Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What is the dollar amount by which you begin to own responsibility for what you do?

In Los Angeles, there's a very popular music magazine called Arthur. It's kinda hippie-ish but it has excellent commentary and it's well put together. It definitely has a peace and love slant to it, but it never struck me as a real confrontational kind of magazine.

In Boston, there's a very popular band called Godsmack. Named after the Alice In Chains song, the band sorta tries to add some Wiccan and tribal ornamentation into what is otherwise fairly mainstream sounding alterna-metal. Their new album IV is currently the number one album on the charts. They kinda have war and anger vibe to them, but they never really struck me as a real confrontational kind of band.

Recently, these two sets of people got together, and it got ugly fast.

At issue was Godsmack's decision to license several of its songs to be used by the military in recruiting commercials. Now, as you can guess, Godsmack is big on the "We support our troops" front, doing shows for the soldiers and such, and, of course, this is to be applauded.

(As a side note, I can say that I have yet to find anybody who is like "I hate the troops! Fuck those troops!" except for these wackos, but anyway, I digress...)

So, Jay Babcock, editor of Arthur asked Sully Erna, leader of Godsmack, the magic question. Namely, does it bother you at all that your music is being used to persuade people to join the military so that they may lose their lives in an unjust war? To which Sully replied, in essence, "Dude, it's just music."

But Babcock was having none of it.

JAY: Okay. Have you done anything to prevent people from joining the military?


JAY: To maybe educate them as to what’s in store for them?

SULLY: I don’t have enough education in the military to educate them in anything.

JAY: Would you let your music be used for anti-military recruiting advertisements?

SULLY: I don’t know, I ‘d have to see what that was about.

JAY: But you’d be open to it?

SULLY: We’re open to whatever, as long as it’s not a Maybelline commercial.

JAY: [laughs] Maybelline’s more offensive than the military…?

SULLY: No. That doesn’t quite go with what we do.

JAY: Buth the military does.

SULLY: Listen. Where are we going with this thing? Is this interview about the government—

JAY: Well I’ve never seen such a pro-military band as you guys.

SULLY: But we’re not! I think [chuckling] you’re making us out to be a little bit more. When we’re asked about something, we just answer the question. We don’t go spend 23 hours out of our day supporting the military and what they do.

JAY: Um hmm.

SULLY: We just simply, an opportunity came up, they wanted to use some music for a recruit commercial. What are we gonna say, no?

JAY: Yeah. How hard is it to say ‘no’?

SULLY: Why would we, though?!?

JAY: Because—

SULLY [interrupting]: Is it because you don’t feel the same way about the government that we do, makes you right and us wrong?

JAY: Yeah. What do you feel about the government? Tell me what—

SULLY: Aw, that’s crazy, man! That’s just an OPINION.

JAY: I can back my opinion up from here to tomorrow if you would like to talk to me all day long.

SULLY: Well obviously you’ve done a lot of research and you’ve—

JAY [interrupting]: That’s right, because—

SULLY: —got a different opinion. We don’t know that stuff that you know, so—

JAY [impatient]: Why don’t you do some research before you get involved with these sorts of things? You’re talking about young kids’ lives. You’re talking about kids—

SULLY: [yelling] Would you rather not have us be protected so they can come and overrun our country?!?

JAY: You know what I’d like, Sully? A Department of Defense, not a Department of Offense that attacks other countries—sovereign nations—who do things in a different way than us, who we have no right to go over and invade and change their governments. Would we want someone else to do that to us?

SULLY: I’m not saying—

JAY [interrupting]: How hard is that to think about?

SULLY: I’m not saying that we were right on every war that we’ve created. I know that we’ve been damn wrong at times about stuff—

JAY [interrupting]: When have we been wrong?

SULLY: [yelling] but they have also been wrong too!

JAY: When have—

SULLY [interrupting]: I don’t trust someone like fuckin’ Sadaam and Osama to come in here and try to control—

JAY: [interrupting, incredulous] When did Sadaam try to come in here and control our country?


JAY: Why am I here?!? This is the top country in the world, my friend!

SULLY: Well, why do you think so? Because it’s PROTECTED.

JAY: No, it’s not because it’s—

SULLY [interrupting]: –ruled our country.

JAY: No one is attacking us, my friend. Certainly not Iraq. Every first world nation suffers terrorist attacks. Get used to it.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Babcock could have been a little more reserved in his questioning with this interview. All Sully wanted to do was plug the new album and hit the pool before noon, he certainly was surprised by the subject of this interview. Babcock completely ambushed him, and his objectivity was probably was the first casualty of the day.

But Babcock does have a valid point. Maybe the band should have thought it over a little more before giving permission to the Navy to use their music. It's pretty clear from this that they just heard the offer, and it just sounded like easy money. Why wouldn't they, right?

On the other hand, Godsmack could just as easily say that if they didn't give the military their music, the military would just hire someone to knock off their style and give them the same thing. What's more, Godsmack could claim, as Sully actually does in the interview when he exclaims "Oh man, are you like one of those guys that agrees with some kid that fuckin’ tied a noose around his neck because Judas Priest lyrics told him to?, that they cannot be responsible for every individual's interpretation of what their music means. In that way, Godsmack could find a similarity with some members of our military - they're not here to judge the mission, they're just supposed to carry it out.

But the larger point is that, in the huge new world of economic globalism, perhaps art and its artist bares responsibility for how it's being used. If you didn't mean to say "Yeah, joining the Navy is a great idea!", then maybe don't let the Navy use it to convince people that joining the Navy is a great idea.

Now does that make Godsmack in some way responsible for what happens to kids who join the military as a result of those commercials? Maybe, maybe not. But, with any luck, Godsmack (or someone else in their position) will be able to answer that question completely before they make that decision again in the future.

Listen to the full interview here or read the full transcript here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I'm all for being accountable for your actions, but we live in a capitalistic society. They were just making a buck. Do we honestly expect to be inspired by today's version of rock bands?

5/09/2006 9:36 PM

Blogger Lindsay Jones! said...

Well, look, I do not begrudge the band for making a buck. And, by the way, they're making a LOT of bucks at the moment, with or without this thing, so the question becomes what is that buck worth in terms of how it's sold? Ya know? If they were using that song to sell shoes, it might be a different story, but, in this case, it's being used to advance an ideology, and for them to then turn around and say "Hey, we didn't know that there were any consequences to this", strikes me as naive at best, and indifferent at worst. Should they be allowed to sell their song to whomever they want? Absolutely. But if they sell the song to somebody who plans on associating a new meaning with it, then isn't it the band's responsibility to ask a couple of questions? Unless they're just trying to make a quick buck without really considering how they got it? I'm just asking here. And whether or not you're inspired by the rock bands of today, many people out there are. Spend a day watching MTV and you can see for yourself how every aspect of their lives is documented and worshipped. They do have an effect. It may be sad, but it's true.

5/10/2006 12:59 AM

Blogger bigdumbchimp said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/10/2006 5:55 AM

Blogger bigdumbchimp said...

If you make a decision you should be able to defend that decision or at least make an educated try. If you can't do either I think it's totally justified to call them on it. They're adults (at least in biology terms) and they'll get over it and maybe come out better next time they dive in head first before thinking about something.

5/10/2006 5:56 AM


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