allows pissed off political hardcore kids a moment to also vent personal frustrations. I am quite pleased with what this song has initiated at our shows.
A final brief side note on this song: The title is a reference to a poem by John Keats. I titled this song thusly because of my perception of having similar feelings about it as Keats had about his poem “Endymion.” Keats labored long and hard on this particular piece of his verse and upon completion knew that it was far from his best work, but it occupied a certain place of importance to him because of the effort it represented. When I had finished the lyrics to this song I felt as though it was anything but my strongest lyrics, but it represented a difficult effort for me, which was the effort to extend my own vulnerability to the hardcore scene, and thusly this song was quite important to me, so in homage to Keats I named it after his much maligned poem.
What are some sources of information on feminism and labor rights that you find particularly important to read?
Chris: For my personal tastes books are the best source of information because, though they require a great deal more effort and thusly are not available on more casual levels, authors are really given the room to spread their literary wings and afford themselves references to any of the vast sources of information in their wealth of knowledge, where pamphlets or even magazines would only afford a more cursory look at the issue. As for websites, I simply have difficulty abiding by the idea of informing oneself entirely through such an unreliable source of information, but nevertheless any search of feminist run websites will undoubtedly give one a thorough introduction to the relevant issues. My favorite authors on the subject of feminism are radical authors such as Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon or bell hooks.
I know many men allow themselves to indulge in feeling alienated when it comes to the views expressed by these women, but I feel that the onus is upon men to persistently endeavor to unlearn patriarchal lessons even well beyond the point of initial comfort because that comfort is afforded to us by the very same paradigm that denies women absolutely essential comforts. Also, for those who are already involved in animal rights/liberation who want to understand how patriarchy mutually oppresses animals and women The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams is an enlightening read.
Pick a book (fiction or non fiction) and go into detail about what you love about it and why people should read it in your opinion.
Chris: One of my absolutely favorite pieces of literature is A Discourse on Inequality by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau precisely articulates so many of the dire problems inherent in domesticated, city building civilization and does so from the position of a citizen of Geneva during the 1700’s. His diagnosis of the problems that plague civilized living and the ways in which they will continue to grow and metastatically affect all peripheral realms is absolutely visionary. Certainly there are more explicit indictments of civilization written by contemporary authors, but I find it exceedingly lamentable that within, our counter-culture, so little attention is paid to classic philosophers and classic authors. Rousseau, being one of the most influential, respected and radical philosophers of all time, should be familiar to absolutely every activist, anarchist, communist, vegan, primitivist, etc. There are three particular moments within the text by which I was absolutely floored:
The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The next being the quotation selected for “The Rising of the Sun” in the liner notes of “To See The End”:
I know that [civilized men] do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in their chains…. But when I see [barbarous man] sacrifice pleasures, repose, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and despising captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Those first two quotations are somewhat notorious, but the next one, which I find most potent, seems to fly under the radar for the majority of those familiar with Rousseau. In fact, Dustin from Gather is the only other person I have ever known to be aware of this passage, but it is very relevant to the struggle of ecocentrists and is especially accessible being that it is part of the introduction:
O Man, to whatever country you belong and whatever your opinions, listen: here is your history as I believe I have read it, not in the books of your fellow men who are liars but in Nature which never lies. Everything which comes from her will be true; there will be nothing false except that which I have intermixed, unintentionally, of my own. The times of which I am going to speak are very remote- how much you have changed from what you were! It is, so to say, the life of your species that I am going to describe, in the light of the qualities which you once received and which your culture and your habits have been able to corrupt but not able to destroy. There is, I feel, an age at which the individual would like to stand still; you are going to search for the age at which you would wish your whole species had stood still. Discontented with your present condition for reasons which presage for your unfortunate posterity even greater discontent, you will wish perhaps you could go backwards in time- and this feeling must utter the eulogy of your first ancestors, the indictment of your contemporaries, and the terror of those who have the misfortune to live after you.Jean-Jacques Rousseau
What are some of your favorite vegan foods?
Chris: Anything with nutritional yeast, pad Thai, green papaya salad, pineapple coconut juice or young coconut water
Any thoughts on SXE and or vegan clothing companies?
