While Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain,” music has a troubling history as a wartime torture device.
George Bush Sr. famously blasted Van Halen’s “Panama” to drive out Panamanian president Manuel Noriega from his refuge at the Vatican embassy. Metallica, AC/DC, Eminem, Barney the Dinosaur and even the MeowMix commercial (Meow Meow Meow Meow, (Meow Meow Meow Meow) have all been used by the government “to induce sleep deprivation, prolong capture shock, disorient detainees during interrogations – and also drown out screams.”
Vancouver’s iconic industrial rockers Skinny Puppy now believe they have joined the ranks of bands included on the government’s playlist.
“We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people,” said Skinny Puppy founder cEvin Key speaking to the Phoenix New Times. “We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions.”
The band decided to seek compensation from the U.S. government for using their music in such a way and issued them an “invoice” in the form of their 12th studio record. “We thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services,” said Key. “Thus the concept of the record title, Weapons.”
This is not the first time that the U.S. government has been under-fire from a band for using their music to torment inmates at Guantánamo Bay. Both Nine Inch Nail and Rage Against the Machine went after the government when they learned that their music was used to interrogate prisoners by being played at loud volumes for weeks at a time until inmates couldn’t take it anymore. Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello petitioned the U.S. government for information about how their music was used and on whom.
Morello and Reznor also joined forces with the likes of R.E.M., Pearl Jam and the Roots to form a coalition of musicians fighting against the use of their music in interrogations. “Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns,” said the Roots in a statement, “you can be damn sure we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings.”
Skinny Puppy agrees. “We never supported those types of scenarios,” Key said. “Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn’t sit right with us.”