Comrade Black on The Future of Profane Existence
DIY punk, activism, zines and the future of Profane Existence publications
The Profane Existence Collective was formed in Minneapolis, USA, in 1989 as a resource for the worldwide activist DIY punk community. Over the years Profane Existence has published a magazine, released numerous records, and ran a large distribution operation. The slogan “Making Punk a Threat Again!” became a call to grassroots political and DIY punk activism to thousands of kids all over the world. For the last 25 years volunteers and collective members have donated both their passion and time working endless hours making PE an important zine, record label and alternative distribution for the worldwide anarchist punk community. In 2011 PE founder Dan Siskind stepped away from the collective and many things have changed. Although, PE is a collective effort and now the magazine is back, and we’re absolutely stoked about it. PE is currently in the works of re-establishing zine contributors and once again doing a printed magazine.
Here’s my lengthy conversation with Comrade Black, one of the most passionate and productive contributors to the newly formed PE magazine collective.
What’s your personal story as a person involved in the DIY punk scene?
Well, it’s been a long journey. I certainly had a different upbringing than most the stereotypes of suburban kids with record collections that you hear of.
I grew up on a small, family run beef and dairy farm in northern Alberta, where the nearest town was under 700 population and was a 10 minute drive from our farm. I was raised mostly by my mother who was kind of rebellious in her own ways; going to court to fight big oil companies and being a woman farmer in a hyper-conservative community. I went to school in the nearby town, a school that had under 300 students from K to 12; and I was terribly picked on and bullied. Really the term bullied doesn’t begin to do justice to describing the shit I went through. Our school was known for 2 things, its sports teams, and the super high suicide rates. I was super small, not super masculine or good at sports, and we didn’t have a ton of money like everyone else in that community did. So I was that kid who was picked on even by the other kids who were bullied. I literally had no friends for most of those years. I spent as much time in the nearby city of Lloydminster as possible, a city of 20 000, on the boarder of Saskatchewan and Alberta where I took Judo; but it was also a rather rough place where the rich kids drove around in the sports cars their parents bought them looking for poor kids or Natives to jump. I hung out mostly with the Cree kids.
So by the time I was introduced to punk, it made a ton of sense to me. Songs about hating jocks, rich kids, racism, and all that were something I could relate to; and it gave me something to hold onto. See, I never chose to be ‘different’, I was always different whether I wanted to be or not. I never really fit in anywhere, even in punk scenes; but in punk being different and weird was more acceptable than in other parts of society. However, there was no punk scene in Lloyd, and especially not in Kitscoty. There was about 5 punk kids in Vermillion, a town about an hour away; so for the most part I had to guess and make up what it meant to be punk as I was the only punk kid in town. I did a lot of stupid shit back then that I would now be quite embarrassed to tell of.
At about 15 I started to sort of run away, and ended up hitchhiking to Windsor, Ontario, then later living on the streets of Edmonton, Alberta in a squat house. This was the first place I really saw a more developed punk scene. It is also where I went to my first punk shows. I lived in the squat for the winter, panhandled, and tried to sneak into bar shows which almost never worked. I only went to a couple shows, and of course didn’t have a way to buy music, as I didn’t even have a home, never mind a record player. But there was this wonderful little café on Whyte ave called Misty Mountain where I met other punk kids that introduced me to bands like Crass, Conflict, Nausea, and to groups like the SHARPs as well as anarchist ideas.
A year later I was living back in Lloyd, with a girl I met on the streets of Edmonton. I worked at a gaming shop selling D&D and Warhammer stuff while learning to make chainmail; and we were the only punks in town. At some point after me and her broke up I tried to leave punk behind for a couple years, but it was a feeble attempt as it was really all I knew or had.
In about 2002, after my drinking had gotten out of hand and I was hitting rock bottom, I re-discovered punk through the Internet, and started to get into straightedge as well. I mean when you are living on your friends’ couches because you lost your last 2 jobs and home to do drinking, songs about not drinking make a lot of sense. Of course many of those bands also promoted veganism and animal liberation. I went sober, quit smoking, and became vegan within a span of a couple months, then one day hitchhiked to Edmonton to go to a show at Octopus Ink, and just decided to never return to my shitty job working graveyards in a gas station in a shit town for of churches and oil rig workers. I lived a few years on the streets of Edmonton, panhandling and hanging out with gutter punks (there wasn’t much of an anarcho or poltical scene then, and the few political punks wouldn’t usually associate with the street kids), and going to shows; before I randomly decided to hitch to Victoria BC, which has been my home ever since. I had been told by friends that I would like Vic, and soon as I got here I knew it was the place I wanted to be.
