Friday, February 6, 2015
Brett Barrett grew up in Provo, Utah and helped remind everyone that there was just as much great stuff going on in the town down south as there was in Salt Lake. Starting out with the Better Youth Underground faction, he eventually moved on to help form Despite Despair, a band that filled a huge void when a just about every other local band had called it quits.
Brett's still actively playing music with both Despite Despair (who will be playing the show on March 1) and with new projects called GEIST and Temples—who recently released some limited vinyl and are planning a new EP in the near future.
How were you introduced to the Salt Lake Hardcore scene?
My first band was called Malcontent. We played punk. We were 14 and we all had drug problems that we were all more or less all in denial about. After I nearly committed suicide with my dad’s pills I said “enough of this shit” and found a friend in Michael Gilchrist, who played in a youth crew band called Bullshit Authority. I started hangin around them and their collective they called the Better Youth Underground, cleverly dubbed “BYU”- cuz we lived in Provo, and I was heavily influenced by their ideas of veganism, straight edge, and radical politics and philosophy. That changed my life - forever. We had a bunch of bands that shared members that ran by the names of Drug Shit, Youth Descent, and later Ritual Fuck. I think there were two or three shows I can remember that genuinely felt like there was a very clear feeling of being apart of a “Salt Lake City Hardcore Scene”. One was when Bullshit Authority played with Lewd Acts at Red Light Books. Another was when Drug Shit played with Gravemaker and A Better Hope Foundation (and I think the Mooks?), and the third was when Despite Despair (Ex-Youth Descent and Railspike) played with Reviver at that weird church place that probably lasted two weeks. Ha...
What are some of your greatest SLHC memories?
The first time Youth Descent played at Red Light Books and I realized that my shitty town wasn’t everything. There were other people like me that liked the same stuff. They circle pitted and we didn’t have to tell them to. It was mind blowing. Then there was the time that Bullshit Authority ripped up and burned a “Quad” and caused an outrage. Another was every time Reviver played with us at Baxter’s Coffee house and they let us use 90% of their gear for like a year following. The best was when Despite Despair played with Trial and Parallax in the same year. Such a huge part of who I am was shaped by those bands. It’s cheesy but I truly felt like “I made it” in those moments and everything else was just extra.
Who are your favorite SLHC bands?
Living or dead, my favorite will always be Parallax. Forever. There’s also Railspike, Reviver, All Systems Fail, Gunner, Speak Out, Fever Dreams, Eons... There’s countless SLCHC bands that I loved listening to when I grew up as a teenager and are shamelessly influential on my music and art but hopefully that’ll be less obvious aside from Parallax. The ones that get a mention here are ones that I shared personal relationships with, which is really what it’s all about.
How has hardcore and the Salt Lake scene impacted your life?
Without music I’d kill myself. It’s what I live for. SLCHC is to a large part the total sum of shared experiences and relationships that have founded who I am. It’s my culture. It’s where I came from. I know it’s such a huge part of my life because I’m now married to someone who comes from a different culture and culture and identity are always conversations in our home. Certainly SLCHC is still shaping where I’m going with new projects like GEIST and Temples and Despite Despair. I needed straight edge to keep me alive. I needed a collective to home me when my house wasn’t a home. I needed radical politics and philosophy to show me that there’s something to believe in and fight for in a world where that tells you there’s not.
What are your thoughts on the state of hardcore today and its future?
I won’t name contemporary bands but everyone can think of bands that go to the same producer and draw the same kids and it sounds very commodified and safe and accessible. However, my answer will be a bit paradoxical because I grew up playing youth crew and punk, ya know, cookie cutter shit. Power chords, straight edge, friends, whatever… And I think it’s important for younger bands to keep doing that because some things are important and need to be said over and over and done over and over again. So if you need to do that shit cuz that’s how you feel and you’re honest about it, then do it. I’ll respect that. On the other hand, there are bands that influenced me that were really self conscious about Hardcore norms and stereotypes and were true artists about the process. They mastered their craft and later sought to change the craft itself. Bands like Refused, Dangers, Parallax. Bands and hardcore kids should recognize that the content of rebellion, and alienation, and anger, and the “sigh of the oppressed” or (whatever characteristics Hardcore can be described with) changes and molds into new forms and ways of expressing itself. The point is that Hardcore should push the fucking limits. Bands shouldn’t shy away from DIY ethics or worry about "making it". They should work hard and let the work do the talking and speak for itself. My best friends I made through music taught me that. They should recognize it’s about relationships. They should be community minded and recognize the incredible sense of solidarity that comes from suffering together and identifying with that and supporting each other in that suffering. As long as it’s about that, I think the culture will continue and I’ll continue to identify with it.