Chris: Haha, I would say that some come up with tasteful designs, but the vast majority give me the idiot shivers. The hyper-masculine posturing and pseudo-militaristic perspectives are simply too belligerent for me to bear and do more of a disservice to our culture by encouraging the most petty manifestations of straightedge to become the most readily represented. Anything related to any sort of “Bring Back Prohibition” sentiments has absolutely NOTHING to do with the straightedge that I have found. So some clothing companies come up with some good designs but most are like a bad laxative, they just don’t move me (or perhaps they are like a very effective laxative, they make my stomach hurt and cause me to want to barf out of my ass.)
What have you learned from being in this band?
Chris: All it takes is effort. There was virtually no vegan straightedge scene to speak of in southern California, when 7 Generations started. Since our inception we have been fortunate enough to communicate with a surprisingly large, given our relative obscurity, number of people who credit our efforts with why they became vegan, straightedge, feminist, anarchist, involved in political action, etc. These movements were virtually non-existent in the so.cal. straightedge scene (except straightedge, obviously) prior to our formation and now are a vital part of the actual underground scene. I am not saying we are solely responsible for this change, simply that we have been fortunate enough to be a part of it and thusly, I have learned that if one attempts to give to hardcore as much as they have gained from it, this community can and will improve and progress.
What is one challenge and one highlight you can recall from playing in this band?
Chris: The challenges have been myriad. I know that when trying to pigeon hole us or create a strawman out of our band it has been a popular tactic to refer to us as “rich white kids,” but we are anything but rich (or even financially secure, for that matter) and the limitations of being a D.I.Y. band comprised of broke individuals has been quite trying. We absolutely would not have done it any other way, we have eschewed support from any corporate sources at every turn, but we certainly would have been able to tour a lot more if we had not been essentially poor (this is especially true for the other four members of the band. I am the least financially burdened out of the members of 7 Generations, and I am simply a full time student from a family financially supported by a public school teacher, which is the most drastically under-paid profession in America.)
However, I believe, as does the rest of the band, that any additional efforts that could have been made with the benefit of corporate support would have vitiated our message so greatly as to have completely nullified the purpose. 7 Generations always has been and will always be a D.I.Y. and underground band. The highlights of being in 7 Generations have also been myriad, perhaps too great to enumerate. There has been so much about doing this band that has been fulfilling, inspiring and surprising that I struggle to find one example to cite. I would have to say though, that the most general highlight of being in 7 Generations has been the amount of times women have come to us and told us that we were the only band that they felt comfortable supporting and taking part in. Of course I wish we were not the only band, but the fact that we have had the opportunity to provide for women an outlet in the hardcore scene that they did not have otherwise, or to open them up to a community within hardcore in which they could have support and expression otherwise lacking, has been perhaps the most meaningful part of doing this band for me. Hardcore is so lamentably androcentric and hyper-masculine, I am very grateful to have helped provide an alternative.
Where did you grow up and how has that affected who you are today?
Chris: I grew up in San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point, in south Orange County, CA. The main way I would say that this environment has affected me is that I am immensely wedded to a desire to be near the ocean. When I am in a landlocked area I feel as though I lose my sense of self and I begin to feel trapped and panicked. I know that sounds ridiculous and privileged, and there is no doubt that both are true. But I love the ocean and I thrive on my proximity to it. The ocean has been my source of spiritual fulfillment and the center from which I gain composure. 15. Can you please tell some South County folklore? I don’t know if this necessarily counts as folklore since I can directly attest to the authenticity of this story, but one of my favorite south county fun facts is that the father of one of my friends was one of the main creators of the raw organic vegan food bar. What isn’t known to anyone not immediately familiar with this man, is that he is an ultra-conservative, nationalist Christian. You know the type, the ones who want to overthrow the government for being too liberal and secular. One of the times I went over to said individuals house he was cleaning his automatic weapons while watching Trinity Broadcasting Network (an evangelical mega-church television channel) and assembling gas-masks. Who would have guessed?
What are some of the things you do outside of the band?
Chris: By far and away the most fulfilling endeavor in my life is surfing, there is really no way to describe what surfing does for my life other than to say that it offers me a tranquility and solace that I am completely incapable of achieving otherwise. I go to school full time, as previously mentioned. I spend a lot of time reading about religious history and studying the Torah, the Tanakh, the Qur’an and the Gospels. Of course, record collecting and Morrissey obsessing are frequent and persistent activities. I also spend a lot of time with my family.
What are you reading right now?
