Vegan straight edge hardcore band xCauterizex formed in the increasingly repressive and authoritarian climate of Portland, OR, in 2017. In the beginning of 2019 they recorded a three song demo, followed by Blessed Flame EP released through Bitter Melody Records on vinyl and Ugly And Proud Records on tape in 2021.
This interview with a member of the band appeared in our special straight edge zine that came along with DIY Conspiracy Vol. X compilation tape where the band was featured with an exclusive song called “Eternal Resistance”, now available on their Bandcamp page and all other streaming platforms. Listen to the song below.
All photos by Veronika Reinert (Motionscape Music).
What was the reason and motivation for creating this band? Did you have any sort of a blueprint for how you wanted things to run?
We wanted to be an explicitly anticapitalist, antifascist hardcore band, the rest kind of just fell into place.
How important is straight edge for each member of the band? Do you make a clear distinction between ‘radical sobriety’ and ‘straight edge’ as people who are both into radical politics and hardcore music?
Straight edge, to me, is intensely important, but on a personal level. For me it’s an active opposition to so many things that I hate about the culture I live in, but I don’t think proselytizing straight edge makes much sense, even if I do celebrate it. To answer the latter half of this question I’ll just say no, I don’t make that distinction. Straight Edge (as a specific label) is specific to hardcore, so if you’re into hardcore and straight edge resonates with you then great, if you’re not into hardcore and that terminology has no relevance to you then that’s totally fine as well.
Plant-based consumer products and veganism have become quite mainstream in recent years. Is there anything you really dislike about today’s vegan movement? Are there any animal liberation related groups, strategies or tactics you all agree with and think are worth mentioning and supporting?
Yes, a lot. Ha. Veganism used to be somewhat more synonymous with animal liberation, like in the mid ’90s, at some point that changed, and I am entirely convinced it’s because of repression from the Green Scare (at least in the US). I don’t think people within animal liberation and earth liberation movements have grappled with how effective that repression was, it really took all the teeth out of them. Now we’re left with groups that utilize the language of liberation movements (direct action) while doing nothing of the sort. Also, vegans (especially vegan bands) need to take a long hard look at veganism and decide what about it is worth holding onto and what about it should be discarded. You’re absolutely right that veganism has become mainstream, but have more animals been saved? Have less been slaughtered? Are nonhuman animals any better off than they were decades ago before that mainstreaming happened? Is the goal just green capitalism or is it animal liberation?
Amazing groups (or projects) worth supporting are Project FANG (and Anarchist Black Cross more generally) and Unoffensive Animal. We support any animal and earth liberation groups or individuals that utilize direct action, the kind that saves animals or destroys the infrastructure that harms them, not the kind that is purely symbolic and not *direct* in any version of the word.
Your sound seems heavily influenced by the ‘90s hardcore scene in the US. While most of these bands were considered political, I guess the scene was largely individualistic and lacked a serious leftist background at the time, e.g. focus on things like class and equality. Do you think today’s vegan edge scene, no matter how small it is, is more concerned with social inequalities?
Yes and no. I think anti-oppression language has become mainstream and so too has it become more popular within our subcultures, but utilizing certain language has very little bearing on real analysis.
How comfortable do you feel with the term anarchist? Do you have a common ground on political ideas that you all share besides the obvious fact you are a Vegan Straight Edge band?
I’m sure that that specific label probably means somewhat different things to all of us but none of us are sectarian. I don’t think my band would hate it if I shared a quote from Desert that comes to mind:
We are anarcho-syndicalists on the shop floor, green anarchists in the woods, social anarchists in our communities, individualists when you catch us alone, anarcho-communists when there’s something to share, insurrectionists when we strike a blow.
Your latest EP Blessed Flame was based around an insurrectionary anarchist writing that’s filled with anti-left, anti-organization, and individualist rhetoric. The so-called anarcho-nihilism is very unpopular and largely rejected in Europe. Why did you choose this exact text as a point of reference?
