Regarding David Draiman, Lemmy, Slayer, the Jews and the Nazis
I hate Disturbed’s music, but the fact that he’s a hypocrite who lacks any real talent aside, David Draiman strikes me as a very intelligent guy. A reader, calling himself simply “Matt,” sent this to me awhile back, and now that Lemmy has re-raised the issue, I think it’s worth discussing even if I don’t really have a solid “answer” per se.
So. This is a Blabbermouth excerpt from a recent Revolver magazine interview with Draiman:
Revolver: Why did you write a song (“Never Again”, off the newDISTURBED album, “Asylum”) about the Holocaust?
Draiman: “Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side were survivors of the camps. My grandfather was in Bergen-Belsen [in northwestern Germany]. He was on wheelbarrow duty carting the bodies to the crematorium. My grandmother was five or six years old when she was in Auschwitz [in Poland]. She survived on three separate occasions by crawling underneath the legs of the people behind her who were in line to the gas chambers. And after the third time, the camp was liberated. I’ve got other relatives who are survivors, and my entire mother’s side of the family, save my grandmother and grandfather and a couple of their siblings, were completely wiped out. So I felt it was important to write about it because I realized that the last generation of survivors is about to be lost. And when you have animals like [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out there saying the Holocaust never occurred, I felt it was important to write this song.”
Revolver: What do you think of people like MOTÖRHEAD frontmanLemmy Kilmister and SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who collect Nazi artifacts?
Draiman: “That’s super-duper taboo and offensive to me. I don’t understand the fascination. It’s the most provocative imagery that you can brandish, and that’s why people utilize it. And if that’s their goal, I guess they’re achieving it, but just know there are going to be repercussions for that. SLAYER went onstage in Germany brandishing Nazi paraphernalia or Nazi symbolism and it hasn’t been taken too well.”
Revolver: Lemmy defends himself by saying he’s just collecting pieces of war history, and that the evil people have the coolest-looking stuff.
Draiman: “I don’t give a fuck who you are. If you’re going to brandish Nazi symbolism, I’m going to have a problem with you because I don’t understand how anybody could think it’s OK to wear something on their body that symbolizes the annihilation and genocide of my people. I’m not OK with that and there is no excuse and there is no explanation.”
So, look: it kills me to say this, given that I’ll take Motorhead and Slayer over Disturbed any day of the week and twice on Sundays, but I actually agree with a lot of what Draiman says. I mean, I’m not quite as offended as he is, but only for one reason — I just think it’s stupid and insensitive to collect Nazi paraphernalia. I don’t think Lemmy is a Nazi, I don’t think Jeff Hanneman is a Nazi. I just think they’re collecting shit they think looks cool without giving it the thought it warrants. If I walked into Lemmy’s house and saw a whole bunch of Nazi gear, I’d think, “What a moron,” the same way that if I walked into Jonathan Davis’ house and saw all the serial killer shit he used to collect, I’d think, “What a moron.” But I know Lemmy’s not a Nazi, and I wouldn’t assume that Davis was a serial killer.
I have no problem with being interested in the psychology of evil people; I’m pretty interested in that stuff myself (and in my experience, no one watches more documentaries about the Nazis than the Jews do). But owning something said evil people owned has nothing to do with an interest in the human condition; I don’t know why you’d want to own that stuff, but it’s pretty dumb.
So what does that mean? That Lemmy and Hanneman are insensitive idiots who make great music. Okay. They’re not the first men to fit that description, and they won’t be the last. That in and of itself doesn’t bother me. Maybe Lemmy and I will never smoke a joint together now, but, hey, guess what, that was probably never gonna happen anyway, so whatever.
But using Nazi imagery in your live show is a whole other ball of wax.
I don’t have a problem with the lyrics to “Angel of Death.” It’s been pointed out many times before that Slayer has a Chilean member and a Cuban member, so calling them “bigots” is way off the mark. Some idiots are inevitably going to interpret it as a pro-Nazi song, but that’s not Slayer’s fault.
Do I wish the lyrics were about any number of other evil topics? Yes. Especially because they’re not cartoonish the way, for example, most Cannibal Corpse lyrics are. But I don’t have a problem with the Holocaust being the topic of a song.
I was a little uncomfortable a few years ago when Slayer were using footage from Nazi films as part of their live performance of “Angel of Death,” especially because said footage was Nazi propaganda film of soldiers marching and whatnot. And now you’re walking a REALLY thin line between telling people about a terrible event and endorsing that event.
When I saw some skin heads at a Marilyn Manson show chanting “WHITE POWER!” I didn’t sit there and think “Manson is a Nazi and this is why he attracts this crowd.” I know Marilyn Manson isn’t a Nazi. As Draiman theorizes about Lemmy and Hanneman — Manson’s entire goal was probably just to provoke people, because that’s how Marilyn Manson sells records. But he was wearing what looked like a Nazi uniform, he had changed the font of his logo so that the “MM” looked like the “SS” symbol, and he was standing at a pulpit making broad, Hitler-esque arm movements… so it was easy to see why people might think he was pro-Nazi, and why those moron skinheads might think he was one of their own. If he thought he was making an artistic point beyond simple provocation, well, I’m not sure that he was. And I don’t know what point Slayer thought they were making by showing Nazis marching in perfect unison, but if their goal was to say, “Hey, this terrible shit happened,” well, they did not successfully convey that point.
But I don’t think that this case is akin to, say, having to justify an enjoyment of Burzum or Ted Nugent even though we all know that Varg Vikernes and Nugent are bigots. Those guys ARE bigots, they are on record as having made bigoted statements, and there’s no getting around that. I think guys like Lemmy, Jeff Hanneman, and Marilyn Manson are really just kinda dumb. And as long as they don’t actually hurt anyone or endorse hurting anyone, I can forgive being a dummy.