Talking about anarcho-primitivism and critique of civilization is certainly not easy and indeed it is often slippery ground and by most people (even within the anarchist movement itself) little or poorly known. Talking about the critique of industrial society and the domestication of nature, human beings and non-human animals, however, seems today more relevant and necessary than ever given that, from the most diverse quarters, there is a lot of talk about the environmental-climatic crisis, laying bare the unsustainability of an economic system based on the exploitation and plundering of resources, the devastation of nature and ecosystems and a supposed idea of technological progress that justifies the sacrifice of our existences on the bloody altar of profit. About this and much more I had the pleasure and honor to discuss with Fern and Crii, the two minds behind the “feral crust punk” project Wind in His Hair, one of the most interesting groups both musically and lyrically active in the today’s underground scene. Always for the wilderness and anarchy, because an anti-civilization perspective can give a lot of critical insights in the dark times of the Anthropocene!
Hi Wind in His Hair, let’s start off with a bang talking about your latest album. The title seems to clearly quote a work by John Zerzan, how did you come up with the idea of a title like Future Primitives? Did any of Zerzan’s works or theories inspire you in writing the record?
We have been reading Zerzan for years and we really like almost every book he ever wrote. There is so much wisdom, truth and heartfelt resistance to be found within his writings. We can and do recommend his books to anyone interested in the relationship of humanity and nature.
We felt, that the title of one of his most iconic books would be fitting perfectly to the songs and lyrics featured on our newest record. We have been inspired by anarcho-primitivism quite a bit and I think it is more important than ever to formulate a critique of the industrial civilization, that enslaves this planet, which is the only home we – and millions of other lifeforms – have.
Taking a step back, I really appreciate that with your name you want to pay homage to the Native American character co-starring in Costner’s Dances with Wolves. How did the idea of choosing this name come about and what do you want to convey in terms of ideals with such a name? Do you feel close to and in solidarity with the struggles of Native peoples against colonialism and violence of yesterday and today?
Fern: I really appreciate the effort of Costner’s movie to create a popular western story, without portraying indigenous peoples as bloodthirsty savages, but as proud human beings with a unique view of the world.
Crii: A worldview that was inherited by all of our ancestors around the word. It is often forgotten, that numerous white settlers chose to leave civilization to live among the indigenous peoples of America.
Fern: The character Wind in his hair was always very interesting to me, because the way this figure developes throughout the movie is so unexpected and I like his brave, but also empathetic way of dealing with things. We agree that what happened to indigenous peoples after the first contact with the white invaders from Europe all over the world is one oft the greatest tragedies in human history and we wanted to express solidarity and respect with and for indigenous struggles worldwide through our music. That is why we chose this bandname.
Crii: As well we found the name so fitting, because we do acknowledge the fact, that we all can and must learn from the people that lived and live close to the land and hold a deep respect and this special and important way to see the earth as a living entity, Fern talked about earlier.
Your record and lyrics are imbued with theories, positions and ideas ranging from anarcho-primitivism to anti-civilization critique. When and how did you approach these theories and which authors have most influenced you in terms of thoughts and theories?
Fern: I came across anarchist authors, like Bakunin and Kropotkin, during my time at university. I felt the perspectives they had on the status quo within nation states and their analysis of the role of workers/humans within repressing states was a very accurate description of reality. In addition, I have always been interested in nature and environmentalism and really loved reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, so when I discovered, that there were anarchist authors writing about environmental problems linked to nation states and civilization in general, that was very interesting for me. I really love the works of Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan and Kevin Tucker, but I also enjoy writers who don’t see themselves as anarchists. I can really recommend all of Paul Shepard’s books, Lewis Mumford’s Myth of the machine and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanach. There is so much interesting stuff to read… Unfortunately life is too short, especially if you learned that education is one thing, but action is another.
Crii: This question about Theories and Ideas brought one memory to my mind. I grew up in a town in the Tyrolean Mountains. We were surrounded by these majestic rock formations and the new forests growing along their sides. I grew up a very political person, trying to figure out the word and their makings. Years went by and one day I find myself climbing a hill on a south faceing slope with a good friend, Eviga. It was getting darker and the City started to polute the dark stary night with it’s lights. We knew where we were going. At this little clearing we lid a fire and glanced down into the valley and i remember this thought forming in both of our heads… What must this beautiful valley have been like before all this artificial chaos?
What do you think is the relevance and necessity of an anarchist critique of civilization and the domestication of human being, nature and animals?