I want to address the implications of this question before I answer it. Blessed is the Flame is only “anti-left” and “anti-organization” in that it criticizes certain aspects of the left and certain aspects of organization within concentration camp resistance and within the modern day context. I don’t think an anti-state communist criticizing the PSL for being Stalinist would be considered anti-left and so too I don’t think anti-left is an appropriate way to describe the book. The same goes for the anti-organization label, it criticizes organizations, especially for stifling potential acts of resistance, something I think should absolutely be criticized, then goes on to offer an alternative organizational model familiar to almost any anarchist, the affinity group. Individualist? Maybe, but only the individualism of Renzo Novatore, not the bourgeois individualism of capitalism. As for it being unpopular in a certain geographic region, especially one as large and heterogeneous as Europe, just straight up doesn’t matter to me. If I cared about what was popular I probably wouldn’t be an anarchist.
I chose Blessed is the Flame because it’s an incredible book. I don’t agree with everything in it, but that can be said for anything. It’s analysis is super important and hyper relevant, so I urge everyone to read it. It’s up on the Anarchist Library or alternatively you can listen to it through the podcast Listen Left. I also have my own audiozine recording of it and I’ll send it to anyone who wants it, just hit us up. Anyhow, I don’t know if this quote sums the book up but it’s a fairly good representation of it:
The anarcho-nihilist position is essentially that we are fucked. That the current manifestation of human society (civilization, leviathan, industrial society, global capitalism, whatever) is beyond salvation, and so our response to it should be one of unmitigated hostility.
Portland has become a battleground in recent times. Can you talk about the increasingly authoritarian and repressive political climate in the city, and how does the antifascist movement hold their ground in this situation?
Antifascist resistance (and fascist activity) in Portland is constantly evolving. By the time this is published what I say here may be totally outdated as fascists descend on the city constantly. The fascists who come to Portland have a variety of tactics; sometimes they rally, sometimes they drive around the city looking for “soft targets”, i.e. homeless encampments or pedestrians who look vaguely leftist, most times they do both. Resistance to these activities comes in all shapes and sizes, well organized groups like Rose City Antifa and PNW Antifascist Workers Collective do a lot to monitor and counter organize, so too do more mainstream reformist groups in their own way. The vast majority of Portlanders actively hate the shit out of these scumbags and so most Portlanders can quickly identify Proud Boy types and quickly mobilize to do what needs to be done to defend themselves and their community. There’s a lot to criticize within antifascist circles in Portland but I won’t do that, instead I’ll just say that I’m proud of my city because we fucking hate fascism.
How do you see the political situation developing in the US from now on?
Well, honestly, bad. This is a really general question and I could go off on some long winded rant and make you really regret asking me but instead I’ll just say that it’s bad and it’s going to get worse. Fascist violence (both state and autonomous), climate crisis, etc. You name it. Whether you’re going to get hit by an unprecedented hurricane on the east coast or wildfires in the west or your water is under a boil water advisory because of crumbling infrastructure or you’re having rolling blackouts because it’s 130 degrees in your city; there’s a lot of potential for bad. But so too is there potential for good if I can be a bit binary about it for a moment. Within a crisis is opportunity. This world as it exists is about to rupture, geographically and psychologically. Look within that rupture for potential and push it as hard as you can for good. Cultivate communities of resistance, take care of each other, and maybe some of us will come out the other side of this in a more free world.
Do you think hardcore is still a place where people can come together and envision something potentially revolutionary? I guess many of the hardcore folks who found themselves on the frontline of struggles against police, against prisons, against capitalism, against white supremacy or patriarchy, kind of withdrew from the music scene and left it to the least political people.
Yes, I do. If only because it’s cathartic. Where else is there a space made to be aggressive? To just go off as hard as you can and it’s celebrated? Hardcore has that in common with riots, it’s aggression but it’s joyful aggression. I do think there’s something liberatory in that, if not revolutionary. And to address the latter half of this question, many of those same people are still involved in hardcore, and many of those people would never have found a way to become involved in those struggles if not for hardcore.
Within the US alone CrimethInc. has had a huge impact on both hardcore and anarchism, but it was hardcore that created the path to anarchy for the founders of CrimethInc. I don’t want to overstate what hardcore is, but you asked if I thought it had that potential, and absolutely I do. Mosh.