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Iceage | an open letter to Louis Pattison

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iceage

By Scott Creney

So Louis, let me see if I’ve got this straight. Iceage are the ones with access to every music writer in the world, and somehow it’s MY fault their message isn’t clear? I went off as much information as someone living in a small US college town could find. Jesus, if Iceage hates people questioning this shit so much, shouldn’t I be able to find it without FLYING TO ENGLAND? It’s not my fault the first 20 pages of internet search terms involving combinations of —

  • Iceage
  • Race
  • Racism
  • Racist
  • Denmark
  • Inteview
  • 2013

— only brings back articles from people attacking/defending them (pretty poorly on both sides, I think, which is why I wrote the article. I’m sorry Google didn’t bring up your interview (which even you admit isn’t available on the web). Personally, I blame Das Racist for skewing the results.

But come on, Iceage has a blog, they have a website, they don’t live in a fucking cave. This band is in a position to get out whatever message they want to. Maybe the fact that their publicist (golly!) explicitly told US journalists on their last tour not to ask about the Fascism stuff, maybe THAT’S why I’m uninformed? Maybe it isn’t because I’m lazy?

Oh yeah, a friend of mine asked them anyway. Elias, driven mad by his desire to set the record straight, blamed it all on the media. So I guess it is all my fault then.

Oh and for what it’s worth, I got one of those Nook e-readers for Christmas. NME subscriptions were being offered for $3.99 a month so I said why the hell not, and subscribed. But then less than a month later they jacked it up to $15.99 and I cancelled my subscription, probably just in time to miss your article. However, based on my brief NME experience I can see how — in the wake of Haim and Palma Violets — why you might mistake Iceage as tough and edgy.

Also I think you’re getting Nazism and xenophobia confused, otherwise why would you mention the drummer’s ethnicity? Or to put it another way, the sentence “The fact that they have a Jewish drummer proves they aren’t anti-Muslim” makes no earthly sense. You were right when you said it wasn’t relevant, but you were wrong when you tried to make it relevant anyway.

But I’m glad all my questions had already been answered to your satisfaction. Regardless, there’s still a question lingering in the air like a damp fart at a Laibach comedy show, one that I didn’t see answered in your response. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to ask Elias next time you see him.

Why?… Like why the fuck do it in the first place? Come on Louis, the five journalistic questions? I know you’re a stickler for good journalism. So why’d they do it? What were they hoping to accomplish? You know as well as I do that EVERYTHING a band does — artwork/videos/T-shirts/interviews/etc — makes a statement about itself. So why did they make the statement?

I say they’re idiots. You say they’re naïve. But aren’t we really just splitting synonyms here? Aren’t you really just saying Iceage aren’t bashful; they’re just shy? But fine, I’ll buy that they were naïve about how this imagery might be perceived (in Europe? in Denmark? in 2013? Really?) but come on man, I didn’t break into the band’s goddamn houses and put this shit out into the world. They did. After all, the facts in my article aren’t really in question, it’s just the conclusions we’re arguing over, right? They’re the ones who posted this video on their Tumblr.

(A reminder to everyone — you really need to watch the ENTIRE thing before you comment on it.)

Now I personally would like to believe that had I been in their position I would’ve stopped playing instantly once the sieg-heiling started. I definitely would’ve been bothered by it, but (and I think all of us can agree with this ) I DEFINITELY WOULD NOT HAVE PUT IT ON MY TUMBLR.

And hey Lou, you’re pretty good at interpreting lyrics, but how are you at visuals? Let’s watch the new Iceage video together. I’m sure, since all that stuff in my article was from a couple of years ago when they were young and naïve, there won’t be anything problematic in this one.

So tell me, what’s your opinion on dog-fighting? Pro? Con? Do you find it exciting? A daring artistic statement?

And I assume that they were selling these flick knives on their last US tour (about six months ago — the one where you weren’t allowed to ask them about fascism) because they’re big fans of whittling.

iceage knife

Here’s an edgy thought for you — selling knives at your shows is a sign of weakness.

And that’s the worst thing about all of this. The only thing more pathetic than a bunch of teenage boys engaging in (at best) wannabe tough guy posturing is grown men thinking it somehow makes those boys cool. I think their bullshit is stupid, cruel and has real world consequences whether Iceage intends it or not, because, you know, ALL YOUR ACTIONS HAVE REAL WORLD CONSEQUENCES WHETHER YOU INTEND THEM OR NOT.

But I don’t hate Iceage. I don’t hate people for listening to them. I don’t hate people for putting out their records. I don’t even hate journalists who don’t write about this. And I respect you for asking them about this stuff at all.

Slavoj Zizek once said that even if people keep their ironical distance, even if they demonstrate that they do not take what they’re saying seriously, they are still complying, and compliance is what ultimately counts politically. Would you agree or disagree?

But at least we’ve all learned one thing in the past few days.

The only thing worse than a band deliberately putting violent/racist/fascist imagery out there is a writer like myself taking exception to it.

Related posts:
This blog kills fascists.
THE ALTERNATIVE REVIEW | Iceage – You’re Nothing (Matador)
Iceage | smart and naive can be a dangerous combination too - Louis Pattison answers Iceage’s critics
Iceage | Who makes the Nazis?
the interview | Iceage want you to know that they’re not fascists

13 Responses to Iceage | an open letter to Louis Pattison

  1. Tone February 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Hey Scott,

    I agreed with most of your original article on this topic, and think you have made some important points. I also commend you for calling out a band for this, when it has clearly been an unpopular thing to do. However this latest post rubs me the wrong way… It comes across as condescending and mean towards Louis, and I don’t think it unreasonable to assume he’d be offended by this article (after all as you note, our actions do have real world consequences, even if it is something as simple as making someone feel bad for expressing their view in a discussion). I also think that pragmatically speaking this isn’t the best approach to take, as I think it will make people more aggravated and extreme in the opposite direction of your own opinion. Obviously this is their responsibility and may be quite immature, but once again I think it is a forseeable consequence, and one I think you would see as undesirable given the fact that you evidently care about this issue.

    I’m sorry if I’m completely off the mark with this and am reading you unfavourably. It just seems to me that while you may not ‘hate’ people for expressing their views or for their taste, you are a bit angry about it. I think this discussion would be better not descending into a back-and-forth of personal level stuff and petty pot-shots, because I think that there are important issues here that risk getting lost.

    Hopefully I am just having a bad day and that you can reply and set me straight.

  2. CBP February 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I cannot believe that the corporate media are sucking up to Iceage as a credible rock outfit. Iceage remain silent regarding the issues. Perhaps it’s the commercial media that have some serious questions to answer?

  3. Louis February 22, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Hey Scott

    Lots here, so I’m going to try to zip through at pace.

    First thing I should make clear is that I certainly don’t begrudge the discussion being had – although it seemed to be going over old ground with old information, and as someone with a bit of outside insight it seemed useful to chime in with my own experience.

    My journalistic rule of thumb with music that deals with difficult, controversial or offensive imagery is to ask questions and print the answers. While at Plan B I interviewed Stephen O’Malley of Sunn0)))/Southern Lord and asked him about the time he used to run a fanzine that took advertising from white-power record labels. It was incredibly awkward and he gave what I don’t consider to be a terribly strong answer, but the discussion was printed and it’s there for people to read and make their own minds up. I still listen to my Sunn0))) records, for what it’s worth.

    If you want to hunt down Nazi bands on the internet you haven’t got much of a job. In general, neo-Nazi bands don’t tend to be terribly shy about explaining what they’re up to. Something different, and more ambiguous, is going on with Iceage.

    I came to them first as a fan, was later troubled by the imagery, and so made it my business to go find out what was going on in Copenhagen, and try to articulate/interpret the answers. Personally I’m satisfied from talking to them that there is no racist or anti-immigrant agenda here. That’s no argument to bring to the internet comment box, obviously, but it’s the basis on which I feel I comfortable being here and offering my perspective (“defending racists on the internet”, as I said to Everett as he was persuading me to let him put this email up as a Collapse post, “is not good for the personal brand”).

    Still, um, thanks everyone for making me feel so welcome.

    *swallows*

    To try to address some of your questions.

    ‘Why?… Like why the fuck do it in the first place?’

    This is obviously a huge question, and at the risk of getting off-topic just for a moment… why do Motorhead have t-shirts with a big Iron Cross on them and play under a huge World War II bomber? Why do Manowar run around waving swords pretending to be Conan the Barbarian? Why did Slayer write a song about Joseph Mengele? Why did Joy Division stick a member of the Hitler Youth on their EP sleeve? Why do Clinic dress up like they might be about to usher you into a back room and fit you with an the endoscope? For lots of reasons, but broadly: To look cool and mysterious. To create mystique. Sometimes – not Clinic here, I’ll let them off this one – to deliberately offend and provoke and upset. I appreciate it sounds a bit pathetic and purile to put it that plainly, but this is pretty much what rock’n'roll has been doing since the ’60s, and that’s probably why there’s such a big industry – if you can call it that these days – of people queuing up to dissect it.

