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Interview with Greg Bennick, October 2011

On 14th October, 2011 I made a small interview with Greg Bennick. That day, Trial were playing in V-Club (Saint-Petersburg, Russia), it was 28th and last show on their European tour. I asked Greg few simple questions. It was nice talk. I hope we’ll have a hundred more conversations like this.
Later on 21th December I asked him one more question through internet — about mp3 sharing.
Plus, I’ve included video of part of interview with Trial that was made in V-Club after the show — check it, it’s short and really good.

Anton: You’re on tour in Ukraine and in Russia and what have you seen? What caused you to think a lot?

Greg: Well, you know, one of our goals always with the band was to travel in the Ukraine and in Russia and especially to play in Moscow. It’s something I always wanted ever since start of the band. And playing in Ukraine is very important, because my family is in part from Mukachevo in the west of the Ukraine.
So, the main thing that I’ve noticed is that as you travel east in Europe the people are so sincere and so passionate about hardcore more and more the further east you go.
*door opening with a squeak*
This guy ruins every interview!
*everybody laughing*
It’s totally okay, man, no worries.


photo by Masha, Moscow, October 12 2011

*continuing*
In Eastern Europe and then in Ukraine and Russia kids are so passionate about hardcore, it’s not about posing, it’s not about just going to the show — they’re going to the show, because they’re love it. And you can tell, because they’re not going to the motions, they’re not doing the same dance moves as everyone else in the world. They’re just expressing themselves passionately. And this was true — we saw this in Bulgaria, in Romania and Macedonia, we saw it in Croatia, we saw it in Ukraine and Russia especially. And it’s so refreshing to see that, because as you travel around, I keep thinking about The Freeze — there was this band from Boston in 80s and had this song comparing Boston and Los Angeles. And lyrics were: «you look the same, you act the same, you won’t be long ’till you are the same». Something like that, you know, comparing the two. And you start realizing, as you travel more, how much hardcore is looking exactly alike everywhere. So, in hardcore scene it looks and feels different here and it’s amazing, it’s so refreshing.


original photo by Greg Bennick, Arbat, Moscow
Some other things I’ve noticed. More saw it in Russia than in the Ukraine — it just an infiltration of... rampant capitalism here. It’s out of control. Like in Moscow especially. It’s like... it’s mind-boggling. And it’s understandable, because it’s new and people want McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King — all this junk. But capitalism, ultimately, eats itself. You know. So, it’s really weird to see, at the beginnings of rampant acquisition of stuff, that process happening. And, eventually, you know, very few people get benefit of that stuff and so many people do not. And again, we all want things: we want a phone, we want a recorder to record this interview, we want clothes, maybe with band logo on them, you know, it’s nice to have shoes that I didn’t make myself, ’cause it’s inconvenient to make my own shoes. But there is price to be paid with all of that and at the very least what we need to be doing is remembering the price that we pay when we’re involved with these processes. So, to see Bentleys and Mercedes driving around Moscow is just crazy making. And the brand name fashion world infiltrating these countries is unbelievable. I mean, even the women are started to look all the same, everyone wears calf-high boots, with a skirt and waist length coats. They’re all tall and thin and they all match this image of beauty that has been westernized version of beauty for many years and it’s strange to see, you know. It’s almost like a science experiment gone wrong. But no one realizes it is yet. *Greg cheers up* It’s like in the movies where there is science experiment and they make a creature and they think it’s nice, but then creature goes crazy and starts infecting people’s brains, making them nuts or killing them like in the science fiction movie. This is what’s like — it’s like science fiction movie gone wrong. *door opens again* C’mon in, welcome! *continuing in a moment* Or it’s like that creature in movies you don’t realize until the end is actually sinister. You think it’s nice all along. That what’s happening here, I look at these people and I’m just thinking to myself: «oh, gosh, the price paid for all this is that everyone eventually starts to look the same and want the same things».

Just like a wave.