Within a week of being in Victoria, I had joined Food Not Bombs. It was great, as previous to that, the closest thing to activism I was able to do was to go to the Edmonton Anarchist Bookfair or hold a sign at anti-circus rallies. Both those were great, but doing FNB felt more substantial to me, and within about 6 months I was asked if I could organize a benefit show for FNB, so I talked to some local punk bands and set up my first show. I started organizing shows for bands more and more, and within about a year I was one of the main promoters in town for DIY bands, doing up to 4 shows a month sometimes. All the shows were all ages, which was important cause at that point in time there was almost no all ages shows happening; so I felt like I was able to make a useful contribution. I set up shows for years, and also worked to get an anarchist bookfair going since there wasn’t one in town. I also did other projects like starting an anarchist reading group. I did all this while still living on the streets, and sleeping in parks. Meanwhile there was a local hippie activist who kept being arrested for sleeping outside, and a bunch of homeless people started a tent city originally to support him, but it quickly turned into something else. I got involved right at the beginning, and it was the first time I was to get involved with something more direct action based. Before that I only read about direct action in anarchist zines or on the ALF support websites. The tent city turned into a huge thing, and we ended up with about 160 people, a full camp style kitchen that served meals 4 times a day, and I found myself talking to media about it, going to court and being harassed by cops. It ended up with a court challenge to the supreme court that temporarily got some local anti-homeless bylaws deemed unconstitutional. The other important thing that lead to was I began writing for a local street news paper, which was my first experience with doing political writing work.
I guess the next big thing that shifted things for me was SHAC Canada. I was at an environmental training camp called Wild Earth, and felt super alone and alienated by the roadkill eating insurrectionists who hated vegans and drank all the time; they made up the majority of the camp participants. Then 4 animal activists from Quebec showed up to give a workshop on shutting down a horrible vivisection lab called HLS which kills 500 animals a day. I ended up joining them soon as the camp ended and campaigning with them daily for about 6 months until they left town. It was something that completely shifted how I thought about activism and strategy, and I felt more like I was really doing something than ever before. Eventually the 4 moved on, and invited me to join them, but I felt to rooted in Victoria community to give up everything to go on tour with them. Nonetheless it impacted me more than almost anything I had experienced before or after.
Over the years I continued setting up shows for bands, doing the anarchist reading circle, and organizing the bookfair. I got off the streets, lived in community houses, dumpster-dived, and started organizing more and more talks and workshops, and eventually I quit setting up shows for bands at all. Local anarchists worked hard to get a infoshop going in Victoria, and shortly after it opened I was asked to join, it became my main project ever since.
What does the slogan “Making Punk a Threat Again!” means to you and how did you get involved in Profane Existence?
It was my friend Damien Inbred who got me writing for Profane Existence. Damien asked me to do an interview with a prisoner I was corresponding with for the magazine. He had been part of the PE collective for a few years, and writing for both PE and MRR. Damien is a really great guy, and I am thankful to have him as a friend.
To me the slogan Making Punk A Threat Again is kinda a challenge we have yet to fully live up to. When PE first came out, the punk scene needed that kick in the ass flap. PE was important. I want PE to be important again. Early punk in the UK and USA was largely bullshit shock rock and roll, but there was always more subversive elements that meant the rhetoric for real. Bands like Crass, MDC; or there was Subhumans Canada who had a member go on to get involved in straight up guerrilla warfare as part of Direct Action. This is why punk was a real threat, ’cause it created spaces for other possibilities, it was more than just fashion and slogans. Fashion can be bought out and sold out, slogans can be printed on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Punk was about more than just looking different, it was about being different, rejecting the conventions and institutions that go unquestioned in mainstream society: the use of animals for food or entertainment, respect for the cops or government, heteronormativity, marriage, monogamy, nuclear families, patriarchy, war & militarism, resource extraction, the whole “American Dream” so to speak. There was also a time where FBI and cops would try to dress as punks and go to shows as infiltrators cause they recognized the scene was a breeding ground for real radicalism. This was back in the days when people were handing out ALF pamphlets at punk shows, and some people went on to actually start raiding fur farms or get involved in above ground activism. But the majority of the punk scene isn’t like that – most of it is just people with spiky green hair getting drunk to their favourite bands, which is fine if that’s what you need; but to me PE was always about highlighting the political side of punk. That’s what sets it apart from other punk zines or projects.
