On Halloween last year, eight days before the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, Austin, Texas industrial punk band BLXPLTN released their second album, the abrasive and pertinent New York Fascists Week, with artwork featuring the soon-to-be commander-in-chief snorting various body parts through a straw while donning his infamous “Make America Great Again” red baseball cap. A year later, BLXPLTN has even more to be angry about and an ideal outlet for expressing that furore. In anticipation of the band’s third album, we spoke with vocalist TaSzlin Muerte about his bandmates, his thoughts on Betsy DeVos, and his hopes for the punk community.

What was your musical background before forming BLXPLTN?

My parents were very religious. They were both pastors in a cult, a very far-right wing cult, but there was music that was played all the time. Just kind of told I wasn’t good enough to play music in said cult, but that was probably my earliest memory. As far as, like, instruments and music being made and things like that, I’d ride around with my uncle and he was balling to Soulsonic Force and stuff like that. I grew up in a hip-hop culture, on the cool, unbeknownst to my parents. As far as rock ‘n’ roll, I had a friend that I used to skate with, who was a huge Mötley Crüe fan, which was my probably like my earliest exposure to anything besides hip-hop. I kept meeting people in school that are giving me mixtapes and whatnot and here we are (laughs).

How did your parents take you going down this path?

I was never really raised around my father. I was raised around my stepfather. He was an asshole, still is. They’re proud of me, but rather than condemn me for the music that I make, now they always have something to say. “You should be doing this!” and they really want to know what’s going on, and it’s really weird. (laughs) I mean, I guess I can say they’re proud of me for the most part.

On your first album, you have a song, ‘Start Fires,’ where you say, “You’re a tiger and I’m a lion.” What to you, is the difference between a tiger and a lion?

Well they’re both big cats, (laughs) just one’s a little different from the other, you know? But they’re both cats. I think (BLXPLTN member Jonathan Horstmann) is the one who wrote the lyrics to that song. I mean, I always argue with this fucking guy. Like, I love him to death, but me and this dude we are like two rams with our horns interlocked and butting heads, and I think he wrote it about me and him, (laughs) arguing we’re both big cats, and we’re very different but we’re both still cats (laughs).

Your latest single, ‘Education Destruction,’ it’s really intense and I’m just wondering how it came to life.

Someone was here at our studio, and they were doing a documentary about BLXPLTN and they were like, “Hey, can we videotape you guys like practicing?” and we’re like, “We guess” and basically a lot of songs we come up with, sometimes we just jam, and I come up with the lyrics off the top of my head and we record it and we decide whatever sticks, we’re gonna use it. So, basically, I was pissed off. I’d been watching the news all day, and I hate Betsy DeVos, whatever her name is, I hate her guts, and I had been watching news about her all day. So, we basically made that song up on the fly. We were just jamming, and our producer was here and he was like, “Yo, that’s rad. Y’all should keep that.” So, it’s just a day of watching the news and being mad and then screaming about it, you know?

Your last album, New York Fascist Week it features an image of Donald Trump snorting...something. I’m not sure what it is.

(Laughs) Cocaine people.

It came out the week before he was elected. Did you expect him to win?

I did not expect him to win, but in the back of my mind, I knew that he was. It’s kinda like that soccer game you watch when you got your team that you like a lot, and in the back of your head you just know they just don’t have it and you know they’re going to lose. That’s basically how I felt about Donald Trump. I just knew, like people are fucking stupid. We live in this time where people are like up is down, down is up, pink is green, and I just felt like, no, I didn’t expect him to win. And when we made that, I actually have a lot of guilt about that album cover. A friend of ours put that in Pixels. He’s the one who created the artwork, and when I told him I wanted the artwork for that cover, he thought it was rad and we were like, “Oh, this is so cool.” And then, when you got this guy as your fucking president, I have guilt, because I felt like I gave him too much of us. Like, I fucking put his face on our album cover. He has enough publicity.

There’s so much palpable intensity in your songs. I think of something like ‘Stop & Frisk’ for instance. Does writing music help alleviate your anger, or does it kind of further provoke it?

Being in this band started as a way for us to feel better about how angry we were. Now, it’s just really fucking depressing. You would think all the terrible things going on that we would have lots of writing material, but it really doesn’t work that way. It’s actually very depressing and not very inspiring at all. As far as being able to go and play a show and thrash and melt faces and stop through the crowd that feels really good at the end of the night. As far as the whole process in being a political band, it’s very very depressing, very dark.

On that note, I’d like to talk about the song ‘How Many Shots,’ because to me, it kind of feels like a bit of a pop song in a way, one that’s pretty bleak, but it’s also kind of uplifting with the refrain of, ‘You are not alone.” I was wondering how that came to life.

