Just some days ago, Testament’s founding member and lead guitarist Alex Skolnick wrote an opinion piece for Newlines Magazine in which he supported his right to voice his political views, drew on the fact that ‘rock used to be all about bold statements,’ and said that this is one of the main reasons why he wanted to pursue a career in music.
As you know, Alex Skolnick is known for his successful career as the lead guitarist of Testament and other side projects such as Metal Allegiance, the Alex Skolnick Trio, and many more. However, he’s also famous for being highly vocal on his social media accounts and the fact that he’s so outspoken has led some fans to “advise him” to stick to music.
In order to respond to these criticisms, Alex Skolnick decided to pen an opinion article that was recently published in Newlines Magazine. He said that the times have changed a lot in the past years and because ‘attention has become a prized commodity‘ he understands why some musicians prefer to not express their views on social and political matters.
However, he went on to say that this is something that he can’t do as he knows that ‘it was fearless acts of imagination that built that audience in the first place.’ Skolnick went on to say that although his political views might drive some people away, they will also attract like-minded people who will appreciate his music knowing what he supports.
Then, Skolnick went on to discuss the intolerance of their audience nowadays and said that he finds this very ironic because ‘rock used to be all about bold statements.’ He continued by giving examples from Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Black Sabbath, Metallica, and many more who wrote and sang songs specifically to serve a political purpose.
He said that he cannot understand why the audience has evolved into becoming more and more intolerant of rockstars expressing their political views, as being outspoken lies at the foundation of rock culture. Skolnick also added that this is one of the main reasons why he wanted to pursue a career in music as he couldn’t have made it ‘in a regular job that requires you to bottle up your feelings, put on a happy face, and suck up to those on whom your income depends.’
Here’s what Alex Skolnick said about the risks to political activism:
“At a time when attention has become a prized commodity, the fear of losing one’s audience is understandable. But we forget that it was fearless acts of imagination that built that audience in the first place. If there are risks to political activism, there are also gratifications to offset them. Every time I have spoken out on a political issue, I’ve alienated a few. I have also had my views amplified by journalists and opinion-makers, some of them household names. This in turn has brought me to the attention of people beyond my immediate audience — new follows, more retweets. The biggest loss to me would be to succumb to fear and suppress my voice at a time like this.”
He went on to say:
“Ironically, rock used to be all about bold statements. From Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Machine Gun’ (about the Vietnam War), Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ (about the ‘military-industrial complex’), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s ‘Ohio’ (about the Kent State massacre), Black Sabbath’s ‘Into the Void’ (about the space race), Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ (about environmental degradation), Sting’s ‘Russians’ (about the Cold War), U2’s ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ (about Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’) to Metallica’s ‘One’ and ‘Disposable Heroes’ (about the human cost of militarism) — musicians seemed unafraid of speaking their political convictions.
It seems ironic then that audiences have grown so intolerant of dissenting opinions among artists when so much of the music they grew up with is defined by it. Part of my motivation in pursuing music in the first place was to not be forced to suppress that which I wanted to express. I wouldn’t have lasted long in a regular job that requires you to bottle up your feelings, put on a happy face, and suck up to those on whom your income depends. “
Click here to read Alex Skolnick’s full letter.