I never thought I’d ask an 11 year old to interview a philosophy professor…but after reading this interview, I’m happy I did! Our next interview comes from Julian, who recently spoke with Bucky from Noose.
I have been listening to React bands since the React Showcase last year. I love all the bands on React. Aram is one of the coolest guys I have ever met and I like the way that he chooses all different kinds of bands. I was already starting to work on my new website (PMAKid.com) and interviews for it when my dad told me that React wanted to get fans to interview bands. I got to do an interview with Bucky from Noose and I am really glad I did, because he has some pretty interesting things to say. His responses really make me think. The music is really epic and I can’t wait to get my own copies in the mail.
Who is in the band? Are other bands you have been in, can you tell me about those too? Also, what other stuff do you do besides being in a band (like work or school)?
Noose is Bucky (vocals), Kyle (guitar), Matt (bass), and Joey (drums). We’ve all been in bands in the past. Kyle was in Duress and Poison Planet, Matt did Lake Effect, and Joey was in Poison Planet and Boiling Over. I (Bucky) was in several bands during my middle and high school years but none of them ever released anything. Besides a one off thing in 2003, Noose is the first band I’ve been in since the 90s.
Joey is currently playing in two other bands: Boilerman (Jawbreaker style pop punk) and Black & Blue (NYHC style, perhaps a bit of OI influence). Boilerman has a record out and Black & Blue has a demo. Both bands are worth checking out.
Kyle is currently in another band called Bald Pig. I think they’ve played two shows so far. I missed both so I don’t know what they sound like. I am sure they are fast!
Everyone in Noose works. Matt is a tattoo artist at Family Tattoo, Joey is biding his time at Whole Foods before he re-enters the world of social work, Kyle has four or five different jobs (preeminent among them is desk clerking at a seedy motel), and I teach philosophy at the University of Illinois (where I will someday finish a PhD).
Besides what I’ve already mentioned, the most important biographical fact about Noose is that 3/4ths of the band can kickflip.
My mom always says that hardcore music sounds so negative because it is loud and all the swearing and stuff. My dad and I always tell her that a lot of it is positive, even though it sounds angry. I tell her her about Kevin’s Positive Force Records and PMA. Would you guys say that you are a positive band? I kinda think so from looking at your lyrics, but you are also singing about things that you think are really messed up and doing it in a really confrontational way. How do you think people can try to always be PMA but still be forceful when you see things which are really stupid or mean?
Noose is not a positive band. 7 Seconds, Youth of Today, Uniform Choice…those are the bands I would associate with positive hardcore.
Noose is much more reactionary than those bands. Suppose you go through life with a PMA. You try to do what’s right, to make the best of bad situations, to see the glass half full, and keep your mind focused on worthy goals. You’re going to meet with lots of resistance along the way. The world is full of thoughtlessness, selfishness, and cruelty, most of which just doesn’t make much sense. Unfortunately, 7 Seconds isn’t the sound track for most people out there. So you look around and you see all this hate and you wish things were different but you feel powerless. Noose is a kind of gut reaction to that experience…to the hateful and violent aspects of our world and the frustrations that come from trying to live a positive life in the face of resistance.
I have two goals when I write lyrics. First, I want to address an issue or an experience or event that has affected me in some way. So there’s always a personal element to the lyrics; I’m not going to write about something I don’t care about or don’t have a stake in. Noose will never have lyrics about Satan or collecting sneakers or driving fast down the highway. To my mind that stuff is irrelevant.
My second aim is get the people who listen to the song and read the lyrics to really think about the topic, reflect on the message, and perhaps even come to see things my way. For this reason I try not to write lyrics that are too vague, poetic, or overtly literary. My primary goal is to communicate ideas. To take an issue or experience that has shaped me and make other people aware of it.
The reason for the explicitly confrontational approach is simple. Some people’s minds are changed by reason and gentle persuasion. Other people need shock therapy. Noose is going for the latter approach. It’s easy to just ignore the message of a band with a “live and let live” approach. By saying that veganism, for example, is not just a personal choice but the only morally adequate diet we’re not letting people off the hook so easily.
Of course, lots of the people who listen to our band are going to be people who already agree with us. A band like Noose helps to reinforce their confidence about their commitments. When I’m feeling alienated I can always turn on Chorus or Judge and get a sense of solidarity. I hope that Noose can play that kind of role for today’s vegan straight edge kids.