Chris: I am reading a biography of my favorite poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, called Being Shelley. To me, Shelley is an endlessly fascinating individual and exceedingly inspiring. He was so very, very radical, compassionate, passionate and self-sacrificing and beyond all of that his poetry is absolutely resplendent, when I read his words I feel as though the English language was created to give the word the works of Shelley. For those seven generations supporters unfamiliar with Shelley, I cannot possibly recommend his poetry enough and additionally, he was an ardent vegetarian, feminist, atheist and approximately an anarchist. This is all very impressive considering he died at the age of 29 in 1822.
Tell me about an individual that has impacted your life more so than others?
Chris: My Mother and Father are unrivaled in their impact on my life. Obviously this sounds banal and trite, but if you knew my parents or were to speak to any who did know them, it would make sense. They have been so unbelievably supportive, loving, encouraging and influential on me that I cannot properly portray their import. It will have to suffice to say that if there is anything good about me, it is simply due to the fact that I may mildly reflect the brilliant light cast by my parents.
Do you have a favorite author?
Chris: I would say my favorite author beyond all others is Percy Bysshe Shelley. His poetry and his prose are brilliant sources of illumination within the darkness. Outside of poetry, I would say my favorite author of fiction would most likely be Herman Melville, but I do have a great love for many of Shakespeare’s works (i.e. Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest,) and I have loved the books I have read from Robert McLiam Wilson, especially Eureka Street. In terms of non-fiction, which is by far the most common variety of reading in which I indulge myself, I would say that Peter Singer, Noam Chomsky, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are all very dear to me, though Chomsky doesn’t write books so frequently as he complies interviews and Harris and Hitchens both occasionally express an idea which I simply cannot abide. I have a greater deal of emotionally attachment to Chomsky and Rousseau than I can readily explain.
Is there a current issue you feel more passionate about than others?
Chris: Because of my emotional connection to the ocean, I would say that the most emotionally significant issue for me is preservation and protection of the aquatic biosphere. Seeing the pollution of the ocean, the degradation of the ocean floor or the murder of aquatic life seers my spirit in a unique way, a way that perhaps is most dire to my mind.
What are some ways in which you embrace denial?
Chris: Despite our best efforts, I think almost all humans struggle to truly accept the fact that no matter what occurs, we will all die. I am no different.
What role does television play in your life and what are some of the sources you like to get your news from?
Chris: I mainly get my news from the BBC, which I know is not necessarily the most radical of sources, but it is an essential facet of the mainstream perspective of what is occurring in the world and to properly relate to, debate with or understand others, one must have some sort of idea of how reality appears to those within the mainstream. This reason is also why I do not think it is a good idea never to watch television. If one watches television with a skeptical and critical eye, one can gain a crucial insight into the mindset of mainstream society that is absolutely vital in engaging these individuals. I don’t want to imply that the only reason I watch TV is for activism, I won’t lie, I enjoy a number of TV shows for no higher purpose than entertainment and escapism, but I keep a vigilant mindset and make sure that I do not allow myself to become enthralled by or delusional about TV’s role in my life.
Why, in your opinion, is it important to include explanations, quotes and further insight into the song’s lyrics in liner notes as well as express feelings about song meanings and other issues between songs live?
Chris: I have seen such a great many hardcore bands rely on the notion that the music should hook kids and then when the kids open the lyric book or memorize the lyrics themselves, they will be presented with radical ideas that will change their perspective and inspire them to further delve into the issues and become further educated. After witnessing this tactic fail so completely for the 14 or 15 years I have been involved in hardcore, I simply do not have any faith in this notion. I do not have any negative judgments of bands that utilize this particular praxis, in fact, I have a great amount of respect for any hardcore band espousing radical egalitarian values. I simply know that for my particular endeavor, I am not satisfied with this tactic. The reason for my skepticism is this that I have noticed a persistent tendency for hardcore kids not to delve into the issues at all.
I have noticed that, for the most part, hardcore kids don’t even open a lyric book or even have one in the first place. The hardcore scene has become so very over populated that many of the people in this community have no interest whatsoever in extending themselves beyond their own existence and will read nothing more compelling than the Bridge 9 and write nothing more heartfelt than LOL or GTFO in whatever text message appears on their apparently enthralling sidekick. How else could a band like Verse, a fantastic band with fantastic lyrics, have so many absolutely normal kids at their shows, buying their shirts, listening to their records, unless most kids in the hardcore scene are absolutely committed to ignoring the message and desirous of nothing more vital than exciting music to rock out to. I have seen an individual wearing a Verse shirt who I empirically know to have beaten his wife.
