Beliefnet
BOSTON -- Brian McTernan, member of a hard-core rock band since hewas in 8th grade and now the owner of a hard-core recording studio,calls himself the ultimate rebel.

His reason: He doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and doesn't sleeparound, turning what he sees as the depravity of contemporary culture onits head.

Staying away from behavior that harms him, he said, offers himclarity and freedom: "At least I can f------g think."

McTernan, now 23, is part of a large segment of the punk-rock scenewhich calls itself "straight-edge," adhering to a strict moral code thatstands in stark contrast to the hard-partying image of the hard-corerocker.

Many straight-edgers are also devotees of the International Societyfor Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishnas. Afew others are evangelical Christians, and still others, like McTernan,do not mix their chosen lifestyle with religious beliefs at all.

"People who were committed to living clean -- it added a whole newdimension to punk," said Daisy Rooks, who wrote, edited and produced a'zine about the hard-core scene and is herself straight-edge.

Straight-edge music, she added, tends to be slower and less harshmusically, while its lyrics speak about friendships, betrayal, animalrights, and the like.

In addition, so-called "Krishna-conscious" bands with names such asPrema, Shelter, and 108 -- terms which all have special meaning withinISKCON -- sing about their beliefs, relating in song traditional storiesof Krishna and other deities, and espousing ISKCON beliefs, such assobriety and vegetarianism.

Lyrics are sung at a virtual shout, accompanied by pounding,unrelentingly hard-core music.

In the song entitled "Shelter," for example, the group Shelter singsto Krishna: "Thinking that this world revolves around me with myself atthe center, I'll never see what is illusion and reality." And in thesong "Slave," the band 108 sings: "Lust: this is your God. Greed: thisis your God. Sex: This is your God. And he wipes the floor with you,slave. I reject this whole charade."

"Sound vibration is powerful. It can change the consciousness," saidJohn Porcelly, a longtime member of hard-core bands, including Shelter,and himself an ISKCON devotee. "The sound of a babbling brook can makeus peaceful, whereas the sound of roaring raucous death metal can bringout violence in us. Likewise, spiritual sound vibration, such as mantrasor even modern music with a spiritual message, has the potency to makeus more spiritually minded."

ISKCON was founded in New York in the late 1960s as a Westerninterpretation of orthodox Hinduism. ISKCON devotees venerate the deityKrishna through exuberant dancing and singing, while leading chaste,sober, vegetarian lifestyles.

With their shaved heads, bright-colored robes, and ubiquitousproselytizing, ISKCON devotees left an indelible image on the '60scounterculture but have taken a more low-key public role as the movementhas matured and developed in the decades since.

"Krishna-core" albums generally are produced and marketed bycompanies catering to straight-edge and Krishna-conscious music, such asthe Hudson, N.Y.-based Equal Vision Records and the Huntington,Calif.-based Revelation.

Today, Shelter is working on a new album and ISKCON devoteescontinue to frequent the hard-core scene in large numbers and play inits straight-edge bands.

But fewer active bands sing about their ISKCON beliefs or use thestage to proselytize than in the early and mid-'90s, althoughnon-religious straight-edge bands are still as active as ever. And, according to Rooks, many straight-edge bands were directly influenced by Krishna bands andincorporate some of the movement's ideals into their lyrics.

While not using the stage as much to proselytize, the albums of 108,Shelter and Prema continue to influence young people and help attractthem to ISKCON temples.

"The straight-edge scene is bigger than ever in America andEurope," Porcelly said. "And kids in that scene seem to be naturallyattracted to spiritual life since they already follow a lot of the basictenets, like no intoxication and no meat eating."

Porcelly, better known by the nickname Porcell, himself came toISKCON through the hard-core scene. When he became an ISKCON devotee, hesaid, "It wasn't that I had to give up what I liked to do and camenaturally to me -- music -- but I just had to spiritualize it."

As a result, he was among the founders of Shelter, one of the mostwell-known and popular straight-edge Krishna-conscious bands. Althoughhe lived as an ISKCON monk in a temple for several years, he now livesoutside the temple and, while still a committed devotee, has optedagainst the monastic lifestyle and plans to get married.

By all accounts, the combination of Krishna consciousness and thehard-core scene was not an instant hit, with many in the scene wary ofthe explicit proselytizing, the busloads of robed devotees at concertsand the sudden, newfound religiosity of "typical" hard-core teens. Inaddition, some in the scene assailed what they considered to be ISKCON'shomophobia and misogyny.

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