We weren’t surprised to find out that one of the people involved with efforts to place a gigantic Baphomet statue on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is connected with extreme metal. I guess we’re just happy that they are pursuing their goals through civil discourse rather than pulling a Burzum.
Brian Werner is a High Priest in the Satanic Temple, based in New York. He’s also the vocalist of Vital Remains, a death metal band that once featured known religious provocateur Glen Benton.
Werner — who has jumped from balconies at Vital Remains shows — says the temple was compelled to act when a Ten Commandments statue was placed on on the Capitol grounds. The Deciblog talked to Werner from his home in Milwaukee to get a better idea of what’s driving a few blasphemers to get an ominous obelisk placed in the middle of the Bible Belt.
How did you get involved in the Satanic Temple?
I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic kindergarten and second grade. As soon as I found out Santa wasn’t real, things went downhill. My mother is now an evangelical. Because of this, she won’t even talk to me and blocked me from calling the house. My family reads from the same book and worships the same God, and then goes after each other for miniscule differences.
[I got involved] after I saw the temple do the Rick Scott protest in Florida, which I thought was genius. [Governor] Scott passed a law allowing open prayer in the classroom. And the temple came out in a protest and supported it. It was sort of like: “Thank you, Rick Scott. Our children can now pray to Abaddon in the classroom. You are the champion of diversity.” He said prayer but didn’t say what kind of prayer. Lucien [Greaves, temple leader] later offered me High Priest status because my knowledge of the left hand path is adept. I’m sure some people saw what we did with the Westboro Baptist Church last summer. It was a joke… we had a same-sex ritual over the grave of [church head Fred Phelps’] mother to turn her gay.
It’s interesting you bring that up. I think Westboro is noxious, but I thought that doing something around someone’s gravesite was going too far.
I respect that. The problem is they don’t respect it. They show up at soldiers’ funerals. It takes a certain kind of scumbag to protest when a mother’s dead child is coming home from war. They are holding signs in front of grieving mothers and spewing their bullshit. I agree: death and cemeteries should be sacred. But this was an eye-for-an-eye situation. They disrespected and disgraced people who had given their lives. So, it was the only option. Anything else would have blown off quickly. We needed to make a statement.
I’m thinking this is the only interview you’ve done with someone who has seen or heard your band. How have you been treated?
[Laughs] Really well. Lucien was on Laura Ingraham this morning. People are having us do a lot of pre-interviews. If you field the questions properly, then you won’t make it to the show. But when we do them and have stupid replies like “I piss on all that is holy!” they call back and want to interview you. When we have the real interview, we have intelligent answers and responses, which they aren’t expecting, and it pisses them off. But for the most part, I’ve been treated exceptionally well, and I’ll be on the Mancow show this week.
They probably wouldn’t be happy unless they got someone like Dead from Mayhem sniffing a dead bird in a jar.
Yeah, or the little emo goth kid. But for the most part I’ve been treated well, and the interviews I’ve done haven’t been too cut or edited. They’ve all been pretty straightforward and unbiased.
When was the decision made to try and get this statue on the state Capitol?
We’re not trying to preach at all or force our beliefs on anyone. We’re not trying to put up a statue where it isn’t wanted. No, they opened the door first. We actually had a lot of local support, and more than 100 people locally signed an affidavit supporting us. We are never just going to go into someone’s state and say, “Deal with us.”
The illustration of the statue has been seen all over the world. How did you decide on a design?
We wanted something that wasn’t blatantly offensive, something that was family-friendly, something inviting. We also wanted something interactive. It had to have historical significance. There are two snakes where the back meets the seat of the chair; you can see that symbol at any hospital in the world. This statue speaks to plurality, to freedom of speech, to multiculturalism. These are the core fundamentals of our belief system.
We didn’t want to just put up a massive upside-down cross with a middle finger. We were trying to come up with something more cohesive. We get comments all the time that “I don’t believe what you believe.” And that’s the exact point. A lot of people don’t believe what we believe. We want to put it up to show the duality of our nation. Not everyone in this country is a Christian. There are Buddhists, Muslims, atheists…
What are your chances of success?
Well, I agree with your suggestion that we don’t hold a concert. [Laughs]
If you end up just trolling the whole country, isn’t that success already?
I always hope for the best and plan for the worst. I like to set myself up for win-win situations. If this goes up, we win. If it doesn’t, those Ten Commandments are coming down and we win. We are setting a precedent, and everyone is applying for monuments now. Even if they ignore us, the Hindu monument or the Islam monument are coming right behind us. It’s like kindergarten; the whole class gets a cookie or no one gets a cookie.