Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): Wrap-up

so i was going to wait until i got home to do the tour wrap-up, but since i've had so much time to myself here in Holland i feel i should write it now.

This tour was unbelievable. I'll start with that. Some incredible turnouts for our shows, both in numbers and in enthusiasm. I constantly question my contributions to the animal liberation movement, and whether what I'm doing makes a difference in peoples lives... but this trip has offered a lot of reassurance that there are some out there that appreciate my honesty and what I feel I have to share. These past 2 months have been exhausting, FREEZING, stressful, crazy, dangerous, exciting, revealing, affirming, hilarious and educational. I could fit a lot more in there, but I think that'll do for now.

Anyways, to break down my thoughts on this trip into a more palatable format I've separated them into sections.

Veganism + the struggle for animal liberation.
One thing I will never waver on is the emphasis of a strict vegan diet. For anyone exposed to the horrors of a slaughterhouse, dairy farm or vivisection lab, for anyone educated to the ecological impact that a meat eating diet has on the planet, and for anyone interested in maintaining a healthy diet and mental balance the choice is obvious. Humyns do not need to kill animals to survive, and anything less than a diet abstaining from all animal byproducts is complicity in the cycle of violence and systematic murder of other sentient beings. Change comes from within us, and if we ethically or financially support such institutions then we are no better than the ones sliding the blade across a cows throat, or tearing a baby calf away from it's mother, or ripping open a living dog to study the side effects of a household cleaning product. GO VEGAN.

I admit changing your diet isn't the ultimate answer for animal liberation, but the fight begins on a personal level of involvement. what's the point of going to an anti-rodeo demo if you're wearing leather shoes? protesting a vivisection lab if you're smoking out in front? fighting for animal liberation if you consume the disrespected and mutilated carcasses of other creatures? Dumpstered meat and dairy is still a product of rape and murder, how can you turn your back on the animals that suffered just so you can try to put a "progressive" spin on your meat-eating diet?

But to get down to the point, the AR movement in Europe is amazing. So much enthusiasm, creativity and perseverance. We've felt welcomed in every city we've traveled to, treated like we were family and got a glimpse of how strong the global movement for animal liberation is. Going home with some new ideas, and reinstating some old ones.

I absolutely love to travel. I really do. I find it incredibly difficult to stay in one place for more than a month and even as I write this now I'm planning another adventure. I've seen some pretty awesome and inspiring sights on this trip, ones I was expecting and lot that I wasn't, and there are even more to come in the next few months. Very glad to be traveling with such positive and easy going people as well, it's rough spending 2 months in a small car on a stressful trip with only a few inches of room for yourself, but all in all I think things went really well.

I feel very fortunate for the opportunities that I have, and considering the way that I grew up I'm glad I've been able to make the best of my life with the hand that I was dealt. Though, I should say I recognize I'm a very physically capable person from one of the wealthiest countries in the world... aside from me being male-bodied and white skinned. so maybe overcoming a rough childhood and financial hurdles isn't that impressive; but I think it's important to be proud of ourselves sometimes. Regardless, it doesn't take much to get out there and see the things you want to see, and if you want to make it happen it will. If an opportunity presents itself (and they always do): take it. That's it.

Relationships within my community and self-accountability.
I've discovered that for anyone being direct and honest about things can leave that person in a vulnerable position to others who want to take advantage of that. And these past few months have been a pretty consistent reminder that not everyone is willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, or are looking out for your best interest. Don't get me wrong, I want to be part of a community where people are held accountable for their actions, by themselves and others. It's just disappointing to be part of a society where you have to be deceptive and strategic with your emotions, and when others on the sideline are just waiting for you to show a sign of 'weakness' so they can take a stab. BUT, I believe we can live in an honest, compassionate and trusting world, and I won't let the actions of a few deter me from reaching that goal. Be direct! be honest! and show some fucking compassion!

End note.
It's been going really well for me these past couple months, though my head is still a bit torrential. Trying to get past this last year, and looking forward to the future. Had to cut some people out of my life, made new friends, saw some incredible things and had even more incredible experiences. Life is worth living, and the animals and the earth are worth fighting for. I can't lose sight of what's important.

