Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Down with "average"

One way to get on my bad side (actually there are several hundred ways to get on my bad side, but one that sticks out as being particularly distasteful) is to accuse me of being average. Whether you think that I'm thinking average thoughts, have lived an average life, or aspire to be simply average at anything is an insult to my perfectionist nature. I may very well do a lot of really "normal" things in my life, but trust me, hum drum, unexciting and bland are the antithesis of everything I strive to experience.

A 90's era British hardcore band called Cracked Cop Skulls released a record called Why Pussyfoot When You Can Kill? I found this to be a truly righteous declaration. Why pussyfoot when you can kill indeed... life is too short for mediocrity.

Ahhh, but the sad thing is, mediocrity really hits the spot for the majority of people in this country. In fact, this country's media machine declares war on anything exceptional or outstanding on a regular basis, either by demonizing it or ignoring it. Why do you think all the great hardcore punk bands from the 1980's I keep yapping about on this blog got almost NO media attention whatsoever? They were too extreme that's why.

In my humble opinion, "extreme" is often just another way of saying something is too good, too honest, or just too gosh darn genuine for most people to handle. Being exceptional at anything is a surefire way to alienate the majority of your peers. Do you want a lot of friends? Make sure you're not too successful, too good looking, too intelligent or too talented, otherwise you'll be the bane of their existence and despised by everyone.

Rewarding an average standard holds true even in communities which supposedly ascribe to an aesthetic of extremity. I don't know how many times I've been told by my punk rock, pagan, art or martial arts peers that I was taking their alternative or revolutionary ideas just a little too far. Many times, in their opinion I was pushing the envelope just a little too much. Even in communities where people are supposed to be challenging and ultimately destroying the status quo, in many instances they've merely replaced the mainstream status quo with their own, slightly different version of it.

Perfectionism, systematic execution and untempered determination are how I accomplish anything worthwhile in my life. A pox times 1000 to anyone naive enough to think that I am "just like all those people" because I could never be average and normal no matter how hard I try. This is not to say that I have no boundaries, no morals and no structure in my life; in fact I possess all of those aesthetics in large amounts. But they are the structures I have chosen... the structures I have built... the structures that work for ME.

I actually envy average people quite a bit, as their lot in life is much MUCH easier than mine, but average people will not move this civilization forward one iota. Today's freaks, revolutionaries, malcontents and general weirdos could very well be iconoclasts who become the heroes of tomorrow. Van Gough and HP Lovecraft died lonely and penniless but were canonized after their deaths. I find this quite sad and unfair, but at the very least- they attained immortality by their art and writing being appreciated by so many people long after they left this mortal coil.

Will I be one of these iconoclasts? I have no idea. I'm not sure I really want to be one, but it has become my goal to try and influence this world (or at least my little corner of it) in a positive way as much as I can. Is it arrogant for me to assume I ever could be one of these iconoclasts? I certainly hope so. Without being an arrogant, perfectionist jerk I'd have little other reason to set the bar so ridiculously high for myself. Does anything I do impress you? That's hardly the point. Impressing me is what is important. You couldn't ever be as harsh of a critic on me as I am on myself.

So to quote Henry Rollins- "You say you're my friend, but you're one of them". I extend this to anyone who tries to stand in my way... tries to bring me down... and most importantly- to anyone who'd ever have the gall of accusing me of being

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thor, God Of "Gotta Do This Again"

Whenever one mentions the old Norse/ Germanic pantheon, the god who immediately comes to mind is Thor. Thor is often thought to represent brute force, blind rage and raw machismo, but I've come to find out that his energy is actually far more complex than that. Thor served as both the protector of the common man and protector of the gods alike. Thor was the lynch pin of the Norse pantheon, and when his energy manifests itself to us here on Midgard we are always very grateful for it.

