The Acacia Strain - 2009 Interview With Vincent Bennett
By James Driscoll - Iâ€™m trying to route misogyny and concern about women and their destruction, so to speak, in Hardcore from 1999 on. I chose 1999 because I think that Poison The Well was the first most modern example of saying that women were OK to sing about while still being a legit Hardcore band. I also talk about Glassjaw and Eighteen Visions and Scarlet, and some throwaway songs like Maudlin by A Life Once Lost, etc. But you guys, well, you writing the lyrics, do it in a way thatâ€™s much more violent. By James Driscoll - Iâ€™m trying to route misogyny and concern about women and their destruction, so to speak, in Hardcore from 1999 on. I chose 1999 because I think that Poison The Well was the first most modern example of saying that women were OK to sing about while still being a legit Hardcore band. I also talk about Glassjaw and Eighteen Visions and Scarlet, and some throwaway songs like Maudlin by A Life Once Lost, etc. But you guys, well, you writing the lyrics, do it in a way thatâ€™s much more violent. ...My analysis is dealing with The Dead Walk exclusively. First, Iâ€™m assuming that if there was a theme, it would be about disgust, largely societal, but also [toward] women, as â€œshe,â€ â€œyou,â€ and â€œherâ€ occur and reoccur often. Would you say thatâ€™s [a fair description]? Iâ€™ve been asked questions like that before, and itâ€™s not one hundred percent misogynistic, or just towards the female sex. Just because I use the pronoun â€œsheâ€ doesnâ€™t necessarily mean that I mean â€œher.â€ I was an English minor in college and I had a lot of interpretation classes where the pronouns â€œsheâ€ and â€œherâ€ are used more as romantic words, not necessarily meaning a person or even a woman. Itâ€™s just used in place of â€œheâ€ because itâ€™s more of a romantic word. The word â€œheâ€ is really masculine, thereâ€™s a lot of masculine tendencies behind just that, just a two letter word, and the word â€œsheâ€ is softer, even hearing it just refers to a little bit more of a romantic theme. And thatâ€™s what I tried to do when I used the word â€œshe.â€ Like I said, itâ€™s not always about women. Sometimes Iâ€™m referring to guys, sometimes Iâ€™m referring to the world itself; you know, â€œmother earth.â€ I definitely do have a lot of anger, but itâ€™s not, I donâ€™t think, just towards the feminine. Itâ€™s more as a disgust towards humanity itself, and I guess itâ€™s easiest to pick on girls? - Definitely, I mean Iâ€™m not just some feminist guy. I totally feel what youâ€™re saying, and I struggle with ideals and what not. And, being a guy, itâ€™s one of those things whereâ€¦ guys are wronged by women all the time. Theyâ€™re wronged by men too, but not at such a deep, emotional level. Guys who have a lot of time invested can just have their heart ripped out by a girl, and I think itâ€™s easier to relate to for everyone, as opposed to if I used â€œheâ€ everywhere, you know â€œhe,â€ â€œhim,â€ all these dudes would be like, â€œI donâ€™t really care about this song.â€ So thatâ€™s basically what that whole record is about, a disgust for humanity, and not necessarily women. - Thereâ€™s also a lot of sexual imagery thatâ€™s coupled with violence, especially in number 7, 8, you know, â€œface down ass up.â€ Do you see a connection between sexuality and violence? Is that part of the disgust, how [sexuality is] presented to us? Overt sexuality is just disgusting to me in the first place. Someone that would just jump around from one dude or one woman to the next and not really care is kind of gross to me, so thatâ€™s kinda where that [disgust] comes from. The Dead Walk is really heavily influenced by serial murderers, and the big thing in serial murder, the definition, is murder devised by sexual connotations. Every serial killer has some weird perversion in them that makes them do what they do, and itâ€™s inherently sexual. So, basically that whole album is like a horror movie. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, any of the really big horror movies, have to do a lot with women being tortured and killed, and their boyfriends being tortured and killed, etc. Thatâ€™s really where all the sexual references come from, that and because Iâ€™m so disgusted by what wouldâ€™ve been called in the seventeenth century the â€œscarlet letter harlots.