MDG has driven this whole tour, and very well I might add. His home and his work ethic are definitely a big inspiration to me. In fact as I write this he's doing a massive clean-up job in the kitchen that I need to help with once I finish this. He's opened his home to us, and everyone in his life has been so helpful and courteous. To him, and to then I am very very grateful.

Chonga has been a constant source of positivity and fun for this trip. Always laughing and down to party. Ready for adventure at any time. He's definitely a reminder that you can still run a distro and live a relatively comfortable life while spending most of it out on the road. Oh, and we both love Saves the Day more than life itself.

Keegan booked 90% of this tour and has done a ton of work keeping it together and getting us organized. While at the same time having enough energy to rock out every night, and goof off with the rest of us. Always supportive, always willing to give constructive criticism and compliments. It's been awesome to have someone along where I can agree and stand behind nearly everything he says during his set. I got his back and he's got mine.

Endless thank you's to everyone who booked a show, gave us a place to sleep, fed us, kept us warm, argued with us, gave us criticism, sang along and just generally rocked out. If it wasn't for everyones gracious hospitality this tour wouldn't have been possible, though I fail to think of anything that could be possible without the support of your friends and comrades. Hope to see you all again and keep up the fight!

For Love and Liberation,
Mike XVX

p.s. for those of you that hadn't guessed: I've intentionally changed the names of a lot of people written about in this blog, as well as omitted certain events, conversations or whatever else. For my protection and theirs. Practice good security culture!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): A strange turn of events.

"You know my love goes with you as your love stays with me, it's just the way it changes like the shoreline and the sea" -Leonard Cohen

So, finished up our last shows in Holland and were ready for our flight out the next morning. but, the volcano in Iceland that hasn't erupted in 200 years decides that it doesn't want any planes flying around Europe for the next week... so now I'm stuck at the squat in Emmen until Friday. Not so bad though, we went for a bike ride today to the woods and saw a few graves that were about 7,000 years old. pretty crazy, huh? (photos again on my
myspace). went off some sweet jumps on our bikes out in the woods, and Chira (the dog) fell into a pond and heroic Chonga had to go and save her. so funny.

killing time till I have to go home still. planning on doing a lot of reading and finally catching up on e-mails. yep, exciting.

for love and liberation,
mike xvx

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): Emmen, NL / Den Bosch, NL / Hengelo, NL

"It's Escapist shit of a feeble kind, a fucked up institution for fucked up minds" -Rudimentary Peni

Had a couple of well deserved days off at the squat in Emmen, NL. Luckily the sun was out and we got to lay around on the roof for most of time. Spent some time at the skatepark, went shopping, cooked food and tried our best to kill time before our next show. Here is an example...

skating on some rubbish I found out back:

Had to drag ourselves back into tour mode to finish off these last 5 shows, so we loaded up the car and headed out to Hengelo, NL. The whole town had a really bizarre smell to it, and we couldn't figure out what it was. But incidentally there was a factory that produced cat food directly behind the building we played and stayed at, so that gave us a surprising and disgusting explanation. so gross! Anyways, played for a small group of people, forgot words to my own songs, and was incredibly distracted. sorry, but 46 European shows (plus my Australia tour) are starting to take their toll. Had a nice full night of sleep, had breakfast, and read Derrick Jensen's "As the World Burns" graphic novel in it's entirety. I don't necessarily recommend it, though maybe if you have a friend that's never read a Jensen book before it would be informative; but I found it to be the same recycled ideas in all of his other novels. The next morning spent some time leafleting, went for a walk and then headed out.

Drove back north to Den Bosch, NL for our show at another pretty rad squat. It was relatively warm, sunny and the grass was green - it reminded me a lot of southern california and it made me miss home. Had some pretty good chili sin carne (which Chonga and I begin to call "Chili Sin Dios" - I think it fits better haha), and hung out in the garden. went skating for a little while, explored around the neighborhood and then played our show. A short hour drive back to Emmen that night, and we stopped off at a town called Rectum, NL - I'm not even joking, it's a real place. we have photos. Also, you'd think it would be a matter of translation but Rectum means the same in Dutch as it does in English. Damn near killed 'em.

