I am eventually going to put out a zine but while I will post some of the interviews I have already until it comes out. I interviewed one of my favorite people in all of hardcore. Daniel Austin is an extremely genuine, passionate, and awesome human being. He has also written some of my favorite music and played it anywhere and everywhere.
What are you up to with music lately?
I’ve been spreading the message of Vegan Power with some of the old Die Young guys in our newest project called Band of Mercy. We have two 7-inches out. Also, about two years ago I joined the reformed and revamped Will To Live. I helped write most of the new full-length album, which may be out by 2016. The music has been done since July, but in true Will To Live fashion, we are waiting for Rob to finish his vocal parts.
Thoughts on working for PETA? Why did you leave? PETA is often critized by supporters of veganism and animal rights, can you comment on that?
I had a great experience working for PETA, and overall I still think PETA is a great organization. I specifically worked in the peta2 department which is the youth outreach division. I got to be part of a lot of great work in the two years that I was there which involved introducing hundreds of thousands of high school and college-age people to the concepts of animal rights. It was very positive and rewarding work. After almost two years I decided to leave because my position involved a lot of traveling—even more traveling than I had done per year in Die Young—and after 7 years of traveling in Die Young and 2 years of traveling for PETA, I was just done with it. I like sleeping in my own bed now. I like lifting weights and eating regularly. I like not having to drive overnight all the time. I actually tried to reapply and get an office position about 6 months after I quit touring for them, but they (rightfully) determined I’m not office material. I’m really not. At any rate, I met a lot of great, compassionate people through working there, and I don’t have anything bad to say about being an employee of PETA, except that goddamn…it was a lot of work and the workload only gets heavier the longer you stick around. I definitely have a lot of respect for the people over there for their tremendous work ethic.
The reason why some vegans and animal rights people hate on PETA is because many of PETA’s campaigns are created to generate free media attention. A lot of what they do in the media is meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator of society in order to draw new people to the cause of animal rights, and some vegans and animal rights advocates would personally prefer for the movement to be represented more tastefully. What’s happening is not a disagreement about animal rights, but the strategy to promote it. Plenty of advocates don’t want girls in lettuce bikinis being a symbol for animal rights. They don’t want to see porn-stars and TV personalities doing public service announcements about spaying and neutering your pets or how being veg makes you a better in bed. They think it makes it hard for the public to take animal rights seriously. I can sympathize with anyone’s frustration about the tacky stuff PETA sometimes does, because yeah, on the surface a lot of it is silly and it doesn’t appeal to me, but I’m also of the opinion that the ends justify the means in this case. If those kinds of stunts get someone’s attention and gets them to look up peta.org and see the Meet Your Meat video, the fact is that they are at least going to think about going vegetarian. You can’t look at the PETA website and tell me it’s not well done and incredibly informative on a variety of issues. And to think an estimated 6 million people view that site per year. Even if you eat meat and don’t want to go vegetarian you will find information on the PETA website that you can’t argue with. If you browse through that website you will find that they are promoting sensible things. And what I can tell you is that at this point much of their strategy is calculated to get people to log on to their site or watch their youtube videos. It’s also important to remember that as a general rule, whenever someone/something/some group becomes more popular, whether it’s a band or a non-profit organization, they also become more hated. Look at Metallica. Look at Barack Obama. Look at PETA and even the Humane Society of the United States. Gaining popularity also means gaining enemies to deal with. When you have lobby groups like the dipshits at the Center for Consumer Freedom and FOX News spreading half-truths and misinformation about PETA and HSUS regularly, it doesn’t necessarily help people distinguish fact from fiction. People may possibly hate PETA more than ever, but more so I think more regular people love PETA more than ever, too. And I’m saying that as someone who has represented PETA to the public. I met way more people who respected PETA than who hated PETA in my time there, vegetarian or not. PETA is the biggest name in animal rights for a reason. They have been doing pivotal work for over 30 years, and whether you like them or not, I think it’s waste of time to put them down all the time—especially if you are into animal rights. If you don’t like how PETA does things go support other great advocacy groups like Mercy For Animals, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary, and so on, and let’s be done with the argument. There’s not one method or group that is capable of singlehandedly making animal abuse a thing of the past, so in my book the work each person and organization contributes to the movement is important. I don’t like to get caught up in the self-important elitism of thinking one group is so much better than another.
You are going to travel the world solo for a year, pick 5 records to bring with you.
All 3 Chuck Ragan full lengths, “A Thousand Sharks Teeth” by My Brightest Diamond, and “The 59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem. The Chuck and Gaslight albums are some of the best albums written for road trips. Ever.
What is the most common mistake made by people making vegan baked goods?
Making anything gluten-free. Fuck that. Gluten rules and makes shit tasty.
Favorite Catharsis song?
“Exterminating Angel” - easily.
Out of all of the Anarchist/Radical literature available what really makes sense to you, what just seems so right on?
At this point in my life….none of it. Haha. But if you want to start somewhere, I’d recommend some Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, or Bakunin. The thing with anarchism, to me, is that it can teach you values about how you want to live your life on a personal level, but it does not and never has, as far as I know, offered any kind of widespread or concrete economic solutions to all the inequality and injustice in the world. That’s a “revolution” that’s just not going to come. At best, you can read some romantic polemics about revolting against the church and the state, and it may inspire you to do some awesome and rebellious things in your life. By all means, I say go for it while you can. The world is better for everyone who lives by their heart, but at some point you have to pay the bills and be responsible for yourself financially…and hopefully stay out of jail. I learned that the hard way in Die Young. Honestly, the writing that makes the most sense to me these days is that of Joseph Campbell and Erich Fromm. Learn to straighten yourself out, take care of those immediately around you, and live with sense of heroic purpose. Those are the skills and abilities that are going to make all the difference between living a happy life or a miserable one.
Why is Folsom so good? From first glance it would appear Folsom is a strange band for Die Young and you to be associated with, can you explain this connection? (For the record I love Folsom but Die Young has received criticism for associating with them and other bands)
Folsom is awesome because there’s no other band with a personality like them. A mosh band covering Merle Haggard? That’s just one example of their genius. About the connection between Folsom and Die Young….I don’t know man. Stu booked Die Young on our first tour out at the Hammer House. We had met previously when I played for Finer Truth, but after Die Young played Hammer House in late 2002, we just became friends. We liked each other’s bands, and we always related about the kind of hardcore we liked to listen to. Plus, we both liked to do things the DIY way, and we always did our best to help each other out. I even put out Folsom’s first official CD release—the split with Your Mistake—on my short-lived record label. I’m glad we got to play a lot of shows and tour with them some throughout the years. Good times with those guys, always. I think you might be implying that because Die Young gradually became more involved in the vegan and political hardcore circles it doesn’t make sense for Die Young or Folsom to have played together so often, but I disagree. Die Young was never trying to be some sort of strictly political band like Anti-Flag or someone like that. We were just pissed about a lot of things, and for good reason. We shouldn’t have to limit who we play with because of being outspoken about our views. We were always down to play with whomever. We were also good friends with Seventh Star, and they were Christian! haha, can you believe that??
You’ve played everywhere and anywhere, favorite city? best show? What is one city or region that doesn’t get much hardcore that you think craves it and is most receptive to?
I think my favorite city to play will always be Monterrey, Mexico. Mexico’s scene is incredible, and the friends we made over the years in Monterrey have really made it a home away from home for me. Other than that, I’d say some of the craziest shows I ever played were in Thailand and Russia. Those kids are stoked on music and go off hard.