I have to talk about this shit with Morrissey because a band I have invested a lot of time and invested a ton both emotional and financial energy into is now involved with this.
For folks catching up at home, Morrissey has publicly outed himself as, well…..a fucking racist. If you’re publicly rocking swag from a far-right organization in the UK that was founded by an anti-Islam activist not just once on national TV but actually multiple times at shows and are quoted saying things like (and I kid you the fuck not), “I don’t think the word ‘racist’ has any meaning any more, other than to say ‘you don’t agree with me, so you’re a racist.’ People can be utterly, utterly stupid.”, either you’re a fucking racist, or, as you yourself would say….are utterly, utterly stupid.
This stuff has been swirling for a minute that dude was problematic af, but has really come to a head shortly after it was announced that aforementioned band I’ve invested a lot of energy into, Interpol, was heading out on tour with this racist turd of a human in the US. Yesterday, Pitchfork pointed out a little ditty in which Hot Press very directly asked Paulie Banks what his thoughts were on the reactions from folks who weren’t pleased that they agreed to hit the road with someone who’s trending at the moment because he’s a bigot. Dude’s response?
"We thought it would be a good show for our band. That's how I'm looking at it. I don't get too much into the other stuff."
My guy, are you for real?
You live in New York fucking City, one of the most famous if not actually the most famous cultural melting pots, full of immigrants and people that your headliner has very strong and troubling opinions on, and you’re just gonna white privilege your way through this shit and cash your checks without a second thought? I expected way more than this from you.
To muddle this even more, Nick Cave decided to chime in on the subject via a response to a fan-submitted letter about separating the art from the artist, essentially saying that Morrissey’s political views are “irrelevant” to him as a musician.
Just so we’re clear, that’s the tl;dr version of what he said. He definitely stated very bluntly that Morrissey’s views were hella problematic af and even encourages fans to try and reason with Moz, but his whole thing is he believes it’s a disservice to oneself as a fan to deprive yourself of art you’ve become invested in just because they suck. His whole rationale is that once a song is in the wild that essentially there’s an immediate disassociation of art from artist. Here’s his direct quote:
“I think perhaps it would be helpful to you if you saw the proprietorship of a song in a different way. Personally, when I write a song and release it to the public, I feel it stops being my song. It has been offered up to my audience and they, if they care to, take possession of that song and become its custodian. The integrity of the song now rests not with the artist, but with the listener.”
While this is certainly an earnest argument, imma have to call bullshit on this, or at the very least kind of point out how many holes there are in this argument.
Before I go off, I’m just going to give Nick Cave the benefit of not knowing what it’s like to *solely* be a music fan. I certainly respect his perspective and am grateful to hear the thought process behind his artistic expression. Unfortunately, I feel like when your self-determined role in the symbiotic relationship that is fandom is mostly to receive, react, support, and provide feedback, that disassociating is basically next to impossible.
This line of thinking he’s trying to semi-sell through here says that when I went to see Interpol for the 7th time at Madison Square Garden and bought a tank top dress and an enamel pin that I was there giving my money directly to “PDA”, “Not Even Jail”, “Cmere”, or “The Heinrich Maneuver”.
Nope. Not even close.
Fans operate under the notion that in order for more of the notes and words mixed together that makes their heart happy, that they have to feed, clothe, encourage, etc. the human persons who contribute to that art, which is why we are told to support artists by buying albums/merch, to attend their shows, and so on. I did not walk into Madison Square Garden to be in the presence of sounds I love that have a lot of meaning behind them. Music isn't something we all simply appreciate on our own in private. Music is literally everywhere all day every day. It's so embedded deeply in our culture that while Netflix can somehow get away with taking ‘The Office’ away on Netflix, if a popular album were to be pulled indefinitely the general public would have an even bigger meltdown before probably running off to pirate said album because we can’t live without it. Within the cult of celebrity we looove to love a rockstar, all the way to we collectively mourn them when they pass away. Music festivals are now the hottest events of the summer.
Speaking of festivals, live performances specifically are all about human connection. The experience of seeing the persons who made the art you like recreate it directly in front of you. We take for granted the amount of skill that is needed for these kinds performances. On top of that you’re in a room full of people who connected to the same thing as you, so it’s fair to assume that you have common interests with all of these future friends (also read: strangers).
It’s important to also consider that fans default at the assumption that when they’re at shows that they will be safe when they’re there. While recent gun related events make that assumption waver a bit, people go into a show with the understanding that that everyone will be remotely pleasant, accepting, and welcoming. If someone at the show sucks, well…..
