Interview with the amazing Greg Bennick (Trial, Bystander and so much more!!).

Interview with the amazing Greg Bennick (Trial, Bystander and so much more!!).

Greg Bennick is an individual of so many talents. Incredible singer of multiple great hardcore bands-Trial, Between Earth and Sky and Bystander. He produces amazing films, he is an outstanding public speaker, a humanitarian as well as a comedian. He is articulate, funny and is passionate about things that really matter.



We were privileged to speak to Greg when he recently toured Australia for his spoken word tour here. 

Take the time to not only read this great interview (each answer has gems of wisdom that you should ponder IMHO) but more so; feel free to contact him if you would like to go deeper on some of the topics mentioned here and definitely look at the fantastic work he does through One Hundred for Haiti. Links at the conclusion of this interview.

Greg through all his work is so inspiring and thought-provoking.

Greetings Greg, It’s Mark from Devil’s Horns Zine. Thanks so much for your time my friend.

1-You have sung (and still do) in amazing and influential bands, you do incredible humanitarian work, you can juggle, act, produce movies as well as being an anthropologist.....is there no end to your superpowers? Out of all of these fantastic skills, which do you value the most? Or enjoy the most?

GREG: Ok…hold on. Let’s shift the narrative slightly. There’s a difference between someone who has actual superpowers…and someone who is interested in tons of things, a master of none of them, and is currently sitting on a couch watching a documentary about jellyfish on his laptop. Jellyfish are the real superpowers. Some of them live on sunlight alone. You should be interviewing a jellyfish. But, thank you for the kind words. I am really grateful that anything artistic that I’ve been a part of (all of the things you mentioned are team efforts) impacted anyone. The legacy of the Trial “Are These Our Lives?” record still means so much to me. Group creativity creates the real magic. Whenever I speak to groups, whether at shows or commercially at special events, colleges, or any other venue, it is always a group effort. If I had to pick one skill that I value most; its public speaking. But even that isn’t claimable by me alone. My mom is a brilliant public speaker: powerful, direct, intense. So while I am thankful that speaking comes naturally, it is only that way because of genetics. Again, a group effort. Next time: interview a jellyfish, or my mom.   

2-Punk and hardcore is a direct way of sending and delivering a message. Why is having a message so important, first as a musician and even more so as a human? It seems with the choking impact of social media that image has overtaken meaning and real issues. And why is this genre so rewarding? What are some of its highlights and alternatively it’s struggles

GREG: That’s about six questions in one. I will try to stay brief as the answer to all those would fill a whole zine. For more on what I am about to say, look into the work of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker about whom I am currently writing an official biography. We are social creatures. We come into being through our interactions with other people (see The Art of Intimacy, Malone and Malone) And we are meaning-hungry creatures. We need to feel valuable and that we matter, and we can’t exist in a vacuum of ideas where nothing has any meaning. Humans just don’t work that way. We are personalities based on self-esteem drawn from external sources. It is just how it works. We might be self-generated in terms of our determination and drive, but we need one another and connection for our self-actualization as we go through life. We need to feel that we are valuable participants in a meaningful world, and having a shared sense of that amongst other people elevates us even further. So all of that said, meaning and ideas and messages, especially when shared, give us a sense of being attached to something greater than ourselves. Its psychological as well as political. The political importance is pretty obvious. The psychological side runs much deeper. At our core, we are fed by meaning. But that’s also where problems start. Social media feeds self esteem but does so at the cost of actual living. It is one of the topics I am talking about on this tour. Yes, we need meaning, and connection. But social media tends to just be a spectacle, as Guy Debord talked about in his book The Society of The Spectacle where he said that we end up living vicariously through others who are living the lives we wish we had. We watch them as if we were watching a movie and we FEEL like we are living that life, but we really aren’t. The images amidst social media around us feed us but leave us starving at the same time. I speak to high school and middle school audiences about this topic regularly. As for hardcore and why it is so rewarding, I think it serves to give meaning and a sense of community and shared value. I also think it provides a rare opportunity for raw self-expression. Some of its highlights: both Youth of Today’s LP’s; Gorilla Biscuits “Start Today” LP; The Proletariat “Indifference” LP; The Pist “Ideas Are Bulletproof” LP; and everyone I have met in Australia. Some struggles: finding common ground amidst wounded people who stumble upon one another and attempt to build community through incredibly disparate ways of life, crashing together mostly at shows. Jellyfish have it right. They exist without attachment, in large groups at times without conflict or floating solo without longing, unburdened by central nervous systems or emotions. I am striving, and failing, to be more of a jellyfish. Perhaps I’ve mentioned them before? You should be interviewing one. 