â€ - In the last interview you were talking about how a lot of newer bands like Whitechapel talked to you [reference to mention of Vincentâ€™s influence on Phil Bozemanâ€™s lyrical style]. So obviously your style is becoming disseminated out into this new style, what weâ€™re hearing right now (motions to show downstairs). This is every band now. Itâ€™s kind of blown up. - Yeah. So if weâ€™re talking about what weâ€™re disgusted by, and I largely agree, how constructive is this approach? I mean, do you care about being constructive? I think itâ€™s totally constructive. The way I put forthâ€¦the lyrics, when the kids read them, they go, â€œOh man, I really understand what heâ€™s talking about,â€ you know? â€œI really donâ€™t like people like that.â€ If a kid is intelligent enough, he will pick up on it, what Iâ€™m really trying to get at, as opposed to, you know, Iâ€™m not really going out and fucking murdering people. I have a positive outlet for my negative feelings. There might be a dude who broke up with his girlfriend and heâ€™s really fuckinâ€™ bummed out, and he pops in The Dead Walk and listens to one of the songs and thinks, â€œYeah, I really would like to do that to my girlfriend.â€ But you know heâ€™s not going to. Any human being with a brain and a conscience is not actually gonna go out and murder their ex-girlfriend for breaking up with them. Thatâ€™s just retarded. Iâ€™m not trying to inspire serial murder or anything like that, Iâ€™m justâ€” At this point Travis, touring guitarist for As Blood Runs Black, walks noisily into the dressing room Yeah Iâ€™m doing an interview here there, Travis, why donâ€™t you smoke some weed? *smiles* Umâ€¦ I donâ€™t even know what I was getting at. - Yeah. But, you know, thereâ€™s a lot of bands out there, you mentioned Whitechapel, that do it right and they know what theyâ€™re doing. Phil from Whitechapel is a friend of mine and weâ€™ve talked about it before, he really comes from the same place as me. But then thereâ€™s some other dudes out there who just do it because they think itâ€™s fun or they think itâ€™s cool. You know, sing about killing girls. And they donâ€™t really get what itâ€™s really about. - But itâ€™s very hard sometimes, not for me perhaps or you, for there to be a differentiation. So youâ€™ve got a lot of young kids that areâ€¦I donâ€™t want to be an elitist, butâ€¦OK, weâ€™ve got Winds of Plague and all these bands talking about â€œdecimating the weakâ€ and judgment and itâ€™s almost like a moral thing, is what Iâ€™m getting at. Is that where it comes from for you? Because I donâ€™t necessarily think that thatâ€™s wrong but there is something overtly masculine even about this sort of outlook. Yeah, no definitely. Umâ€” - â€˜Cause, calling a weak person â€œweakâ€â€” I donâ€™t necessarily think that judgment is such a good idea, because who are you to judge? Youâ€™re just a human being, and I believe that all human beings are inherently the same. Humanity as a species, you know, we all have emotions and feelings, so I donâ€™t believe that one human is or should be able to judge another. You said something about young kids. They might not get it now, but eventually, down the road, they probably will. Thatâ€™s just part of being a kid, not understanding, thinking you know everything but not actually knowing anything. For example, I was introduced to Cannibal Corpse when I was fifteen years old, and I thought that these dudes were actually like that. I thought they went around and stabbed girls in the vaginas with knives and stuff like that. And now, you know, I turn twenty-two twenty-three, Iâ€™m twenty-seven now, I know that itâ€™s just an expression. Itâ€™s just an expression of art. So Iâ€™m just hoping that young kids donâ€™t take bands like us literally, because itâ€™s music. Unless youâ€™re a band thatâ€™s straight up, like a Madball or something like that, thereâ€™s some reading-in to be done to the lyrics and the music. - So then what about women in Hardcore? What about them? *Laughs* What about them? - Right, right. Sure, do it. If you have it in your blood and you really want to play music, you shouldnâ€™tâ€” - Well what I mean is, do you think men really want women there? You canâ€™t generalize. Some men do. Thereâ€™s the meathead jock Hardcore dudes that just donâ€™t want girls to do anything. And then thereâ€™s the open-minded dudes who donâ€™t really care, you know? If youâ€™re a girl and you want to be in a band, do it. Itâ€™s going to be hard, youâ€™re gonna get cat-calls every night when youâ€™re onstage, but if you love to do it then do it. It sucks that it has to be hard, but if you really love something then youâ€™ll fight for it to the end. - So thenâ€” Itâ€™s kind of like womenâ€™s suffrage in Hardcore. Itâ€™s rough. - Butâ€¦like the questions I was asking about, what the aesthetics of our scene are becoming with this thing blowing up...is