Antifascist Black Metal Network – Interview – 04/04/2022 🇬🇧
WARNING: this is a political interview. It positions Subterráneo Webzine as much as we have been positioned since we introduced Metalheads Against Discrimination* in 2015, trying to do something similar, and making it after the site’s ethical code. So, this shouldn’t come as shocking news for you.
Today we are presenting Antifascist Black Metal Network, a movement in the black metal world that rises to stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and any kind of oppression.
Subterráneo Webzine: Welcome to our site, would you mind introducing yourselves as a Network? Is it a global project that involves people from the music world, and from different locations around the globe?
T. – AMBN: Thank you for having us! Yes, that is a good definition. We are a collective of 20+ people from around 10 countries, mostly in Europe plus the USA, Israel/Occupied Palestine, and Brazil, which gathers artists, fans, producers, journalists, and activists who are fed up with how the extreme underground, particularly in black metal, is a festering recruitment ground for the far-right. We decided to do something about it.
Subterráneo Webzine: Black metal is a social sphere just like any other genre or ambit; therefore, it is affected by the same problematics (oppression by sexism, racism…). I guess, within music, the difference with other genres like punk, is that BM has never had a strong and organized movement to fight them. Is this why ABMN was created?
T. – AMBN: It is! There’s always been leftist bands and fans, as well as bands with women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other oppressed members, quite a few in fact; but not only we were disorganized, there’s been organized fascism inside the genre from the very beginning unlike in say, punk, where they came later. By organizing, we hope to help antifascist artists become more known and have their message more easily spread, and help fans of each band find others they also appreciate, as well as better defend antifascist artists and fans when we are inevitable attacked by the fash, as unfortunately, that happens too.
C. – AMBN: Partly this, partly because even more than other social spheres it is a culture affected most by fascist entryism, both consciously by political agitators and unconsciously by people who may not even consider themselves fascists but still fall under its ideological influence and help spread its social aspects and aesthetics, who are just as important. Therefore it is an important battleground to contest and organize resistance in, so important fascist breeding grounds and recruitment spots do not go unchallenged.
Subterráneo Webzine: Could fascism be removed from the current scene or is it so rooted that we are going to have to build a new one? How would we do that?
T. – AMBN: There’s not really a single answer to the first question, because the local scenes are very different. While fascists are present in every scene as far as we know to a greater or smaller degree, there are countries where explicitly NSBM bands and labels are «normalized» and coexistence with them is the norm, such as Finland (just look at Steelfest); conversely, there are places where relations are more frosty and most fascists go some length to disguise themselves such as the Netherlands. However, since the fash was mostly organized before, most labels/media/studios/bars already have some relation to them and are unwilling to kick them out of the scene… so as a general rule we tend to believe new local scenes are necessary for most places, for the simple fact that it’s physically unsafe for leftist bands and fans, as well as oppressed people in general, to be in the same spaces as these assholes. At the world level, however, there already exists a more or less distinct RABM scene (the existence of the ABMN is both a symptom of that and an attempt to strengthen it) which, small as it is, interacts with the «general» black metal scene without being really separate from it, and has managed to take some a measure of space from NSBM; the jury is still out on whether we’ll be able to kick them out or really need to do something entirely new eventually.
As to how we kick them out or create something, that’s the (un)Holy Grail of answers, right? We’re still trying to find out, really. But we have learned that a few things will help: a) if there is evidence for it, exposing fascists and oppressors for what they really are, and accepting no misdirection, is a must; b) keeping open for people who want to apologize and make amends – nearly everyone who’s more than 30 years old in BM has at some point held sketchy opinions or was apathetic to fascists; c) helping antifascist bands get an audience, particularly the most outspoken, is also essential; d) finally, having an attitude of favoring bands with women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other oppressed members is very important because they help bring fans of these sectors to the scene, and fascism thrives in the homogeneity of white cis males.
C. – AMBN: I would say my choice would be building a new one in opposition to the old one, not just because the old one is entrenched in its apolitical sort of fascism even if you remove the NSBM part, but because for me antifascism is also anticapitalism and creating a scene far from the capitalistic music business paradigms of distribution and influence is just as important as fighting fascism. It’s not just the message; it’s the mechanics of its delivery that matter, at least for those of us also involved in the anarcho-punk scene and more familiar with its anti-commercial values.
