ACxDC sound nothing like the Australian band they stole their name from.
ACxDC vocalist Sergio Amalfitano walks into Vacation Vinyl in Los Angeles wearing a Charles Bronson t-shirt. If that sounds like the setup for some kind of punk rock in-joke, Amalfitano could surely provide the punchline. He describes his San Gabriel Valley-bred powerviolence crew as “a war on any and all fundamentalism.” Which is ironic, considering the all-Latino band is famous in LA underground circles for being vegan-straightedge Satanists. The irony, it turns out, is totally on purpose. With song titles like “Vegangelical,” “Hipler Youth,” and “Cheap Punks,” the band’s ferocious self-titled debut takes the piss out of militant shitheads everywhere, especially the ones who happen to share some of the band’s beliefs. But ACxDC also have a darker, more serious side—as evidenced by tracks like “Dead Cops,” “Filicide,” and “Lifeless.” We cornered Amalfitano in Vacation’s stock room to find out more.
Noisey: ACxDC stands for Antichrist Demoncore, but the acronym is obviously the same as that of one of the biggest rock bands in the world. What gives?
Sergio: Before we had the name, we knew we wanted a name like Charles Bronson, something that’s kinda silly and already famous. And we wanted an acronym. I was watching MTV one day, and I saw a Dashboard Confessional video where they ripped off the “DC” in the AC/DC logo, with the lightning bolt and everything. So I thought, “Why don’t we just rip the name off?” But at first it didn’t stand for Antichrist Demoncore—it was whatever we wanted. All Cows Die Cruelly was one. All Cops Deserve Crucifixion was one. All Children Deserve Cookies was one. But we ended up just describing the style of music we play: Antichrist Demoncore.
Your drummer, Jorge Luis Herrera, is also in Despise You, one of the biggest powerviolence bands in LA But this music also has its roots in LA bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Black Flag. I feel like the kids who come to your shows would’ve been at Suicidal and Black Flag shows back in the 80s. Do you feel like you’re a part of that heritage?
Musically, I feel like we have a crossover appeal—I think hardcore kids, metal kids, and punk kids can get into us. LA, and specifically where we started in the San Gabriel Valley, was a hub for powerviolence bands since the very beginning. LA had kind of a snobbier, avant-garde punk scene. But the surrounding areas like the San Gabriel Valley or San Fernando Valley, where Infest is from, had a more hood mentality. I mean, Stapled Shut were from West Covina. Man Is The Bastard were from Claremont. And powerviolence is very much influenced by hip-hop and gangster cholo culture. When we started playing shows, it was backyards at cholo houses. We always connected to the working class vibe—cholos, skinheads, metalheads. We grew up going to those types of shows. A lot of the older heads I talk to, guys in their 40s who have been going to shows forever, tell us that we have that same vibe, that same aggression. So I definitely see us in that lineage—not necessarily of LA, but LA County.
Are you the architect of the ACxDC philosophy?
Partly. I got asked to be in the band by our original guitarist, who is no longer in the band. The concept was his—let’s do a silly, Spazz-type band, where the lyrics talk about Ninja Turtles and stuff. But I could never do that without being at least somewhat serious. So I kinda hid things in our lyrics and artwork, and it took off from there. But now that I can say whatever I want, so the concepts are mine.
Your lyrics have kind of a Dead Kennedys vibe. You’re making fun of people, basically.
We’re making fun of everyone, and a lot of people don’t like that. A lot of the things that people think are holy, we don’t find so holy. On the record, we actually have a song called “Vegangelical” that talks crap on vegans who think they’re better than you because they don’t do something. I think you should base who you are as a person around the things that you do as opposed to the things that you don’t do. Too many people use these labels to think of themselves as higher beings or something. I’m a vegan, but I don’t think that makes me better than anyone else. It just makes me different. There are plenty of vegans who are assholes.
You don’t have the Earth Crisis mentality. You don’t care what anyone else does.
Right. I understand the political aspect of being vegan. I’ve been vegan for 15 years now, and it started with the politics. At that point, I could care less about animals. For me, it was about saving the Earth. So my beliefs are informed by that, but I’d never push my beliefs on anyone because. That’s some weird, fundamentalist bullshit.
That’s why extremists feel the need to fly planes into buildings.
Yeah. I’m not into that. I mean, Earth Crisis or Vegan Reich or these people who would go around beating people up because they ate a hamburger or smoked a cigarette—what does that do? It just makes people hate you. It doesn’t do anything for anyone outside of your own need to feel like a badass. It doesn’t promote your beliefs in a positive way. It’ll actually turn people off.
There were stories about the straightedge scene in Salt Lake City being so violent that t-shirts with the slogan “Drug Free” on them were considered gang attire by clubs and schools.