Yeah, it’s like an endless wave, you know. And I especially noticed that element of fashion and style. Everyone starts looking the same and it’s really intimidating. Because what happens if you’re a woman who doesn’t look like that ideal of long legs and thin, super skinny. You sort to feel like you’re not human, because everyone in billboards now and I just starting to look the same too. I’ve noticed the infiltration of 20 years of capitalism has had this effect. It’s unfortunate.
So it’s both good and bad. I mean there have been good things like what we’ve seen in hardcore scene in terms of people being so friendly to us and everything. Then kinda the bad side of things which is that, you know, just... Subway, and all the stores, and Sbarro, and Dunkin’ Donuts, and all that crap. So ridiculous.


author? Fluff Fest 2009

So, about the price that paid by people...I think we see right now that USA is feeling really bad in economic sense. People just occupying streets.

Yeah, what’s happened in America is you’ve created a culture of credit. And in America if you don’t have the money to buy something you just get the credit to buy whatever it is you want. But you not really buying it — you borrowing it and you borrowing it versus the promise that you will pay. But in America we don’t care about fulfilling our promise, right? So we don’t care that we won’t be able to pay — we just want the thing, the stuff. So we’ve created lives where we are borrowing against ourselves with an inability to come through and fulfill our end of the deal. So you end up with a house you can’t afford, driving a car you can’t afford, wearing clothes you can’t afford, giving gifts of jewelry you can’t afford and eventually your credit is so high that you can’t afford to pay for your own life. And everything collapses. Multiply that times 300 million people and you’ve got a very serious situation. Plus the real estate situation — that’s the perfection example.

In 2008, right? (United States housing bubble)

Yeah, exactly, perfect example, I can’t afford to buy a house, I just ask the bank for money and the bank’s thinking: «we lend this guy money at huge interest rate». So if he can pay it back, the bank makes a ton of money. But they don’t care if I could pay the whole thing back — just a little bit, just to get that huge payoff somehow. As people who struggling pay their bills. Yeah, this system crumbles into itself. America is in such colossal debt. What would happen if the Chinese were to call in their debt from America... well, it would be over. And I mean US will just be done. So, you know, credit exists by the graces of the one providing the credit. It’s so bizarre! It’s so bizarre that the world system exists in that way. And we’re all sucked into it on some level or another. But it’s just crazy. So in Europe and East when people start talking about having huge credit card bills — you know, it’s a problem, because Americans are screwed with credit right now. Just overextending themselves economically. It’s just not a wise choice at all.

So, do you think it really can happen — US dollar will be denied as reserve currency in other countries?

You know, it’s weird, right. Because just recently we had this debate in US Р what’s going to happen, what’s going to be if USD will be denied as reserve currency? And...I always got the sense that I know nothing. And it’s not because I’m ignorant or I’m stupid. It’s because I always feel there are people in this world so much more powerfully connected economically that I am, that I have no idea what’s really going to happen. Meaning, in my opinion — yeah, makes perfect sense that the dollar would be denied as currency anywhere. Like if I’ll try to pay in US dollars anywhere, people will just assume to use them as a toilet paper at this point. Not mean exaggerating their currencies, which undoubtedly are worth less versus the dollar. But the sense that I get is that the players in the world, won’t let it collapse entirely. And that’s the level of economic involvement or economic secrecy that I don’t have any sense of. Does that make sense? Meaning, I hate to sound like I’m conspiracy theorist, but I trully believe that the people who have the most money, will not let their money disappear. By any means necessary, whatever they have to do in order to make that maintain. That’s I guess just my thought — I could totally see why the dollar would become a worthless currency, but I can’t imagine that the people, who have dollars, are gonna let that happen without a huge fight.

Do you following news about Occupy Wall Street action?

Yeah-yeah, a very little bit, ’cause it’s started since we gone on tour.
*local band started sound check behind the door, we’re leaving for a walk in fear of the mic won’t make it through loud noise and then we’re getting back after a short walk*

Have you seen how many cities involved?

Yeah, there is a lot of cities involved with Occupy Wall Street at this point. There is people in Seattle, there is people all over the country.

And also in Europe.

I did realize that’s happening in Europe, yeah. Our internet time has been so limited since we’ve been in Europe, so I’ve just picking up bits and pieces along the way.

So, let’s talk about the movie then?

