Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mark Solotroff, of Fortieth Day, Tries to Escape His Racist Past

Mark Solotroff, a musician in the electronic/noise genre and operator of Bloodlust! records, was
AWB Record label
recently called out in Chicago for his "art project" AWB recordings and the pseudonym under which he released what was described as “white power racist noise”. As stated before, we are anti-fascist and not art critics. Crypto fascist "artists" have been attempting to make inroads in various music scenes for quite some time and their impact has only been increasing as of late. Despite these recordings taking place in the late 1980's/early 90's, they continue to have impact based on the new found popularity of their provocations. White supremacist america has answered these provocations boldly. Fascism? YES!
      By aiming to be provacative, Mark Solotroff succeeded in provoking a response by fascists and anti-fascists alike. One of admiration and respect and the latter of disgust and anger. When conceiving art projects on horrid subjects we would hope the aim is to stare into the abyss, then recoil in disgust. That is not the case with AWB/Terre Blanche. The extremist imagery and content of these recordings caught the eye of Antifa and fascists alike. Whether it's nazi skinheads Sieg Heiling on album covers, song titles like "Sickle Cell", an obvious reference to a disease that largely affects people of African origin, or "They Kill Their Own, And Blame Us", a reference to the Atlanta Child Murders, a series of murders between 1979-81 in which the victims were Black, and attributed to a man who was never tried and convicted in many of the cases. Its also been asserted by many that the actual perpetrators of the murders were members of the local KKK but it was covered up. It becomes immediately apparent Mark Solotroff’s work in this time period took a very specific course, to target Black america specifically.
"New Slavery" Depicts death of Harold Washington and slave imagery

Despite being of limited copies the music and myth of AWB/Terre Blanche spread. In 1989, In response to a notification he’d received from Electronic Cottage, a popular publication of the genre, that there were protestors upset with their advertisement of AWB/Terre Blanche, Mark escalated by deliberately taking out a full page ad in the next issue, boldly claiming that “AWB rcording artists are racists...” to provoke anti-fascists even further. Also in 1989, Mark gave an interview with a magazine called Chemical Castration, in which Terre Blanche is described as being unique in the electronic music genre because of the raw expression of racial hatred pervading their music. In this interview Mark attempts to separate himself from groups like the KKK by saying where they attempt to victimize others, he is the one who has been victimized. He repeatedly claims that white people are an oppressed class and that this music is their way of taking a stand against this. All of this he did under his pseudonym, before it became widely known in the early 90s who had been behind AWB/Terre Blanche. An article was published in 1991 by Ben Gilbert, an editor for Chemical Castration magazine, detailing a series of correspondences and events that led folks like himself and PBK to discover that Solotroff was behind the project.

 In 1991, musicians in the industry from the U.S. to Europe, like Philip B Klingler and Frans de Waard, concerned about the normalization of these hateful themes in their network, worked with other artists on an anti racist compilation called "Anti-White Bastards" in response to Mark Solotroff's label. Artists from all over contributed to this effort likening people like Solotroff to known white supremacists in the industry like Death in June or Boyd Rice.
 Following is an excerpt from an interview with Philip B Klingler with Personal Best: Issue #6 on 1/2016 Norway:

      "I certainly don't object to extreme content as a narrative within noise music, so I'm not trying to say that controversial subject matter shouldn't be addressed, it really should be. But anything done stupidly, immorally, or only for shock value, has a lot less value when the shock has worn off, and the shock aspect wears off pretty damned fast. If your defense is that you were only trying to shock people and make them think, well in my opinion you should've provided a better point of view of what your angle was, otherwise it's too obtuse. There are better, more intelligent ways to do that, ways that don't leave it open for interpretation as to what the artist's point of view is in relation to the content. On the other hand, if you align your work closely to these backwards ideologies, then in the long run you've ruined your legacy, especially if you don't believe in what you are saying, but are just trying to make a controversial statement, to shock the audience. It's fakery. But there isalways going to be a subculture in the fan base that enjoys this extremist content. So.. for those of us who have been honestly trying to use the medium as a means of evolving the language of music, those groups, those labels, made it harder for us over the years to be taken seriously in a genre where racist or licentious ideas were the norm."

