Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brian Peterson: "Burning Fight " book author interview. February 2nd. 2010.

Vista: Introduce yourself, please. Just basic stuff...Where do you reside, age, color of the socks you are wearing today?

Brian: My name is Brian Peterson. I live in Chicago and I'm 33-years-old. I am also a high school teacher, writer, film buff, voracious reader, spiritual and historical seeker, and semi-regular yoga practitioner. Today, I am wearing plain white socks.

Vista: When did the idea come about for the "Burning Fight" book? Also, what is your opinion on the Steven Blush's comment in his book "American Hardcore", where he claims, "hardcore died in 1986"? Is Steven Blush: old school or JUST old?

Brian: I had the idea in the early 00's. I remember reading "American Hardcore" and really enjoying it. At the same time I felt that Blush's "hardcore died in 86" sentiment was off the mark. There have been a few eras of hardcore since then- all of them obviously sharing importance in the history of hardcore
. I think Blush did a good job documenting that pioneering era, but he obviously stopped paying attention at a certain point. I agree that those initial bands were essential. Without them, there would be no hardcore. That said, just like any artistic community, there are new people who come along and create, innovate, and share new ideas. It's debatable whether they are as valid as the originals, but I feel that there have been a lot of bands, people, and ideas since that have shaped the lives of thousands. But the book was something I thought about for a while before deciding to go ahead and try writing it. At first, it was a collection of vague ideas: :It'd be cool if 'someone' wrote a book about the nineties era", I remember thinking. That era, its ideas/politics/ethics, and overall social and political consciousness- not to mention the amazing music - changed my life. Eventually I shared the idea with a couple of friends who encouraged me to pursue it. I started talking to a few people and six years later it all came together, albeit through many, many hours of work [laughs].

Vista: The book came out great, but was there ever a point while compiling information that you thought there is just no-way it would ever get done?

Brian: At times I wasn't sure if it would be completed. Early on I had a "wish list" of people to interview but had no clue how to track them down. I also wasn't exactly sure all of all I wanted to document and how it would come together. For the first couple of years it was just a hobby. I'd talk to people, transcribe interviews, and just keep doing as many as I could. After a while, many themes continued to present themselves and it just sort of took shape right in front of my eyes. I had no idea if it would ever be published, but I just had faith that it would all come together eventually. Six years later and it did.

Vista: I know that you have written for bigger publications such as: Thrasher, Skyscraper & others. I'm wondering, have you ever done a fanzine? Also, have you ever been in a band when you were younger?

Brian: Yes, I did a couple of fanzines local to my area in the 90's. I did them with friends. Looking back now they are somewhat embarrassing, but at the same time I'm glad we tried to express ourselves. I also played in a few bands in the Midwest. I was in a band called Crosscheck from about 1994 to 1996 and another band called Criswell from '96 to '98 or so. Crosscheck was a mid-tempo typical hardcore band of the mid-90's. Criswell was much more politically charged and a bit more experimental and noisy sounding.

Vista: You're a high school teacher. What grade do you teach? Would you give special treatment to kids that wear Unbroken shirts or just advise them to sell the shirt on eBay?

Brian: Yeah, I teach English, Writing, and Journalism at the high school level. Right now I'm working with juniors & seniors, but I've taught all levels of high school the past six years. I don't have a lot of hardcore kids in classes, but I've had a few over the years. Many of them have been introduced to hardcore by bands like Hatebreed and Terror, or they find out about it through skating and hearing about the classic bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag. But I have lots of students who are really passionate about music of all kinds, whether it's hip-hop, rock, punk, or whatever. I'm just stoked when I see kids amped about music, ideas, and art. The older I get the more cynicism I see around me, so it's nice to have those positive influences in my life.

Vista: Are there any of your students aware that you've done the Burning Fight book? I'm sure some students must be into it while others wonder, why did you waste your time on this type of book when you could have done a book on Ashton Kutcher or Jay Z. What has been the feedback from the students?

Brian: They all know I wrote a book, but many of them don't know much about hardcore music. They think it's "cool" that their teacher wrote a book, so it's nice to get their support.

Vista: I'm more than sure it must have been an impossible task to dwindle down the amount of bands that you chose for your book but I was shocked that bands such as, Snapcase & Boysetsfire weren't included? When you hear statements like this, does it make you wanna punch people like me or do you just say something like, "go write your own damn book and include them"?

Brian: [Laughs] It's one of the biggest things people complain about, and I totally get it. There are about 40 other bands I would have loved to include. But we had a page count limit we were working with, and I don't think anyone wanted to read an encyclopedia. In some ways the book might be too long as is, but I felt like I wanted to have a wide range of bands and areas of the country represented. Specifically in regards to bands like Snapcase, Outspoken, and Lifetime, there have been really great interviews and/or oral history articles in Alternative Press or The Anti-Matter Anthology the past few years so I thought, "Well, these bands were obviously essential to the era, but at least they have been covered in a prominent way elsewhere". I knew I couldn't include everyone, so seeing those other articles eased my stress about cutting some of them. Trust me, there are enough other bands left over to probably warrant another book of some kind.  

