George Burdi, a key architect of the international white power music industry, renouncing racism, recounts his personal odyssey in an exclusive interview.
In 1993, Canadian George Burdi started Resistance Records in Detroit, Mich., and quickly turned it into the largest distributor of racist music in North America, a firm that did as much as any other to spread the music that has also become known as "hatecore."
Along the way, Burdi, a member of the U.S.-based, neo-Nazi Church of the Creator (COTC), edited Resistance magazine, sang for the band Rahowa (short for "racial holy war," the slogan of COTC), and became one of the world's most visible racists.
Burdi was imprisoned in 1997 in connection with the beating of a female anti-racist activist following a fiery Burdi speech in Ottawa. Burdi says he did not personally kick the woman during the assault. After Burdi's release from prison, he cut all ties with the white power movement.
Today, Burdi, 31, plays in a band with two black members and is engaged to an East Indian woman. The Intelligence Report spoke to Burdi about his past, his own experiences with racism, and the white power music industry he helped to create.
INTELLIGENCE REPORT: What was your life like growing up?
GEORGE BURDI: I was born in 1970, and I grew up in a small, middle-class suburb of Toronto. I had a good relationship with my parents and was an altar boy at the parish.
In high school, I was the vice president of the student council and organized the dances. I was a popular kid, a straight-A student. I was on the football team, and I started a bodybuilding club. Everything was great.
IR: What were racial attitudes like in your family?
BURDI: My parents were Christians and accepting of everybody. I don't ever recall a discussion of race. My brother and I had black friends, and my parents fed them and treated them as if they were their own kids.
I was in the Chocolate Cake Club, a multicultural group of black kids and white kids. One of my best friends was Filipino. Until the end of high school, I had no racist leanings at all.
IR: So how did you get into racism?
BURDI: I was 18 years old. My girlfriend's father was into the movement, and I wanted his approval because I thought I was in love with his daughter.
He was really focused on World War II. He thought the Allies were unfair to Germany and that the Holocaust was wartime propaganda. At first, he wasn't talking to me about race or national socialism at all. He used to quote Napoleon, who said history is bunk; it is merely a version of a story written by the victors.
But racial literature isn't too far from Holocaust revisionist history, and eventually I came across it.
IR: How did that happen?
BURDI: I found a book in his house, White Power, by [assassinated American Nazi Party founder] George Lincoln Rockwell, and it shocked the hell out of me. I read it in a day.
I didn't start hating people right away; I was more looking for meaning in life. And here was this heroic challenge, in which my blood was calling me to rise up and save my people from destruction. That kind of epic theme really appealed to me.
When I was younger, I had liked playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading fantasy books like Lord of the Rings.
When you're young, you think you understand everything, and you want to share what you're thinking and get feedback. But I would bring up race and people would threaten me and call me a Nazi. They said that I wasn't allowed to think this, or that only bad people think this. I wanted an explanation.
People would say 6 million died in the Holocaust. I'd say, 30 million died under Stalin, but it's okay to be a communist. I had an argument for everything, but no one would listen to me or discuss it. It just galvanized my will.
It's funny, at the same moment that I was starting to read White Power, one of my black friends loaned me a tape of [black nationalist Louis] Farrakhan speaking.
I thought it was great! Here's this guy doing the same thing as Rockwell. He's looking after his people and promoting separation of the races, because higher culture [supposedly] is produced through homogenous nations.
IR: What did your family think of your new racial interest?
BURDI: My parents were passionate about saying it was wrong, but they never had any reasons. I wanted reasons. Our relationship really suffered. They saw I was on a slippery slope to jail or maybe death.
Once I got involved in Church of the Creator [the predecessor organization to WCOTC], I'd see them every few weeks, tell them how they didn't know anything and then leave. We tried to keep politics out of our relationship as much as possible.
IR: When did you connect with the Church of the Creator?