So now the question to me is what will it take to make Profane Existence a threat again?
Which are your most favourite releases from the PE label back catalogue?
As far as my favourite release? Probably Aus-Rotten or Nausea stuff from way back. I mean, how can you beat that? Also love the first Iskra album was awesome.
As a sober vegan anarchist where do you draw the line between use and abuse? Vegans tend to see animal use as an abuse but it’s usually not the same with alcohol consumption or other practices that straight edge people see as destructive. What kind of things do you think are useful or necessary in our attempt to build safe and radically sober communities and spaces within the punk and the activist circles we’re involved in?
You know, I’m not sure I am really a big fan of drawing lines in general. Mao Tse Tung was; he famously stated “there must be a strong dividing line between us and the enemy.” And then he murdered millions of his own people cause they were “counter-revolutionary.”
As far as use and abuse, I am not sure you can really pull them apart like that into separate categories. Especially in a culture that completely normalized substance use and abuse, as well as normalizing addiction. This is what Nick Riotfag called Intoxication Culture. If you talk to any recovering addicts, most will tell you there is no distinction for them. Even if you personally feel you can have a few drinks, or a toke and not get too high or end up addicted, that doesn’t mean your friend will share that same experience with it. Having that beer in your hand makes it normal for everyone else; and the reality is that even in subcultures where some degree of difference is encouraged, people still feel the pressure to fit in. In fact, it might be even stronger in subcultures than in other more mainstream movements, simply because for many of the kids who find their way to punk shows don’t have anywhere else. If they are not accepted here, they can’t just go to the club or highschool dance and fit in. Punk is often all they have.
That said, I do personally try to avoid being in spaces where people will be consuming intoxicants, or being around intoxicated people in general. I have history with being jumped and harassed and assaulted by people who are drunk or stoned; now I am not blaming that on the intoxicants as the people were clearly violent natured idiots before they were drunk, but still it is a trigger for me. And of course people use intoxication as an excuse for shitty behavior to avoid accountability. So I simply don’t put myself in those situations if I can help it. Which means at times I can be quite anti-social and often find myself outside of cultural groups where that is the norm. And as someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, use any drugs, or consume animal flesh – that means there is a lot of cultural norms I am on the outside of, even within subcultures that are trying to be an alternative to mainstream consumer culture.
I mean, even in collectives or community houses people will go outside together to smoke, and what happens is those who don’t smoke don’t become included in the conversations and often end up not being as close to the people who smoke as the smokers are to one another. I think that can be really destructive to our ability to build healthy communities. Not just because smoking is unhealthy to your lungs and heart, but this is how cliques form. Cliques are not good for community building, they can be the death of a project. I often find if you do not partake in a behavior that is normative, than you will find yourself on the margins of the group. So my point is, that this shit affects us in many different ways, many of which are not even acknowledged.
Of course there is also all the issues related to the production, sale and manufacture of tobacco, alcohol, or other intoxicants. And addictions don’t always fit nicely in where we expect them, pharmaceuticals (which are often tested on abused animals) can be abused substances, or TV, Facebook and Twitter can be just as consuming as any street drug.
I am stoked to see more groups penning sober space policies as an active step to be more inclusive. When the use of alcohol is encouraged, there is a number of types of people who are inhibited from participating; whether it is cause they are addicts in recovery and can not be around that shit, or maybe they are youth and not legally allowed, or perhaps they have some history of abuse where alcohol was a factor and it now feels unsafe or unwelcome. On the other side, sometimes people who are addicted and in denial of their addictions can’t be in a space if they are not allowed to use while there, and I by no means want to marginalize people struggling with addictions. So I am by not arguing that the punk or anarchist scenes should outright ban any substance use like some neo-prohibition movement or something. We need different types of spaces. The idea of being inclusive is kinda a misnomer; truth is you can’t include everyone, so when you choose to make an event or a space sober, or to have alcohol there, you are really making a political choice of who you want to feel welcome in those spaces.