    The first time I saw the video to ‘New Brigade’ I didn’t think ‘oh, far right iconography’. I thought – oh, these kids quite like the idea of dressing up as terrorists and football hooligans and devil worshippers and smoking bongs and running around letting off flares in the woods (gotta be honest, it still looks quite a lot that way to me, although the brief appearance of that Klan-ish hood was certainly an initial cause for concern). I personally wouldn’t wear a Burzum badge, and I certainly haven’t got a lot of time for Death In June, but both are bands that are in some way genre-defining and appeal to people beyond any political message that’s in there (I still wouldn’t say I’m sure what’s at the core of Death In June, but I’m not enough of a fan of the music to find out). It’s true, there’s enough drifting signs surrounding Iceage to Google together an ugly picture, but it’s not the only picture to made, and I suppose as someone who’s been a supporter of the band in the press I feel it’s important and responsible to try to articulate that.

    re: the ‘New Brigade’ release show video – I hadn’t seen that video, actually, and like you say there’s a point where there could be more than one person sieg heiling, although the camera is zoomed in a way that doesn’t capture it terribly well. I do have a little interview footage that addresses this show directly (this wasn’t published anywhere).

    Me: Altered Zones ran a piece on their site about people sieg heiling at an Iceage showcase [I'm not referring to the 'New Brigade release show, but this http://alteredzones.com/posts/1460/iceage-curates-danish-punk-showcase/. Is that something that happens?

    Elias: "He [the journalist] wrote this thing about this drunken old guy doing Nazi salutes… he is nothing to do with us, just some guy that turns up at the gigs.”

    Anton (from Copenhagen band Lower/Sexdrome): Raising your arm in the sieg heil doesn’t make you a Nazi – it can make you a drunk, idiotic fat guy. At the Iceage release show, there was a bit where a guy raises his arm in a way you do, and someone pinpointed it on YouTube – like, what is up with Copenhagen! People make a lot of effort dissecting stuff like that.”

    Sorry, hardly a long and lyrical answer, but a refutation at least. And shows they were fielding and refuting these questions early last year, and I doubt I was the first person to put it to them.

    ‘Or to put it another way, the sentence “The fact that they have a Jewish drummer proves they aren’t anti-Muslim” makes no earthly sense.’

    No, of course it doesn’t, and I didn’t write that. With but blogs titled things like ‘This article kills Fascists’ and ‘Who makes the Nazis?’ I don’t think it’s unfair to point that out in the name of balance, if indeed we are at all interested in getting an idea of who this band are and what they’re up to.

    ‘So tell me, what’s your opinion on dog-fighting? Pro? Con? Do you find it exciting? A daring artistic statement?’

    Those dogs are playing. (I’m laughing at myself as I write this. That’s EXACTLY the sort of thing a dog-fighting apologist would say! But I own a dog, and that’s evidently two dogs playing. Tails wagging. When two dogs of that size and build fight, you know about it.)

    ‘And I assume that they were selling these flick knives (see above photograph) on their last US tour (about six months ago — the one where you weren’t allowed to ask them about fascism) because they’re big fans of whittling.’

    The knives, I’m not going to lie, make me a bit uncomfortable. Not a big fan of knives. More context, though – they went up for sale on Iceage’s website at the same time as another unusual merch idea, locks of the band’s hair. This in particular makes me wonder if there’s some occult significance to it (haven’t asked them this). I do know they’ve not been able to return any of them to Denmark, which has fairly strict laws if you’re caught in possession (automatic jail time I think).

    ‘Slavoj Zizek once said that even if people keep their ironical distance, even if they demonstrate that they do not take what they’re saying seriously, they are still complying, and compliance is what ultimately counts politically. Would you agree or disagree?’

    Sorry, I don’t really get what you’re getting at with this. I don’t think Iceage are being ironic, and I don’t like them ironically. I think what you’re suggesting is something along the lines of ‘If you take enjoyment in something that looks a bit Nazi, that makes you a bit of a Nazi too’ – if that’s the case, disagree. Although maybe Zizek would have something good to say about Iceage (he writes quite incisively about Laibach: http://www.reanimator.8m.com/NSK/zizek.html)

    I need to wrap this up now. Perhaps I’ll return to this later if I’ve missed anything. Just to conclude. I can totally understand how somebody might be grossed out by Iceage. Probably if your blog was my first encounter with the band, before I’d fallen for the first album, I would be the same.

    From this Europe Lectures thing, I gather the Iceage and the broader Copenhagen scene have considered a lot of the criticism internally, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that the content and aesthetics of ‘You’re Nothing’ and the surrounding artwork and materials are fairly straightforward in terms of meaning (unless the Danish Hawking Association is a stronghold of the Scandinavian super-far-right, I dunno). Just to return to Johan talking about the new record: “When we first came out it seemed exciting to do something that was mysterious. But now a certain simplicity, getting to the point, feels more interesting.”

