Projects of mutual aid are a form of political participation and organizing in which we see people taking the responsibility of caring for one another.
Those participating in mutual aid projects work together to develop strategies for meeting each other's needs, such as food, housing, medical care, and disaster relief, while, at the same time organizing themselves against the system that created the shortage in the first place.
It is about solidarity, not charity.
Love is Stone Soup: An Interview with Michael Gormley of Blast N’ Scrap
By Cole Genck
Blast N’ Scrap is a non-profit organization that hosts shows for the local DIY music scene. They offer and partner with multiple mutual aid groups that aid in food insecurity, raising money, redistributing clothing to those in need and other community resources. They’re a volunteer based operation started by Michael Gormley, who agreed to sit down and talk about the organizations’ mission and goals.
Tell me a bit about the history of Blast N’ Scrap and what you guys are doing?
Michael: Alright, I’m founder and executive director of Blast N’ Scrap which is, as of right now, a five program non-profit where we showcase music, and have an all-ages always policy, suggested donation at the door, no one turned away for a lack of money. We also do sustainable screen printing. We have “a never new unless necessary” policy, where we take gently used shirts and take rescued screen printing ink that has expired. We run a community theater called Crafty Community Theater where within six weeks, kids will storyboard, write, throw on costumes, make their own scenery and in six weeks' time put on a 15-minute play.
So, there are a lot of non-profit groups in Northern Colorado. What makes Blast N’ Scrap
special or stand out compared to everyone else?
Michael: You know, that’s a good question. I never had been to Fort Collins when I moved here, I was still a drinker at that point and had just met a girl who I fell for - who’s now my wife - and I came here, and there were a lot of non-profits but, you know. I didn’t even really know that when I started doing Blast N’ Scrap. To be honest, I thought of an idea called Cape Pals because whenever I was on tour, people would always ask me to make capes because I wore a cape that says Blast Man at Ween tour, right? That’s kinda how my nickname came about.
And then my friends' house burned down, and I decided that maybe I would make people capes for money, to raise for her to help her rebuild her house, right? And we did. We raised her a bunch of money. And then on Christmas Eve - this was about eight months, nine months after I quit drinking - I thought of Cape Pals. ‘Cape Pals are cape-able! There’s many cape-abilities!’ All the puns, right? I was like maybe, maybe I’m going about this wrong. Maybe I could do like kids' shows, you know? I hadn’t made it in show business at that point. I was missing something. I should be doing kids' entertainment, right?
My mechanics' daughter was diagnosed with leukemia around that time - she doesn’t have it anymore thankfully - I thought of an idea for a Cape Pals event where we got to make capes with kids for an event to raise money for this girl, Hannah, right? And I was hanging out with Gorehounds Playground, which is a local horror movie, movie theater rental place and I went outside, and I saw Who Gives a Scrap, which was an all donation recycled arts and craft store with this giant fabric section you could see through the window. And gears started rolling, and I was like “that’s a cape section!” And I go in there and pitch them this idea, and they’re all like we’re non-profits - our non-profit’s called Art Swap, and we can provide you this classroom where you can do it. We’ll provide you all the materials for free. We think it’s a great cause – you can go ahead and do it.
So I did kids' music there. My band CB and the G Jeez does country, bluegrass, and blues versions of punk songs. So I changed all these lyrics to be kids' songs. Lexicon Devils by the Germs was I’m a Librarian. I Want Your Skulls, I Want Puppy Hugs. Whatever we could think of really. We wrote all the lyrics.
Greta, my bandmate, and my wife's bridesmaid at that time, we just kinda like did it really fast on the fly. And the arts and crafts store asked me to do kids' music there, and I pitched them on it being a punk rock venue pretty much immediately. I didn’t think it over. I didn’t like have a plan. They just asked me to play kids' music in this arts and crafts store weekly if I wanted to and was like, no. But this looks like it should be a punk rock venue - you guys are non-profit, right? We’ll do a suggested donation at the door.
I didn’t know at that point that like suggested donation door was beneficial in any other way other than it would help people who didn’t have money have access to the arts. Because I don’t think the arts should be for anybody who just has a little bit of money in their pocket. If anything, I’d rather have you inside of our doors enjoying yourself than at home depressed that you’rebroke or whatever it is, you know? Anyway, I’m already straying let’s get back on topic.
All good. Could you tell me about the people and groups you’ve partnered with and what they do for the community?
Michael: Sure. This is a segway from the last thing you know - it started with a donation based door but from there I just started pulling all the mutual aid ideas that I could. As a kid, I always saw Food Not Bombs on flyers in New Jersey, and I liked their mission.
Esme, from Clothe the People, had approached me when we were doing shows in the Vindeket Foods parking lot - which they’re a non-profit aiming to end food waste - and pitched me on her organization - it’s not just hers it’s a community project, right? Before too long it was a multi-mutual aid effort to ensure that people had access to everything within this community, right? Cause I always wanted access to the arts for everybody, why not access to clothing? Why not access to foods? So partnering with Vindeket Foods and Food Not Bombs and Clothe the People was definitely an important step in the history of Blast N’ Scrap.
Why are mutual aid efforts needed to help people in need?
Well, look. The word charity can get a pretty bad rep, and it’s all connotation and the context in which a person says it but I don’t necessarily believe in charity, even though I’m a certified charitable organization. I do think that food should be a right, I do.
People talk about defunding the police, and even people that are staunchly like “taxation is theft”, like anti-tax people, they’ll be like “you can’t defund the police we need protection”, right? But like these same people don’t look at food or medicine and health care as protection. Most people are for paying a little bit of tax dollars for the fire department, but how many times are you going to call the fire department in your life? Maybe once, but you pay into it because you want that security. But what’s more important? How many times are you going to see a doctor in your life? More than once. How many times do you have to eat? If you have nourishment, a good healthy diet, you’re going to be a healthier person, so I think security and paying into that is an important thing for the community to do. Mutual aid is the way that we do it together. Love is stone soup.
That’s very well said. What would say is the main demographic of people coming to your shows and coming to get help?
Typically, our main demographic is teenagers, but that’s not the only demographic. A lot of people come to our shows because they want just a good time with good music and being surrounded by visual art because that’s what we’re going to have at our showcases. But you’ll see that there are people that need it, but like it’s also a pretty open and welcoming environment where maybe actually you don’t see that. Maybe only I see it because I have a pretty close monitor of the door and what’s going on, but like you should feel comfortable to just show up to our shows and not feel like it’s an act of charity.
You say that word, and it can have a bad connotation, but it’s like, we’re charitable, but I’m charitable with my friends too. What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine. If I’m making food in my kitchen and you’re staying over, I’m not just gonna let you smell it and not offer you some. It just doesn’t seem right to me. So if there’s something that we’re putting on, everytime we’re open to everybody. We all share, and if we all shared a little more we might be stronger as a whole.
For more information on Blast N’ Scrap and how you can help out in your local community, check out some of the links listed below: