Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

Interview: Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

CALGARY — TAD come up, when they come up at all, as an anomaly among Seattle’s grunge bands, more inspired by ‘70s metal than punk. Among Sub Pop Records’ first signees, the band was extremely active. Between 1989 to 1995 they released six albums, but disbanded in 1999 following a string of bizarre events: getting sued by Pepsi for alleged copyright infringement, getting sued by a born again Christian for depicting them topless (with their consent), and getting dropped by a label following a poster depicting then-president Bill Clinton smoking a joint. The band’s frontman Tad Doyle formed another band, Hog Molly, releasing one record before breaking up.

After that, Doyle went on a 15-year hiatus, relocating from rainy Seattle to San Diego, marrying and putting music behind him.

“I was just relaxing and enjoying my life,” Doyle says. “I did a lot of soul searching and pretty much wrote off music. I was OK with never playing music again.”

The feeling changed.

“I heard ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath on the radio and it bought me to tears,” he explains. “I knew I had to start playing again and that’s what started Brothers.”

 

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H&M gets Trolled: Unethical Fashion Giant vs. ‘Strong Scene Productions’

y now, if you’ve been following the always fractious relationship between underground music and high-street fashion, you’ll have heard of Strong Scene Productions, H&M, and fake National-Socialist Black Metal Bands. In brief, the Swedish fast-fashion brand was accused of “one of the more ill-advised marketing campaigns in recent history.” Allegedly, they had created a fake metal label, Strong Scene Productions, complete with Youtube videos and a Facebook page. They had a roster of equally fake bands that included ‘LA/NY’, a ‘fierce representative of the French Black Legions’ who have been on hiatus since 2001 after running afoul of France’s anti-revisionist laws (which forbid denying the reality of certain crimes against humanity, chief amongst them the Holocaust.)
If you read Vice’s Noisey site today (hey, we won’t judge), then you’ll know that the whole thing was an elaborate piece of trolling, committed, appropriately enough, by Henri Sorvali of Finntroll (and Moonsorrow). H&M had no part in it, and the whole thing was designed to draw attention the tone-deaf appropriation of metal imagery by H&M, and the fashion industry at large.

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Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea

Fifteen minutes. I’m mostly looking at my phone, very occasionally looking up to adjust my course. It’s a straight line from London to an island of apes working on a Zeppelin for which I, against the express wishes of the Admiralty, am supplying fuel. Admittedly, not as much ‘supplying’ as using my sharp tongue and analytical skills to persuade the simian residents of the Isle of Hands that they shouldn’t get hung up on all this ‘fuel’ business. Of course I have an ulterior motive: something awful wrapped in bandages wants me to find him, it, colours and is willing to pay big. The apes are undoubtedly- undoubtedly, hiding something. Perhaps I’m still regretting selling one my soul for a mere 200 echoes, and sore from the apes’ refusal of my gift of fresh souls unsullied by my unfortunate cannibalism habit.

Sunless Sea has me speaking to friends about my wanderings- I wouldn’t call them adventures- in a cavernous underground sea as if they were in any way normal. It has me thinking about my crew, and hoping that they’re okay. They didn’t ask to be captained by a soulless cannibal with sloppy time management- the latter a much greater risk to their well-being since I far more often find myself adrift and out of fuel. The game takes the Dark Souls-ian ‘you will die’ approach, but unlike From Software’s magnum opus, dead really does mean dead, and necessitates starting over in the basic ship with all your completed missions reset, the map faded back to black and perhaps some money in the bank if your predecessor bothered to set some aside for you.

A tentacle has just reached onto the deck of my frigate, the Undauntlessable, and pulled one of my crew to his death. Best to ignore it and move on. Also, it doesn’t seem that people die here, only change. Into what is a question I’m trying to ignore.

Sunless Sea is that kind of survival game, the kind that presupposes your death and never allows you to settle in to a mid-to-end game state where your stats and equipment have made you a nigh- Schwarzeneggerian powerhouse. You will always need fuel and supplies, you will always go insane after spending too long at sea. Despite being ostensibly a rougelike with influences from Elite, activities like trading and combat are not viable paths to wealth. There also doesn’t appear to be a central story as such, although the full version (it has been on Steam Greenlight for some time) does have what appears to be a central quest revolving around finding your father’s bones. In practice this quest-line doesn’t have any more weight than the monkey-Zeppelin, the fungal spores, the chess game, the pirates trading in honey made from memories.

No matter how far you upgrade it your ship will always feel heavy and slow. A ninety degree turn will always take far longer than you want and combat, which should be avoided in most cases, isn’t dogfighting as much as it is the trading of body-blows until one combatant falls. After perhaps fifteen hours at sea and upgrading to a mid-level frigate with high-level weapons I only feel confident in engaging about a quarter of the game’s enemies. When they appear I kill my ship’s lights and try to pass undetected.

