Someone has pissed off Chelsea Grin’s Alex Koehler. The recently-released single Clickbait, from their forthcoming album Self Inflicted, is a furious rant at “the media”, with Alex taking aim at a mystery publication that’s “disrespected” the band.
The title of the song suggests that it could be a critique of the media in general. The need for everything to be available immediately online and score more hits than a competitor’s website means some news publications, both within music and outside of it, turn to salacious gossip to get clicks. But it isn’t the so-called decline of journalism that Alex is worried about. He told Hammer that a particular publication has been trolling the band since the start of their career, and he’s finally had enough.
So, who is it? That’s one thing he wouldn’t tell us, but he did have some interesting things to say about the way music media can elevate, then assassinate, individuals at will. Here’s what went down when we called him up to find out exactly what he’s angry about.
So, Clickbait – was it inspired by a particular person or event?
“People have asked if it was about the media in general, but it’s more so about a certain media outlet that’s been a bastard for so many years. We’ve done so many things for them but it’s never been reciprocated. When our band first came out they gave us a bad review, but whatever, that happens. Then it kept happening, and we’d do things like signings for them, stuff like that, and always be very good to them and they’d turn around and shit on us. Finally I was like, these people are never going to benefit us in any way, ever, so I’m going to call ‘em out for what they are. And it ended up being a pretty fun song.”
Did it get personal or was it just about music?
“They were always bashing on the music, and I know people have their own opinions, but we’d do things for them on a daily basis that would bring them traffic, and we never got anything out of it apart from a shitty review and some guy talking shit. There was nothing on our character, we just feel like we respected them and had nothing but good things to say about them, but then they were like ‘fuck you’.”
So when you decided to write this song, was it a kind of tongue in cheek thing?
“Yeah, I mean, I listen to a lot of hip-hop when I’m at home. And those lyrics “publish this dick” had a sort of hip-hop influence to them. Obviously it’s kind of funny to say something like that, but it just fit well with the lyrical pattern.”
Are you worried that other media outlets might think it’s about them and be wary of working with you in the future?
“Media and magazines are going to write what they think is an honest review of an album, and you can’t get upset just because one person doesn’t like you. The reason we went to this extent with this song is because it’s been something that’s been ongoing. But if people want to think it’s about them, then maybe the apple doesn’t fall… Maybe they should think about what they’re saying.”
Do you think there’s a problem with the media being unfair?
“Media is media, and it’s their job to get the stories. But I’ve never been a fan of an artist’s personal life being published for everyone to see and be thrown out there. I don’t think people should look up to musicians as their heroes. I think people should enjoy the music and look up to what the person does and their talents, but as far as behind the scenes goes, there are definitely people out there who use their powers for bad. Someone with a big name will make a little slip-up and all of a sudden they’re being pushed everywhere on the internet, I just think that’s a low blow. Most people that we’ve ever dealt with, it’s been a good experience. If they don’t like the music, they don’t like it, that’s not something you can get mad about. The only reason we’re mad about what’s going on is that it’s been an ongoing thing for us.”
So, playing devil’s advocate, what if a musician has committed a crime? Do you think it shouldn’t be reported?
“That’s something that’s public record anyway, and the downside of having your name being famous – people are going to report it if you’re being a shitty person. I just meant more along the lines of the small shit. Maybe I’m talking myself in circles, but I don’t think band members should be looked up to as heroes, the same as pro-athletes and stuff. You can enjoy what they do on the court and on the field, but behind the scenes some people aren’t the greatest, and you shouldn’t really look up to someone as a role model.”
But if someone’s got a large fan base, do you not think they should think about trying to set a good example?
“Those people are out there, but they make their personal life very public and they are helping and being charitable. That’s the kind of person you should look up to, because of their character, not just because they’re in your favourite band.”
Some people might say this is a publicity stunt – was that the intention?
“Obviously a song with such a strong opinion and voice behind it, some people would think it was about them, but the only intention of the song was to say some things that we all wanted to say. It’s not a cry for attention or a media stunt, it’s just us saying, ‘fuck you’.”
Chelsea Grin’s upcoming album Self Inflicted is out July 1, via Rise Records.