….do you see where I’m going with this?
When someone comes in and spoils the fun at a show, what happens? They (hopefully) get ejected (hopefully) immediately.
It’s really hard to keep enjoying something when the experience has been tainted for you, especially when the person who wrecked it for you happens to be center stage. I still think about the dude who flailed around in front of me when I saw Alt-J at Mercury Lounge or the guy who groped a close friend at Fidlar. It’s really unfortunate that those experiences stick out very distinctly with those events because I wasn’t allowed to simply get lost in the art like I wanted to.
It’s certainly a lovely notion to try and pretend like the possibility of Morrissey attempting to not to sway people to his beliefs, but just like fans of music proudly wear band swag often in hopes of finding fellow fans, fans are also advertising and evangelizing with their merch, too. Ol’ Moz coulda been racist and kept his trap shut leaving fans none the wiser about his beliefs so they could continue to idolize and support him, but obviously he’s hoping that his recent behavior has a specific reaction and it’s not exactly the one I’m having right now. It’s pretty clear that he’s trying to elicit and enlist support for his troublesome beliefs, and honestly that might as well be a dude dumping beer on your head during your favorite song every fucking time it comes on.
So no, I’m sorry Mr. Cave (we’re not close enough yet for me to call you Nick), but it’s a little impossible to separate the art from the artist and their problematic behavior. Ain’t gonna happen. The part that the community has control over, on the other hand, is how we choose to use this kind of information to make educated decisions. In the same way that most fans these days know that if you buy albums directly from the band vs at a store or by streaming that the bands get more money and are then given the option to decide how they want to support, we get to look at Morrissey tightly bound to his bigotry right now, and decide if he deserves our attention anymore. We get to ponder whether or not we think it’s distasteful that Paul Banks doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal to earn money off an outspoken racist and not at the very least try to have the guts to speak directly to whether or not they share the same beliefs. In the face of discriminating against the marginalized, silence can literally be deadly.
Cave closes the fan letter with, “We should thank God that there are some among us that create works of beauty beyond anything most of us can barely imagine, even as some of those same people fall prey to regressive and dangerous belief systems.” Call-out/cancel culture in its current state doesn’t exactly have a universally agreed upon roadmap for what happens next when it becomes public knowledge that someone among us is being hateful or harmful with no intent to stop any time soon. We especially don’t know how to effectively handle the people who idly stood by and didn’t do anything to stop or prevent them from acting maliciously.
Swiftly smacking down on the cancel button could be really easy here. I mean I’ve never exactly been huge on The Smiths or Morrissey, but in his current state of personal growth I can’t consider stepping within even a mile radius of that kind of toxicity. There’s always a chance that he could come around, but at this point given his track record….not gonna hold my breath on that one.
With regards the other two who have a lot more eyes on them than I probably ever will, I really hope that Paulie Banks takes time to reflect on the amount impact he has on his fans. If I still have the occasional residual panicky moment from that time Interpol got trapped inside their tour bus in a blizzard, unfortunately this current missed opportunity to take a stand against discrimination is gonna be part of my Interpol fandom history as well. I hope the next page with them is that they take advantage of the platform that they have and take a stand against discrimination. There are ways to tour with a bigot and still take a stand. They can speak directly against their headliner’s beliefs, they can donate a portion of their merch to combat Islamophobia, or they can do something even more creative and unique to who they are that I haven’t thought of yet but would probably love them all the more for choosing to respond in that way. For now, no button smashing, but the button is definitely not being put away just yet.
As for Mr. Cave, while I appreciate his thoughtful follow up response to his fan’s question, I hope he comes to realize through this experience how deeply he is loved as person by learning that his fans can’t possibly love his music without involving him in that lovefest. I hope that message is relayed so loudly to him that the love-filled lesson stays with him forever.
To fellow concerned fans, you have your tweets, your likes, your comments, your attendance, your dollars, and all sorts of other methods to respond to this. If you’re feeling guilty about being in the mood for some Moz, you can offset his intent to spread harmful beliefs by donating to a charity that combats Islamophobia and even opt to donate on his behalf. You definitely should let him know that you don’t share his beliefs and that he should consider the root of why he holds them. How you choose to approach your feedback to Nick Cave and Interpol are up to you, but I definitely urge you to not stay silent or cancel them and then check out.
The only way that our community stays safe and inclusive is if we hold each other accountable.