Former Hate Music Promoter George Burdi Discusses His Experiences with Racism and the White Power Music Industry
BURDI: I must have been in at least 15 riot situations with police and anti-racist groups. The worst one was in London at an Ian Stuart [Donaldson, a Briton who played a seminal role in the first stages of the white power music scene] memorial concert, probably in 1994 or 1995. I wasn't playing, but I flew over there with the band Bound for Glory.
The police shut down the venue, and the concert was canceled so we hit the pubs with maybe 2,000, skinheads from all over Europe. On one main street of pubs, we filled every pub — 300 or 400 in one pub, 150 in another, 500 in another.
There were about 500 or 600 people in the pub I was at. A skinhead was standing outside having a cigarette, and the cops told him to go back inside. They were worried about a conflict between the skinheads and the 2,000 anti-racists traveling all over London looking for us. He wouldn't go inside, and when the police tried to arrest him, he tore free and ran into the bar.
The police followed him in, pinned him down and beat him with their billy clubs. Here's five or six policemen, without guns, beating a skinhead, with billy clubs, in front of 500 or 600 drunk skinheads. Not a good decision, huh? Suddenly full pints of beer come flying from the back of the room at the police, and skinheads start attacking them.
The police got out, shut the doors and called in the riot squad to surround the place. The skinheads were going completely crazy. Suddenly the doors burst open and 70 or 80 police in full riot gear with helmets and shields and body armor came in and just started clubbing everybody in their path. They were just grabbing them and clubbing them, cracking their heads open.
I saw so much violence it was unbelievable. Guys ripped the giant chandelier out of the ceiling to throw it at the cops. The police were dragging people out like rag dolls, unconscious with their heads split open. It was unbelievable.
Apparently, some skinheads met anti-racists on the subway going home. One skinhead had his face carved with a knife, another ended up in the hospital with his jaw wired shut.
IR: How are skinheads different in Europe?
BURDI: German skinheads are smarter than the Americans, and they're often in it for different reasons. They have a stronger sense of national identity; they have been living there for centuries. Americans get involved more from a purely racial standpoint.
The Swedish skinheads were all raised hearing about warrior Viking mythology. The Swedes have the most going for them outside of the movement: they are the most educated, the healthiest, the best looking.
It makes a difference when skinheads don't look like social misfits. Most Americans Skinheads are totally isolated from the rest of society. They're not nearly as isolated in Sweden.
IR: How did you start Resistance Records and the magazine?
BURDI: It was 1993, and I was 23. I felt artistic expression was more important for the movement than political organizing, and I had always had the most success with the band. A French label called Rebelles Européens had sent us money to record an album but then folded.
So we had the disc recorded and had nobody to release it, and fate kind of pushed me to start my own label. I printed up some mailers and let people know.
The intention was only to release Rahowa stuff, but I started getting demo tapes like crazy from other bands. I thought, hey, maybe I can release some of these as well. It cost only $2,000, to record a skinhead band, and it was easy to flip the profits from one into the next one.
Soon we had a magazine, five or six people working for us, and 12 or 15 bands signed. There have been all kinds of rumors about different people giving seed money to start Resistance, but in fact there was no one.
We established a viable model that other skinheads could follow, and the whole music scene grew from that. We explained it to anyone who would listen. Suddenly, it went from a couple of white power labels to a couple of hundred. I'm sure many were just a P.O. box and a guy living at his mom's house, but it worked.
IR: Was Resistance based in the Detroit area to avoid Canada's hate speech laws and take advantage of the American First Amendment?
BURDI: That's what people always thought, and we weren't ignorant of that benefit. But we would not have put it in Detroit if it had not been for the involvement of [American COTC member] Mark Wilson and some other original people from the Michigan area.
We were working jointly with COTC people from Wisconsin and Michigan, and the idea was to have a central location. Michigan was perfect because it was an equal distance between Milwaukee and Toronto.
IR: Did Resistance in the 1990s have a lot of licensing agreements with European labels?
BURDI: Yes, there were about 40 European labels we kept in contact with — labels in Poland, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Lithuania, Russia.
I think there were even Bulgarian and Hungarian labels, plus there was the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement in South Africa. There were Australians and others, too.
We sent a lot of CDs to Japan, of all places. It might sound strange, but it was enough for us that Hitler had a relationship with Japan. They called themselves the white men of the east.
IR: Did you have contact with other organized racist groups?
BURDI: Yes, absolutely every single group in the U.S. and around the world would contact us for CDs. We got tons of mail, bags of it sometimes. There was no time for me to read it all.
IR: How did the finances work?
BURDI: If we sold CDs in bulk wholesale, profit would range from $3 to $6 [U.S.] on each disc. A CD cost $2.20 to produce, including a dollar for the band. They would retail for $15 and you wholesale them at $6 or $8 or $10. Small distributors could get a second income by buying 50 discs from us wholesale, and turning a $10 profit on each one.
From 1994 to early 1997 we sold more than 60,000 CDs and tapes, maybe as many as 100,000. The vast majority of sales were wholesale, and every quarter was twice the sales volume of the previous quarter. Our Web site went up in 1994, and each month we would profit a couple thousand dollars from that.
I lived on Resistance income almost exclusively. I still worked the odd part-time job, but I didn't keep them for too long. Every time a big media piece would come out about me, I would get fired.
IR: What about manufacturing the discs?
BURDI: When it came to pressing the discs, we had plants all over the world. Resistance had a regular pressing plant in Buffalo called ESP, but they haven't pressed Resistance for years.
The white power thing usually became a problem. A pressing plant would press our stuff for a while, then the volume would start going up and they would start getting concerned. They'd see something on TV about us and then quit pressing our stuff.
But there was always another plant available, always, and so that was never a problem. It works exactly as you might imagine. People think, "If I don't do it, somebody else will. So why shouldn't I make the profit?" Well, when plants rejected us, someone else always did make the profit.
IR: What was your relationship with Nordland [the Swedish white power music label and magazine]?
BURDI: I never actually met them, but I spoke to them on the phone and e-mailed them. They followed the successful model right down to the letter. I would have done anything they asked of me. We helped them with software training and setting up their Web site. We shared photos and all the little details of laying out a magazine.
We were doing it for altruistic reasons, and we weren't concerned with protecting our ideas. Even with the other American white power music magazine, Blood & Honor, there was no sense of competition.