I was once part of creating a sober space at an anarcho-queer gathering I attended, where the majority of the people came there to get high and find someone to fuck. For me, that was super hard to be in that space. I was pretty nervous about even going, because I knew I would possibly be stuck there for 2 weeks until the end of the gathering, so I was kinda freaking out after the first night. But then when I started talking with others there I quickly found out that there was a number of people who also felt super triggered by it and so we decided to have an impromptu workshop on sobriety, which about 30 people attended. Overall, it turned out to be a super posi experience for most of us. Just realizing we were not alone and not the only ones made such a difference. At first we felt like we didn’t even have any right to even ask for any spaces to be sober, since the majority of people had come there to party. It was that intimidating. And at first we came up to a lot of opposition, but over the next few days we started to have people who regularly drank or used, come up to us and thank us for speaking up and pledging to not use for the rest of the two weeks. By the end of the gathering the organizers were having discussions about the ethics of using alcohol sales to fund queer events, especially since alcoholism and addiction has much higher rates amongst queer identified people than the rest of society. It was an incredible experience to be part of making that happen, and it shaped some of my ideas on creating space, allies, and solidarity. I don’t think what we need is for every space to be completely sober all the time, never mind that it would likely be unrealistic. But I do think we need more sober spaces, and even more so, we need allies who will step up. It can be really hard to speak for what you need when no one wants to hear it because it goes against their hedonistic desires.
I just want to say one other thing, as you asked about animal use and abuse in the context of veganism. I have been vegan and straightedge for over a decade now, and for me it is a life long commitment. I know that for sure. I know what I believe and why – without a doubt. But in reality, I often find I don’t like a lot of vegans who are not edge, or at least not political. I find many who call themselves vegan have very black and white world views, and often they tend to believe their choices are simple and are the right ones for everyone in every context. That if someone doesn’t make those same choices it is either because they are to uninformed (ignorant) or because they are simply immoral people. I also find these people tend to diminish their own short comings and hypocrisies, meanwhile they also undermine the contributions of other activists who are not vegan. I am not saying that it is some simple “personal choice” bullshit either, or some postmodern shit that equates to “everyone should be able to do what ever they want and fuck the consequences.” Because of course there are consequences. In the context of veganism, the consequences are primarily felt by other non-human animals who endure all kinds of torture for the desires of some humans. But at the same time, everything is complex as fuck. There is as many reasons for people to not be vegan as there is to be vegan, even if you don’t agree with those reasons. So until you know where they are coming from and why they made the choices they have made, you can’t just lump everyone together and dismiss them. Mainstream vegans often do this. Mainstream vegans also often seem to honestly delude themselves into believing that by buying $200 fake leather boots and tofurky sausages that they are literally saving the lives of thousands of animals and their part is done. Reality is, there is no simple solutions.
I personally believe domestication is a major part of the problem, and has lead to the situations we are in today. Simply not consuming one life form that you judge sentient, while continuing to consume monocropped, domesticated plants shipped from far away by gas guzzling machines to be sold in a capitalist market is not going to solve the worlds problems. Those crops are grown using chemicals on what use to be wild animal habitats (as well as wild plant habitats), and often use migrant labor, prison labor, or in some cases child labor. There is no such thing as cruelty free in a capitalist, industrial mass society. Especially for settlers who are living on stolen native land and benefiting from that history of colonial genocide that still goes on today. Often those mainstream vegans seem to be more worried that some Indigenous peoples still practice their cultural traditions like sustenance hunting, tanning, and fishing, than they are about the fact that hundreds of native women keep going missing or are raped and murdered while the cops and government doesn’t do anything to stop it… I mean, aren’t humans animals too? If veganism is suppose to be about stopping suffering, then we need to also consider our own relationship to colonialism and how we perpetuate it. Agriculture is a colonial idea, and is a system based in violence to the wild for our anthropocentric desires. Even the idea that animals are sentient and plants are not is based in colonialism.
To me, being vegan isn’t about consumer politics or voting with my dollar, it is a way to keep the animals present in my day to day life, and a first step to trying to change the relationship that humans historically have towards other species. Don’t kid yourself, our relationship to animals and plants is one in which we make nearly all the decisions and maintain power primarily for our own benefit. In human to human relationships, we refer to that as an abusive relationship. I believe we can have a different type of relationship to animals, but decolonizing and rewilding has to be part of how we will get there.
What about your experience in animal and earth liberation prisoners support, which prisoners and support groups have you been personally involved with and what is important for us to know when trying to help them out? What are the biggest traits to present day activism in the States and what can be done to stop the harassment coming from Grand Juries, Green Scare, etc.?
Primarily I correspond with prisoners by letter mail. Not all the prisoners I write to are ALF, ELF or Green Scare, some are Indigenous land defenders, or wrongful convictions. I also wrote to a few G20 prisoners as well, and had a good friend who ended up going in for over a year for the G20. I send them letters, postcards, poetry, and art; all of which helps people have a window to the outside world and keep sane by decreasing the isolation. Prison is designed to destroy people, break them down, and cut them off from their community – so when people go to jail for their commitment to the movement – I believe we have a responsibility to them. We need to support these people, make sure they know they are not alone and their actions are important, and let them know there are people who care about them.
In some cases, I began writing people while in prison and ended up forming real great relationships with them. I look forward to their letters back, they are like a birthday present every time I get one! There are also others who I write to and never hear back from as well, but that’s ok. A prisoner has to buy the paper, envelopes, stamps, and pens from the prison commissary at inflated prices; it would be wrong for us on the outside to expect that they should use their limited funds (many earn $3 a day in prison) to send a letter to someone they have never met. Our responsibility in support is to them, not them to us. They are the ones doing time.
I have been more involved in supporting a few people as well. When my friend Kelly Pflug-back was in for black bloc actions, I organized fundraisers to support her, set up a facebook page to post updates, and would talk to her on the phone when she could call (which could be quite expensive). Kelly also turned me onto the case of Nyki Kish, an Ontario woman and former traveller punk who is serving life for a murder she didn’t commit that is entirely political. Nyki is really one of us, a punk, traveller, musician, poet, and writer. The assault that lead to her imprisonment happened on her 21st birthday when she got back from hitchhiking and trainhopping across the US.
A similar case, another wrongful conviction, is John Boy Graham. John is a Southern Tuchone Indian from the Yukon who took part in the American Indian Movement in the 70’s, and has since been framed by the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for the murder of a native woman (and AIM member) who many believe the FBI killed. Worse yet, that woman’s daughters grew up to be cops, and have been instrumental in helping the FBI frame John for their mother’s murder. Yet if you look at the trial transcripts, not one single piece of physical evidence exists and every single witness has direct connections to the FBI, or BIA. John’s family live now in Vancouver, so I am working on building better relationship with them, and finding ways to support them.
I also was quite involved with support work for Walter Bond – The ALF Lone Wolf, until he chose to end that – which is his choice to do. When I was supporting him I raised funds through selling copies of his books, I interviewed him for Profane Existence, twice, sent him books, mail, and connected him with John Zerzan. I also got a group who was slandering him through their webpage to finally take down all info about him that he had not consented to them publishing. At times I came under a lot of fire for openly supporting Walter, but in my mind it is not about popularity – this guy is serving 12 years in a CMU, he deserves vegan food, letters, and so on – even if I don’t agree with everything he says or believes.
These days I mostly correspond with Marius Mason and Rebecca Rubin, two US based prisoners convicted for arsons related to the ALF and ELF. I also have corresponded with Fran Thompson, a woman serving life in the US for defending herself against a stalker who tried to kill her, as well as Oso Blanco, a mixed race Indigenous man who robbed banks to send the money to the Zapatistas. For a short while a member of the Holy Land 5 contacted me, he was in prison with Walter Bond. But that wasn’t one I was able and willing to take on.
Tell me about your local scene and what kind of activities do you feel passionate about, like Food Not Bombs, organizing events, writing zines?
Well, the activist community, anarchist movement, and punk scene are not synonymous to me, although there is a ton of cross over.
We are super lucky in Victoria, British Columbia. We have a lot going here.
In the punk and metal scenes, there is internationally known established bands like Iskra, as well as some other great local crust bands like Storm of Sedition and a bunch of local landscapers formed a band called Zodabactor (named after fertilizer), and of course SixBrewBantha who has started to build quite a solid following. There is also a new anarcho band that just formed called Not(A)Cost, it will be interesting to see where they go as they develop. Victoria also has a thriving folk punk scene, and a growing noise scene as well. Things have changed a lot since I moved here almost 10 years ago. When I fist got to Victoria it was mostly grindcore and stoner metal, and lot a lot else.
We actually had 3 different punk record stores for a while, which is pretty impressive for a town of 80 000; one is Black Raven, which is pretty much a straight up crust and black metal shop, the second was called Talk’s Cheap, which has sorta become part of Cavity Curiosity show. Cavity is a rad space run by a great guy. They specialize in local fuck up underground art and music, and also carry lots of old sci-fi, vintage crap, video games from the 80’s, and whatever else Andy finds. The other was Absolute Underground, which is more connected to the Jaks Skate Team crowd, which is a scene I try and keep away from to be honest. Jaks are usually heavy into substance use, and not too keen on veganism or anarchist ideals, in short we don’t share values or see eye to eye. But Ira who runs Absolute Underground is a really wonderful guy—just our projects are very different.
When I first moved here in 2005, the hardcore scene was massive, with two local hero bands and 200 kid shows, and the crust/grind scene was small. Now the hardcore scene is barely existing, there is only one band, a Maoist Commie band called AK47, who only play about one show a year. So I hope the HC scene will grow again. One thing that is excellent here though, is there is not a lot of divisions between who goes to what shows or plays in what bands like there is in a lot of places. Crusties go to the XvX shows, HC kids go to the grind shows, etc, and it is never a problem cause they are all friends.
As for the anarchist movement and activist community in Victoria…
We have a thriving anarchist community here and a lot of history. In September we had our first ever Victoria Zine Fair which was a huge success, and the 9th Annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair is only a couple weeks away. There is so many cool projects going on here. I am most involved in Camas Books, which is an anti-colonial infoshop founded in 2007. Camas is a collective, volunteer run, and non-profit. the name comes from a native species of flower which for thousands of years has been harvested as a staple food source by the local Indigenous people, the Lekwungen, who have a very complex and symbiotic relationship to it. in function, Camas is a book store, community space, and events venue where local groups can meet and organize or speakers can host workshops. Few months ago we had the famous riot grrl cellist Bonfire Madigan Shive come and give a few workshops, and in the past we have hosted people like Inga Muscio (author of Cunt) or Greg Bennick (singer of Trial) or the notorious anti-technology theorist John Zerzan debating urbanist Matt Hern.
Another cool anarchist project that is going on in Victoria is the Anarchist Archives, which is run by my friend Allan Antliff through the University of Victoria. The archives is basically a collection of copies of old zines, journals, posters, leaflets, and letters related to the anarchist movement. I think a lot of people don’t realize how rich of a history we have, which is why projects like that are so important. Around the time of the First World War, George Woodcock had an anarchist library here, and Emma Goldman even cam out here to visit him after she was deported. Also David Barbarash, the founder of the North American ALF Press Office was from around BC, and he donated much of his archives to the Anarchist Archives, as did Keith McHenry, a co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement. There was also a guerrilla warfare group based in Squamish BC in the 80’s, Direct Action, and a few members of DA have come and spoken in Victoria. Their files are also part of these archives. Anyone can go check this stuff out. BC also has a long history of Indigenous resistance, and I have heard it said that there has been more blockades and such here than anywhere else. And a long history of environmental campaigns that have won. We have some of the biggest trees in the world only miles from where I live.
And yes, I do Food Not Bombs now and then. I have been doing it off and on since I moved here in 2005. According to Keith McHenry, Victoria was one of the first cities anywhere to have an FNB chapter. There are people here who have been doing it off and on for about 20 years.
