CVLT Nation Interviews Kim Kelly

Hey Kim how are you?


My brain feels like it’s melting out of my earholes, ha! Six months of nonstop planning are about to come to fruition over the next couple of days—there are so many moving parts to an event of this magnitude, but luckily I have the best organizing partners in the world and the most wonderful community an anti-fascist hesher could ask for. I could already use a drink or two though…

Drawing from our experiences here at CVLT Nation, and yours in metal journalism, I think it’s safe to say that there’s an infestation of racism in the Metal Scene. What do you say to people who say that racism has a place in Black Metal and Death Metal because it’s “extreme” music? Do you believe that racism is an “extreme” view that should be protected from so-called “censorship”?


No. Absolutely not. Racism should not be protected, accepted, condoned, or allowed to fester anywhere. The “extreme music” tag has been used for decades to excuse and enable the spread of cancerous ideas throughout our scene, from the racism you mentioned to other rancid ideologies like white supremacism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, fascism, and all manner of hateful rhetoric. Bigotry is weakness. This is obviously a broader social problem that needs to be eradicated on a much wider scale, but I’ve found that metal is generally a microcosm of the culture surrounding us. The same arguments happening at dinner tables across the country are playing out in our scene, but the difference there is that your racist uncle is just racist; he’s not hiding behind a meme, or a rune, or some histrionic idea of “extremity” like his metalhead counterparts are. The push against toxic ideologies in our scene is not “censorship,” it’s self-preservation and community self-defense.

Have you lost any friends because of your strong stance on bigotry and racism?


Oh, for sure, but when that’s been the case, they’re not the sort of people I want in my life anyway—and I’ve gained so many more friends and comrades who do share my views and do want to work together to build a better scene that it’s all been worth it. Life is too short to bullshit, and once you figure out who you really are, you find your people.


Was there a specific event in your life that inspired you to start Black Flags Over Brooklyn?


I was thinking about this the other day. In other interviews, I’ve pointed toward a moment last summer when I saw Dawn Ray’d posting about a super political show they were playing somewhere overseas, and wanting to do something like that here—but I honestly think that the very earliest seed for this idea was planted months earlier, when my boyfriend and I went to see Zeal & Ardor. I wrote about that experience here, but that feeling of walking into a metal show and being instantly comfortable—and instantly confident that no one was going to give us a dirty look, or say anything racist, or generally be shitty, as has happened at other shows—really stuck with me, and it’s what I hope to create with BFOB.  


Oh, for sure, but when that’s been the case, they’re not the sort of people I want in my life anyway—and I’ve gained so many more friends and comrades who do share my views and do want to work together to build a better scene that it’s all been worth it. Life is too short to bullshit, and once you figure out who you really are, you find your people.


Was there a specific event in your life that inspired you to start Black Flags Over Brooklyn?


I was thinking about this the other day. In other interviews, I’ve pointed toward a moment last summer when I saw Dawn Ray’d posting about a super political show they were playing somewhere overseas, and wanting to do something like that here—but I honestly think that the very earliest seed for this idea was planted months earlier, when my boyfriend and I went to see Zeal & Ardor. I wrote about that experience here, but that feeling of walking into a metal show and being instantly comfortable—and instantly confident that no one was going to give us a dirty look, or say anything racist, or generally be shitty, as has happened at other shows—really stuck with me, and it’s what I hope to create with BFOB.

What are some of your goals with Black Flags Over Brooklyn 2019?


I want everyone who walks in that door to feel accepted, and welcome, and strong, no mater how they identify or how poorly they may have been treated at other shows before this. I want everyone to have a good time, and for all the artists and staff to feel appreciated and respected, and to maybe get to have a few drinks with some old friends. I want everyone walking in to feel the same way I did the first time I walked into a metal show at at 15 and thought, “These are my people.”  I want this to feel like home.

Talk to us about the 2019 line up, and how it came about.

The lineup is such a dream! I basically sat down and thought up a long list of bands who I thought would be perfect for this—bands who hit that holy trifecta of being great artists who are also great people with great politics—and then just went on a mad texting spree and got everything booked within a few days (save for a few later lineup changes due to scheduling conflicts and whatnot). I’m being terribly selfish, too, because I wanted to get a big group of my friends together to play sweet tunes and talk about revolution for my birthday (which is on January 28, but nobody wants to go to a metal show on a Monday). Every band is wholly unique, and absolutely incredible in their own way—and I am going to cry my eyes out when Ragana plays.


The vendor market is my other baby—it’s essentially a mini-anarchist bookfair, with the addition of local radical organizations, record labels, artists, zinesters, vinyl distros, DIY screenprinters, and even fest-exclusive Foxie Cosmetics (whose founder, Kayla, will be playing on Friday as Pulsatile Tinnitus). It’s free and open to the public all day on Saturday, because it was important for me to find a way to involve community members who might not be in a position to buy tickets to the show (and also, I love books).

Will Black Flags Over Brooklyn be an annual event?


We’ll have to make it through this one first! The other organizers are I are already talking next steps, though, and I personally want to keep this train rolling, and expand into other cities. The advice I’ve gotten from other festival organizers is to aim for a bi-annual event, but we’ll see.I’m also hoping that other folks are inspired by the success we’ve already had here, and start throwing their own anti-fascist, unabashedly political metal parties. Black Flags Over the Bay, maybe?