The following is a quote from one of our correspondences with popular noise artist, PBK,  active since the mid-80's, who has released over a hundred albums and collaborated with such well known experimentalists as Jarboe (of Swans), Jim O'Rourke, Wolf Eyes and many others. He has been very outspoken about racist/fascist/nazi and hateful imagery in music:

       “In noise music the artist is creating an abstract expression which, if listened to on it's own, without a title guiding it's narrative, it is probable that every person would come up with a different set of correlations. Once the artist titles the piece they set the metaphor in a direction for the listener. When they create a work that has a racist title and then say 'well, i was simply being a provocateur', that's too easy, they are escaping responsibility. I have made a number of protest works in noise: 'Domineer', 'Asesino', 'Warfare State', 'Politics Of Aggression' and others. None of these works requires a defense or explanation from me as to my point of view yet they are all provocative. Truth in art is essential, hoaxes are a con man's game. It's a misconception that art needs to be elusive, ambiguous, not easily interpreted. I think the work can be challenging, disturbing, it can explore many sociocultural aspects, it can be mind-blowing, inspirational, or give a pure feeling of dread. So many things can be encapsulated in abstract art ----- and still stay on the right side of history.”

When confronted by a group of antifa recently, Mark attempted to use the limited nature of the
recordings as an excuse that many hadn't heard or would even know of them. Our goal in confronting Mark was to hold him accountable for this past and encourage him to denounce the reality of these provocations by denouncing AWB/terre blanche and Fascism as a legitimate political ideology. From our conversation at the Hideout in Chicago, Mark agreed to put out a statement doing just that. He eventually did release a very wordy statement full of excuses and deflections, seeming to completely miss the point.

   In reading the expected statement from Mark regarding the racist roots in his music career, its become amply clear that he does not and will not take ownership of his misguided and hateful views at the time. He continues to dismiss his work as a joke or silly art project. He continues to allude to his own Jewish heritage and the people of Latinx descent in his life, as well as his apparently queer identifying friends, in an effort to insulate him from the white supremacist ideologies he glorified through his “art”. Not once in his statement does he address the community that he continuously attacked and incited violence against, the Black community. The very record label itself is an homage to a neo-nazi separatist group in apartheid South Africa.

               Particularly offensive is his assertion that as an artist he reserves the right to explore the topics that pique his interest. Mark, you didn’t explore them, you glorified and capitalized on the violence, hatred and oppression of the Black community. For that, the community reserves the right to retaliate against the oppressive forces and imagery that you elevated and contributed to. This is not suppression of your artistic expression or free speech, it is literally self defense. Mark Solotroff was given the opportunity here to atone for his past and ask the communities he openly attacked for forgiveness because that is what restorative justice looks like. However, he has proven that he is just another crypto-fascist hiding behind the guise of art and free speech.

               Antifa does not use the state to prevent anyone’s free speech. We reject the concept of constitutional free speech, as the constitution was never meant to protect human rights. It is a human right to exist in a society free of fear that people will attack you for your physical or social differences. That being said, the constitutional right to free speech supposedly restricts the state from censoring ideas, but that same constitutional right as well as basic human rights do not stop the public from opposing hateful ideas in defense of life. The fact that people dislike what bigots have to say and want to make that known is not prohibited by the concept of free speech. If bigots actively go out of their way to tell people that 90% of the world’s population should be enslaved or that the best thing they can do is kill someone because of their skin color, religion, ethnic background, immigration status, sexual orientation, disability, etc., they can’t use “free speech” to silence opposition. Anti-racists and antifascists have an obligation to deny a platform to bigots so that they can’t spread their message and recruit. Concert venues, meeting halls, radio programs, and the like make choices about who to host on a regular basis. These choices have a very real impact on bigoted ideas taking root in one’s community. Responding to bigoted speech is important. We believe in being proactive when it comes to fascist violence, which means confronting fascist views in music scenes before they have a chance to put their ideas into action, and taking fascist threats seriously.

Mark Solotroff
Most current addresses:
3528 W Fulton Blvd. Chicago, IL 60624
165 N Canal St. APT 1131 Chicago, IL 60606

Solotroff has an upcoming show at Cafe Mustache in Chicago on March 18th with other shows following at Subterranean on April 2nd and The Empty Bottle on May 8th, both also in Chicago. Feel free to stop by and give your opinions on his shady past.