    Ultimately, I’m prepared to be wrong. I’ve done my research. I’ve asked my questions. I’ve reported what I’ve heard. Perhaps I, and Matador, and Pitchfork etc etc etc have been hoodwinked. I don’t think so though. Personally I hope Iceage talk to you and clarify some of the stuff under discussion here, and we can all go do something else.

    cheers

    Louis

  4. Tim Clarke February 22, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Nicely said, Louis. Perhaps Scott can now put his high horse back in the stable.

  5. Tim Clarke February 22, 2013 at 8:44 am

    The knife thing is genuinely disturbing, though…

  6. Andrzej February 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at all this – while I realise that it’s an Iceage branded knife at the top, the fact that this splenetic, rhetorical diatribe – written, lest we forget, as a response to a mild private message sent by Louis to Everett – takes a wildly aggressive tone WHILE FEATURING A BIG PICTURE OF A THREATENING KNIFE next to Louis’ name the top is a pretty sumptuous piece of irony.

  7. Everett True February 22, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Yeah, sorry about that. That was my doing (Scott originally placed the knife picture further down in the text). I didn’t think of what the juxtaposition of the knife next to Louis’ name would look like. Apologies for any unintended implications.

  8. Jean encoule February 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned, this is all garnering a bit of attention for Scott and Everett, and we can take an educated guess at how much they like attention. This has been done and dusted, why dig it back up again? Oh yeah, controversy racks up traffic. The trouble with wandering into the underground from the overground is you get hit by trains from all directions. Stay of the streets.

  9. Everett True February 22, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Oh yeah, controversy racks up traffic. The trouble with wandering into the underground from the overground is you get hit by trains from all directions.

    That’s a great-sounding metaphor. It doesn’t really bear close examination, though.

  10. Scott Creney February 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Louis, thanks for taking the time to respond so thoroughly and thoughtfully. I think we’ve exhausted everything there is to say about Iceage at this point. If my tone was defensive up there, it’s only b/c I thought your initial post was condescending towards me. Understandable since it was written in an e-mail, but you know, in public it hurts to be called lazy, or accused of not reading about/listening to Iceage. As I said above, I read everything I could find on the subject. Also, when you’ve been getting the kind of hate mail I’ve been getting the last few days (being the only Scott Creney on the planet has its disadvantages sometimes), it can make you a little more sensitive than usual. Although I must say, the person who called me a ‘gay cunt’ may have overplayed his hand a bit. Now if I can just get ET to stop throwing the word ‘fascists’ on my behalf. At worst, Iceage are guilty of (apparently unknowingly) representing certain (small, non-representative of all Danish people) Xenophobic goings-on in their native country.

    Lastly, just want to clarify the dogfighting thing, because I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all if Spin.com hadn’t written this back when they premiered the video:

    “The song’s video, directed by Catherine Pattinama Coleman, is fittingly wild and features the band and other Danish youth relieving pressure via myriad methods: moshing, making out, breaking shit, burning shit, flipping each other off, filming dog fights.”

    Of course in the world of Spin, as is the case with most US music writing these days, this is all meant as a compliment, an advertisement, an incitement to listen.

    Keep fighting the fight, Louis. You’re one of the good ones.

  11. Louis February 22, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks Scott – I appreciate that. I was just thinking yesterday that no-one ever resolved an argument on the internet, so perhaps in some regard we’re breaking new ground today. I don’t doubt that you’ve got it in the neck from all quarters here and I did have that in mind when responding.

    As you say, when I composed the original email to Everett, it was intended as a private email, and in the spirit of ‘you might want to look at this a bit closer’. I wasn’t intending it to come over like a personal attack, as obviously I don’t know you from all the other Scott Creneys on the planet (Just one? Really? Apparently there is one other Louis Pattison, although I gather he’s a Vietnam veteran, so we’re not often confused at parties).

    I guess let’s leave this one here for now.

  12. David Glans February 25, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Have about you writing an article on how a grown up person can go through life without learning the difference between a raised fist and a nazi salute. It’s quite an impressing thing actually.

  13. Paul Tucker March 26, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Hi guys, sorry to drag this up AGAIN, a full month after last comments. Well done by the way, who would have thought such reason would have been possible in the world of internet discussion!

    I just wanted to say, regarding the ‘dog-fighting’ thing – I interviewed Johan for Clash a while back and asked him about that. The quote never made it into my piece (I had covered lots besides the issues discussed above), but what he told me was that the dog footage was something an American friend of theirs had filmed while travelling in Indonesia. So the comment about the band “breaking shit, burning shit, flipping each other off, filming dog fights” is misleading, at least in part. But hey, don’t it just sound cool…

    For what it’s worth, my initial reaction was (and admittedly I’ve not seen much footage of dog fights) ‘That is footage of two dogs playing.’

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