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|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Years active||1996–99, 2016-present|
Racetraitor is an American political straight edge hardcore punk band from Chicago, Illinois. They released an album called Burn the Idol of the White Messiah on Uprising Records and then a split EP called Make Them Talk on Trustkill with their friends in the Indianapolis band Burn It Down.
Racetraitor was one of the most controversial political bands of the 1990s hardcore scene and garnered on the covers of both Maximumrocknroll and HeartattaCk before recording a single note of music. The name Racetraitor was in reference to using one's social and economic privilege to create a more egalitarian world. The idea was to take the pejorative term "race traitor" used by white American racists and claim it as a positive self-chosen label. The band was known for aggressively challenging audiences to confront the ways they might help perpetuate or buy into racist and exploitative social and economic systems. Many of their shows turned into heated arguments and they became one of the most talked about political hardcore bands of the late 1990s.
Early Racetraitor music could be characterized as powerviolence and grindcore, featuring an abundance of noise and blast beats. Songs often timed less than a minute, which gave their early shows the quality of containing more spoken word than music. Eventually, their 90's hardcore, extreme metal, especially death metal, and metalcore influences came to the foreground and Racetraitor's songs became longer and more defined.
The band cites their influences as 108, Deicide, Los Crudos, Groundwork, Public Enemy, Unbroken, Suffocation, Downcast, Sepultura, Acme, Pantera, Ressurrection, Propagandhi, Quicksand (American band), Metallica, KRS-One, Lauryn Hill, Ottawa, Neurosis, Anthrax, Minor Threat, The Misfits, Meshuggah, Man is the Bastard, Union of Uranus, Arrested Development, Spitboy, and Bolt Thrower.
- "Continuing the tradition Demo" (recorded in 1996, released by Contraband Media in 2016)
- Burn the Idol of the White Messiah (Uprising Records, 1998)
- Make Them Talk split EP (Trustkill with vinyl released on Goodlife Records, 1999)
- By the Time I Get to Pennsylvania EP (Organized Crime Records, 2016)
- Burn the Idol of the White Messiah: remix and remaster (Carry the Weight Records / Contraband Media, 2017)
- Invisible Battles Against Invisible Fortresses EP (Organized Crime Records, 2017)
- The Great Age Of Enlightenment? (Hit The Ground Running and A-Team Records, 1998)
- Ya Basta! Benefit For Food For Chiapas (PowderKeg, 1998)
- Straight Edge: Rise of a New Era (Break Out Records, 1999)
Racetraitor's message centered around anti-racism and anti-colonialism. They often discussed issues like white privilege, class privilege, the war on drugs and biases in the US criminal justice system, inequities in economic globalization, and US foreign policies in Latin American and the Middle East. The name Racetraitor was in reference to using one's social and economic privilege to create a more egalitarian world. The idea was to take the pejorative term "race traitor" used by white American racists and the band claim it as a positive self-chosen label. The band's message also held that "race" was an artificial and constructed human category and was a social construct devised to facilitate exploitation and oppression. Their radical beliefs were influenced by black nationalism, third worldism and other anti-colonial ideologies (and for some members, eventually, Islam). Their lyrics also touched on topics of sexual abuse, spirituality, corporate dominance of economic and public life, rugged individualism. The band's members were vegan and lived the straight edge lifestyle.
Especially in the early days of the band, Racetraitor consciously took a more confrontational approach to spreading its message for and ideas about such social justice. They would often challenge their (mostly white) audiences to recognize the roles that everyone played in perpetuating racial, sociocultural, economic, and colonial oppression. The band became known for calling their own audience members "crackers", which they explained as people who "crack the whip"; not necessarily someone who is caucasian, in other words, but rather those who simply perpetuate racism and exploitation in their day-to-day lives. According to members of Racetraitor, this "in-your-face" approach was intentionally designed to shock audiences and force a debate on issues such individuals might otherwise have totally ignored. After both the release of their first record and starting to garner considerable attention across the American hardcore scene, Racetraitor's message and means of communication gradually evolved to become much less confrontational in its style and instead took something of a more motivational form.