There’s something called The Dawn Machine squatting in the south-western corner of the map. I know that if I go near it my crew are gripped by terror, and I know that I had inadvertently aided it in a deal on construction materials that I didn’t fully understand. I’m hoping that if I ignore it The Dawn Machine and its vassals won’t do anything awful, like end the world. That seems like something it would do.

But then you’ll only be at sea (at ‘zee’, in the game’s parlace) for half of your time. The rest is spent ashore, where the game changes to a choose-your-own-adventure. Should you have certain items or traits new options will open up and there are chance-based tests of your character’s stats. This part of the game, that could have been built on any computer going back to the ZX Spectrum, is where the game really shines. The writing is amazing. The world-building is subtle and, for something set in an alternative 19th century, surprisingly progressive. Gender and sexual identity is fluid, women occupy positions of power, there are few if any sexist tropes. It’s refreshing to just be able to have fun with rolling one’s eyes at worn-out plot devices and reach-arounds to a presumed audience of teenage boys. Yet, as great as the prose is, these sections can be maddeningly opaque.

The game, at times, can be staggeringly un-fun, never providing constant stimulation but always needing just enough of your attention that you can’t do something in another window until you’re across the map. Game-breaking events like the loss of enough crew that your ship can only move at half-speed happen regularly, but not regularly enough that you’ll want to stop playing. Making money from anything other than quests is difficult to the point that you find yourself selling the items that you need to complete said quests just to buy enough fuel to make it to the next island. When you think that you’ve found a steady income stream, like the explorer who will pay for easy to obtain trade items, it can disappear.

I pass a Particularly Tormented Bound Shark, a megalodon in brass bondage-gear with significantly more health and manoeuvrability than the Undauntlessable. Who bound it and why it is ‘particularly tormented’, I will never know.

Despite being a naval vessel with fifteen crewmen and multiple weapons my ship is an inch-long sliver in the centre of the screen, nearly always smaller than its assailants. There’s no power fantasy here. Sunless Sea wants you to feel weak and afraid. Though its squamous, unnamable horror is pure Lovecraft and its socially-aware steampunk aesthetic borrowed from China Mieville, its metaphysics, its deepest core, might be Kafka. The individual is less often at the mercy of Elder Gods than bureaucracy and broken systems, especially the purposefully broken game mechanics that ensure that there is no good way to play, that you will never have enough and you will never feel safe.

YPJ in Syria

Anarchists vs. ISIS: The Revolution In Syria Nobody’s Talking About

The Middle East today is the last place anyone in mainstream western thought would think to look for progressive political thought, and even less to see those thoughts translated into action. Our image of the region is one of dictatorships, military juntas and theocracies built on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, or hollow states like Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, where anything outside the capitol is like Mad Max. The idea of part of the region being not just free, but well on its way to utopian, isn’t one that you’re going to find on mainstream media.

But you’re not on the mainstream media right now, are you?

Along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Northern Iraq, lies a mainly Kurdish area with a population of 4.6 million where a huge social experiment is taking place at the centre of a crossfire between Syria’s dictatorship, ISIS’s collective insanity and Turkey’s ongoing hostility towards the idea of Kurdish autonomy, with the US and NATO looming large in the background. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

Read More at CVLTNATION

Santa Muerte

Prayer of the Mother of Tears: Santa Muerte in America

Across Mexico, and increasingly the U.S, the poor, the down-trodden and the outcasts have been turning to a robed, scythe-bearing skeleton – a personification of death fond of cigars and tequila, able to work miracles, but always for a steep price.

Santa Muerte, Saint Death, emerged in the nineteenth century as a syncretism of Catholic and pre-Columbian beliefs. An exact date, or even a rough approximation, is impossible to come by – the saint’s worshipers meet in secret, in back-room shrines, and only in the last decade have ‘official’ places of worship opened their doors. It is possible that the cult began in Mexico’s southern provinces, where native identity is stronger, but nobody can be sure. A female skeleton who guards the underworld appears in Aztec beliefs as Mictecacihuatl, who, along with her husband Mictlantecuhtli, rules over Mictlan, the abode of the dead. Dead souls had to survive nine years of torment before they could pass into Mictlan, but offering to the Lord and Lady of the underworld helped, a tradition that survives into the present as the Day of the Dead.

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Beyond Syria: Life After the State

Several weeks ago, when I wrote this piece for CVLT Nation, my aim was to make people aware of something hugely important happening in a part of the world that the press won’t touch. Understandably worried that they’ll end up in the next ISIS beheading video, news agencies don’t have people on the ground in Rojava, embedded amongst not the people fighting for their freedom, but those living it day to day.

The original article got a lot of comments. Probably as many as if I’d written the article ‘Liturgy: Greatest Band Ever or Just Greatest Metal Band Ever?’. Most pointed out, quite correctly, that I was leaving out the subtleties of the conflict in Syria and post-state politics in general (which I reduced to the term ‘anarchism,’ though there are a lot of ways that what is happening in Rojava isn’t anarchist). The huge range of ideas that can be called ‘anarchist,’ even broadly, create the same problem that always comes up when discussing metal. So many contrary ideas are contained within these two words that every time they are invoked, everything inevitably devolves into a replay of the most incisive thing ever written about revolutionary politics: this Monty Python bit.

