We could separate the art from the artist, but should we?

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending Cold Waves VIII. There, I witnessed many amazing bands but also got to enjoy the company of fellow musicians and artists. The experience was full of beautiful memories in an inclusive environment. I got to meet a lot of veteran big named acts and was pretty blown away how all of them treated me with acceptance and smiles.

That said, when musicians get together it can be a real sewing circle; they talk. There was a bit of a controversial subject that happened on the final night that had my Facebook feed buzzing with hot takes about a t-shirt, and how it was handled. I also ended up in a few conversations about other artists in the industry going through controversy at the moment. Now this is not a “news outlet.” I am not a “journalist,” so I am not going to comment on any specifics that I have not researched. This is also not a gossip rag so I definitely won’t monger any rumors. However, this is something on my mind, so I was curious to get takes from all of you about how stories coming out on artists effect how you feel about their music?

My personal stance is that in 2019 we have an unprecedented level of access to the people that make our music. I pretty much hold David Bowie up as a deity. I literally have a candle of his image in roman catholic style in my window. Yet I remember the recent news story involving him from two young ladies under 16 in the 70’s who described an encounter with him as an adult man. If I heard of the exact same scenario from anyone I know, this would be someone I would immediately confront about how inappropriate this is. It’s not as though stories like this are unique to David Bowie. I just used him as an example because his music is so deeply meaningful to me, yet this behavior is also deeply reprehensible to me.

This debate that effects our current cultural landscape encompasses a plethora of social issues. Goth/Industrial/Punk has always had politics and social movement at the forefront of the art they create. With social media as a platform to discuss artists thoughts anytime and any place, it is harder than ever to separate what you are listening to from who you are listening to.

I come down on the issue here: It’s not too much to ask the artists you love to be basically decent human beings. I think there is a lot of spectrum for how much of your personal morality you expect from them. It’s your hard earned cash to spend on music, and there is too much available from artists that come within a range you are comfortable with to not draw a line. If you make the choice to be a public performer, this is part of the world. For better or for worse, your choices are on display. That is a responsibility that effects others. If someone can’t find it in themselves to care about how their choices effect those around them, I have a hard time respecting that person, and therefore the music they make. Also, if someone does make an effort to grow after a mistake, when does their penance become enough to warrant forgiveness?

Luckily, we here in the goth/industrial/post punk/ect counter culture have a scene that is very open minded, supportive, and accountable on average. So I choose to end this talking about artists I have encountered who were awesome people and are effecting change in a positive way with their art. When someone does wrong, it tends to spread quickly. I think it is equally important to talk about people going the extra mile for something right.

Jim Semonik – Runs Distortion Productions and Electronic Saviors charity organization. Jim is a survivor of colorectal cancer. Now, on it’s 3rd album, Jim has raised more than $70k in donations for various cancer research charities. This is a great guy who has enormous respect in the industry for letting his heart lead in distribution of music. Speaking with him, I am really impressed by how much he cares about discovering new talent, and finding ways to grow their audience.


Cliff and Ivy – Alaska’s favorite goth couple are wonderful artists I have featured on the page many times. They run a radio program which highlights new artists, and in general do a ton to promote the scene. Last year they put together an amazing compilation for Identity Inc., a charity to provide services for the LGBTQ community in Alaska called Rainbow Goth.


You need this compilation: GREAT CAUSE ^^^^^^^^

Black Nail Cabaret – Is a wonderful band that has been hitting their stride recently with their intense dark art house pop. They also put out an EP of covers with proceeds donated to Rain forest Action Network during the recent fires. They also have a track on the “Sounds from the Asylum” project which donates all proceeds to MIND and HEAR US charities for promoting mental health.


This cover of Pet Shop Boys “Rent” is straight FYRE! ^^^^^^^

Finally, Cold Waves Festival, who just finished year 8 of one of the best festivals in the scene, with big name acts and a sense of community which left me staggered. They give a portion of the proceeds to Darkest Before Dawn, a suicide prevention charity. The people who run it have done a true honor to their lost friend by raising awareness and celebrating what is best in life.


The purpose of this piece is to start a conversation. I want to hear about Bands and individuals that are doing the good work in the scene, so we can help elevate them. Also, what is our role as listeners in holding artists accountable for toxic actions? How do we navigate the minutia in a world where everyone is always on display?

