In the United States, racist songs praising the Ku Klux Klan or promoting segregation have existed for many years. But starting in the 1970s, a new phenomenon emerged: the creation of an entire genre of music predicated on racism.
Today, hate music plays a central role in the white supremacist movement in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere. It is key to many aspects of the neo-Nazi world, but is especially important in three areas:
- It is one of the most significant ways neo-Nazis attempt to attract young people into their movement; this source of recruitment is possibly the most important factor in the ability of neo-Nazi groups to expand or even maintain their membership.
- Second, hate music has become an important source of income for white supremacists. Several prominent white supremacist groups in the U.S. receive a substantial amount or even a majority of their funding from distributing hate music, promoting hate music concerts, and selling accessories and clothing. A significant portion of these materials are distributed in Europe, even in countries where they may be illegal.
- Third, and perhaps most importantly, hate music has been instrumental in the formation of a white supremacist subculture. In the 1960s, neo-Nazis such as George Lincoln Rockwell had little to offer followers except extreme rhetoric. In the 21st century, however, white supremacists around the world are linked not only by shared ideas, but by shared customs, fashions, and most crucially, music. Hate music helps bring haters together into a shared community.
To a considerable degree, the emergence of modern hate music can be attributed to British singer Ian Stuart Donaldson (often referred to by white supremacists as Ian Stuart), who began as a punk rocker but by the 1980s had transformed himself and his band, Skrewdriver, into explicit promoters of racism and white supremacy.
Stuart found an audience in the emerging skinhead subculture in Great Britain (and later in the U.S.). Ironically, the dominant form of music among skinheads at the time, Oi! (originally known as streetpunk), itself was initially influenced by Caribbean reggae. But Stuart provided energy and direction for a growing number of racist skinheads (a minority of all skinheads), who, following in Stuart's footsteps, formed bands of their own.
By the early 1980s, white power bands in Europe and the U.S. played racist Oi!, racist hardcore punk (often called hatecore), and racist metal music.
During the ensuing decade, hate music (often called "WP music," or "white power music," and "R.A.C.," or "Rock Against Communism") increased its hold among young racists around the world. When Ian Stuart Donaldson died in an auto accident in 1993, he became a white supremacist icon. He did not live to see the transformation of his legacy, however. Within a few years of his death, the emergence of the World Wide Web radically altered the world of hate music, making it dramatically more accessible, more global, more visible, and more lucrative.
Hate music fans refer to their music in different ways, with few universally agreed upon conventions. There are no hard and fast definitions; the musical subgenres influence and blend into each other, and also change somewhat over time. But the following rough typography of style illustrates the main strains of hate music.
- Racist Oi!/RAC: The oldest genre of hate music is derived from Oi!, an offshoot of punk music that originated in the 1970s and became heavily associated with the emerging skinhead subculture. Most early Oi! bands were not racist, but in the wake of Skrewdriver, some racist Oi! bands emerged, sometimes calling their music "Rock Against Communism." The term Oi! itself was not coined until the 1980s.
- Hatecore: Hatecore is essentially a racist version of hardcore punk, a musical subgenre that emerged in the U.S. in the early 1980s. Some hardcore punk musicians later merged it with heavy metal music to create thrash or speed metal; there are racist versions of this as well.
- National Socialist Black Metal Music (NSBM): A racist version of black (or death) metal music, itself descending from heavy metal and hardcore punk. NSBM originated in Scandinavia in the late 1980s and still bears that region's cultural influences. Sometimes NSBM is less explicitly white supremacist than other subgenres, and often it adds a vehemently anti-Christian component that the other subgenres lack.
- Nationalist Folk Music: Sometimes known as folkish music or national socialist folk music, this term refers to songs and music that hearken back to a mythical, often Aryan, Germanic, or otherwise nationalistic past. In such music racism is often implied rather than explicit, which is one reason why it is more popular in some European countries such as Germany, where explicitly white supremacist lyrics may be illegal.
- Others: Almost any type of music can be infused with white supremacist themes. Racist music distributors may sell racist country music or rockabilly, or racist techno or electronica music. There is still even a market for marches and songs from the Nazi era of the 1930s-40s. However, these are far less popular than the above subgenres.
Although hate music tends toward certain musical styles, it is not the music itself that defines a song as hate music. Unless the music contains musical allusions to Nazi-era songs or other racist music, the music itself is neutral. This is one reason for the strange phenomenon of nonracists who sometimes listen to racist music; they ignore the words and concentrate on the music, which is similar to other music they enjoy. However, it is the lyrics or the bands that sing them that are most likely to define a song or band as hateful.