Armed with an unbreakable, yet very short handled magic hammer known as "Mjolnir", Thor was the bane of the Jotuns or "frost giants". The Jotuns represented the forces of chaos and destruction and were the arch nemeses of the gods. The Jotuns were constantly trying to make trouble for the gods, as they were very jealous of the beauty and order that the gods had in their home of Asgard. The Jotuns' meddlesome ways would finally culminate in the battle known as Ragnarok, which was instigated by a Jotun with godlike powers named Loki. Thor's role in Ragnarok was crucial, as he was the only god strong enough to kill Loki's son, a giant serpent known as Jormungund.

Thor can be thought of as the bouncer at the club or the vigilant policeman. Not the over testosteroned bouncer with an attitude problem or the crooked cop, but the bouncer who removes the drunk trouble maker quickly so the rest of the bar patrons can keep having a good time. He's not the cop who spends his time writing minor traffic tickets and harassing skateboarders, he's the cop who busts the real criminals instead. In essence, Thor is the tough guy with the really big heart.

Whenever you see people performing Thor- like deeds you are often relieved and left with a very positive impression. One of the finest Thor moments I can recall is when my friend Frank removed a very meddlesome young man from a punk rock gig back in 1992. This gig was held in a very small venue, and had a mixed bill and crowd who were all very hostile towards each other. The crowd consisted of equal parts skinheads and straight edge kids, with a smattering of punk rockers and skaters thrown in. Frank and I were firmly in the last category (skaters) and were two of the few people who were there because we actually just wanted to see the bands and have fun.

Frank and his girlfriend were avid t shirt printers and record distributors, so at most local gigs they had a veritable punk rock flea market set up in the back. Most kids really liked that, but at this particular gig they weren't selling much merchandise. Most of the kids were there to stage dive and mosh, so record and shirt sales were at a minimum. The place was really cramped too, so the record table was a little too close to the stage and dancefloor to be able to make any sales while the bands were playing and the kids were dancing. One person who quickly took advantage of this chaotic situation was a local mohicaned "drunk punk" named Wacky.

Wacky was an infamous local troublemaker who was known for starting fights, exposing himself to people, and generally being an intoxicated idiot any time he went out into public. Later on we would come to find out that he was actually a spoiled little rich boy from Bristol RI, but at the time we didn't really know anything about him. All we knew is that we hated him for being an obnoxious douchebag, and on this particular evening he seemed extra revved up to antagonize people. Add to that, he was palling around with all the skinheads, which made us a bit hesitant to confront him on his idiotic behavior.

For some reason, Wacky targeted Frank's record table and kept knocking his record boxes over. At first he tried to make it look like an accident that happened due to the moshers migrating a bit too far away from the band stage, but by the third time he did it it was obvious that he was doing it on purpose. Add to that the fact that he had a total smart assed grin on his face every time he knocked Frank's records over, and his newly found skinhead buddies kept cheering him on every time he did.

After Wacky's third attempt at annihilating Frank's merchandise, Frank turned to me and said "Dude, the next time he does that something's going to happen." Frank was seriously one of the most blase people I knew, so when he said this to me in a completely un- emotional, monotone way, it was hard for me to take him seriously. Add to that Frank was one of the last people I would ever expect to "do something" to Wacky or anyone else, as he was pretty much a pacifist. I kind of half expected Frank to not make good on his word, but when Wacky had his fourth "accident" at Frank's table, Frank uttered these words which I will forever associate as the epitome of Thor.

"Gotta do this again..."

Frank walked over to Wacky in a way that was completely nonchalant and unthreatening. I heard him say to Wacky "Dude, that wasn't cool" and then saw him put his hands on Wacky's shoulders. Before Wacky could even say anything, Frank's right foot teed off on Wacky's balls with enough force to send his testicles straight to Mars. Wacky immediately crumbled into a sobbing, teary eyed, red faced heap, and his skinhead buddies all ran over to him to pick him up and drag him out of the venue.

