Black Becomes The Sun
An Interview with
World Burns to Death!

by Oliver Sheppard

This is an interview I did with World Burns to Death in 2003. It was something I originally meant for a paper zine I was going to do, but I ended up putting it on a website I started (and which no longer exists). CVLT Nation is a good home for it, at long last.

You probably know who World Burns to Death are, but in the event you don’t: World Burns to Death existed from 2000 until 2009 and were not only one of the best American hardcore bands of that period, but, some would argue, are one of the best hardcore punk bands ever. (And I would be very tempted to agree with anyone who would argue that!) Hearing the band back in 2002 shook me out of a growing apathy I had at that time towards hardcore; the band singlehandedly reignited my interest in punk in a very powerful way. 9/11 had just happened, Bush was quickly growing frighteningly tyrannical, and American culture — especially here in Texas — became reactionary and oppressive over night. This mattered. Enter these genuinely scary-looking guys right in the belly of the beast — Austin, Texas — belting out aggressive hardcore songs about US warmongering, highlighting who the real terrorists were, combined with profane graphics of President Bush, coming out to play on stage with black raccoon eyes (and a fog machine!) and a kind of disturbingly intimidating demeanor — I thought it was brilliant! I still do.

Singer Jack Control sang with Severed Head of State, another great hardcore band that contained members of Tragedy. (Control now heads up the almighty Enormous Door studios in Austin, TX.) Other members of World Burns to Death were (and are) involved with From Ashes Rise, Kegcharge, Smash Detox, and others. Before his death, celebrated British DJ John Peel played World Burns to Death on his show and accorded the band “recommended” status. Fenriz of Darkthrone often claimed the band were his favorite. “It’s too bad most Americans have heard of Slipnot, but not World Burns To Death,” he told an interviewer. World Burns to Death — who took their name from a song by Finland’s Bastards — toured South America and Japan, where they were especially loved. It sucks that they ever broke up.

So here’s the interview. It was done in April, 2003 so some of the questions seem dated, especially the stuff about Bush and the then-recent Iraq invasion. Interviewed here are Jack Control, vocals; Zac Tew, guitar; and Jon Guerinot, drums.

WORLD BURNS TO DEATH INTERVIEW

OLIVER: I put on The Sucking of the Missile Cock 12″ LP and was blown away! A lot of references are made to Japanese or Swedish hc influences in reviews of the album. Are those the primary influences (musically) of the band? If not, what is?

ZAC: Older Japanese and Scandinavian hardcore is probably our main influence. (I could dish out a list a page long.) We all draw from different inspirations; some have strong roots in old metal where others could give you an entire history of classic rock.

JON: For me, yes. There are others: Discharge (of course). Although I think everyone has a little of their own taste thrown into the mix as well.

JACK: Well, yes and no … those are some of my own personal influences. Finnish, Swedish, and Japanese hardcore have been an obsession of mine for almost 17 years. But I think WB2D is its own animal. Some of these elements do indeed shine through, but a lot of it, I feel, is uniquely WB2D.

OLIVER: The lyrics and liner notes of Sucking of the Missile Cock reference everyone from Istvan Meszaros, to Herbet Marcuse, to William Shakespeare. Is everyone in the group well-read? Is there a political philosophy that guides the band, and if so, what is it?

ZAC: No one philosophy guides any of us. It’s safe to say we’re all anti-nationalist, anti-military, and absolutely apalled with U.S. foreign policy. Being well-read depends upon your interest. We all have our strong points.

JON: My political philosophy that guides me is based on what goes on around me. The painfully obvious. When I look outside and see all the bullshit going on in this country and all of the bullshit that this country causes others, it pisses me off. Every time you blink, the U.S. has either turned its back on someone, lied to its people, or started another fucking war.

