Interrogations from Profane Existence / Issue 37, 1998
I have been in contact with J. Lee since the very early days of Profane Existence. He has been an extremely important participant in California's "O.C. Peace Punk" scene, doing vocals in bands such as Autonomy and RAE, a zine called Beyond the Walls of Injustice, and has recently organized a series of solidarity festivals and events in the LA area. I always thought it would be great to do an interview with Jang and what better excuse than our last issue to finnally do it. Although this interview comes under the name Resist and Exist, Jang has a whole lot more to talk about than chords, music and bands... -Dan.
PE: For the record, can you please tell us about RAE. When the band was formed, who are the members, and why resume after a period of inactivity for the band? Resist and Exist formed in late 1990. The band only lasted for a year and a half and broke up in early '92. In 1996, when Autonomy was not active anymore, Resist and Exist reformed with members Jen (bass), Jimmy (guitar), Freddy (drums) and I, (vocals). We decided to get together because it seemed that some aspects of the peace punk movement was beginning to die out in our area, and there were only a few bands around and things started to get a bit jaded in the movement and we still wanted to make an effort.
PE: Being comprised of mainly white, middle class, male youth, the punk scene has grown out of the very heart of the privileged class in North America. Because of this backround, can punk actually be taken seriously as a revolutionary force? If so, how can we be more effective? Of course the punk movement can still be taken seriously. For many years a lot of anarchist punks, zines, and bands have supported other ideas, cultures, and revolutionary movements. People are still involved in the movement, it's just that some people are involved in it in different levels. I got a letter from comrade Abdul, a member of BGF (black Gorilla Family) from Pelican Bay Prison. He said that most of the support for Mumia and other political prisoners came from anarchist punks, and I think that is great, because it just goes to show people that there are still kids in the scene around that still care about politics, and our ideas really do matter. I think that it is very important to support rallies and to participate in demonstrations, especially when it comes to animal rights issues.
PE: As a band (and on a personal level) you have taken steps to reach out to other radical/revolutionary people. For instance, what have you learned from the new black panthers, and the memebers of Gang Truce? What are some lessons you can bring back into the punk movement? According to Shareef Abdulah, who are original Black Panther member of the Los Angeles chapter, said that I am the first non-black in the New Panther Vanguard Movement. So I have had the oppurtunity to work closely with my fellow comrades. From the New Panther Vangaurd Movement, I have learned that nothing changes without hardship and struggle. One thing I like about the LA Panthers is that the older members spend time working with the younger kids unlike older punks who blow off the younger generations because "its been done before, its a phase, blah, blah, blah" I still have yet to participate in political work with the Gang Truce. But I have had the oppurtunity to go to the projects in Watts a few times to meet other comrades. I didnt go there to do political work, I went there to learn and see how they organize. I havent been there since my friend Taco went back to prison. What I like about the Gang Truce is the way they treat each other like family and thier militant belief of dying for their cause. Another thing that I liked about the gang truce is if there is a problem within thier group they deal with it face to face and work it out. I do disagree with some of the politics regarding guns and armed struggle, but their basic ideals I support. They respect our differences, and still support punks at demos and what not. We went to all the record stores in Orange County that carry racist propaganda and used nonviolent tactics to get them to stop carrying it. They even bought anti racist newspapers like Turning the Tide and The Black Panther Newspaper. They pulled all the racist material off thier shelves but other record store owners have told me that they still keep some behind the counter. Also Taco and his security used to help us a lot at animal rights benefit shows when we used to have problems with drunken macho people shutting down the gigs. But I do realize that we have to deal with problems like that in the punk movement on our own. The lesson I can bring to the punk movement is that poorer communities respect you if you help other people through things such as free food and clothing distrobution. The punk movement doesnt have any community contacts yet. We have to work on that. Im sure some point Food Not Bombs and Cop Watch have this connection...
PE: Are ther other social movements that we could/should be working more closely with and in what ways can we contribute positivly to break down the walls of oppression? I think the best ways to break down the walls of oppressions is by working with other cultural groups and building solidarity. We have to get people together to listen and learn from each other.
PE: In a review in PE I once harshly critisized another OC band associated with Resist and Exist for mimicking Crass/"peace punk" style and sound of the early 80's. Would you like to respond to this now? Do you think a style that influenced punks a generation ago will still have the same impact today? When I first read the Autonomy review, I got upset. There's nothing wrong with constructive critisizm, but I think that you should have gave ideas instead of saying "we laughed" or "its been done before." Some people dont have families and see the punk movement as an alternative. When your own movement puts you down like that its sad. (I still feel like a total jerk for writing that review to this day-Dan) I do think that old peace punk bands still influence people today. Most of the problems and issues that were present a generation ago are still present today. Some problems have even got worse.
PE: What are your views on the sudden reformation of ancient punk bands over the last few years? Should they be taken seriuosly? Will they disappear again now that punk is no longer Top 40? What about the people who still worship them? I think that there is nothing wrong with old bands getting back together but when I see them live it seems something is missing. The spirit is gone. As for hero worshipping, I think this has to stop. What happens if you decide to follow a person and that person fumbles or gets weak? What happens if you finnally meet a person in a band that influenced you alot and find out they are just into picking up girls, or they eat meat and contradict what they say/said? Will you say fuck the punk scene, fuck the struggle? No! You shouldnt base your committment on bands who sing about change but on your own desires for justice and your passions to change this system. That will sustain you if your heros or mentors turn up short. I learned this from my comrade Mabbie Settlage from Coalition Against Police Abuse who is also a school teacher in LA.
