California’s XVX band Gather plays uncompromising ’90s influenced hardcore fueling the scene with an unapologetic message of total freedom, justice, and liberation.
Overtly political in their message, they have dedicated their music to confront the apolitical scene and spark a flame of radical imagination in those who are already converted.
Hello there! Take us through a few milestones of Gather’s band history.
Dustin Hall: Cool. Gather started in early 2004 after everyone in the band attended the Total Liberation Fest in Erie, PA.
Allan and I were living together, and felt compelled to create the type of music we liked best. Genie, my sister, began singing and writing her awesome lyrics soon thereafter. Randy moved up to NorCal from SoCal and started playing bass. Gather was set on its line-up and we soon became like family. We recorded our demo/EP with Scott from Earth Crisis, made a zine to accompany our self-released demo, and went out on the Total Liberation Tour in the Summer of 2004.
It was on that tour that we decided to work with Eric Vanguard and New Eden Records—he released the demo as our EP, and went on to release our split seven-inch with Seven Generations. Our songs for the split were also recorded with Scott Crouse.
We were able, then, to do a West Coast tour, play in Mexico City, Mexico, and start writing songs for the full length.
At this time, Allan went back to grad school to get his master’s degree in education and a teaching credential. We decided that when he graduated, we’d release a full length and tour a lot.
So, we recorded our full length, Beyond the Ruins, with Vic DiCara of 108. We released it on xCatalystx Records, toured the US over the Summer 2006 with Seven Generations and Kingdom, then toured Europe in winter of ’06 with To Kill. Our last little tour was with xBishopx. We then played our infamous show at the Earth Crisis reunion, and played our amazing last shows before calling it quits.
I’d say that those are our biggest milestones.
What made you want to start making music? Was it something you always wanted to do or was it just to shout political lyrics and “preach” the vegan straight edge?
We all started playing music years ago. We all played music before we were very political, but we all were involved in playing some form of ‘punk’. We all happened to get political and into Veganism and Straight Edge, and even Anarchism before the band started.
We decided to play the music in Gather because we wanted to capture the sound of some of our favorite bands from the 1990s, like Chokehold, Another Victim, and Culture. We were also really influenced by current bands we were playing with, namely Purified in Blood, Make Move and Seven Generations.
We also decided that as of late 2003, early 2004, in California, there was a huge drought of political messages in hardcore. We wanted to espouse the message of, primarily, Animal Liberation, but soon came to realize that all liberation struggles are linked, and really sang about Total Liberation.
What was the main goal that Gather achieved during these years? What major changes have you seen in the hardcore scene, positive and negative?
When we started as a band, we didn’t know many people from our local hardcore scene, or the VSXE scene at large. We were just huge hardcore fans, committed to the scene and the ethics. We made up some ‘fantasy goals’ that we never expected to achieve, such as: Put out a record, tour the US, play with Purification, sign to xCatalystx Records, and go to Europe.
Those are the goals we achieved that we never thought we would. Some of our goals that we never achieved were playing with xMaroonx, going to Japan, playing with Point of No Return, and touring South America.
The hardcore scene in the past few years has gotten better in some ways, in my opinion. There are a lot more political, VSXE kids now than there were seven or eight years ago. There are a lot of bigger bands who don’t mind showing their pride in their convictions. So those things are cool.
I don’t even want to talk about any of the negative things that have come into being recently, we all know what they are: fashionable kids snaking their way into an underground scene and asshole jocks moshing to look cool rather than to have fun.
At the moment there is an ongoing repression of green anarchists, radical ecologists and animal liberation activists in the United States. How is Gather involved in supporting the goals of SHAC7, Green Scare and AETA? Just benefit shows, benefit CDs? What can you do to support these political prisoners?
The United States, in the past year, has really cracked down on environmental and animal rights groups. Most notably, the SHAC 7 were found guilty and sentenced to years in prison for being a part of an effective campaign against a corporation, Huntingdon Life Sciences. I urge any readers to check out SHAC 7’s website. There have also been FBI infiltrators and snitches involved in busting activists in California. The ALF and the ELF are considered the number one domestic “terrorist” threat in the US.
