There’s this idea among intelligent, independently leaning artist types that they’re above the fray when it comes to sexism, racism … fill in your own “isms.”
Words are supposed to be something I’m capable of forming. But that’s all I can think of to say when I read about this Burger Records scandal. I only know what I’ve read, as I’m certainly just not as connected as I was when I was a full-time music writer and could’ve formed more authoritative opinion on the matter.
To back up the angry truck, or if your blood pressure is just too low today, the short version is this: Burger Records, an indie music label and record store, abused women. Musicians and bands associated with them abused women. Women in bands signed to the label were abused. Joey Armstrong, SWMRS’ drummer and son of Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe, had a relationship with a 16-year-old girl when he was 22. Oakland’s Justin Champlin, who recorded and performed as Nobunny, did so many terrible things he quit music entirely. And there was much, much more I don’t have the stomach to explain.
I’m not, necessarily, passing judgement on any particular individuals, because I just don’t know.
However … I know the gist; I’ve seen the annoying patronizing attitude that comes with a condescending smirk of someone constantly approaching the old dynamics of artist culture as if things suddenly changed this century.
Burger Records folded last week after first announcing plans for “major structural changes.”
It tried to replace male co-founders at the top of its mast with a woman. It tried to throw on the brakes and dramatically change direction, by changing its name to “BRGR RECS,” or some such nonsense, and by promising to start an imprint that focused on female artists. The idea then would be to survive as a label promoting female-oriented acts to atone for their sins. Which is so patronizing as to pass “insult” at 900 miles an hour and go straight to “Are you out of your damn mind?” on the grand scale of offense.
Again, I don’t know these people. I wasn’t there, though the stories are horrible. I don’t want to lump everyone into my stereotypes, but in my experience, male musicians … artists, actually … love to pretend they know something the rest of the world doesn’t.
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I should know. I’ve been one of them. I’ve treated women with disrespect when I was in bands. I acted out in what was a male-dominated music industry. I stupidly wanted to be like my misogynistic rock heroes. They don’t like hearing it, but musicians are as bad as professional athletes when it comes to how they treat women. I knew better, or I should’ve. I was raised by women and certainly didn’t allow any man to treat them the way I then turned around and treated other women.
I’m still no prince, but … I’m trying.
In my case, the Universe (see … that’s how they talk? Like the “universe” is something special only they perceive) gave me a giant WHACK to the skull in the form of giving me four daughters.
I have close female friends in the entertainment industry, and the things they have to endure are simply mind-blowing. If one of my daughters repeatedly received pictures from men feeling the need to offer them money for sex or to send them pictures of their penis, I would either call the police or track down Mr. Friendly and let him know he needs to find another hobby.
Which brings about another problem: men feeling they have to protect women. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant. Because I’m a father of daughters and don’t have many rational thoughts about protecting them. I’ll be 90 years old and if some schmuck side eyes my kid at the mall, my first reaction may be to swing my walker first, ask questions later.
Back in the real world, how about all those acts, possessing the sand to still try waving the indie flag while trying to keep from going extinct during a goddamned pandemic? They may have just lost what’s left of the musical dream, after months of scary uncertainty. Their record label just imploded because some men can’t keep their dicks in line with their brains.
Even down to men pressuring female bandmates to dress a certain way on stage, things have to change. Of course, looks matter. Of course, sexiness matters. Of course, attitude matters. You’d be an idiot to say otherwise.
But it has to be a woman’s decision as to what she puts out there. And men have to grow the hell up and not misinterpret things because they can’t climb out of their own heads. Or else, like some of the folks who are probably criminally responsible at the recently deceased Burger Records, you’re no longer allowed to be part of the community.
I keep telling myself there’s a bright side to this giant sack of shit that is 2020; things have to change. The pendulum is due to swing big the other direction: better health care for all, thanks to COVID-19. Better awareness of institutionalized racism, thanks to so many finally saying too many Black lives haven’t mattered over the centuries. Better leadership, thanks to the howling void currently in D.C. Adapt, or be left behind. And for those who refuse?
Right … fuck them.
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Follow music critic Tony Hicks at Twitter.com/TonyBaloney1967.