Can Bad People Make Good Music? Part 2

Bloody punk-rock, mental illnesses and the image of musical subculture.

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Can Bad People Make Good Music? Part 2
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This summer seems to be a pretty cold one in the place where I live. Showering rains and cruel wind like it came straight from October. That’s not normal. Another thing that is not normal this year – is my behavior. This July you can find me on the streets of Moscow after 9 PM hiding from the severe cloud-bursts chilling with beer and a couple of old pals after a hard working day and repeatedly asking only one question that has been haunting me since my previous article – “Can you remember any bad person who is (or was) making great and enjoyable music?” The Handsome Family’s title song from the first season of True Detective drama keeps on ringing again and again as I get messages from people whom I haven’t seen for ages. “What about Charles Manson, dude?” – that’s an average answer. But one guy finally gave me some food for thoughts. He is a punk-music lover of my age worshipping Henry Rollins as long as I can remember him (to be honest I'm also a great Rollin’s fan).

He told me about the band Discipline. Just listen to the first two minutes of their song and watch cuts from their energetic live performance captured on tape. I think most of the people can not say that it’s the best punk song they’ve ever heard, but it’s definitely not the worst one. It’s raw (in a good way), it’s powerful, and at least it contains a simple but rather nice guitar riff. And that big bald man with the microphone is Joost De Graaf who is now imprisoned for thirteen years after killing his own wife. He killed her with a hammer, and his band is still going but for now without him. Some of you can say that it’s a personal issue, but it’s definitely evil. Like in one of PJ Harvey’s piano songs, a shocking verse – “Hit her with a hammer/Teeth smashed in”.

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Another example he gave me was the band called Time Again and their frontman Daniel Dart. This time also imprisonment but several accusations including “kidnapping, carjacking, dissuading a witness, assault, and extortion among others”. What do we know for sure - he burnt his own house, killed his wife and kid. Now he is back on track and reunited with his band. As some of the press say – “Daniel has become a leading voice in the criminal justice reform movement”. But who cares? We can not resurrect people. No one will return life to an innocent child. A good person? By all standards – no but, a pretty decent singer and musician.

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The next day after our meeting he sent me a message. “I would like to ask you about one thing. I'm worried about punk culture and the vision of it that people have. Please, mention in your article that as far as I’m concerned those were the only criminal cases in punk’s history. And the reason for that was just their own mental health.” That was interesting. If you worry about the culture or the life of genre you’re actually so much into – you worry about its image. And bad people can for sure spoil the picture that people have in their minds on some certain subcultures. I also want the word “punk” to be associated with Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Joey and Johnny Ramone (and for sure a bunch of other names), good old days back in the 70’s, protests and rallies, but not the bloody massacres and dead bodies.

In the end – can bad people make good records? Yes, definitely. Life is life and art is art, those are close, related but different terms. They can influence each other, but one can not mix them together. The only thing that we all need to do – is to ask ourselves: “Do I really care about that person’s deeds if the music is great if I enjoy it?” That’s a question of your own choice. One statement in addition: never listen to people who think that they know how to live and is constantly teaching you about what is good and what is bad in their opinion judging only by their own beliefs, prejudices, and understanding of moral.

