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Where the hell would metal be without leather, huh? How would the music "look" without the Jim Morrison pants, the motorcycle jackets, the studded wrist bands, and, of course, the Rob Halford-style homoerotic posturing?
It's a funny question because so much of metal has long been about the appearance of badassedness. But a growing number of metal musicians think wearing dead animals isn't the way to go. To them, animals are more important as living, breathing creatures than as a sweaty, stinky pair of pants. It seems that animal rights have finally come into their own amid the bloody power chords of the denim-and-leather set.
Where can you find info about these animal-loving hardcores? Well, there's PETA2, the more youthful and musically aligned offshoot of the well-known and often maligned animal rights group PETA.
PETA2 brings to light such strident riff-torturers as Napalm Death, Chimera and the oh-so aptly named Cattle Decapitation. Each band offers short opinions on the animal-rights issues at PETA2.com.
So what are metalheads doing to help animals?
PETA2 publicist Angela Modzelewski says bands are getting involved because "they really care about animals, and about the horrible conditions in factory farms and slaughterhouses."
The bands' involvement doesn't stop with simple PETA2.com editorials. They're spreading the message of animal rights through song and attitude. PETA2 even sponsors shows in its home state of Virginia.
One of many pro-animal voices speaking up from the underground is Liam Wilson, the Aldous Huxley-quoting guitarist for metalcore schizophrenics Dillinger Escape Plan.
Wilson is a lively sounding neo-hippie vegan who's digging life with his band. He's been a vegan since his teens he discovered early on how diet and lifestyle improved how he felt physically and emotionally.
"I didn't want a hierarchy in my life that revolved around my diet," Wilson says. "Beyond just the animal rights thing, I think it was just an issue of health. I didn't feel like I was a healthy person [before]."
Wilson, who grew up a hardcore-loving kid, says his vegan journey began as a quest for better health, but expanded his politics. He's become proactive, and sees the world becoming a much better place through a gentler attitude toward life and green things.
"I want to attack the animal-rights issue from a health point of view," he says. "I think that if you're not eating [meat] and using these [animal] products, then, by default, the world will become more animal-friendly."
Then there's Wilson's experience with psychedelic 'shrooms, and their inherent mind-expanding qualities. "I came out of that [experience] with a kind of epiphany about life in general," Wilson says. "Kind of like the same cliché reaction that a lot of hippies may give you."
His refusal to eat anything with eyes blends into his beliefs of what can make a better world. "I feel like a lot of the world's problems and diseases, like diabetes, can be practically eradicated if people realize what they put into themselves is really 90 percent of the time not good."
But what's the best tactic to Wilson? Shutting down the meat industry by force, or just showing people the truth?
"I feel like those [militant] people can't explain themselves very well. Violence breeds violence. It is more about educating people. I don't mean that PETA's 100 percent in the right either ..."
So you won't see Wilson in your town bombing meat markets and slaughterhouses.
"There is a place for that," he says, "but it's really not my place."
Though Wilson is one of the many metal-riffers appearing in ads on the PETA2 site, the endorsement doesn't mean he's siding with any particular group just yet. "[Not] until I see a more sophisticated organization."
By getting Wilson's endorsement, PETA2 knew who they were trying to reach.
"We wanted to reach anyone who would be interested in Dillinger Escape Plan and what Liam had to say about why he's vegan," Modzelewski says
With the help of Scott Coland, a PETA2 rep, Wilson had a chance to put his views on video.
"I met Coland on the Take Action tour about three years ago, and I learned what PETA2 was all about. He asked if he could do a video interview that would play on the PETA2 site."
Wilson's major gripe with that interview is what PETA snipped out: "When we were done doing the interview," Wilson says, "I had said a lot of things about why I'm vegan."
In the video, Wilson was trying to explain his progressive views of vegetarianism, which extends to a kind of pro-drug humanism. He had alluded to his experiences with 'shrooms and recommended Terence McKenna's book Food of the Gods, which details the history of narcotics and human evolution.
"When I saw the edited version of that interview," Wilson continues, "it was really chopped up, and it just sounded really stereotypical. They just had me regurgitate what they have everyone else regurgitate. And it pissed me off. That wasn't really the full story; I don't necessarily think there is one path." But, he adds, laughing, "I guess I can't tell kids to take drugs and go vegan."
Wilson says he wants another chance at a PETA interview.
"Hopefully, I'll try to work on getting a written interview [on PETA2] that explains my point of view, which I think is different from a lot of people."
Hopefully it'll keep him from whining about it.
Wilson has a lot to say about vegan issues, but what about the metal scene? As a metalhead working with PETA, does he think the hardcore scene will accept a more "sensitive" metalhead or is it full of Neanderthals?
"I feel that most of my really sophisticated friends are in this scene," Wilson says. "So I feel that it's the kind of thing that pulls in all kinds of people. To say that the hardcore metal scene is more primitive than any other organization or group or fan base is silly. To me, the human race as a population is pretty subpar. I feel that the average intelligence of most Americans is far less than it probably should be. I don't think that's a symptom of hardcore metal."
Kent Alexander is a 16-year-old Metro Times intern. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.