Karl Buechner (Earth Crisis)

Interview with Karl Buechner of Earth Crisis and The Path of Resistance conducted by Greg Svitil in Washington, DC at the Capital Ballroom on July 20, 1996 following Earth Crisis / Snapcase / Refused / Damnnation, A.D. show

Greg: So, Earth Crisis is on tour now. How is that tour coming along?

Karl: We’re doing a three-week tour of the east coast, from Portland, Maine all the way down to Miami, Florida and back. We’re on the eighth day, I believe, and every show has been pretty much phenomenal. We’ve played places where we, in the past, didn’t have as good of a turnout, and things were awesome as far as kids going off and singing along and being into the music and appreciative of our band. So this is a great tour.

Greg: I’ve read that there tends to be a lot of confrontation at your shows.

Karl: We have gotten into fights. That’s a very rare thing. Last year, in 1995, when all the tours are added up and all the shows, we were on tour for eight months. I can think of about six things that happened last year. That’s not really that many, when you put it all together.

There was an incident at the New Jersey show we played the weekend before the tour started that we’re on now. We played in Middlesex, New Jersey to about 250-plus kids that were completely into our band — straightedge kids, straightedge vegetarians and vegan-straightedge people, animal liberation activists, hardcore kids. They were all there, their head was in the show, having a good time. And there was about five kids, who I understand are continually antagonistic to bands that come in there as well as people even on the street. I guess that’s what they get off on. These people came to the show with the intent of starting something with us, and starting something with the people who are into our band. First, they were directing mockery and insults toward the band, from the back, as usual. They threw yogurt, they threw an empty beer can, they threw a full beer can. And it didn’t stop the show. Everyone continued to have a good time, despite it all. We didn’t stop playing even when people were unplugging our equipment and turning it off. We got through half a song with just everyone singing along. That was a really powerful thing. A politically correct person, whose diet is vegan but obviously has no respect for animal liberation activists, had a fake fur coat on — he jumped up on stage, and to my bassist, it seemed when you string it all together — starting with people mocking us and the kids that are into us, throwing the yogurt, throwing the beer can, the empty beer can, and the threats — when this guy jumped up on stage, my cassist thought that he was coming to attack me, and the crowd pulled him down, and my bassist punched him three times, and the crowd starting to punch and kick him. I feel that he deserved a couple hits, without question, because he was trying to trivialize and discredit what our band is about, and undermine the release that one of our shows is for people who are involved in the struggle for animal liberation. When they’re in their schools, their work, even their homes, whether it’s from people who are their alleged friends or family members, they are constantly mocked and their beliefs are constantly discredited and trivialized. So when people come to our show, that’s a release of those types of emotions, that type of anger, justified in noble rage. And this guy just wanted to make it into a joke, and he was beaten. However, he didn’t bleed, he didn’t limp, and he walked away. And I picked up the mic as soon as this whole thing started, and when everyone started kicking him and punching him, I stop “stop, back off of him, it’s nor worth it, you’re gonna kill him, let him go.” And everyone did.

I didn’t want it to get out of hand, because I thought that the whole thing was completely ridiculous. It was just a display of zero heart. It’s like somebody running into the Million Man March with a Klan hood on, and after everyone beats him up, they say “oh, well, my girlfriend’s black, it was just a joke.” It’s completely moronic. There’s nothing funny about animals suffering and being tortured, and there’s nothing wrong with people standing up for beings that are oppressed, and violated, and tortured, and murdered.

And that’s what our band’s about. Our band is about hopefully trying to make things in the world more peaceful and just. And one of the building blocks to accomplish that is a reverence for all innocent life. So veganism, more than just being a change in diet and products that we consume or wear, is a change in our hearts. It’s an understanding that if all innocent life is given the proper respect that it’s due, peace can evolve.

