When I caught up with Kevin Sharp, he was building a deck with his construction company somewhere in Georgia. When asked what the weather was like down by him, his singular response said it all, “Inferno.”
“I must have hit my head this year, man,” he says. “Usually, I book a bunch of indoor work during the summer. It’s a million degrees by 4pm, and the sun just kills me. I work all the time. I build shit, or tour, or manage bands. I’m like everyone else, just scrambling to pay the bills.”
Kevin Sharp’s band Venomous Concept is an old school hardcore band in the vein of NOTA, SSD, and Poison Idea, the latter literally inspiring their name. He is joined in the band by Danny Herrera on drums, Dan Lilker on bass, John Cooke on guitar, and Shane Embury, also of Napalm Death, on guitar. Sharp’s former band, Brutal Truth, is a household name in the world of extreme music, as one of the pioneering acts in the nascent grindcore scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Pushing music to its limits in terms of amelodicism, speed, and unvarnished truth, Brutal Truth cemented their place in the pantheon of gruesome, god-eating heavy metal with their genre-defining debut, Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses, and continued to live up to the threat posed by their name until disbanding in 2014.
Venomous Concept, in contrast, was never meant to be as groundbreaking sonically, but does in fact manage does pull its weight, both in terms of aggression and brutal honesty. And Venomous Concept is nothing if not honest with you. A policy of which their latest album, Politics Versus the Erection, released through Season of Mist this year, is no exception. Wild, relentless, and aggrieved, the sound and views that pour out of the album are as poisonous to the status quo as an ounce of strychnine in a lime martini.
“I wrote a song years ago called ‘Kill All Politicians,’ and my opinions have not changed,” Sharp states firmly when asked him about his political views in the run up to this year’s presidential election. “Vote them all out!”
Elaborating on his anti-politician politics, Sharp offers the following explanation.
“They’ve proven themselves to just be brands that sit on top of the respective parties. They spend ten minutes out of their day thinking about policy and the rest of it marketing to their next campaign.”
Regardless of whoever is in charge, the machinery of greed and graft that undergirds the system doesn’t change.
“Look at the campaigning going on right now,” Sharp says. “You’re campaigning during a pandemic and their idea of marketing is: ‘Well, the other guy is more evil than me!’ That’s not really a good sales point.”
The cover of Politics Versus the Erection shows Donald Trump’s face perversely melding with that of Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine fame, like an apple pie that’s fallen on a slab of ham. Kevin explains that the commentary made by the image doesn’t line up with the partisan politics of the day.
“It’s the devil and the ding-dong,” he says. “The two faces of a one-sided coin, overlapping. Red or blue clown shows. Take your pick.”
Describing the dysfunction of the present political discourse that the cover represents, Sharp explains: “We’re all fucking neighbors and we all have the same struggle. The same hopes. The same desires. And these clowns have marketed [a politics] that pits us against each other.”
To Sharp, the spectacle of hand-wringing and public condemnation that occurs in Washington and online plays to the benefit of the establishment.
“It’s just job security for them. They don’t want you getting along, because then the majority will focus on getting them out of office.”
Kevin has a special ax to grind with social media in particular.
“It trains people to hate each other,” he exclaims. I think most people would agree with this statement to one degree or another. For my part, I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of vitriol online.
Hardcore and metal have their own legacies of petty behavior to contend with – sniping, back-biting comments disseminated through zines and interviews, and even songs and cover art. One particularly humorous but off-putting example comes from Venomous Concept’s namesake, Poison Idea, and the cover of their Ian Mackaye EP (don’t look it up).
“That’s fun and games, man,” Kevin chuckles. “That’s like when Seth Putnam [Anal Cunt] used to give me a hard time in his songs, but we were friends. It’s just a light ribbing, is all.”
Looping back to the subject of social media, on whether the conversations taking place there are of an order of magnitude worse than the scene feuds of his day, Kevin confirms that they are.
“[It] is pure fucking hatred,” he explains. “The purest form of anger. It’s weird.”
On whether Americans have a right to be angry at someone and who they should direct their anger towards, Sharp says: “Save that for the rich people, the mega-billionaires. Save that anger for fucking Bezos. He’s fucking earned it.”
Photo by Venomous Concept
Pick up a copy of Politics Versus the Erection here