An interview with Adrian Castillo, guitar player in 7 Generations that was conducted via email shortly before the band has called it quits.
Let’s start with an introduction to your band. When and why form the band and why choose the name 7 Generations? Adrian, you were also in Wait In Vain, what about this band?
Adrian: Seven Generations formed in 2003. The main focus of the band was to raise awareness about issues such as veganism, sexism, racism, homophobia, and radical politics in the hardcore scene. I can attest to the fact that there were little to no bands as blatantly politically motivated as Seven Generations and if there were, they definitely were not as controversial as this band. The scene was close to dead (in the political sense). I remember my first interaction with Chris, he came up to me at a show with a 7 Generations demo and he told me it’s his vegan straightedge band. On the way home from the show I put the CD in and I was floored. I hadn’t heard a band that mean sounding since Chokehold. I was never someone who compared 7G to Earth Crisis, for many reasons…but one being that the song writing was comparable to Chokehold. I was not in the band when it first started though. I didn’t enter the band until about 2006? I want to say…I can’t quite remember. I was barely 18 and I’m now 21, so it’s been a while.
I’m actually not in Wait In Vain, when you saw me in Europe with them I was filling in for them. It was a great experience that lasted two months. I knew Seven Gen was never going to go to Europe so I decided to go when I was offered a spot by Timm (singer of Wait In Vain). So since I’m not in the band, I don’t feel like it’s my place to speak for them. If you want to find out more about them, pick up their record on Panic.
What do still attracts you to hardcore and do you think you’ve done your goals as a band beyond playing shows and recording songs etc. (ie: raising awareness, supporting activist causes, promoting direct action and vegan sxe lifestyle etc.)? What changes in the hardcore scene have you seen, positive and negative, during your band’s existence?
Adrian: Hardcore for me has always been about expression. I used to believe that everyone inside those little rooms at hardcore shows was like me, in the sense that they didn’t fit in to the real world. I slowly began to realize that a lot of people that go to shows harbor the same mindsets that people in the real world do. I’m not saying I am a perfect description of a hardcore kid, cause I am definitely not. It seems as though hardcore was always a scene comprised of mostly white middle class kids from the suburbs, not that they don’t have problems at home but you kind of get tired of hearing how they were always scrutinized for being “different”. Try being stopped by a cop because of the color of your skin or try having every little thing picked a part by your school teachers because you were one of the 3 colored people in your class. I stopped caring about “unity” when I was younger, because I never felt like I belonged in school, an office job, or at a hardcore show. When I started using hardcore as an outlet, only then did I feel like it could benefit me and make me a better person. So in short what attracts me to hardcore still? Hoping that people out there feel the way I think hardcore kids should feel.
The main reason that Seven Generations is disbanding is because we feel like we’ve reached our goals (or came close to) with the band. Just about every show we play we have people come to us and tell us that our music introduced them to veganism or radical politics. It’s very fulfilling when you know that something you did has helped impact someone’s life in that way. I think “To See The End” is the best stuff we were ever going to do. I always felt like we only had one full length in us, and I’m glad that was the one we did. I’m of the opinion that most mid 90’s bands (especially mid 90’s style bands that are in the new millennium) are artistically confined to a certain style of song writing. I think if we tried to write anything new it’d be something I wouldn’t be proud of musically, so why bother? I’d rather end on a good note than end when people stopped caring completely about us. I never wanted to be in a band that slowly dwindled into something that people stopped caring about. Since the band started there has been an increase in an activist presence. It’s gone from seeing no literature or information regarding animal/human rights, to almost every show I go to I see a whole table dedicated to promoting anything from Animal Rights to Anti-War gatherings. When I first started going to shows, I never saw any of that. I really didn’t see that until 7 Generations started playing shows. With an increase in an activist presence comes an increase in pretentious attitudes though. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, there are a lot of things wrong in the vegan straightedge activist hardcore scene, just like there are in the normal hardcore scene. It’s very disheartening seeing the people who are supposed to be “free thinkers” actually fall into the whole “worship a deity” roll. If anything I thought this scene was supposed to be the one that was smarter than that. I suppose you need to take the good with the bad.
What does straight edge represent to you? Why straight edge is so important to you and what do you think about all the non-political, Nike-wearing, Coke-drinking, sxe kids and bands with their lyrics about friendship, unity, or stage-dives?
Adrian: Straightedge is no longer a lifetime commitment to me. The word “commitment” holds certain connotations; that it requires one to go against their own will to do something. I don’t feel like I’m abstaining from anything I want to do, I am simply just being my self. I use the word straightedge to describe my self because I am involved in the punk and hardcore community; it is an easier way to tell someone that I don’t take part in drinking, smoking, or the conquest for sex. I strongly feel that I will be sober for the rest of my life, and I will call my self “straightedge” as long as I want to. When I was younger I drank and smoked and used drugs, but I always felt like I was trying to fit in with my older friends. I found out about straightedge and I quickly stopped taking part in my self-destructive behavior.
