Of all the hardcore groups I dug in the ’90s (and boy were there plenty), In/Humanity
might be the freshest-sounding group of the bunch. They managed to combine the Gravity
Records scene’s frantic aggression with the brutality of power-violence and the nihilistic
pranksterism of Vermiform into a distinctive and fantastic product. It didn’t sound
like they were trying to play their songs so much as escape from them, as the drums and
guitars played with the speed and intensity of a fiery man running towards a pool. And
of course, they managed to be completely weird, too, releasing a slow-brooding 7″ single
that featured a unique photograph on every cover and an occult-themed final album, not
to mention creating the tongue-in-cheek genre “emo violence” among other gags and tricks.
Vocalist Chris Bickel has been up to numerous things since In/Humanity’s demise, from
the avant-noise explorations of Anakrid to the gut-punching hardcore of Guyana Punch
Line. Below, he provides a little history behind the mystery.

How did In/Humanity get started? Was there some sort of dramatic change that
occured early on? Your first 7″, the Intolerable EP, sounds pretty much nothing
like the rest of the band’s discography…

I was living in a very small town in South Carolina. There weren’t really other people
to play music with. Only a handful of people in the town listened to any sort of punk or
hardcore at all. This kid Paul moved down from Albany, NY. He was really into the NYHC
scene. He was a couple of years younger than me and managed to get a couple of local younger
kids to play with him. We found each other quickly because it was a small town and anyone
into hardcore was bound to find each other. So we first started playing as Tolerance, which
was very short-lived. After some line-up changes, we changed the name of the band to
In/Humanity. It was a weird band from the start, because Paul was into all of this NYHC music
and I was mostly listening to peace-punk. I already had a label at that point, Stereonucleosis,
and had released a couple of Antischism records before the existence of In/Humanity. So
I released the first In/Humanity record, which really should have been a demo tape. It
got crucified in reviews because it was in all actuality terrible. We had sold
half the pressing out during our release party. (By the time of the record release I had
moved to Columbia, SC, which was a bigger town and had a supportive hardcore scene –
despite being terrible, we had a following.) Anyway, we realized quickly that we had put
out a bad record, so we destroyed the remainder of the pressing by gouging symbols and
messages into the vinyl with compass-points. We gave those records away free at our shows.
People seemed really happy to be getting a free record! By the time we were destroying
those records, I had gotten Paul to come around to stuff I was listening to at the time,
like Neurosis and Rorschach and Born Against. He was still not crazy about the older
peace-punk stuff I was into, but those newer bands were appealing to him and began informing
his music writing. We put out a few records after that which were all over the place;
we were still trying to find a sound. It wasn’t until the Gets Killed By Robots 7″ EP that
we sort of came into our own. It was fast and chaotic and discordant. Soon thereafter,
we found a new drummer who was more in-tune with the kind of loose chaos we were looking
to create musically, and then we did The Nutty Antichrist LP which I think is the best thing
we ever recorded.

I would probably agree – if I had to recommend an In/Humanity record to someone, it’d
be The Nutty Anti-Christ. Why do you think your music got progressively faster and more
discordant over time? It’s almost like you went the opposite route of a usual hardcore
band progression, ie. “band starts off fast and raw and gets progressively more slick and

It really had to do with Paul being exposed to more than NYHC. I could probably take some
credit there, but moreover we were playing gigs with all kinds of different bands. I think
Paul soaked it all up, assimilated it, and it came out as In/Humanity. I know seeing bands
like Dropdead, Initial State, Antioch Arrow, etc., had an effect.

Were there any bands you played with that really blew you away? Bands that made you
really want to step In/Humanity’s game up, so to speak?

Bands that had a profound effect on In/Humanity include but are not limited to Merel, Rorschach,
Dead And Gone, Antioch Arrow, Headache, Los Crudos, BuzzOv*en, Spazz, and many, many more.
Not to mention our good friends in Palatka and The End of the Century Party. Their friendship
probably had the most profound effect on us as a band.

I always wondered, after spinning the Southeast Hardcore, Fuck Yeah! compilation 7″ a
million times, if there really was this comraderie / friendship among those bands, or if
it was strictly geographical. Was there really a bond between most (or some) of the bands on
that compilation?

Yes. All of those bands were friends. We all played many shows with each other. Mostly in the
Gainesville and Tampa scenes. Florida had an amazing hardcore scene in the mid ’90s.

At what point did that whole scene “end”, so to speak? And why do you think it did? Bands
just broke up and people moved away, that sort of thing?

I’d say it started slowly fizzling out by the early ’00s. I couldn’t say why with any
certainty. If we need to level blame, let’s go with “the Internet”.

Was it hard to be punk in the ’90s in South Carolina? Was there a constant battle between
yourself and ignorant bigots, or was it relatively calm?

I took a lot of shit when I lived in the small town. It actually pushed me further into punk
as a philosophy. I had moved to that town from Virginia Beach, VA. In Virginia Beach I was
into punk, metal, rap, classic rock, new wave, a bit of everything. By the time my family
had relocated to South Carolina, I found myself more and more drawn to punk because it was
the antithesis of all the ignorant assholes I was surrounded by. High school there was a
nightmare. “My War” probably saved me from suicide on more than one occasion. It was different
when I relocated to Columbia. I was in college at that point, and yeah, there was a bit
of frat antagonization, but nothing too out of control. So there it wasn’t “hard to be a
punk”. But it was hard to sit by and see so much ignorant bullshit going on culturally
and governmentally. That was a constant source of idiocy to be pissed off about. There
still is, but it was certainly worse then. This is back when they were still flying the
Confederate Flag on the dome of the Statehouse. Conservatism is bad enough, but good-ole-boy
ignorance in positions of power is the worst.