Lounging in the sun and making pasta today. maybe going to go skate on some more trash later as well. 2 more days until I'm home, can't wait.

for love and liberation,
mike xvx

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): Malmo, SE / Kobenhavn, DK / Fredericia, DK / Kiel, DE / Munster, DE / Bremen, DE

"sons are like birds, flying upward over the mountain." -Iron & Wine

So it's been some time since I've updated this, I apologize. I hate it because now I have to recap a bunch of days and I'm not sure if I'll remember everything. I'll try my best.

There are a lot of hipsters in Sweden. I want to start off with that. It was crazy though, right when we got out of the car literally everyone had a flat-brimmed hat, or an American Apparel hoodie (I should talk), or a shirt with big, loud stripes on it. A bit overwhelming. but, the kid who booked us the show was from san diego, and apparently was living there the same time that I was and we both volunteered at the same venue. How did we not meet? As strange as it was to be staying with an American in Sweden, it was still a fun day filled with food, knucks and a totally rad skatepark. also, the day of our arrival we got to take the ferry over from Germany which I was REALLY excited about. and I seemed to be the only one that was pumped about it after I announced at the show that we "rode a boat" that day and everyone gave me a blank stare. eh whatever.

Kobenhavn (Copenhagen) was fun as well. We played in yet another massive squat, but this one had a pretty recent and amazing story. The city evicted the tenants from the original squat that had been there for several years, so people all across the city went nuts. Eventually so much shit got fucked up that the city agreed it would be cheaper just to GIVE them a house, so they ended up with this massive building (where again we got our own band hotel)!. The whole place is already covered with graffiti, and the words of one local politician that ended up sprayed on the wall says it all: "the cops have completely lost control of this part of the city." fuck yeah.

Drove off of the island where Kobenhavn is located out to Fredericia, DK for our show at a youth center. Again, best thing about this place - they had a skatepark in their parking lot! Granted the wood was weathered, tattered, and everything seem to be falling apart and wobbling whenever you'd go over it... but still! A decent amount of people showed up, and apparently some tough guys that were in attendance wanted to jump me after the show for talking shit on Terror and Throwdown. it never happened though, and even if it did it would still be laughable. I mean, I grew up in Socal listening to and seeing those bands, maybe if anyone has the right to be angry about this sexist and homophobic tough guy hardcore 'movement' surely it must be me? Another interesting part of the night is when we found out the kid we were supposed to be staying with is a butcher. not even kidding, his job is to hack up dead animals. He told us openly at the beginning of the night, and even kind of laughed about it. Keegan had a long talk with him, because sometimes I'm not good at giving people criticism without yelling, and we all decided that we should drive down to Kiel, DE that night instead of staying with him. I gave kind of a long speech during my set about the roles people play in animal abuse, and how any job involving such is a contribution to the torture, rape and eventual murder of those beings. He seemed to understand, and in my opinion has a lot to think about and consider. We left that night on good terms though I think.

Woke up bright and early in Kiel the next morning for a demonstration against speciesism and animal abuse. A pretty good turnout - around 200 people - and the idea of the demo was a pretty good one as well. Started with a massive march from the Hauptbanhoff (central train station) and then split off inside a mall for groups to do smaller demos in front of Fur (fleisch), Leather (Leder) and other similar shops. It was my first experience with a German AR demo, and there was a car driving around with speakers on the roof blasting music, a vegan hip hop artists performed, and even Keegan and I had to play a couple songs near the end of the day. It was like all those videos I've seen on youtube but happening in real life! Pretty great actually. After the demonstration the march led us out of the mall, past the train station and literally DIRECTLY into the venue where Keegan and I were playing that night. I couldn't believe it! it was so funny to see this massive animal rights march being escorted by the police just collectively walk straight into a building to see us play! Not everyone stayed around though, which was understandable because we were all so tired. The show was the same - played songs, made some more awkward jokes, no one laughed etc. etc.

Again had to wake up super early to drive out to Munster, DE for a vegan brunch and matinee show. Sadly there was literally nothing gluten free to eat, save some chocolate pudding but I've had way too much sugar on this tour as it is. Played our show around 3 pm, and was actually nice to end while it was still daylight out. Finally watched EDGE the movie (and saw the back of my head - yeah!) which was pretty awesome. check it out! The next day we spent in a sunny park, where I read my Keith Mann book "From Dust till Dawn" for several hours, and then we headed out.

