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Howe's artful dodging of these issues is completely understandable: He doesn't want advertisers spending their dollars elsewhere because they associate KBPI with the type of conduct practiced by Harris and Klebold. And he's right to worry about Manson, who's given detractors no shortage of rope over the years. Manson has refused all interviews since the shootings, issuing only a brief remark on the topic: "It's tragic and disgusting any time young people's lives are taken in an act of senseless violence. My condolences go out to the students and their families." But in an interview with Westword several years ago ("They Call Him Mr. Manson!" October 19, 1994), the former Brian Warner took great delight in making provocative comments that seemingly contradict his present stance. "Good and evil are interchangeable, and if you merge them together so that there are no boundaries between them, there's a gray area," he said at the time. "There's no sexuality, no morality and no line between on-stage and off-stage. That's where we reside." He also praised the mass murderer who inspired half of his moniker ("I think Charles Manson had a lot of positive things to say and could have been a real cultural leader") and suggested that "morality in America is specifically designed to benefit those who created it, not the people who are controlled by that. Realizing that, I'm suggesting that you make up your own rules."
Combine such statements with the inability of many observers to recognize what Manson does as shtick and it makes perfect sense that talk-show host Peter Boyles spent part of his April 23 broadcast on KHOW-AM/630 treating lyrics from Manson's Antichrist Superstar album like excerpts from an instruction manual for fledgling psychos. In truth, Manson is the Alice Cooper of his generation, and judging by the generally weak attendance figures earned by his ongoing tour, his shock value has pretty much worn off. But he makes such an easy target that even the self-appointed guardians of rectitude haven't been able to miss--regardless of whether, as one of their friends claimed, they hated Marilyn Manson.
Rammstein, too, tends to play with fire--literally. At a McNichols Arena concert reviewed in this space last autumn (Feedback, October 15, 1998), Till Lindemann, the group's lead singer, appeared in a flaming overcoat and spark-throwing boots, pounded his body with his fist and his microphone and, in a particularly bizarre moment, simulated anal sex with a fellow bandmember while sporting a faux penis attached to a high-powered hose. But Brent Fedrizzi, the talent buyer for Bill Graham Presents/Chuck Morris Presents (BGP/CMP), the promotion firm that booked Rammstein's upcoming Denver concert, says such stunts aren't to be taken seriously. "It's like KISS," he points out. "It's just entertainment. They put on a show, and that's all it is. And when it's over, you go home."
As is the case with Marilyn Manson, it's unclear whether Harris and Klebold were obsessed with Rammstein in any way. The pair purportedly liked German industrial music, and since Rammstein is the most successful act in that category today, assumptions have been made. In response, the musicians last week delivered a statement of their own: "The members of Rammstein express their condolences and sympathy to all affected by the recent tragic events in Denver. They wish to make it clear that they have no lyrical content or political beliefs that could have possibly influenced such behavior. Additionally, members of Rammstein have children of their own, in whom they continually strive to instill healthy and non-violent values."
These words may not be enough to prevent the cancellation of Rammstein's Denver show. Tickets were supposed to be available April 24, but BGP/CMP has postponed their sale and is considering its options. "We're going to revisit the situation in a couple of weeks as the community settles down and we get through this grieving process," Fedrizzi says. "Then we'll decide what makes the most sense. We might possibly have the show and donate some proceeds to one of the charities or foundations that have been set up--or we might do the show as normal or not do the show at all."
Still, Fedrizzi can't help but be frustrated that Rammstein (and, by association, BGP/CMP) is being put on the defensive. "I don't think it's fair that music gets pulled into a situation like this," he notes. "To me, it's all about freedom of speech. That's why we live in this country--to have those kinds of rights. And obviously, there was a much deeper problem with these guys than just the music they listened to."
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com.