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An Analysis of the Music of the Alt-Right: Know Your Enemy

Text by Dawoud Kringle

“The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.” – William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice, act 5, scene 1)

Alt-Right rally in Charlottesville

On Friday, August 11th, 2017, white nationalists chose the largely liberal town of Charlottesville (Virginia) to stage a protest march. The alt-right, of whom white nationalists and white supremacists are an integral part. met with counter protesters. Violence and bloodshed erupted when an alt-rightist, in an indisputable an act of domestic terrorism, drove a car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring several.

A detailed analysis of the political dimensions of the alt-right is beyond the scope of this article and this publication. However, when placed within the scope and mission of DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, one question that arises is “What are the musical tastes of the alt-right? What is the musical soundtrack of their subculture?”

In the interim period between the 2016 election, and the inauguration on January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump’s staff had terrible difficulty finding musicians to perform at his inaugural celebration (see my article Very few self-respecting musicians wanted to be associated with the Trump administration. At the time it seemed that Trump’s only choices were Kid Rock or Ted Nugent. However, Jackie Evanchi, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Toby Keith, The Radio City Rockettes, 3 Doors Down, Sam Moore, Lee Greenwood, Tony Orlando, and a handful of others chose to perform. Toby Keith also accompanied Trump on his trip to Saudi Arabia, and performed a concert there with Arabian oudist Rabeh Saqer.

These performers aside, there are a number of other nuances that determine the alt-right’s taste in music, and by default, form the soundtrack of their Nazi revisionist endeavors.

One safe assumption is the more “classic” hardcore skinhead music in genres such as Hatecore Punk, Nazi Punk, National Socialist Black Metal, Rock Against Communism and Oi (the later two of which originated in the UK). Artists such as the Hammerskins, Kolovrat, Landser, Hate Forest, Blue Eyed Devils, Prussian Blue, Goatmoon, Macht und Ehre, No Remorse, and Skullhead come to mind. Some subgenres of country music support alt-right racist ideologies as well. (I must, in all fairness, point out that there existed a genre of skinhead music and subculture that was vehemently opposed to racism. These included hardcore bands such as Warzone and Murphy’s Law.)

However, as the younger generation of white supremacists eschewed the shaved heads and jackboots of their forebears, their musical tastes have evolved as well.

The most unexpected development in the alt-right’s cultural evolution is the embracing of 80’s Synthwave. According to Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, “The forms of music associated with previous White Nationalist movements are pretty dated. No one would condone allowing rock music to be played in the Holy Temple of KEK*. In the end, the solution to this problem had been staring me in the face all along. The Whitest music ever: Synthwave. The music is the spirit of the childhoods of millennials. Our souls are wrapped up in these sounds.”

This evolved into a new genre alt-rightists call Fashwave (or Fascist Wave; with a new subgenre called Trumpwave). This phenomenon began in 2015 when EDM producer Cybernazi released the single “Galactic Lebenstraum.” It was a major deviation from all previously accepted genres of white supremacist music. Cybernazi’s album of the same name (with tracks such as “Right Wing Death Squads” and “Cyber Kampf” set to the sound of dreamy, ethereal synth pads) established a template for the new genre.

Soon, artists such as Vast Hill, Timecop1983, College, Mitch Murder, Retroxx, Kavinsky, The Midnight, Circe Electro, Xurious, Kek Comando, Eternal Reich, Wolf and Raven, FM-84, and others began showing up on Fashwave playlists. A new movement of Fashwave artists resurrected 80’s synthwave, and blended it with the themes and imagery of contemporary Nazi revisionism, white-nationalism, and white supremacy. Original fashwave lacks originality, and tends to sound derivative and unimaginative (fascism and white nationalism are historically proven to nullify actual artistic creativity. People who hold such ideas cannot produce real art).

However, the best music found on fashwave playlists comes from pre-existing synthwave artists who have done nothing to associate themselves with the alt-right. The fact that the far right likes their work is entirely incidental and unintended. Swedish synthwave producer Robert Parker was quoted as saying “I have no control over how my music is shared. I do not use any language or imagery that can be connected with it.” He and other synthwave producers are horrified by the alt-right’s use of their music, condemn the politics of the fashwave fans and artists, and have neither done nor said anything to attract them.

In a way, it’s not surprising synthwave has been embraced by neo-fascists. It attempts to trap people by making their ideas seem friendly and approachable. Likewise, the slogans on fashwave-related art work were softened and made oblique and vague for wider consumption. The co-option by the far right of styles and clichés from the 80s comes from people romanticizing the underground electronic music scene from 30 years ago. One psychological trait political conservatives posses is that they prefer an idealized past (which may or may not have actually existed) to any possible future. The extremists among them who embrace the alt-right wish to hold their perceived power by freezing history in an Orwellian manner. Fashwave is the newest expression of this idea among an idealized alt-right youth.

* Author’s note: Kek was an ancient Egyptian androgynous god of primordial darkness. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain why alt-rightists, many of whom claim to be Christians, embrace this form of idolatry.