Op-Ed: Defending Dragonforce’s Allegedly Racist/Homophobic Past

Photo taken by Balthazar via Wikipedia
Photo taken by Balthazar via Wikipedia

Did you know that three of Dragonforce’s original three members used to be in a band called Demoniac whose lyrical content was chuck full of racist and homophobic slurs? Neither did I.

But MS scribe Kim Kelly discovered exactly that by poking around on Metal Archives, and she confronted the band about it an interview for Noisey. Some of the band’s song titles, just to give you an idea, were “Niggerslut,” “Hatred is Purity,” and “Kill All the Faggots (Death Squad Anthem).” The band’s members, who included founding and current Dragonforce guitarist Sam Totman, were all of 18 at the time.

In the interview, Totman explains away the hateful lyrics by saying the guys were “just having a laugh” and chocks the bad taste in song titles up to youthful exuberance and naiveté (he also sloughs off the blame on the band’s drummer at the time).

In a twist you might not be expecting if you’re a regular reader of the liberal/communist/Jew-run/hippie website known as MetalSucks — I’m actually inclined to believe Totman’s explanation and take him at face value that Demoniac were just taking the piss. Here’s why: Totman answers Kim’s questions with such a sense of joviality and almost indifference that I get the impression he doesn’t even realize that Kim’s line of questioning is serious. It’s as if he’s thinking, “Of COURSE we were just joking, no one would actually believe we meant that stuff, would they?” His analogy to Cannibal Corpses’ lyrical content — butchering fetuses, etc — underscores that point. Reading this interview I’m pretty confident in saying that the guys in Demoniac (or at least Totman) never had any ill will whatsoever towards gay people, black people, women or any other group their lyrics targeted — they were just making stupid jokes. Ones in bad taste, absolutely, but jokes nonetheless.

We all made racist and homophobic jokes when we were teenagers, and when we realized it was in poor form to do so we stopped. There are things that dumb teenage boys joke about because at that age you’re testing societal limits and you’re often anxious to shock people by saying things you know you’re not supposed to say. Shit, I know plenty of guys who were in bands that did exactly the same thing Demoniac did, only they didn’t have the good (or bad) fortune of eventually becoming famous, forcing their pasts to be put under a microscope.

I do think perhaps Totman is a bit too cavalier in his answers — I think he could have been more forthright about the fact that teenagers say stupid things just to get a rise, and that he, in no uncertain terms, is not and was never racist in the slightest. But it seems clear that Totman isn’t aware of how lyrics like these — even if jokes — could be perceived.

Now, that begs the question, is it OK to joke about “Niggersluts,” “killing faggots” and saluting Hitler? Certainly not. But we all do stupid things as teenagers, and we all grow up, just as Dragonforce did — a long time ago.

Read the full Noisey interview here. Check out some Demoniac songs below.

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