Fern: If you live in some form of city or an area dominated by agriculture, you can look around you and see the relevance of an anarchist critique of the artificial world we live in every second of every day! The earth is not dying, it is being killed. The earth is being killed by a global system of domination and exploitation, which is called industrial civilization. Of course it is not possible to describe the whole and very complex problem with all its details in the limited space of an interview like this, but in short the archeological and anthropological records show, that when humans lived as hunter-gatherers, there was a state of balance between humans and nature. Our ancestors lived as a part of nature and not as the dominators of nature. With the start of agriculture and the first person calling a piece of land their own, which is there for him and his family alone, the problems began. Agriculture led to food surplus, which led to growing populations and wealth, which lead to hierarchies, domination and violence. The first cities emerged, they were ruled by people, who had more power than others. In addition, cities can never feed the enormous amount of people living there, so they have to expand onto the land around them and wilderness has to make room for fields and pastures. This ist the way civilizations emerged and with the industrial revolution everything got even worse. The natural world got destroyed in unimagined proportions, indigenous communities vanished or were not able to live their traditional way of life anymore. Today we have a global civilization, which leaves no room for wilderness and which turns everything into a commodity, even humans themselves. This is of course the big disaster we can witness every day of our lives and for many it is a hard thing to cope with seeing the natural world vanish before their own eyes.
On the new record you have a piece called Earth First!, which seems to be an homage to the historic radical environmental movement that started in 1979 in the US. What significance do you give to direct actions in defense of nature and in opposition to the environmental devastation carried out in the name of profit? Especially in Germany there have been several examples of this environmental devastation because of the extractive industry, from the Hambach forest to more recent events. Would you like to expand your radical ecological positions?
Fern: At first I would say that Earth First! is not just a historic movement, because there are still people around who would describe themselves as Earth Firsters. Secondly, I think that direct action is always a valuable tool, especially for the struggle to save the last intact eco-systems of this planet. It may not change the world, but it empowers people and gives them a way to take action to preserve what they love the most. That is a pretty powerful thing in this world, where ecologists and environmentalists feel helpless and depressed a lot. If there has ever been a time to fight for the earth, it is now!
Crii: Everything one does on this planet has a direct re-action to everything around it. Whether it is a big or a small action it does count big time! Without Earth = Nothing.
What does it mean for you to call yourselves an anti-civilization and anarcho-primitivist band? How do these ideas of yours manifest themselves in your daily lives?
Crii: Like I just mentioned, every action counts. No matter if you type your thoughts about the destructive nature of civilization into a computer, or scream your heart out in a song, whether you abandon civilization and live in a cave somewhere or don’t use plastic anymore. To me all of this could be a manifestation of oneselves starting to realize that something needs to change. We try to live and strive for a simple life close and aware of nature and the earth’s cycles. We strive to be as cunning, loving and aware as the primary people that lived on this earth befor us. All of our ancestors must have had brilliant tactics and strategies to live in groups together and thrive in a nowadays called, harsh unforgiving natural environmet! But it wasn’t harsh to them, it was their home! In no known indigenous language there is a word for “wilderness”. We do live in the middle of a civilized world but when it comes to beeing anti-civ, what one can do is make the “Wilderness”/Nature, their home. Start to go out in nature and pay close attention to how you feel. Involve all your senses. Smell, taste, listen and observe your surroundings and see how you’re well beeing improves. How the thick and heavy clouds of modernity fall from you. We can’t, or not all can, escape the machine right away, but if you are able to use a computer and type a critique on civilization AND go out in the closest forest, gather all the materials needed for a friction fire and light it, you are on a good way to establish a balance that feels very right for the moment!
In the album’s title track you seem to deliver a fierce critique of technology, industry and progress as the causes of the destruction of our primordial connection with nature and the causes of domestication. How do you think the race for apparent progress in the name of capital and subjugation to technology is destroying mother nature and our connection to it?
Fern: The industrialized, civilized way of life is not, has never been and will never be sustainable. You can not act as if the whole world was only there for the satisfaction of human “needs” – as the bible suggests. This planet is not there for us to do as we please. We have to share this planet with all the other lifeforms for they have exactly the same right to live here as we do. Civilization is the antithesis to a web of life, which is based on equality and freedom. Civilization enslaves everything. Humans have to work, to pay their rent and be able to buy food. Surrounded by technology and communication devices incredible numbers of people still feel depressed and isolated from the world, other humans and even themselves. The artificial way of existence cuts all connections to nature and the way humans lived for more than two hundred thousand years on earth. We are creatures of the wilderness, who lived as equals among other members of a tribe. Our lives have been lives of community, compassion, connection, immediacy and mutual aid. That is not something I make up or dream of, these are hard facts represented by scientists and scholars from around the globe. Civilizations are something entirely different. They subdue anything. Mass society in general means subjugation. Civilizations comprised of nation states are the epitome of hierarchy and under these circumstances there can never be a truly free life, because every part of life is dominated and controlled by someone else.