Fearing immediate chrome- domed retribution, I clicked open my knife and grabbed my pepper spray. When the skins came back in though, they were all handshakes and smiles for Frank, claiming that Wacky was annoying them as well, and that Wacky would most assuredly not be making an encore appearance at this gig. This was also the last time any of us ever saw Wacky, as he seemed to drop off the face of the earth (or at least drop out of the local punk rock scene). We later found out that he "grew out of" his punk rock phase and now owns a yaught. Go figure.

Another fine Thor moment happened one morning when I was getting off the highway to go to work. For some strange reason traffic was backed up quite a bit more than usual, and I noticed some commotion up ahead. This off ramp was a popular spot for a couple of panhandlers, but they were usually pretty harmless.

This morning though, there was a new panhandler whom I'd never seen before. He was a lot younger than the regular panhandlers and appeared to have a very surly disposition. He was also clearly wigged out on some kind of alcohol and or drugs, as his demeanor was quite erratic and threatening. I immediately sensed that there was some trouble about to happen, so I got my pepper spray and cell phone ready.

Since the off ramp traffic was stopped at a red light, the panhandler was approaching each car in the line and knocking on their passenger side window. When the driver wouldn't roll their window down and give Mr. Meth any money, he either spit at their car or start punching their window. I was about the tenth car back, and he was on car number three when I noticed most of the other commuters taking out their cellphones and dialing frantically. I was pretty much ready to blast him with my pepper spray once he got to my vehicle, when all of a sudden a police cruiser rolled up on the street that the off ramp emptied onto.

A cop jumped out of the cruiser at lightning speed, opened the cruiser's back door and started quickly walking over to the panhandler (who at this time had advanced another three or four cars closer to me). Without even missing a beat, the cop walked over, grabbed the panhandler by the back of the neck and started pushing him to the police cruiser. He ducked the pan handler's head, shoved him into the back of the cruiser, jumped back in the driver's seat and sped off. This took the cop all of about 40 seconds to do, and the entire ordeal on the off ramp only added an additional four or five minutes to my morning commute, tops.

Actions such as Frank's and the cop's completely illustrate the power of Thor. He's there when you need that extra bit of strength, energy or enthusiasm when you're faced with a challenge or conflict. Thor isn't just there to help you beat up drunk guys with spiky leather jackets or haul off unruly transients either. Are you trying to move a refrigerator up to the second floor? Yell "Hail Thor!" and see what happens. My guess is that you'll have that damn thing up the stairs in no time. Do you have a particularly stubborn tree stump you're trying to remove? Yell "Hail Thor!" and you'll get that sucker out with ease. Trying to reach the summit of the mountain? Trying to get that spaghetti sauce perfect? Trying to meet a seemingly impossible deadline? Can't find that box of precious family heirlooms in your overcrowded attic? Thor can assist you in all of these endeavors.

And luckily, Thor was with me just last week as I was traveling down highway 95. I'd missed my exit and had to backtrack a bit when two cars passed me on the highway. They were both going well over 80 mph and weaving in and out of traffic erratically. They were either drunk, racing each other or having some sort of road rage episode, but once they passed me my reptile brain immediately kicked in. Sensing impending doom, I started to pump my brakes, as it was a bit rainy out.

It's a good thing I was paying attention too, as a few hundred feet ahead of me one of the cars lost control. I saw this and moved over into the slow lane, but the car was literally spinning 360 degrees right in the middle of the highway and blocking all three lanes of traffic! Luckily there were no other vehicles up ahead, but I was fast approaching, as was an 18 wheeler right behind me. I thought to myself "If this person doesn't regain control and get their car and get out of the middle of the highway, I may hit them, and the 18 wheeler will definitely hit them, and annihilate me as well!"

Well, just as I was about 100 feet away from the car, the driver managed to get over to the side of the highway. The 18 wheeler and I passed them unscathed, but not without yours truly hysterically screaming "HAIIILLLL THORRRR!!!!" the entire time. The irony was that earlier in the evening I had actually hailed Thor at a heathen drinking ritual known as sumble. I had never hailed Thor at sumble before, but that night it seemed strangely appropriate for some reason. I'm really glad he listened.