that going to make it harder for there to be a positive attitude [towards women]? Not to say that you would be responsible at all, thatâ€™s not what Iâ€™m talking about, butâ€” People have different opinions. You mentioned Winds of Plague being one of those bands thatâ€™s really heavy into misogyny but they have a girl in their band. So thatâ€™s breaking boundaries right there. Iâ€™m sure she gets cat-calls every night but she brushes it off. You have to be a strong person to be in a band. You look on the internet everyday, just type in â€˜The Acacia Strain,â€™ and thereâ€™s just fucking slander all over the place about us. But, you know, you just brush it off. Itâ€™s one of those things thatâ€¦youâ€™re going to get made fun of, youâ€™re going to get shit talked about you, but if you love what you do youâ€™re not gonna really care. And with the way things in music are going now, as long as a girl has a strong will and she understands that, I mean who am I to say this, but she understands that itâ€™s going to be harder for her than any guy, because itâ€™s been a manâ€™s world since the beginning of timeâ€¦as long as she understands that, and understands that thereâ€™s going to be hardships along the way, then it shouldnâ€™t be that big a problem for her. - I also have another subject, if you have time. Yeah, thatâ€™s fine. Weâ€™re on after As Blood Runs Black. - Are they going on now? Yeah theyâ€™re going on right now I think. - Well this shouldnâ€™t take very long. Iâ€™m trying to write a theory about what it is that makes a Hardcore kid a Hardcore kid, a Hardcore band a Hardcore band. Vincent winces humorously - Itâ€™s a very idealistic thing, I realize itâ€™s very a metaphysical and unseen thingâ€” Ok, right, right. - â€”but even when an audience will become more disseminated as bands like you, and when I was younger As I Lay Dying or whatever, start to play more diverse bills and more people start to come out, thereâ€™s still that reaction and expectation of behavior between the audience and the band that happens. What is that? Iâ€¦umâ€¦ - You know what I mean, right? No, I totally know what you mean. - Is it just time and place? Was it different five years ago, ten years ago, or is thereâ€¦why can Coalesce be called a Hardcore band and Converge a Hardcore band, but then people call The Acacia Strain a Hardcore band? What is that spirit? Do you have any thoughts on that? Itâ€™s all due to, I think, what crowd youâ€™re playing in front of, honestly. Hereâ€™s a prime example: Maybe four or five years ago we did a tour with Terror and a couple Hardcore bands, and we were the metal band. Because all of the kids that came to the show were quote/unquote â€œHardcore kidsâ€â€” - Like that traditional, more straight up stuffâ€” â€” traditional Hardcore kids. So we were the metal band on that tour. And then directly after that we did a tour with Darkest Hour and Himsa, and we were the Hardcore band, because we were playing in front of a core of metalheads, you know the reallyâ€¦you know, Darkest Hour fans. So for a band like usâ€¦I hate the classification of music, really, but I guess weâ€™d be a â€œmetalcoreâ€ band because we take some from both. Like we have â€œmetalâ€ parts, and then we have, I guess, â€œHardcoreâ€ parts. Nowadays thereâ€™s evenâ€¦I think thereâ€™s a further line of distinction between what â€œrealâ€ metal is and what â€œrealâ€ Hardcore is and I think we fall somewhere in between that. And I donâ€™t really mind being called a metal band, I donâ€™t really understand being called a Hardcore band, but the one thing I really do hate is being called a Deathcore bandâ€” - Ugh. â€”because I think thatâ€™s bullshit, and I donâ€™t like that word at all. - No. But see, thatâ€™s another thing, is thatâ€¦even that [Deathcore] has the same moshing and the same parts, butâ€¦like I consider myself a Hardcore kid, but I donâ€™t identify with those kids at all. Is that just how it is then? Itâ€™s not something that runs through us all and itâ€™s just things that split? I think that if you think youâ€™re a Hardcore kid, then youâ€™re a Hardcore kid. Just like if you think youâ€™re an atheist, then youâ€™re an atheist. Itâ€™s in the eye of the beholder, I guess. - Thought and being are the same. Exactly. I mean, if you donâ€™t want to be a Hardcore kid, just say, â€œIâ€™m not a Hardcore kid.â€ Itâ€™s a really hard thing to define because then thereâ€™s kids on the outside that are Hardcore kids that will look at someone and say, â€œThatâ€™s not a Hardcore kid.