Straightedge has shaped who I am today; it’s an all-encompassing idea to me. Literally every action I take is in some way influenced by my introduction to straightedge. I wouldn’t have found out about veganism or radical politics if I weren’t straightedge, so it is a big deal to me. I think hardcore has enough room these days for there to be people who want to just sing about the typical hardcore things and for bands to express some kind of radical message. Personally I’ve gotten bored with those kinds of bands, but like I said, hardcore is about expression to me, so if they feel like they can reinvent that wheel then they can knock themselves out. I’ve never really felt like hardcore should always be politically oriented. I think it should have some amount of fun to it.
One thing I think hardcore should always be is antithetical to mainstream culture. If we truly feel like we’re “outcasts” then why would we want to mirror mainstream culture in the hardcore scene? I still see some things that make me wonder if I’m at a hardcore show or if I’m at some big social gathering where kids just want to dress the same. I’d like to see straightedge kids do more with their sobriety than just be sober. I never got the idea of straightedge kids going to bars. I call myself straightedge because I want nothing to do with bar culture. What good am I doing being sober if I’m just hanging out at bars? I wish kids were more active, in anything, not just politics, anything they want to try and be better at, music, art, sports, whatever, just do something good for your self. That’s as “posi” as I’ll ever get right there.
Your full-length is called “To See The End”. Do you think we are past the point of no return?
Adrian: My understanding of the title to our full length was that it had more of a hopeful meaning. I’m pretty sure it was taken from the song “Rising Of The Sun” “…I long to see the end of this oppressive, cut-throat hegemony”. The cynic in me finds a different meaning though. I don’t think we should worry about whether the actions we take are futile or not. It doesn’t do us any good to not do anything, so why not do something and have our actions possibly effect the world? Do I think we are too deep in a destructive cycle? Yes. Just because something seems futile doesn’t mean we should roll over and take it for what it is. When I die I want to know that I did what I felt was right for my self and possibly for the world.
Which are the most important benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle? By preaching anarchist politics, feminism, animal liberation and vegan/straight edge lifestyle to young people in the hardcore scene, who have the opportunities to make their ethical, lifestyle, socio-political and consumer choices you’re giving a ground to these young people to start being active and fight for their desires. But what kind of actions and visions do you think are useful on a daily basis, personal or global attitudes that we have to adopt on a larger scale as societies and communities?
Adrian: I’m not so naïve as to think that going vegan will save animals. I see veganism as a reaction to our civilizations exploitation of animals. Not supporting these companies that exploit animals is one of the only benefits I see in being vegan, aside from health. I honestly can’t speak for other communities. As I said earlier there are privileged and the under privileged. I will never try and tell someone in another country what I think they should be doing. They live a completely different life. Someone in their community/position should find a way to help their community. Being an American, I feel like I have the right to speak on American society, but I do not have the right to speak about, say Mexico and what they should do. It would be ethnocentric of me to feel like I could speak on another countries way of life.
How can we close the gaps that exist between the different activist and social justice movements that hinder their individual growth? Do you think animal liberation is really seen within the activist circles as an important and equal part of the global social movements? CrimethInc. published a great article exploring the SHAC campaign model and its potential as an example of organizing in other contexts.
Adrian: I think animal liberation is a vital part in “total liberation”. That’s the idea behind total liberation, total liberation for animals, humans, and the earth. However, how vital I feel it is doesn’t mean that it’s important (or should be) to other people. Try telling someone who lives in the jungles of Chiapas to make animal liberation a vital part of their revolution, they’ll laugh at you. The animal liberation movement gets a lot of flack from other social movements because it seems (and most of the time is) so shortsighted and single issue oriented. Since when have animals become more important than humans, or vise versa? What people don’t see is that most people who take part in those organizations take part in other organizations that focus on human rights and anti-war campaigning. I think Crimethinc’s assessment of the SHAC strategies is pretty accurate. If only it were that easy to work human rights politics like that. I don’t imagine it’s as effective to rally a bunch of people up to protest in front of the CEO of Nike Corps house. This is another reason why the animal liberation movement seems so shortsighted, it seems as though they stop at animal liberation; in their defense, they can’t exactly go liberate sweatshop workers. There’s only so much you can do to involve your self in the human rights struggle. We’re talking about protesting governments, not corporations.
In an interview with Peter Young he said “Those making up the face of vegan straightedge are not making themselves credible as vanguards of a new movement. (…) We are too comfortable making our music our activism. (…) When politics are limited to lyrics and lifestyle, we have a scene. When we take those politics into the world and start to tear it down – we have a movement. Let’s make vegan straight edge a movement.” What do you think of these words and do anyone in the band participate in any forms of activism/political work/organizing?
