Thursday, 8 February 2018

California Screamin' (part 4): Naturecore "With love..." 12'', 1988

I do not remember exactly when and where I first read about Naturecore (or is it Nature Core? I dunno for sure but let's reasonably stick with Naturecore). But what I do distinctly remember however is that they were referred to and characterized as a "pre Vegan Reich band", a mention that instantly made them look suspicious to me. I had never met someone into Vegan Reich (and come to think about it, I still have to meet one to this day but perhaps the band has completely gone out of fashion after their Jihad nonsense and has become one of these bands people are unlikely to claim to like) and, to be perfectly honest, at that time, I had never even listened to them and was only familiar with their political message and what they stood for and that was enough for me to discard them. Now that I am older and (kinda) wiser and that I actually listened to Vegan Reich, I guess they are alright if you enjoy metalcore, politically confused ideology and "lookin' hard and livin' healthy" (which I don't). I don't get the appeal of their message and of their mosh parts, and I would not feel too comfortable at a Hardline gig (and vice versa), but then the global punk scene is baffling at times. 

And baffled I was upon reading that an obscure peacepunk band called Naturecore was somehow connected to Vegan Reich, so much so in fact that I buried the information somewhere in my brain and promptly forgot about Naturecore's existence. And then, last year, as I was tediously organizing my music files, I came across With Love... in the 80's US anarchopunk folder. "Oh yeah, that pre-Vegan Reich band. I can't remember what they sound like, so let's play it, just for kicks, they're probably terrible anyway". And of course, listening to the songs, I instantly felt very silly because not only is the record very good but it is undeniably rooted in the mid-80's peacepunk sound I love so much. So much for selective blindness... I had to investigate.

After some researches, I realized that the dread-inducing Vegan Reich tie was pretty thin indeed and the fact that it was this element that was put forward in introducing Naturecore has more to do with internet's click bait culture and unhealthy love for controversies than serious contextual work. What made Naturecore a "pre Vegan Reich band" was the inclusion of a Vegan Reich song, "Stop talking, start revenging", on the 1987 The ALF is Watching and There's no Place to Hide... compilation Lp. This was the very first song under the VR name, and apparently, singer and guru Sean Muttaqi had asked members of Naturecore to be his backing band for that purpose (there would be no other occasion as far as I know). I suppose they knew each other because of their common location and their involvement in animal rights activism and probably through the label No Master's Voice who released the aforementioned compilation and, one year later, the With Love... 12''. An anecdotal, if quite interesting, story all in all. Does it make Naturecore a pre Vegan Reich band? Not really and the song in question sounds a lot more like Naturecore than like subsequent Vegan Reich recordings.

But enough about that already. The band's contact address on the 12'' is the same as the label's, in Laguna Beach, so it is safe to assume that Naturecore must have been active in this specific area, not far from Orange County. I did not find much intel about the band other than their drummer Aaron also played in Armistice (not the 90's band but one that was active around 1984 apparently) and that the singer played in Black Apple Forest afterwards. Naturecore formed in 1984 and recorded With Love... in 1986, although it was to be released in 1988, and they also had a song on that ALF compilation. The thank list tells us that the band was in touch with some British anarchopunk bands like Dan, Chumbawamba and Karma Sutra (which is not very surprising given their sound and politics), fellow peacepunx A State of Mind and even Glycine Max (who must have been in their earliest stage at that point). 

There are five songs on the 12'', the last one of which actually pertains to sloppy folk music (a clear sign of anarcho-influenced music). On the whole, I would suggest that A State of Mind and their brand of versatile anarchopunk with male/female vocals and their focus on animal rights and personal liberation were probably a major influence and a source of inspiration for Naturecore. In addition to this basis, there is also a distinct crossover vibe to the songs (especially "The box", which opens the record, with its guitar solos and drum beat), not so much in terms of sound production but in the songwriting that uses typical crossover structures and riffs (you can even spot some clear-sounding funky bass lines). Yet, Naturecore did not really aim for heaviness and did not have a metal sound but more of a raw hardcore one, full of punk urgency. Some guitar leads and vocal parts (especially the flow) borrow from classic US hardcore and MDC come to mind. Although clearly embedded in the peacepunk tradition (the song "Employment and you" is an unsung anarcho hit) and inspired by the nascent crossover sound (remember the recording is from '86), Naturecore were far from generic, the beats are quite diverse and the writing not linear. I am reminded of a Californian version of Dan, Civilised Society? or, more accurately, of Decadence Within's early period, back when they were meaningfully inbetween dual vocal anarchopunk and crossover hardcore (namely the Speed Hippy Ep and the Shall we Dance? Lp). Or perhaps you could contextually read the band as a peacepunk version of Final Conflict, a transition? It could also be argued that, to some retrospective extent, Naturecore heralded the early sound of Nausea, Antischism or Mankind? although it is difficult to assess how well-known they were at the time outside of their locality.