Finally finished Keith Mann's book while we were in Bremen, DE (650 pages in 3 weeks!) and I felt pretty accomplished. the book was great as well, check it out here. The show was about the same - food, music, nice kids etc. you've read it a million times and I'm sure it's getting old haha. After the show we drove back to Emmen and are currently enjoying our day off here at the bank squat. I'm sure MDG is glad to be home, in fact I know he is because he and his partner were embracing each other so tightly last night, even when he was putting in the password to the WIFI for me!

Just one more week before I'm back in the US again. Kind of wishing the tour ended here in Emmen to be honest, because coming back here kind of feels climactic. but, we have another 4 shows in Holland before we get to leave. I'll finish this strong, and then come home and do nothing for at least a week.

for love and liberation,
mike xvx

Friday, April 9, 2010

I don't have time post a new tour entry right now

BUT if you like this blog, you're going to love the new No Fucking Whey! blog that just launched! it's going to feature interviews with vegan artists, musicians and activists + essays, poetry and other writing. The first featured interview we have is with Matt Gauck aka Next Stop Adventure!


Follow the blog, check back regularly for updates and let us know what you think!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): Berlin, DE / Poznan, PL / Szczecin, PL / Hamburg, DE

Played a show at Vego Foodworld in Berlin which is a brand new (3 weeks old) all vegan fast food-ish restaurant. The food was amazing and the owner was really nice, so that was rad. Also, the building was PACKED with people. literally wall to wall full, some people even had to stand outside for both of our sets. Ate some more food at the end, drove someone from the show home, and stayed with another friend that night who ended up joining us for a few days on the tour. Reminisced about my awful "tour" in Australia with a super nice womyn from New Zealand I met at our friends flat. not so fun, but she helped me with some more contacts for another future tour so that was great.

Played at the famous Rozbrat squat in Poznan, PL which was pretty fun. the squat itself is massive, and everyone we met was really nice. After we had a slumber party at our friends flat - which is literally a room and a kitchen - but manage to fit 10 or more people on the floor. fun times.

Szczecin was another show in a super nice park. We had a massive banner welcome us as we pulled up which was a bit of a surprise, that was the first time I'd ever had anything like that for a show. A friend and I went for a long walk across the city and saw some pretty sketchy characters. Poland can be pretty rough sometimes apparently.

Played in a legalized squat in Hamburg on the university campus. As like the other German shows, this one had a ton of enthusiastic and excited people. Ate some vegan ice cream and hung around for awhile.

super exhausted so I'm going to cut this short. Goodnight!

for love and liberation
mike xvx

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): Dresden, DE

"heavy metal or no metal at all! Wimps and posers leave the hall!" -manowar

A considerable drive brought us back into Germany, and immediately after crossing the border we were pulled over for the 3rd time on this trip (2 of them being in germany, once in france). The Police wanted to search our vehicle for drugs or illegal weapons, but after consistently assuring them there was nothing, and after seeing how packed our vehicle was they gave up and decided they didn't want to bother with it. They were surprisingly friendly, but that means nothing really. There's a good slogan floating around Europe that seems to fit here: "Still H'8ing the Police". yep, that about says it.

Played our show at another awesome once-squat now community space for shows and other events. Were treated like royalty once again (no idea why) and were given all kinds of food and a whole crate of different juices, water, soda and the ever so popular "vita malz" which is a popular non-alcoholic beer here in Germany. I don't care for it, but MDG loves it like nobody's business. In the same building is also a kindergarten, which is rad because there's all kinds of grafitti and pro-vegan/anti-fascist and anti-police stickers around but all these random, totally regular people take their kids there. A TON of people came out to the show, probably one of our biggest. as usual everyone was really nice and excited that we were there, and we watched a short video in between sets about the Austrian activists facing trial right now.