JACK: No, not everyone in the band is well-read. I would not even go so far as to say that I am well-read. The lyrics do have some pretty esoteric and even obtuse references and sources, and I have had to do a lot of reading over the years to dig this up, but I will leave it to the individual to decide whether or not I’m “well-read.” As far as a guiding political philosophy, we do not have one that I would say the entire band adheres to. We are individual people, with individual ideas and experiences. We do agree on the individualistic anarchism of Max Stirner, and the nihilism of Nietzsche. Though we cannot agree on what is appropriate to eat or wear. But … war bad, punk good.

OLIVER: The title song, “The Sucking of the Missile Cock,” seems even more timely today than when it was probably written. Before Gulf War 2 began, the public seemed pretty divided about fighting with Iraq. After the fighting started, more people switched over to the side of the war-mongers. There was a kind of irrational war hysteria going on and it seemed like a lot of punks were inventing their own reasons to support Bush or something. What the hell is that at all about?

ZAC: To put it plainly, these nationalists have nothing to do with punk. Apparently corporate media and music have watered down the ideology of punk to the point these jaded assholes are convinced they have something to do with it. Fuck ‘em.

JON: I have no fucking idea. More and more “patriotic punx” are showing up in our scene now more than ever. It makes me so goddamn sick to see a so-called “punk” waving a flag, joining the army, and shouting anarchy at the same time. I don’t get it at all.

JACK: Punk is a microcosm of the larger society that surrounds it. To make claims that being “punk” excludes you from the faux pas of the rest of society is profoundly naive. The one consistent flaw within the punk community throughout its history has been its inability to be objective about itself. To take any sort of criticism, to acknowledge that we are our parents, regardless of the music we listen to, or the slogans we shout for a couple of years. The most obnoxious activists usually come and go through the ranks of “punk” over the course of 3 to 4 years, if they are lucky. Then the temptations of inheriting daddy’s law firm kick in, and the revolution gets put on the backburner. The zealous “punk” activist becomes another Dockers-wearing drone for the man, and the cycle repeats.

I guess what I am trying to say is that most of the people within any scene really have no strength in their convictions… whether it be a nazi skinhead, or a rich, white, p.c. “punk” kid. It’s all a fashion pose and/or another way to get laid. To expect anything more from these people, or more importantly, from the punk world as a whole, again, is naive.

OLIVER: What do you all think of the phrase “Support Our Troops” and how it is used in this war?

ZAC: Another meaningless saying that seems to get a real rise out of the public. Kind of like “the power of pride.” What the fuck does that mean? It’s disturbing they can print up these goofy phrases on bumper stickers, show you their best footage on Fox News concealing the things they don’t want you to see, and the next thing you know 7 out of 10 cars on the road are sporting these slogans.

JON: All that phrase is doing is asking people to support the unlawful murder that it going on in the Middle East. In case you or anyone else reading this didn’t know, this war is not new. It started long before March 20, 2003 or September 11, 2001. “War on Terror”–what a fucking joke.

JACK: The phrase is a cop-out. The left use it as a justification for an anti-war stance. Begging for permission. So as not to be labeled anti-American. World Burns to Death does not ask for permission. We are anti-American. Fuck the troops. Bring them home in body bags. Fucking brainless murderers.

OLIVER: A lot of people coming into punk nowadays don’t seem to be bringing the same kinds of values to it that they used to. In an interview, Duncan Barlow of the hc band Endpoint said, “If you go to a hardcore show these days, there are so many ’pretty’ people there–people that look like they should be regular people in high school, beautiful women and men, all perfectly shaped. When I got into hardcore, it was a place for the ‘freaks’ and the ’fags.’” Do you think this is any sort of problem for hardcore?

JON: I don’t personally care what the fuck people look and dress like in the scene. Just think about it this way: they could all be dressing the exact same and listening to Skrewdriver and other bullshit bands like that.

ZAC: You can really look at it from two entirely different viewpoints. An optimistic way would be that hardcore is reaching a broader audience and that more people are aware of the message, if any, that is being relayed. Of course another way of looking at it is, as earlier stated, that it’s been worn so thin that any old frat boy is at the shows chanting the slogans.

