Amen Dunes’ Damon McMahon has responded to fresh criticism of comments he made in an interview four years ago, explaining that his reluctance to work with women is related to sexual abuse two adult women inflicted on him throughout his adolescence.
Speaking with No Fear Of Pop to promote his 2014 album Love, McMahon told an interviewer he didn’t often collaborate with women because “I don’t think my energy would work with that.” In recent days an excerpt containing that quote has been circulating on social media. Here’s the excerpt in question:
So were there any ladies on the collaboration for Love?
Sophie from Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Jess from A Silver Mt. Zion play violin on the song “Rocket Flare.” You know, I don’t mean this in a weird, misogynist way, but this record is a very masculine record. Amen Dunes is very masculine in general, or like man-focused.
Yeah, man-focused and also man-folkist because of all the masculine folk music influence.
Do you think you could ever see yourself doing a riskier album than Spoiler, like do a collaboration album with a female artist you like, or like a favorite contemporary female artist?
To be honest, I don’t think my energy would work with that. I mean, I love women, and I have plenty of female friends, but I don’t think my energy would work with a woman. I don’t know, I can’t imagine it, actually. It’s just not my vibe, and I don’t mean that in any kind of disparaging or critical way; I just don’t think chemically it’ll work.
This past Friday, a Twitter user in Minnesota pointed out the interview to journalist Jessica Hopper, who commented, “Wow, collaborating with women being ‘not my vibe’ is kind of a bold yet totally primitive stance for Amen Dunes to voice as a critical darling in 2018.” Hopper’s comment, which has since been deleted, alludes to the widespread praise for Amen Dunes’ 2018 album Freedom, which brought the project to a new level of prominence and, with it, scrutiny. McMahon has faced a number of negative reactions to the interview in the two days since.
Today McMahon posted a statement to Facebook and Twitter addressing the backlash. “I realize without giving context, my answer was not phrased well. At that time I did not feel it appropriate, nor was I healed enough, to explain my reason in detail,” he writes, before going on to explain how the trauma and recovery related to the ongoing abuse influenced his decision not to collaborate with women.
Here is McMahon’s statement:
In response to opinions made on social media:
This is not something I have ever felt comfortable saying to more than a close circle of people. Uncomfortable as this is, I believe it is the right thing to do.
My response in that 2014 interview can be seen here http://www.nofearofpop.net/blog/interview-amen-dunes-on-confinement-astrology-and-the-masculinity-of-love in full. I realize without giving context, my answer was not phrased well. At that time I did not feel it appropriate, nor was I healed enough, to explain my reason in detail.
What I meant by my response was I did not feel comfortable having a woman in the band, at that time, and my reason is as follows:
Two different adult women sexually abused me throughout my adolescence, from about 9 until I was 18. When I finally reached an age where I gained enough courage to begin to acknowledge what happened to me, Amen Dunes became a form of my own therapy. It was the one safe space I had to explore the feelings and the trauma from childhood, and to start to try and reclaim my identity and sexuality as a man.
Recovery from this kind of trauma is slow, and required, in the beginning, creating a neutral space for the work to be made in, where I could redefine my own personal sense of masculinity with honesty, vulnerability, and self-inquiry. At the time of that interview I did not feel comfortable collaborating with a woman as I was still in the early stages of this process.
— Amen Dunes (@amendunes) December 30, 2018
Stereogum recently published a profile on McMahon, which you can read here.