Adrian: While I think what Peter did was commendable, I don’t think he has any room to talk about what other people should be doing. Not everyone comes from a privileged background where you get funded by your parents (although it seems that a lot of the times it is the case with most “activist” kids). He liberated mink 7 or something years ago, put a fur farm out of business, and now he travels the country giving the same rehashed story about how he listened to Earth Crisis and got motivated to do something. I don’t think he understands that people have their own demons to battle before they go out and face the worlds. He’s a perfect example of what I was referencing earlier. Someone who hasn’t faced the same hardships that others have, they had the time (money from mom and dad) to do something and now they think they can dictate what people should be doing. If anything it’s insulting when people like him tell others what to do. I feel like I’m being told what to do by a spoiled little brat. How about we influence (not tell) each other. If I write a song about burning down fur farms and someone goes and does it, would that make someone happy? I wish we could all sit on thrones and look down on people. It’s that kind of mentality that pushes a lot of people away from “the movement”…so when someone like him says something like that, it’s doing more harm than good. We all take part in community-based organizations. When California was voting on propositions we all stood on street corners in our very conservative neighborhoods and protested the propositions, more notably proposition 8; the proposition to ban gay marriage in California. We sat with the illegal aliens and protested the racist minutemen when they’d stand on the other side of the street telling them to go back to their country. We all try to be as active as our lifestyles allow us to.
What is your opinion on hardcore books like American Hardcore and Burning Fight? Are you satisfied with the Burning Fight book and the promo show that gathered some of the most important 90s hardcore bands on stage after so many years? Is the 90s hardcore the main source of inspiration for 7 Generations and are you interested in other branches of the hardcore-punk scene like anarcho-punk and crust? Don’t you think that bands like Nausea and zines/labels like Profane Existence have done much more important things to the political hardore punk scene in the US than kinda right-wing bands like Earth Crisis?
Adrian: I think hardcore books are great. It’s good to have that kind of history displayed in a book. It’s interesting reading interviews with band members of my favorite bands now, as opposed to reading old zines. Their views have changed drastically and it always intrigues me to see how much they’ve changed after 10+ years. I’ll be honest, I went to Burning Fight to see 4 bands. When I was first told about the show, I couldn’t contain my self; I’d actually get to see the most important hardcore band: Unbroken. Then as time went by bands got added on and it started to look like any other fest. I didn’t let that ruin my time, I got to see Unbroken 3 times in the span of a month. That is something I never thought I’d ever be able to experience. I was satisfied with the bands I went to see and I wouldn’t have traded the countless hours I spent outside of the venue waiting to see them play for anything. I will say I am tired of reunions though. I’ve seen too many bands try to relive their glory days and cash in on their popularity.
I’m guilty of attending reunion shows, but I find it very satisfying knowing I didn’t give my money to bands like Earth Crisis who ask for ridiculous guarantees to preach their underlying right winged bullshit. I’d say Seven Generations is very much so influenced by mid 90’s hardcore. As soon as I joined the band the songs started to sound more like Unbroken and it is very noticeable on the full length. Before my entrance into the band the band was still influenced by mid 90’s bands such as Chokehold and Earth Crisis, so it wasn’t something new. I was never into crust punk. His Hero Is Gone and Dystopia are as far as I’ll get into that genre. I think the hardcore/punk scenes you speak of are two separate entities here in America. It’s very rare to see crust punks at hardcore shows. So to answer your question, I think bands like Nausea influenced that whole scene a great deal, but I don’t think they influenced the general hardcore scene. Bands like Earth Crisis and Chokehold influenced the hardcore scene more than crust punk bands. It’s no fault of crust punk bands though, a lot of hardcore kids aren’t very open to other genres of music.
You are a big fan of The Smiths and Morrissey. Is it only for “Meat Is Murder”? Why it’s so trendy for people from the hardcore scene to worship Morrissey and The Smiths?
Adrian: It’s funny you ask this question because as I answer these questions I am listening to Morrisseys re-release of “Southpaw Grammar”. I highly suggest it if you’re a Morrissey nerd like some of us. I’m personally a fan of solo Morrissey VS. The Smiths. I feel his lyrics are more potent than those of The Smiths. The Smiths are probably my second favorite band though. “Meat is Murder” influenced a great amount of people to go vegetarian and look into issues regarding animal rights. I don’t think many people understand the severity of a pop band naming their record “Meat is Murder” that could have possibly been a career killer for the band, but they went ahead with it. I think Morrissey is truly a punk icon.