Hate music lyrics can have a variety of themes, but most fall into one of several categories:
- Anti-Semitic Themes: Because for most white supremacists, Jews are the ultimate enemy, anti-Semitic themes are common in hate music. One song by the group Final War (California), for example, condemns a "feeble minded fool" who has hung up his skinhead boots "to join the Zionist rule." Many songs perpetuate anti-Semitic stereotypes. A song by the hate music group Squadron (Australia), "Our Time Will Come," uses such stereotypes as a call to action: "Sick and tired of watching the Zionists control and gain/Rich men on our TV screens looking so vain/Raping our nations, They take what they want/Join up now, join in the fight, it's time that they were stopped." Others are even more explicit, such as the Nokturnal Mortum (Ukraine) song, "The Call of Aryan Spirit," whose English translation reads: "Everything I own/Is given to the damned Jewish tribe /My Blood is calling me, and I won't calm down /Until I taste the smell of their blood."
- Racist Themes: All non-whites are potential subjects for hate music, but hate music especially targets African-Americans and non-white immigrants. "Repatriation," a song from Final War, rages against such immigrants by stating that "One way or another the evil has crept in/They are pouring through the floodgates again and again/It's time to close them up and shut them out/We are here to put an end to it, so we shout!" Some songs are crudely brutal, such as the Grinded Nig (Texas) song "Splatterday, Nigger Day": "Drive around in my van/We want to kill a nigger/They are in the city/Follow one into the alley/We all attack the nigger/He has seen his last day."
- Nazi Themes: Many hate songs focus on Nazi Germany or World War II. Rebel Hell's (Detroit) song "Iron Coffin" salutes the German Panzers that conquered so much of Europe: "First the Sudeten, then 'cross the Rhine/Over the top with treads to the grind/Drive into Warsaw, resistance to crush/For panzer battalions are leading the thrust." One song by Squadron, "R.I.P," glorifies Adolf Hitler: "So salute the true Leader, for he has never died/He'll always be remembered, he lives on in our minds/Their Jewish lies disgraced his name, hoping we'd forget/But Adolf Hitler still lives on, his spirit is not dead."
- Skinhead Themes: References to the skinhead scene are common in hate music. The group Final War, for example, in their song "Pride and Tradition," sings that "Pride and Tradition will see us through/Skinhead army the proud and the few/Pride and Tradition will see us through/Rising above we're America's youth" References to skinhead violence are just as frequent, as in the Max Resist (Detroit) song "Boot Party": "Bootparty, bootparty, bootparty/It's you we invite to war/Bootparty, bootparty/You'll feel the heat of our boots tonight." Similarly, "Nowhere to Run," a song from The Unruly (New York), also urges violence: "You see the skins have had it up to here/With these people who act like queers/So we'll gather up our crew/And we'll beat them all black and blue."
- Confrontation/War Themes: Hate music not only tries to stir up anger and resentment, but also acts as a call to action. Confrontation and war are frequent themes in hate music, ranging from crude calls to strike at one's "enemies" to visions of future race wars or apocalyptic battles. H8 Machine's (New Jersey) song "Wrecking Ball" is typical: "Wrecking, destroy all of your enemies/Fight back, hit back, hit back takeout another victim/Break down, the walls of opposition." The song "Thirst for Conquest" by Rebel Hell evokes a grander image: "To war the call we hear, the world trembling in fear/Storming to power, hail to the call/Marching in as one, the blitzkrieg rolling on/As über alles meaning over all." So too does Before God's (Minnesota) "Under the Blood Banner": "Legions attack, shoulder to shoulder/Striking the alien hordes/In battle formation, defending thy nation/With fury we wage, lighting wars!" Sometimes the message is simply one of crude violence, as in the Bound for Glory (Minnesota) song, "Onward to Victory": "Onward to Victory, the blood is gonna flow/Onward to Victory, we're gonna overthrow/Onward to Victory, in our battle stride/Onward to Victory, with our racial pride."
