Friday, February 14, 2020

Digging Up The Dirt with KillDozer and Scott Crouse (Earth Crisis)

The 90's Hardcore scene was an exciting time and place to grow up. Punks and Hardcore kids were ready to "fight the power" and really demonstrate the fact that "you have to act to be an activist".  Oddly enough I'm going to use quotes from Hunter S. Thompson to help describe the experience, just keep with me and I swear it will make sense to those that lived it: 

"It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. [Hardcore in the 90's] was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.…
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. [East coast or West coast].… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…"

  One band in particular encapsulates the political activism and crushing sound of the era, and that's Earth Crisis, who not only had a unique sound that strayed from the familiar punk/thrash of traditional Hardcore, but also promoted straight edge, veganism, self-empowerment and organizations such as ALF (Animal Liberation Front, not the ALF on TV who was not vegan and was prone to eating cats), Earth First, and Sea Shepherds (before it was cool and on reality television).  In a 1998 interview with Roadrunner Records, Karl Buechner described Earth Crisis' philosophy: "I want to boil it down to one notion: personal accountability. Respect for yourself, respect for the lives of innocent beings around us." He added that "Just being drug-free doesn't make you a good person, you need to use that clarity of the mind to become actively involved in the struggle that is being waged for earth, human and animal liberation."  "We're about things we're interested in and we sing about things that happen politically, but we're not left-core or right wing. We don't want to get tangled up in someone else's agenda, which can happen if you join up in certain organizations."

  Earth Crisis has maintained an extremely controversial reputation over the years simply by standing up for what they believe is right and not backing down from those beliefs. In a scene of outcasts and misfits, they managed to become "one of the most controversial bands in the scene's  history". (Imagine GG Allin being shocking for helping the world become a better place).  Although I'm not nearly as well known as Earth Crises, I was able to tour Japan with the band while singing in Alcatraz (who unlike Earth Crises has never been on Geraldo or had a VHS released of their tours). It was during this time I spent these individuals that I learned something shocking... their guitar player Scott Crouse was "not a big fan of horror films". I held back the tears and vowed that I would dig up the dirt on why! Now as the band sets out to hit sold out venues to support the celebration of the California Take Over tour that took place in 1996, I thought this was a good opportunity to circle back and see how one of the world's most brutal and inspiration Hardcore bands could possibly "not be big horror fans"..........

KillDozer: Let's jump straight into some fun questions. Have you ever seen Jaws or The Birds? Does being vegan change your experience with these films? For the most part "animal attack" films happen when humans venture into the wilderness or habitat of other species. Do you feel as though the death of the characters in these films is justified? 

Scott Crouse: Oh yeah, even though I’m not a big horror buff, I’ve seen most of the classics. I’m not sure I think their deaths are justified as I still feel empathy for the victims, but I do think these movies speak to the human disconnect with nature. We like to think of ourselves as superior to the rest of the animal kingdom, but in that we suppress and hide our basic instincts. Movies like these speak to how vulnerable we are when we are out of our human made bubbles. 

KD: Do you feel that horror films depicting animal attacks glorify the unjust killing of animals? Do films like Orca (The Killer Whale)  or Outbreak (the monkey who spreads disease amongst humans and must be killed) do a disservice to those trying to educate people about animal rights? 

Scott: I may be mistaken, but I think most of these types of movies there seems to be at least one character that ends up having some respect for the animal? There always seems to be the over the top bad human who has no compassion and he/she always end up dying. I haven't analyzed them by any means, but if I remember correctly when the animal dies it’s also not celebrated. There’s a sorrow there, and even though the animal was the villain in the story, you can’t help but feel empathy and respect for them. 

KD: It is no secret that Earth Crisis is a straight edge band. In many ways the horrors of drug addiction can be scarier and more brutal than any masked killer in a slasher film. What films to you feel best depict the reality of drug addiction? 

Scott: The first one that comes to mind is Taxi Driver. The idea of the fed up extremist who vows to rid the city of drug dealers, addicts, and pimps was the perfect fantasy for a teenage straight edger.

KD: When first speaking with you about this interview, you told me that you and the band were not big horror fans (the first time you have collectively let me down). With that being said what would be your top 10 horror films you have seen throughout your life and why?

Scott: Ha, I’m sorry! I believe Ian actually really enjoys horror movies, and I like certain movies that are in the horror genre. I suppose “thrillers” is what I’d call them? I think mainly I’m not into gore or things are just shocking for the point of being shocking without adding some sort of underlying social commentary. These aren’t in a particular order, and I think what I just said applies to the reason I enjoyed them. They’re frightening, but offer social commentary. Also, most of these are from the 80’s because I had HBO as a kid. I’m sure horror fanatics will say some of “these aren’t horror!” To that I say, take it up with Justin, I told him I’m not a big horror fan! 