Subterráneo Webzine: Promoting bands that are opposed to those fascist beliefs, pro-LGTBIQ+, anti-fascist, etc., is also necessary to offer other views and information to the public. Which is what you are doing with your YouTube channel and most common social media. Which other efforts will you be making against fascism?
S. – ABMN: In regards to our work on social media, besides the uploads, we write statements in which we express our perspectives on current situations. Also, we recently released a benefit compilation named Black Metal ist Klassenkrieg!!! to help comrades facing state repression in Italy (Operation Prometeo) and in Mexico (Mexicali Resiste) by supporting them with their legal expenses. Our idea is to surely organize some other benefit compilations in the future because it’s a more concrete way to do our part out of social networks and we believe it’s fundamental to escape the confines of the virtual world. We hope we will be able to organize some more amazing stuff in the near future.
Subterráneo Webzine: But it is not just about the hate speech and how much it can spread. There have also been some fascist organization financings, right? We would, literally, be giving weapons for these people to use against us, further than just actually paying for them to make more records.
C. – AMBN: Any support of art usually also directly or indirectly supports the artist’s pet causes, whether it’s funding fascist militia or operating a distro that spreads their views or even simply giving them the means and incentive to continue, so even an artist with otherwise “neutral” art but abhorrent personal beliefs can be harmful and dangerous if supported. This is why separating art from the artist, while not completely impossible, is extremely difficult to do in any significant manner, at least while the artist is alive and it’s not really worth considering most of the time.
Subterráneo Webzine: As mentioned at the beginning of the interview, all these issues are also found in other genres within the extreme/metal world (as many others). Are your actions going to extend outside black metal’s environment?
C. – AMBN: For me, they were already extended, I was already more of a “black metal doom punk” exiled in the punk scene because of my discomfort in the metal scene, and also a huge nerd, so it is only reasonable that the members of the network who also have other interests and are part of other communities, whether it’s other problematic music scenes like industrial or comic books or gaming or SF communities, function in a similar manner when it comes to them.
Subterráneo Webzine: The listeners/public tend to romanticize music and idolize the people behind it. Becoming so individualistic that, for personal disappointment’s sake, unbelievable things are forgiven. Is this the reason for people to easier empathize more with actual fascists or their supporters, rather than with the ones that are trying to have an inclusive scene?
Cl. – AMBN: I wouldn’t use the term “individualistic” here, as some of us are moved by an individualistic urge in creating an inclusive and diverse scene (e.g. a larger scene will benefit me by being more stimulating and enriching my social relations and experiences). Thus, I believe that metal may be welcoming to nazis because of the conservative nature of most of its members. While metal is spread all around the world and it’s popular amongst all classes, a great chunk of its fanbase is to be traced to a white middle-class segment. This is even truer if we focus on metal musicians. Playing most metal genres requires good equipment and thousands of hours of practicing. Which is something harder to access if you’re poorer.
C. – AMBN: Not only that but because people don’t like, to put it bluntly, shit-stirrers, people who rock the boat and threaten their comfort, their self-image (it obviously is not pleasant for someone when it’s pointed out that even if they consider themselves apolitical, their social presence and support makes them a de facto fascist collaborator) and their embedded sense of what is right or wrong. It is consequently an occupational hazard of an antifascist that they will often be the unlikeable ones, while in a fascist embedded scene the fascists have the luxury to be pleasant (laughs).
Subterráneo Webzine: How are we, the media, reacting to this matter? Are there many sites that embrace your fight or, at least, have established an ethical code or positioning? In your opinion, which measures/actions should we be taking? Could you give us some “safe” media names, please?
C. – AMBN: Not really a social media person so I’m not the proper one to talk about our impact on them and reactions from other media, but I love Astralnoize, Toilet Ov Hell, Cvlt Nation, and, ahem, Subterráneo among others.
S. – I think that some of the webzines out there are curious about RABM and want to deepen the topic. It’s a very recent current of black metal that is growing so fast and becoming stronger each day. I feel like there are some sites that are starting to spread revolutionary black metal by featuring antifascist artists, reviewing their music, and talking about RABM more and more. There are also some zines that revolve around RABM and antifascist extreme music in general like Exhale the Ash and Nothingness Now. In regards to webzines, others than the ones that C. already mentioned, there is also Heavy Blog Is Heavy, Moshpitnation, Cvlt Nation, Metal Riot, and Noob Heavy who are leftist.