JACK: Two things: There was never a time in the history of punk where there was a consistently admirable set of values. As a kid who grew up within that world from 1983 to the present, I can assure you that while there were attitudes present at that time that said “fight war, not wars”, etc… there were also just as many reactionary bigots and warmongers within our ranks to temper these more noble attitudes. I suppose punk was more for the freaks and fags then. I was one of them. But at the same time, these freaks and fags brought the same values as their parents. Just like now. To say that you long for the old days of the punk scene, when there were more admirable values, conveniently ignores or glosses over the existence of reactionary elements that existed then, more so than now… such as nazi skinheads, gaybashing, and random violence. At the same time, I feel that what has become the “punk” scene now is completely alien to me. I cannot relate to it at all. I like a lot of the kids who are of this generation of punk, but I have trouble making any connection to the culture that I came from. Sometimes, it does seem like nothing more than a collection of rich, white, GAP models who discovered “punk” through an article in their girlfriend’s Sassy magazine, and their dry, activist politics, through the lyrics of a Rage Against the Machine record. When I was a kid, a lot of kids got into punk through Minor Threat. Now you have kids getting into “punk” through Fugazi. And this “punk” has become a fucking abomination.

OLIVER: Who designed the cover for Sucking of the Missile Cock? Also, what do the characters and symbols in the
logo mean? They look kind of Hebrew. What do they say?

JON: Jack designed the cover of the LP. Pretty appropriate. The symbols are Hebrew but are just phonetic. It spells out “World Burns to Death,” but in real Hebrew it is “gibberish.” Which reminds me of a story: Some asshole is standing behind me and my wife, who was wearing one of our shirts, in line at a Wal-Mart. He’s staring at the back of her shirt. He looked so distressed, like he had forgotten how to read Hebrew or something. His friend came up and asked him, “What does it say?” He replied, “It’s gibberish. It says nothing.” I laughed so fucking hard on the way out of the store. He looked so disgusted. Gibberish, just like your fucking religion, you bastard.

ZAC: We let Jack take care of most of the artwork. He never lets us down. We take care of the music.

JACK: I did the cover. The characters are Hebrew. They say and mean nothing. It is a letter-for-letter translation of the name. The symbol corresponds with the “w” character on my keyboard in the Chaya font. However, the symbol is also used by the Israeli military on their munitions, and also as the symbol for political demonstration. So, it is nonsense, it is symbolic, and it is provocative at the same time. I decided to use this imagery because I knew it would make people ask questions. And it does. And that, I feel, is very important.

OLIVER: A lot of bands nowadays are influenced by Amebix and Motorhead, or even death metal. HC seems a lot “darker” than it used to be. Why do you think this is happening?

JON: The music is evolving. Which, contrary to popular belief, is not always a bad thing. Amebix and Motorhead are both excellent bands and have been around a long time. Most bands are together for a few years, release a couple of records, and then break up for some petty reason.

ZAC: It’s something I haven’t put alot of thought into. Evolution may be a good term for it. I’ve just always liked darker chord progressions; they seem more aggressive.

JACK: It is hard to paint an apocalyptic picture within a pop song.

OLIVER: Can hardcore punk shows become centers for community activism extending beyond scene politics? I spoke with a European punk who seemed amazed that the US punk scene was not necessarily a part of the left in the US. Why do you think there are these nationalist punks or apathetic punks who listen to a lot of political stuff but never organize to do anything outside the punk scene?

ZAC: The “scene” is pretty divided these days. Most D.I.Y. shows I went to when I was a bit younger always had Earth First!, Anti-Racist Action, and Food Not Bombs operating at them. I know shows can be centers for activism but I don’t want to beat issues to death every time I’m out watching a band play. There’s no reason to preach to those already aware of the issues. I feel hardline politics don’t really have a place at the shows, the way nationalism shouldn’t have a place in punk.

