If you know what RABM is, it’s likely you’ve heard a lot about Neckbeard Deathcamp. One of the most controversial projects of recent years, NBDC is the brainchild of Noa Maria and Evan Barton. In the wake of controversy and the tumultuous landscape of 2020, we were lucky enough to catch up with Noa to talk about queer identity, why fascism in the black metal scene needs to be fucking stamped out and social media politics as a weapon.
[To note, this is being published in December 2020, whilst the interview took place in January 2020, a lot has happened since then, so this piece probably reads as a relic of an older, happier time.]
The following is an extract from Issue 6 of our zine, pick it up below, or subscribe to our Patreon to get the full text.
Noa: I don’t think NBDC is going to be around forever. I’m not shooting for some Judas Priest longevity for this fucking joke band. But I’m just trying to hit the nazi black metal scene as hard and as fast as I can whilst we’re in the spotlight, and when it’s done, it’s done.
AN: You’ll just be making noise music after that.
Yeah, definitely. Evan has another band that he’s pretty serious about. I also have Whitephosphorous that I’m pretty serious about.
What’s the symbolism behind the project’s name?
White phosphorus is a chemical weapon. You spray it on people, and they burn, and they die. It’s illegal to use it like that. Like a whole ass war crime but it’s legal to use it like a smoke grenade I guess so we still deploy tons of it. When you put it in a giant munitions cartridge, and you’re firing it out of a gunship at the jungle, you’re going to kill a lot of people and set all the trees on fire. It’s used all the time. We [the US government/military] set the rules around it. Like when you play Call Of Duty, you have the Willie Pete grenade. Willie Pete is another name for white phosphorus.
So that spelling I use, that “ous”, and the nature of it as we’re talking about, it’s inherently harmful. It’s considered cruel and unusual, but also obfuscated by a lot of political language. I think that’s a really good metaphor for a lot of things the US does for the sake of “security”. Things like Guantanamo Bay, PRISM or police tanks are all weapons to be used against us, financed by us, and told they exist to protect us. I remember first getting the idea, or the feeling that became the idea for the name when I was walking home once. And these fighter jets just go tearing overhead. They cut the sky in half and deafen us in the process as I’m standing on a street corner with a slice of pizza in my hand. As a reminder that on the day whatever I have to say is hostile enough to the state, that those become the kind of things out there to hurt me. This is a country with concentration camps again, and we have to start talking about what that means in flat language. No one’s ever asked me about it so it’s good to be telling people about that side of things.
So Whitephosphorous seems like a slightly more serious kind of project.
Yeah, it’s real serious. I’m not kidding about it.
How are you bringing politics into noise music? How do the politics interlink with the harsh noise? Political music will traditionally be lyrically driven, so how does that work with noise music?
It’s quite funny. When you think of political music, you think of Green Day punk songs – rallying Bella Ciao folk anthems to overthrow the government. My interest in politics came from the fact that a lot of systems of power in the US killed a lot of my friends. Specifically, a lot of my friends died from heroin, and that was engineered by government lobbyists and big pharma who wanted to give out some kickdowns and help their friends cash checks. The opioid crisis was engineered to generate capital and I watched it kill my friends.
Similarly to crack cocaine.
Yeah, exactly, it was a result of people being like, “Oh well, we’ll see what happens. But they put the money first. Like the war. In my mind politics aren’t supposed to be fun. I often feel that Neckbeard is a little disingenuous because it seems like we’re having fun despite being very hard work. I think sometimes about dispelling that illusion for the sake of transparency but I like that the NS crowd gets so fucking mad about it. People always think that Neckbeard is an attempt to generate a banner for everyone to march behind. Like I fancy myself some kind of faction leader and I like to tell people what to think. Really what I’m trying to do is build a sword and ram it directly into the chest of the nazi black metal scene in retaliation, so that they can feel the injury they give to others. Turns out it doesn’t feel good to have people treating you like shit all the time. It’s weird to me when people say they like Neckbeard’s music. We don’t write it to write anthems. We write stuff we like that’s fun to play and check off all the boxes to keep us “black metal”, but I never reckon much thought goes into it. So the art I make when I’m being genuine is stuff that’s hard to listen to on purpose. I don’t want to write a feelgood Green Day song. I want you to feel the agony and hopelessness. The political components for Whitephosphorous are easy to be very pointed about because I’m able to insert a lot of audio samples from the news, and with noise you’re also afforded the opportunity to use a lot of visual elements. I do projected video stuff all the time. I never used to let anyone film my early sets, because I’d burn an American flag at the start of my sets.