- White Racial Protection Themes: In keeping with the popular racist slogan of the 14 Words ("We must secure the existence of our race and a future for white children"), many hate songs focus on protecting or defending the white race, the white family, or white children. Such songs are often used to urge white men to take action. Thus, in the band Das Reich's (Wisconsin) song "Which Way White Man," white males are urged to take up arms: "White man wake up/Fence sitters we can't afford/In the name of the Reich the White man's fight/It's time to take the sword." Similarly, Youngland (California) sings, in "Stand One, Stand All," for white men to "Stand one stand all, stand up, stand proud/and raise the white man's flag." Other bands focus on the notion of a "white man's land," as in Final War's track "Land of the White": "This is our land, this land I see/This is our land so White, Proud and Free/This is our land when we've won the fight."
- Viking/Norse Themes: Especially in Europe, but also in the U.S., songs that evoke Viking or Norse themes are common. These occur with greater frequency in Europe not only because Odinism is stronger there but also because hate bands can make references to Vikings safely, while they might face legal action singing about Nazis or Jews. But, as is so common in hate music, the Viking/Norse themes are typically used to urge people to take action, as in the Brutal Attack (Great Britain) song "When Odin Calls": "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust/In Odin's name carry on we must/And for the fallen those so brave/The fight goes on until the grave." Similarly, Youngland sings, in "Next Door to Heaven (Valhalla is Waiting for You)," a praise to whites who have taken action: "Now you have taken your place amongst the Nordic Kings/for the White race you've done such wonderful things."
- Racist Martyr/Icon Themes: Much of white supremacy is devoted to building up a mythology. This ranges from a pantheon of villains (Jews, nonwhites, gays, and sometimes Christians) to an alternative past (typically ancient Aryan, Celtic, or Norse utopias). But it also includes an arsenal of heroes, fictional and otherwise, to inspire the white activist. Many white power songs reference these heroes. One of the most hallowed white supremacist heroes is Robert Mathews, a white supremacist who in the 1980s founded a terrorist group known as The Order. Robert Mathews is a frequent subject of racist songs. In "R.J.M.," the group Max Resist praises Mathews: "Robert Jay Mathews/He was a man that wouldn't compromise/He would never surrender, never give up/Until the day that he died." The singer Saga (Sweden) eulogizes him in "Gone with the Breeze": In our hearts he did not die/Forevermore his flag will fly/One day the land will stand in his memory, Robert Mathews." Other songs urge people to be like Mathews. Das Reich, in "A Gun in My Hand" sings: "From a seaport's piers I see Bob Mathews' tears/Our borders why are they all unmanned?/They're violated everyday and the foreigners are here to stay/It makes me shine this gun in my hand."
Some songs even immortalize fictional heroes such as Earl Turner, the main character of William Pierce's white supremacist novel "The Turner Diaries." Das Reich's "The Ballad of Earl Turner" praises him: "Earl Turner, your deed was a success/Nuking all the feds got us out of a mess/Even though it was written in pure fantasy/Today we're all living in the Turner Diaries." Still other songs praise past or current white supremacist groups such as Combat 18, Blood & Honour, and the Hammerskins.
At the heart of hate music are the bands themselves. Hate rock is truly an international force, with bands from the U.S. and Canada, other English-speaking nations, all European countries (including those that emerged from the former U.S.S.R.), and even many Latin American countries. There are literally hundreds of hate rock bands around the world.
The U.S. and Germany have the most hate music bands, followed by Sweden and Great Britain. However, hate music crosses all borders. White supremacists in the U.S., for example, routinely purchase hate music CDs from foreign bands. In fact, it is common for bands from outside North America to have some or all of their lyrics in English, to increase the possibility of sales in the U.S. and Canada.
With the exceptions of Skrewdriver and a few NSBM bands, hardly any hate rock bands have ever established any sort of presence in the music mainstream. Although many white power musicians often conceive of themselves as warriors in the forefront of a battle for the future of the white race, the truth is often very different. Condemned by the hatred in their lyrics to relative or absolute obscurity, unable to secure venues to play, and shunned by other musicians and bands, most hate musicians occupy an unpleasant musical ghetto (this is somewhat less true for NSBM bands in some parts of Europe).
Many bands, too, possess more ideological fervor than musical or vocal skills, which further limits their appeal. As a result, many musicians involved in white power bands lead dual lives: working in obscurity at low paying jobs while at the same time being celebrities of a sort in the narrowly circumscribed world of white supremacists. Many bands are short-lived, as members depart to form their own bands, or bands split apart for a variety of reasons (including, from time to time, because of the arrest of a member or members); at the same time, new bands appear frequently. The "scene" constantly changes.
