“Sounds of Hate” revisited
By Allon Lee
|Australian Nazi rockers Bail Up in action|
When assessing the world of neo-Nazi music, the cliché that music has charms to soothe the savage beast takes a savage beating.
Far from pacifying, neo-Nazi and far-right wing music is designed to lure, inculcate and brainwash impressionable minds to hate in the name of blood, honour and the supremacy of the white man.
Espousing white supremacy, antisemitism, homophobia, anti-immigration agendas and Nazi ideals, neo-Nazi music has been an unpleasant feature of Western society for the last 30 years.
While the confronting stereotype of groups of all-male skinheads covered in tattoos and bristling with aggression is still the most visible face of neo-Nazi music, the truth is that the scene ranges from punk to heavy metal to folk and even country and western music.
And unlike, for example, mainstream heavy-metal music, which has been blamed for acts of anti-social behaviour in this decade, neo-Nazi music actively claims for itself a political agenda. Not only does it frequently inspire violence, much of it seems deliberately designed to do so.
In the last decade, sophisticated and cheap home computers have enabled neo-Nazi musicians to produce a finished product at a standard that was once reserved for professional recording studios. The Internet’s global reach has also provided neo-Nazi groups with a powerful and cost-effective means to disseminate their music of hate, often by circumventing local laws.
The advent of budget airlines has cut the travelling costs of touring in Europe and Britain – which is the locus of neo-Nazi music – and internet-based radio stations have kept followers plugged in 24/7, truly bolstering the far-right’s reach.
As a recruitment tool, music is the most potent medium to deliver a political message by appealing to the emotions and, like many songs, stick in the listener’s head.
Today, the international far-right in Britain, Germany, Eastern Europe, the US, and Australia, are more than ever turning to music to inspire the faithful, gain money and, above all, attract and recruit young people.
The History of Hate Music
The history of neo-Nazi hate music parallels the rise of the neo-Nazi skinhead movement in the 1970s, particularly during the advent of punk music in Britain.
Punk music grew out of “Oi!” music which was itself influenced by Reggae and Ska, and was a manifestation of British working class culture.
The attraction of “Oi!” bands like SHAM ’69, the Angelic Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects for neo-Nazi skinheads was not necessarily a desirable outcome for many of these bands, especially when racist slogans where chanted by audience members.
Eventually the skinhead movement produced their own authentic bands like the 4Skins.
An anti-skinhead initiative in the late-1970s by British punk bands called “Rock Against Racism” provided a united front against the skinheads and the rising influence of the neo-Nazi National Front political party, prompting the latter to establish its own record label called White Noise Records in the early-1980s.
|Ian Stuart Donaldson: Neo-Nazi idol|
Every movement needs its poster boy and the neo-Nazi skinheads found theirs in the band Skrewdriver, led by Ian Stuart Donaldson.
Founded in 1976, Skrewdriver was originally a “mainstream” band in the punk movement and even accompanied bands like the Boomtown Rats with Bob Geldof and the Police at gigs.
Articulate, authentic working class but educated in the British grammar school system, prior to Skewdriver, Donaldson was lead vocalist in a Rolling Stones cover band. But after seeing a performance by the Sex Pistols in Manchester, he found his calling.
Skrewdriver’s music was considered the most “listenable” and mainstream of neo-Nazi music and was clearly influenced by the Rolling Stones, who were, ironically, themselves inspired by black American blues.
Skrewdriver’s first album, “All Skrewed Up”, released in 1977, received favourable reviews in mainstream music magazines, including New Musical Express, Sounds, and Melody Maker, emboldening Donaldson in his view that the far-right was his spiritual home.
By making the transition, Donaldson made it seem cool for many people to accept the message of white power.
At its peak, Skrewdriver, could pull in an audience of 300 or 400 paying £10 each – which was a lot of money at the time considering a venue cost only £100 to hire.
Donaldson was lauded by the far-right as someone who had come in from the cold and turned his back on mainstream success, although, in truth, Skrewdriver was never going to enjoy huge rock or pop stardom.
Although Skrewdriver aligned itself with, and, indeed, was promoted by the British far-right, Donaldson was instrumental in setting up Blood and Honour in 1987, as the National Front was collapsing.
To a certain extent the Blood and Honour movement was a trade union for skinhead musicians, who often played gigs organised by political parties but would end up being paid a pittance of the takings.
Up until Donaldson’s death in a car accident in 1993, Skrewdriver provided many of the anthems for “white power”.
In the early 1990s, the highly violent Combat-18 (the 18 stands for the position in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials) was the banner organisation of neo-Nazi ideals in the British music scene, and it was largely formed as a response to the aggressive and successful tactics of anti-fascist groups like Searchlight magazine.
Following Donaldson’s death, Blood and Honour set up a music label in 1994 in his honour, called ISD Records, which generated £100,000 a year by selling tens of thousands of CDs – ploughing the proceeds into Combat-18’s activities.
