New reports that a tiny, violent "skinheads" youth movement is fostering racial violence in Dallas, Cincinnati and some other U.S. cities, have highlighted a relativly obscure "white power" rock music that is recorded and played by a handful of largely unknown British and European bands.
The connection between a short but growing string of youthful racial and anti-Semitc violence and the new music was documented in a report issued last week by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said Jerry Shapiro, league assistant director in Los Angeles. The report, "Shaved for Battle," suggests that skinhead gangs--with total membership in the hundreds--roam city streets causing racial problems.
The report, Shapiro said, lists nine "white power" bands, including Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack, Final Solution, Prime Suspects and British Standard, none of which is even remotely close to being a best seller in England or here. The only U.S. band mentioned is Doc Marten, though no details are given about the group.
Skrewdriver albums and literature were found in the possession of Michael Casey Martin, leader of a local skinhead gang (the Reich Skins) accused of racial terrorism activities, when he was arrested last month at his mother's home in Chatsworth on a variety of charges including unlawful violent acts to affect political change, Shapiro said.
Skrewdriver, the most prominent of the bands cited, surfaced a decade ago in Blackpool, England, as part of a controversial wing of the punk movement known as "Oi" (the term is a Cockney slang interjection.)
Skrewdriver has three albums out, said Shapiro: "Blood and Honor," "Hail the New Dawn" and "All Skrewed Up." Among songs on the LP, he added: "White Power," "Free My Land" and "Prisoner of Peace," which is reportedly about Rudolph Hess.
In an interview, the league official quoted Skrewdriver leader Ian Stuart's remarks contained in what Shapiro described as an "anti-Semitic" U.S. publication: "I'm not the type of person to creep and crawl to a bunch of weak-kneed pacifist lefties and two-faced Zionists. One must be honest to people about one's beliefs and especially when the survival of our race is at stake."
According to Shapiro, a group known as the Chicago Area Skinheads (CASH) is spearheading a drive to bring the band to the U.S. for a tour even though Stuart recently served time in prison for assaulting a non-white immigrant.
Mike Zampelli of Zed Records, a Long Beach store which carries a lot of punk and speed metal music, stocks the Skrewdriver albums, but says they're not big sellers. "It is a minority," he said. "It's not like a whole movement or anything."
American punk music has enough of a history of association with Nazi symbols--mostly by fans looking for new forms of outrage--for some artists, notably the Dead Kennedys and Phranc, to speak out against the symbolism.
Unrelated to the league report, Zampelli reported fairly brisk trade for a new album from a New Jersey-based band called M.O.D., which stands for Method of Destruction.
"This one album caught my ear because it's so radical," he said, quoting a song called "Aren't You Hungry" that berates U.S.A. for Africa for not letting Africans starve to death.
Zampelli believes, though, that most of the people buying the record are attracted by the fast, loud music and pay little attention to the lyrics--though he acknowledged that the record could stir some anti-minority feelings in some listeners.
According to Andrew Graham-Stewart, president of New York-based Caroline Records, which released M.O.D.'s record, the group intends its songs to be taken as satire. "Basically, this is a character speaking," he said of the record's racist viewpoint. "A lot of the press has misinterpreted and not seen what M.O.D. is about. This is not the group's views, but the views of a character called Corporal Punishment."
M.O.D. leader Billy Milano went so far as to issue a letter to the press to explain that he took on this character to "stir up the emotions of the listeners" in order to confront what he feels is some latent racism in the aftermath of the U.S.A. for Africa campaign.
But what of those listeners who use M.O.D.'s material to support racist beliefs?
"You can say that about the writings of Nietzsche," Graham-Stewart said. "You can say that about a lot of artists and literature. M.O.D. and Billy Milano are entirely non-fascist."