G: We could talk a little bit about Occupy Wall Street.
You know, 99% of the people don’t have what 1% of the people have. And people are fed up with that, they’ve had enough. This is have been building for year and years and years and years. And with only through valiant and very courageous efforts of the people in the Middle East (Arab Spring), who finally stood up to their repressive governments, that people in US finally said: «hey, we can do this too». I haven’t been following Occupy Wall Street enough to know, what demands are being made in which cities. But my only hope is that people specify demands and get tactical, rather than hoping for general corporate reform or for the good graces and compassion of the elite, of the economic elite, because they’re not going get that. The economic elite are the economic elite, because they are not of compassion for those who do not have anything. So, my hope is that people get tactical about their demands and realistic about their demands. So that there is some progression, there is some change made. That will be brilliant, really incredible to see. Because there is a lot of problems in America — people can’t afford healthcare. That’s the number one thing that comes to mind, that comes from the top of my head. If you get sick in America, you just suck it up. Just deal with that. I would love to see it situation in America where people have access to healthcare. That would be pretty brilliant. I don’t know if it’s a part of the Occupy Wall Street demands, but if it’s, than it’s kind of thing I would like to see. Something that’s real and tangible as it changing people lives.

Well, at least they could build some networks between each other.

Absolutely — coalition building. Yeah, it’s great... plus they get to live in tents and camping is always fun. Camping is very exciting activity: you get to sing songs and you can eat vegan marshmellows. It’s very fun.

So, we’ll see how it goes.

Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. But I mean I guess the most important thing is making sure that it goes in some direction. Sitting on Wall Street isn’t very effective. But I don’t think for a second people are just sitting there. I just haven’t been able to follow what people’s demands and hopes are. And that’s my own fault for just not being able to have the time to sit and learn and hear from people what’s going on.

But it’s the last show on tour, right?


author? St. Petersburg, October 14 2011

This is the last show, yeah, tonight.

So you going to check this out soon?

Oh, yeah, absolutely, when I get home I’ll be asking people about it. Not even when I get home — even tomorrow, just like be able to sit and ask people about having the time, to kinda explore what’s been happening there. Ask friends who involved in New York and I just want ask them more about what’s happening. So, yeah, definitely checking out.


photo by Chris Zibutis, Burning Fight Book Release Show, Chicago, May 2nd 2009

I want to ask about «Flight from Death». Who came up with idea about this movie?

Well, the ultimately the idea came from a guy named Ernest Becker. And Becker was the cultural anthropologist upon whom Flight from Death is based. And his work in a book called «The Denial of Death» was really almost a turning point in a history of psychology. Because he started to think about why do people behave violently towards one another. And he started realizing that the primary human motivator in human behavior is our fear of death — not, as Sigmund Freud said, our desire for sex. And Becker want to substantiate or to explore these claims. And then this trio of researchers started to substantiate these claims. And Patrick Shen from Transcendental Media was reading The Denial of Death and thought that this could make a very cool movie. And got in touch with me to interview maybe, ’cause I was going to world leaders trying to communicate with them about these ideas. And it was kinda this union of theory and practice between us and we made the movie based on Becker’s ideas. But Becker was the real originator.

And when you actually started to think about Between Earth & Sky? Because they’re touch almost the same.

G: Yeah-yeah, Between Earth & Sky covers some of the same ground. And I started to think about BE&S around 2000.
*Local band starts sound check once again. It’s too loud Р we just waiting. Continuing interview after some time.*
In 2000, right. When Trial broke up. The first emails back and forth about BE&S were sent in the spring of 2000. So it’s been 11 years we’ve been talking about the band and finally our EP came out and we played our first show.

And what’s your plan now?

G: We’re in the middle of writing an LP, we’ve got 3 or 4 songs with we’ve started, we hoping for 20 songs to choose from. And we’ll write all those songs and maybe put 10 or 12 on an LP that we’ll record for Refuse Records next year. It won’t be like 11 years, then an EP comes out, then 200 years and an LP.The LP will be recorded next year. And then we would love to come to Europe at some point.

All of you living in Seattle?

No, everybody is in Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Two — the guitarists — living in Canada, the rest of us living in Seattle. In Seattle are Alexei from Trial, EJ from Trial — who is not on this tour, he’s back in Seattle — and then me. And other two guys living in Vancouver, it’s Sean Lande who played in Strain and a guy named Happy Kreter, who was in a band called Gob for a little while, they’re a pop punk band.

I read interesting thought about straight edge in recent BE&S interview. The thought was: «what to do with your sobriety?»

