One Man’s Torture…


“We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people… We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions.  So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services.“ ~Skinny Puppy

The invoice they are referring to is for the sum of 666,000 dollars. Should the U.S. government pay for music usage? If you know anything about U.S. media usage laws, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” According to law, anyone using an artist’s music must pay that artist if the purpose is to play the music to anyone other than the initial purchaser, or to play it for any other reason than personal entertainment. The same law involves broadcasting over radio, or showing movies to a collected crowd. For businesses that can’t select what they are playing before multiple events, they can opt for a general use license which gives them access to most available artist’s music. Did the Pentagon have a general use license?

In this case, the music was being played for someone other than the original consumer. Even though the intent was not to entertain, but to terrorize, the use was not for any personal consumption. I think the band Skinny Puppy has a legitimate complaint here. My bias is certainly for the band. However, since I have something of a background in the law concerning media rights, it also appears to me that the law is on the side of the six hundred and sixty six dollar invoice.

Paying an artist their just due is not all that Skinny Puppy stands for of course. The band members have a habit of igniting debates over injustices concerning animal rights, conspiracies of controlled diseases, music industry hypocrisy, and the abstraction of nuclear weapons. The latest album from Skinny Puppy is titled Weapon. The theme of weapons for the new album is in regard to the idea that there is a nuclear war happening continually. The environment is affected by residual radiation levels that originate in nuclear accidents like that at Fukushima in 2011.

Whether you have heard of Skinny Puppy or not, you may be hearing about them soon. They have even gained the attention of the Wall Street Journal with this latest exposé and subsequent request for payment. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear not only about them but hear their music too. It’s amazing and fascinating. Their music is progressive in every way. One of my favorite aspects of their music is that it does not cause boredom by repetition. Skinny Puppy does not follow the school of “mainstream” popular music that tends to think that repeating a maxim forty times in a row constitutes music. Instead of producing earworms, Skinny Puppy develops music that invites introspection and encourages creativity through opulent layers of sound. In fact, if the political detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison got to hear the new album before me, I am completely jealous. How can I become a part of the “Tunes for Torture” program and be on the receiving side? After all, I’d be asking, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”