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Midwest Musicians Resist Trump with the 'Unpresidented' Protest Compilation

May. 23, 2017
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unpreseidented

If art flourishes in times of tension, the Donald Trump presidency should give rise to masterpieces. Trump’s regressive policies, including stripping healthcare rights, defunding Planned Parenthood, closing borders and “reforming” the Affordable Care Act, have catalyzed protesters and performers alike.

Milwaukee musicians DJ Hostettler and Anthony Weber responded by curating Unpresidented, an anti-Trump compilation that allies Midwest bands against discrimination and political corruption. The heated compilation is the pumped-up sequel to last year’s Unintimidated: Wisconsin Musicians Against Scott Walker. The album features a wide range of music from noise rock to power pop and from hip hop to folk.

“We’re very supportive and excited about the idea of documenting discontent,” Hostettler says. “You know, letting listeners know that there are people out there that are just as fed up as them and have elected to make a difference in some small way.”

Unintimidated is not only meant to rally around but also to give immediate aid to Milwaukee locals who are directly affected by Trump’s policies. All proceeds go to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and soup kitchens in Milwaukee. Hostettler and Weber raised about $3,000 for these organizations with last year’s compilation and aim to outdo that number this year.

With help from Howl Street Recordings in Milwaukee, 16 bands recorded tracks for the compilation over the course of one jam-packed weekend. Each band had a mere two hours of studio time in order to give the compilation extra urgency. Additionally, 11 other bands submitted tracks they had previously recorded. The finished product showcases 27 original compositions by Ahab’s Ghost, Paper Holland, Sex Scenes and Joshua Wayne Hensley of The Rutabega, among others. “We were actually kind of adamant about making sure that [the songs] were all originals,” Hostettler said. “We wanted the bands expressing themselves with their own unique voices.”

The idea for a protest compilation came from Hostettler and Weber’s frustration with the concept of internet slacktivism—where rants, article shares and other expressions of discontent garner “likes” but ultimately make no real difference. “We felt like the best way to take our anger about the status quo and do something constructive with it was to recruit all of our friends and bands to record protest music, which is something that we feel has kind of faded to the wayside over the past few decades,” Hostettler says.

Of course, a wide range of national artists have been pushing back against America’s defective political climate through song, from hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest with “We the People” to pop icon Katy Perry with “Chained to the Rhythm.” Unpresidented doesn’t just want to soundtrack history, though; it wants to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. “Ultimately, with a musical compilation full of protest music that hopefully raises maybe a couple grand for Planned Parenthood or whoever, we understand that amounts to a small drop in the bucket as far as making a difference goes,” Hostettler says. “But I hope that, if anything, [Unpresidented inspires people] to add their own drop into that bucket, because one small person can’t make a difference, but a large number of people who band together can. This is our little piece of that.”

You can stream and download Unpresidented at unintimidatedscottwalker.bandcamp.com.

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