Rage Against the Anthropocene: The Extinction Crisis Get an ‘Eco-slam’ Soundtrack
By John R. Platt
Raging, guttural vocals. Pounding snare drums. Blazing-fast guitar riffs.
For Swedish death-metal musician Peter Hauschulz, these are the sounds and emotions of the extinction crisis.
Hauschulz's new solo grindcore project, Extinction, has just released an eight-track EP called "Smoldering Enfoulment." The "eco-slam" songs tell the tales of recently extinct (or nearly extinct) species, such as the cryptic tree-hunter and the Miss Waldron's red colobus.
Most of the songs, Hauschulz says, were inspired by articles published here at The Revelator.
The album was released July 21 on Bandcamp and is now available for download, with proceeds supporting several environmental organizations and social-justice causes. Physical copies are being distributed on old-school audio cassette — recorded over tapes found in thrift stores.
That recycling approach is echoed in the band T-shirts and other merch — and even in the music itself. The album was mostly recorded in an aluminum storage space about 30 feet away from a local recycling dump. Hauschulz played all the instruments and sang the main vocals, then mixed in guest vocals from performers based in Poland, the Czech Republic and Portland, Oregon.
We spoke with Hauschulz about Extinction (and extinction), and you can preview several songs below:
First up, what’s an “eco-slam”? And why death metal for such an already dark topic?
I've always been fascinated with the juxtaposition of extremes in death metal, which often takes lyrical concepts to an absurd degree of foreboding exaggeration, while the music itself is equally eager to achieve a kind of rhythmically visceral and disturbing impact. There's a sub-genre of death metal called "slam," which is often some of the most ridiculous and lowbrow of the style and is an excellent opportunity to combine Neanderthal-esque delivery with relevant factual concepts and content. The idea is to subvert the extreme metal expectation that the topics must necessarily be comically grotesque and therefore easy to brush off as gory escapism, while also adhering to the underlying spirit of death metal in plainly confronting the horrors of reality.
What were the origins of this project?
The idea for the project first took hold after I had read a National Geographic article sometime shortly after New Year in 2019. It was a small, touching story about how a tree snail (George) had been declared extinct just a few days earlier. Something about it just struck an unexpected nerve. I hadn't really considered how many known species were going extinct every day.
Peter Hauschulz, photo by Smilla West.
It was a perfect fusion of a genuinely dark topic that really wasn't being processed, either in the extreme metal community or at large, and therefore a ripe topic for deeper exploration.
(George's story was one of two songs on an Extinction demo album called "Anthropogenic Degradation of Ecosystemic Vegetation," released last year.)
For me, art and music are at their best when they seek to entertain, inform, inspire and connect with the listener. I felt that there was an opportunity to artistically energize the topic by connecting it to charity causes as well. It's very easy to become discouraged or feel like one isn't "doing enough" for the world, so I'm hoping to support the idea that we can all contribute in different ways according to our own needs and values and abilities, and not be held to an arbitrary standard of perfection that may be more discouraging than anything.
A few dollars here and there may not seem to be much, but it's important for me to try to align aspirations and ideas with actions. I hope that doing so artistically may inspire others to find clever ways to bring their unique talents and ideas to the world.
What are your creative goals when developing music and lyrics about such a difficult subject, and what do you hope your listeners will get out of it?
My main goal with the project is to develop and foster connection between myself and the world, myself and other people, and hopefully inspire people's connection with their world, too.
Of course, encased in that is my own impulse to continuously challenge myself and hone my craft, so I hope listeners experience a feeling of deep urgency as a result of the music, but also a sense of inspiration to harness that feeling for something positive.
What’s your writing process?
The process often involves a lot of iteration, bouncing from concept to experimentation on guitar or drums and back again, until it seems like it's congealing into something unique and alive. My primary musical focus is on the rhythms first, since I've always loved the way that aspect of music can reach deep into the core of a body and electrify it and give it motion.
I try to set the lyrics together in such a way that they amplify the music and give it a conceptual direction for that movement. For instance, the lines "flames of greed lick their black boots, inferno of corruption boils the frog, our spirit croaking for release, from the hell of our own kind" in the song "Electile Dysfunction" are some of my favorites in capturing the wretched spirit of greed behind so much of our planetary destitution.
Why did you pick some of these species to profile? What drew you to the need to tell their stories in musical form?
I tried to represent a wide variety of species types, including those outside the more relatable ones that are cute or fuzzy, because things like mosses and trees are certainly just as important, but less often make it into headlines or story form. I also tried to focus on species whose extinction was more or less directly caused by human activity, whether by direct hunting or deforestation — something that highlights our essential relationship and the negative consequences of our actions and choices as a species on the planet.
You have a unique approach to merchandise and the physical distribution of your music. Where did the idea of recycled goods come from?
Growing up in largely DIY punk scenes, it was common for smaller bands to screen print logos on thrift-store shirts. That seemed to be the most appropriate way to minimize the band's resource footprint while also opening the door to unique artistic opportunities. So far, the best result is when I can find an old novelty shirt from a vacation at Sea World or some other aquarium. Stamp a giant Extinction logo on top of a frolicking dolphin or killer whale and now it has become more than just a gift-store item.
Speaks for itself really pic.twitter.com/tNFkVJX497— EXTINCTION (eco-slam) (@Capt_Grapefruit) July 14, 2020
What comes next? I know you already have a follow-up album in the works, and you were planning on touring before the pandemic hit.
Next for Extinction is a bit up in the air, like for many bands and people of all inclinations all over the world. I'll be creating a music video in the coming months for one of these songs, continue writing a follow-up, which will be water-species themed, probably release a charity compilation single in a few months, and seek out like-minded collaborators of all types to start collecting a live lineup.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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