G: Yeah, Happy Kreter said this. He was talking about straight edge: that if you’re sober, if you’re straight edge that doesn’t make you any better than anyone else. In fact, it just makes you «level» or «even»: it brings you to «zero». So from the point of zero — what happens from there? What you do with your sobriety? So, you know, we think all the time — what can we do for other people with our sobriety? And I think to myself like — «One Hundred for Haiti». Which is the work that I do in Haiti. That’s the result of me being sober, me being able to think. Reaching out and connecting with other people, networking, talking today with kids in Russia about politics and ideas, connecting them with people in US who share similar ideologies — these are the things that we can do with our sobriety. When I talk on stage about rape and sexual assault and helping victims and survivors of sexual assault — those are the things that we can do with our sobriety. Sobriety isn’t the end point — that’s the beginning point, that’s the starting point. So, I’ve been straight edge more than half of my life at this point — who cares!? I don’t drink or do drugs, no one’s gonna give me a medal for that. You know, it just like — it’s interesting. It’s a topic of conversation, but the question becomes — if the goal of that is mental clarity, what would I do with my mental clarity?

And you’re also vegan for like 20 with something years.

Yeah, just over 20 years. I’ve been vegan for a very long time. And I love it. I think it’s great. I have tons of energy. And I think when you’re vegan you can do things, and your body can do things, your body heals quicker, it’s more healthy. I try to eat raw as much as possible too, ’cause I find it’s really healthy. Not on tour — you know, on tour it’s very hard, on tour you only eat potatoes, rice, pasta and...

Bread.

And bread, a lot of bread, yeah. So, but when I’m home in Seattle I eat a lot of raw food and it’s great, I’m very happy about that. *seriously* When you’re vegan you can fight sharks, that happens when you’re vegan, you can jump over buildings. Let’s say like a car is coming at you in the street — you just pick up the car and throw it out of the way. Anytime your skin gets cut — *fingers snap* it heals instantly. You can see through walls. You can drink fire and not be hurt. All these things are possible. Like you can stick your fingers into electrical socket, having electricity just going through you and just feel energized. *comments with precautionary voice* Do not, readers, stick your finger into electrical sockets. You know, I’m joking, but I’m mean — being vegan has made me very happy and make me feel very energetic just about life and I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love being vegan.

What would you suggest for beginners, who just started being vegan?

Here’s the thing: don’t be a junk food vegan. Don’t eat chips and ice cream, and other stuff just ’cause it’s vegan and think that just because it’s vegan — that it’s healthy. You can get really fat being vegan, you can get very out of shape being vegan. What you need to do is be conscious and by conscious I mean learn about nutrition.Learn that it’s better to eat dark leafy green vegetables than lettuce or celery and then make your diet be a diet that’s diverse with a lot of different vegetables and if you wanna eat soy products and that sort of thing for protein, or nuts and beans, just make sure that you’re answering what your body is calling for. And also it’s not bad idea to get your blood checked every couple of years, you know. Every 5 years or something. To make sure you getting all the nutrients. Yeah, those are all good ideas. Just don’t be a junk food vegan, bec\ause it’s not the answer.

How would you describe your current point of life? How do you feel about your life? You did so many things, you do so many things, and have time left to do even more things. Just have do you feel about it?

I feel always the same, which is — constantly happy and satisfied and never satisfied. Meaning, I always have a sense that I’m very fortunate and very happy to be able to have gone to Haiti or play hardcore in Russia or connect with people, but I’m always wanting more, always. And it’s not because the people I meet aren’t enough. Meaning, talking to you is great. But I find myself thinking: «this is a great conversation, I hope we’ll have a hundred more conversations like this.» Or: «the shows here in Russia are amazing, I hope there are more shows someday.» So I always have a sense that I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do things that I do but I’m always thinking: «what’s next, what’s next, what’s next?» It’s kinda like the end of «Reflections»: «...and we want something more.» It’s like I’m always thinking: «what’s next, what’s next?» But I have to say that it’s important to recognize that I always feel a sense of satisfaction at the same time, like I’m very happy with the things I’m able to do. And I’m surrounded by amazing people, just always. I have incredible friends. I’m very happy that I have these people in my life and I’m able to connect with these people in my life. So, yeah, I guess, what’s next is — I absolutely want to write a book, and I want to do more in Haiti for sure with «One Hundred for Haiti». And just keep connecting with people, ’cause it’s through connections, as crazy as it’s sounds, through emails and phone calls and facebook and whatnot, there a lot of incredible things have happened in last couple of years. I just want to continue doing that as much as I can.


author? London

How many interviews you did on this tour?