Bowie, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Roger Waters, Andrew Eldrich, John Lennon, Bill Leib, Peter Steele, Ian Curtis, I love all the music. The odds I would consider all of them good examples of humanity……..?


  1. OK a couple of quick thoughts:
    1) I’m pretty hardcore about separating the art from the artist, that was the culture I grew up in and the way I always understood that art should be looked at. Historically that’s always been the way art’s been approached because if people hadn’t always done that Caravaggio wouldn’t be in the art history books, Oscar Wilde wouldn’t have been published, Queen and Elton wouldn’t have made it to the radio, etc. etc. There’s a reason we use phrases like ‘release an album’ – it reflects the fact that once a piece of art is out there, it is truly out of the hands of its creator and is a separate entity, to be enjoyed on its own. This whole ‘cancel culture’ thing I do not relate to on any level whatsoever; I listen to work and I buy in or not on the merits of the work alone. DON’T tell me who I’m not supposed to like this week because of whatever ‘problematic’ thing they might have said or done, I’m NOT interested.
    2) Having said that, what you’re talking about when you talk about the goth/industrial scene is a community of people that is at its best when it supports each other, because the scene is so damn marginal that there really isn’t much room for people to step on each other’s toes. In this context, ‘I don’t want to book band X because they were dicks to my friend’ is a valid stance. Of course – it’s a stance that also says nothing about the value of band X’s work, so point 1 still applies.
    Great post!

  2. Hi, rape survivor here.

    I think it’s of the utmost importance to take into account the actual stories relayed by the then-young women. They have both repeatedly said that they don’t feel like victims. That gets left out of virtually every conversation about Bowie.

    Yes, the behavior of the adults in this situation was fucked. That’s without question. But there are so many survivors who do feel like they were taken advantage of and abused that I’d prefer not to stamp the victim label on them. They reject it and we should all respect that.

    Since no other women have come forward about Bowie, I’m not 100% okay with making an example of him. We should be honest about it, and that the incidents were illegal, but until someone says that Bowie raped or abused them…I don’t think he’s one who needs to be cancelled, and I don’t think we should all be throwing out out records. There are far more predators out there that are being ignored, let’s go after them instead.

    1. Thats a great point, and I think I mentioned that. I have definitely thought on it. Although even if it didn’t bother the 15 year old girls at the time. They were still 15 and he was David Bowie. There is definitely a very sketchy power dynamic at play. I do think it is very telling both women now long grow still speak looking back at the experience as positive.

  3. I think on that a lot, could Caravaggio have made his art without his oppression and brash personality? I’m not sure. I guess I am of the opinion that its about how you treat people in your personal life, and many of the great artists, Hemmingway, Piccaso, ect had quite a history of being pretty cruel to those closest to them.

    1. Well and this is where the whole ‘cancel culture’ thing shoots itself in the foot because it’s completely lacking in any nuance. Pete Burns of DoA for example – supposedly was a complete nightmare to deal with but you listen to his music and it’s got raw power, likely because it’s fuelled by pure id, it’s coming from quite an unbalanced person. So you can take a little bit of that, and maybe that’s something you actually need in your psyche to give you a boost because compared to him, you’re really quite repressed. And the beauty is, you can enjoy this music without having to be in the same room as the troubled person behind it.

      1. Honestly, I think it’s up to each individual, whether they choose to support, or to not support an artist. I’ll use an example of someone I stopped listening to, because they did some pretty reprehensible things. Boy George kidnapped and beat a male escort in 2009, I’ve never been a HUGE fan of his music anyways, but I chose not to support his work at all after I read that news story (this was not a rumor btw, he was charged and found guilty).

        Another “artist” I refuse to support is Boyd Rice, because seriously fuck that piece of shit. Now on the flip-side, I’m on the fence about Death In June. I’ve never seen Douglas P. straight up say anything supporting a fascist pov. And I take a lot of his lyrics to be very critical of that political spectrum. But again, I don’t know the guy personally, and I havent read a TON of his interviews, so i just choose to er on the side of caution in that case. The same applies to a lot of Neo-Folk/Neo-Classical artists. They can be pretty hard to pin-down.

