It might have surprised some to learn last week that the likes of Johnny Ramone, Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground) and Michale Graves (Misfits)—among others—are or were known for their conservative views. We often make the mistake of projecting our own opinions, those that we feel are absolute and right, onto musicians that we enjoy and then feel disappointed when the truth is utterly different.
That’s perpetuated by the fact that we so often think of punk rock as urban music; it comes from the backstreets of big cities. Meanwhile, metal is its suburban cousin. And you’re still more likely to find bustling examples of multicultural and minority populations in cities than you are in the suburbs of 2019 America. History says that your average white dude is less likely to embrace racism if he’s surrounded by people of different backgrounds—eating the food and living the culture in a city. It’s perhaps the next best thing to travel, when it comes to broadening the mind.
So with all of that said, we’re slightly less shocked when we find out that metal bands, such as Avenged Sevenfold, are more likely to vote Republican. We might not expect them to be full-on racists but they might support Trump (how much of a differentiation that is, you can decide for yourselves).
Take Kid Rock. The guy is from Romeo, a suburb of Detroit best known for an annual peach festival. Nothing wrong with that, at all, but this is a city that is 92 percent white, on the outskirts of the far more diverse Detroit. That Kid Rock is a raging Republican and vocal Trump supporter would surprise nobody at all.
A Kid Rock show is a display of nationalistic bravado. Flags, troops, Budweiser, and Harley Davidson. And we’re not talking cool, subtle mentions. We’re talking a stars and stripes backdrop. Spoken advertisements for the aforementioned “great American” companies. It’s patriotism-extreme.
Of course, you can be a hard-nosed patriot and not be a racist. Kid Rock will point to the African-American mother of his child as proof that he can’t possibly be racist. But his visits to the White House alongside Ted Nugent suggest there is, at least, something nefarious going on in his head. That he was involved in the Detroit hip-hop scene years before embracing country music only adds to the mystery.
There’s no mystery about Nugent though. The man is an utter dolt and without a doubt a racist. In 2012, he called for President Obama’s assassination and referred to him as a subhuman mongrel. He called Trayvon Martin, the innocent Florida teen who was shot and killed, a “dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe,” and said he was evidence of “the same mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America.”
Here’s another gem from his own YouTube broadcasts:
“MTV is a liberal lump of hippy snot. They are embarrassing. Those big uneducated greasy black mongrels on there, they call themselves rap artists. Excuse me? During a bad bloody case of diarrhea, I got more soul than those guys do at the peak of their life.”
That’s twice, then, that Nugent has referred to black Americans as mongrels, and you can bet there have been far more occasions in private. He’s utter garbage.
But Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, everybody knows about. Those two take every opportunity to be photographed with Trump—they’re practically members of his house band at this point. It’s not a great loss to ignore both men’s music.
But how about Phil Anselmo of metal titans Pantera? In the wake of Metallica, that band helped strengthen and develop the heavier end of metal in the ’90s, and are considered legends by many today. But Anselmo has said and done many things over the years that are problematic.
At the start of 2016, while performing at an event to remember fallen Pantera man Dimebag Darrell, Anselmo uttered the words “white power” and held his arm out in a nazi salute. He apologized afterwards and, in a number of interviews, has tried to push rewind on that vile incident. He says it’s “not me” but how the hell can anyone do that, say that, by accident or as a joke? It just doesn’t make sense.
A number of people from the metal community, including Machine Head’s Robb Flynn and Anthrax’s Scott Ian, spoke out against Anselmo. That just seemed to get the Pantera man’s heckles up. But one hopes he at least took the opportunity to have a long, hard look at himself. Incidentally, this writer has been in this industry for 20 years (as of this year) and Anselmo easily ranks as the most unpleasant interviewee during that time.
He’s not the only one. Members of Slayer, Megadeth, Aerosmith, Kiss, even Alice Cooper have over the years spouted something that placed them to the right, and there was a time in the ’80s when a confederate flag on the clothing was commonplace among hair metallers. Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil was all for performing at Trump’s inauguration until, according to him, he was uninvited. And we haven’t even mentioned Lynyrd Skynyrd yet.
Again, it’s up to us as individuals how much we want to separate the artist from the art. Next week, we’ll discuss Morrissey, a man who has pretty much outed himself as far right this year after many years of suspicion, much to the dismay of his fans.
If somebody votes Republican, can we immediately assume that they have problematic views when it comes to issues of race? You really can’t, but isn’t it at least fair to say that somebody who is supporting Trump is prepared to overlook racism? Racism isn’t a political stance—it’s indefensible—yet the president uses inflammatory language to rally his base, and much of it is undeniably racist, homophobic, xenophobic and sexist. Just look at the way he’s been speaking about the wonderful Megan Rapinoe this week.