John Maus Addresses Involvement With Alt-Right Adult Swim Series
Last year, an Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace was cancelled after one season when creator Sam Hyde was criticized for including coded messages promoting racism, sexism, and bigotry in the show, mostly through the sort of meme anti-humor that’s commonly associated with the “alt-right.” Throughout the only season of the show, several musicians were featured on it — including Chastity Belt, Ovlov, and Molly Nilsson — and almost all of them released statements condemning the show and noting that they didn’t know much about it when they agreed to license their music to be used on it.
One notable exception to that was John Maus, who, in addition to having his music featured on the show, had a cameo during one of its skits. He was silent about his involvement at the time, but with his new album Screen Memories coming out soon, he’s addressed the show in a new Noisey interview. He says that he was familiar with Adult Swim in general, and after looking into some of the creative team’s previous material — “I googled, and I just see this video of a guy in Roman armor taking a piss on a TED lecture. Now after everything we’ve said, obviously I’m like, ‘Right on. Fucking TED.'” — he agreed to be on the show.
Maus goes on to talk about his experiences on the show and what he envisioned for it: “I didn’t want to come in and just sing a song and go. I wanted to be on the set and see. It was cool, the whole place, and to be on a TV set. They were super nice.” Then he discusses what happened when he found out about the criticisms surrounding Million Dollar Extreme:
Then a few months later or whatever, one of the people from the label was like, “Yo, did you see this? You gotta say something.” “They’re Nazis,” or something like that.
Shit. A cult of a race and blood—that’s an absolute obscenity. That’s nothing other than disaster. That’s just inarguably obscene, that sort of ideology.
If the question too is why not just throw in your two cents about it or whatever, it’s just so insanely complicated the way the biopolitics and the cults of race and blood, the residues of that, are rearing their ugly faces again in our situation. That’s too complicated a thing to try to touch with  characters without running the risk of just turning the screw.
I don’t want to make any apology, but I also didn’t want to… The guys I met were nice. They weren’t burning crosses or doing anything like that. In other words, I never had, from what I know about it, any indication that anything other than certain instances of a sort of trolling was going on. What did they do that made them Nazis? Maybe I haven’t looked into it. Or why were they alt-right people?
He’s also asked about the violent content of one of the sketches in the episode he appeared in:
The one I was on, there was a sketch at the beginning of it where these guys are sitting at a wine-tasting party or something like that, and their wives are there, and they make a point of the character—one of the wives is off-putting. She scowls and things like that. One of the guys trips her, and she falls through glass, and it tears up her face, and she’s bleeding.
Now immediately, I’m thinking of Metalocalypse. I’m thinking of phantasmagorical humor, like a person gets their arm ripped off or something, and there’s something absurd about that. I didn’t think much beyond that about it.
Then people were like, “This is a misogynist sketch.” Then in that sense I’m thinking of the French feminist theory, this whole reading of it from that standpoint: the men do not acknowledge the woman as an agent, as having any subjectivity. She’s just an object in their patriarchal economy. In that sense, it’s like a feminist critique of where a woman is made to stand in a patriarchal, heteronormative reality. The idea that it just encourages violence against women, maybe I’m just too dumb. I didn’t see that or something like that. I don’t know.
You can read the full interview with Maus here.