Photo by Steven Ruud
Fast forward to 2017, and the PMRC looks positively quaint compared to today's climate, where The First Amendment is challenged in increasingly ridiculous ways. Now it's not just the content of music people are screaming about, but anything people do or say. Asian-American group The Slants had to go all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to trademark their name.
While the PMRC and the initial decision on The Slants trademark name shows the harm governmental overreach can do, the court of public opinion is a much worse monster because there are no checks and balances, only outrage and backlash. Whether it's a company like Pepsi or a record label representing a band, all kinds of brands are deathly afraid of torches and pitchforks. Just as a brand would rather apologize to the screaming banshees on social media who probably do not buy their products to begin with rather than risk fallout, labels would rather drop a band for their tweets than defend them for their music in front of the same hordes who were never fans to begin with. In either case, someone's livelihood ends up at stake. As a result, one-sided groupthink is solidified.
That's why the case of Austin-based Dream Machine is so curious, and hopefully inspiring for those of us who stand by the First Amendment no matter what. Back on May 9th, Doris and Matthew Melton were interviewed in Still In Rock about their new project, Dream Machine. It was their first interview as Dream Machine and quite an insightful one at that. Ninety-five percent of the interview touches upon their influences and what their current sound is like. One question asks them to give their thoughts on SXSW's practice of threatening to deport bands if they play gigs that aren't part of the official schedule. Both Matthew and Doris feel like if you come here you should follow the rules.
Matthew: Playing a big festival in the United States of America is a great opportunity and a privilege and it's understandable why they wouldn't want international acts diluting their draw by playing unauthorized shows. That's part of what they agree to to be able to come and play in the first place so if they break the rules then I see deportation as a fair and just consequence. It's just a threat anyways, instead of throwing a temper tantrum and acting as if they are entitled to come to the United States and do exactly as they please, they should just be cool about it and play unauthorized shows anyway. Everyone knows that SXSW is so busy that it's easy to take advantage of - IE "Don't sell your Artist Wristband..." What ever happened to being punk? These days everyone is a bunch of spoiled cry-babies and it takes the fun out of everything. It's the difference between the kids in school who would cut class despite the impending consequences and the kids that run to tell on them to the principal. I can't help but notice how this entitlement stems from the warped reality of the I-Phone generation. A generation of adult tattle-tales!
Doris (who immigrated first to the Netherlands from Bosnia as a refugee) continued:
I agree with Matthew on that. ICE is just doing their job, and I'm glad they're finally starting to work on deporting criminal illegal aliens too. It took ages for me to get my green card here legally and because there's so many illegals coming in they make it hard for the people who do want to become part of American society the right way. They're handing out free money to people who come here illegally, but when you want to work hard to become an American citizen to start a family they make it so hard on you, and expensive!
Much later, the interviewer then says asks if Doris could act "French" (in the sense of constantly criticizing something) as to what pisses her off the most about the music world.
Doris: Something that pisses me off about the music world is that girls have mostly become lazy jellyfish and are starting these horrible feminist bands just to try and ''show men what they got.'' The safe space mentality has made them weak. They don't even know how to play their instruments! They'll make songs about being ''sexually assaulted'' or about how ''empowering'' abortions are or some shit and it's fucking retarded, they're embarrassing themselves. If men did that they would be crucified! You see the longing for a gender supremacy under the guise of "equal rights". What happened to the incredible female singers from back in the day with real talent, singing about finding true love and wanting to be a good woman?
For these opinions (not actions mind you, but opinions) in an article published a month before hand, they got dropped from their label, Castle Face Records. Matt Jones, the record label's owner, wrote a press release describing why they've been dropped over their "Ugly opinions," and concludes by saying "...but it’s no longer our prerogative to be financing, promoting, and endorsing their music any more than we already have. For our part we’re going to find a decent charity to donate our end of the profits from the record to, though something tells me this won’t exactly send it flying off the shelves. Peace love and respect to all humans, refugees, and victims of violence – we’re horrified and ashamed by this and we appreciate people being upset but respectful in letting us know how they felt about it."
Now comes the ironic part. Despite what Castle Face Records said, Dream Machine did not receive a blowback from the backlash. In fact the exact opposite occurred. They went on The Gavin McInnes Show which not only gained them more publicity but a chance to expound on their ideas and highlight the hypocrisy of people who are supposed to be progressives. Doris, a refugee from the Yugoslavian war, was told she should have died during it. She was also told her experience as a refugee didn't count because of her white privilege." Never mind that Bosnia is a Muslim country. Despite the anonymous comments the real backlash that occurred came from their own record label.
An email sent out today by Dream Machine with the cheeky subject "Do not open if easily triggered!" explained that "...It was interesting to see literally thousands of new fans and supporters reaching out to us with positive feedback and NOT EVEN ONE of the supposedly outraged citizens reaching out for debate, explanation, or even to voice a complaint to us. What this proves is that what actually happened with the angry mob on social media was nothing more than a manufactured outrage, a symphony of virtue signals, and nothing close to genuine concern for our interview statements. We are fully vindicated because this scenario proves our hypothesis that social media has created a poisonous echo chamber that is eroding individual thought and creating legions of reactionary weaklings. What's even more troubling is that half of the music community reached out to us expressing they agreed and/or supported us but were afraid to speak up in fear of being retaliated against by the regressive progressives. We absolutely refuse to be bullied by this extremist cult."
Matthew and Doris will now be releasing music on their own label, Fuzz City Records. If their photo booth company is successful enough to relocate from Austin to Amsterdam then no doubt they'll probably do quite well with that venture.
In the wake of this, I reached out to Dream Machine asking whether they received any support from musicians. Matthew emailed back a response.
"It was interesting to see the demographics of the people who have reached out to us in support. So many legal and illegal immigrants, members of the LGBT community, and so many of the "oppressed minorities" whom the ultra-political correctness is supposed to protect reached out to voice their humiliation with the regressive left. I think that having struggled for equality for so long these formerly oppressed peoples can see how the alt-left cult has overshot their mark for equality and are currently preaching revenge and ideological supremacy. So many hundreds of musicians reached out secretly expressing their support, paralyzed in fear of the angry mob thirsty to burn anyone at the stake who dare question their narrative."
Anecdotally, I reached out to several musicians to get their take on the matter, too. While most preferred to remain anonymous, all expressed support for the band. One who did go on the record is San Diego-based Diana Death, who is both a musician and DJ. Here's her response:
Like Doris, I'm a legal immigrant to this country who went through years of paperwork to be here. I do not see how her comments about adhering to lawful immigration are "offensive". What I Do find offensive is how unwilling so many people are to consider another person's perspective. I find it offensive that a label publicly disavows their own talent over what they deem "ugly opinions" without first engaging in a reasonable discussion with that group over what those "ugly opinions" supposedly are. And I find it offensive that women are being stereotyped into having to follow certain social mores, even something as silly as being obliged to support 3rd Wave feminist bands. Just because Doris is female does not mean she's obligated to agree with or support other female bands. Perhaps she, like me, thinks 3rd Wave feminism has devolved into "ugly opinions". Every day we're proffered the feel-good slogan "Diversity is our strength!", but as it turns out in the music scene, there is little to no to effort being made to promote diversity of opinion. Those daring enough to question the prevailing PC ideals are being shunned, and that is offensive.
One last thing. As a music nerd, I would be remiss if I didn't say something about Dream Machine's music. Their debut album, "The Illusion" is heavy psychedelic, reminding me at times of Black Mountain, Tame Impala, Sabbath and even european prog. There are some great face-melting guitar solos and the organ/keyboards are perfectly eerie and the band is tight throughout. Stand out tracks include "I Walked In The Fire," "Caught In a Trap," and "Buried Alive" It's definitely worth a listen, no matter what you think.