The names that members choose for their bands illustrate many of the key images and concepts the bands try to evoke. Some white power bands have names that openly proclaim their racist nature, such as Jew Slaughter (Oregon), Angry Aryans (Detroit), Grinded Nig, Torquemada 1488 (Spain), SS Bootboys (California), or Section 88 (Great Britain). The most frequent type of band name, however, is one that evokes violence or confrontation. Examples include Max Resist, Aggressive Force (California), Aggravated Assault, Battlefront (Canada), Bloodshed (Germany), or Warhead (Poland). Norse or Viking related names are also common, such as Legion of Thor (Germany), Nordic Thunder (Delaware), and Viking (Italy). Also common are names that refer back to the Nazi era, such as Das Reich (a Waffen SS division), Dirlewanger (a notorious Waffen SS unit; the band is from Sweden), and Landser (term for a German soldier; the band is from Germany).
Distributors and Labels
Although a few very popular racist bands can earn money with their music, most reap little in return. Many "gigs" don't offer much more than expense money. However, there is money to be made in the white power music world. The people who make it are those who distribute the racist music: white power record labels and distributors.
The first truly significant racist music distributor to arise in the U.S. was Resistance Records, founded in 1993 and based in Michigan. It sold as many as 50,000 CDs a year before experiencing legal troubles that eventually led to its purchase by William Pierce, the then-leader of the National Alliance, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S., who moved Resistance to his West Virginia headquarters.
Pierce saw that Resistance could not only be a lucrative source of funds, but could spread the influence of the National Alliance in the white supremacist world. He gave the company to Ohio National Alliance leader Erich Gliebe to run.
Resistance Records quickly became the National Alliance's most significant source of income, taking in as much as a million dollars a year—quite significant for a white supremacist group. Through its magazine, Resistance, and increasingly through its Internet Web site, Resistance Records received dozens of orders per day from around the world.
Resistance's success not only brought money to the coffers of the National Alliance, but made Gliebe one of the most important leaders of the neo-Nazi group. When Pierce passed away in 2002, Gliebe emerged as the most likely successor and was quickly confirmed as the group's new "fuehrer." The National Alliance soon became wracked by factional infighting and disputes, however, many of them of Gliebe's own making.
Nor were Gliebe's troubles limited to the National Alliance membership once it became known that he had made derogatory comments about racist skinheads, who, after all, were Resistance's biggest customers. As a result of Gliebe's missteps, the National Alliance suffered a considerable loss of membership during the period 2002-2003 and Resistance Records suffered a comparable loss of income.
The troubles at Resistance opened the way for other distributors of racist music to expand, especially its main competitor, the Minneapolis-based Panzerfaust Records. Started in 1998 by Anthony Pierpont and former Resistance employee Eric Davidson, the company has strong ties to racist skinheads in the U.S., especially the Hammerskin Nation, the largest racist skinhead group, which organizes concerts that Panzerfaust sponsors.
Davidson left, but another former Resistance employee, Bryant Cecchini (who prefers to call himself Byron Calvert), joined and has further strengthened their credibility among skinheads. A convicted felon, Cecchini managed Resistance's warehouse before leaving to join Panzerfaust. Panzerfaust now claims to outsell Resistance and probably does.
One reason for Panzerfaust's relative success has been its ability to link hate music with the good of the white supremacist cause. In September 2004, for example, Panzerfaust announced "Project Schoolyard USA," an explicit attempt to target children for recruitment by using hate music. Panzerfaust created a special compilation CD of hate music that it offered for sale for just pennies, intending that white supremacist groups would buy large numbers of the CD and distribute them to children at schools, concerts, and other venues. A number of white supremacist groups enthusiastically endorsed the scheme.
Other Labels and Distributors
In addition to Panzerfaust and Resistance, smaller racist music labels and distributors abound in the U.S., including, among others, Diehard Records (Chesapeake, Ohio), Micetrap Records & Distribution/RAC Records (Maple Shade, New Jersey), MSR Productions (Wheat Ridge, Colorado), Vinland Winds Records (New York, New York), White Power Records (Wilmington, North Carolina), and Final Stand Records (Newark, Delaware). Racist music distributors can be found around the rest of the world, too, from the H8 Store in Germany to Ash Tree Records in Italy. However, the U.S.-based distributors play a very important role in shipping white power music around the world—even to those countries that may prohibit it, such as Germany.