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Emptywordsbass
       This is another example of why Ultimate-Guitar needs a competent editor to review all article submissions before they are published on the front page. Besides the numerous errors in grammar and punctuation, or the conflation of immorality with mental illness (as other commenters have pointed out), this article has one fundamental flaw that any qualified editor should have caught: the author fails to present a cogent argument. The author spends more space on pseudo-profound statements and superfluous narrative than they do on the topic of the article. The article does not contain a single justification as to why the examples were chosen to represent “good” music, nor is there any elaboration as to what the relationship is between author and work. This article could have developed into something better, and maybe should have undergone a round or two of revision, and the minimal editorial oversight on this website does an injustice to this website’s contributors and readers. 
    KosherRider
    Now author trying to bury his incompetence by deleting comments that fucked his shit up. All that he deserves is being knocked out of UG. If you can't adequately react to critique - never ever try to write any article if you're so humble person. 
    Dynamight
    This article could have developed into something better
    Nah, the article was doomed to failure from the start, as the premise is nonsensical (which is why there is no cogent argument).
    Emptywordsbass
    I respectfully disagree with you. The premise is something that is still debated in literary and cultural studies, and I think that there could be value in considering the role of the author or authorial voice in deriving personal or cultural meaning regarding a text. I do not think the issue is the topic, I think the issue is the poor approach to the topic. A modicum of editorial oversight and a round or two of revision could have remedied those issues. 
    Dynamight
    Well, you're simply incorrect about that. As I commented in the first part of this article, both "bad people" and "good music" are subjective notions. It could be debated sure, but such a debate would never lead anywhere, as debates require some factual ground to be of any value.
    seven.johnson
    Very much agreed.  The first part was better written - if I'll give any credit. It's all the more annoying because some people are putting out good and informative articles.  History of thrash has been excellent and there's been some good writing about Chess Records and Mods/Rockers of late.   Articles like this just pander to the Heat/TMZ type crowds and I'd like to think musicians (these days) are a little above that.
    Emptywordsbass
    That series could also be improved if this website invested in having a small, but competent, editorial team for the news and front-page content. While this website is more than adequate regarding its primary purpose and functions (i.e., hosting and distributing tabs, creating apps, building an online community of musicians, etc.), it  lacks in other areas. The front page rarely gets anything more than aesthetic improvements, and as the first thing people see when visiting the site, it should be prioritized. Instead, the hosts have made numerous poor decisions regarding the front page. It took months for them to remove potentially NSFW advertisements several years ago (sometime between 2010 and 2012); I complained personally on the forum about the issue of mobile web browser advertisements for the app functioning inappropriately (and that took several months to resolve); I caught and reported numerous article plagiarists on this site (that issue was resolved fairly quickly); and it has become a running gag over the past several years that news stories and other content will be poorly written. I really enjoy this website, but I am growing tired of these flaws that would probably be considered unacceptable at other sites of this size. Ultimate-Guitar is the highest ranking music-based website according to Alexa (not including websites like YouTube), it is in the top 500 most-visited websites in the world and in the top 260 of the United States, yet it seems that the people running this website do not take seriously its most-visible content. 
    BrownGibsonDude
    How many musicians does it take to change a lightbulb? I dunno, but there's 7 or 8 musicians standing around watching some guy changing a lightbulb telling him how to do it There is no coherent case for this mans argument because the topic itself is weak and presents a piece where all you're literally going to get is this mans opinion on whether being a douche affects the music you create It doesn't do an injustice to no one except you because you want it to be that way. You present the same thing; superfluous reasons as to why this mans article is 'junk' But I'm glad you get thumbed up for validation from people who agree with you, I'll stick to the thumbed down opinion because at least I'm recognizing the injustice you create to this mans article (it's trash but I'm not telling UG to shaft this guy by removing his article)
    Emptywordsbass
    Again, the topic is not weak - it is actually something hotly debated in the fields of literature, cultural studies, etc. A case can be made about why a person's moral character should or should not be taken into account when considering the value of their work. Additionally, regardless of this person's opinion, their perspective can persuade others or make other people think differently about a concept, a work, etc., if presented well - which is kind of the purpose of writing a piece like this in the first place.  I did not say the work itself did an injustice. I said the lack of editorial oversight does an injustice to readers and contributors. This website makes money off of advertising on pages with content created by writers who receive no monetary compensation because readers click on those articles. The readers are not given content that has any serious amount of quality control, and the writers do not get to grow as writers by going through the editorial process.  The criteria I describe are not superfluous. Logical consistency, proper punctuation, adherence to basic rules of grammar and syntax, and correct spelling are basic components of good writing. These rules are taught in most elementary schools and secondary schools in many countries, and are contained in several writing guides (Strunk and White, Stephen King's "On Writing," the MLA, APA, and Chicago manuals of style, the OWL Purdue website, etc.).  I never said this article was junk.  And finally, I never made a demand for an article to be removed. I said there should be better quality control for front-page content - something a semi-experienced editor or writer could easily provide.  Sometimes closely reading the things you respond to can help with making accurate assessments and effective or compelling criticisms.  
