xTrue Naturex was started as a recording project of Keegan Kuhn to reach people outside of Hardcore music with the intention of raising awareness around issues of Animal Liberation, Earth Liberation and Humyn Liberation.
Interview with Keegan / xTrue Naturex by Leave Me Alone Crew.
Hello and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Let’s get straight to the point. Tell us more about xTrue Naturex, how did you start and why an acoustic project?
I (xKeegan the Veganx) started xTrue Naturex because I have been tremendously influenced by the lyrics of political hardcore bands. It was because of my exposure through band lyrics that I was introduced to Straight Edge and Veganism. I love hardcore, it is still the majority of what I listen to, but I realized that so many of the powerful lyrics of punk and hardcore bands get stuck in these genres because if people don’t like aggressive music, they just aren’t going to listen to get the messages. I wanted to make music that people outside of the scene could listen to and get the same ideas from. I started xTrue Naturex just doing acoustic covers of my favorite XVX hardcore songs. The songs sound (obviously) totally different, I just used the lyrics and sang them as pretty as I could, which maybe isn’t that pretty.
xTrue Naturex was only intended to be a recording project but after getting enough requests to play I/we started touring. The motivation of xTrue Naturex is to raise awareness about Animal Liberation, Humyn Liberation and Earth Liberation issues through Veganism, Straight Edge, and Sterilization.
How were you received by the hardcore scene?
An acoustic project in a scene that emphasizes high energy release and even higher volumes, seems like an odd fit. You know it’s kind of funny, I started xTrue Naturex because I wanted to reach people outside the scene, but still most of the people who listen to xTrue Naturex are involved in hardcore in some way. The hardcore kids who have embraced xTrue Naturex tend to be those who are already into the ideas we talk about but that gives us an avenue to reach more people. It is a little awkward sometimes playing hardcore shows for us. You have a band get up and play as loud as they can, as aggressive as they can and then we are suppose to get up there with acoustic guitars and compete for attention?! The interesting thing is that we can sometimes get more people involved in our shows than a hardcore band. Because we play music for a very clear message and aren’t afraid to create dialogue or confrontation at a show, people pay attention. I think for some people who want to listen to political and thought provoking music, they are relieved that our music is softer.
How do you see the hardcore punk scene right now?
Unfortunately, I see the hardcore scene right now as very apolitical. There are still some awesome bands out there, but most hardcore bands seem to not really talk about anything other than their romantic relationships, friendship and angst. For me that is a total waste of hardcore! If I want to listen to songs about those topics I can turn on a pop radio channel!
There is a real shortage of political hardcore bands in my opinion. We got invited to play Fluff Fest last year in Czech Republic, which is one of Europe’s biggest hardcore festivals, and I think we only got the invitation because we actually have something to say and the promoter wants more political bands. There are some awesome bands though like, Landverraad from Netherlands, Gattaca from Czech Republic, Daydream from Czech Republic, The Smashrooms from Italy, to name a few.
When hardcore got more into the mainstream, the politics shifted towards a neo-liberalist approach with an emphasis on consumerism and the individual, rather than true radical change involving the whole community. Do you think that the hardcore scene still has the potential to be a true counter-culture, or it has/will become just another consumerist sub-culture, obsessed with collecting vinyls?
I think that hardcore still has potential to be a real counter-culture because the masses I don’t think will ever embrace the aggressiveness of hardcore/punk music, but honestly without real political messages hardcore could easily slip into the vein of commercial metal.
What is your take on straight edge? I noticed you are among the few that see drug free living as more than a personal lifestyle. Do you think it has the potential to spark radical change in our society?
Yeah, Straight Edge is always touted as a “personal choice” and that bothers me. There are very few things in our lives that are truly personal choices, because virtually everything we do has an impact on others around us. I could make a personal choice to drink and drive and kill someone, but hey that’s my personal choice!!? No way.
My choice to abstain from drugs of all kinds has an impact of those around me as well. It gives them a consistency with me that they can trust. My friends, family and community know that I am always lucid, that I can always be called on if they need help, they know that I am never incapacitated and I’m emotionally stable (enough). And that is something you don’t get with people who use drugs. If they have been drinking you can’t ask a friend for anything! They don’t act the same, they can’t help you with much, they are unreliable at best and dangerous at worst.
Personal Choice is this great banner people can get behind to allow for and justify anything. It’s this Ayn Rand’s philosophy that you have the right to do what ever you want regardless of how hennas or terrible or destructive it is. There is a real importance to think for yourself and to make decisions based on what you feel in your own heart, but that also includes thinking about how those choices will affect others.