This is in no way Verse’s fault, Sean puts great effort into their lyrics, he makes sure there are recommended sources of information in their records, he has spoken passionately and radically live, yet most kids who listen to Verse that I have come across have no idea what a truly radical and important band they are listening to because to them, it is simply just music. I never want this to be something kids can do with 7 Generations (which is not to say that Sean wanted that for Verse. As I said, he has fought good and hard to make Verse a valuable band and he has been successful in a great many cases,) so I have attempted to make 7 Generations a band that is so explicitly that we cannot be experienced in any capacity that allows our message to be subordinated. If someone comes to a 7 Generations show and has hostile or condescending views of women, they are not going to be able to experience our band without having those views confronted and denounced.
When someone sees 7 Generations, they are not going to be able to walk away without knowing our causes and views. If someone listens to 7 Generations, the lyrics are going to be explicit so that when they are heard the message is clear. If someone opens the 7gen lyric book, they are going to find our own writings, accompanied by the writings of individuals far more important than ourselves, advocating the various views we promulgate. Music is not, in and of itself, a counter-culture. Any sound can be marketed, hardcore is no exception. We can only keep ourselves from being bought and sold if we refuse to become so passive that our ideals are nebulous. For every step the mainstream takes through the door of the underground we should greet it with a gigantic effort to shove them out 5 steps back.
How do you live your life with the goal of being as compassionate and conscious of a consumer as possible in regards to the products impact on the environment and the workers making the products you purchase?
Chris: Conscious consumerism is important in my opinion, not because it has an important or meaningful impact on the market place, which it may, but I don’t think that option is likely enough to influence my opinion. Rather I think it is important to boycott and abstain from certain products because of the personal emotional significance that the effort has to the individual. It is important for a person to be able to feel as though they have tried and are trying to separate themselves from the objectifying culture of atrocity, though this separation may not be very objectively significant.
Atrocity is ubiquitous in our civilization and to have a conscience and to be guided by high minded ethics is honorable, but unfortunately inescapably hypocritical. There is no pure lifestyle in this civilization. One should not expect perfection from themselves or anyone else, but effort is certainly important, if for no reason other than it provides an individual with a reason to keep trying, feeling and learning. Whether or not you or I buy Old Spice or a steak or Nike products likely has no effect on capitalism as a whole, or possibly even on a small scale, but it is a meaningful choice to try to do something, even if that something is impotent. Anyone who is trying, even in small ways such as consumer choices, is doing a great deal more than the cultural paradigm encourages and thusly deserves support from even mildly like-minded individuals. I believe we should be supportive of one another’s efforts, rather than self-righteous and divisive. If someone is at the point in his or her life where their efforts are simply to buy supposedly “green” products, I am glad they are making the effort, even if it has no good results on a large scale. 26. What would you say to someone who does not think HC/punk should be political and that HC kids shouldn’t take themselves too seriously? I would say that much of this question was somewhat addressed in question 24, but a little more can be elaborated on without being too redundant.
To aforementioned people I would say that hardcore, as a culture, makes a great many pretentious claims to being more meaningful than other cultures. This is fairly ubiquitous in the hardcore scene. If this claim is to be meaningful then the onus is on the hardcore scene to live up to such a claim. There is certainly room in the hardcore scene for songs about heartbreak, backstabbing friends and vapid pressure because these emotions are all a part of life, but hardcore needs to be more vital and progressive than being restricted to these feelings which, in all honesty, are not unique to anyone in the world. These feelings are the main concern of 7th grade boys and every aggressive, privileged automaton in the world and they cannot be the main concern of hardcore if hardcore is to truly be a radical, unique and meaningful culture. So I would say to these people, it is fine if you don’t want hardcore to be radical, but if that is the case then you should cease to claim that your version of hardcore is anything important or unique, because if it is not radical, it is just heavy music and heavy music does not mean anything at all.
What is one of your insecurities? (This is a huge question I realize and I hope you’ll feel comfortable enough divulging some personal shortcomings.)
Chris: One of my biggest insecurities is the aforementioned apprehension about my personality inevitably alienating people that I hold dear. That is quite a persistent theme for me and I struggle with it often. I would also say that I have a fair degree of sexual insecurity. One of my earliest partners was terribly emotionally abusive, and while I understand what said person was going through and had been through in order to make her act in such a way and I have moved beyond the point of having any sort of judgments about her, the experience had a lasting effect on me and has manifested in some ways that I wouldn’t have immediately expected. Mostly the entire issue has to do with a fear of competency that causes me to cleave toward long, self-imposed periods of celibacy and solitude.
