Krieg’s Neill Jameson On the Trappings of Ego

By now you’ve seen that Agalloch ended as a full band. You’ve seen people lamenting this like the fucking Beatles just broke up. You’ve probably seen a dozen think pieces popping up celebrating the achievements of what was, without question, one of the most important and influential bands to come out of the U.S. This isn’t one of those.

As a caveat I have to say that I’ve never cared for Agalloch’s music; I’ve had the first Ulver record since it came out and that’s all I need. But I won’t be one of those greying underground elites who ignore the fact that this was a very important band to a great many people. They never arose any ire in me, they were just not my thing. I will not disparage their achievements regardless of my overall disinterest in their music. No, I’m here to talk about one of the most disgusting trappings in the creative arts: ego.

Now I can already see people’s fingers twitching getting ready to tell me I’m in a glass house in our fine and always reasonable comments section, but gotcha, fuckers—I’m already well aware of mine and the myriad ways it’s tripped me up over the years. You’ll have to go back to insults about my music or appearance instead, sorry.

This is a textbook example of believing your own press; sole original member toils in the underground for a minute or two, gathers up some friends to back him up and steadily rise until there’s the moment their collective efforts break through and their rise is meteoric. As this happens the original member begins to place value on themselves over anyone else. And if you place that value on yourself then why don’t you get all of the accolades, the rewards? Why spread it around? After all, aren’t the fans telling you how important you are? Isn’t this your child? It’s this line of thinking that’s dangerous. You begin to believe in your own myth. You forget who helped build your vision, without whom none of this could have happened the way it did. It may be your house, but you didn’t build it alone.

In this instance every other member besides the founder was jettisoned. If this was just the case of a band breaking up and going their separate ways then there wouldn’t be anything to really write about, save people ranking their albums or whatever it is a lot of music journalists do under these circumstances. But then you began to see the other members showing resentment towards the situation; restrained resentment but resentment none the less. And then another press release came out and you started to see some of the goodwill people had disappear. Why? Because it was less of a notice of discontinuing a band and more an exercise in public masturbation with a reference to the original member as a “visionary.” This is generally the kind of press release hyperbole you see PR firms write, so while it’d normally be something to roll your eyes at this was especially nauseating because founder John Haughm himself wrote it.

Hours after he fired his band, he called himself “visionary.” The fucking hubris of this even took me by surprise and I’m used to people making wild claims about themselves to somehow appear more of an important or strong figure but this shit took that trope and ran with it, unfortunately not out in front of a bus. There was mention that Agalloch might continue or that the future was uncertain which made the situation so apparent even Helen Keller could see it and agree that it was horseshit. It can be construed as saying that the other three members of the band—some of which had been with Haughm for well over a decade—weren’t important in the grand scheme of things. And not only does that do them a great disservice, since without them he wouldn’t have been able to tour or record these albums, it’s also a giant dick move to publicly shit on your friends, people who have stood by you since before anyone gave a fuck about you. It shows a lack of class and character. It’s poor fucking form.

Now I read on another tabloid brain trust site that the band is on “hiatus” which, and I know this is a stretch but stay with me, sounds to me like we can expect him to announce a new lineup at the end of the summer, full of fresh faces who have “reenergized” the band, brought new inspiration, etc. What a crock of horseshit. What it is really is a bunch of shills who’ll do whatever they’re told, take whatever they’re paid and like it all for the chance to play in the band. It gives total control to one person, so that they can continue to feed their ego until they die of a stroke while they’re jerking off to a picture of themselves in some shitty hotel that only has RC Cola in the vending machine—like I aspire to do before I hit 45. I could be wrong, but I highly doubt it. I’ve watched this kind of ego trip destroy many bands and relationships over the last 20 years, and I’m sure I’ll keep seeing it until my hotel fantasy materializes because it’s human nature and unavoidable.

Here’s the thing: you play metal, whether you want to call it that or not. This is a limited appeal genre no matter how big certain bands get; this isn’t pop music. We all started as outcasts. And some of us forgot that and feel that we’re a lot more special than we really are. We’re not. I’m not, you’re not, and the protagonist of this saga we’ll all forget about when some band somewhere says something that triggers someone in a week is certainly not excluded from this. Sure, you’ve got the enduring adoration of fans but you also ruined your reputation with many others and you also fucked over people who were your friends. And that’s the kind of shit that stays with us long after we forget why the fuck people liked our music in the first place.

Don’t believe your own press. Don’t allow these things to change who you are as a person, because then you’ve lost not only yourself but the purity of what you’ve created.

—Neill Jameson, the “visionary” member of Krieg for 21 years.