During the 90’s, Straight Edge and animal liberation seemed to go hand in hand, but not such much now. Very few vegan edge bands remain, and although both subjects are still present in the scene, usually it’s one or the other. Why do you think the importance of vegan straightedge has decreased in the last years?
I think the importance of Vegan Straight Edge is more important than ever now, but there are just less people talking about it. It seems to me that there has been a wave of hipster apolitics that has invaded the hardcore scene that brushes off the need for social responsibility, and I don’t mean social responsibility like being a good citizen, but being a responsible humyn being in your community and world. I say hipster politics because I see a lot of hipster kids who are just modern bohemians. They care more about appearing cool than they do about anything else. There is nothing wrong with dressing a certain way or looking a certain way at all, but when that becomes more important than things of real value in life, there is a problem.
Hardcore and animal liberation have always been close. How do you see the animal liberation movement in relation to the growing movement against capitalism and globalization?
I think that all liberation struggles have a common thread, the desire to be free from confines.
Hardcore is/should be in my opinion a liberation from musical restraints and a liberation from conventional thoughts. I think that much of the Animal Liberation movement embodies what anti-capitalists promote; that life is more valuable than profit. I just wish that anti-capitalists embodied more of what Animal Liberation activists promote! A saying that runs common in radical circles is “One Struggle, One Fight”, which I believe in many senses, but I do think there is an importance to reflect on our inner politics and how that affects our real world activism. For example, I was more enrooted in environmental struggles before animal liberation. I didn’t drive or do a lot of things because of the environmental impact they had, but that kept me from being involved in other types of activism. Although the liberation struggle was based in the same motivation, one kept me from being directly involved in the other. I learned to drive recently because I made a decision that I would rather work to save lives than abstaining from supporting those industries. I’m not saying it is the right decision for everyone, it’s just what I came to. I saw this impact of real world activism vs inner “personal” politics last year during a massive animal rescue. We heard that there was a farm with 50,000 hens left to starve to death by the owner. We drove to the farm and planned on saving as many animals as we could, but the authorities were there to stop us. Being a radical, I didn’t care, we didn’t need permission to save lives and would get animals out one way or another.
What ended up happening though through patience and working within the political channels, rescue groups were able to get legal guardianship of the animals and save over 4,400 hens! Saving that many lives with underground tactics would not have ever been possible, but by working with the system we were able to save more lives. I had to put my personal politics aside for the benefit of those hens dying. Which again illustrates my point that there is nothing personal about choices. By working “with” the government system, I/we were perpetuating the idea that the government has control or say about what we do, which I am against. Working with the governing body was not inline with other liberation struggles, so “one struggle” was not “one fight”, I had to choice one struggle over another fight. I can’t say that is what everyone would choice, but I put the desires of those animals dying in front of me before the desires of oppressed humyns. I had to choose one struggle or the other. So in a very long answer, yes all struggles are connected, but we have to be clear on how that plays out in the real world.
The Occupy Movement came and went. What’s your view on the movement and do you think it had any real impact on society?
I was excited by the Occupy Movement. I wondered if it would be the cultural shift that needed to happen in this society. Sadly the government in the US is not interested in protest movements no matter how big they are. President Bush even said it in a speech about the invasion of Iraq “I will not be swayed by protesters” even though over 1 million people were protesting the war! They only really care about movements that affect profits and the Occupy movement didn’t really truly threaten or affect profits. If the Occupy movement had gone and crashed the top 1% of the wealthiest peoples house and shared it with the true needy, I would say that would have set a precedence!
How do you see the future of society in general and of course what does it have in store for xTrue Naturex?
I see the future of society getting ever darker and the masses staying happily uninformed and distracted by moronic entertainment. Without sounding too dooms-days like, unfortunately I don’t see things getting any better in the world, I only see it getting worse. Food and water shortages are not far in the future I fear and social repression will really begin then. For that reason and many more is why xTrue Naturex encourages people not to have kids. This is not the type of world you want to bring life into. I think people need to honestly look at the world before they think about bringing a child into this mess. Once we have figured out how to live peacefully with each other, when sexual violence no longer exists, when equality rains, when governments no longer hold a leash to our lives, when we live sustainable on the planet, then maybe people could consider having kids, but right now with wars raging and the environment falling apart, having kids is a cruel idea.
There is a documentary film that has just been release (February 22nd. 2013) called TURLOCK www.firstsparkmedia.net with original score by xTrue Naturex.
There is a new record slowly in the works. It will be a bit different from the last record, but hopefully more powerful. I would like to say that record will be done sometime this year.
Thanks so much LMA crew for the opportunity to do this interview!