Check out this exclusive book excerpt and interview with author Brian Peterson.


The new book, Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound, documents the unique era of ’90s hardcore, an innovative time of profound change and debate across musical, social, political and spiritual landscapes. Burning Fight includes memories of the time from those who were there, including more than 30 influential bands of the era. HANNAH JENKINS caught up with author BRIAN PETERSON to talk about the book, the recent Burning Fight show and the life-changing impact of the nineties hardcore scene.

When and why did you decide to write Burning Fight?

There was never an exact moment, but I remember reading American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Stephen Blush when it came out in 2001 and I really liked it. But one thing that bothered me was that Blush says more than once in the book that hardcore died in 1986. I thought, "Well, I obviously don’t agree with that. I didn’t get into hardcore until after 1986, and hardcore changed my life." At the time, I was going to school to get a degree in journalism and I thought it would be interesting to do an American Hardcore for the ’90s era. Before I knew it, I had 20 or 30 interviews. It just developed. I had all these quotes and I thought, "I just gotta keep going with this. Something cool is going to come out of this, but I don’t know what." Six years later, after more than 160 interviews, endless hours of transcribing, editing and everything else under the sun, it happened.

Your book is being published by Revelation Records. How did you join forces?

I contacted Revelation early on in the process because they had put out the All Ages: Reflections On Straight Edge book [by Beth Lahickey] in the late ’90s and they were also putting out The Anti-Matter Anthology: A 1990s Post-Punk & Hardcore Reader [by Norman Brannon]. I said "Hey, I’m working on this book, I just want to let you know. Would you even be interested in talking to me about it?" I remember Jordan Cooper, the owner, e-mailed me back and said it sounded like a cool idea and told me to keep him updated. Over the course of a few years, I talked to some other really awesome people who were also interested in taking a risk on the book, but I kept coming back to Revelation. I eventually decided that it was the right fit. Revelation is an amazingly historical record label for hardcore and they have been incredibly supportive.

Why did you choose to cover straight edge, animal rights, political/social awareness and spirituality in Burning Fight?
I thought those were all extremely important debates that most people who I knew who were involved in the ’90s hardcore scene had an opinion on in one way or another. We were young, you know, but passionate and read up on it. You’d go to a show and meet someone you never met before in your life, you would get into this interesting conversation about one of these issues, talk for two or three hours and were suddenly friends for life. With all of the 150 plus people that I interviewed, these were things that seemed to pop up when we’d talk about the ’90s. I felt like it would be accurate to say that these were four of the most prevalent debates.

What hardcore bands made the biggest impact on you in the ’90s?

It’s really tough to say, because there were so many of them. Los Crudos were a band I was fortunate enough to see many many times in Chicago. The way [frontman] Martin Sorrondeguy spoke about things was so passionate and the music was very powerful. A band like 108; they really made you think. Their music was great, but their lyrics were also very philosophical and thought-provoking. I became vegetarian and then vegan later, so bands like Earth Crisis who addressed those topics were definitely influential, too. Unbroken had an aura about them: They wrote lyrics that would touch on political and social issues but were also written from a personal perspective. Endpoint were another band [who impacted me]. I would listen to their lyrics and hear their music and could sense raw frustration, sadness and elation all at once, and could really relate. It was just an amazingly powerful experience, it really was a very mind-opening time.

Who was your favorite person to interview for the book?

Oh, man, that’s a tough one. A lot of the people you’d expect to have interesting things to say were really interesting to talk to. Ray Cappo of Youth Of Today is a very charismatic person and an interesting interview. Kent McClard from Ebullition and Heart Attack fanzine, was great. I used so many of the things he said in the book.

You say in the preface: "Once a hardcore kid, always a hardcore kid." What does that mean to you?

Hardcore is more than just a sound, it’s a community that you become a part of. So talking to these people for Burning Fight was reconnecting with old friends in some cases. Even with people who I’d never met, by having a conversation with them like you would at a show, you make an impact on them. Many of the bands I interviewed too had lyrics and music changed my life.

You’re also a high school teacher. What do your students think of what you do?

It’s a different kind of relationship, the teacher-student thing. As I get to know the students more, they ask questions. I try to explain to them what the music is and have tried to integrate hardcore into assignments over the years. I teach English and writing classes, so they might have to do some sort of a assignment where I ask them to bring in lyrics and I’ll bring in various kinds of music, and I often bring in hardcore. I want to expose them to that. Kids who like heavy music think it’s cool.

Last weekend was Burning Fight Fest. Where did you get the idea for the show?

About two years ago, I started to realize, "Well, you’ve been working on this book for almost four years. It’s gonna happen. So, what’s going to happen when it comes out? How does a book like this get out there and how do you spread the word about it?" I remember talking to friends, saying that it’d be cool to do a show and maybe get one or two bands from that era to get back together and play-sort of like a record release show. I talked to a friend of mine from Chicago called Jim Grimes. He booked a lot of amazing hardcore shows in the ’90s and still does shows every couple years.

Both Jim and I felt that the show shouldn’t be just a ’90s show. We thought it should be about capturing a feeling. It kind of hit me that this was an emotional experience, not just for me but for so many people that I was able to reconnect with. There were well over 1,300 people at the show and there were no fights. There was just something about the emotion of all these people coming together and having this amazing time. It really was just incredible.

What impact do you hope Burning Fight will make on its readers?

Greg Bennick from Trial said something onstage at the Burning Fight Fest. I don’t remember the exact words, but it really made an impact on me. He said, "There are 1,300 people in this room right now, doing this amazing thing. There’s all this energy and passion and we’re going nuts. What do we do with this when we leave here?" It was an interesting question. Many people don’t understand why hardcore is so important to me. But if there’s a way to take the energy and passion, that we expend at a hardcore show and implement it into our lives and other areas, I think hardcore kids could change the world. alt

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