It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t make my living as a music journalist.
Because many music journalists, whose work I otherwise read and respect greatly, seem oddly silent and unopinionated in the face of a controversy that needs to be written about, discussed, debated, argued, and quite simply, talked about.
Journalists report the news, they don’t shy away from it. Still, these writers–who in the past have loudly and boldly broadcasted their sometimes scathing opinions about an artist’s work–now appear timid and reserved, unwilling to comment.
Because they are afraid to lose their meal tickets.
Allow me to set the scene…
FADE IN: A small, dank club in Hollywood, California. It is January 22, 2016, and a slew of heavy metal musicians and fans have gathered for DIMEBASH, an annual celebration honoring the life of PANTERA guitarist Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott, who was shot and killed on stage by a deranged “fan” on December 8, 2004, while performing with his band DAMAGEPLAN. Alcoholic beverages (including Dime’s trademark Black Tooth Grin, a deceptively intoxicating mix of Crown Royal with a splash of Coke) are flowing freely. The music is loud, the smiles are many. Everyone who had the pleasure of knowing–or even simply crossing paths with–Dime knew that the guitarist dealt in smiles and laughter as much as he dealt in riffs. The evening goes off like a heavy metal 21-gun salute…that is, until former PANTERA vocalist Philip Anselmo, who had been performing his band’s classic tracks with handfuls of metal dignitaries, ends the night in what appears to be fury, thrusting his right arm out in a brisk sieg heil, and then shouting from the edge of the stage:
I’ll let Machine Head’s Robb Flynn, who also performed at DIMEBASH (with Phil) and had previously shared the stage with Pantera a number of times, take over for a few minutes. Watch the whole video. It’s quite enlightening.
It begs the questions:
Why do we allow our heroes to get away with such disgusting, reprehensible behavior? Why do we ignore it or find excuses for it? Is it because, in our admiration, we’ve elevated these people to such levels where they have become untouchable?
Whatever the reasons, there is a disturbing lack of professional musicians speaking out against Phil’s behavior, as Robb Flynn mentioned. And understandably, if wrongly, so. These are working musicians. Their livelihoods could be affected if they publicly shamed such a high-profile figure as Anselmo (who has become a sort of metal Mel Gibson, at this point, though not yet as ostracized). Flynn himself acknowledged that fear.
Equally, there are a number of music “journalists” who are avoiding the topic completely.
Because they’re afraid of losing that big interview with Anselmo when his next album comes out. They’re afraid of losing the headline. They’re afraid of losing their bylines.
They’re afraid of losing their meal tickets.
Me, I’m just a writer and a lifelong heavy metal fan. I love Pantera. Their music provided the sonic background, the soundtrack, to my high school years in the early 90s. I own one of Dime’s signature guitars. He’s one of the main reasons I starting playing back then, and continue to play today. But I’m glad I’m not a writer who makes his living covering music.
Because all I want to say right now is FUCK YOU, Phil Anselmo, you ignorant cunt.
And there aren’t many working music journalists who seem to be saying that.
- Published in Uncategorized