This is not a decision made lightly, and this narrative may become a little rambling as it explores two sides of something I’ve been wrestling with for some time.
Like many of us in this little music community, I have been struggling since the news broke about a particular co-proprietor of first Valhalla Tavern and then Treble Lounge after that. From the start of Valhalla to the end of Treble, I was one of the loudest advocates for these establishments. I was there for every event I could manage, bar shows, all ages shows, weird slow nights when nothing was really happening, occasionally staff events, and to this day I sorely miss my Treble karaoke nights. I made a lot of very dear friends in that space. I bought into, and adored the appearance of a progressive, safe space bar that frequently blended my own heavy metal/punk communities with a lot of queer culture events. I encouraged coworkers to bring their kids to all ages shows. I took pride in having painted well upwards of two dozen banners that hung on those walls over the course of several years.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve had a lot of things happen in my personal life that really forcefully realigned my priorities and left me questioning what path I want to be on, and what work actually brings me joy. And the answer is: not this. In the beginning of lockdown, I slowly struggled through a few commissions, and its felt like more of a chore than a passion. I told myself that the spark would come back when the music did. But, as time has gone on and things gradually made rumblings here and there of coming back to life, and I attended the scattered few events that DID take place, the more certain I became that this is no longer my niche, for a variety of reasons, but the important one ties into recent events.
For all of the truly wonderful people I have come to know in this scene, the scene itself really does have a very dark and ugly underside. This news is an extreme example of a predatory undercurrent that has always existed. The fact that so many of us resonated with the “safe space” that Valhalla/Treble professed to be speaks volumes of a fact that we all know, but try to ignore: that much of the scene is NOT safe.
There is an extraordinary amount of predation, in the form of substance peddling, in drugging of drinks, of opportunistic slime waiting to prey on a victim who indulges just a bit too much, gropings, grooming, etc etc etc etc. Its there, and as a community we either try to pretend it isn’t for the sake of enjoying ourselves, or downplay the severity and thus tacitly support it.
In my heart I’ve known this for a long time, but the recent news crystallized this to a degree that I can no longer tuck it away in the back of my brain. I am sickened by what someone I knew, someone who I supported, turned out to be. I’m absolutely gutted and heartbroken for his victims. And I’m terrified to learn what else may have transpired, particularly with regards to the number of children he had access to in that bar. And I am filled with tremendous guilt that I am as complicit as anyone for allowing this predatory underbelly to continue, by pretending it wasn’t there, or that it wasn’t and couldn’t be OUR people.
I will always love music, that hasn’t changed, and never will. It has been such a core of who I am as a person for so much of my life. But I can’t pretend anymore that we arent on an unsteady platform built over a cesspit for the sake of watching friends play a few songs. I want to be doing work that is uplifting, meaningful, and genuinely helps people, rather than continuing to try to slap some paint on a very broken thing and pretend the damage isn’t there.
So, I am ending Iron Siren. I will be returning the few deposits and materials for the projects I currently have on my plate over the coming weeks, and will no longer be available for commission.
I want to be clear that none of this is a judgement on any of the individuals I’ve known and worked with over these last few years, the wild majority are incredible, kind, talented people, and to paint your banners and print your shirts has been a joy and a privilege. I’ve just reached a fork in the road, where the things I value, the difference I want to make, and the things I’m willing to ignore have diverged from the role I have occupied here.
I do however, condemn THIS individual and his actions which are too heinous to comprehend. May his victims, and all victims, receive justice, and ultimately find peace. I believe you, and I will stand by you where I can.
And thank you all for more than four years of painting and music. I have no regrets, just a need to follow a new calling.