Subterráneo Webzine: Labels are another big important piece of the scene’s puzzle. Media spreads the word. Labels distribute the material. And there are a lot of inconsistencies. Companies that sell NSBM (National socialist black metal) stuff, but claim to be apolitical. Selling NSBM but also anti-fascist records. Empty positioning statements… How important/dangerous is their contribution? How much is it the label’s fault as it is the band’s when it comes to signing up with sketchy agencies?
C. – AMBN: Labels are not only an important part, they are crucial in creating and maintaining today’s climate, and often fostering it, whether to make more money or for ideology. In a sense, they are even more dangerous and influential than single bands because they have both bigger power and reach, but also a bigger commercial incentive to support popular fascist or problematic artists, and oppose a scene that confronts them, Season of Mist being a prime example of this. Most of them are after all modeled in a capitalist manner that takes more from the mainstream, commercial music scene’s mentality than they think, for all their “underground” posturing.
Subterráneo Webzine: A tip for the readers (and for all of us) about how to look out for red flags. Metallum (line up, other bands, lyrics, lyrical themes, etc.) “XBAND nazi” on Google… Although lyrics can be misleading as many fascist bands have appropriated the pagan theme and others related to nature and history. Which motives, words or aspects should we be on the lookout for when trying to find out if a band is clean or not?
Cl. – ABMN: What I personally do is look for interviews, statements, and lyrics first: what a band says is definitely more precise for identifying an ideology than having a shared stage with some nazis or something. Nowadays most nazi bands hide their views, you need to check the individual band members too. Nazis are quite boring people, and metalhead nazis are versions on steroids of them, so once you find those aspects and symbols they use and care about the most, you can easily identify them.
C. – AMBN: Frankly, it’s a mess, and the fact that different regional scenes have different levels of fascist infiltration doesn’t help, but I think the signs are often obvious enough if you bother to look, nationalistic themes, cringe ahistorical paganism, romanticizing a dark (not in the cool, goth way) past, saying they “oppose all politics”, talk about being “superior” even when it’s not in a racial context, Malthusian environmental takes, all those are usually red flags. The problem is that most people want the band to come out with a literal fascist symbol and songs about supporting genocide before they finally acknowledge that something’s wrong and will reject an overwhelming amount of indications pointing to it.
Subterráneo Webzine: Regarding that, does a theme make a genre? How does NSBM get to be treated as such?
Cl. – ABMN: We can interpret NSBM to be a subgenre of black metal defined by the lyrical theme. This is why many nazis believe that they can escape being singled out as such by stating that their lyrics “are not political”. The more we are effective in our struggle against fascism in metal, the more we’ll see nazis rejecting the NSBM label to avoid losing chances to make money and spread. That’s why NSBM must only be one of the objectives of our hatred, intelligence, and offensives. So yeah, a folk black musician that was once NSBM and now only talks about “heritage”: we have our eyes on you.
C. – AMBN: I think it does actually; NSBM is just one in a long line of scenes of otherwise disparate musical artists being united in a genre with politics as its unifying theme. It’s because often in agitprop, the message is more important than the art itself, the art is just a means of delivery (which is why it’s often absolute shit and people still support it).
Subterráneo Webzine: Was RABM (Red and anarchist black metal) born as an opposing force to NSBM? Their reactive nature couldn’t fight this tendency, probably because the percentage of bands against it is minimal. Is AFBM (Anti-fascist black metal) a subgenre? Does it appear as a backup or “re-branding” of RABM?
Cl. – ABMN: RABM is the revolutionary counterpart to nonrevolutionary black metal, being that NS or not. As a label, it surely comes from RASH (Red and Anarchist Skinheads) which was born way before NSBM. We can say that RABM is kinda born in opposition to NSBM for a major historical reason: nazis picked black metal as a propaganda tool and started organizing in it before revolutionaries did. This doesn’t mean that communists and anarchists didn’t play black metal until RABM was born, or that there weren’t explicitly revolutionary bands before, it only means that we decided to create networks and organize in the scene more recently.
Anti-fascist black metal is surely a broader term and one that we decided to use in order to include non-revolutionary antifascist black metal projects on our platform. We felt that we needed to set a standard of decency from which to elaborate a more complex political discourse. This standard is set on rejecting any fascist or nazi ideology as its backbone.
