Interview

Interview: SEVIN – Straight Edge Vegan Information Network

Q: Hi Tom, can you introduce yourself and give us a quick overview of the band SEVIN. Because maybe not all of us know this great and underrated band!

A: Hello, my name is Tom. I was asked to play guitar for Sevin roughly 23 years ago. The band was first called Tension, but after finding out that there were already two other active bands that had that name they changed it to Sevin. They asked me to join the band in December of 1994, they had been together for a year before that but had not recorded or released any music yet. When I joined the band the lineup was Eric/vocals, John/drums, Steve/bass, Natale/guitar and myself on guitar. I didn’t know much about this style of music when I joined because I had mainly been playing fast hardcore, so I had to learn very fast. Natale played on the “Proving Ground” demo but later parted ways with the band and I became the sole guitar player. The band did one week long tour with another band from Pennsylvania called Abnegation in 1995 and disbanded shortly after. Immediately following the breakup Steve and Eric started another band called Blood Of Judas that had many of the same characteristics as Sevin. I joined a local band called Instil.

From a creative standpoint I wasn’t very happy with what I viewed as the limitations of this particular style of music at the time. Back then vegan edge bands all pretty much conformed to a particular sound (there were a few exceptions, the Shane Durgee bands come to mind as different) and it was done in a very formulaic way. Eric and Steve wanted to continue expanding on that style so they started Blood of Judas. I was interested in trying out some different styles of hardcore. There are bands from that scene that I will still listen to for nostalgia. Canon, Green Rage, etc..musically those bands are pretty straight forward but the memories I have of that time add a layer of importance for me. There are bands today playing this style and for the most part it will only appeal to me if they are adding something new or something of their own to make it fresh and unique.

Q: Okay that makes sense, if you felt unhappy of how the music developed back in the days. From my point of view, with only 27 years, I am happy how all those bands sounded. There are still bands who are trying to create a similar sound. It is a very unique style for me, which I really like.

Yea bands from Shane were really cool and somehow special. Like Framework, Earth Crisis, Path of Resistance. Awesome bands. Awesome message.

You named a few other bands like Green Rage and Canon. Have you seen them live? Were there bands you always wanted to tour with, or were you not that much into the scene? Can you still remember some cool stories from your gigs? I am pretty sure, people want to hear them!

A: I managed to see Canon 3 or 4 times back in the 90s. They were very good live. Lyrically I enjoyed them because rather than just piecing together slogans, they actually wrote very intelligent and thoughtful lyrics. The drummer from Canon was also in another band called Frail that would play often in the area. The Solution 7″ still holds up for me. I listen to it every now and then and can still sing along to every word.

The first “big” show that Sevin played was an all day festival. The line up was Sevin, Arcane (pre-Dillenger Escape Plan), Channel (Pre-Converge), Introspect, Canon, Autumn, Endeavor, Abnegation, Mouthpiece and 108. This was in 1995 and I was 16 years old. Seeing all those bands at one show was pretty incredible.

A couple things of interest:

There was a large pro-life/anti-abortion movement among the vegan edge bands at that time. This has changed today as the struggle for women’s healthcare and liberation throughout the world is at the forefront of the political debate. Many of the new vegan edge bands today identify as pro choice. Back in the 90’s the debate made for some very interesting confrontations because you had bands like Chokehold who were pro-choice and then bands like Abnegation who were pro-life….then you also had bands that sort of existed somewhere in between, like Earth Crisis. For the short time that Hardline was visible in the United States there we a couple bands taking stances against homosexuality as well. I’m glad that the conservative values that were creeping into that scene have pretty much all faded away.

Earth Crisis and Chokehold were probably the two biggest bands of this scene back in the 90’s. I had the chance to see both bands back then and really enjoyed it. Recently both bands were doing reunion shows and I don’t feel that it carried the same atmosphere or feeling that we had back in the 90’s. The landscape of the hardcore scene in the United States has changed so much. Bands have booking agents, managers, publicists,etc. Shows no longer are filled with people clamoring to get up front and sing along, but are now unwelcome environments in which every has to stand 20 feet away from the band while less than 10 people take up the space partaking in violent dancing. The whole things seems very much like a “concert” for paying customers rather than a community getting together to be inspired by ideas and music.

The bands I look back on most fondly are probably the more unorthodox musical bands. Groundwork, Frail, Iconoclast, etc. I liked how these bands were doing something new and different while still conveying a message that was positive and challenging.

