Musicians band together to boycott Amazon over ties to ICE

Hundreds of artists are speaking out after Amazon announced its inaugural music festival

Melody Lau · CBC Music · Posted: Oct 24, 2019 11:59 AM ET | Last Updated: October 24

Hundreds of indie musicians have penned an open letter encouraging fellow artists to boycott all Amazon events and entities, including a newly announced music festival, over the company’s ties to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (AFP via Getty Images)


Over 200 musicians, including Canadians Devon Welsh, Lydia Ainsworth, Tough Age and Brigitte Bardon’t, have signed an open letter pledging to boycott Amazon over the company’s ties to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

In “No Music For ICE,” posted on the website Fight For the Future, artists expressed their outrage at the trillion-dollar company for continuing to “provide the technical backbone for ICE’s human rights abuses.”

The signees have vowed to “not participate in Amazon-sponsored events, or engage in exclusive partnerships with Amazon in the future” until it promises to “terminate existing contracts with military, law enforcement, and government agencies,” “stop providing Cloud services and tools to organizations that power the U.S. government’s deportation machine,” “end projects that encourage racial profiling and discrimination,” and “reject future engagements with aforementioned bad actors.”

Other notable musicians who have signed this letter include Ted Leo, Zola Jesus, Shamir, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Sheer Mag, Deerhoof, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis and Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto.

The catalyst for this boycott was the recent announcement of a brand new music festival called the Intersect Festival, which is being put on by the Amazon subsidiary, Amazon Web Series. The two-day event, which is slated to take place Dec. 6-7 in Las Vegas, markets itself as an experience “where music, technology, and art converge.” 

Back in August, its headliners were announced: Foo Fighters, Kacey Musgraves, Beck and Anderson.Paak & the Free Nationals. Last week, on Oct. 16, the full lineup was revealed and included acts such as Chvrches, H.E.R., Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges and Montreal act, Kaytranada. 

One of the announced acts, DJ and producer the Black Madonna, quickly took to social media, confused by her inclusion, telling fans: “What the f–k is this Amazon shit? I absolutely didn’t agree to this. Oh hell no.” Explaining that she never saw Amazon’s name attached to this event, she went on to denounce Amazon for what another Twitter user described as its “contract to host ICE’s deportation files, or its exploitation of its drivers, or its fuelling of Seattle’s homelessness.” 

“I never saw the branding for this until my name was attached,” the Black Madonna continued. In another tweet, she said, “Also I didn’t even know what AWS stood for till yesterday,” noting Amazon Web Series’ involvement in Intersect. “I’m not a tech person. I didn’t get hired by AWS. This wasn’t even called intersect when I agree to do it.” 

THE BLACK MADONNA?@blackmadonnachi

Are you hearing the words I’m typing. I didn’t see this. I do 150 shows a year. They didn’t tag me in shit. Also I didn’t even know what AWS stood for till yesterday. I’m not a tech person. I didn’t get hired by AWS. This wasn’t even called intersect when I agree to do it. Chill.111:07 AM – Oct 18, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee THE BLACK MADONNA’s other Tweets

In response, a spokesperson for Amazon Web Series told Pitchfork: “Our affiliation of the Intersect Festival is clear in the contract that was signed by Black Madonna’s management team.”

Three days later, the Black Madonna announced that she has been removed from the event’s lineup. 

Another act, Japanese Breakfast, also took to Twitter to explain her appearance at the festival, noting that she is “still uncertain how to move forward as a small indie act on a bill.” 

Very disappointed that you have such a prominent & articulate voice in the alt music industry, yet choose to just shrug your shoulders on this issue. I can see how from your perspective it feels ambiguous where to draw the line, but don’t let Amazon profit off that ambiguity

Japanese Breakfast?@Jbrekkie

When we signed on for this fest months ago we weren’t told it was presented by AWS. I agree that this and most corps have despicable practices and feel conflicted participating as I did w Coachella. I’m still uncertain how to move forward as a small indie act on a bill.2810:30 AM – Oct 18, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Japanese Breakfast’s other Tweets

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Motörhead’s Phil Campbell and Judas Priest’s Rob Halford team up on new song “Straight Up”: Stream

The Motörhead guitarist’s first solo album, Old Lions Still Roar, is out now


Phil Campbell Rob Halford song Straight Up

Phil Campbell (Tom Hughes) / Rob Halford (Chipster PR)

Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell just released his first solo album, Old Lions Still Roar. The record is packed with all-star collaborations, including “Straight Up”, which features the Metal God himself, Rob Halford of Judas Priest.

