This mix was recorded during my set last Saturday night, before the news about Ten Walls hit the internet in full force. I have chosen to keep his new song, Blue Orphan, in the mix. By no means is this meant to advocate the grossly homophobic sentiments expressed by Ten Walls in his recent rant. However, it is meant to advocate a reverence for the sanctity of art beyond the oft-imperfect humanity of the artist.
Mario Basanov is responsible for his words, no doubt. And the businesses that have dropped him from their lineups and rosters must make the business choice to rightly preserve the image of their companies by distancing themselves from a viewpoint that thankfully stands in opposition to their ethos.
But what do we really gain by removing Tem Walls’ songs from our libraries? If we curate our creative palate on the basis of an artist’s ability to conform to any idea of right or wrong at all—whether social, political or moral—then we miss the chance to experience the great work of a William Burroughs or a Richard Wagner. Indeed, we miss much. Consider that Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism, loved to listen to Wagner’s music and you begin to understand. The excellence of the creative work stands by itself and naturally rises above the human imperfections of its earth-bound creator.
In the case of Mario Basanov, there is much to respect about his talent, as his level of songwriting, musicianship, and production are all consistently exceptional. His creative output speaks for itself and for its own part, the creative work has never spoken ill of anyone. The music is innocent. But more than that, transcendent. As much as his rant offered something awful to the world, his music offers something truly great—a sound that inspired many fans and mimics for years now, and that sound has not changed.
We are often eager to point the finger, calling out the evil that’s “over there,” always “the bad guy” who stands nowhere near us. Never us, but always them. It is easier to choose a figure or a group as an emblem of all that is unseemly. And when that figure is publicly destroyed, we can all feel that we’ve flushed out the evil, not realizing the sentiments we have partaken in during the destruction of “the bad guy” are our very own evils in action. While some have responded to the Ten Walls incident with humor (as in the hilarious “It’s Raining Men” video), others have come from a place of retaliation and cruelty. Are we any better for meeting hatred with hatred by our nasty online comments? We don’t know whether this person went through something in his upbringing or life experiences that caused him to think the way he does—not that it would be an excuse, but it might change the nature of our response. I wouldn’t want to be the one to shut out and ridicule someone who has already been hurting, which is always a possibility. What kind of community do we want to build? One that meets intolerance with more intolerance? Or do we treat people like people and understand them as the imperfect humans that we all are? Do we want to be a generation that can’t look past the shortcomings of the artist to see the excellence of the art?
There are artists who will use this opportunity to present themselves as the opposite of “the bad guy.” There are lesser artists who will secretly rejoice to see someone of such superior talent fall so far; still others who would gladly have Ten Walls ghostwrite/produce the work that is well beyond the scope of their own talent while their suave words and wider grins keep them up on the soapbox, dropping beats another day. Most of those artists aren’t making very compelling work. There are many unskilled acts populating the charts and festival stages due to their congenial personalities in social media. I myself would rather hear the Ring Cycle. And so I’ve chosen to keep Ten Walls in the mix because the excellence of his work speaks to me in a voice much greater than the smallness of his personal rants.