    BrownGibsonDude
    Nobody in the real world is going to respond point to point. I assumed your point was that you want this article removed because you're making such a big deal to people who don't care (yes maybe YOU care, maybe the readers DO CARE, but UG doesn't - it's a forum for God sakes run on user material) that one can only assume that's what you want You might need to go back to school about how this topic is considered a 'weak' topic because it's left to you to decide what t is you consider is 'morally' correct. The world of psychology and sociology may study this with facts, but their criteria for what is 'wrong' is never going to be factual and the same for someone else. Yes, even with science - we're not proving the sky is blue here, we are proving what these people do is 'wrong' and that's not some 'quantifiable' (ie Killing is wrong but the US does it in times of war if the 'standard' measure is our constitution) But that's all besides the point, the point is you saying this is an 'injustice' anywhere - for anyone. Even with correct spelling and punctuation, it doesn't save you from making an uncompelling case about the article. You know what the writer is trying to say and you know he's obviously not a professional writer in the sense that he actually needs to give a damn about his spelling and punctuation.
    Emptywordsbass
    The issue is not an expectation for someone to respond to me "point to point" but to actually speak to something I said. You completely misconstrued everything I said. You admit to making assumptions that were untrue and attempted to insult myself and everyone else that criticized this piece or the situation (i.e., "how many musicians does it take..."). Additionally, my point is just the one you made about Ultimate Guitar - I care, the readers care, the content contributors care, but Ultimate Guitar does not - and it should. I do not understand why you want to defend the status quo when you, yourself, are also aware that the status quo is problematic.  Also, Ultimate Guitar is not entirely a forum: it is a multi-purpose website which includes content hosting, news, lessons, mobile applications, etc. The website has forum moderators for the forums, it has a tablature review process, etc., yet, it does not have any real oversight over front-page content. Even in the further context you misdescribe, the way the front-page content is handled is still nonsensical. When even the least-viewed forum posts are policed, why does Ultimate Guitar not invest a small portion of that energy on setting up a maintaining an editorial process for the content that most visitors will see? This is not to say that they need to establish similar rules for front-page content. I love the general tone of many Ultimate Guitar contributions, but numerous visitors comment regularly on how bad content can be at times and how poorly handled basic things like grammar and punctuation can be.  As per your second argument: DUH! I already said the issues were hotly debated in various fields of study. Of course different people will have different standards, and not everyone can go back to the first principles of moral philosophy when wanting to write about right or wrong regarding the relationship of author to text. Luckily, that is not the stasis point for the author. The author engages in enthymematic arguments that provide a starting point for their conception of morality (which was debated by other users). Yet again, you to miss an author's point (which exemplifies how poorly it was presented and demonstrates the point I made about reading closely): the author is really discussing the relationship between "author and text" as a frame for interpreting the artistic or social value of a work - something they mismanage. Additionally, no one is saying every article must be perfect - in fact, this article is fairly close to being an appropriate article considering its digital context, and it still providing an opportunity for people to discuss bigger issues. However, the flaws in this article (as can be seen in the comment section) took away from most of what the author had to contribute to a discussion about these bigger ideas.  Also, as an educator and research in a post-secondary institution, I cannot see a single reason as to why discussing the relationship between author and text, or talking about morality, are inherently "weak." Hundreds of academic articles and many academic and popular books are written every year on the topic of morality, and I have had students write exceptional essays on the topics (as well as poor essays on the topic). The point is not to find the perfect standard for moral judgment, but to enter a debate about the topics regarding a particular set of social relationships. These issues require more popular discussion, not less, and that is evidenced by the extended discussions of morality held over the course of thousands of years. I am saying the way the author addresses the issues was poorly done.  Also, I hope no one  misconstrues me as expecting the level of writing quality as is provided in peer reviewed journal articles. I would like articles that avoid basic mistakes of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and are coherently written - which are reasonable standards.  Maybe if you tried to "give a damn" about the things you say, you could actually put forth something that made sense within the context of the discussion you were entering and could realize the inequities arising out of the situation on this website regarding content creation.  Also, I am done talking with you as I am about to travel and, while I care about the issues on this website, I do not care to discuss matters that are important to me with persons who are careless with their words. Have a nice day. 
    BrownGibsonDude
    Why? Simply because you're feeling like you're 'entitled' to UG doing anything for you. Actually feeling like anyone has to do anything for you. I'm not defending UG, I'm defending people from people like you. It says a lot when you go roundabout ways to tell me UG is not simply about forums to try and make your case. We know. You know. Again, besides the point. It's like I was responding to a 13 year old who took everything I said at face value. By 'weak' I meant that compared to an article about stern facts that directly correlate, an opinion piece is going to in fact be inherently 'superfluous'. This is what you describe as 'weak', but punctuation and grammar won't save it from being 'superfluous' - it just is and will be because it's based on his thoughts on the matter Does it take away? I guess so, I understood what he meant and where he's coming from. Would it matter if he came off stronger and more concise with better writing and better grammar? I guess so, but honestly he'd still be giving you the same opinion anyways just worded better.. to make you feel better?