I think I have always been somewhat of an outsider when it comes to any sort of erotic activity. I would imagine that some of this is due to the metastatic effects of having been Christian at one point in my life and how ever-present hatred of the human body and any form of physical affection is within that religion, not to mention that guilt attached to such a natural human inclination. Also, I would say that part of it likely stems from my irritation at an early age of how sex-obsessed many of my peers were and my reaction to said irritation was to behave in such a way that I felt I didn’t resemble those people at all. Don’t get me wrong, I am no monk and I have no negative views of sexual discovery, I am simply saying that I struggle with the subject and have a good deal of fear attached to it.
What keeps you waking up every morning?
Chris: When all is said and done, despite the struggle of existence and any existential frustrations, I love life, I love living, I love the people in my life and I love where I live. No matter how hopelessly fucked everything is, I am fortunate enough to still find enjoyment and meaning in my existence and that keeps me excited about life.
Tell me about some of the jobs you’ve had?
Chris: Hahaha, oh goodness, how embarrassing for me! My first job, when I was 17 was working at a candy store in the mall. A good friend of mine was the manager and I had just been kicked out of school for good, so I needed a job post-haste. There was most definitely a degree of political frustration with working there, being that the vast majority of candy was not vegan and so I was being forced to sell products of animal exploitation all day. I felt horrible about this job and soon quit. The next job I had was working at a beauty supply shop. This job was awful because there were nearly no customers ever, but I was not allowed to be idle or read so I consistently had to occupy myself with some seemingly productive activity. Eventually what I did at that job was look into each products ingredients and whether or not they had been animal tested, once I did that I made sure that the products that were not vegan were never recommended or sold, haha. After that I briefly had a job with some scam telemarketing company. I worked there with 14 of my best friends at the time and it was still so shitty.
From then on out I worked at a number of piercing shops around South County until I went back to school several years ago. The piercing shops were cool to work at minus the ridiculous petty bickering that transpires between people who work in body modification shops together. It is such a static environment that, I suspect, people create drama between one another simply to have some sort of stimuli. I have been lucky though, no hard manual labor or formal dress codes. My heart goes out to workers less fortunate than myself, haha. As Thoreau once warned “…beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Additionally, if you have the fond circumstances, avoid all jobs that stifle your ambitions for your hair, because as Morrissey stated “I do maintain that if your hair is wrong, your entire life is wrong.”
What are some of your personal obstacles and goals? (outside of the band)
Chris: So far as goals are concerned, outside of the more transcendental goals of achieving nirvana and saving the world obviously, I would like to lead a life that I feel is meaningful in some way. This meaning doesn’t really have to have significance for the entire world, just the people in my life. I want to be a good son, partner, and friend to the people in my life who call me by those names. I want to try to help contribute as much to the hardcore scene as it has contributed to my life. I want to keep surfing and loving the ocean. I want to become a history professor and upset all the precious little neoconservative Christian collegiate twerps in Orange County. I am fairly fortunate in that the only obstacles in my way are somewhat run of the mill financial problems typical of the lower-middle class, but at this moment, I feel fairly unhindered.
What song affects you the most and why?
Chris: If it’s too hard to narrow down pick a song that affects you in a way unique from the others. Though I prefer solo Morrissey to The Smiths, and though I have songs that rank higher on my list of favorites, the song the affects me the most would have to be “Asleep” on the b-side of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” single by The Smiths. This was the first piece of music I heard after my Grandmother died. Her passing was very difficult for me because she was my best friend and she was quite healthy until 81 when she began to die slowly. Over the course of a year my mother and I, especially my mother, took care of her and watched her die bit by bit.
The day she passed I put on the aforementioned song so that I would not be able to mask or evade the emotional pain I was feeling. For obvious reasons, if you are familiar with the song, that piece of music always brought me to tears and in this particular moment I wanted to be forced to dwell on death and sorrow so that I wouldn’t dilute myself into believing a false reality. It may sound masochistic but the way of dealing with emotional distress that has always served me well has been to focus on it and feel it as deeply and completely as possible and in doing so I come to acknowledge and understand whatever is tormenting me much more quickly. This song had a great role in creating that situation in this instance.