BURDI: During my first year at university, somebody who had worked for [long-time Canadian resident and Holocaust denier Ernst] Zündel gave me The White Man's Bible [by COTC founder Ben Klassen].
I couldn't believe that that type of stuff even existed. I was turned off by it. The White Man's Bible makes Rockwell's White Power look like an Aesop fable.
But I couldn't stop thinking about it. It said Jews and every other race look after their own interests first and foremost, and that it should be your responsibility as a young white person to promote your race first and foremost.
Klassen was arguing that white people are the creators of civilization; that's why it's called the Church of the Creator.
IR: What was your involvement in COTC?
BURDI: I traveled to the States a few times to meet people, and to Montreal and Ottawa. I answered a lot of letters. I worked for two months on Klassen's church compound in North Carolina.
Klassen was a reclusive guy who lived in a separate house up on the hill. He would come down every morning, put his hand on your shoulder, say a couple of inspiring things to the three of us who were there, and then leave. I produced the newspaper Racial Loyalty, wrote letters, stuffed envelopes, that kind of thing.
People have this impression that there is a large, well-organized, brooding underground. In reality all these P.O. boxes are just P.O. boxes.
It's a glass tiger.
There are a few people in each town who get together once in a while, drink some beers, use racial epithets and then go home feeling good about themselves. Maybe they subscribe to a couple of publications.
There are a very small number of them, and it's not well organized.
IR: Tell me about your band Rahowa.
BURDI: I started Rahowa with some local skinheads in 1989, and we split up in 1997. We released two discs; the most famous was the second, Cult of the Holy War, released in 1995.
Gigs were very rare. If a [white power] band plays four or five times a year that's a lot. We probably played 15 to 20 gigs in eight years.
Only two of us were with the band the whole time; everyone else came and went.
IR: What were concerts like?
BURDI: They almost never made money. But the concerts were crazy. Friends would beat each other up and then laugh about it afterwards, with their eyes swollen shut and their noses broken and picking their teeth up off the ground.
A large percentage of skinheads, especially in North America, are really hard-core alcoholics. It's too much to expect them to put flyers on cars, but they'll jump at the chance to buy beer.
There's a real irony in the fact that Hitler would have exterminated most of these guys as social deviants.
IR: What problems were there with violence at concerts?
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.
IR: You became quite well known in the white power music world. What was it like when you went out in public?
BURDI: I wasn't the type of person to make a scene. I didn't dress shockingly or wear swastikas or try to upset people. I was more into writing letters and reading books. You will never find one person saying I called them a name or was rude to them or punched them in the nose.
Even so, I was recognized all the time. People thought I was evil, but I was still a celebrity. People would come and shake my hand and I'd think I had a recruit here. Then they would tell me, "I totally disagree with your views." I'd wonder, "Well, why are you shaking my hand and smiling like you are so happy to meet me?" TV has a strange effect on people. But no one ever started a fight with me.
In fact, just the opposite. I remember a two-hour live interview I gave to an all-black radio station in Detroit. After about an hour, the ratings were going through the roof. Television news crews came down to broadcast our interview live on TV. The phone lines were lit up continuously. It was pretty dramatic.
I told this guy how American blacks had it better under segregation, how they could control their communities and education more. The black music and culture was better then. I was really expounding Farrakhan's ideas. I said the reason I'm promoting this is because I want the same thing for white people.
A lot of Farrakhan supporters were phoning in and a lot of black people were really supportive.
IR: How did you come to leave the movement?
BURDI: It started during my time in prison. I had given a speech in 1993, and after the speech some skinheads attacked some of the anti-racists. In 1995, I was convicted of assault [in Canada] for my part in what became a riot. I was sentenced to a year in prison, but I was released on appeal after a month.
That month inside just made me more bitter and served to galvanize my will. For the next two years, I worked harder than ever before.
My conviction was upheld in 1997, and I had to finish my sentence. I was reaching burnout before I even went in. I felt my direction was pretty pointless. All the media exposure was tough on my parents. Things were really rolling, sales were going wild, but it was tough.