That’s a heavy one. I had seen a news story about a cop in Cleveland. Police officers had emptied about 30-something shots into a couple. They had one cop, I guess, jumped on the hood of the car like he’s in Lethal Weapon or something, and they unloaded on this couple. But not only that, I’ve had two family members that have been murdered from gun violence. It’s strange that you ask this question, because I had a good cry session about an hour before you called me, because I just can’t believe still I had another family member that’s been killed. When I wrote that song, I really didn’t want it to be about cops killing. I just wanted to say, like, guns, they fucking kill people and I understand what you’re going through if you’ve had a family member who’s died from gun violence, whether it’s a cop or one of their friends or a family member. I understand it’s a fucking terrible, terrible thing that you can never get over. I felt it needed to be poppy (laughs), ‘cause it’s such a terrible thing. It needed to have some sort of appeal to it, I guess, ‘cause it’s already a really dark thing to talk about.

Your albums are, so far, they’re fairly short, because they’re about less than 30 minutes, but the songs are fairly long for punk tracks. Is this something you do intentionally, or do you just make songs as long as you want them to be?

(Laughs), I mean, I never thought of it that way. The albums are short, because it’s affordable (laughs), and between me, and Jon, and (BLXPLTN drummer Jeremy Kivett), if we can make 20-minute songs, we probably would, but we just can’t afford it, and we’d get up on our high horses and get a lot of ego shit involved. We gotta keep the whole thing short, or they’d just go on forever and forever and we can’t afford to pay for that shit.

In regards to your new drummer, Jeremy Kivett, how have things changed for BLXPLTN with him in the mix?

Things have changed in a way, definitely for the better. It frees me up from being able to get from behind the drum machine and be able to be more active as far as crowd response, getting into the crowd and feel these songs and just play these songs just how they should be felt. I think with him in the band, this is probably the most punk album coming out of BLXPLTN where we have like, straight-up, like point punk songs. I think his drumming dynamic is just amazing. I’m so glad he’s playing.

What makes the third album stand out compared to the first two?

It’s just a lot louder, a lot faster, and a lot more punk. I think we’re kind of revisiting the first one. I think these songs are just more traditional punk, because we have live acoustic drums. It’s going to be a lot different. There’s a lot of post-punk on it too.

You also run your own label, Wolfshield Records. Was that something you always wanted to do?

Yeah, I kinda always wanted a record label. My partner owns the record label. It’s something I’ve always wanted to as a kid, but it was just something that was really necessary. When you start your own label, and you’re doing everything right, it kinda makes you feel better that you’re not chasing a record deal from a major company. It’s like, I’m signed to myself, and all that money, it comes to us (laughs). I don’t have to worry about paying somebody else for my shit, like it’s mine. I shouldn’t have to pay someone to play my music. It doesn’t seem right, right? Having your own label, it takes off a lot of stress. It’s a lot of work, and you gotta get up and you gotta work every fucking day and all hours of the day. So, yeah, it’s awesome.

You’ve played at the AfroPunk Festival a few times. How’s that been for you?

AfroPunk is crazy. I think it’s really good for the culture and for people that aren’t AfroPunks, like people who are not black or brown or people of colour, to come and see what people of colour are really about, and some of the really cool things about our culture and our way of dressing and our music and our food. It’s great. The late, great Ikey Owens from Mars Volta is the one that saw a cell phone of a show of ours and actually gave it to AfroPunk and was like, “You need to check these guys out” and that’s how we got hooked up with them. Really, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what we’d be doing (laughs). We owe everything to them, but it’s a great place to go and see and experience people of colour and the culture if you don’t know.

Since punk is so tied to the live experience, how does performing live affect your songs, if at all?

Some songs aren’t going to sound like how you heard them on the album, because there’s instruments that we play in studio that we don’t play on stage. So, they may sound a little different. Sometimes, it’s a little difficult to try to transfer that sound onto a live stage, but I think people get the gist of it. But, it can get difficult. Sometimes, there’s a laziness on my part, because I can have a lot of loops and stuff on my drum machine, but then that requires all those being on the same BPM, and when you play as loud as we do, because we play really fucking loud, you can easily get off track. So, we try to keep things simple.

Do you have any specific hopes or wishes for the punk community, either in Austin or just at large?

I’m too old to worry about getting a bunch of money and having guitar-shaped swimming pools and whatnot. My hopes now are that punks come together, and I hope that through our message and our dedication and our music and stuff that people just start respecting each other, man. I’d like to see the language change in the punk communities, because the punk community I grew up in, it’s very abrasive, the language that we use towards each other and everyone else, and I’d like people to be more mindful about who’s standing around and who it’s in the scene. And I’d like to see queer people respected and women respected. I’d like to see more queer artists more, more female leads, more female bands, more trans people, like trans punk bands, and I would like the community just to be a lot more open-minded and more accepting, especially when it comes to people of colour making this music. That’s pretty much what I’d like to see, everyone wanting to be the next Soundcloud rapper being the next punk artist. It’s not hard, learn three chords (laughs). Start a fucking band!