When organising the ‘Hate Crew’ tour in Germany (1988), I got in touch with Thomas Skubsch who helped out at the (anarchist infoshop) ‘A-Laden’ and set up gigs in Störtebeker (squatted house in the Hamburg’s Hafenstrasse). We met in their ‘shop’, hung out a while and started corresponding. Turned out that ‘Skabsch’ was also doing a fanzine. Even though my German was far from impeccable, I could understand quite a lot, found it very interesting and decided to get it and I continued to read it…
‘Skabsch’ was the man of the graphics/lay-out, the ‘international relations’; he was helped by his friends, like ‘Agi Eritrea’ (interviews), ‘Matze’ (photography) and a bunch of others.
This interview with ‘Nausea’ was done in 1990, the year before the tour that brought them to our autonomous centre the Vort’n Vis (91-04-28) for a fabulous show.
[Translation below (with help from Bernd Backhaus)]
March ‘90: The band’s name is ‘Nausea’, some people have already heard them, there’s a demo-tape and a contribution to the MaximumRocknRoll sampler. No disappointment. The band played 2 very good concerts in Hamburg and also reported twice with slide-lectures on squatting and survival in New York. The full force of the cruel city is reflected in the music. The music patters on people’s heads; hard as a bulldozer,. 5 people on stage, two alternating singers (male/female). How to describe the Music? First off: the lyrics of the band are very important, they also make statements (very rare these days) about what attacks people in the Big City, about survival and balance with nature, the balance between our own lives and the environment. Musically, there’s a lot of debt to the British ‘Antisect’, ‘Amebix’ (very strong influence) and similar bands from the anarcho-punk scene clearly pop up in one’s ear. But the whole is mixed with speed and more upfront guitars, very hard, roaring and heavy. Because everything blends together well, because the music is very cool, and the message of the band comes over so well and was really taking hold, this band is featured here in the magazine. Agi interviewed the band (this was also on 12XU radio), Skabsch took care of gathering the info/ translation and Matze shot photos and organized the shipping of live-tapes (both Hamburg gigs).
Interview with ‘Nausea’ (April ’90) by Agi Eritrea
Where do you see ‘Nausea’ as a band from New York compared to the other, often very well-known, Straight Edge bands?
Vic: Most other bands do not want to have anything to do with us because we do not follow their rules. Straight Edge in New York is more of a trend than a way of living. The kids that I see in New York that are Straight Edge, look the same and wear the T-shirts of the same bands; they follow bands and these say: These are the rules, if you want be part of it. Most bands in New York have music as major preoccupation, and the associated lifestyle. ‘Nausea’ cares more about political ideas, ideals, thoughts and communication.
The question is what life is like in one of the largest cities and whether there is support from the state or whether the people have to worry about themselves, and how they live?
Vic: Those who are poor, can try to get welfare (-assistance). It is not enough to live (rent and food in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The welfare-system is degrading, people there are treated like dirt. And they’re supposed to feel that way. It must be declared whether there are children that need to be taken care of, how family-relations are, all that. But they don’t get enough money to survive. To apply for welfare-assistance you have to be able to provide a permanent address. Many homeless people can’t do that.
Amy: I lived in a squat and I went to a welfare-office to be able to get medical bills payed and to get some money to renovate, because I was pregnant and wanted to achieve a stable living-situation, but I was told that I had to go to a shelter for 3 months to get help. The shelters are the homeless-shelters in the city. There is a lot of violence, drugs and AIDS, because as in US prisons, there’s male prostitution. I had no money and could not achieve anything, and they didn’t want to help me.
Vic: I work for a record-distribution, and only just about get by. In New York City it’s very difficult to get a job. Because we live in the computer-age, there is either hard physical labour or stupid mindless work in front of a screen. Moreover, the companies usually work in a wrecked area.
In New York City homeless-organisations estimate that there are 100.000 homeless people; the government itself would not admit 10.000. What do homeless people do when they lose their house, how does this happen?
Amy: Homelessness is an economic problem, because the property is so valuable in New York. Home-owners are so corrupt that they throw people out of their homes because other people can pay more rent. Or there’s need for thousands of dollars before anyone can get a house and welfare-offices in NYC don’t help anyone finding one if they haven’t spent 6 months in a homeless-shelter.
Vic: Most people would rather sleep on the streets than in homeless-shelters; everything goes downhill there, because of the violence, drugs and diseases.
John: The police raids different areas where homeless people live, like in subway-stations, and then forces people into the shelter-system. Which most do not want!
Vic: AIDS mostly hits under-privileged, drug-addicts and gays, and as such is pleasant. Perhaps there are medicines against AIDS, but then they are retained.
John: It is assumed that there are medicines but there are millions of desperate people who need help, and they have no money because they can no longer work, and any medicine would be expensive.
