Russian Circles

Brian Cook (Russian Circles) Explains His Issues With Christian Hardcore Scene, Recalls Ugly Past Tour With Underoath


Bassist Brian Cook of Russian Circles & SUMAC (and ex-Botch/These Arms Are Snakes, etc. fame) frequently fields questions via his Tumblr and recently spoke of the intolerance he faced in the Christian hardcore scene in reply to a question from the fan.

In his reply, he spoke of his discomfort of being around that scene and a particularly unsavory touring experience he had alongside Underoath in 2005, claiming that the band were intolerant of his homosexuality. The exchange saw an anonymous fan ask Cook the following:

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“On a podcast I heard Ryan Clark from Demon Hunter mention playing a backyard show in Seattle back in the day with both Focal Point and Training For Utopia that Botch also played and it just got me wondering if you have any thoughts/memories/etc. being in that music scene at the time when lots of Tooth & Nail/Solid State bands were starting to blow up a bit?

Growing up a Christian kid, lots of those bands introduced me to heavy music that led me to bands like Botch so that was interesting to me.”

Cook replied:

“I remember that show. It was the first Botch tour down the west coast and we wound up on some house show with a bunch of Christian hardcore bands in either Sacramento or some other Northern California town.

I’ll be honest… I hated the Tooth & Nail/Solid State scene. I was raised in a Christian household and dealt with a lot of guilt and repressed loathing as I hit puberty and realized I was gay. When I discovered punk and hardcore, I felt like I’d finally found the one social sphere where it was okay to be different. So when Christian hardcore became a big deal, it felt like the church was infiltrating the one space where I actually felt okay about myself.

All the Christian bands did a great job of replicating the popular hardcore sounds of the day, but they took out that sense of youthful urgency and angst and replaced it with old folks politics. I specifically remember that show because Focal Point started a song by announcing “this song is about abortion and it’s called ‘Homicide.’” And at that point I realized I didn’t want to have anything to do with that particular scene.

I have a few friends that were raised in strict Christian households who were only allowed to listen to Christian bands, and the Tooth & Nail scene allowed them to get their first taste of punk and hardcore, which later provided a path to discovering the secular bands that originated those sounds.

And in the late ‘90s / early ‘00s I became friends with a lot of the folks affiliated with the label. Jeff Suffering of Ninety Pound Wuss was deeply involved in that scene, but his faith never veered towards conservatism or fundamentalism. Same with David Bazan. I respected both of those artists enough to be a little more open-minded about outspoken Christian artists in the underground.

And that led These Arms Are Snakes to take a tour with Underoath in ‘05. And while Underoath were all friendly guys, they were also about as conservative as you could get. These were guys that wouldn’t say “shit” or “damn” or “hell,” but they had no issue throwing around “f*ggot” or “gay” as a pejorative.

They had George W. Bush stickers on their equipment. They had to hire a new merch guy for the last few days of the tour and he confided to one of us that they had told him to be careful around me because I was gay and “he’s one of the reasons we voted for Bush… so people like him can’t get married.”

So yeah… I’m not a fan of that scene.”

Underoath would later go on to renounce their Christian beliefs in 2009, and have continued to explain why they chose to abandon Christianity in recent years. Their decision to do so caused a substantial rift among the more devout of their fan base.

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