The only thing that is lacking around Victoria is animal activism. There really hasn’t been fuck all since back in 2008 when SHAC Canada was out here. But I am hopeful. There is also some amazing stuff happening elsewhere in BC, like the VADL who have been targeting fur shops, shark fin restaurants, and the Calgary Stampede. They are now organizing a campaign to shut down the Vancouver Aquarium. There is also a new group I am super excited about who is doing wildlife defence to protect predator species like bears and wolves against trophy hunting.
What is the future of Profane Existence and printed zines. label and distros in general?
A lot of huge changes are happening right now with PE and I am really excited for what is coming. I can’t tell you much about the label and webstore side, as I mostly just work on the zine. They are run somewhat separately.
One of the things happening is that the zine is finally going to be back in print as a physical newsprint style magazine. I am pretty stoked about that, not sure all the details yet but it is finally happening.
I have this vision of what the magazine could be in the future, and am trying to work towards that. What I envision is having something that is like a punk cross between the old Green Anarchy magazine and the Earth First! Journal, but as I said more written by and for punks. If you pick up an old GA, they always had this great format with sections on action reports, prisoner support, columns, theory articles, and practical stuff. If you pick up a copy of Earth First! Journal, which I honestly think is the best radical publication out there; it always has sections on new campaigns, updates from people on the ground at various campaigns across the world, as well as a prisoner support section, letters section, movement history, art, poetry, etc. It is a great publication.
What I envision for PE is like that – but for punks. I imagine every issue having scene reports, tour journals from bands, interviews with bands, interviews with activists, prisoners, and distros. I picture it having updates on activist campaigns and projects. As well I would love to also incorporate a prisoner support section. And of course a DIY section, maybe even some good vegan recipes.
We also have some really great writers right now, and some new folks who are just starting. Ange Singh from Ahna has just joined the PE crew, as well as Mya Mayhem who use to sing in Life Against Death and Violent Restitution. I am talking with Jang Lee from Resist and Exist about having a column as well. One of the ones I am most excited for is Jordan Halliday, who before he became a movement prisoner for his animal activism he ran this amazing vegan cooking blog called Militant Vegan Cooking. I had been hoping he would restart it for a while now that he has been free from prison. So we have been talking and he is restarting it as a column for PE.
But of course we can’t do it without the support of the community. Each issue of PE magazine costs upwards of $2000 to print and distribute. I would love to see PE back in print 4 times a year, with copies sent to every infoshop, distro, and punk space we can find. But without funding, it won’t be sustainable. It’s kinda like prisoner support or anything else, it is one thing to say you support it when someone else is doing the work and taking the risks, it’s another thing to put your money where your mouth is.
There is tons of other big changes, PE is moving from Minneapolis for the first time since it started in 1989, and the running of the label and such is being taken over by Chris Luton (Appalachian Terror Unit) and Josh Lent (ROÄC, Custerfux, Chain Reaction Records). They have some great energy and ideas, and want to take PE back to its roots as a project for politically drived DIY Punk! Super stoked to be working with them. They also just posted a huge update on the PE Blog, check it out.
What does a good punk zine represents to you? What do you like or don’t like in the hardcore punk zines you come across?
I guess it should be relevant to the people it is written for, and to me it should be more focused on the people who are doing things in the scene than the majority opinion. By that I mean, if you pick up the book The Philosophy of Punk by Craig O’Hara, he talks in there about how the book may not be an accurate record of how all the scene thinks, but instead is more representing what people who are contributing feel and think. That spoke to me, I think I am more interested in the ideas of the people who play in bands, put out labels, silk screen patches, or run distros, than I am with the opinions of passive consumers of culture. Luckily most people in the punk scene do something, in fact that’s kind of what makes it work.
Then again, I might also be a bit of a hypocrite in that I hardly read punk zines these days….
The most inspirational columns, articles or interviews you have seen in Profane Existence? Do you like the famous The Rise of Crust writing by Felix von Havoc?
Not really, actually. I have tons of respect for Felix for all he has contributed over the decades, but he doesn’t personally excite me as much as some far less famous PE writers like Damien Inbred, or Jeremy Stinkbot. I think my favorite in recent years have been the few articles Kelly Pflug-back has written. I also have lot of appreciation for Andy Leffer. If I had to pick a favorite post though, it might be The DIY Moral Compass. I also like some of the eco-poetry and such that Ben from Axiom was writing a few years back.