I am not supposed to say the f-word, so I will not say the name of the first song. It is the one that has two words where the second word is Art. My dad found the lyrics on your website and I have read them. What are you singing about? It looks like you are trying to tell people that their idea of art is bad.
This song is a response to a specific incident. In 2007, a “conceptual” artist named Guillermo Vargas tied a stray, malnourished dog to a wall in a Nicaraguan gallery as part of an exhibition. There are lots of rumors surrounding this incident; no one really knows what happened to the dog, whether it was fed, whether it was euthanized, or what Vargas’ precise intentions were. The point of the song, however, is that it’s never ok to exploit the suffering of others to make a product. Even if that product is beautiful (or tasty) its aesthetic value cannot override our basic obligation to respect life. By putting a starving dog on display in an art gallery, Vargas turned its suffering into a commercial product and profited from it. That is a great evil. What’s worse is that no one stopped him along the way. No one said “Hey…wait a sec…this is messed up.” I think that is a symptom of current our inability to look at art in moral terms. Many people seem to think that anything is permissible for art’s sake. That’s why you will hear lots of people using the vocabulary of aesthetics to defend practices that exploit animals. These people have a totally misguided outlook; the point of our song is to call them on it.
I know that you guys are vegan (my cousin is vegan too). I have met a lot of vegan people since listening to hardcore. Aram and Chris Bavaria and Andy Norton and some other people. My dad says that there were not a lot of vegan people when he was listening to hardcore when he was young, but that youth of today made it really big. He said that being vegan is really big for some straight edge people and they consider it as important as their choice to not drink alcohol or do drugs. Is this how you think too? Why are you vegan? Is it because of the way that meat is made? (My dad built computer programs a long time ago for feedyards. That is where they make cows gain weight really fast before sending them to the slaughter house. He said that slaughter houses are gross.)
Everyone in Noose is vegan for moral reasons. We think it is wrong, plain and simple, to use animals for food.
Possession of consciousness is enough for moral standing, for having your interests matter in moral decision making. Any being that has the basic capacity to form beliefs and desires and/or to have qualitative experiences (like feeling pain and pleasure) has the capacity to be harmed. It is wrong to cause harm without good reason and, simply put, animal agriculture is a practice that causes massive amounts of harm without good reason. I can provide a much more nuanced argument than this but I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s hard to deny that cows and pigs possess the morally salient features of consciousness without jumping through a bunch of very counter-intuitive philosophical hoops. Since we do not need to eat them or use products derived from their labor, it’s hard to see how we could justify harming them.
As for the relative importance of veganism and straight edge…well…I don’t think you’re doing something intrinsically wrong when you have a beer…even if you’d be much better off without it. I don’t think it is imperative that people who drink stop doing it ASAP. My complaint about alcohol is primarily the way it is used, not the mere fact of its use. I mean, if you pressed me I’d say that we have certain self-regarding duties and that using alcohol may actually contravene our self-regarding duties. But I have a hard time seeing the evils brought about by drinking, smoking, and drug use as being of the same magnitude as the evils brought about by animal agriculture. Perhaps we could create a society where people and alcohol peacefully co-exist. With veganism, however, my stance is reversed. I think the mere fact of animal consumption is intrinsically wrong, should be stopped ASAP, and cannot be part of truly peaceful society.
Why is one of your songs called “Nous”? My dad says that nous means “we” in French, but that the s at the end is silent. If you say the s then it sounds like Noose. I like what the lyrics say and I think it is cool that you have to think about them more than some songs.
‘Nous’ is a word that the ancient Greeks used to refer to the part of the mind that apprehends very basic facts about the world. The idea is something like this: the way that you know “2 + 2 = 4” or that “nothing can be red all over and green all over at the same time” is not by having direct sense experience of colors or numbers. Instead, you grasp these truths just by thinking about them. If you understand the concepts involved, just reflecting on these claims is enough to see that they are so.
In the song “Nous” I’m having a little fun with the lyrics by claiming that “straight edge” is a basic truth that is apprehended in the same way as the truths of math and logic. The whole song is allegorical. Still, I think there is a loose sense in which it really is “self-evident” that straight edge is the best way of life. Given the amount of harm caused by drugs and alcohol (and the very minimal returns on their use) it just seems obvious to me that these are things we should avoid.
My dad likes a lot of philosophy and he said that your lyrics are more philosophical than other bands. He thinks that the song Nature Red in Tooth and Claw is about making a conscious choice to not eat meat. He also said that you probably mention Hume in the song because he talked about suffering and preventing evil and what that means for people who believe in God but make animals suffer because people eat them. Can you explain this whole idea for me?