JACK: I think a lot of the politics that exist within the punk scene are contrived and boring. I do not want a rich, white college kid telling me how society should be, when he cannot even take out his own garbage. Punk used to be a very individualistic thing. For me, it still is. Politics of self. The revolution of everyday life. Threat by example. Yeah, I suppose punk shows could become vehicles for community activism… but I don’t really want to go to those shows. You have to understand that political activism is infested with obnoxious, repulsive people. This, more than anything, is to blame for why more punks are not following the party line. I will not make excuses for the more ignorant elements that exist within “punk.” But I want no part of a revolution led by these chumps.

OLIVER: Should punks vote against Bush in 2004? Why or why not?

ZAC: We’ll all be smart enough to oppose Bush I would hope. I wouldn’t waste any time voting. We all saw the electoral vote mishap in Florida last election.

JON: If they are registered, sure. Vote none of the above for all the puppets that are running. It is so funny to see people actually believing the lines of crap that these assholes feed us when they are running for office and then the same people look so surprised once the same assholes get elected and turn around and say something completely different.

JACK: No. It’s a fucking donkey show that holds no relevance to your every day existence. Take the poison or starve. Neither, thank you. And fuck them for presenting this charade as our only option. You should know better.

OLIVER: I was at an Electric Frankenstein [LULZ @ me .. cough – Oliver] show in Dallas and between bands a guy who “looked punk” got up on stage and said that after the show they were going to have an annual ”bum run” where people could go and bet money on homeless people running races in Deep Ellum. I was disgusted at this but no one in the crowd spoke out (not even me, shamefully); in fact some people laughed. Have you ever witnessed disturbing things like this in the punk community? How can this be challenged?

JON: I think it just needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Just don’t involve yourself in things you see as distasteful. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t done my fair share of terrible and juvenile things in the past. Just don’t surround yourself with things you don’t support. I’ve witnessed a number of things I could call disturbing and I’m sure I’ll see plenty more.

JACK: Yes. Ridicule. It is always the best weapon. Whether this situation, or a Nazi skinhead. Reasoning does not work. You cannot argue with ignorance. These people do not know their own history or argument, much less yours. Violence makes them more steadfast in their ignorance, although violence can be both funny, and gratifying. But if you make people like these feel insecure with their opinion and identity, if you make them feel embarassed of what and who they are, this more than anything, will make them change. People are dumb. People care about what other people think about them. That is why they are who they are in the first place.

OLIVER: Is WB2D a “side project” or is it it’s own thing?

JON: Not for me. Although, Zac and I have been talking to James (the original other guitarist before Brad joined) about a ”side project”. [This would become Kegcharge – Oliver]

JACK: A full time band. A way of life.

OLIVER: Any new releases coming out? Where can we get them?
JACK: A new 7″ out now on Prank. New 7″ out soon on Hardcore Holocaust. New split 7″ with Brazil’s Sick Terror out now on Usine de Sangue. All releases available through hardcoreholocaust.com.

ZAC: Hardcore Holocaust usually keeps all of our stuff in stock. From T-shirts to records. “The Art of Self Destruction” 7″ was just released on Prank and I believe you can contact them directly for ordering. The split 7″ w/Sick Terror (Brasil) was released on Terrotten records and you can also order it from them. Hardcore Holocaust will be releasing another 7″ called “No Dawn Comes … Night Without End” soon in the near future.

—————

You can, and should, buy World Burns to Death’s records and other merch at the Enormous Door webstore, here.

 

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The Author

Oliver Sheppard

Oliver Sheppard

Oliver Sheppard is a writer from Texas. He's been writing for CVLT Nation since 2012. He's also written for Maximum Rock-n-Roll, Bandcamp.com, Souciant, and others. He started the Radio Schizo podcast in the early days of podcasting (2005) and began the Wardance and Funeral Parade event nights in Dallas and Austin, respectively, in 2012. He is the author of Destruction: Text I and Thirteen Nocturnes.