C. – ABMN: I honestly think of RABM as a means of leftist agitprop, pro-active rather than reactive, so I don’t think antifascism and opposing NSBM is its only goal and reason for existence, it’s obviously an important reason but another is weaponizing black metal’s inherent potential for irreverence and subversive thought that has so far remained mostly untapped and using it as a stepping stone for attacking racism, capitalism, authoritarianism, sexism, homophobia, etc in general, even if NSBM is wiped off the face of the Earth, RABM would still be needed, like a spear and not as a shield. I honestly never heard the term AFBM until this moment and I think it’s redundant and too general for my liking, being a leftist or anarchist means antifascism by default but it also means much more than that.
Subterráneo Webzine: About those bands that ABMN has been sharing. What is your process here? Do you accept bands submissions? (If so, leave a way of contact, please) Are you centered on new releases rather than old ones?
A. – ABMN: We obviously do accept submissions, it would have been impossible to be so active in posting albums if we attempted to reach out to each band ourselves! We accept both new and older recordings, we have a slight preference over new albums and premieres, although this should not deter you if you want us to upload an older album of yours of course. You can contact us preferably through our email [email protected], or through Facebook and Instagram too if it’s better for you.
Subterráneo Webzine: I love the fact that ABMN introduces the musical shares with a lot of information and context. How is it possible that having access to more information than ever in history, we fail to educate ourselves and learn?
A. – ABMN: If you mean within the context of (black) metal culture and regarding our choices of which band we consider “OK” in the convoluted subcultural space where complicity with fascism is on every second corner, information was never really the problem. We should just recall that every time we confront a metal listener about an “unfortunate” detail regarding a band they are a fan of, the “I did not know” excuse always comes first, although metalheads are most often very good at knowing every small detail about the bands they listen to. And of course, many times when metalheads do unquestionably learn, what changes is simply the kind of rhetoric. The problem is in the culture itself; one of the basic tenets of black metal in the old days was is that it is exciting and cool to listen to the art of fucked up people, even if they are racists and murderers or whatever. The Charles Manson effect, we could say. And of course behind this “edginess” and the supposed separation of art and artist, very often lie true but never admitted feelings of sympathy towards the ideas and doing of these people like Varg Vikernes. So what black metal needs is not that much information, it is new fascinations and new suggestions, to appreciate things other than the macho fantasies of elitism and misanthropism of white men.
That being said, we have to remember how badly was received by the scene an Internet group like the infamous ‘Is it fash’, where people ask about the politics of bands, to understand that information indeed matters… And some people don’t like it being around.
Subterráneo Webzine: Do you, as Antifascist Black Metal Network, have a defined political spectrum within the left? (Marxism, socialism, communism…) Or, with the anti-discriminating basis that we have already discussed, is it your objective to focus on the common goal of fighting fascism?
Cl. – ABMN: The network is mostly made by anti-authoritarian revolutionaries (most of us identify themselves as anarchists) but there are other nuances of the revolutionary spectrum in it, even Marxist ones. We surely have the explicit goal to contest black metal from the fascists, but we still strive for the revolution, as we all believe that’s the endgame for fascism. For example, one of our biggest and most recurrent internal debates is on how we face the market and the scene it produces.
C. – AMBN: Not precisely defined, but we lean towards the anarchist or antiauthoritarian/libertarian left spectrum. Not all of us of course, but even those who are not strictly aligned to that part of leftist ideologies accept that the network functions in this manner and respect it, for the sake of proper organization. Leftist unity is always conditional after all, so this is mostly an alliance of leftists from parts of the spectrum compatible enough to be able to function as a collective.
Subterráneo Webzine: If someone was interested in joining ABMN, would you be open to accepting more members?
Cl. – ABMN: The network is not closed but we pick our members very carefully, on the basis of sharing an affinity and similar ideas on our macro-topics. Unfortunately being international and Internet-based, we can’t have that day-to-day relationship that allows you to develop a synergy by getting intimate with each other, so we need to pick more carefully from the beginning.
Subterráneo Webzine: I believe that a lot of people with these same beliefs, shared my initial thought when discovering your network: “Thank fuck”. So, thank you for taking the courage to head this fight, and, obviously, for your time answering these questions. You may add whatever you like.
Cl. – ABMN: if your label asks you to share the stage with some nazis, don’t waste the opportunity: let their skulls meet your guitars. Fireworks too. Then drop the label and DIY.