Vic: In the US, AIDS has almost reached the dimensions of the plague in the Middle-Ages in Europe. And AIDS no longer just hits the under-privileged, there are now also rich people infected, people in higher positions, actors.
Al: In two years there will be 33.000 homeless in Manhattan who are HIV-infected. Many people under the influence of drugs have sex without protection. NYC suffers under the problem of drugs and drugs control everything. Cocaine and heroin is present in the squat-scene, in the hardcore-punk scene, among the yuppies of Wall Street, also your priest in church, everyone. Recently, a bar in Wall Street was closed, because cocaine was sold there.
Amy: In the Lower East Side, I could see how businessmen were queueing up in front of abandoned buildings at 6 a.m. to buy their drugs.
Vic: I saw how one was arrested, yes – and I laughed.
Amy: The police are not very effective in the fight against drugs. The other day there was a major drug-bust where 2 officers were shot. The drug-dealers were accused of that until the police finally had to admit that the cops had shot each other.
Vic: But the police itself is too corrupt and involved in the drug-trade, that it is not really working. I don’t understand how the drugs can be sold anywhere just like that, when the cops don’t allow this, because everywhere there is heroin and cocaine. When you walk down a street, you can meet someone who shouts “Crack, crack, crack…” and sells it.
Al: Those cops have guns. So any organised resistance is immediately deemed as strengthening the unwanted drug-dealers, and so any attempt to organise ourselves is nipped in the bud. These people shoot on blacks, on children – for no reason.
Amy: A child was shot because it was thought to be armed but it only carried a screwdriver. Most cops get away with it, hardly getting punished.
Al: Any organised resistance is immediately seen as a drug-related crime, and they kill us and get away with it. The media play along in this game, and without a critical audience the cops have a free hand.
Al: The use of drugs is so bad that just by mentioning that drug-addicts live in squatted houses, immediately everyone will be against the squats. It is incredibly hard to find support.
Is the ‘War On Drugs’ in fact a war against the poor?
Vic: A few years ago it was announced that the Reagan administration bought cocaine in Panama, imported it in the US and had sold it. The money went through money-laundering and has been used to support the Contras in Nicaragua. The president said he knew nothing about it and Oliver North was punished as an example. But he was not treated as a criminal; he said on TV: “Well, I did it for America, for democracy, because I love this country and want to fight the communist threat.”. So he became a hero. And at the same time the War On Drugs campaign was launched.
Amy: They cut on drug-assistance programs and put the money into further military build-up, they say stronger military will prevent drug-import. But the drug-problem is a social and not a military problem. That being said, the government supports it. From their military point of view they don’t help people when they cut social programs. They destroy human lives because they are not able to provide an atmosphere or a living-situation in which people want to live, especially the underprivileged.
Vic: The US government knows how much people can be influenced by drugs and this may be in their interest. At the end of the 50s, beginning of the 60s, there were experiments with LSD in the drinking-water, then it was assumed it could be used as mind-control.
Amy: In the Lower East Side, people fight each other because of drugs and that’s in the interest of the government, because in that way they can’t discover their strength to fight against what suppresses them.
Vic: It’s a black market, where children ar sold for prostitution. Crack hooks people instantly, the fuddle-phase is so intense but short that it is unbearable to come down again. Therefore, there is the immediate desire for the next dose. Some people are so desperate that they sell their children. It always comes back in the news: babies found in trash-bins, in parking-lots, children left alone for weeks by their parents until they starve and die. Around New Year I came home and saw two families in front of my house, babies were lying in their faeces and drug-equipment lay next to them, and parents were smoking crack while the children were crying.
Al: You see, against what an alternative movement must resist: when anyone who’s engaged in animal-welfare, they bump into animal-testing in conjunction with drugs; if anyone occupies houses, they live in combat-zones, all movements encounter the problem: drugs and the government’s attitude to not want to do anything to help people; on the contrary it contributes to the fact that these destructive things amongst people continue, in order to keep them divided and controlable. And the little bit of welfare-support that there is, keeps people trapped and passive. As soon their welfare-check is missing, they become homeless, slip further away, drugs inevitably enter the shelters or they rot in the street.
Amy: There are many old people who no longer have a house, because the welfare-money is not enough for the rent.
Vic: Many homeless people in NYC are mentally ill because they are picked up from the streets and pumped full with drugs in psychiatry until they are completely passive. Then they’re considered cured and released back onto the streets. There they wander around until the influence of medicines/psychopharmaceutical substances decreases. Then the cycle starts all over again because they freak out.
Amy: Many people are like paralysed, they concentrate fully on survival. They focus their entire energy on the next meal, that completely determinates their situation and their instincts, and this causes a lot of madness.
Next question would be about hip-hop and conventional mainstream rap to and of course the militant branches such as ‘Public Enemy’, who preach black nationalism and demand their own state.
