Update 2: A post on the Chaos In Tejas Facebook page confirms that Disma is no longer playing the festival. It was posted from the Chaos In Tejas Facebook account, and it says simply that "it was the bands [sic] decision not to perform." That's not exactly the sort of the leadership we'd hoped to see from the festival on this, but fewer Nazis in Austin in May are still fewer Nazis in Austin in May. [12/30, 2:48pm]
Update: According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Disma is no longer playing Chaos In Tejas. At this point, we haven't received official confirmation from anyone involved in the festival, but the source claims to be "100% positive" that the band is out. If so, that's great news — and a reason to once more be excited to buy tickets for one of the best festivals in a town full of great festivals. Here's hoping that Hefner or someone else involved with Chaos In Tejas can confirm this soon. [12/16, 5:09pm]
For a few hours, the most controversial thing about the announcement on Friday of this year’s Chaos In Tejas lineup was the revelation that Pitchfork darlings (and decidedly un-crust punk/metal/hardcore band) Best Coast would be playing the festival. Then Adam Schragin, music editor at Austinist, wrote a post on his Black Metal Austin blog pointing out that festival act Nyogthaeblisz was on a Nazi skinhead label and had contributed songs to compilations with titles like Declaration Of Anti-Semitic Terror.
Shortly after the post on Black Metal Austin, bands from other ends of the festival’s musical and political spectrum — including bigger names like the re-formed UK punk bands The Mob and Antisect — threatened to pull out of the festival if Nyogthaeblisz remained on the bill. By Saturday night, they’d been yanked.
In response to the initial backlash — the Chaos In Tejas Facebook page was filled with comments from people declaring that they’d stay away from the festival if Nyogthaeblisz was on the bill — the head of the band’s label, Satanic Skinhead Propaganda, posted this on a message board discussing the fest and Schragin’s post:
NYOGTHAEBLISZ are not "NS" [Nazi skinhead] and they are not even white.
They are Satanic, and openly anti-semitic.
This is extreme Black Metal and this is EXACTLY why fests like this should not exist in the first place. Keep Black Metal dangerous and away from these liberal scum. This is a smear campaign with ad hominem attacks simply because the band is openly ANTI-JEW.
That right there, from “Antichrist Kramer,” is the textbook definition of the phrase “distinction without a difference.” But it leads to the next question surrounding Chaos In Tejas right now, which is “how Nazi-affiliated is too Nazi-affiliated”?
To the credit of Timmy Hefner, who books Chaos In Tejas, he did remove Nyogthaeblisz from the festival when it was pointed out to him that they’re — ahem — “openly anti-Jew.” But there are two other bands who are still on the Chaos In Tejas bill right now that people who prefer their Nazis marginalized and very far away should be aware of: Namely, Florida’s Black Witchery, who put out a DVD on Kramer’s label, and New Jersey death metal supergroup Disma, whose lead singer, Craig Pillard, has put out records with a solo project called Stormfuhrer. (Stormfuher’s CD art looks like this, and an interview with Pillard from several years ago where he talks about the project is pretty shocking.)
Hefner was reluctant to be interviewed about this, but he did respond to an email asking about the presence of Disma and Black Witchery. “Black Witchery let SSP do a DVD… but I firmly believe they are not an NSBM [Nazi skinhead black metal] band. SSP and Kramer are connected to most of the metal scene in one way or another,” he said. “Craig [Pillard, of Disma] has changed his ways, is what I’m told by everyone, and the fact that this band is members of [New York punk band] Citizens Arrest and on Profound Lore [record label] makes me believe them.”
Pillard didn’t respond to a request for an interview, but his bandmate Daryl Kahan sent the following statement: “Disma has absolutely nothing to do with politics, nor does the band support or condone racist beliefs or Nazi ideology of any kind. Craig may have a questionable past, but he has put that behind him and is solely focused on what the band is doing now.”
That may all be true, but there are reasons to have suspicions. Death metal bands don’t typically break into the mainstream, but Disma is the closest anyone working in the genre has come in a long time — the band’s 2011 album, Towards The Megalith, debuted this summer by streaming on NPR, of all places, and it placed at number five on Pitchfork’s Top 40 Metal Albums Of The Year list. NPR and Pitchfork — and the venues that open up to acts who have that kind of support — don’t tend to endorse Nazis.
There’s motive, and here’s some evidence: while it’s possible that Pillard has disavowed his Nazi past, and is just refusing to answer questions for unknown other reasons, he re-released the Stormfuhrer record on vinyl in June of 2010. According to an announcement from our pal “Antichrist Kramer,” this reissue is signed and hand-numbered by Pillard himself.
There’s some weirdness surrounding that announcement, too: Pillard’s name isn’t used in the announcement. When asked by others on the message board as to why not, Kramer replied: “A google search immediately tells you who it is.” There may be other reasons for omitting Pillard’s name while coyly stating that he’s the person behind the record besides that he’s trying not to jeopardize his NPR support, but it’s hard to imagine what exactly they are, and Pillard’s not talking…
All of which is to say: while Hefner has always come off like a reasonable person who is not overly interested in promoting Nazis, and while Pillard’s bandmates may vouch for the guy, he himself hasn’t done a thing to publicly disavow his Nazi background, and as recently as last summer was still actively selling a Nazi-themed record while simultaneously making a mainstream push with Disma.
And that speaks to the real point here. The threads on message boards and the Chaos In Tejas Facebook page are full of people crying out about “censorship” or “thought policing,” but the fact is that there is a cost of doing business with openly Nazi bands, musicians, and record labels — even in a metal scene that prides itself on being as transgressive as possible. The fact that Disma’s music doesn’t have white power themes doesn’t change the fact that by supporting the band, you’re also increasing Pillard’s platform to profit from a record he recorded to express the sentiment that “we are going downhill fast with the media multi-cultural cesspool that is being subjected to every decent white person that turns on the ‘electric Jew’.”
It’s not censorship to say that you think that guy should have as small a platform as possible, and that a consequence of playing music with him is that maybe your band should not have access to the best venues and festivals. It’s not thought policing to say that, when you release a DVD through a label whose webpage declares “die juden sind unser ungluck,” people who otherwise want to attend a fun weekend of punk rock and heavy metal would rather you not be invited. And as unfortunate as it is, because Chaos In Tejas has always been a really fun time, it’s not unreasonable to say that, as long as these bands are part of the bill, you shouldn’t give them your money.