The title of the song comes from a famous line in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. That poem had religious dimensions and dealt with the attempt to reconcile the existence of pain and suffering in the world with the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient God. If God is completely good and can do anything why should he allow evil to exist? That is a major philosophical problem and I’m not going to tackle it here.
The point of the song is that, even if we concede that the natural world is filled with pain and suffering (whatever the reasons) and even if the practice of meat-eating is natural, that’s no evidence that it’s right or that we should keep doing it. Many people seem to equate what is natural with what is right and what is unnatural with what is wrong. That kind of thinking is clearly erroneous. First of all, hearing aids, fake knees, synthetic vitamins and thousands of other products are “unnatural” but it’s obviously not wrong for people to use them. Alternatively, violence, oppression, rape, slavery and other obvious wrongs seem like good candidates for “naturally” occurring practices/behaviors. We may very well be predisposed to these kinds of things. Still, as beings endowed with the ability to think before we act, we can contain and control these predispositions and direct them towards positive ends. So the distinction between what is natural and unnatural, if it’s even a coherent distinction, doesn’t offer us much help in our moral thinking.
I reference Hume because he is famous for pressing the point that you can’t get an “ought” from an “is”. Moral facts have to do with what we ought to do; for example “you ought to tell the truth”. But the facts about what we ought to do cannot be cleanly derived from facts our natural predispositions or from whatever practices are allowed by contemporary society. The fact that you ought to tell the truth can be justified by moral theorizing, but it isn’t derived from the fact that people are naturally disposed to be truth tellers (we may not be) or from the fact that members of our present day society are primarily truth tellers.
I have seen the cover of your record that React is putting out and it reminds me of pictures I have seen when black people were being hanged a long time ago in the south. I know you guys are not racists or anything, but I wonder about your name and the picture. Why did you name yourself noose? It is kinda a scary name.
The name “Noose” is inspired by lyrics from Judge. Judge also took a no-holds barred, nearly over-the-top approach to straight edge. Think about these lyrics: “a beer, a joint like a gun at your head, the price you pay is the blood that you bled.”
Those lyrics point very directly to the self-destructiveness of drugs and alcohol and use a suicide metaphor to do so. When I was thinking about what to name the band I already had some lyrics written and I had a general idea of what the vibe would be. I was looking for a name that fit the confrontational nature of the lyrics…something brutal, ugly, and arresting. The name is meant to have sinister undertones because we’re reacting to some of the dark and violent aspects of the world. A noose is an object that is associated with suicide and has dark, violent connotations. You could substitute a noose for the gun in those Judge lyrics and you’d get the same message.
The cover of our seven inch is a riff on Black Flag’s ‘Everything Went Black’. We wanted the art to capture that same disconcerting, forbidding vibe that is expressed in our music and we also wanted it to retain a punk aesthetic.
Unfortunately, the image of a noose is also associated with lynchings that occurred during the Jim Crow era. We realize this but we hope that people are smart enough to grasp that the vegan straight edge is incompatible with racism. In the punk/hardcore scene, we’re playing to an audience that is anti-racist almost by default. All the criticism we’ve received about the name and the art has been from people who are threatened by (or simply dislike) our message; I can’t think of any critic who has really thought we have a racist agenda.
Since I am just a kid, I want to thank you for doing this interview with me. It is cool to be able to talk to people with a lot of different beliefs and try to learn from them, so I really think it is cool what you are doing. (I hope you are going to play the next React showcase so I can see you.) Is there anything else you want to say?
The great thing about hardcore is that everyone involved is ‘just a kid’. It’s a great equalizing force. The bands and the people at shows are all basically on them same level and no one really cares how old you are or who you know. I was your age when I first started to listen to hardcore and I had the good fortune of growing up down the street from an older guy who shepherded me into the scene, lent me records, and drove me to some shows that my parents never would have brought me to. One of the best things about my early experience in hardcore is that no one ever made me feel like my age was an impediment. Now that some of the older guys are truly old and have kids of their own things may be a bit different but I still can’t think of any other scene where there is meaningful participation from people of so many different ages.
If everything goes according to plan we will be playing this year’s React! Showcase and we will have a new seven inch coming out around that time. Thanks for doing this interview. Keep an eye on the Chicago Hardcore scene!