Rock Against The System: An Interview With The American Defense Skinheads

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recently had the opportunity to interview the American Defense Skinheads (ADS), a group of musicians based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who are keeping the spirit of white rock alive.

In contrast to media perceptions of skinheads, ADS members are patriotic family men focused on creating dissident art, work physically demanding jobs, and are model citizens with deep ties to their communities.

Along with their rock bands (Rock Against Communism/RAC), they host concerts, play orchestra instruments, and produce t-shirts and stickers through their firm, American Defense Services.    

You can listen to their music here: American Defense Records 

John's podcast, Book & Rifle

For their music catalogue, t-shirts, and custom made stuff, contact: [email protected]

The following is a conversation with their core members, John, Nick, and Kyle.  

Striker: Skinheads sometimes get a bad rep, even in nationalist circles. The movement also seems to have gone through various iterations over the decades and until recently, I thought it was dead in the US. How are you guys continuing the spirit of ‘88 and what are you doing differently?  

Kyle: The Skinhead scene has a long and complex history. Since the late 80s/ early 90s it has been subjected to a type of revisionism and commercialization that is typical of the Neo-Liberal Capitalist/ Marxist left.

There's been a gradual shift in the historical narrative surrounding the subculture. The story has shifted from one of a generally apolitical youth culture made up of white, working class, British youth, to one of militant anti-fascism, racial utopian fallacies, and all the other assorted leftist, pseudo identity stances.

It's become a gentrified, consumer identity for college professor's children to live out street warrior fantasies. Skinheads on the right have always been branded in the media as "Boneheads," ignorant of the cultures history, style, musical origins, etc, which they have done to highjack the movement for nefarious reasons.

However there are, and have always been, Skinheads with nationalist beliefs that understand the subculture, its history and style, in a lived manner, rather than a hipster fad you found on the internet. That's largely what American Defense is about. We're a little older, have been in the scene for decades, and unlike left-wing "skinheads," are actually working class, union tradesmen, millworkers, and laborers, not graduate students playing pretend.

We all love the music and the style and we're all music geeks that wish to develop the style artistically, sincerely live out its tenets, as well as use it as a means for political activism..

John: Also, to add to that, National Socialism/White Nationalism is not seen as an edgy belief system, which was a lot more true in the 1980s to the 2000s. Add the skinhead subcultural appeal to that, with the militant aesthetics and people trying to mimic Hollywood portrayals of us, it can attract even more fringe elements of society. Today the hard part is not attracting people, but sifting through bad apples to find the good. If you hold strict standards for membership and vet people carefully, you could not ask for a better group of people.

Striker: So tell me, what is your goal with American Defense Records and the American Defense Skinheads? 

Nick: ADS Services was formed to create a central place where ADS bands could sell their releases and merch, as well as distro for other RAC titles. We also do a lot of older shirts from prominent RAC bands. We aim to keep our skinhead traditions alive, a lot of that is through the music.  

Of course, our music is censored on mainstream distribution channels, so right now we are an email only catalog. However, we are currently building a website that, hopefully one immune from the frenzy of deplatforming going on. They throw up the roadblocks, but we'll keep going around them.  

Striker: 2020 America is a tough place for art that criticizes the powerful. We always hear about how in East Germany the Stasi persecuted people for listening to rock and roll. I sense that you guys have suffered official and unofficial harassment for your music as well, what exactly are they doing? 

John: Where to begin!? Online censorship has prevented us from promoting our bands and organization in literally any format, from hosting websites and social media to paypal, venmo, and every payment processor you can think of.

We have tried almost every way imaginable to continue having an online presence, but since if the Southern Poverty Law Center labels your artistic expression "Nazi hate rock," you're shut down just like you would be in a East Germany. Not to mention attention harassment we have faced from the FBI secret police for our releases, concerts, and music, none of which is close to being against the law on paper. Jews/Leftists in the 1960s used radical seeming music to promote crazy anti-social ideas, but if you use music in the same way to disagree with them and they are in positions of power over you, they become vicious tyrants worse than anything they ever complained about. 