We feel that there’s a strong correlation between racism and misogyny generally and in underground metal. Do you see this also? Is misogyny in underground music an issue you also address with Black Flags Over Brooklyn?


Absolutely. We branded this as explicitly anti-fascist and anti-racist simply because those two properties encompass everything else we want to resist—fascism and racism intertwine on multiple levels, and then are further compounded by the virulent misogyny that always accompanies their manifestation. Find me a racist, and see how quickly they start spouting fascist rhetoric, or misogynist hate once you let them open their vile mouth. Oppression is diabolically intersectional in this bloody settler colonial state we’re struggling to survive, so we need to take an intersectional approach to combatting its evils. The intent is to push back against all forms of bigotry and oppression, because they are all interconnected on a structural level, and are all equally unacceptable. 


On a more tangible level, it was extremely important to me that our lineup very deliberately centers women, trans folks, and nonbinary people as well as people of color and queer folks, and we’ve also taken extra steps with security and community groups to ensure that people of all genders and identities feel safe and supported at the show.

A common theme we’ve encountered in underground metal is those people who don’t consider themselves racist, but they support racist artists through buying their merch and listening to their music. It seems that it’s mostly white people who feel they have the privilege to do this, and as an African American man in this community, I don’t understand that privilege, nor do I want it. How do you see white privilege playing a role in the underground?


I think you’ve identified a hugely influential and largely unspoken problem in the metal community, to say nothing of society at large. It’s easy to dismiss peoples’ concerns as “SJW tears” or whatever if you know that you’ll never have to deal with a fraction of the pressure or danger or state violence that impacts so many more vulnerable communities, from people of color to trans and nonbinary folks to undocumented people, incarcerated people, sex workers, and anyone else who doesn’t fit neatly into the white supremacist cis heteropatriarchy we’re currently stuck with. That lack of empathy and basic humanity is stunting the metal scene far more than any cancellation ever could.


I understand that impulse, because I was guilty of doing that to some extent when I was younger, before I really got into politics and was mostly interested on riffs and whiskey; my white (and cis and straight) privilege and my lack of understanding of its impact blinded me to the very real danger and violence that supporting or otherwise enabling these artists and their vile ideas were doing to people in the scene who lacked my lily-white shield. Once I became politically aware, I realized how damaging that perspective had been and how important it was to take accountability for those mistakes, and to encourage others to grow and evolve in that same way—because no one pops out of the womb quoting Emma Goldman, but if we all try a little harder, we can get that much closer to true liberation. In addition, I realized how much I, as a person with a lot of privilege, owed it to everyone else to vocally, vigilantly push back against bullshit whenever I see it, and how important it is for every metal fan to do the same until we get to a place like NYHC in the 80s, when Nazis and fascist boneheads are afraid to step foot within our circle. Those with white privilege need to continue to educate ourselves, have more of those difficult conversations amongst ourselves, and ultimately, do the work to become useful allies—because marginalized people already have enough shit to do trying to stay alive under our current genocidal fascist regime, and shouldn’t be tasked with educating us.

It’s something I’ve personally spent a lot of time working to recognize and understand, and also learning how to weaponize that privilege in a way that is helpful to those who lack it (for a quick real-world example: I know that I need to be the person who volunteers to talk to the cops at demos and protests, so that comrades with less privilege aren’t asked to take on that dangerous labor). I think about this a lot in my personal life, too, because my partner is Black, and seeing the different ways that society—and the metal scene—interacts with him, with me, and with us as a couple is just shockingly disparate, and wholly, blood-boilingly unfair. (You and I have talked about this a little before, too). 

That’s another reason behind why I wanted to do this fest—I feel like I owe it to the community to use whatever platform and resources I’ve acquired through almost two decades in this industry to go above and beyond to try and create an inclusive, welcoming, extremely explicitly anti-fascist and anti-oppressive space. I think as empathetic, justice-oriented people, we are always learning and evolving, and I hope that BFOB can give people a chance to have these tough conversations and make new connections while also getting to see some fantastic heavy music.

Thanks for all the great work you’re doing in this global community, Kim! Anything else you would like to share with our readers?


Thank you so much for all your support—this is truly a community undertaking, and a community victory. I am so, so, so grateful to everyone who has supported this cause, and to everyone who’s helped make this crazy dream of mine a reality. We take care of us. 


The world around us is on fire, but here, this weekend, at this festival, we will start building something new and beautiful. No pasaran!

black flags over brooklyn

FRIDAY
January 25, 2019

Dawn Ray’d
Racetraitor
Vile Creature
Pulsatile Tinnitus 
Niuta
Doors at 7:45PM

SATURDAY
January 26, 2019

Cloud Rat
RAGANA
MORNE
Chepang
Closet Witch
White Phosphorous 
Glacial Tomb
Occultist
Sunrot
Axebreaker
Trophy Hunt NYC
Doors + vendor market at 2PM

GET TICKETS HERE!

 

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The Author

Meghan

Meghan

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing.

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