“Straight Up” is a spot-on title, as the no-frills track sits cozily in Campbell’s wheelhouse of driving, riff-centric hard rock. Halford’s melodic vocals convey the attitude behind the lyrics, with just enough of the snarling swagger he brings to Judas Priest’s music. It’s a comfy collaboration for the heavy metal legends, and they sound at home together on the same track.

“‘The Metal God’ Rob Halford has always been an artist I admire,” Campbell commented in a press release. “His distinctive vocals and stage presence have rocked millions of fans all over the world, so I count myself blessed to have written a rockin’ song together with him!”

Recently, Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee found themselves in headlines forbeing excluded from Motörhead’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination despite each being in the band for more than 20 years. Fortunately, backlash from fans and fellow artists forced the Hall to reverse course, as Campbell and Dee were eventually added to Motörhead’s nomination.

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That Time Tool couldn’t decide if they were a Metal Band

“We’re certainly not a hair-metal band”


Tool metal or not


Tool are undoubtedly heavy, but fans have been debating for years whether the progressive act is a “metal” band or not. Apparently, even the members of Tool were once unsure of whether they qualified as “metal.”

Classic Rock recently posted an archived Tool feature from June 2006 that originally appeared in the magazine’s print edition. The interview took place around the release of 10,000 Days, and at one point the Tool members pondered whether “metal” served as an apt description of the band.

“I don’t think that we were ever a metal band,” drummer Danny Carey said. “I can understand that maybe we’d get compared with Pink Floyd.”

Added bassist Justin Chancellor, “It depends what you mean by heavy metal. I always think that we’re a heavy psychedelic band.”

Vocalist Maynard James Keenan then brought up Black Sabbath, long considered the godfathers of heavy metal. “It’s all about language,” Keenan said. “So, were Black Sabbath a metal band? … If Black Sabbath are a metal band, then I guess that we are, too.”

He added, “But when I listen to things like [Sabbath’s third album] Master of Reality, I hear sort of heavy political rock ‘n’ roll. I guess I don’t really hear them as heavy metal.”

Chancellor then interjected, “Heavy metal just makes me think of Whitesnake.”

Finally, Keenan surmised of the band’s music, “It’s meaty, it’s really weighty shit … It’s not heavy as a genre or anything but the effect is similar. It’s not about the types of guitars, it’s just how it was made. Well, we’re certainly not a hair-metal band.”

(Buy: Tickets to Tool’s Upcoming Shows)

Tool certainly stretch across a multitude of musical spectrums, so to merely call them a “heavy metal” band might be unfair. However, the sheer heaviness of songs like “Schism” and the tracks on their new album Fear Inoculum — featuring distinct riffs and relatively loud volume — makes “metal” a reasonable identifier, or “alternative metal,” at least.

That said, even if the members of Tool couldn’t decide whether they’re a metal band, perhaps it’s a moot point best laid to rest — or, like their music itself, left up to personal interpretation.

Fans can decide whether Tool are metal or not by checking out the band on its current North American tour. The outing runs through a November 25th show in Washington, D.C., with tickets available here.

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Dave Grohl, Steven Adler, Geezer Butler Bowling For Ronnie

William Lee | 10-23-2019


Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, and original Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler will be part of Eddie Trunk’s team at this year’s Bowl For Ronnie event.

The special annual charity event will benefit the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund and is set to take place on November 7th at PINZ Bowling Center in Studio City, CA.

Trunk’s team last year won the tournament and featured Whitesnake’s Doug Aldrich, Jack Black, Butler and Tom Morello along with winning eBay bidder Steve Prziborowski.

His team this year will include Butler returning along with Grohl, Adler, Sebastian Bach’s Brent Woods and the winning bidder of this year’s eBay auction (see it here).