More than Just Music
The network that these distributors and labels have created distributes much more than simply music. They market a wide array of accessories and clothing as well. From buttons to bomber jackets, and t-shirts to tattoo designs, they provide eager white supremacists with the tools to turn hate into fashion. One of the best examples of this is the Texas-based Aryan Wear, sold through Resistance Records, which produces a line of white supremacist clothing from shirts to boots, as well as items such as "My Boss is an Austrian Painter" bumper stickers.
In keeping with its attempts to reach out to young people, Resistance Records even markets a white supremacist video game, "Ethnic Cleansing." The game is a first-person-shooter in which the player takes on the role of a white warrior in a future "Race War," who must kill all non-whites to ensure "the survival of your kind."
Not to be outdone in innovation, Panzerfaust Records have introduced "Radio White," a set of six Internet "radio stations" that provide constant streaming audio feed from a playlist of more than 4,000 hate music songs. The six stations include one that provides a mix of music, as well as specific stations for metal/hatecore, Oi!/RAC, Folk/Ballads, and NSBM music. The sixth station plays German language music.
Twenty-five years of hate music distribution, coupled with the Internet's ability to link all these disparate groups together, has created a hate music subculture, an entire community with shared music, belief, rituals, and fashion. Where a generation ago many white supremacists felt alone and isolated, knowing no-one else who shared their extreme beliefs, today such people are simply a mouse-click away from thousands of other like-minded people around the world.
However, the hate music subculture is not simply a virtual one. Hate music events bring white supremacists together from great distances. Some are smaller events, held in dance or music clubs, in places as disparate as urban Orange County and small-town Wyoming. Others are larger, more grandiose events, some of them held as annual
A Ku Klux Klan group, the Kentucky-based Imperial Klans of America, hosts Nordicfest every year; the Hammerskins organize Hammerfest. Volksfront puts together Aryanfest, while in 2004 the Sacramento unit of the National Alliance held its first "Volk the System" concert. Attendance at the larger concerts can number as high as 300-500 attendees. Not surprisingly, they are hate-filled, often violent events.
The hate music subculture can be encountered in far less exotic places than an Aryanfest. The buying and selling of hate music, as well as accessories and clothing,
flourishes in online venues such as E-bay, for instance. Also prospering is the exploitation by white supremacists of matchmaking/social networking Web sites. The proliferation of such sites has provided hate music aficionados a new way to reach out to each other. Users can create on-line profiles in which they list likes, dislikes and interests—such as hate music bands. Other users can search on key words such as "Skrewdriver" or "R.A.C." and immediately receive lists of other users who have put those words into their profile. Because many of these sites allow users to put links to other user profiles as "friends," it is extremely easy for white supremacists to create networks of people with shared interests—in this case, a shared interest in hate. These sites are also a way for white supremacists to reach out to others in recruiting efforts.
One relatively recent development in the hate music subculture has been its politicization. In the 1980s, white supremacist leaders from Tom Metzger to Richard Butler attempted to politicize racist skinheads, to shape their cruder racism into ideological conviction. They had mixed success. In recent years, racist leaders have had far more success, to the point where it has become increasingly difficult to separate hate music events from other sorts of white supremacist events.
For example, white supremacist speakers are an increasingly common occurrence at white power music concerts. The 2004 Aryanfest, for example, featured not only hate bands such as Max Resist, Youngland, Rebel Hell, and D.C. Stormtroopers (Colorado), but also speeches by white supremacist leaders such as Metzger, Butler (now deceased), and Billy Roper. On the other hand, extremist political events now also frequently feature racist bands. In August 2004 in Germany, for instance, the far-right Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD) held an event in the state of Saxony that featured not only a variety of far-right speakers, but also an array of hate music bands, including the American band Youngland.
The exploitation of hate music in this fashion is important for white supremacist leaders, who know that a music event may be more likely to attract attendees than a protest or demonstration. Thus when the National Alliance wanted to protest the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., in September 2002, they organized a huge hate music concert, "Rock against Israel," but only people who had attended the protest earlier in the day would be allowed in. The result was an attendance of nearly 500 white supremacists—the largest gathering of such hardcore white supremacists that Washington, D.C., had seen in many years (although attendance was boosted in part by declaring it a "memorial concert" for the recently deceased William Pierce).
As a result of the politicization of the hate music subculture, it is no longer a question of whether a hate group can indoctrinate a young racist skinhead—in all likelihood, that skinhead had already indoctrinated him or herself. The racist skinhead scene and white supremacist groups have never been as close as they are today, and the exploitation of hate music by groups like the National Alliance, Volksfront, the Imperial Klans of America, and other groups has played an important role in this development.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.