        Here’s an artist that gets called out sometimes, that I continue to support. Siouxsie, the goth Queen herself, has been called out for Anti-Semitism, cultural appropriation, etc. But I disagree with every example people have used to try and demonize her. Yes, she ran around sporting Swastikas in the 70’s PURELY for shock value. Punk Rockers were very big on getting a rise out of the general public. And yeah she did rock some vaguely Asian and Egyptian, etc styles in some of their videos and press photos, but I don’t think she or the band was trying to belittle those cultures. It’s definitely a dated concept, but in the context of the time it came out, I don’t really see the issue there.

        An it’s funny because I rarely see Rozz getting called out, and that dude had some serious problems being problematic.

        1. Those are great points, all ones I have heard. I think on the Death in une, my argument is even if Douglas P hasn’t openly said anything. he knows this is something discussed about his band and he hasn’t openly said he doesn’t support it or condemn things Boyd Rice says and does.

  4. I have so many varying thoughts on this topic. Many of which you touched on. But to me the most significant is that we do have an over abundance of access to information about people now in the age of social media. It changes the dynamic when a person’s actions (good or bad) can be pronounced around the world on social media channels in an instant. In “the old days” unless you were a die hard fan who devoted an enormous amount of time to discovering facts on your favorite artist (maybe to the point that now we would consider it near stalking) you probably only heard what the mainstream media (newspaper, TV, magazines) reported…and that is *if* the story was considered news worthy. Now, we each can be our own reporters and with enough followers the word of a good or bad deed spreads quickly.

    I consider myself a decent human being. But I’ll be damned if I don’t still listen to Thriller and dance along. It’s a really challenging landscape to navigate.

    1. A very, very complicated subject. There are, of course, plenty of artists that are seemingly beyond reproach but make utterly terrible, bland music (U2 and Moby spring to mind). On the other hand, some of the greatest artists that ever lived could be horrible (Alfred Jarry, who would shoot a gun in his apartment, stated he would ‘gladly make some new children’ with his landlady when she complained he might kill her kids.) Sometimes the art is so great that it commands respect, regardless of the person that made it. Most band biographies indicate that our heroes are often extremely flawed and often unpleasant people. However, great talent shouldn’t be a free pass for being an awful human being. It’s surprising how many people ignore or make excuses for stunningly bad behaviour if they like a certain artist (Nick Cave, anyone?). Ian Curtis, to give an example, had a troubled domestic life, and shouldn’t be excused for making some bad life decisions, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of his output. And of course, dodgy politics combined with bad music should be deemed unnaceptable. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    2. A very, very complicated subject. There are, of course, plenty of artists that are seemingly beyond reproach but make utterly terrible, bland music (U2 and Moby spring to mind). On the other hand, some of the greatest artists that ever lived could be horrible. Alfred Jarry, who liked to shoot a gun in his apartment, stated he would ‘gladly make some new children’ with his landlady when she complained he might kill her kids. Sometimes the art is so great that it commands respect, regardless of the person that made it. Band biographies show many ‘heroes’ to be extremely flawed and often unpleasant people. Great talent shouldn’t be a free pass for being an awful human being. It’s surprising how many people ignore or make excuses for stunningly bad behaviour if they like a certain artist (Nick Cave, anyone?). Ian Curtis had a troubled domestic life, and shouldn’t be excused for making some bad decisions, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of his output. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. My opinion is always, “How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” Because otherwise you just stand as being hypocritical. Why do you hold X accountable but not Y? You draw your line and somebody will have have their line in a just behind of yours, signaling that you have crossed it.

    As a survivor I am deeply troubled by anyone calling me a victim of anything. I know most times it is well meaning but I am a survivor and get REALLY chaffed when people get mad for me. So in the case of the Bowie stories and others I would NEVER speak on somebody else’s behalf as to how the feel or should feel that is insulting to the survivor as if they can’t know their own emotions. If they say they have moved on and forgiven the person then we as a society also need to move the fuck on. It is not fair for us to keep dragging their story into the news for a flogging.

    Polanski is a great example of this… people are still boiling over what happened decades ago now even though the now adult woman has long moved on and forgiven him. In fact some people have gone on to attack her for forgiving him. I think anyone who gets worked up within cancel culture to that degree has to have some unresolved issues in their own life they have yet to work out and so are distracting themselves from their own truths and realities by focusing on others.

    We all have demons and social media makes it easier for others to expose those demons (at least expose those who don’t do it themselves) and if we truly hold fast to not supporting anyone who has done anything egregious it will leave very little art left for one to enjoy.

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