You’ve mentioned you do a lot of stuff outside of NBDC too for left-wing causes. You able to talk about that?
Yeah, so, I do a lot of stuff with womens’ reproductive healthcare activism, and some queer liberation activism – I design a lot of stuff for people and I love in person demonstration. I think that literally taking your ass out of your house, going down to Planned Parenthood, and getting in the face of somebody holding a sign with a baby on it one time is more important than the wokest, most prolific Internet activism ever done. The shit on the Internet doesn’t matter. It’s a good fight club to learn how to show your teeth, how to engage with people and be confrontational. But I wish people would spend less time on leftbook and more time doing the work. It’s like fucking high school. Would I go back? Fuck no. Did I learn some shit while I was there? Totally.
I’d like to hear your personal thoughts on the pornogrind genre. I know you’re not a fan of the scene at all and just want to confirm that you yourself have never been involved in the scene, either, right?
So, I was always involved in the grind scene, and I think that people conflate political grind with pornogrind, which is weird because I think they accomplish very different things. I fucking hate pornogrind. I like shit like Water Torture, Plutocracy, Enemy Soil, Appalachian Terror Unit, shit about how you should destroy the government and string your senator up. That accomplishes a positive political perspective without demanding a whole. It’s not rocket science making it either. You can rhyme Warbad with Warbad and do toilet vocals about MK Ultra and that’s fine – they’re not breaking any new ground over there.
Whereas pornogrind does the thing that I hate in metal where it’s being offensive for the sake of being offensive without a clear or legitimate target. Though I have absolutely nothing good to say about GG Allin, the reason GG Allin was so effective (when it was effective) for the exact same literal shit – was that the people they were swinging on were well defined. The whole bit was in response to very conservative ‘80s Reaganite suburban white families. That’s who they were shaking up. They [suburban Reaganites] that Allin had clutching their pearls in the ‘80s are now the “fuck you snowflake” brigade who hate women and think you should be able to say the N-word with a hard R at whoever you want in a Wal-Mart.
It was iconoclastic.
Right, yeah. I find pornogrind vile because it’s so fucking stupid. Music for rebels without a cause. It’s extremely grating to spend so much time talking to a bunch of fucking drooling dummies from the suburbs in Ohio who spend enough time rubbing their last two brain cells together to write nine albums about cutting up their ex-girlfriends. I have nothing good to say about that genre. It’s slow, it’s boring, it’s dumb, and it’s made by a bunch of fucking doofuses. Like, “Oh, you’re in a pornogrind band, you’re so fucking cool, man.” Fuck off.
What do you think about how prominent this kind of imagery is? This shit is just everywhere you look in the metal scene. Where do you think that comes from and what needs to change?
So, what needs to change is that people need to start making intelligent art about it. Personally, I don’t think anything is off-limits as long as you’re making a resounding piece of art about it. And I think that’s a really really important distinction. I think a lot of people don’t like to think hard about stuff and will write off entire conversations for the sake of convenience. It’s like if you go to the Holocaust museum, and there’s artwork there that is the shoes of all the kids they threw into the furnaces, and you just have to stand there and take that in, you know? Do we make that symbolism off-limits? That’s a powerful, impactful piece of art that accomplishes something beneficial – that talks about something that happened. Or do we just concede that entire sphere of conversation to bands like Der Stürmer who don’t give a shit who they hurt, and will fight tooth and nail and roll out as much intentionally obfuscatory language as they can to continue hurting people. This is the thing that fucks me up about the nazi black metal thing, because they’re almost coming to the right point.
They’re so close to the point – the Satan thing, that’s not dicey anymore, so politics is where you have to go if you’re trying to make music bombastic and controversial. But if you’re trying to make something bombastic and controversial exclusively for the sake of hurting people instead of trying to make work about changing culture, you’re just a fucking dummy. You also can’t intentionally make bombastic and controversial art for the sake of hurting people and take a stance of “I don’t care what people think of it. Fuck them. They can either take it for what it is, or they can get the fuck out of my face” and then also turn around and be like, “Oh, why are my shows all getting shut down?”. It blows my fucking mind how often you have to remind people that they struck first and that we’re just retaliating. These fucking idiots did this to themselves. They made shitty art with shitty people, and as soon as people swung back because they didn’t think about any aspect of it, they circled the wagons and destroyed any conversation to maintain a hypermasculine phalanx of dipshits who can’t ever fucking apologise. Then the guy who runs the local venue is like, “Maybe I don’t wanna have a band called Sturmtoten 88 play here today. I’d rather have a kids’ birthday party.” It made everyone involved look as dumb as they are.
Is that something you’re trying to do with NBDC? Make these people look at stupid as they are?
Yeah, just as fucking dumb as they can possibly look. It sucks because heavy metal can be really good, clever, powerful art, and I’m not saying it has to be some man-bun, manicured beard Capital H hipster art – you can be hard, guttural, coarse and tough. But it also has to be smart. Leave the caveman to the riffs, let’s have an intelligent conversation about the rest of it.
Misogyny is still very prevalent – even in leftist circles – partly because we seem to still be in a transitional phase with people grasping concepts of internalised prejudice and structural misogyny. What would you say to people who are on their “Identity politics (IDPOL) is ruining leftist organising and theorising, and all my friends used to be anarchists or Marxist-Leninists and now they’re on about IDPOL” shit?
Straight up, I don’t think IDPOL is destroying leftist spaces at all. There are people who use the language in IDPOL in bad faith to accomplish their end, and that’s the thing we’re reconciling. I think there are a lot of people who will use buzzwords to cut their way into a conversation and gaslight the room by telling everyone that they are not accounting for an entire group of people who are speaking, but really they mean that it is the person speaking specifically who feels unaccounted for. But I never infight with other leftists about shit like that. I think that’s a big-ass waste of time. Once I see shit melting down in one of the spaces I occupy, I’m like, “Okay, not for me.” I don’t care what the differences between Trostskyites or Marxist-Leninists are and how often people are willing to live and die in the trenches of a comments thread in a secret Facebook group about which flavour of state communism is actually secretly racist while the oceans and skies boil in the raging fires of unchecked global capitalism. Those folks are all red to me, and we’ll still all be friends after they’re done fighting. When it’s not trivial shit, though, and people open up to talk about harm and say shit like, ”I came to this space because it seemed different than the right-wing version of reality or to the material reality I currently live in, and then I’m still being talked over constantly because I’m a woman.” I would just be exceedingly suspicious of someone who’s spending a lot of time hammering on that [i.e: a Marxist who “doesn’t believe in identity politics and thinks that that isnt Marxism”], instead of fighting the fascists.
It’s also really easy to listen to what someone else is saying rather than talking. I find myself being taken to task often on the NBDC twitter for components of my language that I’m still learning about. And I do genuinely enjoy listening. I will say something that has seemed my entire life as a fine thing to say, and then someone will tweet at me, “Hey, have you considered how this affects these people?” and I will say, “I haven’t, and I’m sorry, and I will change the way words come out of my mouth,” because it’s not difficult to be one word more sensitive. There’s plenty of intentionally obtuse bad faith shit that goes on out there, but that’s not the bulk of what’s happening. I don’t think identity politics is ruining leftist organising in the slightest.
Interview: Richard Lowe