Born/Dead: Punk Is Not a Retro Counterculture

An interview with Oakland, CA's political hardcore band.

Interview with Will Kinser from Oakland’s anarcho-punk/hardcore outfit Born/Dead and founder of No Option Records.

Can you start by introducing yourselves, who plays what and where are you from?

Born/Dead is:

Will – guitar and Vocals
Wyatt – Bass Vocals
Josh – Drums

We all live in Oakland, California USA.


How did your recent European Tour went? Can you give us a brief report about the tour, are you satisfied with the shows? (Especially the shows in Eastern Europe and Balkans)

The tour went way better than we even expected. It was very well organized thanks to Timo from Alerta Antifaschista. The shows where really amazing even though we played throughout the entire week which means playing Mondays and Tuesdays that are always hard. We would definitely recommend that any band which tours Europe goes East, the people are appreciative of shows there, very friendly, totally accommodating, and the gigs are really fun. It was a bit hard to get into Croatia but we finally made it by train and the van got to cross after being denied at 4 borders. What does that tell you? Never give up I guess.

You have released a new full-length called The Final Collapse. How do you describe your new album musically and lyrically, and why did you choose that name?

The music is more of a full circle of the bands history it has both the  80’s hardcore elements of our first records and the more complex heavier sounds of the later stuff. We recorded at a friends studio on 2 inch reel to reel analog equipment and we think it sounds and looks better than any of our previous releases. Lyrically it explores a lot of the same themes but with a more personal side and maybe a more negative outlook on the future. The title of the record refers to the imminent collapse of society. Globalization has tied the whole world’s economy, food production, and energy production, together and it seems that with the serious strain on the earths resources that we are headed for a global catastrophe.

You’re releasing your stuff on Prank Records. Will, you’re also involved in No Options Records, is it really a DIY thing and what’s the role of the record labels within the hardcore/punk community? What’s your opinion on the ways of recording, packaging, merch, booking, touring…

My opinion is that DIY means doing things the way you want for yourself, but not exclusively by yourself. We release our records through Prank because they have resources and the structure to get our records out the way we want them done. We can’t be on the road, writing, releasing, and distributing records all by ourselves. So we form a sort of collective with folks that will work with us towards the common goal of producing records that we are all happy with. We have full control over our music and have never signed any contracts.

Prank is distributed by Ebullition which is the leading punk distro here in the US. The role of No Options Records is to support my friends bands and hopefully get their records out to people

How do you see the role of punk music as a way of showing alternative ways of living within the society, expressing dissent ideas and teaching kids to be independent and fighting back for their desires?

I don’t really see it as a very good form of educating people these days because most of the general population seems to think of punk as some retro counterculture. It still does help inspire those that can see past the consumerism of the mainstream and it is an excellent way to vent frustration along with forming common bonds with others of like minded principals.

Being in a band and touring, writing anti-war lyrics, radical ideas, playing in autonomous spaces is surely a counter-culture lifestyle but is this a political act in itself? What’s the thing that makes one band political?

Being in a band is a form of political constructivism but by no means a political act, you must actually put the lyrics to work in a real world context to bring about any real activism that constitutes a political act. Political ideals and ideas would be more accurate portrayal of all bands lyrical content. I think that it doesn’t really come down to what makes a band political, I mean almost every band is political with or without singing about politics directly.


How’s the hardcore/punk/crust scene in your local area?

It has been amazing for a longtime now. Good bands, good venues, lots of active people organizing and being very productive.

Do you think people’s movements around the world, independent media projects and global activist networks which often work without funds or any institutional support or media recognition can effectively oppose the corporate rules and neo-liberalist globalization?

I think they can definitely help an opposition movement through direct action and spreading an underlying sense of resistance.

Do you think that such actions such as Food Not Bombs or “Really Really Free Market” are teaching on mutual aid, solidarity and promoting peace or it’s just useless kind of hippie passive activism?

I think that community programs are the exact grass roots actions that need to take place to bring about a better world. If anything more political punx should try to help out in their communities instead of disassociating themselves from society. Many people are very receptive to the politics and lifestyle of punx once they get past the obvious stylistic differences. I think punk is about setting ourselves apart from societies standards and morals but not against humanity. That being said, I really think that there could be a lot more ideas thrown out there to create a deeper effect than some that are currently being used.

What’s your view on the so called drop-out culture, boycotting corporate goods, and things such as squatting, freeganism, CrimethInc., etc.?

My opinion is of that of a worker class. Nothing is truly free. I think people are gonna have to work in someway or another to achieve their means for existence. Squatters are some of the hardest working people I have met and contrary to popular belief usually are way more actively working than the millions of drones who sit in front of a computer 8 hours a day. It all depends on your definitions of work. I don’t really agree with the drop-out culture in general though other than squatting because it hasn’t worked. In order to bring about change it has to come from a mass movement and a small percentage of people boycotting a conglomerate that makes more money a year than most 3rd world countries is not going to represent a viable threat. If you can easily obtain free food, I say go for it! I don’t think that will change the world.

In the last 17 years Bulgaria was economically devastated by the modern day colonialists. Now we’re part of the European Union and NATO. But it seems that the biggest form of neo-colonialism is the US empire of military bases everywhere. Do you agree with the statement that if in the past you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies, now the US version of the colony is their military bases?

The U.S. military is trying to set up a pre-planned strategy for global military and economic domination. This involves setting up military bases in areas of the world that have assets that will be beneficial to those goals. I would say corporate colonization is the real enemy at this time because the U.S. military is just part of it’s corporate industrial complex. In order to create profits in America the military must use it’s muscles.

Do you believe that the US military runs secret detention centers/jails in Eastern Europe?

I completely believe that the U.S. government have detention centers in Eastern Europe as well as in the Middle East and other various places around the globe. There is proof that the U.S. government has sanctioned war crimes, it is not surprising at all anymore.

What kind of alternatives should we looking for to the oil-based economy? Bio-fuel is considered to be an alternative but recent studies have shown that it may cause increasing the cost of food and starvation, increasing the pace of global warming, and other harmful things. The control over bio-fuels would be a new form of colonialism. What kind of sick society are we living in, where we raise agricultures for fuel just to get by car from home to work, while millions are dying from starvation, because the land was sown with agricultures used for factory farming, GMO or bio-fuel instead of real natural food?

I believe that it is in the best interest to go back to a more suitable way of life where you would live in the same neighborhood as you worked and food would be locally grown. This is not to say that I am a primitivist because I also believe that we can rebuild public transit to get to further away destinations and regulate energy use to a minimum that is easily achievable and would not throw our society back to the stone age. Think about everything that you use a day. Is it really always necessary? I believe in this way we could limit the energy use to a standard that would be viable for alternate fuels. The current consumption is too high.

What are we going to expect after the Bush’s mandate ends? What will the future bring us?

I don’t really know? There is little room for major change it seems in U.S. government. You never can really tell the future.

Anything to add?

Thank you for the interview and sorry if my answers were not complete. If anyone personally has more questions feel free to email me at [email protected]

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