Between 1998 and 2000, Scotland Yard arrested dozens of Combat-18 members on various charges, which prompted ISD Records to relocate to Scandinavia. Today, the postal address for ISD Records is in Ohio, USA.
Much of the success of neo-Nazi music during the 1980s and 90s was its ability to fly under the radar by virtue of the fact that it was largely a fringe movement. The UK band, No Remorse, which produced “Barbecue in Rostock” in 1996, an album that vilified and called for the murder of Jewish and Black people, exemplified this.
Besides being the first group to be successfully prosecuted for offensive lyrics under UK laws, “Barbecue in Rostock” was pressed by Nimbus, whose parent company was Sony UK.
At first, Nimbus refused to halt sales of the album, hardly surprising considering the album sold 10,000 copies. But it complied when threatened with prosecution under the Public Order Act.
The Far-Right returns to its Musical Roots
A more recent example of the ability of neo-Nazi groups to challenge the bounds of acceptability is the slick efforts of the leading British far-right political party, the British National Party (BNP), whose leader, Nick Griffin, penned a political campaign song for the 2005 British election called “Corporal Fox.”
Ostensibly a song that relates the story of a soldier who returned from the Falklands War, only to be abandoned by the country he fought for, and now lives like a beggar on the streets of London, its message is unmistakable in the context of the BNP’s wider platform.
As a piece of folk-based music, it is fairly pedestrian; but as a calculated piece of propaganda it is clever in that there is nothing, at first glance, objectionable about its message of concern for war veterans. However, on the video statisitics were flashed across the screen listing the number of asylum-seekers allowed into Britain between 2000 and 2004.
The BNP created its own record label, Great White Records, in January 2006. On the BNP website, Griffin encourages members to contribute songs, stating: “Lyrics encouraging or condoning race-mixing, homosexuality, drugs and similar decadence, and that tired old ‘Oi’ sound, are not required, but if you are making any kind of music that you think may be suitable, please get in touch.”
Griffin has openly admitted that music is a “great way of getting our message to children because they will listen to songs again and again and pick the words up straight away, whereas maybe one in 100 would bother to listen to a speech.”
To date, Great White Records has released three albums.
Embracing the full extent of the multimedia revolution, BNP has also established a website called BNPtv, predicting that the future of television is through the Internet and boasting that it “is the only television channel on the Internet produced independently of the main UK political parties.”
Meanwhile, in Europe, the number of neo-Nazi concerts in Germany has doubled in the past seven years to approximately 160 per year, and it is estimated that there are 100 bands involved in the scene, with a following numbering around 10,000.
Although Germany’s racial vilification laws technically make it illegal to sell or perform neo-Nazi music, the industry operates “outside the law” by manufacturing CDs overseas and depending heavily upon file sharing through the Internet.
CDs by German groups such as Landser, Race War and Power and Honour, are sold at right-wing bars and restaurants and county fairs, particularly in the formerly Communist east, where unemployment is double the rate of the west.
It is estimated that 162 different titles were released on various labels in 2005 in Germany, raising revenue of 3.5 million euros, and a similar amount made from music-oriented merchandise, including T-shirts.
The German record label, V7-Records, is considered the most important white power record label today.
Blood and Honour has been banned in Germany since 2000 but that hasn’t prevented it from operating clandestinely under different names. Links between neo-Nazi bands and extremist political parties in Germany are also strong.
The modus operandi of labels like V7-Records is to print CDs in neighbouring countries and courier the merchandise secretly into Germany.
In neighbouring Austria, gigs can attract audiences ranging from 150 to 1,000 people, with similar attendance figures in Belgium.
In northern Europe, including Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands, the Viking past is mined for nationalist motifs that point to gods such as Odin, Thor, Loki and Frey.
Reflecting the French penchant for insularity, in France, neo-Nazi music devotees number under 1,000, are largely apolitical and lack international links.
It is in Eastern Europe, however, that the neo-Nazi music scene has found fertile territory to expand over the last decade, as former Communist bloc countries struggle with rebuilding their shattered societies.
In countries like Russia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, with large numbers of unemployed, angry and disaffected youth, neo-Nazi music and movements have attracted strong followings.
According to observers of neo-Nazi music in Eastern Europe, the white power messages railing against immigrants is largely anachronistic in the absence of large numbers of foreigners. Indeed, for instance, young Poles are emigrating to more affluent European countries to find work.
Therefore the fascist message in Eastern Europe is largely moulded to blame the local economic problems on globalisation, the European Union and the old libel that the Jews are behind it all.
During October, in Hungary, 600 members of the neo-Nazi group, the Hungarian Guard, marched through Budapest wearing outfits and insignia that harkened back to the Nazi era.
