If you haven't heard of the recent controversy surrounding Canadian pop punkers Living With Lions, now would be a good time to catch up. The band recently released their latest album, titled Holy Shit (The Poo Testament), last week. Somewhere within the packaging lies a picture of a rather large piece of excrement dressed as Jesus. As if this wasn't bad enough, the album cover itself is printed in the style of a traditional bible and the "song lyrics [are] written like Scripture or biblical verses".
Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore criticized the band for their offensive packaging. According to Moore's spokesperson, "the content of this CD is offensive and the fact that it is clearly designed to offend a group of Canadians based on their faith is simply wrong." Not only was the band criticized, but FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings), was also called out for the $13,000 grant they provided to Black Box Recordings to record and promote Holy Shit. As a government institution, FACTOR uses taxpayer's money to fund projects for recording artists, and as such, is liable to the taxpayers for the use of their money.
Since the incident, FACTOR has expressed their "profound disappointment" with the content. Black Box Recordings owner Ian Stanger was the first to speak out from the band's camp. "I'd like it to be well understood that the lyrical content on this record makes no reference to any religious themes whatsoever... there's a tongue-in-cheek element of this record people may be missing." He also stated that the album was not meant to promote anti-religious themes in any way.
A week after Holy Shit's release date and the ensuing controversy, Living With Lions and Black Box issued this update via the Black Box Recordings official website:
In light of the recent controversy regarding the artwork for Living With Lions' album, Holy Shit, the band and label have voluntarily agreed to return the loan of $13,248.00 in its entirety, which was offered in support of this record. The product will be withdrawn from the domestic market immediately, and we requested our international partners to withdraw product internationally as well. We understand the band's desire to maintain their creative integrity. Therefore the album will be re-released as a non-FACTOR supported project in the coming weeks.
The material was not intended to be offensive, though we regret it was interpreted that way. Further, we regret the negative attention that this matter has brought to FACTOR. FACTOR is an integral part of supporting and sustaining Canadian music domestically and internationally, and their support of our work and that of other Canadian musicians is invaluable.
- Ian Stanger
While it certainly is a setback for Living With Lions, FACTOR is in the hot seat as well. Now other Canadian punk musicians are worried that FACTOR may lose funding from the conservative right or even be wiped out entirely. Joe Keithley of D.O.A. says "I think you can kiss FACTOR goodbye... Or at least they're going to get their funding cut in half. Here's the bottom line... If [the music] doesn't qualify, then the Conservatives won't give you the money and unfortunately that's the way they think... It's unfortunate we've got four years of this BS to deal with."
By Jay Brown