â€ Which is, itâ€™s retarded, but itâ€™s human nature to judge and to label. - Well, youâ€™ve been around longer than I have, and I got into it at the beginning of that sort of It Dies Today [mosh craze] and shit like that. But I have all the old Hellfest DVDs. Now, I can either go see Have Heart or go to a Deathcore show. Thereâ€™s no marriage of that. But Shai Hulud, Hope Conspiracy, Converge and Buried Alive, theyâ€™re different styles but theyâ€™re allâ€” Hardcore. - â€”considered Hardcore bands. Well thereâ€™s different, I guess, â€œsubgenresâ€ of Hardcore. I think Converge is in a genre of its own. - Oh, absolutely. Iâ€™m not trying to do semantic playâ€” Oh noâ€” - â€”I really feel like thereâ€™s some one little thing and I just canâ€™tâ€¦thatâ€™s why I wanted to talk to you [about this]â€¦ I really donâ€™t know. Itâ€™s allâ€¦I think itâ€™s inside. Itâ€™s all on the inside. When it all breaks down to it, if you think youâ€™re a Hardcore kid, then you are. Thereâ€™s a lot of, even bands out there nowadays, that are metal bands, and the metalâ€™s being played by Hardcore kids, and these kids are now so into their metal mindset that they just toss aside, they just toss the Hardcore thing away. They donâ€™t think theyâ€™re a Hardcore kid anymore so they think theyâ€™re a metal kid. So be it. - And then the fans get pissy andâ€” Yeah, exactly. I mean, just be yourself. Thatâ€™s reallyâ€¦thatâ€™s the only rule. - Which is difficult. Oh, most definitely. - What do you think about this new thrash hype? Ceremony, Trash Talk, stuff like that. The Deathwish roster. I think itâ€™s awesome. This revival is amazing. When I was first introduced into that style of Hardcore I was much younger. I listened to Left For Dead, I listened to Ruination, all those bands from Canada that were basically the same members with different names, and I was like, â€œI really fucking want someone to start bands like this again. I really want dudes to do bands like this again.â€ And Iâ€™m really excited that itâ€™s finally catching on. Trash Talk and Ceremony are two of the best Hardcore bands out there right now. - And the kids are going insane for them. Exactly. I think itâ€™s awesome. And itâ€™s good, as long as these kids understand where the roots are. Thatâ€™s always an ever-important factor in music, to understand where these bands actually get their influence, like Cryptic Slaughter and stuff like that. - Do you see itâ€” Blowing up? - Metal Hardcore is definitely still dominating the thrash/punk thing, but do you see it taking off? I hope so. Itâ€™s always fun to just think of whatâ€™s gonna be â€œthe next big thing,â€ and I think that might be it. Itâ€™s picking up right now. Who thought that misogynistic death metal would be as big as it is now? Especially with the age group, fourteen/fifteen year old kids. - Seriously, I feel so old at these things. Exactly. So thatâ€™s probably the next thing to get big, is the thrash Hardcore thing. - Okay, are you a Coalesce fan? Iâ€™m a huge Coalesce fan. - Do you think itâ€™s gonna be good? The new one? I hope so. - Have you heard the two songs? I havenâ€™t heard anything. Iâ€™ve been so busy that I canâ€™t really do anything. But Iâ€™m excited. I think itâ€™s going to be downplayed, it might fly under the radar. Because so many kidsâ€” - Like the new Earth Crisis? Yeah. Well, the new Earth Crisis is something completely different. But the new Coalesceâ€¦Coalesce has been one of those, itâ€™s just an underground band thatâ€™s only celebrated by older dudes. Young kids donâ€™t really care nor do they get it. So I think it might fly under the radar. Whereas Earth Crisis has thisâ€¦ - Cult of personality? Basically, yeah. Itâ€™s that whole straight edge thing that does it. So who knows? I think that the new Earth Crisis is going to be revered and celebrated by straight edge kids all over the country, or all over the world, but I donâ€™t think itâ€™s gonna catch on in the, in that mainstream popularity. - Do you think itâ€™s too late? I think it might be. - Cause I went to that reunion that was here [in Chicago], you know with Shai Hulud, and a lot of kids came out, butâ€” Yeah, now that theyâ€™re a full-time band I donâ€™t think people really are as interested. I donâ€™t know. - Thatâ€™s a bummer. Totally. At this point I turned off the recorder and thanked Vincent for his time, as I had run out of topic starters, embarrassingly remembered some Iâ€™d forgotten, and had to piss very fucking badly. My analysis on the contribution of Vincentâ€™s thoughts to the study of the historically progressive lyrical and aesthetic misogyny in modern Hardcore, as well a discussion on the possibility for a theory of ideal Hardcore spectatorship, will follow soon. Stay tuned.