PE: In which direction would you like to see the punk movement grow in the next ten years? What are the biggest threats facing the movement? What are some weaknesses we can overcome? In the next ten years I would like to see more of a sense of community in the punk movement. The spirit of the people is greater than man's technology. I definitly think the biggest threat facing the movement is drugs and alcohol abuse. Ive lost many friends due to drugs. The punk movement is supposed to be against big corporations and yet everywhere you look people are addicted to smoking and drinking. Socially accepted drugs are the epitome of corporate oppression. I would also like to add that I have no respect for older punks that buy younger kids beer and ciggarettes because they are introducing them to that oppressive lifestyle. Another big problem is unemployment and lack of education. When people need money and food they will do whatever they can to survive. Ive seen many people going back to the system by joining the army or just dropping out of the scene and getting 9 to 5 jobs. To overcome these problems we need to communicate better with each other and help people when they are down. You can start by living collectivly to lower the rent, share food, and give money to friends who are doing bad financially. Another important thing is if you are in school dont drop out, (I dropped out and went to independent studies, or you can take a proficiency or GED. The high school system is shit -AUSTIN)
PE: Resist and Exist has deep roots in pacifist beliefs: is this something you feel strongly about today? Has your position changed over the years in the face of attacks by fascists and the police? Its hard being pasifist because there are a lot of people who use violence as a way to solve problems. I was in a situation where I was attacked for no reason by a gulf war veteran. When you are on the ground being kicked in the head and face you dont have time to stop and try and talk it out peacefully, you have to defend yourself. If you feel a weird vibe in a conversation or someone threatens you try to walk away from it. However, pacifism doesnt mean being passive when your life is in danger, you have the right to defend yourself.
PE: On your first ep, you make a special dedication to antigovernment demonstrators in South Korea. What are some of the connections that make this important to the North American punk scene? What can we learn? I dedicated the first ep to the korean demonstrators because they have died for what they believe in. A long time ago in Korea when my uncle was in college he went to a rally and never came back. The police kill students at rallies there. I also have another uncle who has been paralized by the police. Im not advocating violence at demonstrations or taking on police, (although it doesnt sound too bad, as this would be self defense, right! -austin) but I do have respect for their bravery and dedication.
PE: In the LA scene, it seems there are very few diy labels, distros, and promoters. How are you able to work in this enviornment to pass on your message and maintain your DIY ideals? That is not true at all, there are many bands, kids, distro/labels, and venues that are diy. In southern california, we have a huge diversity in the scene, from punk, hardcore, crust, powerviolence, and emo kids, that are active. Everyone pretty much works together, and people are active so its very easy to maintain ideals.
PE: Why are your two EPs being released on another label and not by yourselves? Is that still DIY? Can you be DIY and make money from your efforts or does it mean you must work on a volunteer basis? The reason we dont put out our own records is because we dont have enough money. Spiral records is an independent label so it is still DIY. I think you can be DIY and still make money for your efforts as long as you dont rip anyone off in the process. A couple of years ago we opened up the LA anarchist center or "De Center." I met many wonderful people there. It was all volunteer runned, and sometimes I wish I had the money to pay the volunteers because a lot of them had to quit towards the end in order to pay thier bills and survive. Unfortunately in reality you need money to survive in this capitalist world.
PE: Do you have any thoughts on the current state of DIY label/distrobution/promotion networks in generl terms? What are ways we can make this stronger? I think right now, that DIY is at its hieght. There are more things going on now then ever before. There are more demos going on now more then ever. There is so much crossover going on, 10 years we would have never seen this, from the state that we are in now, it can only grow stronger...
PE: Why is it that none of the old "oc peace punk" bands have never been on tours? Will Resist and Exist ever play outside of LA? None of the oc peace punk bands never toured because they didnt have enough money and some bands never had their own equipment or even a car. However Resist and Exist is going on a West coast tour in December with the help of Neil from Tribal War records. We are opening up for Aus-Rotten. If you see us come up and talk to us, we are always interested in meeting new friends.
PE: What happened to the zine "Beyond the Walls of Injustice?" With my zine I made a big mistake by rejecting ads because now I have no money to print it. I used to print 8,000 copies and just give it away for free. When I have enough money again the zine will continue. Currently, though, I am on the staff of the New Black Panther Newspaper, I am going to be doing interviews and reviews and writing articles, so if there are any bands interested, that have a strong positive message, get in touch: Black Panther Newspaper/Attn. J. Lee/1470 W. Martin Luther King Blvd./Los Angeles, Ca. 90062
PE: Any last comment? The last thing I would like to say is to try not to put yourself in a higher posistion than someone because you think that you know more than them. Dont force your beliefs on people. Listen to people's ideas even though there are things you may disagree with. We all have to learn from, listen to, question and respect each other. Kicking someone out of an organization is easy, its harder to educate a person then to close a door on thier face. We all make mistakes and we learn from them. Thank you for the interview. Resist and Exist would like to tour Japan in 1999 with Battle of Disarm and An Apology Nature Arise. If interested please contact us or Spiral records. Punk is still a movement...A movement of social change!