Imagine Dragons Singer Defends Playing Israel And Azerbaijan, Serj Tankian Responds

Anna Webber/Getty Images

Imagine Dragons Singer Defends Playing Israel And Azerbaijan, Serj Tankian Responds

Anna Webber/Getty Images

Last year, System Of A Down leader Serj Tankian publicly asked Las Vegas arena-rockers Imagine Dragons to cancel a planned concert in Azerbaijan, citing that country’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against Armenians. Imagine Dragons ignored Tankian’s request and played that show, and Tankian recently expressed his disapproval of that band: “I don’t know what to say about those artists. I don’t respect them as human beings. Fuck their art, they’re not good human beings, as far as I’m concerned.” Imagine Dragons also played Israel last August. Now, scarily jacked frontman Dan Reynolds has addressed those decisions.

Imagine Dragons just released their new album Loom, and Dan Reynolds gave an interview to Rolling Stone. During that conversation, he talked about the band’s decision to play Israel and Azerbaijan for what I believe was the first time. His response was pretty boilerplate:

I don’t believe in depriving our fans who want to see us play because of the acts of their leaders and their governments. I think that’s a really slippery slope. I think the second you start to do that, there’s corrupt leaders and warmongers all over the world, and where do you draw the line?

When Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene brought up Serj Tankian’s comments specifically, Reynolds simply restated his position: “I think I just said it. It’s a slippery slope, and I’m never going to deprive our fans of playing for them.” Reynolds was even more close-mouthed when discussing longtime Imagine Dragons drummer Daniel Platzman’s recent decision to take an indefinite hiatus from the group: “He doesn’t play on the record, and I can’t talk about that.”

Dan Reynolds grew up Mormon, and in the Rolling Stone interview, he says a bit about his relatively recent decision to leave the church:

I grew up praying and asking for forgiveness and guidance every day. That’s what you do at the end of the day as a Mormon kid. You’re like, “Dear God, these are the things I did bad today. I’m really sorry. Please forgive me. These are the things I’m trying to achieve. Help me please. I’m thankful for these things.”

That really led me to never feel adequate. I always felt like I had something to be forgiven for and wondering if God had forgiven me. I really struggled with self-love because of that. So later in my life, I had to learn that that’s not a real concept for me, and also has been not healthy for me. I had to learn to hear my own voice and be my own God, or at least find God in myself or in the universe in some way.

When asked what advice he’d give to a Mormon teenager who’s about to go on a two-year mission but who’s having doubts about it, Renolds says:

Don’t just follow what you think you’re supposed to do. I really would not encourage them to go on a two-year mission, unless they felt, “I’m all in. Yes, I love this.” If you feel unsettled about it, a two-year mission is a long time. It’s hard to hear yourself when you’re knocking doors every day telling people what the truth is, and you don’t even know it yourself. That’s what I did for two years, and I got really lost.

For 13 years, Dan Reynolds was married to Nico Vega singer Aja Volkman, and they have four children together. They divorced last year, and Reynolds is now dating actress Minka Kelly. In the Rolling Stone interview, Reynolds talks about that while discussing the lyrics of one of his recent song “Nice To Meet You,” which has Kelly on handclaps:

I was dating someone new. When you’re dating someone, you’re kind of also dating their friends and family. I’m in a very different position in my life now. I got married when I was 22, and I was still Mormon at the time, so I really didn’t date at all growing up. It’s been a new thing for me to learn in my life, because obviously I have a weird life now, and so people are going to have a lot of weird preconceived notions about who I am or who I am not.

So that song was about dating someone and their friends being in their ear like, “Whoa, you shouldn’t date someone who’s a musician for XYZ reasons.” Which are all valid reasons. That’s just about giving love a chance, giving someone a chance and putting aside your preconceived notions.

You can read the full Rolling Stone interview here.

UPDATE: Tankian has responded to Reynolds’ response. Posting on Instagram he wrote:

Respectfully, I draw the line at ethnic cleansing and genocide. Azerbaijan’s dictatorship with popular support was already into a 9 month starvation blockade of Nagorno-Karabagh qualified as Genocide by former @icc prosecutor @luismorenoocampo when they decided to play Baku. Would they play in Nazi Germany? Why don’t they want to play in Russia? Because it’s not popular ? They support Ukraine but not Armenians of Artsakh? The only “slippery slope” is the farce moral equivalency at the heart of this hypocritical attitude. I have nothing against this guy nor his band. I just hate artists being taken advantage of to whitewash Genocidal dictatorships.

more from News