After the show ended I hung around for a little while downstairs, which has a bar, kitchen, computer room, hang out space etc., and kicked it with some nice kids. I met a womyn that I had a conversation with for quiet awhile, and we talked about the german gothic scene, dance clubs and music. Really excited about the idea of going to a gothic dance club with a beautiful girl, I kept hinting that I've been wanting to go out to dance a lot on this tour but no one was interested in taking me. She kept saying yeah, it's fun, but didn't invite me along. I said goodnight after awhile and went to our sleeping place (which is a separate building that was literally like a hotel room - our own shower and everything! so nice) and felt kind of bummed that I didn't get to spend more time with her. Well, as I was organizing my things I felt unsatisfied with how our talk ended and felt maybe the point I or she was trying to convey was lost in translation; so I asked everyone if they thought I should go down there, be more direct and say "Hey, I'd really like to hang out with you tonight and go to the club, but if you don't want me to then no pressure. it's totally cool either way". They were all pretty supportive of the idea, so I mustered up the courage, took the keys and went back to the building. The moment I walked into the room she began to walk past me in the hallway, surprised to see me she said quickly "we're leaving now. bye!" and walked out the door. Silent, stunned, and not knowing what to do I pretended like I had forgot something in one of the rooms, looked around for awhile, and then left. I don't know why I'm the most awkward and shy person ever, but it's rough sometimes. and I'm constantly afraid of making people uncomfortable or misreading a situation, so I generally just stare at the ground and walk away after a certain amount of time in a convo with somebody.

Why didn't you ask me to go? Will I ever get to share a nice evening with someone again? Sucks.

Maybe this happens to other people to?

For Love and Liberation,
Mike XVX

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stand Up, Fight Back (Euro tour with xTrue Naturex): Olomouc, CZ / Prague, CZ / Wroclaw, PL

"when my song begins to play I'm thinking everything is going to be ok until the smiles start to fade" -Kid Dynamite

Played a show in a basement art studio/venue type of place in Olomouc, CZ for a handful of people. A movie was screened behind us, and my voice was so coarse and raspy from being sick I was only able to play 4 or 5 songs before I had to quit. it felt like my lungs were on fire... sucks. Had another nice, relaxing and funny night with our hosts and the next morning we left for Prague.

We had to drive out to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere to get a part for the Deceptacon, but it was wonderful to be out of the cities once again and hang out in the countryside for a few hours. The garage we arrived at was like a Land Rover paradise and MDG was excited as can be to check out all the old trucks. Still not a big fan of cars, but I'm glad he liked it.

Our show in Prague was in a small cafe that was packed with people (and one really sweet dog). We were served an amazing dinner, and another friend brought us cupcakes (gluten-free ones for me) that were delicious! We met a Czech womyn that spoke english really well due to an exchange program that brought her to the states, but we noticed something strange about her accent. Apparently the program placed her with a family in Wisconsin, so all of her english is spoken with an accent like she's from the movie Fargo. So funny! I had a good laugh, but I realized that was kind of rude... but to me that's just a hilarious coincidence.

Stopped off at the bone church (Kostnice) in Kutna Hora, CZ and had the most epically metal day. I couldn't believe how doomy the place was... even the weather was dark and rainy that day. MDG walked in for free, and I almost made it myself but was snagged. Lucky for him someone asked if he could take a photo of them, so I guess the docent assumed he already paid. Went in and took a bunch of photos (up on my myspace), got some postcards etc. but wanted a little something more. As I was looking at one of the giant huts made out of femurs and skulls I thought to myself "well, that skull is within arms reach, no one is watching... I wonder..." and as I shot my hand forward through the metal gate an alarm sounded immediately above my head and lights started flashing like crazy. I pretended like I was just trying to get a closer shot with my camera when people looked over but I was so fucking scared! Managed to leave the church with no other problems and we headed on our way to the next show.

After a long drive we were back in Poland to play our show in Wroclaw at Poland's oldest vegetarian restaurant. It's in the middle of the city square directly across from a McDonalds, but the building that Vega is in is 3 times the size of it! So freaking awesome. Had a lovely dinner and played our show. Hung around at the venue for awhile, drank some tea and then headed back to our friends flat.

I can feel the tour winding down since we only have a little more than 2 weeks left. Almost got killed today for eating too much of our peanut butter, but other than that things have been going relatively well and we've all been getting along great. Still a bit sick, and that makes things a little more depressing sometimes; but looking forward to the future regardless. Take care.

for love and liberation,
mike xvx