Vista: I know there were a couple of "book releae" shows with a bunch of amazing bands such as" Unbroken, Disembodied, Undertow...Just to name a few. How were those shows? It must have been amazing to see all these older bands come back& perform! Also, didn't some of the proceeds go towards some different organizations?

Brian: Yeah, those were amazing weekends. I never thought so many of those bands would be willing to play again. The Chicago show last May started with just an idea of, "oh, it would be cool to do some kind of a book release show". Originally it was going to be a couple of bands - 108 and Guilt - with a few contemporary ones. But my friend Jim Grimes helped me out and between the two of us we were able to get Unbroken, Trial, and Disembodied to play. Suddenly this was a pretty huge show. [Laughs] Then it turned into two days. Then the tickets sold out in about 18 hours. It was just one mind-blowing thing after another. [Laughs] When the weekend finally arrived, it really felt magical. All these people came together to just have a good time. There was no drama. People were just stoked to see all these bands. There was such a positive vibe. It was one of the most amazing weekends of my life. The following weekend Rob Moran and Justin Pearson put together another amazing show in California that was also off the hook! Those two weekends were like whirlwinds. Hard to describe. [Laughs] Anyway, yes, both shows had some charities that benefited, which was really important to me. That's one of the great things about hardcore - there are so many opportunities to give back

Vista: As a kid growing up, what punk/hardcore bands were you first into? Also, what was your first "core" show you ever attended?

Brian: I didn't get into hardcore until I was 15 or 16. I grew up listening to hip-hop almost exclusively. I loved the raw and creative sound of that era that producers like Marley Marl, Pete Rock, The Bomb Squad and others created. But the thing that hooked me the most was the substantive lyrics. Lyricists like KRS-One, Chuck D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and many others really opened my young eyes to a lot of things happening in the world. In the late grade school and junior high a good friend of mine got into hardcore and punk. He was a skater and BMX kid and exposed me to a lot of interesting stuff. So, I heard some hardcore early on when he'd play it, but I didn't understand the screaming. A few years later I had gotten into different kinds of music and was really into Nirvana. They were highly influenced by a lot of classic hardcore and punk bands, so I started to pick up these records. Minor Threat, Black Flag, The Misfits, Dead Kennedys, and many more. I don't remember the first show I attended. It was sometime in the early 90's at a local coffee shop after my family moved to Illinois. The Quad-Cities {border of Illinois/Iowa} didn't have a large hardcore/punk scene, but there were hardcore and punk kids, as well as indie rockers, alternative kids, ravers, etc. All of these kids came together to help build a really cool small underground music scene.

Vista: How old were you when you thought to yourself, "hey, I want to be a writer and/or teacher"? What got you initially interested in it? Do you think that hardcore music/community had a direct or indirect influence in your occupation?

Brian: I've always had an interest in writing ever since I was a little kid. My friend who first exposed me to hardcore would write ghost stories with me going back to second grade. They were pretty cheesy, but I really got a kick out of creating our own stories. I've enjoyed writing ever since. As far as actually writing about music and that sort of thing, I think my exposure to zines really did it for me. The idea that I, or anyone else, could just put together a zine, sell it or trade it at shows, and correspond with others was really mind blowing! As for teaching, I never thought I would be one until I became one. [Laughs] Growing up I was always a pretty shy kid and kept to myself and close friends for the most part. I never imagined talking in front of others. That said, years later I was searching for a way to find a career in which one could "give back" somehow. Pick up on some of those ethics that hardcore taught me. Teaching eventually just made sense.

Vista: It without a doubt seemed that the entire 90's  hardcore had such an underground vibe to it. There were so many zines, young kids putting on shows, kids passing out fliers, kids putting out records and doing distros. The whole D.I.Y. ethic was an unwritten rule almost. When did tht change? What changed it?

Brian: There still is a pretty thriving D.I.Y. hardcore ethic going on in hardcore but, yeah, the 90's definitely had that vibe. At the same time, the 90's was when a lot of bands and labels became bigger in stature and started to make more money. I don't know that there is a definitive answer to the question because there always have been and always will be people who want to do things with a more D.I.Y. ethic and people who don't care as much about it.

Vista: O.k., you've been into hardcore for many, many years. I'd like you to list your top 10 bands/albums of all-time!

Brian: Are you talking just hardcore records? Man, that's a tough question! There are so many records that have made an impact on me. Keep in mind this list changes on a pretty regular basis. But as of today, here's what I'm feeling:

108~Threefold Misery.