Drummer Andy Hurley became a member of Fall Out Boy alongside occasional Racetraitor fill-in bass player Pete Wentz. Hurley also played drums in several other projects, including Killtheslavemaster and Project Rocket, and was briefly reunited with singer Mani Mostofi in a band called The Kill Pill, who released one record on Uprising before disbanding. Hurley was also a guest drummer on the "Jihad" EP released by the briefly reformed Vegan Reich. In 2016, Hurley joined the band Sect with members of Earth Crisis and Burning Love.
Dan Binaei went on to form Arma Angelus with Pete Wentz and Jay Jancetic (Harm's Way). For a short time it also included Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) on bass, and eventually Andy Hurley on drums. Binaei currently has put together a new experimental rock project entitled Tiger Spirit consisting of previous members of Suicide File, Sweet Cobra, and Nude Celebs.
Bass player Brent Decker continued his activism in the US and abroad before returning to Chicago. Currently, Decker works at Cure Violence out of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health (Cure Violence stops the spread of violence in communities by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control) and plays in a band called Tiger Spirit.
Mostofi briefly played in a Chicago band called the Enemy that recorded but never released a full length on Indicision Records. When members of the Enemy joined the Rise Against and Shai Hulud, Mani formed the Kill Pill. After the Kill Pill, he went on to complete an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He continued his activism in the anti-war and Palestinian rights movements and traveled to the Middle East extensively. More recently, Mostofi earned a JD at Fordham Law School in New York with an emphasis in international law and works as a human rights researcher and advocate.
Eric Bartholomae, who played bass and guitar, spent several years doing activism in Chicago following the breakup of the band. In the fall of 2008, he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Now relocated to California, Eric is currently pursuing two Master's Degrees in Nutritional Sciences and Exercise Physiology, with the goal of earning a Ph.D. and conducting applied biochemical research related to diet and exercise performance while teaching university classes. Additionally, he holds a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and competes regularly in powerlifting meets. He is still vegan straight edge.
Lastly, Karl Hlavinka left Racetraitor in 1997, eventually joining the Pittsburgh band Creation is Crucifixion. He later left Creation is Crucifixion, returning to play on and off with Racetraitor until the band's breakup in 1999, after which he went on to form the aforementioned Killtheslavemaster with Hurley.
Since Racetraitor's break up there have been occasional reunion rumors, but nothing ever materialized. In 2016, however, the band announced on its Facebook page that they were in the process of re-mixing "Burn the Idol" for a re-release on vinyl. In August 2016, the band announced its first show in 17 years with Detroit hardcore band Earthmover.
In September 2016, the group went on to release two brand new songs: "By the Time I Get to Pennsylvania" and "Damaged". All music is available at the band's bandcamp page.
“We had discussed playing a show or doing something else over the years, but nostalgia was never all that motivating, so the idea died,” explained Hurley in September 2016. “But with everything happening in the past couple of years, from the way things heated up in Ferguson, Missouri, to the rise in xenophobia and bigotry reflected by the popularity of Donald Trump, making new music with Racetraitor felt important again. We needed to respond to this moment in history in our own way.”
In July 2017, Carry the Weight Records, from the United Kingdom, released reissue Burn the Idol of the White Messiah. The record was remixed by Dallas Thomas from the Chicago band Pelican (band). The same month Organized Crime Records released a new EP from the Racetraitor called Invisible Battles Against Invisible Fortresses.
Racetraitor in the press
Racetraitor has been featured in the books Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound by Brian Peterson (ISBN 978-1889703022), Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics by Gabriel Kuhn (ISBN 978-1-60486-051-1) and New Wave of American Heavy Metal by Garry Sharpe-Young (ISBN 978-0958268400).
- Adams, Gregory (September 27, 2016). "Fall Out Boy Drummer Andy Hurley's Racetraitor Return with Comeback Single". Exclaim!. Archived from the original on September 29, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
- "Racetraitor release new music, announce reunion show". Lambgoat. September 27, 2016. Archived from the original on October 2, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2017.