Maybe 20. Maybe 15 or 20, I think. I know that in Warsaw I did 5, like 4 or 5. Yeah, that’s quite a few.

And is there anything that you haven’t been asked yet?

Yeah, no one has asked me how many interviews I’ve done on this tour. *laughing begins*

That’s great! *laugh*

Yeah, *through laughter* so this is very unique and special interview that I’ll remember always *dying laughing*
*both dying laughing*


photo by Mat Miller, Burning Fight Book Release Show, Chicago, May 2nd 2009

_____

What are your thoughts on mp3 sharing? There has been a recent debate about this on the internet about Trial songs.

My thoughts are that anyone who takes one side or the other is oversimplifying, especially in the context of sharing punk and hardcore mp3’s. My initial response is to offer very little sympathy for the major record companies and their cries about lost profits. I remember when CD’s cost over $20 and artists were selling millions of copies. The record companies were making endless amounts of money for decades and we had nothing to say about it. Now the tables have turned and the people have more power in terms of controlling distribution channels. People don’t pay major labels for mp3’s anymore. People take what they want, and they do that because they are sick of getting ripped off with high prices and lack of quality. How many times as a kid did people buy an entire CD for one or two songs? The record companies more than got their money out of everyone.
So, what is different in hardcore is that the profit margins are less dramatic for most labels for each release and therefore when people download records, tiny independent labels have a harder time surviving. And while some of the larger indie labels will figure out ways to survive, the small labels like Panic Records barely can pay themselves back for their releases as it is, so to lose income from file sharing hurts. And no, I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should all be doing / writing / playing / releasing hardcore as martyrs. In 30+ years, hardcore/punk hasn’t been able to establish an alternative system of feeding us all, and as a result we are all still in process. The idea of pouring money endlessly into anything out of love is romantic and also unsustainable. For someone like Timm who releases records with no hope of profiting from it all, but just hopes to make his money back to be able to put out more records from more new bands, I am surprised that this is still too unethical for some people. Then again, there were straightedge people who slapped beers out of people’s hands and demanded that the world follow their ideas without exception, so I understand that extreme postions exist even if I dont agree.


photo by Chris Zibutis, Burning Fight Book Release Show, Chicago, May 2nd 2009
At the same time, I recognize that there are kids all over the world who can’t afford to pay ANYTHING for mp3’s regardless of the price. Timm and I have talked about it and we both agree 100% that if we had a list of 20,000 kids who couldnt afford Trial songs, that we would send them all mp3’s for free without question. But the problem becomes: what happens to those mp3’s once they are out into the world. There’s a majority of downloads that come from the US, even if the songs originate in poorer countries in the world. This means that even though the argument is made that people can’t afford music in country X, that its people in the wealthier country Y that benefit from giving the songs away to the people with less money. People in Russia or Ukraine might host a record online, but its kids from Orange County that likely will download it . I’d love to see people who have the means to pay for music support labels until a better system is in place, and people who can’t afford it share, but do so honorably, meaning don’t just post blindly. Because that just puts a burden on labels and therefore on artists too. I think a compromise can be reached easily in terms of access to songs. People could stream songs but not make them downloadble, and even could offer lyrics. Then anyone with an internet connection could access the songs and even the lyrics if they were made available in the form of a pdf. Another idea would be to have 25%-50% of the songs on a release downloadable and the rest not. Then people could see if they liked a record or what a band had to say before buying. And that’s important, because they would still have access to the passion and the ideas. The issue of intellectual property rights is something I wont get into here, other than to say that if we want ideas for free but don’t have the means in our community to support the artists who create them, then we should be thinking about other means to support those artists so that they can continue to do the work that inspires us. To say «music should be free» is to lay claim to art, ideas, creativity and distribution all at once while claiming no responsibility whatsoever for the process. That is the worst possible kind of consumption. Its a blind consumption: a collecting of things for the sake of acquiring things, without regard to how they were created, where, by whom, or why. It’s like being an American consumer on cocaine... just a freakout of acquisition without thought.

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