Gather has tried to educate people about the Green Scare through our lyrics and our speeches. We have donated a little bit of money, after breaking up, to political prisoners. We try to keep in touch with some prisoners through mail. Keeping in touch with prisoners, and supporting them, is the most important aspect of the struggle, because if those who have been caught are forgotten, then no one will persevere.
All of those things are ways that people can support prisoners: letters, donations, and support, ideologically. We must be willing to support radicals when it comes down to times of action—through allegiance and through direct assistance.
Finally, I’ve heard political prisoners say that the best thing someone can do to support them is by carrying out actions on their own! News will get to them in prison that the action was carried out! What better way to show your support ideologically than by covertly following in their footsteps?
As a vegan, how do you feel about PETA’s campaigns and mainstream activism? It seems that some of the actions of the animal rights movement are not really about making the most strategic or meaningful change for animals, but are done to get the most media coverage. Although in the case of prisoner support, maybe it’s good to get mainstream media coverage.
I don’t know, it’s my opinion that mainstream activism is ineffectual and, for the most part, thrives on animal abuse industries existing (in order to receive donations and shit). This isn’t to say that the people involved don’t have compassion, but that their tactics are ineffectual.
This does not mean that I consider LEGAL tactics ineffectual, just ‘mainstream’ ones. There are lots of things that people can do that have very little or no risk that work well: home demos, live rescues, disrupting events, etc. Although it is easy to glamorize the ‘big’, illegal actions one can carry out I think there also needs to be a push for more people to be active regardless of how chic their actions are.
What do you do to uphold your beliefs in your everyday life outside of the band? What projects and collectives are you involved in?
None of us are involved in any collectives. Allan is teaching full time at an alternative school in California, I work full time and am involved in other bands, Eva and Randy both live without having jobs. In America, if you don’t have a benefactor, it’s very difficult to live without holding down a job, and so personal activism is a must for making that possible. That’s all I really wanna go into here!
How can we bridge the gaps that exist between different activist movements and hinder their individual growth?
I don’t know that this is possible. The biggest push I’ve seen, in recent memory, to close the gaps between different activists groups was during the SHAC 7 trial. There was a big push to make people realize that even though the SHAC 7 were animal liberation activists, that the case infringed on free speech—in essence calling in liberal groups to support the SHAC 7 on the grounds of protecting free speech and limiting the govt.’s ability to arrest, detain, and sentence people who have committed no illegal crime. But in a post 9/11 Amerikkka, this is not an uncommon occurrence, especially for people of color.
I don’t think that activism groups will ever combine into one big Total Liberation movement simply because the people that constitute most activist groups are single issue minded people. People who focus on their single issue blind themselves to the interconnectedness of all liberation struggles. People who DO recognize the interconnectedness of all liberation struggles tend to shift over to a sort of lifestyle activism or anarchism, in order to challenge the system as a whole. So in this way, the body of people who WOULD constitute the Total Lib activism movement actually shy away from the type of visible activism defined by single issue groups because they recognize the short-sightedness and tunnel-vision of single issue activist groups.
What’s your opinion on Primitivism, anti-technology and symbol culture rejection?
This path of thought is what most intrigues me, personally, and is one that I consider has the most relevancies as time goes on. ‘Primitivism’ and primitive skills are important, as they remind people that survival outside of cities and taker cultures depends on SKILLS, not necessarily money. Particularly paying close attention on how to live/survive in the absence of gasoline. None of us fully realize how dependent we are all on gasoline, and as gas continues to peak, and eventually disappears, will any of us know ways of surviving/thriving?
Symbol culture rejection, as you put it, is what I consider to be one of the best ways to maintain sanity in a world increasingly bombarded with mental pollution. Taking a little bit from Situationists and from current anthropologists and philosophers who recognize the origins of our abstraction dependent culture, one can begin to conceptualize a life free from dependence on TV, magazines, clocks, and hopefully, eventually, domestication.
As crazy as this all seems now, I think these skills will reveal themselves as valuable as time goes on: re-conceptualization of ‘time’, anti-domestication, survival skills, and small scale community units.
You’re going to play your last shows with Earth Crisis at their reunion. What is your opinion about Earth Crisis and all the controversies they have had lately?
