Image via Bandcamp
A Regina music venue has cancelled a show because it believes a band’s name too offensive. The Cultural Exchange announced it was no longer hosting Black Pussy’s show scheduled for September 18. The organization said the name of the Portland rock band is “appropriative and contributes to a culture of objectification of black people, people of colour, and women.” The statement came from a Facebook post from the organization. Another Black Pussy show was canceled a month ago at a Calgary venue, the Palomino, for the same reason. Shortly after this public posting about the cancellation, a former artistic director for the venue, Michael Dawson, said, “This conversation is not about one specific genre, it's about a venue that has been a second home to thousands of people from all walks of life.” Dawson’s extensive post argued there is an “immeasurable difference between an artist who uses shock value and one who intentionally exploits sexism, racism, and/or misogyny for attention.”
The Exchange receives public funding from the City of Regina and province. Full disclosure, I, the author of this article, am employed in an administrative job by one of The Exchange’s funders, the Saskatchewan Arts Board. According to a mandate on The Exchange’s website, it “is an organization grounded in values of inclusivity and openness.” However, past shows at the venue have included acts with names like Goatwhore, Aborted, Rotting Christ, Dying Fetus, and Dayglo Abortions.
I reached out to Black Pussy and spoke to frontman Dustin Hill about the show cancellation. Below is that interview.
Noisey: What’s your reaction to the backlash against your cancelled show?
Dustin Hill: It’s sad to say that we’re starting to get used to it. This is probably the seventh or ninth cancellation we’ve experienced in two years. We just went through it in Calgary…That one went well. I think it’s bringing some of this insane PC issue to light. A small percentage of the community, the trolls or crybabies as I call them, yell really loud and finally a lot of communities are getting sick of it. In Calgary we had eight promoters come together to reschedule the show.
Hopefully the same thing happens in Regina. Right now the promoters are looking for a new venue for the show. It’s sad that this continues to happen based on people reading headlines from Huffpost or Reddit, which [have] very skewed articles. They have their agendas set and people don’t do much research into the band. We’re not racist or rape culture supporters or misogynists. It’s a strange situation to be in when you’re an artist. A small artist. We’re DIY and fun-loving rock and rollers…When you keep being accused of being a racist, that starts losing its power. There’s not really a lot you can say past that. I know that’s not true and my band doesn’t represent that.
What would you say to those saying you’re just grandstanding for PR purposes?
It is free press. It doesn’t really bug us. It saves on publicity costs [laughs]. The only thing is, it is bad press. We have lost video premieres and record premieres via VICE, Decibel, Terrorizer … [Before the controversy] we were doing very well because it was just about our music. Publications have become afraid of us because of the name. All the press is about cancellations and stuff. In this business, press is press. It sucks, it’s bad press but people are still finding our music and the shows are doing well. We’re a touring band. We try to do it like in the 70s.
How do you feel about those saying are you appropriating black culture?
That’s a ridiculous statement. I think it’s not true. If people knew how to use a dictionary, they would see these words individually—the word “black” says nothing about a person and looking up “pussy,” it has multiple meanings. The words are very ambiguous and it’s a multi-entendre. That’s the beautiful thing about art. When artists write things like that, it’s up to audience interpretation. We’re living now in a society of people wanting to be victims. They find the negatives in everything they possibly can. It’s trendy to be a victim and be spinless like a jellyfish. It’s very strange to me.
I don’t see it as appropriating black culture. If anything it’s paying homage. Scientists say we all come from Africa, you know? Maybe I’m paying homage to the birth mother Africa [laughs], you know?
And the word “pussy”? That’s not misogynistic with how you use it?
That’s ridiculous too. Women don’t own the word “pussy.” I don’t think people with a dark complexion own the word “black.”
Did you read the [Facebook] post from the Exchange about the cancellation, or does this get old for you?
It just gets old. It’s the same stuff. The people who are against it repeat the same stuff over and over. The people who support us use logic. The people against use just want to be very negative ... These people who see it in a negative light are probably not even part of the rock and roll community. They would never come to the show in the first place.
Does your stance play into the rebellious idea of rock and metal?
I came up with this idea nine years ago and it was the furthest thing from my mind.
How old were you?
Probably 32 or 33 … I did my first album as a personal project. It caught on. It wasn’t until two and half years ago people started attacking it. That’s because when we dropped our second album we started getting press. It was doing very well. That’s when people wanted to shut it down.
You bring up the idea of Black Pussy” being misogynistic, but if you Google “black pussy” you’re just going to get porno. I don’t see people attacking these porno sites, but they want to attack an art project. We’re very liberal and accepting. Our families have gay people in them. My guitar player’s sister is married to a black man. We’re very liberal. My sister is married to a Puerto Rican.
I have to ask, when you first started out and introduced yourself to someone as being in a band called Black Pussy, did you get weird looks?
You have the online world and the real world. We travel the world. We meet people all the time. I say, “We’re in Black Pussy” and it’s received very positively. And black females ask our name, they receive it more positive than anyone else. I’ve played in lots of rock bands in my life as a musician. This is the first time I’ve seen black people show up to [my] shows and I dig it. I’ve had black women come up to me after shows saying, “Thank you for opening the doors of rock and roll for me. I never felt invited before until you guys.” That’s the other side of the spectrum in the real world. These people aren’t bored—cheeto-stained faces—sitting at home looking for drama. These are real people in the real world. We are met with love and present love. We’re hippies, man. Just pot-smoking hippies.