Thor's energy is swift, efficient, hard working and righteous. Frank couldn't have said it better, as many times in the lore, Thor was the god who rolled up his sleeves and took care of business, again, and again and again. Many hardworking heathens of today are well known for being Thorsmen, as we are not much for mysticism. Sure, us heathens have magic and mythology just like every other religion, but heathens like to be doers rather than talkers. We're not afraid to use mundane solutions to solve problems, and that's what Thor is all about. Swift, simple solutions for what appear to be complex problems.

In fact, an Icelandic gentlemen I met recently actually said "Even though Iceland is a Christian country, whenever we get in trouble we hail Odin and Thor, because we know Jesus won't do anything for you when you need him." I found this highly amusing, but also indicative of Thor's popularity, even long after the indigenous heathen faith of Northern Europe has supposedly died.

While other religious types might pray for you to have a successful moving day, the heathen horde will show up to one of their folks' house at 6 am with an army of pickup trucks, hand trucks and boxes. It's funny that Frank is to this day an avowed atheist, as he once coined yet another phrase that I like to associate with Thor. This famous Frank witticism is "talkers talk and doers do" and I have added this to my repertoire as well. Nothing could be more true, as talk minus action equals nothing, and with Thor on your side, you can add yet another saying, this one being "It's getting done, and it's getting done NOW!" (That's a Badger original by the way...)

So to recap, we can sum up Thor in three statements:

"Gotta do this again!"
"Talkers talk and doers do", and
"It's getting done, and it's getting done NOW!"


Monday, October 19, 2009

Runes And Runemagick- Exploring the mysteries of the Elder Futhark

This is taken from a runes workshop I did at Rhode Island Pagan Pride Day recently. This isn't the original handout, and some of the graphics are missing. In place of the missing graphics though, is this great new rune casting plate I painted the other day!

There are many runes and runic systems out there, but the oldest and most popular is known as the Elder Futhark. The Elder Futhark is the oldest known European rune row, and is slated to have been used from the 2nd to 8th centuries, although the legend of the runes purports the usage of the runes from as early as 250 BC. Over 3000 runestones have been found in Scandinavia, with many more scattered in the countries which surround the Baltic Sea. There have even been runestones found in England, Ireland, Scotland and the Berezan Island in Russia. Several runestones have also been discovered in North America, but their authenticity remains questionable. Runic inscriptions were also added to pre- existing stone structures in Turkey and Greece by Viking traders and mercenaries.

The Legend Of The Runes

I trow I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.
None refreshed me ever with food or drink,
I peered right down in the deep;
crying aloud I lifted the Runes
then back I fell from thence.

Havamal, stanzas 137 and 138

In the Havamal, the legend of the runes states that Odin (the high god or “allfather” of the Germanic tribes) hanged himself on a tree for nine days and nights to receive the power of the runes. The runes manifested themselves to him in the form of nine staves which fell at his feet. This is the “bind” rune which encapsulates all 24 of the original Futhark runes.

The nine staves are what the entire Futhark looks like when all the runes are laid on top of each other. From these staves Odin was able to learn the wisdom of the runes. Legend states that these events happened in the year 250 BC, although most of the runestones found are dated between the 2nd and 8th centuries. The true birth of the runes is not known, but their popularity throughout Northern Europe in the early first century is a true testimony to the power and influence they had on the indigenous people of that region. Their appearance in places far away from the Baltic Sea is also a testimony to the hardiness and ambitiousness of the Viking raiders, explorers and traders.

