by Jordan Todoruk of TERRORIST
When I got into punk rock I was about 15 years old. I believe I was drawn into the culture because of its distinctly anti-authoritarian, non-hierarchical, anti-consumerist/capitalist, DIY ethos. In many ways, this was my first encounter with “radical” political ideas, and my initial exposure to a philosophy which would shape my entire life.
With that said, a few years later, I started my first serious band. It took years of playing and saving to gain a local following, and the start up “capital” necessary to finance our first major album. It was then that our label at the time got us to “invest” with an “industry recognized” producer to polish up our sound for “marketability”. We did all these things. We dumped 6 grand into that record and another 4 into a van, which took us around the country trying to sell our album. All of this made possible by a “small business loan”. Long story short, the band eventually folded.
I took a long hard look at our wheelings and dealings. I just couldn’t understand how I ended up at that point. I started out with a DIY ethic, and ended up like a bloated corporation. I believe the kids these days would type WTF? Well, there is the moral crux of the matter. We had to behave like business in order to get our material into the main stream. If we wanted radio play, if we wanted to make a living doing this shit then we had to play the game. We needed banks to finance us. We needed to have the industry standard “sound”, we needed to conform.
When I started my new band (TERRORIST), I decided to get back to my roots. We began to write songs about contemporary social issues. We emphasized social justice, ecology, an end to capitalism, veganism, and all the other issues we were afraid to touch on before. We reorganized the structure of the band so that financially and musically we were more sustainable. The members of the band brought their own skills to the table and in this way we became more egalitarian. When we asked our label to distribute the record, they flat out refused. Why? Firstly the bands name. They wanted no part of something that was so inflammatory. They were worried we wouldn’t be able to get booked at certain venues, or that we would be turned down for grant applications or other loans. Secondly, we weren’t too keen on having our music put into commercials, or being used to sell beer. We didn’t feel that our music had ANYTHING to do with trying to sell anything else other than OUR records. I could go on forever, but let me make my point.
If you want to be successful in the music industry you have to play the game. You need to be socially palpable. You can’t offend anyone, or you are going to be marginalized. You certainly can’t have a socially charged name like we do, and you can’t go around challenging our consumption, or our way of life. You definitely don’t want to remind people of the implications of our foreign policy, unless you are doing it through the proper channels like War Child, or some other socially acceptable cause/concert that comes complete with corporate sponsorship. Bands like us are only acceptable if they conform to the notions of social justice purported by major institutions and the corporations that either control or represent them. Largely because they have deemed those issues profitable. That mentality trickles down to every aspect of artistic culture. It’s like our label said, certain venues don’t want to put TERRORIST on a poster because the word has negative connotations. Those people are missing the point. We are attempting to invoke an emotion in you that is forcing you to deal with the concept of terrorism; much like our musical subject matter is attempting to provoke thought. To me, the function of all artistic endeavors, whether it be musical, or visual, or whatever, is to act as a reflection of the culture as a whole. It is supposed to take all of these thoughts and feelings and say “here it is, now deal with it”. But that’s not what is happening, and those that profit from the industry of art have no interest in adhering to that ideology. Rather, they are interested in reproducing the status quo in so far as it stays profitable, and all dissenters must be crushed, or pushed so far to the margins that they are either dismissed as lunatics or completely ignored.