  3-The world is exceptionally negative and often intimidating, but this is often in conflict with the great actions individuals take; be it activism, volunteering, cultural education,charities, etc, as a worldly and exceptionally wise individual what is your take on this? I ask this because often people are often too quick to label any younger generation as lazy or not being informed in an era where racism and sexism is still rife. 

GREG: Not so worldly as many and not as wise as most, but my thought is that demonizing others is a mechanism that humans use – and this has been shown in empirical studies worldwide – to feel empowered (see “Terror Management Theory”). So of course people will cut down a younger generation. People will cut down anyone anytime. It makes them feel empowered. It makes them feel important and meaningful. There’s tons of things happening for the good of the world, and countless young people doing incredible work regularly. Social media, demonized in my last answer, is also a power organizational tool. Twitter has helped start revolutions. So my take on it is to stop cutting others down and find something else to empower you. Do something yourself if you think others are lazy. Find some self respect from alternative sources if your life is based on negativity. Being a critic in 2019 is the domain of the mentally lazy. Find another illusion to help build self esteem. Ultimately all social interactions are necessary illusions, of permanence and of meaning amidst an essentially meaningless world. What we do while we are here matters to us though, so it makes sense to me to have those actions be as destruction-free as possible. Simply being a critic isn’t much better in terms of making the world a better place than being a lazy person. I think we can all recognize the psychology behind our cruelties and tone it down many many notches.

4-You are currently out in Australia for a spoken word tour, what is your message and how well has it been received?

GREG: I’ve been telling funny stories about the Walking Dead, 7 Seconds, and having a guy in Europe randomly pinch my butt, and then tying all those stories into messages about personal empowerment in the age of disempowerment by the images we see around us. It’s been great so far. Response has been incredible. I’ve connected with so many interesting people. One of them is a snake wrangler. That might seem normal to you as an Australian, that someone would spend his life capturing and releasing poisonous snakes, but to me it was unreal. The shows have been good. People laugh at the funny parts and get stoked to take action from the empowering parts. I’ve met nonstop incredible people. I can’t wait to come back sometime. Listening to people is ironically the best part. You’d think it was the speaking but it’s not. It’s the listening and learning from others which makes me the most happy.

5-Hardcore be it SXE or anarcho punk always has an educative/reflective standpoint, how did you get schooled on the these values? Is a solid legacy so important, in that I look at how bands like Crass and Gorilla Biscuits actually changed people’s lives and their path. Also tell us about your own personal music journey?

GREG: I got into hardcore through punk and through metal before that. Give me 80’s hair metal and some political punk and I am happy. My education, if we can even call it that, came from a combination of a class I took in high school about native rights from a Native American teacher, and then just reading, speaking, and taking action along with others on native land rights issues in the early to mid 90’s. We all supported the Western Shoshone Nation in their land rights struggle against the US government. Throughout the 90’s I tried to get alternative opinions as well by reading The Economist so that I could try and understand the world from a different point of view to the one I most commonly heard. There’s too much information out there but it’s possible to figure out a way through it if you just pick one starting point. Once you choose to engage politically the world opens up and ideas for new action or new thought will flow your way. There’s a whole network out there to tap into. Starting anywhere, most definitely leads somewhere (how’s that for a vague but hopefully true piece of wisdom? You really should be interviewing a jellyfish). Most people stop themselves before they even start. I think the key isn’t to follow any one path but rather - if you’re clueless - to just start and see where it leads. You’ll refine your focus along the way. 

  6-How did you develop your work around Ernest Becker, you via film and in research are very deep in your speciality, please give us a sense of why fear of death and it’s related concepts are so worthwhile, and what has been it’s effect on you. Should we always push on because time is so short and precious?

GREG: My work around Becker is largely me exploring the brilliant work of others and doing my best to interpret it. The film Patrick Shen and I produced and wrote and released is called “Flight From Death” and it explores Becker’s work from the standpoint of trying to explain the psychological roots of human violence. The best work currently being done on Becker is being explored by researchers in the field of Terror Management Theory which I will explain in a moment. I mentioned that I’m currently writing Becker’s official biography which is very challenging and fun, but the empirical research to further substantiate Becker’s claims is being done by experimental social psychologists around the world and its very revealing. It’s fascinating stuff. The basic ideas: humans fear death on an instinctive level like any other creature. I know, people will say “I’m not afraid to die!” in response to this, but they’ve already missed the point. Death anxiety is subconscious and instinctive and universal as studies globally have shown. It’s the instinct to get out of the way of a truck bearing down on you. Possums do it. Humans do it. Kangaroos do it. What makes us different from other animals is our ability to think symbolically. We can imagine a time where we don’t exist. We can imagine dying. We can conceive of a future and a past. As such we can also therefore - and we do - build structures which literally, and more importantly, symbolically defend us against the threat of non-existence and death. We can plan for the next time we cross that street so that we are protected in advance from the speeding truck. On a symbolic level, religion, family, culture, hardcore, money, straightedge, are all manifestations of a psychological urge to overcome our eventual non being. They give us a sense of belonging to, or achieving, something greater than ourselves. That greater something could outlive us, or could help us buy our way out of death, and psychologically we feel calmed by this, insecure creatures that we are. The problem comes when different cultures, built on death-denying ideologies and these symbolic representations, encounter one another and find that they have different value systems. Maybe one culture values money and the glory attached to it. Maybe another values flying planes into the sides of buildings. Maybe another values war. Maybe another values peace. When these cultural systems collide we are left with wars of psychology first and foremost. This happens all the time. Daily. Moment to moment. In each of us. Google “terror management theory” and read up on their experiments. And find the article in The Guardian published November 2019 by Sheldon Solomon on how fear of death influences voting for conservative candidates. It’s essential knowledge for life in our violent world. As for pushing because life is short and precious, I do, but by no means do I have the right answers for anyone else. A great life for someone else might mean doing the opposite of whatever I am doing. Like being at home and raising kids and not traveling. Or doing something totally different. The key is to savor every moment of this, our one and only life, regardless of what the action is that’s being savored.

7-Being sxe vegan for a significant time you have no doubt had your critics (possibly due to misinformation) and confrontations, is being XVX easily in 2019 or are you unphased by any aggrevation regarding this?

GREG: Unphased. “It’s for myself that I’ve made this choice...” as the song goes about straight edge. And being vegan as far as I’m concerned is the logical extension of compassion. Neither is up for debate for me in terms of my opinion and neither will change. The only time I get bummed out about veganism is when people destroy one another on the internet in ego battles. It’s so bizarre to see. The internet makes everyone judge justice and jury. It’s ridiculous, makes psychological sense, but is still ridiculous. 

  8-I love that in all your bands you have links and liner notes that show essential information and resources, for example with BEAS that fantastic “Put these things in your head” suggestions page; I literally worked my way though that and it was so worthwhile!, why is information so powerful-in a general sense and in hardcore?

GREG: The more meaning we add to our hardcore, the more life we will create. That’s the core of art – the creation of more life from the inspiration we gain from it - and I think it’s often overlooked in our scene. We think hardcore is just music, shows, lyrics, and stage dives. It is way more than that. It’s the fuel which enhances life beyond the music. That’s what art is about. Art is the fuel, life is the result. The more we can listen, share, inspire, and grow the better. So those quotes and ideas for readings are gifts and offerings. The best part for me is when people reflect back and offer more ideas of their own along those lines. My opinions are just the thoughts of one jellyfish fan. 

  9-How is One Hundred for Haiti going, it’s damn impressive in its actions and objectives?