I would lay out the magazine until 7 o'clock in the morning and wake up in front of my computer at 10. I didn't have a life.
IR: What happened when you went back into prison?
BURDI: When a week seems like an eternity and you've got months ahead of you, it's easy to sit back and think about your life. I decided I was going to get out of the movement when I left prison.
The three biggest things for my decision were the pain I gave my parents, the futility of my cause, and the judgment of the 12 jurors [in the assault case], who were all whites.
I can't tell you what I did to my parents. My father had worked for 17 years at the same company, and they fired him because of me. My parents finally moved out of Toronto because my father couldn't get a job with me as his son. Every time he would get close to getting a job somewhere, it would fall through. They wouldn't return his calls. My time in jail was just a little bit too much for them to swallow, and I don't know if they will ever fully recover from it.
As for the jury, they convicted me not on the facts of the case [Burdi says he never physically attacked the activist], but because they disagreed with my views. And here I was, supposedly fighting this fight for white people like them. I started thinking that there must be something to their perspective.
When I got out in June of 1997, I started developing new ways of looking at life.
IR: Tell me about that process.
BURDI: I didn't want to think about anything political. I didn't want to think too much at all. I didn't try to reason through the issues and form a counter-argument to each one. Instead, I went soul searching.
I got into fitness and started eating healthy, organic foods. I started to practice fasting and meditation, and I went on a spiritual discovery. When we are children, we study every leaf and flower and insect and animal and every question. I reopened that process for myself. I had a total shift in paradigm.
If I go back to the movement now, and you can be my witness for this, then somebody should lobotomize me.
IR: What did people in the movement say?
BURDI: I visited the Rahowa guitarist. I told him it was futile and that I was leaving.
He said, "You're right, it is futile. But you might as well stay in the movement, it's all you've got."
But I completely separated myself from everyone I had known before. I didn't call Resistance down in Michigan, and they didn't call me. Some people tried every way to contact me, wanting to know if I was all right. I just ignored them all.
Eventually, the letters got fewer and fewer until they just stopped altogether. I have no idea where any of those people are now.
My friends today have only known me since I left the movement. I'm just George to them. As for my parents, every month our relationship is better than the month before.
IR: What's your perspective on "white pride" now?
BURDI: People find meaning for their lives in many different places. Some join Star Trek fan clubs, others join the booster club for their local sports team, and other people become [North American Free Trade Agreement] protesters.
The white power movement was a way for me to find purpose and meaning in my life.
IR: In what sense do you now feel racism is wrong?
BURDI: Racism is wrong because ... I should probably say hatred is wrong, anger is wrong. Hatred and anger are wrong because they consume what is good in you. They smother your ability to appreciate love and peace.
Another reason that racism is wrong is that you attach yourself to the accomplishments of white Europeans, instead of developing yourself and actually contributing to the society you live in.
IR: You didn't mention anything about racism hurting other people.
BURDI: Naturally, because I'm answering the question from a totally different perspective.
Have I spoken out against racism in the politically correct terminology that people would expect me to use? Maybe not. But am I against it? Completely and wholeheartedly. You've got your reasons why it's wrong, and I've got mine.
The biggest problem with racism is that it promotes fear and lack of understanding between communities.
IR: You sang a song called "Third Reich" that includes these lyrics: "You kill all the n------, and you gas all the Jews; kill a gypsy and a commie, too. You just killed a k---, don't it feel right; goodness gracious, Third Reich." How does that song make you feel today?
BURDI: I didn't write the music or the lyrics for that song, I should say.
The lyrics are incredibly negative, incredibly destructive to everyone mentioned in the song. They do a total disservice to anybody who thinks that the white power movement has any ideals beyond guttural hate.
Frankly, I am quite ashamed that I ever participated in singing those lyrics. It would be impossible for me to make a personal apology to everyone who was ever affected by that song.
But the people who bought it, they wanted to listen to it and probably already had those ideas in their heads.