Culture Shock's Geoff Diederich on straight-edge and why Denver can be boring

Hardcore bands are often the sum of their members' influences. Not so with Culture Shock: The band's music, lyrics and imagery come almost exclusively from the mind of frontman and founder Geoff Diederich. "The whole point of this band was to try and sound like SSD [Society System Decontrol] if they had made a record between Kids Will Have Their Say and Get It Away," says Diederich. "When you listen to those songs, they're angry and desperate and weird, and oftentimes they don't even make sense."

Using the early SSD catalogue and 1980s American hardcore as his touchstones, Diederich has set out to re-create the sounds of the violent, ignorant and indignant youth of a generation past. "I always felt like the bands of the '80s had it down," he says. "Their records sounded confused, as if they had the feelings but no idea how to process them. It felt like when you were a kid. I think it's rare nowadays to get that feeling from a band, that confusion, so that's what we went for."

A native of Ohio -- a place separated from Colorado not just by distance, but also by attitude -- Diederich spent much of last year working on his doctoral thesis at the University of Denver while channeling his frustrations with his new home into the Culture Shock demo. "I come from Cleveland, which is not a huge city for straight-edge hardcore, but substance use there was different. People got violent when they drank at shows, and you got worried about people getting into drugs. In Denver, it all just seems sterile. People smoke weed and act like mountain hippies and talk about microbrews. To me, it's infuriatingly boring. I think that's what really pushed me into this over-the-top mode -- how normal and blasé it all was."

The lyrics on the band's demo, which is out now on cassette via Black Outrage, take a clear and often violent stand against substance users and abusers of all kinds. Despite the threatening nature of the music, Diederich says there is no connection between straight-edge and violence. "Some of the songs may cast [violence] through the lens of the straight-edge, but there's always something deeper-rooted than just that. Do I care if you drink beer? No. Do I care if you come to a show shaking beer cans all over me while I'm trying to listen to bands? Absolutely."

His outlook is one reason that Culture Shock has joined a loose association of Denver hardcore bands and scene members known as the Denver Wolf Pack. Diederich won't get into specifics about the group's activities. "The Wolf Pack comprises those who get it," he says. "There are a lot of different styles of hardcore in this city, and [Wolf Pack members] are of a like mind: Ours is the way it should be played."

His cryptic assessment leaves somewhat unclear the relationship between actual violence and the imagery of violence in Culture Shock's music. Still, when the rare band comes along with songs that hit at the apex of raw, totalitarian attitude, the juice is usually worth the squeeze. Keep your ear to ground this summer. See this band and find a copy of this cassette.

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Mark Masters