When I got into punk and hardcore I never really saw a correlation between The Smiths/Morrissey and hardcore kids, it was there before I got involved but for a while it seemed like it dwindled to nothing. The Smiths and Morrissey are adored by hardcore kids because it is music that comes from an outcasts perspective. Morrissey sings about feeling isolated and like he doesn’t belong to anything (or anyone) and I think that really strikes a chord with punk kids. I think a lot of his lyrics go over the average persons head and that’s why I feel like hardcore has a lot of average normal people who just like going to shows to see live bands and not contribute a single thing.
Unbroken is a very influential band to me and I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with some of them, so I got to hear about who influenced them and made them dress the way they did. Unbroken and Morrissey influenced 7 Generations in the later years because all of us are obsessed with both bands. When 7 Generations started it seemed like a majority of the crowd were crust punks and I find nothing wrong with that, but these days the majority of our crowd has their hair done and has somewhat good style. I think we had a big influence on the newer vegan straightedge generations’ obsession with Morrissey.
Can you list a few bands, movies, literature, websites or whatever, that have influenced you personally or as a band, or you just would like to share?
Adrian: Honestly, I listen to a lot of music. I’d like to call my self a musician and I focus all my efforts into finding new music and writing new music.The obvious influences I have are Unbroken and Morrissey. Those two groups have been and always will be a source of inspiration to the others in the band and my self. I’ll list a few bands that I have been listening to as of lately that influence my song writing and bring bliss to my ears/recommendations. Michael Gira and The Angels Of Light, Swans, The Black Angels, Bonnie Prince Billy, Holy Sons, Christian Death, Death In June, Love, Jets To Brazil, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Starflyer 59, Backstabbers Inc., Trap Them, Mastodon, Baroness, and then the usual hardcore mix of Chokehold, Another Victim, Excessive Force, Acme, V.O.D., Swallowing Shit, Reversal Of Man and Propagandhi. As for movies and literature, most of my days are spent reading self help articles. I have recently come to terms with the fact that I have a few personality disorders that I need to take care of and control, so I try my best to read up on what makes me the way I am and how I can prevent my self from causing any more damage than I already have.
What do you think about the mania of electing Barrack Obama as the president of the United States? How do you think America will change in the next few years?
Adrian: I think a lot of people are putting too much faith in a bureaucratic system that is tragically flawed. Obama is the lesser of two evils, especially when put next to Palin and McCain. I couldn’t even begin to think of the consequences of having those two in office. A lot of people are calling Obama a socialist, is that so much of a bad thing? I’ve actually seen people with signs that say “Socialism = bad, capitalism = good”, do they actually think our current economic situation was not a result of capitalism? I’m really not sure how America will change in the next few years. People will always be people and I’m not amazed by the stupidity of people on both sides of the political spectrum. I think slowly but surely people will start realizing that simply electing a black president was not the solution to the worlds problems.
How the ongoing global economic crisis has changed your life and the lives of the people around you? What do you think about the bailout? Isn’t it just a way to save the rich people with the money of the poor? And in this context are you familiar with Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine” and the concept that catastrophic events (both natural and artificially created) are extremely profitable to corporations and have also allowed governments to push through what she calls “disaster capitalism”?
Adrian: Being that my profession is based solely on commission, I have felt the repercussions of the economic crisis. There are less people who want to pay for my services so it’s hard to make ends meet, but I survive. I’d say it’s effected every social class, being that I knew people who were wealthy that are now middle class because they lost 10,000,000 in stocks, it’s safe to say everyone is feeling the effects of this crisis. My thoughts on the bail out…well for one some of these companies that need bail outs are the ones that set up predatorial loans for people who they knew couldn’t afford it; now they’re asking for people to bail them out. I do understand the concept of “disaster capitalism”, there are companies created to profit solely on natural disasters. It’s just another way capitalism shows that it puts profit over people.
Any final comments or advice to the readers you would like to impart?
My last word? I don’t know. I want people to not try and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders; it eats away at you and eventually gets the best of you. I think a steady holding middle ground of helping your self and doing what you can in certain struggles will eventually lead to better outcomes. I’m just a 21 year old kid that plays music in a political hardcore band, there aren’t many 21 year olds who have taken part in a lot of things I have or have seen what I have.
Seven Generations is a collective effort, you can view it as art, you can view it as inspiration, but whatever you do, do not view it as anything more; we’re all fucked up kids expressing ourselves the only way we feel we can within the confines of the hardcore scene. I want to thank anyone that reads this or listens/listened to us and supports the band.
This interview isn’t like reading Chris’s interviews, he’s far more articulate than I am and I love him for that. I suppose this interview displays the dynamic of our band. I was never a novelist, as I said, my days are spent in front of an amp or in front of a record player, not behind books and that’s blatantly obvious; but I’m not going to try to be someone I’m not. This is one of the last interviews we’ll do in the time frame of us being a band, that’s strange to think.