Music and politics have gone hand in hand since the birth of time. I grew up listening to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan – their passionate anti-war prose being my first political education. I remember being a small human, maybe around 10 or 12, and having a conversation with my mother about why people chose to go to war, and why some chose to go to jail rather than be conscripted. I had socialist and progressive values from a young age which fiercely continued into my adult years. Pussy Riot, Midnight Oil, The Beatles/John Lennon, Muse, Rage Against the Machine – all of these artists have been poster children for rebellion and resistance at some stage.
As a teen and adult my musical choices were fairly anti-establishment. I cheered when Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster and then George Dubya. I fist pump when some of my favourite artists proclaim their disdain for American gun culture. I celebrate the fact that most of my musical choices seem to align with my leftie leanings, and I guess that’s part of being a rebellious misfit – it can be hard to find voices in mainstream media that so closely mirror your own thoughts.
And then sometimes I get completely jolted off-side when I hear the political leanings of bands and individuals whom I respect and admire.
During the shocking and horrific attacks on Paris in November 2015, and specifically on the Eagles of Death Metal gig at Le Bataclan, I watched in fervent horror as I saw people who could have been me or any of my friends running for their lives. Blood stained. Injured. Desperate. In the short time since, EODM have given a couple of official interviews. The first of which was recorded for VICE and was completely heart wrenching to watch. I had to watch it over several sittings. Their pain and suffering was absolutely palpable. And as I had met and chatted with both Jesse Hughes and Dave Catching during their last Australian tour, it felt personal. I wanted to reach through my screen and console them, with every inch of my beating heart.
And then the second interview. Given exclusively to French television station iTélé, Hughes passionately and tearfully called for greater access to guns and increased gun ownership, claiming that had everyone in that auditorium that night had a gun on them the death toll would have been far lower, and the siege ended far more quickly.
“Did your French gun control stop a single fucking person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so. I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men that I’ve ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.
“I know people will disagree with me, but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal,” he said. “And I hate it that it’s that way. I think the only way that my mind has been changed is that maybe that until nobody has guns everybody has to have them.
“Because I’ve never seen anyone that’s ever had one dead, and I want everyone to have access to them, and I saw people die that maybe could have lived, I don’t know.”
To say I was absolutely gobsmacked by the sheer hypocrisy and irony of his interview is a massive understatement.
I am not naïve enough to think every artist I am interested in musically holds the same core values as I do. I had seen photos of Hughes on his Instagram feed where he supported gun culture, and given that he lives in the desert I didn’t think it much of a stretch. I had read that he was a Trump supporter – I took that with a grain of salt because *surely* anyone with half a brain in their head doesn’t support that clown. And I’ve met Hughes. He has more than half a brain in his head. He is a deeply compassionate and considerate man. So knowing that about him, I was shocked to my core to hear him mimic the words of the NRA and the right-wing conservative movement. I thought a lot of the rhetoric was a joke that he was playing on us all. He calls himself The Devil, he loves and lives with a porn star (Tuesday Cross), he is a rock’n’roll badass. Was he taking the piss?
Turns out he wasn’t. Recently he has published more politically charged imagery and words on his Instagram feed. And now all I can do is shake my head and feel saddened that our values are so polar opposite. Being the politically motivated woman that I am, the temptation to sell my ticket to their upcoming Melbourne gig is sky high, and I’m finding that choosing between two passions is a tough line for me to draw in the sand.
words and photo: Mandy Campbell