Vic: As far ‘Public Enemy’ goes: it’s about much more than just black separatism and black consciousness. It goes upto racism. ‘P.E.’ said many things that are extreme and openly anti-Semitic. They’re not utterances which could be misunderstood. In the ‘60s the music from the streets recognised that the best way to control rebellion, is their economic control. Rap began in the South Bronx and rap was rooted in the streets. There were also just tapes who were swapped. Now there’s rap on MTV, the industry has it under control, there has been a sell-out. ‘P.E.’ are on MTV and the records are released on a label, which belongs to white people. Rich white people. And they say “We direct the music towards the black audience, sell as much as possible, make a lot of money – and if we want, then we simply make it stop.”. And they can do that – they can simply stop it, they already made other rebellious music stop. The artists will be turned into jokers, a laughingstock to all, and the message is gone, no one takes it seriously anymore.
John: It’s a complete product. The gold that the rich hip-hop stars wear, comes directly from South-Africa. Gold is desirable and the fact that rappers wear it, makes them completely dubious.
Vic: We make the distinction between the rap with black consciousness and that which just parades what can be achieved by means of drugs and how big the size of their golden chains is. Also the clothing: Troop Jackets are sold by a right-wing company. [Bernd Backhaus: This rumor is false: the company was ran by Jewish brothers and a Korean immigrant.]
Amy: Furthermore, people try to reach the standard of living where you’re supposed to be looking good with gold and expensive clothes, and earning money through drug-dealing.
Al: Before the sterotype was that blacks were truly vile, that they lived in dilapidated houses but were driving Cadillacs. This meant that they were lazy, did not want to work but drove Cadillacs that they bought with the welfare-checks. The stereotype has changed. Today they buy huge gold chains with the money from welfare.
Vic: The white right-extremists like Tom Metzger and the KKK want a separate white state. Louis Farrakhan, ‘Public Enemey’, black separatists want that too. I see things different. We all live on the same planet. Many are busy to fight over borders, colour of skin and nationalities and money, that we don’t even see what happened to the earth. We try to overcome the limitations and then Louis Farrakhan speaks for the black separatist movement, and Tom Metzger for the white separatist movement. We want to tear down the walls and they want to build them higher. Even in the present state, we cannot communicate due to the existing barriers. How will we change this hostile atmosphere, with more and more walls? We couldn’t bring over certain literature, because of limitations, because otherwise we wouldn’t have been allowed to enter. I can’t see how separatism can ever solve problems.
Al: In the US there are many white people who are separatists. They’re not organised but they all have this hatred. What makes us afraid, is that they collect weapons, have paramiltary exercises. They educate their children to hate and they sit within their small self-made walls and hate.
Amy: Black Power Movement – Supporting artists refer to the same ideas and use the same tactics as the white racists, and blacks don’t target their oppressors, the system with their hatred, but on the next identifiable enemy.
Vic: Someone of ‘Public Enemy’ said that the only solution is that blacks become the rulers.
Amy: Many black separatists do not want to improve the situation, they want revenge. Their extreme attitude is understandable given their corresponding bad situation. Of course there are the ‘flagship’ blacks who have succeeded in adapting themselves and are successful. The political activists of the 60s, Black Panther Party, Weathermen, are either dead, murdered, in jail or they switched sides. The blacks today know how nearly impossible it is to change something in the US.
Vic: Malcolm X, who Louis Farrakhan strongly relates to (and thus ‘Public Enemy’ and other rap-artists) was in Mecca, and experienced true and sincere brotherhood there, with whites, because their belief in Islam washed the white away from their souls, their behaviour and their attitude. Malcolm X has then cast off his blanket hostility towards the whites.
Al: I have no problem with blacks; that is an economic and political problem. Racism is a public institution and it is fully promoted in schools, by police, media, religion, welfare. It comes from above, is imposed on the people, and the people are divided, controlled.
OK, in the scene a few months ago there was a discussion about a compilation-LP on Revelation recs from New York. The nationalist band ‘Y.D.L.’ from New York appeared on this record. Hardcore/punk and fascism do not go together, not an issue. Why were ‘Nausea’ on this record? The response of the band: they didn’t know ‘Y.D.L.’ also were gonna be on the record and would also have rejected it, would they have known about it.
Communication: ‘Nausea’ – PO BOX 20114 – Tompkins Square Station – New York NY 10009
* Discography: Tracks on [New York Hardcore:] The Way It Is [Revelation recs], the MaximumRocknRoll LP [They Don’t Get Paid, They Don’t Get Laid, But Boy Do They Work Hard! ] & the Squat Or Rot EP; Demo-tape 1989 [Extinct]; Extinction LP (Profane Existence/USA, Meantime/Europe); Live-tapes (Hamburg gigs)…