Jesse F. Keeler is half of the duos Death From Above (formerly Death From Above 1979) and MSTRKRFT. He is also a longtime friend of Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, who, in the years since his acrimonious split from Vice, has refashioned himself into a sort of right-wing militant leader. McInnes is a vocal part of the alt-right movement, and he’s the founder of the Proud Boys, a far-right organization that’s been linked to violence at rallies. And now, after news of Keeler and McInnes’ association has circulated, Keeler has had to distance himself from McInnes.
As this widely-circulated Medium post points out, Keeler has appeared multiple times on McInnes’ video podcast. (On the most recent episode where Keeler appeared, he and Ann Coulter were the guests.) Those podcasts are behind a paywall, but according to that Medium post, the discussions include talk about “pro-gun issues and crypto anti-immigrant subjects like ‘How England is losing its identity.'” Keeler also went to an election-night party with McInnes and his Proud Boys cohorts. And apparently, in a February 2016 article on his Proud Boys website, McInnes claimed that Keeler was a member of the Proud Boys. The article has since been deleted, but you can find the screenshots here.
Early this morning, on the Death From Above Facebook page, Keeler wrote a long statement, acknowledging that he’s been friends with McInnes for more than a decade but denying that he’s ever joined the Proud Boys. He also writes that, as the mixed-race son of an Indian-immigrant mother, he’s against racism and white supremacy. Here’s what Keeler wrote:
It’s difficult to know where to begin with this letter, so I’ll start here: I recently learned that last year I was the subject of an article written by the very controversial and provocative media figure, Gavin McInnes. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it may be for the best. Unfortunately the bells it rings play a sour tune in the key of “Alt-Right.”
In his article, Gavin claimed that I was part of his group, the “Proud Boys.” This is completely false. I would never join that group. My connection to Gavin however is real, but begs to be clarified. I first met Gavin in 2003 or 2004 as a founding member of Vice Magazine. Vice had started a record label and my band released records with them in the U.S. Through that connection, we became loosely acquainted. Our first interaction was back around 2004 when he called me up to do an interview with our band for his magazine. He offered to either do an interview or “just make some stuff up.” The latter seemed more fun/interesting to me at the time and so that’s what he did. Back then he was mostly known as the writer of Vice magazines famed, and often not so politically correct fashion section, “Dos and Don’ts”. In short, he was a comedian. Through the years we remained friendly and as our lives diverged, we spoke only on occasion, mostly about Dad stuff as we both have kids. After leaving Vice, Gavin had been doing stand-up comedy, making movies and writing books, all seemingly a continuation of the wreckless comedy style he had implemented in the magazine. Over time, I watched many people distance themselves from Gavin both professionally and personally. I always perceived that as people just thinking he was “a little much.” In short, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
When he started a video podcast and invited me on as a guest, I obliged. When he invited me to his talk-show and a party on election night last year, regrettably, I attended. Never without a morbid curiosity. Anyone who knows me, or has met me for longer than 5 minutes knows how curious I am. I never thought that my curiosity would lead to this moment, where now it feels like I’m walking through a lake of mud.
Soon after the election, I began noticing that Gavin was promoting violence and a form of radical politics that I absolutely do not agree with. I have always been anti-war and anti-violence. That is my baseline position. As far as immigration and nationalism: I am the child of an Indian mother and a Canadian father. I was raised in Canada by my immigrant-Indian family who struggled to make it in a new country. I watched my highly educated Indian grandfather deliver the newspaper his whole life, instead of working in his proper field. My skin tone may not tell this story, but it’s a fact. Growing up I didn’t identify as either race, as choosing one group seemed to somehow betray the other. I’m sure this is the plight of many mixed-race people.
So here I am, again caught between two things. Reality and fiction. The reality is that I am not “Alt-Right,” nor a White Supremacist. The facts are I am a mixed race father of two and a musician. I am so sorry for putting my family, friends and fans in this position. I never wanted to talk about politics, I just wanted to make music and leave that stuff alone. Unfortunately, my actions have brought me here, and I am deeply heartbroken about it. To a fault it seems that I give people the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that you will give me the same in return.
Jesse F. Keeler