In the Czech Republic, in November, hundreds of skinheads marched on the Old Jewish Quarter which has a Holocaust museum. The skinheads attacked residents who lived in the Quarter, even though few Jews currently live there.
In early-November, 3,000 skinheads marched in Moscow on a Russian national holiday, performing Nazi salutes and chanting antisemitic slogans. In 2005, the Russian newspaper Mosnews estimated that there were up to 50,000 Nazi skinheads in Russia with links to the National Bolshevik Party and Russian National Unity.
But with the approximate numbers of Russian followers of neo-Nazi music estimated only in the hundreds, it is possible that the political movement is less in need of music as a recruiting tool than elsewhere.
With minimal finance, Eastern European countries are more dependent upon the Internet and visiting foreign bands, especially from the United States.
Concerts in Eastern Europe can attract crowds of 600 to 800, which are considered excellent turnouts.
One veteran far-right watcher says that in addition to the economic problems in the former Communist countries, the suppression of local national identities for 50 years is also a contributing factor to the neo-Nazi scene.
The fall of the Berlin Wall has enabled different groups in society to offer various narratives that, unfortunately, encompass extreme views of what it means to be Hungarian or Russian.
This is similar to the attraction for British skinheads, who do not subscribe to a British identity but prefer to see themselves as English or Scottish.
At the organisational level, across the Atlantic in the United States, music has also been an important plank of the neo-Nazi political movement.
But political infighting over the last five years has hit some formerly dominant organisations.
The largest player in the neo-Nazi music distribution scene up until 2005 was Resistance Records whose output included a mix of folk, rock, Oi! and heavy metal music.
But the music largely died for Resistance Records, after a damaging split in 2005 in one of the US’ foremost neo-Nazi political groups, the National Alliance, which owned the company.
The disturbing blonde and blue-eyed twin 14-year-old girls, Lynx and Lamb Gaede, who comprise the duo Prussian Blue (so named after the chemical residue of Zyklon B, the gas used to murder Jews in the Holocaust), released their first album on Resistance Records.
Their acoustic folk-rock and bubblegum pop flavoured songs are mostly cover versions of standards by bands like Skrewdriver, and their performances are accompanied by Nazi salutes on stage.
Resistance Records’ owner Erich Gliebe said the importance of Prussian Blue was that 11 and 12 years old is the “perfect age to start grooming kids and instil in them a strong racial identity”. There were reportedly efforts to bring Prussian Blue to Australia in 2005.
Resistance Records’ chief US competitor, Panzerfaust Records, was rocked in 2005 following the revelation that its owner was of Mexican descent.
In the wake of the disintegration of National Alliance and Panzerfaust, smaller music distributors like Free Your Mind Productions, ISD Records, Final Stand Records and Condemned Records have been vying for market share.
The National Socialist Movement or NSM88 [88 is neo-Nazi code for “Heil Hitler”] is a Minneapolis-based group that claims to be the largest Nazi party in America. It also has a large neo-Nazi online music store.
Financially, American far-right music earns up to US$1.5 million a year and gigs can attract between 3,000 to 5,000 people.
Another prominent American website selling neo-Nazi music is White Pride, which is the Internet site for Micetrap Distribution, with a New Jersey postal address.
Sounds of Hate Downunder
In Australia, the first decade of the 21st century was fairly quiet for neo-Nazi music; but a series of recent concerts in Melbourne and New Zealand might indicate its resurgence.
In the 1990s Australia played a small but important part in the international Nazi skinhead music scene. Two Australian bands, Fortress and Squadron, enjoyed success in Britain and Europe.
The most successful Australian band is the Melbourne-based Fortress, which belongs to the Blood and Honour and Southern Cross Hammer Skins movement.
The Blood and Honour Australia website states that:
We believe there is a need to provide White youth with an alternative to the ‘hip-hop’ culture so eagerly promoted by the Zionist controled [sic] media.
However, even though music is the main focus of Blood and Honour, we understand that it is only a medium through which we can promote the message of the ‘14 words’:
‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children’.
Blood and Honour held a small concert in Adelaide during the Midwinter Fest in late-July.
In New Zealand, Blood and Honour organised a concert to commemorate Adolf Hitler’s birthday in April.
More recently, to commemorate the death of Ian Stuart Donaldson, Fortress played at the Croatia Social Club in Melbourne on Oct. 13. According to media reports, US neo-Nazi band Final War also appeared. Although exact attendance was unknown, organisers expected 80 people to attend.
Media reports in November indicated that a second neo-Nazi concert is scheduled for late-December at the Croatia Social Club, but this time with Croatian nationalist singer Marko Percovic, known as “Thompson”, who is allegedly a Ustashi sympathiser. The club denied the accuracy of the report.
Jeremy Jones, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s Director of International and Community Affairs, said neo-Nazi music has never enjoyed much traction in Australia. However, even though local bands have played only a small role, vigilance is still required.