Q: Wow, that are some very cool stories. I am already happy that I have both vinyl colors of Canon‘s 7“, but seeing them live, multiple times, is on another level. Hehe. I only know the 4 songs from their 7“. I can‘t imagine, that they played only those on their shows. Maybe some cover or unreleased music? Do you still know more about that as well?

That lineup from back in the days would be a killer show nowadays. People would freak out, when they could see all those bands together.

Yea I totally agree with you on that point. Homophobia and pro-life are bullshit. I mean we are already overpopulated, how could we still believe, that we need to grow again? And with the allowance of the matrimony of gays and lesbians in more and more countries around the world, we are moving forward and not backward.

I never really understood those topics. Was that ever something you as a band talked/discussed about, what your standing point on pro-life and homophobia?

I only managed to see Earth Crisis like 2 years ago and there was the stage and dancefloor full of people singing together and moving. That was definitely a different show, compared to others I was before and after that show, on many other shows it was exactly how you described it, violent dancing and crowdkilling. Everyone wants to be tougher than the guy next to him. And thats bullshit. I guess, thats the reason, why I prefer very small club shows, of more unknown bands. Because people who are coming to those shows, are there because of the music and not just to show other people their „awesome“ highkicks.

Regarding booking agents etc. I can highly recommend Sendero from Chile. They organized their whole Europe Tour by themselves and their tour lasts 1 month. I think for local shows it is not necessary to organize it over a booking agent. For touring on another continent, it is definitely helpful.

One other question. SEVIN is just a shortcurt for Straight Edge Vegan Information Network. Do you still know, why exactly that name was choosen for the band?

A: Among the band back then the issue of homosexuality never really came up as a talking point. I knew there were hardline factions who took a strict homophobic stance, but I had very little interest in the “natural order” philosophy they were endorsing. There seemed to be a lot of bliblical imagery among those bands back then, lots of talk “Eden” and “returning to Eden” that really didn’t hold up in the day to day life of just trying to survive on fast food vegan burritos.

Abortion was discussed a lot as an issue and I admit I did not have any evolved or experience point of view on this. I understood that the philosophy of connecting anti-abortion rhetoric to veganism was rooted in a “defense of all life” approach back then. It was very straight forward and made no concessions for circumstances or individual situations. As I got older and exposed myself to different points of view, different people and learned about the circumstances surrounding the issue I quickly realized how obtuse an anti-abortion stance is.

I don’t know why they chose the name for the band. They established it before I joined. They were previously called TENSION and needed to change their name. I joined the band and they had pretty much cemented SEVIN about 6 months before I started playing with them.

Q: Yea, all that homophobia talks were just bullshit. I mean I was just a few years old when Hardline was growing, so I don’t know why they believed in this, but it has nothing to do with the original intention of hardline. At least when I spoke to Rat from Statement, about his attitude and stories from back in the days, it was never intended to go in that direction.

I only know one band called Tension, from Florida. This is not the same band I guess? Any information why they needed to change the name?

There are right now a few discussions regarding Racetraitor. After their reunion people asked them if they are still vegan straightedge. The band answered, that some sold out on straightedge and some on veganism.

What is your personal opinion on people who sell out?

A: I think they changed their name because they found out that there was another band called Tension (the one from Florida that you mentioned) and didn’t want to have the same name.

I never really listened to Racetraitor so I can’t really speak to the situation. If a band has blatant lyrics that endorse veganism or straight edge then I always think it’s a little weird for them to reunite to play those specific songs if they no longer believe in those things. I’ve heard bands justify this by saying “we still like the songs” or “the songs are fun to play” and I can’t help but feel like this reduces those songs to just entertainment at that point.

As far as people “selling out” I have mixed feelings on it.

With veganism it really comes down to making the effort. I’ve been vegan for about 22 years so it’s just second nature for me and I really have no problem maintaining it. I’ve heard a myriad of reasons why people stop being vegan: “my doctor say it’s not healthy”, “my family gave me a hard time”, “vegan food is expensive”. At the end of the day I think all those things just amount to the fact that a person is no longer passionate about it. I would respect the decision more if someone just simply said “I no longer care about animal’s lives or the environmental impact of eating animal products” rather than other thin justifications. I don’t agree with their decision but I find more honesty in it.

