No doubt there are sun worshippers in Jutland, vegetarian barbecue chefs, male readers of Women's Day. But Josh Scandlen--of Phoenix, Arizona, and Charles Schwab and Company--is a libertarian advocate of hard-core punk rock, possibly the most entirely leftist subgenre of youth popular music outside of folk, and that puts him in a funny position. It's hard to be a politically minded fan when there are almost no actual libertarian-conservative hard-core bands presently in existence. Scandlen hopes to do something about that, as the founder (with his brother) of Moosestyle Records, probably the country's only libertarian hard-core label, and the writer of its pro-capitalist Death to All Tyrants e-zine, featuring polls with headings like "Do You Invest in the Stock Market?", jeremiads on the un-Americanness of soccer, and links to conservative newspapers and the Dow Jones. All of this has proven enough to drive ordinary hard-core aficionados, who tend to be vegan, left wing, anarchist-pluralist, and "straightedge," he notes--that is, drug free and teetotal--to send some heated e-mails, which they constantly do. "Not threatening bodily abuse," says Scandlen, "but angry at us."
He is eager to talk and even a little apologetic. Since moving away from Washington, D.C.--both our nation's political center and the historic capital of U.S. hardcore--he's had to endure the dry sirocco of a musical desert. Arizona is no place for hardcore. His wife hates the music. She merely endures the presence of Moosestyle headquarters in a closet of the new house they've bought--"It's just like a closet, slash, computer room, slash, distribution center," he says.
What makes Scandlen so likable is that he takes his politics and his music seriously--and refuses to bow out when his two loves ought to fight like cats and dogs. Once, Scandlen was something of a "lefty." He kept an American flag upside-down in his house. He attended Jesse Jackson rallies. He voted for Dukakis in 1988. A spell in the U.S. Army at posts in Honduras and El Salvador changed his mind. He witnessed poverty. Capitalism--capitalism would help. The third world needed it. But the ideological shift couldn't loosen his genuine love for a music that--apart from the vocalist's bellowings--sounds to most untrained listeners as if they'd put their head between two bass drums, positioned an amplifier in front, and rigged the whole kit up to the drive train of a V8 engine. Nowadays, he will send a Milton Friedman book to a Moosestyle listener in Singapore if he thinks that person is ready.
Scandlen does not play the music himself, so finding politically appropriate bands will be an uphill climb. But he is willing to make do with what he has. Moosestyle now mostly releases recordings of bands that Scandlen feels show significant artistic merit, like As They Die and New York City's 4 in tha Chamber. "They're pretty liberal," he says. His current project is to compile an album of pro-American bands. Responses have come from Canada. In the longer run, he would like to hold an anti-Woodstock. "I have these fantasies of having a huge pro-American concert here in Arizona, from all across America." A political figure would give a speech, Scandlen says, "a real radical-type conservative libertarian," and he'd have "all these veterans--and pro-American bands playing. Like, 15,000 people. That's my dream. Like my alternative to Rage Against the Machine."
Rage Against the Machine is a sore point. The infamous anarcho-socialist rap-rock outfit [see "Revolution Number 9," TAP, January 17, 2000] regularly delivers "free Mumia" polemics on MTV and continues to dominate the hard-rock charts, with worldwide album sales in the multimillions--whereas Moosestyle still has 500 CDs left in a closet after giving away most of an initial run of 2,000 for free. But Scandlen is more wistful about Rage than hostile. "The problem is," he says plaintively, "their music is good! I start listening, and I just have to turn the dial. I always say, 'Damn, I wish they could just be moderate.' They could have voted for Clinton; I don't care." He is not the first connoisseur to be caught between art and politics. The editor Henry Luce once complained, "Republicans can't write." Time will tell whether conservative libertarians can kick out the jams.