Friday, May 18, 2012

Awesome Public Critiques of Combichrist and Nachtmahr by Ad-ver-sary

I know I have been copping out and not writing my own posts and posting others' posts most of the time lately. But, read this. My quick comments are at the end. This is sooooooo good and sooooo refreshing. Ad.ver.sary, thank you. Thank you. Wish I could have experienced it in person.

Copy/paste from idieyoudie:

We were contacted a few days before leaving for Kinetik by Jairus Khan from Ad·ver·sary. He told us that he was planning a visual presentation for his set at the festival which he anticipated would attract a lot of attention, and wanted to speak to us about it. The presentation related to themes and imagery in the work of two other artists on the opening night Kinetik bill, specifically Combichrist and Nachtmahr. The presentation, which can be viewed here, or at the bottom of this post, openly critiques what Jairus perceives as the use of misogynist and racist tropes in those band’s music and publicity materials. We spoke to Jairus after seeing an early version of the video.
Image: Ad-Ver-Sary playing live. Two lighter skinned people wearing all black are standing on stage backlit by bright white lights. They are both playing electronic instruments. The crown in front of them has their backs to the viewer as they are silhouetted watching the show.

IDUD: Before we talk about the presentation proper, can you explain why you wanted to talk to us about it ahead of time?

I didn’t want there to be any confusion about what I was saying. It would be easy for things to get twisted through the telephone game, and I’d rather there be a clear description somewhere of what happened and why.
IDUD: Okay, so can you tell us what the genesis of the presentation was?
Jairus: It was when I got booked to play Kinetik, and I found out that I was scheduled to open for Nachtmahr and Combichrist. Given how strongly I feel about the way they do what they do, I didn’t think I could just get up there and play and pretend as though I wasn’t going to be followed by these two acts that I’ve openly criticized. I actually considered just cancelling my performance, and being done with it. I don’t want to be associated with what they do, and I don’t want to be a support act for them, even in a festival setting. But I took some time to think about it, and at some point I was listening to Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death and thought, “What would Jello Biafra do?” He’d use the stage time to tell people why he’s pissed off. And so here we are.
IDUD: Do you think your statement is in danger of being compromised by the nature of where and how you’re presenting it? In other words, is the dust that could be kicked up by directly confronting these bands going to overshadow what you’re trying to say?
Jairus: Oh, absolutely that’s a danger. I think that’s a danger any time you speak up about something you feel strongly about. People dismiss it as drama, or a stunt, or whatever else. Are some people going to think I’m just trying to sell more records or whatever? Probably. I went out of my way in the video to not take any unfair shots at the bands. I didn’t use photos of them where they looked ridiculous or nerdy or drunk, I used photos and media released by the bands. I didn’t quote them out of context, I didn’t attack them about their personal lives. I want the focus to be on what they’re doing as artists, and I’m doing what I can to be fair about it, so that the message doesn’t get overshadowed by the medium.
IDUD: You’re potentially in a position to directly address Thomas Rainier and Andy LaPlegua, but from the early version of the presentation we saw it seems aimed at the audience rather than the artists it’s responding to. Do you have any interest in actually addressing them?
Jairus: They’ve been asked in interviews about the imagery they use, and they brush it off. Andy will say in one interview that anything sexist is written from the point of view of the Combichrist character, then in another interview that he’s never said anything sexist, then in another interview that there’s no character anymore at all, and that he’s writing from a personal point of view now. I don’t know how effective it will be to address them directly in a video that they’re probably not going to be present for, even if it’s posted online. I’d rather speak to the audience and start a conversation with them about why we accept and embrace the images that we do.
After his performance today, we spoke to Jairus and Nick Thériault of Antigen Shift (who joined Ad·ver·sary on stage tonight) about the reaction from the crowd.
ID:UD: How do you think it went?
Jairus: I think it went pretty well. We really had no idea how it was going to be received, but people cheered at the start, at the start, at the end and all the way through.
Nick: I think people were a little reluctant to react at first, but once the message came through they realized they were down with it and started cheering.
ID:UD: What are you hoping people take away from this?
Jairus: We hope people think about their music, we hope that when an artist like Combichrist, Nachtmahr, or whoever else uses that kind of imagery, that regardless of whether the artists involved are great guys or not, they’re normalizing violence, they’re normalizing the marginalization of women.
Nick: They’re making something that should be completely unacceptable cool and aesthetically pleasing and that’s irresponsible. Because they’re directly in a position to influence.
UPDATE: We individually spoke with Andy LaPlegua and Thomas Rainer roughly an hour after the performance, neither of whom had been present during the performance but had been made aware of it.