It’s ridiculous. That show was a total success, I think, because there was 250 or more kids that totally had a good time, and everyone crowded around me in a huge circle and thanked us for playing and said “never let that hinder you from coming back to New Jersey, we definitely want to see you again.” And it won’t. I walked outside of the show and I talked to a guy that was friends with the guy who was wearing the fake fur coat, and I said “here I am, you know, you wanna fuck with me now, here I am.” An argument began, the argument became a debate, the debate became a conversation, and it ended with him saying “well, you stand up for what you believe in, you know I respect you for that.” He didn’t back down. And that’s usually the way things end up when there’s incidents like that.

Greg: There are plenty of rumors surrounding Earth Crisis. What are some of the more interesting ones you’ve heard, and are there any that you’d like to dispel?

Karl: I don’t think lies are interesting or humorous. There are a lot of people who concoct rumors with the intent of being destructive towards us and sway people away from even giving our lyrics sheet a chance. That’s ridiculous. Before you comment on a band or an individual or a crew, read their lyrics sheet, read their interviews, go up and talk to them, find out what they’re about — especially before you do something that’s disrespectful.

We’ve had to deal with a lot of situations like that, and for the most part that’s really really died down, esepcially in the last year. A lot of rumors have been laid to rest thanks to all the touring we did last year. In 1995, when all the tours are put together, we were on the road for eight months worth of shows. So we reached a lot of places that we’d never been to before.

Earth Crisis are not a hardline band. Earth Crisis is a vegan straightedge band. That’s what we’ve always been, are now, and forever shall be. We are not homophobic. We feel that what two committed, consenting, loving adults choose to do in the privacy of their bedroom, be it a heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, or homosexual, that’s their own business and no one else’s.

What do you think causes someone to believe that you’re homophobic?

Because they try to tie us in with hardline, and vegan straightedge ideology and hardline ideology are very similar in almost all respects, aside from what hardline’s deal with what homosexuality is. They view it as unnatural, and therefore a negative type of thing. They see it as being out of balance with nature, and they feel that a woman should  never have an abortion unless, I believe, the woman’s life is in danger.

And we feel that there are instances where, tragically, abortion should remain an option. And that is to say, if a woman becomes pregnant after being raped, or if the life of the unborn child is so severely damaged by the mother’s drug, alcohol, cigarette addiction, or something like a car accident or a disease, that when that child is born, its life will be nothing but complete suffering.

It might be a type of euthanasia to prevent further suffering. I’m not talking about, say someone’s retarded or deformed, in any way. That’s not what I view it as. I view it as a child that is born, and lays there, and does nothing but struggle for its breath. Also, if sometimes women’s lives become endangered and an abortion is necessary for their physical safety.

What the solutions are to prevent this whole problem from occurring are to educate young people about sexuality and the risk of pregnancy when their bodies start to mature, and that should come between the home and the school to make birth control free and accessible, and just to teach people to be responsible and take accountability for their own actions.

If you’re going to be engaging in intercourse, use birth control. If you’re not financially or emotionally stable enough to handle pregnancy, don’t have intercourse. There’s other types of sex that can be had. And if a pregnancy does occur, there’s always adoption. And there’s nothing wrong with a mother raising a child by herself — the chance at life is far better than simply being rubbed out before it even starts.

A fetus is a human life, regardless of what most of the media tells you. You can see anything on television; you can see rape, you can see torture, you can see bodies burned by napalm, but at least until now we have not seen the images, the photos, of what an aborted fetus looks like. You can see what happens inside a slaughterhouse. But they don’t show you that because they don’t want you to know that a fetus is a human life in a very early stage of development. They want you to think that it’s some type of a tumor, when in truth, human development begins with a fetus, progresses onwards from infant to child to adult.

For the same reasons that we’re vegan, which is that we have a reverence for all innocent life, is the reason why we are against abortion as a means of birth control. We’re not for a ban, that’s not what we’re about. We want people to respect innocent life, and recognize a fetus for what it is.

Greg: Speaking of fetuses, what’s the real reason that you’ll no longer play the song “Stand By”?

Karl: We don’t play “Stand By,” we don’t play “Behind the Mask,” we don’t play “Forced to Kill.” We don’t play those songs anymore because, for one, the music is punk rock, and our sound is metalcore. Everything in the essay in All Out War about the solutions for stopping the abortion problem I agree with all my heart, and will until the day I die. And all the stuff about militant animal liberation and environmentalism in “Stand By” has been pinpointed with far greater accuracy and effectiveness in songs like “The Order That Shall Be,” “Destroy the Machines,” “The Wrath of Sanity,” and “Deliverance.”

Those lyrics were written by Shane, not me. I want to sing songs that I wrote the lyrics to and songs that we wrote all the music to. The music to that song was written by Ben, who sold out and burned a bridge between us and him, and there can no longer be any friendship

Greg: So it wasn’t a good parting of ways?

Karl: Definitely not.

Greg: Let’s talk a little about the next Earth Crisis record.

Karl: The next Earth Crisis record will be released on September 30 of this year. We spent 30 solid days in the studio in Syracuse, Penguin, where we recorded the original All Out War 7”, but this time we had the real engineer, Steve, and we definitely got a heavy sound. Nine new songs, two of the songs about straightedge, one is about the revolutionary potential of straightedge and using the clarity of mind to detain, by living drug- and alcohol- and promiscuous-sex-free. To strive to make the world more of a just and peaceful place, starting on an individual level and progressing outwards from there. There’s also a more personalized song about straightedge, there’s an anti-alcohol song, there’s a song about overcoming the cycle of child abuse, there’s a song about vigilante-ism, and there’s a song about armageddon.

So there’s a lots of different things that we haven’t covered before, like human rights and personalized lyrics. And the nine songs on the record are much longer than the entire Destroy the Machines LP. The name of this new record is Gomorrah’s Season Ends. It’s about recognizing the state of society today and comparing it to what was going on in the the Old Testament, when God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for its inhabitants’ self-indulgent, destructive, and selfish ways.

Right now, civilization is in a state or moral decay, and we have a lot of lyrics about turning things around for the better, and bringing the season of decay to its end.

Greg: Do Earth Crisis associate themselves with any particular environmentalist or animal rights group?

Karl: Yeah — The ALF, the Liberators, the Justice Department, Earth First!, and more moderate, mainstream ones — we distribute PETA literature and Rainforest Action Network.

Greg: Let’s talk about the Path of Resistance record (seven-person band, including Karl and two other Earth Crisis members, Who Dares Wins LP released through Victory). How did it come about?

Karl: The Path of Resistance, like Earth Crisis, for those who haven’t heard us, we have a pretty much solid metalcore sound. Path of Resistance is a straight hardcore sound. It’s faster, it’s got breaks and singalongs and chants — it’s more like All Out War, it’s what All Out War should have sounded like. Lyrically, Path of Resistance is simply about straightedge, and resisting all the poisons of body and mind that are pushed on us from the day we’re born. So it’s a traditional style of hardcore music, and what makes it different is we have three singers that trade off the vocals.

Greg: Is Path of Resistance a one-record project?

Karl: We’re gonna do, hopefully, record a Path of Resistance song for Hydra Head Records’ Animal Liberation benefit comp, and that might be out next year I think. Carcass is also on there, and Envy, Despair, Julia. I’d like for us to do a 7”. Path of Resistance will most likely only end up playing Syracuse shows, very few and far between, because Earth Crisis has always been, is now, and forever shall be our number one priority. Our number one priority is to continue to record, release records, and tour as much as possible.

Greg: What kind of feedback have you gotten from the Path of Resistance record?

Karl: I haven’t seen one good review yet (laughs). But I’m really proud of the record and I know a lot of kids are into it, ‘cause they ask for Path songs when we play. So if anybody’s got any good reviews, mail ‘em out to me. It’ll be a happy day!

Greg: OK. Karl, thanks for doing the interview. It’s been a pleasure. Good luck with the rest of your tour. I hope you guys make it to Disneyland.

Karl: Thanks for the interview and thanks for reading. Peace to all who came to support our show in Boston — FSU, Boston Straightedge, the kids from Portland, Maine, the kids from Northampton. Greg, live vegan.