1. Rosemary’s Baby
2. The Exorcist
3. The Shining
4. Twilight Zone The Movie
5. The Evil Dead
6. Creepshow
7. They Live
8. The Gate
9. Aliens
10. The Lost Boys

KD: Do you believe the music and politics of Earth Crisis are as relevant now as they were in the 90's? What motivates you to keep playing and staying true to what you believe in? 

Scott: I think the message is still relevant, and things we spoke about back then are a lot more commonplace now. It’s not as radical to talk about veganism and environmentalism these days thanks to movies like Cowspiracy and Before The Flood. It’s a great thing to see these ideals being accepted outside counter cultures and I hope they continue to progress in mainstream society. As for our music, I’m old so I plead the fifth. Any comments I make regarding the state of music today will just come off like an old man out of touch. Perhaps that is true?

KD: What inspired you to being playing music in the first place? Do your families support your music? Do they believe in the same straight edge and vegan beliefs as well? 

Scott: I wanted to pick up the guitar because of Van Halen, and then that evolved to Motley Crue, then Metallica, then the Misfits and so on. My family was always very supportive of me playing in bands, to the extent that they allowed us to practice in their basement for years. They wouldn’t admit to this, but I’m pretty sure they figured “Well, it’s either jail or we nurture this so-called music he’s playing.” They let us borrow there van, and even came and rescued us when our van broke down one winter tour. They did the right thing. My family is not xvx, but they do have respect for it and I believe a little of the ideology has rubbed off on them.

KD: What is scarier: playing Ozz Fest in the 90's or raising children? Please explain. 

Scott: Oh, raising children for sure. Infants are terrifying! They should create a horror film about a family's first year with a baby. It could simply be called “WTF!"

KD: Veganism and vegetarianism are both popular in the horror community but so are metal and other forms of heavy music. What brought you to metal and hardcore? What kept you in the scene?

Scott: I was a pretty angry kid, so aggressive forms of music spoke to that. It’s cliche to say, but it really helped me cope with feeling left behind by society in a lot of ways. Having a community of like minded people and listening to bands that share similar life experiences really provided hope for me. 

KD: What, if anything, do you hope people will experience at an Earth Crisis show? Are you ever shocked or surprised by the impact made by your music?

Scott: I hope how genuine we are as people comes across. We believe whole heartedly in vegan straight edge, and our music. We wouldn’t be doing it still today if our hearts weren’t in it first and foremost. Yes, I’m always shocked and surprised when people tell us we had an impact on their lives. It’s very fulfilling to hear that something you poured so much into paid off in a lot of ways.

KD: I'm not sure if you know this but Earth Crisis is on a big budget horror film soundtrack! Wes Craven did a film called My Soul to Take in 2010 and you kids are in it! Have you seen the film? If so what are your thoughts on it? 

Scott: Oh yes, we know about that. There’s an interesting story to it. Wes Craven’s assistant (I forget his name now) contacted me directly, and he wanted our song The Order to be used in the movie. That seemed very random because that song never appeared on a proper album, just a pretty obscure compilation from 1993. I’d love to know how he even heard that song, but sadly I never asked. I said sure we’d love to be involved, but then he asked if we could re-record it, and we couldn’t make that happen. I suggested this instrumental track that had a pretty dark vibe to it, from our current album at the time, and he loved it. So that’s the song that appeared in the movie. 

KD: Tell us about the California Take Over tour. Was it hard to get the other bands in on the idea? Are you surprised by the overwhelming positive reaction? 

Scott: It was something all 3 bands had been discussing for a few years now. It has been hard to put together, because we are all very part time with music these days, but the stars finally aligned and I’m really looking forward to these two shows. The reaction definitely surprised me! For LA to sell out in a day and SF only has about 35 tickets left as I type this. Yeah, that doesn’t happen to our 3 bands these days very often. I hope we get to do this lineup in some other areas too. 

KD: What is the future for Earth Crisis? 

Scott: There’s no real plan, and that’s what's so great about it! We do things when we feel like it, and we are fortunate enough to be able to still play all over the world. It’s all fun these days, so maybe more music, or maybe just shows, or maybe we’ll lay low for a while. Not sure, but we are all enjoying and appreciating still being able to do this in our 40’s. 

KD: Where can everyone go to follow Earth Crisis on social media? 

Scott: Instagram is @earthcrisisofficial, and Facebook is as well. We have a twitter, but don’t go there, I haven’t logged into that in months. You know, don’t bother with Facebook either.

Get tickets to Earth Crisis at the Great American Music Hall here!
Sorry SoCal, the Teragram Ballroom show is completely sold out.


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