Alex Reed, the prescient and timely visionary/musician behind the post-industrial/punk, synths and acoustic-driven Seeming, offers his sagacious views on our world and ourselves on new album The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Atrocity, which came out on August 21st via Artoffact Records.
Formerly of the band ThouShaltNot, Reed delivers compelling and on-point socio-political, environmental, and personal messages with his music that blends elements of post-punk, chamber pop, and synth-pop.
Reed, who is also a professor and published author who works out of the New York area, kindly took some time to reply to our ongoing Protest Interview series.
Hello! Please introduce yourself and give a brief description of your sound/musical vision.
Our vision is to make pop that decenters human experience. This can seem oxymoronic at first, but I think that dance, noise, and poetry can be pathways to selflessness in every sense of the word. The first step is wiping out greed and exploitation, and so a lot of our songs are about dismantling power, both generally and specifically. I use the musical language of the gothic because it richly suggests there's a dark underbelly to everything, an Else. And I think it's ripe for leftist politics inasmuch as it can similarly insinuate that there's something rotten and unresolved about power itself.
What are the main personal, national, and/or international issue(s) concerning you the most these days?
A few years ago I might have waved my arms and said, "Everything!" I feel that pan-revolutionary urge to overturn the world's assumptions about money, gender, race, family, religion, language, technology, you name it. I want to make the world a bigger, kinder place. I want us to assume a reduced footprint and a reduced collective ego. I think that'd make more room for each person and creature to explore all the ways of being that capitalism seems to preempt.
But these days the threats are so real and specific: in America we have weaponized systemic racism, fear-driven dogma at every level of politics, and a gross privileging of property over life, whether human or otherwise. Those issues take priority in 2020, and if that means I spend less time on my antinatalist soapbox, then so be it.
What song, video, or lyrics quote of yours best represents your current viewpoint on these important topics?
The new single "End Studies" is a good starting point. The song is an apocalyptic stomp declaring, "The future will borderless and red and queer and bold." I also value meditations on extinction and decentering human experience.
The video for "Come Back" gets at that pretty well. And finally, a lot of the changes we can make are individual shifts in perspective.
We did a single featuring the rapper Sammus a few years ago, called "Stranger," and it turned into our biggest song. Its chorus says, "When the world is a danger to you... keep getting stranger." Weirdness itself is a kind of freedom.
What’s your favorite song, video, or lyrics quote by another act or artist that best exemplifies, or at least partly relates to, your current viewpoint?
I've been listening a lot lately to Backxwash, clipping, Hundred Waters, and Azar Swan. But to pick one song, I so admire the politics and paradoxes in New Model Army's old punk epic "I Love the World."
What other forms of protest, besides through your music, are you involved with to get your message across?
I've devoted time and money to Black Lives Matter, mutual aid groups, trans rights, Extinction Rebellion, the Humane Society, and a great local organization called Ithaca Underground. But my main work comes through teaching. I teach music and cultural history, including classes on punk and Black music history. I try to do all this in ways that are empowering, mind-expanding, anti-racist, creative, and in a word, revolutionary.
It’s easy to judge and criticize others, especially in these unsettling times of overt intolerance, ignorance, and insults, but the fact remains that we need to work together to ensure that positive change occurs. Name an action to take, or a campaign/charity that would be worthwhile to contribute to, for your cause.
Here's an action. Build your own world. Cut the toxic folks from your life, your social media, your headspace. We get much further by making places, art, communities, and economies that value our ways of being than we do by trying to please others who already hate us.
What gives you hope for the future?
Remembering that our situations are only situations. And that somewhere there's an animal happily doing its thing, not worrying about humans at all.