Inside Out~No Spiritual Surrender. 

Shelter~Perfection of Desire.

Ressurection~I Refuse.

Los Crudos~Anything {as amazing as the records were, they don't do justice to seeing them live. Incredible!}

Groundwork~Today We Will Not Be Invisible Nor Silent.

Youth of Today~We're Not In This Alone.

Minor Threat~ Discography.

I could probably toss in another dozen records or so...Too many to name! [Laughs] If you're talking any kind of music, then I could add several other amazing albums from rock, hip-hop, etc.

Vista: Which band was the hardest to track down and/or get to commit to providing information to the Burning Fight book? Was there a band that so out-of-it to the point of them being like "ohhh, who cares"?

Brian: There were dozens of bands I would have liked to interview, but I wasn't able to track some people down. I really wanted to interview Sam McPheerters, but he wasn't interested. Born Against was, obviously, a hugely influential band. I tried to find Bloodlet but wasn't able to. Frail would have been interesting. Iconoclast. Ashes. Many, many more.

Vista: What is your opinion on the current hardcore scene? Is there a scene? Also, did you ever think hardcore would be in every local Mall & in stores such as Hot Topic? Can you be a hardcore band and be in a store like that? Dose it go against everything that hardcore started out as?

Brian: Hardcore is still alive and as strong as ever! The scene has changed, as it always does. But the same goes for any sort of artistic community. The important thing is what you're getting out of it, for me, I get most excited when people/bands are focusing on ideas - searching for themselves or how to make the world around them a better place. I've seen a bunch of bands the past few years struggling with those issues and it has been really cool. People have to decide for themselves what is or what isn't "hardcore". Sure, part of it has to do with a certain sound, but I think it's more about the community aspect, and the ethics/ideas/dialogue. What do you think?

Vista: As a writer you've done other style of work. Can you tell us about some of those?  Also, do you have any other books out?

Brian: I've been writing for music and film related publications and sites off and on for about a decade. I started by writing reviews and interviewing a few bands, and then gradually picked up more and more assignments along the way. For a while I was writing for Thrasher, Skyscraper, Punk Planet, A.M.P., and several other places all at once. After I started working on the book more seriously, however, I began to cut back on the freelance work and focus on the book interviews. I don't have any other books out, but I hope to get some fiction and other non-fiction published someday. I've got several ideas. Now it's just a matter of having the time to flesh them out.

Vista: Would you or have you considered doing some type of follow-up to the Burning Fight book?

Brian: It's something I've thought about, but I'm not sure exactly how I would do it. I've thought about working on something that dealt with the contemporary scene, but I'm not exactly sure how it would take shape yet. I've also been working on some fiction over the past several years that I hope sees the light of day in the future, too.

Vista: I think that I read somewhere that when you were younger that you put on some hardcore/punk shows in your area? What bands did you book? Also, what type of venues did you do these shows at?

Brian: When I lived in the Quad-Cities {border of IL and IA} my friends and I put on a bunch of shows in the mid 90's. We had bands like Los Crudos, Disembodied, MK Ultra, Racetraitor, Extinction, Trial, Charles Bronson, Men's Recovery Project, Bleed, and many others came through. There are dozens of others that I just can't remember at the moment. All of these shows were really memorable in one way or another. I did some shows along with the kids in the bands I played in {Crosscheck, Criswell}, but a good friend of ours named Mickey did even more shows at this time. The shows were at all types of venues: coffee houses, VFW halls, rented buildings, art galleries, even some shows in the basement of a bar in which the outside was shaped like a cave.

Vista: I know it's never a good idea to ever "label" yourself, but go ahead and do it anyway! At this point in life, do you consider yourself a: hardcore, punk, hair metal, or goth guy?! Pick one & tell us why?

Brian: Well, being 33-years-old now it's sometimes hard to fall back on labels. That said, I still consider myself a hardcore kid. It's the music I still feel the strongest connection to, and the community aspect is something that still means the world to me. I'm older now & the scene is different in many ways, but I really appreciate the efforts kids make in speaking their minds, playing their hearts out, and trying to learn something about the world.

Vista: To finish, I'd like to say that you did an excellent job documenting an amazing time er for hardcore. The night I got the book I literally didn't stop reading it until I reached the last page. So, thank you. Is there anything else you'd like to say? Since we mainly covered the 90's time era in this interview, give us some "shout outs"!

Brian: Wow, thank you so much for your kind words! Thanks to anyone who checked out the book, and anyone who is involved with making the world a more positive place. Thanks to anyone out there who is keeping hardcore alive somehow and someway wherever they are from. Hardcore impacted many of us in such a positive way, and I'm proud to associate with many such people to this very day.

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