Uses Of The Runes

Although commonly thought of as merely an alphabet or simple divining tool, the runes actually have many varied meanings and uses. As one can tell, many of them resemble the letters in the English alphabet, and they do in fact have phonetic values, but each rune can also be associated with a color, a sound, an object, an action, and much much more. They also relate to each other in a form of code which is hidden by the way they are ordered in the three rune rows, or “aetts”. Runes are often “read” in much the same way that tarot cards are read, but they can also be used for meditating upon and sending by means of galdr (Old Norse for “spell” or “incantation”). There are also runic yoga and runic martial arts systems, although these are likely to be more contemporary developments developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The word “Futhark” is actually an acronym for the first six runes in the first row (or aett) of the Futhark. The phonetic values of the first six runes (Fehu , Uruz , Thurisaz , Ansuz , Raido , and Kenaz are F, U, Th, A, R and K. The 24 Futhark runes are divided into three
different “aetts” (eighths) and the order which the runes fall in is very important, as is the significance of the number 24. Twenty four is twelve times two, and twelve is both a very important magickal and natural number. Using this easily divided number makes for rune casting which is very orderly and easy to learn.

How to read runes

Runes are commonly used in much the same way that tarot cards are used. One can do a rune reading by selecting either 3, 6 or 9 runes, with a 9 rune reading offering the most information. A standard three rune reading will illuminate basic questions about the past, present and future. When doing a nine rune reading, one can use the Yggdrasil or “world tree” spread as shown here:
When doing a three rune reading, the first rune represents the past, the second rune represents the present, and the third rune represents the future. If more information is desired, a full nine rune reading can be done, which will reveal the true nature and needs of the individual, as well as the obstacles and advantages which may be unseen to them. Like anything, practice is the key, and remember- all readings merely serve as a guide, as the future is never written in stone!

When runes are “sent” for a magickal purpose, they can often be sent in the form of bindrunes or rune rows. A rune row is often inscribed onto a stick (stave) and is a magickal working which has a personalized rune row which is necessary for a desired result. A bindrune is a rune row which has been combined into one shape. Bindrunes are often inscribed onto a charm, amulet or hex, and usually contain three or more runes. Depending upon how a bindrune is arranged, different viewers can pick out different runes, as the possibilities when inscribing them are limitless!

When one looks upon the 24 Old Norse runes, one cannot help but be moved by the intensity they emanate. The runes are the wellspring of all creativity, the gateway to ethereal knowledge and the imprint of the gods and ancestors. They are truly elegant in their simplicty. One could devote an entire lifetime to their study and still barely scratch the surface of their true meaning.

Reading List:
Futhark, A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson
Teutonic Magick by Edred Thorsson
Runes Of Mind by Thor Shiel
Advanced Runecraft And Spellcraft by Thor Shiel
The Old Norse Wizard by Thor Shiel
The Poetic Edda by Henry James Bellows
Germania and the Agricola by Tacitus
Gods And Myths Of Northern Europe by HR Ellis Davidson
Lost Gods Of England by Brian Branston
The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley Holland
The Troth-
Thortrains Network/ Trollwise Press-

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fearless Iranians From Hell changed my life

Look at this album cover for a second. Just look at it. If you're over the age of 30, or even a younger person with an eye for history, you'll recognize this as the sinister profile of the now deceased Iranian Mullah known as Ayatollah Khomeini. No image in 1980's America could inspire more fear than his.

The Ayatollah (note the name "Ayatollah" is actually a title) was responsible for deposing the Shah and establishing Iran as the world's first (and so far only) Islamic fundamentalist state. Khomeini had been exiled to France when Iran was still under the rule of the ultra- corrupt US puppet Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (aka "The Shah Of Iran") and returned triumphantly in February of 1979 after the Shah fled to Egypt during the Iranian Revolution. Shortly thereafter in October of 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage in the American embassy in Iran's capitol city Tehran.

America had found a new bogeyman.

Just the mention of the name "Ayatollah" would inspire fear in the average American. I can recall my grandmother looking at his face on the cover of Time magazine and exclaiming "oh my god, he looks so EVIL!" Professional wrestlers would create Iranian personalities and become arch enemies of whatever patriotic good guys they squared off against. Car shows and rodeos often featured someone dressed up as the Ayatollah, who would be lassoed by rodeo riders or run out of the arena by monster trucks. Nightly newscasts would show clips of Iranian students chanting "Death to America!" on an almost weekly basis.