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(Image © Zoriah www.zoriah.com)

Police

Cops Can Just Take Your Stuff: The Injustice of Civil Forfeiture

Imagine that you’re driving across the United States with $2500 in cash. Maybe it’s a deposit on a new apartment; it doesn’t really matter – it’s yours and it’s all legally acquired. You get pulled over. You weren’t speeding, but this stretch of highway has been used by drug runners before, all of whom were regular people driving regular cars, just like yourself. The fact that you’re not doing anything suspicious is highly suspicious. When they discover the cash their suspicions are confirmed – you are now definitely, definitelyinvolved in the drug trade, but you’re not under arrest or even accused of a crime. Your $2500 cash is gone, though, but the local police department doesn’t have to stop there. Since your car was being used to transport the money, it can be seized too. Your phone could have been used to call your drug cartel contacts, so it belongs to them now. You’re not on trial: your car, phone and money have to prove that they are not involved in anything illegal, leading to bizarre legal cases like State of New Jersey v. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird.

This is civil asset forfeiture, and it brings two billion dollars in to US police departments every year, with more coming in to the Canadian provinces that have also adopted the practice. The idea seemed logical when it started in the eighties at the height of both Reagan’s get-tough-on-crime rhetoric and the birth of the crack-cocaine epidemic: allow police to seize the Escalades and white tigers drug dealers were buying – don’t just take away the guns and kilos of uncut Peruvian flake, but also the plastic baggies and weight scales, all the mundane items that make the drug trade possible.

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Horns of Baphomet: The Story Behind the Symbol

he word ‘Baphomet’ appears in the names of twenty-seven metal bands: six are just called Baphomet, then there’s Baphomet’s Blood, Baphomet’s Temple, Baphomet’s Cunt. You read that last one right. The number of bands that have a goat-headed creature on their covers is incalculable. The idea of Satan as being somehow goat-like has persisted, despite it appearing nowhere in the Bible or Apocrypha, where he is described as being a serpent or dragon – when he is described at all. More recently, the Satanic Temple has moved to build a statue of ‘Satan’ in an Oklahoma Courthouse (CVLT Nation covered this of course).

The problem is that ‘Baphomet,’ a hermaphrodite half-goat usually seen with an index and middle finger raised skyward, isn’t supposed to be Satan and was never meant to be. The name has its roots in the Crusades that tore apart the Middle East for two hundred years – the symbol in later occultism – but even when it was used to slander the Knights Templar, it was never understood to actually be Satan.

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Henry Darger Room

The Realms of the Unreal: The Afterlife of America’s Strangest Artist

very day for forty-three years, Henry Darger would leave his single room apartment at 851 W. Webster Avenue on Chicago’s North Side to attend mass, then head to work as a hospital custodian. He barely spoke to anyone – his only friend had left town years before, and the occasional letter was a poor substitute. His bohemian landlord tolerated his eccentricity, and threw him birthday parties. It may not seem like much, but Darger’s early life was one of perpetual neglect; he was given up for adoption at age four, institutionalized for ‘self-abuse’ at thirteen, and escaped at sixteen. Routine and obscurity were the best he could hope for.

Or maybe he was ‘psychologically a serial killer,’ as his biographer John MacGregor calls him in his book Henry Darger: In The Realms of The Unreal – obsessed with young girls, clipping pictures of them from magazines. Perhaps also a killer; a five year old girl, Elsie Paroubek, was found strangled in a drainage ditch not long after Darger returned to Chicago, and he became unnaturally interested in the case, flying into a rage when his only picture of Paroubek was stolen. Maybe the mass he attended – as many as five times a day – wasn’t an expression of his piety, but an attempt to keep something dark inside of him from getting out.

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Wordfest 2014: Naomi Klein at Knox United Church

There’s a line around the block outside the Knox United Church to see somebody talk about how the world is coming to an end unless we repent of our sinful ways and enter a glorious new world of love and brotherhood. The preacher is Naomi Klein, a small and unassuming woman with an uncanny knack for finding the hottest-button topic of any age and writing the books that future history professors will assign to students looking to understand the anti-globalization movement of the ’90s (No Logo) and the recent financial crash (The Shock Doctrine). That is, if there are colleges in the future, and if there are humans. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll survive this century, and although we’re always one mutated virus away from the next pandemic, one inattentive astronomer away from an asteroid cracking Earth open, our extinction will likely come about as a result of climate change.

Klein addressed a congregation that is mostly old enough to have been old when No Logo was released – there are no aged Battle of Seattle veterans here. Despite moderator and oil-sands activist Andrew Nikiforuk’s promise that she’d be “rabble rousing,” there’s not much fire here, and very little brimstone unless you count the sulfur dioxide that geo-engineers would like to use to cool the Earth (Klein is emphatically against this proposal, and paints a picture of a geo-engineering conference she attended as a fraternity of tech dudebros congratulating each other).

 

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