Tomorrow, America—and by extension the rest of the world—kicks off its experiment with the alternate reality of a Trump presidency with the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration. It's no secret that that Donald Trump has had trouble attracting top-drawer talent to perform at his inauguration—except, of course, the man his team are calling "the greatest celebrity in the world": Trump himself.
Where Obama had Beyoncé, Trump has Jon Voight; where Obama had Aretha Franklin, Trump has 3 Doors Down, the Southern rockers of the early 2000s spiky-hair-and-baggy-jeans post-grunge school. VICE caught up with Angus Vail, 54, the band's Kiwi business manager, who works in New Jersey, to find out why the group would align themselves with Trump.
VICE: Hey Angus, so what's the mood like on the East Coast right now?
Angus Vail: Absolute disgust. Because my office is largely conservative, it's been interesting because they think that I'm crazy, but my liberal friends don't think I'm liberal enough.
How did 3 Doors Down become involved in the inauguration?
Well, 3 Doors actually played George W. Bush's inauguration. They are good Mississippi and Alabama boys—they come from conservative families. You know, they're really good guys, but they have very different political beliefs. Because they played both Bush's inaugurations, they've obviously been on the conservative radar.
So what are the band's political beliefs?
3 Doors have that God, guns and country black-and-white sort of viewpoint, and they spend a lot of time going to Iraq, doing service, playing for the troops. They believe it and that's just the way they see America. It's pretty hard to argue with. You say, "What about the nuances, what about the grey areas?" and they say, "No, no, God, guns, America is the greatest country on earth." They stick to that viewpoint."
Does that make things interesting for you?
I disagree with them politically but we have a very good dialogue. When I go down and see them, they give me a lot of shit. I went down there and one of their fathers said, "Damn, I've never had a Democrat in the house before." The band was like, "He's from New Zealand—he doesn't know any better." When Obama got elected, the singer [Brad Arnold] said please don't talk to my father about Obama because he thinks the world has ended. He was just as horrified and depressed about Obama as many are about Trump. They were like, "it's going to be Armageddon, the whole world is going to communism and he's going to give everything away to the welfare state."
Until hearing 3 Doors Down were appearing at the inauguration, I don't think they had crossed my mind since I was about 14. Are they a big deal in the States?
The interesting thing is that they have songs, like "Loser" and "Kryptonite", and those songs are played at every Walmart and in every elevator in America. But are they huge? Well, the very first album they put out sold 13 million copies and 3 Doors are a Bible-belt sort of band, and they can do very well in all those places. They can play until they're 80 years old, and people will come and see them. They're not the latest, hottest thing, but they will always attract a lot of people. They can sell out a reasonable-sized venue—if they play in the rustbelt, in the Midwest, in the Bible belt, they can do 5000 people one night. That's the nature of America, of the market here.
Obviously Trump has had some trouble attracting top-calibre talent. Why do you think that is, and why did 3 Doors Down want to play?
I think people are horrified, and celebrities tend towards liberal viewpoints and it would be very toxic for them. But I defend 3 Doors because it's their right to play wherever and they have a particular view of Trump and the Republican Party and conservatism in general, and it's really interesting for me to see. A lot of people think like, how can you be associated with them? Whereas I just think they have a very different view of the world from me.
The band has copped some criticism over their decision—does that bother them?
No such thing as bad publicity. Andy Warhol said, "I never read what anybody says about me, I just measure the column inches." And you know what? We started with them in 2001—they're an older band, they're older guys. Once you get to the point that you've been in rock for 16 years and a whole bunch of people get pissed off with you on Twitter, it's like: that's good for us. The more liberals that get all hot under their collar about it, the more we're appreciated by a whole bunch of conservatives. Are they sitting there crying into their pillows at night? Of course not.
Under Margaret Thatcher in the UK we saw the rise of a host of excellent post-punk bands—Echo & the Bunnymen, the Smiths, the Cure—and in Reagan's America there was some amazing hardcore. Can we expect something similar under Trump?
It's the music industry so I don't think you can expect anything. That's the good and bad thing about the industry: you never know what's going to happen. I would love a new iteration of just brutal punk rock. If some angry, kick-in-the-bollocks punk rock came out again, I'd be so happy. Maybe that's the silver lining.
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