Although the hostage crisis had finally ended in 1981, by the mid 1980's Iran was rumored to have been involved with several anti US and anti Western terrorist acts and bombings, either directly or through the use of proxies. This included the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Lebanon, as well as the bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon later that same year. Iran was often the recipient of Ronald Reagan's ire in his presidential addresses, until he was caught red handed trying to secretly deal arms to them in 1986. From there on out, the American media decided to focus on Libya as our main cause of security concerns.

1984 would become a banner year for Western civilian airliner hijackings, as well yet another bombing of a US target in Beirut, this time being the American Embassy annex. A militant Lebanese Shiite militia group known as Hezbollah were purported to have been responsible for the lion's share of these anti- US aggressions, and they were sponsored by (you guessed it) Iran. The Ayatollah would remain America's number one bad guy until Colonel Muammar al- Gaddafi started to give him a run for his money in 1985. The gauntlet had been thrown down between Islamic fundamentalism and Western capitalist imperialism, which would eventually culminate in the September 11 attack in 2001.

So what was I doing during all of these terrorist attacks and hijackings? Well, by 1987 I was fully immersed in the extreme musical expression known as hardcore punk. Hardcore punk was exactly what it said it was, a more extreme version of punk rock. Although the hardcore scene didn't exactly espouse any love for the Ayatollah or Islamic fundamentalists in general, it definitely was not on the side of the status quo or mainstream thinking in any way, shape or form. This mind melt of "anti- conformity" (which was, in essence, just conforming to the rules laid down by far left radicals) started to have a significant effect on me the more I got into hardcore. By the time I was 14 I was attracted to just about any seemingly subversive piece of music I could get my hands on.

Thrash metal was also becoming big at this time, so naturally there was quite a crossover between hardcore and metal. In fact, bands that were influenced by both punk AND metal would become a
sub genre of their own known as "crossover." Since I still had long hair in 1987, I prided myself as one of those crossover metalheads who had a real love for extreme music, but was firmly grounded in the leftist politics espoused by most hardcore bands. Don't get me wrong, I loved metal, but the sex, drugs and Satanism angle they worked didn't really do anything for me. I was much more interested in hearing lyrics about politics, and the crossover scene delivered high speed, anti- Reagan anthems played by longhairs, skinheads and mohicans alike. It was definitely an exciting time to be a curious 14 year old from the suburbs.

So on a cold night in October of this magical year I was with a group of older friends doing our weekly record shopping. This night would find us at Strawberries Records and Tapes in downtown Worcester Massachusetts. This particular Strawberries was like five times the size of a normal one, and had quite a large "Progressive" section in the basement level. The Progressive section was where you would find anything and everything related to extreme heavy metal, goth, punk, industrial, or any and all otherwise underground records.

It was on this particular night that I saw Fearless Iranians From Hell's "Die For Allah" LP and immediately became intrigued. I knew nothing of this band, but judging by their record label (Boner Records) I figured they had to be good. After all, Boner Records had great bands like Verbal Abuse and Fang, so if FIFH were in a similar league with them, I figured they must be pretty decent. In all honesty, I have absolutely no desire to listen to Verbal Abuse or Fang ever again in my now advanced age, but you better believe that I'm still very much enthralled by the Fearless ones.

I took this record home and gave it a spin. The whole presentation from the minimalist artwork to the song titles, to the lack of band photos, to the over the top lyrics was truly ominous. What struck me as particularly odd about FIFH was their militant support for suicide bombings and radical Islam. Even though as I said before, the hardcore scene was quite leftist, many hardcore bands expressed a dislike for both Reagan AND the Ayatollah. The fact that FIFH openly supported him was something that I found strange, and actually a little frightening.