Andy: Well, I didn’t see it, someone just came and told me about it. I think it’s really cool. That’s what he thinks and I think he should be allowed to say so. It’s a good thing, there’s nothing negative about what he’s doing, obviously. I totally agree about bands like Nachtmahr as well, obviously using symbolism of something that is extraordinarily negative. In Combichrist, for my sake, I always did it as a fictional character. No one would say that Wes Craven is sexist because he has a crazy scene in a movie. It’s a part of what he’s doing, he’s doing horror movies, I’m doinghorror stories with Combichrist. Lately we’re doing less of the Combichrist character because I’m frankly getting sick of doing that thing, it’s getting boring, and I’m the first to admit that when it’s done with it’s done. And I’m the first to admit, you know, how many times can you say “fuck” or “slut” in the same song? It was a storyline, something I was doing as a comic book character kind of thing and it’s still been hanging in a little bit because I couldn’t completely give up the character, but if you look at the new stuff we’re doing we’ve been going more and more away from it.
Andy: I don’t have anything bad to say about him [Jairus] at all. I think it’s cool what he’s doing, and he can get some awareness to people who I think took these things maybe seriously when it was meant as some kind of a parody, and little bit of irony and as a character. Suddenly you have people walking around in the scene and they’re dressed the part and behave like that because they think maybe we thought it was cool, but that was never the point. You see people dressing up, I don’t wanna say it badly, but like strippers and going like “oh, I’m a slut” and that’s never what we intended to do. It’s all like fan-fiction.
I have nothing negative to say to him at all. I have nothing to say in my defense for what I’ve done, I don’t feel like I should have to defend myself. It’s all fiction. Everybody who knows me knows that I am not the character. I am not pro or anti anything, really. I’m a realist, I know what’s wrong and I know what’s right, but I also believe in freedom of speech, and freedom of writing, about writing stuff I like to write about, if it’s fantasy or personal. And sometimes fans can get a little confused about what is what, but usually it’s very simple: if it’s really fucked up, it’s fiction. If it’s something emotional, it’s not. It’s very easy, but maybe people get it mixed up.
ID:UD: So moving away from that was a deliberate reaction to people taking these things seriously?
Andy: Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of like, if you start doing something for art or for a storyline and suddenly people take this seriously, they actually think that’s how they should behave, you know, they think “Oh, we gotta go drink and fight and fuck and get some sluts”, you know, it’s bullshit. It’s turning into Scientology, you know, like “you really believe this shit, it’s a fictional book”.
ID:UD: And that’s something you’ve encountered?
Andy: Yeah, I meet people all the time who take these things seriously. And you step back and go like, “this is not what I intended, never what I intended.” It’s also kind of like a director being blamed because someone walked out and did what he did in a movie. You can’t really blame the movie-maker. You have to blame the person who did it. They would have done something stupid anyway. Same thing with school shootings, they blame it on KMFDM and stuff like that. You can’t really do that, it’s not the band, it’s obviously the person, how they grew up. They would do something terrible anyway.
However, I did on purpose step more and more away from the character, because I never really identified myself with the character as a person, I identified with it as stuff I like to watch in horror movies, nothing I ever looked at as serious, but just a bit of entertainment. I’ve never been racist, never been sexist, never been violent. The only times I’ve gotten in fights was twice in all the time we’ve toured: one was to stop a fight in a pit, the other was a fight with security after I tossed out someone who started a fight. If anything, I’m exactly the opposite of the character. But I also let it live for a while. I intentionally never made too many comments on it. I thought it was kind of funny, sitting back and watching the social media and all the speculating. It was like, “yeah, just think whatever you want.” But after a while it got to the point where I deleted Facebook because I was sick of social media and people talking. I have my own personal life and I don’t need to deal with people who don’t know me and people who judge me for a comic book character I created.
Thomas: It’s like we say in the intro of our show: “You have enemies. Good. That means you have stood up for something in your life.” Some people can be critical of your stuff, but I think the industrial scene has been far too tame in the last years. The industrial scene is rooted in the punk scene, to stir up shit, to be controversial. It’s been all about that. And most of all the industrial scene has been too mainstream and trying to adapt to political correctness and all that bullshit for far too long. It’s like the movie “Se7en”, there’s a quote, “It’s not enough to whisper in people’s ears anymore, you have hit them with a sledgehammer.”

I never thought I would say this, but I appreciate some of Andy's comments an am glad he is learning and growing away from the misogynistic horrible "fiction" he was promoting before. His closing comments and personal responsibility need some work but I am overall happy to see progress from one of the biggest offenders. And @Thomas, lol, cool story bro. If industrial is tame and what you do in copy/pasting bad action movie crap into your music and videos is what it needs then... oh forget it. You're not controversial. Marilyn Manson is even bored. You are the only "mainstream" thing happening. Everything you do is "mainstream". If you want to create controversy and be un assimilationist, try, I don't know, doing something different than the rest of the world. Your videos and music mimic pop culture. And for real bro, did you just quote the religious serial killer, Se7en? 


  1. I JUST came over here to tell you about this in case you hadn't heard yet... I just did thanks to the facebooks =D I thought of you right away when I saw it!

  2. I also agree with you on the two responses. I was really impressed with Andy but Thomas is as juvenile as ever. "What's wrong with being sexy?" is not acceptable at this point. You're not edgy, you're typical. I hope he figures it out, because I really do like his music!