Lyrically, Naturecore were strong and focused with songs about the brainwashing influence of television, employment as a disempowering tool, the unjust treatment of Native Americans at the end and the exploitation of tribal lands by the government and animal exploitation (quite obviously). Solid stuff. As a bonus, there is a message etched on the run-off groove area (I have always loved these) that says: "If our current system is working...I'de (sic) hate to see it when it's not!".

I managed to find an interview with singer Tammy from 2009 on a website run by Jang from Resist and Exist and Autonomy in which she touches upon her political activities at the time of Naturecore (interview). Though the page has not been updated for a while, a book about the peacepunk scene was apparently in the works at some point. How grand would that be... 



  1. Love this LP. I also FUCKIN LOVE that Vegan Reich song on that killer comp, The ALF Is watching, and there's no place to turn. I think it's one of the punkest (sounding) songs on that comp. so good, that VR song.
    Sean NBSF

  2. New to me. Enjoying it. Thanks. -ZM

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  4. Hello fellow listeners.
    Well, you sure did your homework, and may know more about our band than I do! Yes, we were influenced by everything you mentioned, MDC, UK anarcho stuff, as well as 7 Seconds, The Offenders, Scream, etc. I was friends with the A State of Mind folks and visited them frequently. As for the "pre-Vegan Reich" term, I have no idea who coined that. We start playing in 1984. I met Sean through the mutual stream of friends and some years later in 1988 I heard of Vegan Reich. I was never part of the VR movement nor knew much about it. Sean was the mind behind No Master's Voice and put out the Naturecore record along with the A.L.F. compilation. When I went to England/Europe for six months in 1987-88, and Sean had asked Aaron to play drums on his song. I "believe' that was it though regarding the connection. They didn't play shows with Aaron and Sean was the sole writer of VR material. When I came back from Europe, Naturecore was a ghost, but we managed to put together a Naturecore II and rocked Be-Bop Records in Reseda, CA. Then the drummer Aaron (yes, from Armistice, later Ariel Pink, Beechwood Sparks, and now Skiffle Players) We still had Sanders on bass since the beginning. Though Aaron plays drums like Chuck Biscuits and Mitch Mitchel, he's always been a Deadhead). We got Tony Santiago on vocals (played bass in Armistice with Aaron 1984 along with Ivan Morley, later of Iconoclast) and my old best friend from childhood on guitar "Mike Alvord, who I played with in Black Widow in 1982, with one song on the Metal Massacre III compilation that featured the first release by Slayer. Mike also played in Holy Terror and now has his own band Mind Wars). We changed the name to Black Apple Forrest likely due to the changes from 80s punk to the 90s sound. We recorded a cool demo, then Sanders (my left hand musical muse) quit as well as Aaron. Sanders was difficult to replace as he and I were like Mike Watt and D. Boone in terms of creativity and camaraderie. Aaron was even more difficult to replace because he was like the best drummer on the planet. Luckily Mike is a great guitarist and we have always been really good musical collaborators: natural and flowing. We were becoming quite popular in LA at the Naturel Fudge Company, playing typically filling the (small) place, with a mix of post punk, acoustic, Subhumans styled reggae, 70’s power rock fusion stuff with a hint of Minutemen. There is a video from 1990 on youtube, live at Natural Fudge Co.

    Soooo, that is the long/short story of Naturecore. Ah, there was also a compilation cassette release in 1986 featuring anarcho/punk/folk acts such as "Grandma Hashbrown" on it too. We had other versions of the same songs on that, including an instrumental. No clue as to where it is or if anyone has it. I think it was from Orange County.
    Abrazos from Chile (where I now reside)