Oh, yeah. I’ve had friends get pulled over because they had straightedge decals on their car, because that’s considered gang-affiliated now. That’s another thing: I’m straightedge, but I hate a lot of straightedge kids. One aspect of their life becomes their identity and they become so militant about it that it’s devoid of anything positive. So what if you don’t drink? You’re still a dick.
There’s only one other straightedge dude in ACxDC, right?
Yeah. There’s one other guy who’s straightedge, but he’s not vegan. The other guys drink, smoke, do drugs. It’s not an issue. We’re considered a vegan-straightedge band even though I’m the only one who’s vegan-straightedge. But the other guys are cool with me talking about it in the lyrics. They’re cool with me putting information out there as long as I’m not doing it in a way that’s talking down on anybody, which would be hypocritical, obviously—because most of the guys aren’t vegan or straightedge.
Okay, so you’ve got the vegan aspect of the band, the straightedge aspect, and then you throw Satanism on top of that. Which seems like a strange three-way, don’t you think?
I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened before. (Laughs) The Satanism aspect is like the vegan one in that it’s a platform to discuss certain ideas. Not everyone in the band agrees a hundred percent with all of them. I’m the only one in the band who would label themselves vegan-straightedge-Satanic. I relate to a lot of [Church Of Satan founder Anton] LaVey’s Satanism—freedom of choice, humanism, self-actualization, even not doing drugs. A lot of people don’t realize that LaVey was anti-drug.
How did you get into Satanism?
In 2003, there was kind of a revival of Christian metalcore in our area. We have a song called “We Kill Christians,” and the first two lines are, “We kill Christians/we’re Satanic.” That was us kind of making fun of black metal fans, these kids who are in their backyards trying to act tough. But the only part of that song that’s an actual statement is the line that says, “Fuck religion.” I’m against Satanism as an organized religion, too. If you’re actually theistic, like you believe in the devil, that’s a little weird to me. It’s the same as believing in God. So the Satanism thing is kind of tongue in cheek.
But you’re not totally kidding, like Venom was. You’ve actually read the Satanic Bible and adhere to some of those philosophies.
Right. It’s not like Venom. We don’t do it for the shock value or the gimmick. The term would be liminal Satanism. When a kid in middle school draws an upside-down cross on his notebook, he’s doing it for shock value. We understand the meaning and value of the imagery and the words we’re using. We know they might shock people, but we actually want to shock them into thinking about something and then make up their own minds.
You guys sometimes practice out in El Puente, an LA suburb that’s largely Latino—and, presumably, Catholic. Have you had any problems in the neighborhood?
It’s funny because when people there find out we’re Satanic, they always ask, “Do your grandparents know?” My family are mostly atheists, but everyone in the band has a culturally Christian or Catholic upbringing. We have a lot of religious friends. But they know us and they know where we’re coming from. They know we respect their personal beliefs. We just think they’re kinda silly. But they probably think our beliefs are kinda silly, which is fine.
So there’s no friction?
Not where we live. But on tour last year we were supposed to play a show in Oregon in this extremely religious small town. They found out that Antichrist Demoncore was gonna play because somebody left a flyer with an upside-down cross on someone’s lawn. So that was it. People started protesting at the house we were gonna play, and the fire marshal got called out because they said if we played they were actually gonna burn down the house.
That’s some Slayer shit.
Yeah, it was really weird. I didn’t think that kind of stuff happened anymore—especially at a house show in Oregon in the middle of nowhere. I thought Oregon was pretty liberal, but apparently that’s only Portland and Eugene. But what was cool is that the kids who set up the show moved it to another town, and all the same kids drove out and saw us play. So it was disheartening to deal with bigots, but it was cool to see that there’s an alternative system of people who don’t care about the bigots and live this other lifestyle.
At the same time, if Christians aren’t physically attacking you or your fans, a protest is like free promotion.
It’s funny. In Riverside, we had people show up with signs saying “Jesus Is Savior” because they found out we were playing. I don’t think they get the joke. But then again, people who are very fundamental in their belief systems will probably never get jokes. There’s a huge lack of humor there.
Your twin brother plays guitar in ACxDC. You also have twin daughters. Do you ever feel surrounded?
(Laughs) Yeah. My wife probably feels even more surrounded. We recently got two cats for the girls as well. There’s two of everybody.
What does your twin brother have in common with you in terms of veganism, straightedge, and Satanism?
Let’s see... He was vegan, but he’s not now. He was straightedge, but he’s not now. And he’s an atheist. (Laughs) I’m Mario, and he’s Wario. He’s definitely the evil me.
J. Bennett is not vegan, straightedge, or a Satanist. But he gets along famously with all three.
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