In terms of straight edge, I think people generally stop understanding the importance of sobriety as a means to live a healthy and lucid lifestyle. Socially speaking it’s uncommon for people over the age of 21 in the United States to not drink alcohol socially or to not discuss how they use alcohol as a way to cope with stress (“it was a tough day at work, I can’t wait to get home and have a beer!”) . As people get older the behaviors and conventions of “normal” society are more polarizing, specifically your choice to drink or not drink alcohol.

But there’s another side to this. Millions of people suffer from mental health issues. I’m fortunate to have health insurance that gives me the option to see a doctor and discuss treatment options for the issues I have dealing with anxiety and depression developed from childhood trauma. Many people who are not fortunate enough to have health insurance and suffer from mental illness are given no choice but self medicate using narcotics or alcohol. The way the healthcare system is in our country, people abusing narcotics are disregarded as addicts, rather than treated as patients who fell into addiction due to unaddressed mental health issues. In the United State our health insurance is about to get to worse due to new policies endorsed by a conservative government.

Q: Ah okay, I already thought thats the same band, but that explains, why they changed it, haha.

Yea true story, same with the Morning Again and Culture, as Damien Moyal broke edge and vegan long ago, but they still play the same songs, just with the difference, Damien does not sing but gives the mic to the crowd. They justified it with the people want to hear those songs. Why do they play those songs? Because people like them? I would rather say, because they can get money as people visit their shows. But thats just my opinion.

Yea, selling out on veganism is just a punch in the face of every animal. And just to say, staying vegan is soo difficult and hard is really stupid. Because it is really hard to be a non-human animal inprisioned their whole live and then get killed.

So you would say, for a normal middle class man it can get really difficult to stay clean and sober, when they have to deal with mental health issues? Is the health care so fucked up, that so many people can‘t get the help they are seeking for? I mean I have also some mental health issues, but I can handle it, because I always think, this is nothing compared to what animals suffer from. For me as an European citizen, it is somehow difficult to understand what exactly is going on in US.

Do you think the problem with people who sell out is a current one, or you got confronted with that as well in the past, when hardline came up and/or militant vegan straightedge was a big thing?

A: I think American adulthood across many gender/culture/class lines all have recreational alcohol consumption in common. For me personally, I don’t find it hard to abstain from alcohol. I think many people just see it as part of the progression into adulthood. Mental health issues in America have such a stigma attached to them, coupled with the fact that many people don’t have health insurance, leads to many people being in a position where they are unable to get professional tribute. In this regard alcohol is the most readily accessible means of self-medication.

In terms of the hardcore scene I get the impression that many people “age out” of straight edge. These are people that attached to this ideology in their teenage years to help shape some sort of identity, but later realized that their adherence to it was strictly superficial. Perhaps these people never understood the tangible benefits that sobriety had on their lives, or perhaps they just jumped on the progression to adulthood as I mentioned before. I noticed it more as I got older, but I’m sure it’s something that people have been doing for quite some time.

Q: Yea I think it is somehow strange, that people lived sober and drugfree to stay focused. And then when they get older, they can‘t handle it anymore and drink alcohol or take other stuff. I mean personally straightedge helps me to stay out of any type of addiction and helps me to handle any psychological issues. It is like when Xessive Force sang: You said you’d always be true, but you’re a weak motherfucker and you never had it in you. But also Xessive Force sold out.

Do you think it depends on the person, if they sell out or not? Or maybe their environment of friends and family?

A: I honestly just think, as I said before, alot of these people who start drinking or using drugs after being straight edge are mainly people who attached themselves to the identity rather than actually ideology or philosophy of it.

Q: One of your newer bands is Black Kites. According to bandcamp it is also a vegan straightedge band. Is this important for you when you form a new band, or just a coincidence? Do you think vegan straightedge bands are „more attractive“ for certain people and if so, mainly older people who still hold the vsxe flag, or is it a new generation of people who are raising their fist for your ideology?

A: Black Kites was a band from 2009 until 2011.  When we started I was the only vegan in the band.  Jeff went vegan shortly after, and then our drummer Jay went vegan maybe six months or so after Jeff. They had both been vegetarian for a long time before the band started. I don’t know if watching me eat had any kind of influence on them. We would mainly go to vegan or vegan-friendly places to eat on tour.  Both of them had a good grasp on the ethics behind veganism so maybe spending time with me normalized the practice.  By the end of 2009 we were identifying as a vegan straight edge band.  We didn’t make this the center of our identity.  The band focused on a variety of things from a lyrical point of view..so while we felt sobriety and a vegan diet were important, there were other things that we felt need to be part of the band’s identity as well (opposing sexism, racism, homophobia, etc).