I swear it’s almost the norm for today’s high school kids to be into “punk” music, skating,
tattoos and piercings… stuff that was all pretty counter-cultural or shocking in the ’80s
and even ’90s. It just seems much easier to be “punk” as a teenager these days. Do you ever
wish your were born like twenty years later? Or do you feel like the young generation of
punks have it too easy, maybe?

I wish I had been born ten years earlier so I could have been around for the first wave. I
don’t envy kids born today. Access to information is amazing, and I love it, but that
instant access has stifled some of the character building of having to go out into the world
and find the things that interested you. As well as the character building of taking
some abuse for not fitting in.

I always admired the effort and detail that went into In/Humanity inserts and design… I
used to love laughing at the fake advertisement for ridiculous In/Humanity t-shirts that came
with your first LP. Was that all you?

Yeah. The first punk record I ever bought was the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation on
Alternative Tentacles. I was obsessed with the poster insert that came with the record. I
spent hours pouring over it. As I got more and more into punk, I was attracted to the amount
of art and information that many bands (Dead Kennedys and Crass come instantly to mind) were
including with their packaging. I knew that when I was finally putting out records, I wanted
to give the audience that same experience. So we would pack a lot into those inserts. I was
always a class clown growing up, so the inserts always had a sense of humor. I’m not sure how
much of that humor holds up today, but at the time we were having a lot of fun with it. Even
though I had no training or business doing layouts, I enjoyed the shit out of doing them. So
I was responsible for most of the artwork and layout for all of those records. Essentially
In/Humanity was Paul writing all of the music, me doing all of the lyrics and art, and then
whatever two other guys were playing with us at the time. The best and longest-running line
up was Paul and I with Ben Roth on drums and Will Zaledeski on bass.

I think the humor holds up really well, actually. And I felt like, as a punk record consumer
with limited disposable income, In/Humanity cared about the records they were selling, that
the inserts and overall presentation really mattered, because not every random hardcore band
had the chance to do an LP, or even a 7″. I kinda can’t imagine a 2012 hardcore band willingly
glueing different polaroid photos to the cover of every 7″, which I guess, to be fair, was a
feat few bands have completed before. Did you feel that the art was as integral a part of
In/Humanity as I felt like it was?

For me it was equally as important as the lyrics. I never thought of In/Humanity as a “great”
band musically. It was more an art package to me.

I definitely see In/Humanity as a sort of nihilistic provocation that followed in the
footsteps of Feederz, maybe, even though the sounds were totally different. Are there any
bands today that you feel like share or continue the spirit of In/Humanity?

I was a big fan of the Feederz, but at the time probably moreso of Frank Discussion’s writings
in the ReSearch Pranks book. I don’t doubt that there are bands carrying forth that sort of
provocative vibe today, but I must be honest – I don’t know of them, and I’m not sure if I
would be that interested in them musically. Part of this is probably Old Person Disease, but
there’s also an element of being bored with the lack of innovation in the last ten years of
the hardcore scene. After a while you stop paying attention even though there could be tons
of fantastic stuff flying in under the radar. I’d usually rather listen to discordant classical
music than punk most of the time anyway.

One of your “hits”, if you wanna call them that, was definitely “Teenage Suicide – Do It!”.
How do you feel about that song some 10+ years later?

I don’t regret it at all. I think it’s still kind of funny. I probably wouldn’t write a song
like that today. I’m not the same person I was then. I wrote a lot of songs about suicide
because I myself was ‘suicidal’. Everytime I wrote a song dealing with it, it was sort of
a proxy suicide. I did that so I wouldn’t do the real thing. I was a little messed up.

Did you get a lot of flack for that? I’d imagine most of the punk scene was into it, and I’m
not sure if the conservative parents groups of South Carolina had any idea In/Humanity even existed.

I know of one girl whose parents threw her In/Humanity record away because of that song. We
met her at a show and gave her a replacement when she told us the story. Other than that,
there wasn’t a lot of flack.

You coined the term “emo-violence” as a sarcastic joke, but people actually took to it.
Were you surprised how that took off? Did you find it hilarious, sad, flattering, or something
in between?

I was/am totally surprised by that. I don’t find it sad or flattering. It just is.

The last album, The History Behind The Mystery / Music To Kill Yourself By kind of took a
darker, almost gothic turn, which was pretty unique at the time. Whose idea was it to bring
in violins, and kind of take things in that direction?

Paul and I were both listening to a lot of Eastern European 20th Century classical music at
the time. So we brought in elements that in some cases were ripped off directly from guys
like Gorecki or Penderecki. I wish we had gone further down that rabbit-hole. There are one
or two songs on that album that I think sound like black metal, but we had never heard any
black metal bands at that time.

After you finally heard black metal – what’d you think?
I liked elements of the style, but also found a lot of it musically lazy and tedious.

Was there a true passion for the occult in In/Humanity, or was that all a piss-take? I could
never quite tell.

I’ve had a life-long interest in the occult. It’s legit. But I also take very little seriously.
So there’s a love there, but also a mocking.

Is there any possibility of an In/Humanity reunion tour?
Absolutely not.