For ten thousand years the belief in progress has led to an ever more artificial world, but every technological invention has its downsides. The production of high tech “solutions” for the problems of today are usually generating several new problems on the way, because their production depends on rare metals and other resources which can only be acquired at the cost of the natural world. More technology won’t solve anything. People should think about the opportunities of a life with less technology. We need to try to understand what it meant to be human on this planet before the advent of civilization. Most of our time on earth our species was “successful” without ruining the eco-systems that provide us with water, food and shelter. We need to understand how humans can live without destroying their environment. We need to build communities, that promote mutual aid and the love of diversity. We need to understand that a way of life with less stuff, less technology and a closer relationship with nature is a truly sustainable way of life. Of course it is nearly impossible to convince a vast majority of people of these things…but maybe it is worth a try!
Crii: What this good man says!!
Moving on to talk about the musical side, your music is a mixture of crust punk and atmospheric black metal. What are the bands that have influenced your music? And what are the more crust and the more black metal elements that emerge, in your opinion, from your musical proposal?
Fern: There are countless bands who have been very important for me as a musician. To name a few: Fall of Efrafa, Wolves in the throne room, Tragedy, Alda, Disfear, Godspeed you! Black Emperor, Crass, Ulver, Gather, Have Heart, Bathory and Dark Tranquility.
Crii: For Fern is the musical mastermind behind WIHH one can see and hear the influences he mentiones very clearly. And I just want to add that what grabbed me and made me agree to be part of the band, was that the amazing mixture of radical political crust core sounds and the atmospheric and involving black metal parts are just way to fitting for a band trying to get people to think about their lives and the lives of everything around them…
Given the importance you place on the lyrical and content part in your music, what does it mean for you to create and play music in 2023? Do you think that through your feral crust punk the themes of anti-civilization and anarcho-primitivism can spread more?
Fern: Music is for me a way to express different emotions and feelings. When I feel angry about how the world works I love to grab the guitar and write a song. If I feel depressed about the decline of biodiversity I tend to take a pen and write some lyrics. So music becomes a valuable tool to cope with the challenges of living in a time of ecological crisis. It helps me to deal with solastalgia. If someone listens to our songs and feels like “Hey, that is how I feel myself” or “Wow, they sing about the things, that matter to me, too” then that would be lovely and a very inspiring thing to have accomplished.
Crii: If there is one thing we should do in 2023 then it is, not to think, but to believe! And what better thing to believe in then heartfelt, emotional and honest music?
In recent years, from more or less radical social movements to scientists, through the media and public opinion, everyone is talking about the Anthropocene. In your opinion, is the environmental devastation, the destruction of nature and climate, to be linked to human action in its totality or to human action under the capitalist economy? So, do you agree or disagree with the use of the term Anthropocene?
Fern: The term Anthropocene is used to describe a time in which humans have become one of the most important factors influencing biological, geological, and atmospheric processes on Earth. In some way that term makes sense, but of course it is a problematic term. Yes, humans have an enormous impact on the world, but it is not humans in general, but the industrialized part of humanity, which has the biggest (negative) impact on the environment. So I dont think, that the term is a very good one, because it obscures who is mostly responsible for ecological destruction and the climate crisis. These problems are not “natural” developments, which would have always accured in human history at one point or the other. These are problems connected to technological progress, to industrialized economies, resources extraction, global trade, capitalism, agriculture – civilization in general. It is not mankind that destroys the planet, it is one part of mankind and the dominant way of life of those belonging to that part of mankind. If the way of life of paleolithic hunter-gatherers or indigenous peoples of today would have become the dominant way of life for humans on this planet, the natural world would definitely be way better off.
I wanted to conclude this intense and in-depth interview, leaving this space for you to add any other thoughts you think might be interesting. Thank you again Wind in His Hair!
Fern: Thank you for the interesting questions and the possibility to talk about our music and the way we see theworld. For wildness and anarchy!
Crii: Thank you for reaching out and your interest and work for and with the distro and blog!
Today more then ever the „underground“ Music scene needs people like you to spread the word… Take care. Connected to all… To all related.