This band was clearly onto SOMETHING, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. I kept sitting there thinking "This
has to be a joke" during one song, only to start thinking "Ummm, maybe it's NOT a joke" the next. I mean, just check out the lyrics to the first song, which was the title track of the album (this is from memory, so die hard fans, kindly cut me some slack!)

Were coming to your town, gonna set you free
The deathmobile's loaded with artillery
Machineguns in front gonna shoot you down
Fearless is here, so don't fuck around

We've got guns and bombs, and we're on patrol
Our weapondry will take its toll
Beyond belief, beyond control
We're stoned as shit, and we're ready to roll

DIE.... DIE.... DIE..... DIE FOR ALLAH!!!

I thought to myself "woo, this is completely OVER THE TOP!" Not to mention that musically, they kicked serious ass. They were on par with DRI, Corrosion Of Conformity, Cryptic Slaughter, Attitude Adjustment, The Accused, or any other number of crossover heavyweights from the time, but actually had a depth to their music that most of these bands lacked. Rather than playing at a million miles an hour and having unintelligible screaming, FIFH infused a lot of subtle melody, tempo changes, and actually discernible vocals in their music. Don't get me wrong, it was still pissed off and raw as fuck, but it was... I dunno... a little more advanced than the previously mentioned metal/ punk bands were.

So yes, upon re- reading those lyrics I was thinking "how could I NOT know this was a joke?" but when I flipped the record over to side two, that's when things got really weird. Side two of Die For Allah's first song was a lengthy instrumental with spoken word in Farsi dubbed kind of low in the mix. Again, I was conflicted. If these guys were from San Antonio TX as their contact address implied, how could they have someone on their record speaking fluent Farsi and not really (at least) be Iranian ex- pats living in America? I started to think that maybe they weren't kidding after all.

Well, by their third record "Holy War" I knew they were a joke. The cover of this release featured a cartoon of the Ayatollah sitting on a flying carpet, getting stoned from a giant hookah pipe. It definitely lacked the starkness of their first LP, and the almost sinister amateurishness of their debut 7" EP (which contained the hit "Blow Up The Embassy", man that song is great!) It also had really really good production and the songwriting was starting to become a little too much of a heavy metal wank a thon for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, I still think Holy War is a great album, but it's not nearly the kick in the nads that their first two records are. I never bothered picking up their last release "Foolish Americans", as by then I'd kind of lost interest in them.

I recently found out that FIFH actually had a behind the scenes Iranian Svengali named Amir. Amir was actually their original vocalist, but quit the band before they ended up recording anything. Amir however, stayed on as a silent partner/ member who ended writing a lot of FIFH's songs, as well as contributing the Farsi spoken on the song I mentioned, as well as on another song on their last record. Amir was an Iranian ex- pat whose family had relocated to Texas after the fall of the Shah's regime in 1979. Since it was mostly those of the upper and middle classes in Iran who weren't too keen on living in a new religious dictatorship, they comprised the bulk of the Iranian diaspora to the United States and Canada in 1979. Given that Amir's family probably weren't huge fans of the Ayatollah's new fundamentalist theocracy, it should be fairly obvious that FIFH were indeed intended to be an ingenious parody.

But not everybody got the joke, including yours truly at first. When asked if their fellow Texans hated them in a recent interview, FIFH drummer "Omid" replies;

"How do you think they reacted? They HATED us!"

FIFH were apparently loathed by everyone from skinheads, leftists, police officers, right wing radio hosts, leftist boy bands, gangs and various religious organizations. This was apparently all part of the plan, as they pretty much set out to piss off the entire planet. Given the fact that most Americans suffer from a sub par public education and a severely underdeveloped sense of irony this is not surprising. What is surprising is that many members of the supposedly radical punk rock scene didn't get it either (myself included initially, hey I WAS only 14!), and that is due to the fact that FIFH represented a far more advanced take on political commentary than 99.9% of their 1980's punk/ metal cohorts did.

What was de rigeur for most American hardcore, punk and crossover bands in the 1980's was an avowed hatred of Ronald Reagan, with the exception of a handful of nationalist punk/ metal bands attempting to ape the "Oi" scene in England (and failing miserably at it). Almost every band complained about Reagan and endorsed skateboarding. If there was any humor to be found in their lyrics at all, it was usually in the form of a bad cover of the Munsters theme or writing a song about how cool it is to drink cheap beer until you puke.

The members and adherents of most 1980's punk and metal simply weren't educated, intellectual, or hell OLD enough to really be able to express much more than blind rage and disillusionment with the status quo. This is where FIFH were brilliant in their approach. Rather than being the atypical "hate your mom and skate against Reagan" band, they decided to endorse radical Islam, suicide bombings and the wholesale killing of Americans in a way that seemed just a little too serious to completely be a joke. They pushed almost everyones buttons,and that is why I like them so much. Not to mention (as I said before) even on a musical level they were a cut above the rest.

By the time Fearless broke up in 1990 the hype about Iran was starting to fade. The Ayatollah had died and was replaced by the not- as- scary Ayatollah Khamenei in 1989, and well... you just didn't hear much about Iran in the news anymore. That would all change in 2005 when ultra conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to office.

When I first saw Ahmedinejad he was on CNN talking about how Tehran was hosting a conference to prove that the Holocaust never happened. While giving this address his backdrop was a giant photo of a poppy field. In lieu of the fact that Iran has a HUGE heroin problem, all I could think to myself was "Is this guy out of his mind?"

From there on out, Ahmedinejad has only gotten more and more outrageous. The problem is, I'm too jaded with the mainstream media to take anything I hear about Iran (or any other country for that matter) all that seriously. Many of my peers have eschewed similar sentiments to my grandmother's, saying that the pint sized despot just "looks really evil" but to me he looks like a sleazy used car salesman who desperately avoids neckties for no good reason. Even with all the "OMG, Iran is gonna nuke Israel and start world war three!" you hear on the news, 1, 2 or maybe 20 times a day, I honestly don't see them as a threat. If they bombed anyone they'd be turned into the world's biggest ashtray in a nanosecond, and the fact that Iran is not trusted or liked by anyone in the world speaks volumes as to how powerful they actually are.

The Iranian government is not exactly loved by its own people either, as evidenced by the disorder which ensued after their election this summer. Ahmedinejad was elected for a second term, but detractors cried "fraud" and took to the streets. Both Ahmedinejad and Khameni (who still remains the "supreme leader" of Iran, although you barely ever hear about him) claimed that the US and Israel were behind the protests. Say what you want about Iran, but the disorder this summer proves that their population hardly represents a united front against Zionism, Western imperialism, or anything else, regardless of what their leaders say.

With Iran back in the number one spot as America's bogeyman, Fearless Iranians From Hell's music is as relevant as ever. Omid was quoted as saying that with the Ayatollah they had "The number one punk rock PR man" and I feel that this statement is 100% accurate. In fact, you could look at Iran as being the most punk rock country on earth. They're hated and misunderstood by just about every other nation on the planet, sans North Korea. They refuse to hang out with the cool kids from the United States or to sit with the jocks in Russia. They won't hang out with the science geeks in China and they hate the rich kids in Saudi Arabia. Iran truly is that weird kid who nobody understands.

And as long as they have their mouthy Muslim midget president's colorfully threatening commentary, and the mainstream American media constantly showing his stupid, smirking face on the news, he's likely to remain our bogeyman for quite awhile. After all, he provides a very convenient distraction from the myriad of social and financial issues we're currently dealing with here in the US. If there's one thing that a great Texas hardcore band taught me, it's that the media LOVES to push our buttons and keep us in fear at all times. This is how they control us. Really here in the "free" United States, the information we receive is not a whole lot more truthful than the information the Iranians receive.

So I say- fuck being controlled by fear.

some Fearless Iranians From Hell interviews can be found here: