It’s been a while since we posted an interview but we’re very happy to present this discussion with Sven from Wolf Down, a banging vegan straight edge hardcore band from Germany. You can listen to and download their records on their Bandcamp page or find them on Facebook.
Thanks for agreeing to do an interview! Some of us saw you play at Fluff Fest in the summer. What else have you been up to?
Hey! Of course, you’re welcome! So, we look back on a crazy (but too short) summer. We played a lot of shows, Fluff fest, a Sweden tour and a two weeks tour through Eastern Europe together with our friends in Demonwomb. We wanted to finish this busy summer with a UK tour, which we were forced to cancel on short term along with some other shows due to family related sorrows. Actually these issues are gone and we’re back on track. Really looking forward to play shows again even though it has just been a break of a month.
What have you been listening to recently?
Actually I’m into a lot of American bands like Bent Life, Rude Awakening, War Hound or Born Low and also some youth crew like Mindset or Focused Minds. For sure I’m also stoked by lots of Euro bands such as Guilty, Anchor and many UK bands. It is amazing that the UK hardcore scene got such ambitious kids. I know a few who are in three or four bands at one time. My favourite lasting UKHC’s are Broken Teeth, Hang the Bastard, Eisberg, Survival and True Valiance. I’ve also just discovered Burnt Earth, Rough Justice and Convicted, gonna keep an eye on them and of course I’m totally in love with Vienna’s Demonwomb. The “Cursed” EP is so massive.
Can you tell us something about any other bands members of Wolf Down have been or are involved with?
We’re just four down to earth people, mostly students and I am a remedial teacher. We have several hobbies like sports,skateboarding and playing music. Everyone in Wolf Down has been involved in other bands before. ¾ of us played in a vegan edge band called Sink Or Swim, we’ve been touring the UK with Broken Teeth in 2009, maybe you caught us somewhere.
Besides being busy for Wolf Down, which honestly can claim a relevant part of our leisure, we’re doing several other things that are related to hardcore/punk.
Larissa and me are running a small distro and we’re tabling sometimes, here and there combined with vegan catering. Also everyone in WD is involved in putting up shows now and then, on that score Merlin is mostly involved promoting shows in Münster. Larissa is also supporting bands with graphic design, Tommy runs a small DIY label called “New Order Records” and is actually working on more upcoming releases. Besides that some of us take part in various radical left actions and emancipatory struggles. For example supporting campaigns and participating in local organisations.
All the members of Wolf Down are vegan. How did you become interested in veganism and animal liberation?
I’m living vegan for about 7 years now and became a vegetarian before that at the age of 15. Back then, I was a punk kid and driven by puberal rebellion I started questioning the world around me. So one day I also questioned my eating habits after I got the push by a leaflet against meat. Before that I somehow never really bothered about that even though I was already set against factory farming, deforestation, extinction and so on, maybe I just thought that being vegetarian would be a “hippie”-thing not fitting into my punk image or just never really made the conclusion. So after getting the mentioned push I became more interested for such topics and explored vegetarianism, what made the conclusion to the necessity of changing habits evident. My first step has just been to stop eating meat and consequently refusing it. Which made me condemned to becoming “diseased and malnourished” for my family and “gay” for my classmates. Due to such criticism and lack of comprehension in my social environment I kept educating myself to defend myself. I’ve read literature and watched a few movies. Because of that I also showed more interest in related topics and finally this made me see the whole picture of the interacting connection between the capitalist utilization logic, humyn mastery, ecological destruction and animal exploitation. While getting into these theories it became a sure thing that being a ovo-lacto vegetarian changes nothing, proved by facts (and often ignored by smugness). From then on I decided to go vegan step by step, eased by having vegan friends over time and exploring the whole vegan world, alternative products, eating out, music, events and the scene at all. While learning about eco and health benefits, realising that animals are no products, no machines nor resources and becoming aware of the ever presence of speciesism legitimized by traditions, religious beliefs, anthropocentrism and reckless consumerist behaviour, I learned to see life different and obtained new ethics.
Veganism engaged social and ecological accountability and it changed my life to the better. I’m not sure if it is more a vegan or a straight edge thing (as both philosophies belong together somehow – so it is a vegan straight edge thing) that I experience life and the proceedings around me more intense, which is the reason why I feel more required to interact and to change things myself. The latter also with being the change. So this is one aspect that showed me that I’m not gonna be one of those vegans spending all day swapping recipes but becoming a voice for the voiceless.
To me, veganism is more than a plant based diet. The diet is not the aim but only a necessity of practical solidarity with animals and veganism is the strife to end animal exploitation and violence against defenceless while opposing exploitation and hierarchy to abolish speciesism. This is a global affair that matters to everyone, so wake up! I insist that animals are not made for humyns, as womyn are not made for men and black people are not made for whites.
What is your favourite animal liberation related song?
I just had to browse my mind for a while and I just can’t decide. I guess my favourites are 7Generations – cauterize, Stand In Defense – cut out the crap, Gather’s “total liberation” and “it kills you to know” by Anchor.
LaDIYfest in Sheffield has provided a platform for women performers and bands, in the tradition of the feminist punk movement Riot Grrrl. Do you think this kind of event is important in challenging sexism and gender disparities in punk and hardcore?
So my impression is that events like Lady-fests are a component of fighting those types of discrimination and disparities, as such fests feature a variety of activities and combine theoretical work and education with parties, workshops and other practical stuff not at least to be more attractive to young people and “outsiders”. Unfortunately it often appears to be boring despite all these approaches or has some elitist character which has a deterrent impact. I think that challenging sexism as hegemonic social order of patriarchy such as related topics like homophobia, transphobia or Social Darwinism and chauvinism always has its importance and necessity in hardcore/punk and society itself, but in this subculture maybe more than anywhere else, as this underground movement demands to be different. Especially during the last time I’m pretty afraid that there’s some kind of conservative rollback in hardcore and that emancipatory paradigms decay, particularly concerning chauvinism. It seems that we’re facing an arise of ignorance together with violence affinity and disenchantment with politics. Perhaps it is merely my bad impression as I’m very aware of previously mentioned problems and it just seems to be more present to me since I’m active in a band again, coming around and move in more crossover- and metal-influenced scene circles of hardcore which are often represented by less punk attitudes right up to anti-PC views.
In the UK, there have been a couple of recent instances of far right groups starting to talk about animal welfare. They have for example, criticised Halal slaughter as a way to attack Muslims, or talking about the welfare of pets as a way to give themselves a more moderate image. Is this a trend you’ve come across in Germany? How have anti-racist animal activists dealt with this?
This is a right wing strategy that pretends canted care for “the weak” to lower their fame as violent hatemongers which is also pursued by racists and fascists in Germany. A phenomenon that was already seen in history as national socialists legislated the first animal welfare laws in germany and leading characters acted as animal lovers during enforcing the holocaust, a well planned industrial mass murder of historical singularity and rushed the world into a global war. Today it is the attempt of convergence on mainstream society by allying on reputed common goals. Adapting social issues, reinterpreting and filling them with own content. Meanwhile the topic is replaceable, so animal welfare (and in the modern right-wing also animal rights) can be exchanged by child’s welfare or environmentalism. Whatever topic it is, it aims on ethnic and/or religious attacks. A few years ago there was some kind of “vegan trend” within the neo-Nazi scene, along with adopting a left-wing lifestyle and imitating autonomous left actions and also clothes, it became popular for those “modern Nazis” to label themselves as vegan or straight edge. Whilst some Russian neo-Nazis also claim to be “hardline”. Actually this trend seems to fade and it has gone through. At least this is my impression because such existing “animal rights Nazi groups” broke up (e.g. “AG Tierrecht” based in the Ruhr area, mainly in Dortmund) and less Nazis try to attend to animal rights actions and demonstrations. Whereby Berlin seems to be burdened, as I lately heard that again a Nazi activist sneaked into PeTA2 (he has been kicked out after being discovered) and more often groups of fascists, almost exclusively so called “autonomous nationalists” appear on demonstrations, also with own banners. It must be said that these Nazis don’t really grasp what it means to be vegan or straight edge as most of them claimed to be while still eating (less) meat or trying to quit smoking. Talking about PeTA Germany, I have to mention that they’re one of those organisations welcoming fascists and that they’ve been responsible of making them able to act, as they firstly equipped them with propaganda. So the first appearances of neo-Nazis acting against animal exploitation has been achievable by PeTA’s help, also justifying these false steps with spokesmyn pointing out that every action in support of suffering animals must be appreciated. Maybe that’s the reason why PeTA2 have a rough ride.
There are also struggles with a reactionary, totalitarian sect in Germany that claims to be (mock-)vegan and is infiltrating the animal rights movement. Their intention is the believe of interspecies reincarnation and a possible life after death as non-humyn animals. Luckily it also decreased in the last time which is a success by emancipatory activists forcing them out and to their incestuous way of life on their own farms in their villages(where most of them live or move).
Have there been any interesting political projects recently in Ruhrpott, in terms of animal liberation, anti-fascism, workers’ organisation or anything like that?
Of course there are a few interesting things happening around the Ruhrpott. Camps, congresses, fairs, festivals. Even though it seems dead and boring to me, what it is as measured by the populous, we have a quite big radical left and alternative scene thriving here. A few mentionable events would be the yearly Antifa-Camp, Climate-Camps, LiMesse – the libertarian media fair, Lady-fests, together-fest (a queer-feminist festigress where we performed a few months ago) several vegan festivities like dinners,brunches and the Veggie-Street-Day in Dortmund. We also got important counter-events for stupid occasions happening here like the far right anti-islam congress in Cologne or a few established neo-Nazi marches.
Further we got anarchist-syndicalist unions and groups struggling against low-wage, temp-employment, blackmails and wage fraud (and of course capitalist normality at all).
We also have a few campaigns going on like the new antifascist campaign “organize!”, or one against a Nazi clothing store, a Nazi party office, against xenophobia towards Muslims and Romani people and also persistent, creative campaigns run by networks for independent social centres/autonomous youth centres (what’s a really meaningful issue for underground movements, artists and a DIY scene like punk and hardcore). Also worth mentioning is the resistance against nuclear power facilities and transports, coal power stations and environmental pollution as a whole (where i have to say that I’m depressed that such issues, in view of the fact that it affects all myn, are under-represented). Around veganism and animal liberation we have also several strives like initiatives for vegan canteen meals or against animal testing on the campus at different universities. A while ago the animal liberation/animal rights movement was stronger or at least living a more practical attitude and experienced more participation. I remember recurring protests,demonstrations and a bunch of theoretical events. After some anti-fur campaigns were finished by success and some key actor-activist moved or were forced back by repression, it calmed down. I hope for a change again real soon, since we have a lot of things to do!
When are you going to come and visit Sheffield?!
Actually we’re making plans to make up our UK trip in early 2013 and therefore we’ll try to get a show in Sheffield again!
I guess we’re finished, thanks a lot for this interview and shout outs for what you’re doing! Please feel welcome to download our records for free, you’ll find links on our facebook.