Hardcore: Still Pissing Off the People in Charge

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The hardcore movement may have ended over two decades ago, but it's still doing what it initially set out to do��piss off the authorities. Steven Blush's book, American Hardcore, was banned from the Colorado Prison System on June 25, 2008 for "advocating hatred of law enforcement and other races," depicting violence and anarchy and for having the potential to "antagonize and rile up the general population." This isn't the first time that those in charge have tried to censor the history of hardcore. Blush took the time to discuss hardcore and how it feels to join the ranks of the banned.



SLUG: What motivated you to write American Hardcore?
Blush: I was very heavily involved in the DC hardcore punk explosion. As a teenager, I booked bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks and the DKs��most of them crashed on my couch. It was a self-sufficient universe that changed the [music] world.
Fast-forward ten years, to the indie-rock explosion and new punk revival. Everyone's talking DIY and name-dropping about what hardcore was all about. I was astounded at how wrong people had the story. I was so infuriated from what I saw, that I decided to take the situation into my own hands. Five years later came the American Hardcore book. Five years after that came the film. Finally, the history has been told properly, and the pioneers have received their due.

SLUG: Were you surprised to hear that your book was banned from the Colorado Prison systems?
Blush: I know that I wrote an intense book, but yes, I was a bit surprised by the ban. You'd think that within a culture of prison gangs and mass murderers that my book would be the least of their worries. Having said that, I'm stoked to see establishment types still upset by hardcore. The HC scene was all about pushing boundaries, and now it's been reduced to another fashion statement. Hardcore was never about fashion, it was all about intensity�and the fierce reaction by the Colorado authorities reminds me of why I got into this stuff in the first place.

SLUG: The majority of the banned content was illustrations taken from record covers��do you think that these "violent images" were taken out of context?
Blush: I don't believe the images were taken out of context because in their day, all of these photos, drawings and graphics were intended to provoke and horrify. That was the whole point of hardcore, to shake up mainstream complacency��musically, visually and socially. Twenty-five years later, the world has changed, but not that much. Not nearly enough.

SLUG: According to the official evaluation & appeal form posted on http:// feralhouse.com/fh_blog/ the portion of the book that was banned due to "advocating hatred of law enforcement" corresponded with the chapter about Millions of Dead Cops��what is your opinion on this?
Blush: I feel that "hatred of law enforcement" was a big part of the hardcore mindset. As a hardcore show promoter, I can't tell you how many times the cops fucked with us just because of the way we looked. In retrospect, it seems as if the cops were out to shut down this youth movement before it started. Thankfully they failed because you can't kill an idea. My feeling is that MDC was a zeitgeist personified by a band.

SLUG: Do you feel that the chapter regarding police brutality in the early 80s was a realistic portrayal of what was going on?
Blush: Yes I do. When it came to hardcore in the early 80s, the cops were assholes. Today, cops have tattoos and mohawks and go to Social D concerts. From working on the book and film, I can comfortably state that most people involved in the early hardcore scene still maintain a healthy disrespect for authority figures. That's a major difference between today's scene and the original pioneers. When was the last time the cops stormed an all-ages show?

SLUG: Do you think prisoners should have the right to continue to read American Hardcore? Blush: Prisoners do not deserve full equal rights. It's something they forfeit when convicted for their crimes. But as the prison authorities do allow Saudi-funded, virulently anti-American, Black Muslim reading material into prisons��I'd submit that American Hardcore is low on their list of concerns.

SLUG: What is your opinion about people who want to censor historical information like the history contained in American Hardcore?
Blush: The rock world censored this information for 20 years. Hardcore was always too ugly and [contained too much] male-energy for the politically correct types at Rolling Stone, Spin, et al. Now they all act like they were onto it all along. Do you really wanna know what I think of these people? I don't have enough time to vent.
An expanded second edition of American Hardcore will be released in Fall 2009 from Feral House Publishing. While the boys in the big house in Colorado won't get the chance to read it, hopefully you will.