GREG: Thank you! We’ve had a challenging year this year due to the extreme political rioting and social unrest in Haiti. The country is in a very bad state currently. I had a trip planned on which three people (myself and two others) were going to bring twelve high school students to Haiti to study their history and social situation. We planned the trip for over ten months and had to cancel at the last minute when the political situation there got too intense to bring people. Or even to go ourselves. So this year has been a bit of wait and see while we figured out best approaches to take to serve the people there. We will be helping build roofs in December 2019 to close out the year. People interested in learning more about the work can check www.onehundredforhaiti.org. I’d be happy to answer any questions people might have anytime. 

  10-What are your plans/projects for the next ten years?

GREG: I want to not die, and keep creating. Ten years is too ambitious a question. I can tell you that my current goals are to put out another couple records with Bystander, finish the Ernest Becker book, get more in shape mentally and physically, and go to Southeast Asia to as many countries there as possible on a spoken word tour. And to eat vegan things constantly.

11- Punk rock Pariah is amazing, I love the topics and the mix of community and world politics, it seems like a real passionate show, you must be proud of it?

GREG: Credit where credit is due: historically the show is mostly Cameron Collins’ creation though I am glad he invited me to be his cohost. He did the show for about seventeen years in one form or another, basically all music as a format. I came in as a guest about two and a half years ago and we had so much fun that we both wanted it to keep going. For me, the reclusive hermit that I occasionally am, it’s a great chance to get out and to connect with my friend once a week and have some fun social interaction. Having incredible guests on (like Jake Conroy from the SHAC7 - scroll back through the episodes at punkrockpariah.com to find it) is a huge bonus. 

  12-Is War by Other Means or Reflections the most thought-provoking songs of the last 20 years? I know so many people that this was a key firestarter in their own personal revoltution?

GREG: The most thought-provoking song? I’d vote neither unless we were talking only about Trial songs! Take “Lateralus” by Tool which has its syllable structure modeled after a mathematical Fibonacci Sequence. I mean, all I did was write one word “War!” Those guys took it to another level. Thank you though...I still love both of those Trial songs. For me “Reflections” is the more thought-provoking of the two, even for me, because the ending is inspired by Ernest Becker’s work about which I am still learning and studying. So it's like I get my own thoughts provoked as well every time I listen to it.

13-Where does Humour fit in with all the very serious work you do, often many of us have to balance out the two faces you have to present, I.e the work face and the home face? But I am aware you mix in up in some public speaking events you do?

GREG: It’s always a balance. I feel like my answers here have been too serious. I really do laugh all the time, talk to myself nonstop, and act like a complete jackass all the time. It helps balance out the addiction to existential philosophy and immersion in paralyzing death anxiety.

14-Which is your favorite medium to work in?

GREG: Gravity.

15-What are some of your favorite gigs a) you have played at b) witnessed when not playing?

GREG: Favorites to play: Trial in Warsaw Poland in 1999; Trial at Fluff Fest in 2005 in the Czech Republic; Trial at Burning Fight in Chicago in 2009; Bystander at Jugendcafe in 2019 in Zwiesel Germany; Between Earth & Sky at 007 in Prague in 2013. Favorites to witness: Youth of Today “No More” video filming at the Anthrax in 1989; Bad Brains at the Anthrax in 1988; Catharsis every show they ever played; The Proletariat in a garage in 2018 in Tacoma WA.

16-What will be your epitaph?

GREG: “Do you liek it?”

17- Parting messages and of course any things we should cast our eyes or ears towards?

GREG: Thanks for reading! Get involved, connect with others, and watch The Cranky Vegan on YouTube. Thank you so much for taking the time to come up with these questions. Anyone reading this should keep in touch anytime please. Message me on Instagram @gregbennick and please check out One Hundred For Haiti at www.onehundredforhaiti.org

As expected Greg always delivers with so much wisdom and humor.

Please go here:

and 

for further information and inspiration.





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Integrity interview with Dwid on the eve of their Australian Tour.

Bastard Squad-Interview with Jason and "Hate City" album review by Mark Jenkins

Interview with Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral