Vancouver's iconic industrial rockers Skinny Puppy have invoiced the U.S. government upon hearing that their music was being used as a "torture device" on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Music has long been used as a wartime torture device. George Bush Sr. famously blasted Van Halen's "Panama" to drive Panamanian president Manuel Noriega from his refuge at the Vatican embassy. Then he turned the volume up to 11 during the first Iraq War, infamously playing Metallica and AC/DC.
"These people haven't heard heavy metal," a sergeant said at the time. "They can't take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."
Metallica was used again during the War on Terror "to induce sleep deprivation, prolong capture shock, disorient detainees during interrogations - and also drown out screams." (Eminem and Barney the Dinosaur also got some spins.)
In 2009, Metallica's drummer Lars Ulrich told Rachel Maddow they didn't "advocate or condone" their music being used for torture, while noting, "If there are people that are dumb enough to use Metallica to interrogate prisoners, you're forgetting about all the music that's to the left of us. I can name, you know, 30 Norwegian death metal bands that would make Metallica sound like Simon and Garfunkel."
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Well, it looks like the U.S. military listened, and they may have moved on to the harder industrial sounds of Skinny Puppy.
That's what the band's founder cEvin Key claimed in an interview with the Phoenix New Times discussing their 2013 album "Weapon."
"We had a cool concept on the record because we heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people. We heard that our music was used in at least four occasions. We thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services, thus the concept of the record title, 'Weapon.'"
While Key says they never sent the invoice ("the album cover is the invoice") he reiterated that they were none too happy about how their music was allegedly being used.
"We never supported those types of scenarios. It's kind of typical that we thought this would end up happening, in a weird way. Because we make unsettling music we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us."
If they had sent the invoice, they may have had a legal leg to stand on. In a blog post titled "Is Torture by Music a 'Performance in Public'?," Canadian copyright lawyer Howard Knopf argued yes.
"Certain collectives are quick to collect money from those in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons etc. on the basis that these are 'public' places. Never mind that the audience is captive and it's their home, like it or not...
"Leaving aside the legal niceties about whose law if any applies in that dreadful place, one can only wonder if ASCAP might not want a piece of the action. After all, it went after the Girl Guides not so long ago. And if it could try to make a buck off Girl Guides, who are nice people, why not alleged terrorists? Why should terrorists enjoy free music?"
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