There was definitely a contingent of “older” folks who were drawn to the band because of the identity and because of the general 90’s approach to song writing and presentation that we had.  There were other bands at the time who were also on the same page with us in terms of being vegan or straight edge while embracing progressive politics (Great Reversals, Run With The Hunted, Swallowed Up, Die Young, etc) so there was a small subset of younger folks who were becoming interested as well.  Black Kites was different than Sevin in terms of the fact that we were more musically versatile.  On tour, one night we’d be playing with heavier hardcore bands and the next night we’d be playing DIY basement shows with political screamo bands.  I think it allowed for the band to reach more people and do a small part in normalizing veganism or straight edge to perhaps some younger people who were intimidated by it or unfamiliar with it.

There are some new vegan edge bands that I see coming onto the scene now.  But the majority of the shows that those bands play are very alienating.  It’s typically the majority of the crowd standing 20 feet away to make room for 5 or 6 guys to mosh.  There’s no more standing up front, singing along…that community feeling is just not there.  It’s unfortunate because a band like XELEGYX is really great, but their shows would not be very fun for me.

Q: Yea I think sometimes it just needs that one person in your community, band etc that helps you to go take the last steps to the final „goal“. When you see how easy it is for other people, it is easier for you you to join the same way of life.

Sometimes it is really silly when bands talk about unity and strength but do not care if the crowd in front of them has a sexist or homophobic manner or even worse, believe in white supremacy. There are not that many bands who are strictly against these topics and transport them also in their lyrics.

According to me, it also depends on the age of the people within a band, how „old“ the folks are who listening their music. Younger bands seem to attract younger people and older bands, sometimes older people. But as we were all young(er) and grow up, this is normal.

Yes xELEGYx are great and when I check out their live footage it definitely looks like that there is the moshcrew and then far away the rest of the people checking them out. I mean thats okay, when there are heavy breakdowns in a song, you „need“ to mosh and use the music as an outlet for your anger against so many bad things happening every day, but then, there are other parts as well where you should sing along and not just stay there and look awkward. Here in Germany that is even worse with all the mosh crews on bigger shows. I mean how stupid is it, to create a „dance style“ called crowdkilling, where your only goal is to hurt other people? Thats why the smaller shows in youth centers, basements etc. are way better, because there are mainly people who love the music and spread the word and not just to pose around.

Are you active in other bands right now? Or not at all?

A: I’m playing in a few bands now.  Some are more active then others in terms of touring and writing music.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully stop playing music. Here a list of my bands:

What Of Us

Hundreds of AU

NYin64

Hell Mary

Capacities

Q: I am sure you will never stop playing music, when I read about all the different bands you were/are into it.

If you would have ever a chance to do a reunion with Sevin and play with some other similar bands like Green Rage etc. would you do that, or is that chapter closed forever?

A: I would probably pass on it mainly because I don’t have any real sentimental attachment to the Sevin material.  I’ve only done a reunion once for one of my bands (youandi). While it was fun and we raised a good amount of money for a good cause, I don’t know that I really would ever actively seek out a reunion show for my bands.  Black Kites was recently asked to play a reunion show but I no longer own the pedals/amps/guitars I would need to play a Black Kites set.

Q: Yes sometimes, when bands start a reunion people are so thrilled to see them (again), that they are sad if the band is not as good as expected. I guess it is tricky to do a reunion and achieve the expectation from the people. Would you say it is harder to achieve that, or write/record an even better LP than you made before? As a musician, do you try to beat your previous releases, or you just want to play music you and share it with the crowd?

A: I’m usually always more happy with my current output than my past.  It probably has something to do with writing for where you are at in your life at that time and reflecting what’s most important to you at the moment.  I think it’s healthy to come up with new ways to express your convictions or outlining how your views have evolved, so it’s important to me that whatever I’m doing currently is always coherent of that.

Q: I guess thats a good point to finish our interview. People should be aware of where they are coming from and refine themselves. You want to say anthing about your latest project or something else for your closing words Tom?

A: Thanks for getting in touch and asking me about the band.  Hope all is well and take care!

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