Interview with Russell Emerson Hall

1 Oct

Throat torturer/guitar abuser Russell did an e-mail interview with Julian Kaapke for the German print-only zine, Die Eelritze.

Everytime I hear your new record, I think of the William S. Burroughs quote “We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems.” Your thoughts? Is this just me being weird or is this a legitimate connotation?

I think that accurately sums up how we think about the world. There are so many big lies that are sold to us in Amerikkka in the interest of maintaining the status quo. We are often told that we have a two-party political system in this country when, in fact, it is simply a single party unified by wealth and status and whose only interest is to entrench their position and power. The political, economic, religious, cultural, and anti-science dogma only serves to prop up a failing capitalist system. As Marx said, “question everything.”

Sticking with this theme for a moment — to call your lyrical themes highly literate and political would be an understatement. Which authors were influential on your worldview and when did you realize that the average person was basically getting it unlubed up the ass by the powers that be?

I became enthralled by Burroughs and Bukowski in my early 20s and they sort of warped my mind to think about the flip side of the American dream — the seedy underbelly. My skeptical inclinations grew as I was exposed to Chomsky and other media critics while studying Journalism in college. I had long had an unease that things were not as they seemed in this country and while I had long embraced Marx’s views on religion, it wasn’t until my early 30s that started really examining my views on the political and economic climate that we’re living in.

Part of it was this band. I made a decision right from the start that I did not want my lyrics to be the sort of intensely personal heart of darkness that I had trafficked in before. As I pushed myself to think about other areas of emotion, I tried to put myself in the place of people who had real problems (not “white-people problems”). I started exploring and researching the exploitation of indigenous and working class peoples and became increasing radicalized. I revisited Marx and Chomsky and Zinn and became involved in various socialist organizations and activities.

You pointed me to a quote by Howard Zinn about that moment of awakening and the responsibility it requires: “We all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.” That is the mission of this band. That, and ear-splitting noiserock.

Martin Amis recently caught a lot of flak for his unabashed and unapologetic bashing of Islam, being called a racist among other things. However, I’ve noticed the tendency in the secular left to take a lot of shit from these assholes it would never take from the Christian right, e.g. outlawing same-sex relationships, pre-martial sex, atheism etc. and chalk it up to ‘cultural differences’. Personally, I think that these people are full of shit and every bit as dangerous as the born-again zealots. Your thoughts?

While I am a fan of Amis’ novels, his statements are clearly the ignorant rants of a reactionary racist. That said, I view Islam through the same lens as I do Christianity: religion has no place in truly democratic society. It is harmful on both a societal and personal level. Not only has it inarguably been incredibly damaging throughout history, it prevents individuals from finding their true potential and self-worth. As Richard Dawkins puts it, “atheism is life affirming in a way religion can never be” because “the here and now is all we have.” Of course, this exactly the   reason the elite encourages religion for the masses: it helps them ignore the brutal realities of the here and now and focus on a final reward after they are dead and gone.

Now you’ve been playing music all of your adult life if I understand  correctly, and it shows. If you hadn’t turned to music as an artistic expression, what do you think you’d have become? 

A drug addict, dead or in jail. Not a joke. I actually was very close to joining the military when I was in high school, which means I probably never would have discovered the Sex Pistols or Gang of 4 or The Clash. I suppose I might have become a visual artist (a designer or photographer) as that’s something I dabble in to this day. It’s difficult to conjecture because music making has become so intrinsic to who I am. I suppose that’s why I’m still doing it without much, if any, in the way of financial reward or public recognition.

What bands have you been currently following and what band would you  love to tour with if you could choose one, past or present? 

Current obsessions:

Touring in the past? These Arms Are Snakes or Unwound.
Touring in the future? Young Widows or Shipping News.

What was your impression of Europe on your first European tour?

We felt almost guilty every night when we were fed and housed. American clubs/promoters don’t give a shit about taking care of unknown bands. We had a lot of fun but the shows were not very well-attended and we didn’t come close to recouping the cost of our plane tickets. But I am proud of the fact that we booked the tour 100% DIY. No one was going to send us over there, so we fucking did it ourselves — just like everything we do.

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