The special event is also expected to include Ira Black (Lizzy Borden, I Am Morbid),Dewey Bragg (Kill Devil Hill), Phil Buckman (Fuel, Petty Cash), Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses), Jason Cornwell and Jimmy Burkard of Westbound, Jeff Dewbray, Logan Nikolic, and Patrick Stone of Budderside, Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint, DC4), Matt and Shawn Duncan of DC4, Fred Coury (Cinderella), Art Cruz (Lamb of God),Bjorn Englen (Dio), Marc Ferrari (Keel, Cold Sweat), David “Rock” Feinstein (Elf, The Rods), Damon Fox (The Cult), Craig Goldy and Scott Warren of Dio, Rita Haney, Sonia Harley, Richie Kotzen (Winery Dogs), Terry Ilous (XYZ, Great White), Frank Kramer (KLOS), Dave “Chili” Moreno (Westbound, Puddle of Mudd), Todd Morse (Offspring, Petty Cash), Ronny Munroe (TSO, Metal Church), Sadie Nardini (Sadie and the Tribe), Rob “Blasko” Nicholson (Ozzy Osbourne), Rowan Robertson (Dio, DC4), Gonzo and Phil Sandoval (Armored Saint), Rudy Sarzo (Dio, Quiet Riot), Brett Scallions (Fuel), Ernie Snair (The Loveless), Steve Smyth (One Machine, Testament), Michael Spencer (Flotsam & Jetsam), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake), Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Fates Warning), Chas West (Westbound, Bonham), Roy Z (Westbound, Halford) and actors Star Fields (Sons of Anarchy), Al Coronel (The Last Ship) and James St. Vincent (Being, The Depths).

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Rob Halford Reveals RuPaul’s Drag Race Dreams

OCTOBER 23RD, 2019 AT 11:08AM


The past month has been action-packed for Judas Priest. They were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and frontman Rob Halford released a Christmas album, Celestial.

Meanwhile, Rob Halford has revealed a dream of another nature — he has a burning desire to appear as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. ADVERTISING

The Metal God expressed this wish in an interview with Yahoo News.  His vision includes having all of the drag queens going on the air in full-on metal gear.

When asked what appeals to him about RuPaul’s Drag Race, Halford said, “I just love that show just for every emotional dimension of what’s being presented… It’s a beautiful insight to a part of our world and it’s really important. It has a tremendous amount of value.”

Halford also used the opportunity to trash the current state of American politics (again). He expressed his disdain with how underrepresented and undervalued the American people are by those currently in office. Halford’s praise of RuPaul’s show is rooted in how it call attention to the fact that everyday people can be drag queens, normalizing the phenomenon:

“These things are wonderful opportunities for people that don’t know about us. Just to look and listen and learn. That whole thing about we are your bus driver, we are your nurse at school, we are your judge court. We’re their airline pilot. We are everywhere.” 

“Even today we’re about to get to 2020 and we still have to talk about this. Particularly in this current climate here in the U.S. it’s terribly, terribly difficult. Especially what’s going on in Washington.”

Halford came out as gay in 1998 but has had little representation within gay media — most likely due to how the media still views metal as an inordinately masculine scene. Halford hopes to break down this stereotype and enter gay media spaces while bringing the brutality of metal with him.ADVERTISING

Halford will be publishing an autobiography in 2020 that will shed some light on what it’s like to be a gay man and a God of Metal.

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More Than 40 Music Festivals Pledge to Ban Facial Recognition

Photo Credit: Mike MacKenzie / CC by 3.0

Activist group Fight for the Future has managed to get 40 music festivals to ban facial recognition technology.

Facial scanning software has already been used at some live music venues.  Just this year, we learned that Taylor Swift used the tech to keep tabs on her stalkers.  Facial recognition software goes far beyond security purposes, with facial scans entering massive databases for ad targeting and behavioral tracking — just to name two downstream applications.

Companies like Ticketmaster have invested money in facial ID tech companies like Blink Identity as recently as last year. That startup is run by ex-defense contractors that helped to build the U.S. military’s facial recognition system in Afghanistan.

Companies like Ticketmaster hope to use the tech for displaying targeted ads, or monitoring your activity while at the venue. For example, marketers might push merch advertising more heavily to people who make frequent passes by merch stands.

At least 40 of the world’s largest music festivals have agreed to the facial recognition ban. Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW have gone on record saying they will not use the tech. Even Ticketmaster says it has no plans to use facial recognition tech at its live shows, despite the investment in Blink Identity.

Fight for the Future brought attention to the issue through grassroots activism and social media pressure. They also proposed economic boycotts of any festival sponsors or artists for those who do use the technology. While the focus so far has been on music festivals, Fight for the Future is turning its sights to other live events.MORE NEWS:  ‘Post-Primary’ Ticketing Exchange Lyte Scores a $15 Million Round

Outside Lands, Life is Beautiful, iHeartRadio Music Festival, Boston Calling, and Burning Man won’t commit to not using the tech.

More than 30 organizations have endorsed the fight against facial recognition in all aspects of life. At least four cities in the U.S. have banned government use of biometric spy tech. Many of those who favor the technology say facial recognition is “opt-in only” and can easily be regulated.

For now, public opinion seems to be against deploying the technology. Out of all the music festivals targeted by this campaign, only five have stated they ‘might use’ facial recognition tech.

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