  3. Hmm. I like Andy's response, and oddly can even relate to that, I write and publish horror stories and worry about people thinking that they represent my ideology, not the ideology and morale of my fictional characters.

    Nachtmahr on the other hand is for me, music wise, typical eurotrash, a bit like Scooter (move your ass etc) who has wondered to a wrong party.

    Personally I don't understand this current obsession of trying to be as shocking as possible. For me it just looks like a desperate way of getting your 15 minutes of fame in a culture which is lacking in originality and skills. There's the band "Alien Vampires" as well, whose imagery is all about blasphemy and shock, naked nuns and such -its all really generic and pointless and even Black Metal, which started that, has moved in to a more artistic and imaginative direction.

    Something in that video-critique got me a bit worried though - the thing about the use of Confederate flag. What other flags should be banned from the scene? A lot of Japanese bands use Imperial flag, and the history of that particular symbol is even bloodier. I've seen a band play with DDR imagery for satire, flags, speeches and all, should that be banned as well as it was a dictatorship from which desperate people escaped risking their lives?

    So at the same time I'm against the fashion of trying to be shocking, but also worried about the current obsession of censorship, which I see as an American import here in Europe, having to do with the guilt-ridden history of former colonial powers and slave states, which most of us Europeans simply don't share. Already the mainstream culture is calling for censorship of a lot of my favorite classics and I don't want that culture to spread in to industrial.

    I mean, when I was a kid, it was illegal to criticize the Soviet Union in my nation. That gives perspective to current PC-obsession.

    1. Alien Vampires has been in my bookmarks to write about for a bit. Ugh. Forgot about them.

      I don't know about Japanese flags since I am not Japanese. But I do think that as an American person with some knowledge of the history of American slavery and so on that that flag needs to go. Banned? No. I don't believe in state intervention in expression. but I'll definitely always criticize those who fly or wear that flag.

      Censorship is not really what is happening here. Nachtmahr and Combichrist can do whatever they want. They will be publicly criticized and shamed for it. That's that. No one is calling the cops on them or using the state to intervene. We don't have to condone racist and misogynistic stuff to condone free expression, ya know?

      I share your nervousness about freedom of expression though. But I think with all freedom of expression, there has to be freedom of critique.

    2. Actually what NachtmahR do IS illegal in Austria. They're taking some pretty big risks including swastikas in their stage show. Regardless of wether you believe them to be doing it "ironically" or not, they run the risk of having to convince a jury of the same. See Verbotsgesetz 1947 for more details.

      He also quoted Winston Churchill, which I'm bringing up just so people stop attributing it to fucking Eminem all the damn time.

      Well played publicity stunt for Ad·ver·sary anyway, it brought them to my attention at least.

  4. Carmedil, we already wrote about the stuff you think is somehow empowering before adversary critiqued these videos There are so many things wrong with the video, whether or not the woman is surviving interrogation.

  5. Thanks for the link, but censoring my comment was unnecessary.

    I really thought could have taken place, but since an armband and a pin automatically makes you out as a Nazi and a racist then probably this isn’t the place for a debate as only one side is permitted.

    Ironic how fascist this blog turns out to be.

  6. Oh relax I did not censor your comment. I assumed you deleted it after my reply. If you look at this blog you'll see that I let people say some pretty awful things without deleting them. I also suggest you look up the definition of fascism. Have a nice day. Hope you find another outlet for that anger.

  7. Ad.ver.sary are a shit ton better than either Combichrist or Nachtmar. They make industrial music with subtlety and depth. I think its only natural they are going to be smarter in their cultural politics.

    Also, while his militaristic politics may be a post modern ironic pose (or to put it less charitaby, they're just knocking off the shit Laibach was doing decades ago without any of the originality, wit or substance to the politics), from what I've heard about Thomas Rieners antics backstage at the last Infest I was at, there's nothing ironic or feigned about his sexism and general attitude to women. Andy does come across well though. I always thought there was something about Combichrist that elevated it beyond the usual cheesey-hardstyle in New Rocks that a lot of industrial is, never been able to put my finger on it, but he's just better.

    Good call on Jairus citing the fathers of industrial music. Throbbing Gristles sleeve notes were groundbreaking when they came out in the 70s and their anti-capitalist politics is infinitely more radical than nachtmar. I don't know if many of you will get this reference but in Jeremy Clarkson were an industrial band he'd be nachtmar.

  8. Wow, people are offended. Why am I not surprised? Oh, that's right, because people can't get it through their thick skulls that getting offended doesn't solve anything. Really, it doesn't. If I got offended every time someone made blonde jokes, white jokes, Jew jokes, etc, I'd probably be pretty miserable at this point in life. If I got offended every time someone called me a whore or a slut in high school, every time I've been made fun of for being short, every time I've been called fat, and every time that I've been told that I'm a disgusting human being for having two vaginas and that I am officially single because of it, I would be one messed up individual. I don't give people that try to offend me the time of day, because if I do that's just letting them win. No, screw that, I win and they lose, end of story. ~Queen Vicki

    1. Enjoy