    seven.johnson
    [deleted]
    seven.johnson · Jul 08, 2017 01:22 PM
    seven.johnson
    [deleted]
    seven.johnson · Jul 08, 2017 02:12 PM
    meetmeatseven
    [deleted]
    Author meetmeatseven · Jul 08, 2017 01:32 PM
    AussieThrash
    Short list of musicians who have done bad things whom also made (subjectively) good music: - Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin): kidnapped and had sex with a 14-year-old girl, kept her hostage for several years. - Steven Tyler (Aerosmith): had sex with an underage girl, adopted her to have more sex with her, threw her birth control away, then when she got pregnant, he left for a tour. After she survived a house fire while he was away, he pressured her to abort their 5-month-old child. - Chuck Berry: armed robbery, illegally smuggling 14-year-old across state lines for "immoral" purposes, filmed unknowing women in the toilets of his restuarant. - Elvis Presley: would often host sleepovers with underage girls and try to take their virginities because he was insecure about his sexual prowess. - Vince Neil (Motley Crue): killed someone in a two car collision while under the influence. - Eric Clapton (Cream, Derek and the Dominoes): on several accounts has made racist remarks, saying "keep Britain white" amongst other comments. - Jay-Z: stabbed someone who was bootlegging his CD's. - Johnny Cash: accidentally and unapologetically set fire to a 503 acre of California forest, almost single-handedly wiping out the California Condor. - Gene Simmons: all round arsehole, most notably for his comments on people with mental illness "And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say "I'm depressed, I live in Seattle" fuck you, then kill yourself" - Dr.Dre: beat the shit out of a female TV show presenter on two occassions - once with three other members of N.W.A. during an interview with Ice Cube. Then the other shortly after the interview during a record release party. - Elvis Costello: called Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger" and James Brown a "Jive-ass nigger". - Ike Turner: would beat his wife, Tina Turner. - Rick James: kidnapped a record executive, then beat her for 20 hours. He then shortly after tortured another girl by tying her up and burning her with the hot end of a crack pipe then raped her repeatedly over the course of 6 days. - Guy Sebastian: stole the 2003 X Factor win from Shannon Noll. This isn't even mentioning all the gangsta rappers and black metal musicians who did a shit tonne of bad shit but I'm getting bored listing all these people.
    Fruitoxique
    I didn't think I would find the article content in the comment
    metalme31
    I immediately bypassed the article and went straight to the comment section. I knew I wasn't going to like the article judging by the title.
    friday.the.13th.jasonx
    What exactly is racist about wanting your country for your own people and not taking in refugees? They have their own land why don't they stay there instead of coming here to mooch off our success? Where's your evidence for Steven Tyler, Elvis and Jimmy Page? Pretty sure they'd be in jail if such things were true. But you seem to know even though you probably weren't even alive when such events supposedly occurred. An accident doesn't make you a bad person.
    AussieThrash
    Fair point, just saying "keep Britain white" isn't exactly racist but his use of derogatory words such as "wog" is. As for evidence of Tyler, Elvis, and Page, I've got some links: Tyler: Essay written by girl in question, Julia Holcomb: https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.lifesitenews.com/mobile/news/the-light-of-the-world-the-steve-tyler-and-julia-holcomb-story You could also check out his autobiography "Does The Noise In My Head Bother You" for his side of the story, however they both said that he was sleeping with an underage woman. Elvis: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1261082/The-Kings-troubling-obsession-Elvis-woman-So-able-form-relationships-virginal-girls.html http://www.thedailybeast.com/elvis-pajama-party Not to mention his wife, Priscilla, was 14 when they started dating and that's no secret. Jimmy Page: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-10-wildest-led-zeppelin-legends-fact-checked-20121121/jimmy-page-dated-a-14-year-old-girl-while-he-was-in-led-zeppelin-19691231
    friday.the.13th.jasonx
    An "essay written by the girl in question" is not proof.
    AussieThrash
    What about Tyler himself admitting that he did it? I just added her side so you can get both sides of the story. I can't find Tyler's direct quote because I don't own the book, but from what I've read of reviews, he does admit that he adopted and had sex with an underage girl.
    KosherRider
    Don't really know what Gene Simmons asshole is but this statement is not about people with mental illnesses. I guess this is about people who just love to whine about everything, like about place where they live, that this place has bad weather/climate/etc. and when they talk about "depression" they just want to get attention. I live in town like Seattle where almost 2/3 of year is rain and cold wind and there are plenty of losers who always whine about it. Attention whore is not mental illness. With this Simmons's statement i totally agree.
    OriginOfFeces
    - Chris Brown for not hitting Rihanna hard enough to cause permanent failure of vocal chords. Also, Eric Clapton saying "keep Britain white" amongst other comments is an opinion. It may hurt other people, but that is exactly what is wrong with society these days. Politic correct and social justice behaviour trying to avoid people from being hurt or offended. 
    hatch.da.egg
    I'm not really sure why a person's personal choices would affect the quality of the music they make. The Clash made great music despite the lead singer stealing a pillowcase once.
    ironcat698
    so much bs on the deleted comments. If u put the commie symbol as negative put the swastika as positive.
    kjt1981
    There is a good point being made here - life is life. It really is. Like.... LITERALLY. And art is art, too. Interesting.