Lost Password


Straight Edge Interview Project: Natalie Slater, 42, Chicago, she/her

Tell us about yourself! Hobbies, jobs, passion projects, interests?

I’m really lucky to work for Upton’s Naturals (, which is a straight edge & vegan-owned brand – so most of my passions and interests are really wrapped up in the work I do managing the marketing for that business. Veganism is the crux of nearly every interest I have. I love cooking, baking, and eating – and I love animals. In 2013 I wrote a vegan cookbook called Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans, and I’ve been posting recipes on a blog with the same name since 2006. ( I’m a homebody, so I like to lift weights in my home gym, practice Italian on Duolingo, and watch movies with my husband Tony and our two little dogs Flapjack and Lulu. I have a 16-year-old son, too, but he thinks we’re dorks and doesn’t hang out with us too much these days.

What are you listening to these days?  

Twenty years ago my roommate called me a “musical dinosaur” because I refused to give new bands a chance and only listened to youth crew hardcore so I can only imagine what he’d say now knowing I basically haven’t changed at all. But, I also love grindcore and thrash metal so once in a while a newer band like Yautja slips into regular rotation. ( Last year I ran that bot that roasts your Spotify activity and it was like, “Wow, you listened to 2,000 hours of Earth Crisis, are you OK bro?” I work from home so I listen to a lot of Podcasts during the day, too. How Did This Get Made is my favorite, and is also responsible for my extremely weird Netflix algorithm.

What’s your straight edge story? How old were you when you “claimed edge”?  How long have you been straight edge?  Was there a key moment that made you realize straight edge is the way you want to live your life?   How did you find out about straight edge, was there someone in the community that introduced you, or were you introduced to it through people/bands, etc?  What drew you to it?  

I’ve been straight edge for 26 years. I graduated high school in 1998, but I’d gotten into metal and punk as a much younger kid and I grew up about an hour south of Chicago so it was easy to hop on a train to see whatever bands I liked. In the mid-to-late 90s Krishnacore really took over what all my friends were listening to and I started spending a lot of time at hardcore shows at Krishna temples. Bands like 108 and Shelter really spoke to me and even though there weren’t many girls and women in those crowds it felt a lot less exclusionary than the NYHC resurgence that was happening at the same time. I didn’t drink or do drugs anyway, but it was around this time that it occurred to me that sobriety could be an active decision rather than a passive one.

How do you define straight edge?  What makes straight edge different from being sober?  Is your definition fluid or concrete?   Do you think you will ever NOT be straight edge? What keeps you committed?

My definition has evolved a lot over the years. When I was younger I was a lot more militant (about everything) and I think as I’ve gotten older I feel less and less like gatekeeping something I’d love for everyone to participate in. To me, straight edge is a conscious decision to abstain from recreational use of drugs and alcohol. The difference between straight edge and sobriety is hard to define because I don’t want to be dismissive about sober living vs. straight edge. They’re both great. I think it’s a bit like the difference between being “plant-based” and being vegan. Essentially they’re the same, but one has maybe a little more passion, a little deeper commitment. I’ll absolutely be straight edge for the rest of my life. I’m 42 and I’ve been straight edge since I was 16, I don’t know any other way to be.

True or False: “If you’re not now, you never were”? If you were once straight edge and now you are back,  what happened?  What brought you back? How has your relationship with straight edge evolved?

This one is so tough to answer because I’ve never stopped being straight edge, and I understand that it’s not for everyone but I also can’t relate.

Over the past decade or so individuals in recovery have stumbled upon straight edge, and it has really spoken to them.  Do you feel that the straight edge community has been, and should be welcoming to those in recovery?    

I can only speak for myself, and not for the entire community, but I’ve changed my own stance on this quite a bit since my younger days. I cut myself off for a long time from anyone who didn’t share my exact worldview. My ignorance and privilege made me pretty dismissive, and it wasn’t until someone close to me became an addict that I realized it’s not a choice. He’s been sober a long time now, but isn’t straight edge. But if being part of a community that does value sobriety so much was something he wanted to do, and something that would help him stay clean, I’d be all for it.

Have you ever felt that your gender has had influenced your experience in the “straight edge and/or hardcore scene”.   If so, how?  Have you had negative/positive experiences?

I have so many memories of being excluded from conversations and being dismissed by men in the scene I could fall down a really bitter rabbit hole talking about all of them. But at the same time, it was the girls and women selling zines at shows who taught me how to veganize recipes, or how to make a men’s XL shirt fit a 5’2″ body. (I was so stoked when bands started selling YL shirts.)

Do you feel that the straight edge movement/scene is inclusive?  What are things that can be done to make it more inclusive?  What sort of changes would you like to see?

It might just be that it’s easier to connect with people now thanks to social media (we did have message boards in the 90s, and I made some lifelong friends on those but it’s different,) but it does seem like straight edge isn’t just a boy’s club anymore. A heterosexual white boy’s club, at that. I see a lot of women, especially women of color, popping up on accounts that highlight straight edge folks all over the world. A lot of the bands coming out right now are overtly anti-racist, anti-homophobic. I see merch sales benefitting trans youth organizations. I’d love to see more of the bands I grew up listening to throwing their support behind inclusivity because there’s always going to be people out there who hero-worship the 50-year-old hardcore dudes.

Has being straight edge had an impact on your relationships (family, friends, significant others). If so how would you characterize that impact?

It’s never had a negative impact on any of my relationships, thankfully. If anything, it’s how I’ve ended up in all of my longest friendships.

There’s an ongoing debate on whether one can be straight edge without being a part of the music scene, what’s your thoughts on this?

OK, so if anyone reading this saw the 2012 WWE CM Punk Best in the World documentary, you know I had a hand in his real-life straight edge-ness becoming part of his heel gimmick. I believe in that documentary, maybe it’s in bonus features or something, I also recall an exchange we had about the fact that he didn’t really listen to hardcore. I was always trying to get him to come to shows, but he was obsessed with wrestling and spent all his free time at the gym. Anyway, I said to him, “How can you be straight edge and not listen to hardcore?” to which he said, “I don’t need to listen to hardcore. I AM hardcore.” I’ve never wanted to punch my own friend in the face more. But, he had a point. I mean, my husband almost exclusively listens to 90s hip hop and rap and I challenge anyone to say he isn’t straight edge. (And, happily, Punk did eventually get into some hardcore.)

Mother, wife, small business owner.

Share This Post

Like This Post


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    A mininum rating of 0 is required.
    Please give a rating.
    Thanks for submitting your rating!

    Thanks for submitting your comment!

    Related Posts


    Straight Edge News