Not to mention all of the fruitless attempts by antifa and the Jewish community to shut down any event we host. This last concert had 5 states worth of Antifa losers trying to track down the location. It was a massive failure and waste of their time and resources when the concert went off without a hitch..

Striker: Listening to Fascine and Birthrite, the lyrics are sophisticated and heartfelt with great rhythms. Reminds me of some of the best Rock Against Communism bands, like New Glory and Legion 88. What are some of the themes of your songs?  

John: New Glory and Legion 88 have definitely been a huge influence on both bands, both musically and lyrically. They just did their own thing without trying to fit into the musical trend that existed in the skinhead sound back during their times and it shows with the respect they still command today.

Lyrically though, we try to stick out from the rest, staying away from cliche, low-IQ topics like pulling up your boots, getting drunk, and stomping niggers, that have their place, but have been way overdone. Real-life situations we have found ourselves in, such as political repression or even just the gentrification occurring in old working class neighborhoods we see around town, are my main inspirations right now.

Of course we have songs about "antifa," street life and a song about us (ADS), but Birthrite approaches those subjects based on our experiences.

Fascine, on the other hand, is intended be extremely ideological. You can see the dynamic in the artwork and aesthetics, as well as the sound and lyrics. The subjects so far include songs about battling our enemies along with an aggressive anthem against cosmopolitanism (Smash the Cosmopolitan). We just had our first full-length released on Rebel Records from Germany. If you want a copy, we have a couple copies available from ADS Services. 

Striker: I know you’re a fan of classical music like I am. It seems every radical political movement, good (Wagner in Germany) and bad (1960s left), has a soundtrack. What is it about music that I goes around the mind (which tells you to be afraid and conform) and goes right to the soul?  

John: I'm a huge fan of classical music. And, while obviously world's apart in sound and style, as the music we write, the basics remain the same. Music is just an outer expression of internal values, emotions, and feeling. It is an expression of the individual composer, as well as the performers. It speaks to the true nature of us, not being able to be rationalized away. It is on a spiritual level a pure expression of our racial soul.

Striker: There’s a lot of whining going on that Pennsylvania and Ohio have a lot of nationalists. It’s funny how the left has abandoned the region’s rich white working class history for the fashions of Brooklyn and the Haight, what is making so many people in the area wake up?  

John: There does seem to be an increase in nationalist activity around the country, but they're really nervous about mostly white, working class Western Pennsylvania.  

The far left has always had a difficult time securing a large base here since there's no popular support for their causes and not that many rich people for an urban area.

Here, you have a local culture created by the white working class, mainly from Eastern European countries. We love our guns, still go to church, and have a very real sense of racial identity, it somehow has survived to a large degree after all these decades.

I think the biggest secret is that many of the families who built this area, and nation, have not moved away like whites in other urban enclaves. When we look at the injustice of the ruins of the steel mills, we know our great-grandpa played a part in constructing this land. When we look at the Westinghouse Bridge, we think of how it represents the hard work and vision of an entire city. When we walk through Frick Park, we remember how greedy capitalist bastards mowed down defiant and brave workers just because they were fighting for a better quality of life..

The history of this area still resonates with the inhabitants. And that history and culture is based on the white working class. So I can understand why some college commie from out of town might find some of it romantic. But, as we all know, what they want, their ideology, is not based in reality. As a result of not being able to penetrate our local culture, they need to bring in transplants to agitate and instigate, and to latch on to (actual) minority causes. The "nu-leftists" look down on the people who built this place.

Striker: What's next for American Defense Services? 

Nick: ADS was formed as a network for ADS bands to produce music and sell and promote merchandise of our own and other RAC (Rock Against Communism) bands..  We also do a lot of older shirts from classic RAC bands. We want to keep skinhead traditions alive, which we do through our own music. Of course, we are not allowed to participate on social media, so right now we are an email only ([email protected]) catalog. However, we are currently building a new website that will hopefully be impossible to deplatform.