My favourite thing about Jeremy Corbyn gracing the covers of both the NME and Kerrang in the run up to the election is that more austere media have to describe what they are. I imagine the writer with a face like they’re sucking a lemon as they type “rock magazine Kerrang” in relation to a political story. It seems to have sparked debate amongst rock fans and beyond about whether politics should be included in a music magazine. In these politically polarised times it seems artists of all kinds are told to keep politics out of what they do.
Musicians, writers, filmmakers, comedians, actors and more are told to stick to the day job by people who don’t seem to realise that it’s impossible because all art is political. It doesn’t matter whether the work is political in intent, whether it has some measure of political thought buried in the subtext or whether it’s nowhere to be found. The act of creating something is always an act of defiance in one way or another. Whether you’re kicking down the constraints of patriarchy, illuminating the impact of war or showing a young couple fall in love against socially-constructed barriers, it’s all political.
As with all art, rock music has been, and continues to be, part of my political education. If established political figures and commentators are worried about scruffy hordes of rock fans taking over their territory, they should be. We’re a lot better informed that you might imagine. If some people are uncomfortable that a music magazine is openly espousing more liberal views than they hold, they’re idiots who appear to have missed the point of the very thing they claim to love. Like the people genuinely surprised that Harry Potter author JK Rowling has anti-fascist, liberal views, it shows a startling lack of understanding. One of the incredible things that art can do is unearth such dissonance of thought and start a conversation.
As an aside, my least favourite thing about the Kerrang business is that I keep imagining someone like Zach de la Rocha reading all the internet comments about how politics doesn’t belong in rock music and shedding a few tears. I’m comforted by the thought that he’ll get an incredible song out of it, though.