We did not play our last shows with Earth Crisis. We were asked to play their one California reunion show, which we were initially very excited to play. We learned a lot from Earth Crisis when getting into hardcore, and recorded our EP and split EP with Scott Crouse, their guitar player.
We were all a little bit oblivious to the controversy surrounding Earth Crisis because we’re about five years too young, although we now have an understanding of some of these controversies and the relevancy they had in the context of the 1990s hardcore scene. I’d say that my opinion now is that I probably would have liked them less if I were the person I am now, ten years ago. But growing up in a small town where all I was going off of was their lyric sheet and song explanations, I consider them valuable to my life and the scene I am involved in.
How do you feel about the homophobia and other kinds of discrimination in the US hardcore scene? Do you want to talk about the Hardliners and bands like Vegan Reich?
Those who spend time rationalizing and publicly defending the insane idea that homosexuality is either unnatural or ‘wrong’ are fucking pathetic.
We do not consider these homophobes to be a part of any scene worth mentioning, and are certainly not involved in ours. Hardline is dead and anyone who claims to be maintaining the movement is fetishizing the past, is ignorant to how people live outside of their bullshit moral constructions, and will fade away in due time because there is no scene to support them.
I hate the few people I know of now who still regurgitate the old Hardline rhetoric on message boards.
You have a deal against organized religion and the Church of Christ. But what about Islam and other spiritual and religious cults within the vegan straight edge movement?
Any band or hardcore kid who tries to preach a lifestyle of compliance to a religious moral order should stay the fuck out of hardcore and go waste their life away in their own church.
Do you think the recent attacks by the United States and its supporters on Islamic countries will escalate into something much worse?
Of course. The acts of ‘terrorism’ carried out by Amerikkka on other countries on behalf of economic gains and at the behest of lobby groups supporting Israel will definitely result in retaliation by those affected. The term is ‘blowback’—when we carry out acts of terror and large scale murder, those political decisions tend to ‘blowback’ in our face.
What about the Palestinian occupation by Israel?
We recognize that this is a very complicated issue, and that even the most educated experts on this issue are divided on their opinions. I, however, have nothing but disdain for Israel and their policies of murder. I hate them on so many levels. I hate Israel because they use missiles to murder Palestinians, but call the Palestinians who use suicide bombs terrorists because they can’t afford the same weapons to retaliate with.
I hate Israel for pressuring the USA into starting their wars and supporting them on their conquests, while at the same time scoffing in the face of Amerikkka by building walls and furthering conquest, even against the wishes of the U$ govt. I hate conservative Amerikkkans who support Israel on the grounds that possession of Palestinian land is necessary for the biblical end times to commence.
The cultural genocide happening in Palestine as a result is as devastating as the loss of life and land. Fuck the USA and fuck Israel for their crimes against people and the earth.
There are some far right vegan straight edge bands and people in Europe. The straight edge lifestyle and the radical hardcore scene ideals have not yet been exposed in any way from within the neo-Nazi community. There are active National Socialists who participate in the animal rights and eco-defense movements. (There is such a thing as a neo-Nazi vegan SXE scene in countries like Italy, Germany, Russia) If animal/earth liberation is the goal, what about Nazis who have the same views as you? Would you work with such people if they held a demonstration and direct action against vivisection, meat industry, fur farms?
Of course not. Those people are so full of contradictions and are not fighting for freedom and equality. Gather has always been an anarchist band striving for autonomy and equality. The meat industry needs to fall by any means necessary, but for no reason should we have to stand united with people that we would normally call enemies.
Band members projects after the split?
I am involved in three current new projects right now. They are still in the very beginning stages.
If anybody is interested, add Gather on myspace at www.myspace.com/gather and keep your eyes peeled for bulletins about future bands. Nobody else is really working with any other projects, although Allan is writing music for a project that he hopes to get going soon. His goal is to, ‘write the next Firestorm.’ Allan is currently working on the third issue of his ‘zine What We Have! Wish him luck!
The last one’s on you to wrap it up.
Thank you for your patience in getting this interview back late. Thank you for your interest and support! If anybody has any questions, feel free to contact me (Dustin) at [email protected]! Thank you!