The music world was less than shocked yesterday when issues surrounding Michael Keene’s heroin use – including an inability to perform live, stealing money from friends, colleagues and fans and general shitty behaviour – caused everyone but Keene to leave tech-death band, The Faceless.
Keene’s difficulty in keeping a band together is, by now, legendary and I’m sure that we’ve all seen the memes and shallow jokes made at Keene’s expense. Especially since this recent round of drama enveloped the band. When someone has behaved as Keene allegedly has, it’s all too tempting to make fun.
Addiction, however, is a terrible thing. It makes people act in ways they never would otherwise and hurt people they’d never dream of hurting. Does this, however, as some people have been claiming on social media, excuse Keene’s actions and make jokes like the above inherently wrong?
No, it doesn’t. Michael Keene is a grown man and he is responsible for actions. His problematic drug use should not be enabled by excusing his behaviour. Nor should he be able to accuse the people around him if, in reality, he is the core of the problem as ex-bandmates have alleged.
By the same token, does that make endlessly ripping on Keene and his problems completely fine?
Also no. Keene needs support, not derision, to get through this dark period of his career. Bear in mind it wasn’t until earlier this year that Keene even admitted to having a drug problem after years of fan speculation and rumour – this is not an easy thing to talk about and it’s a nuanced and complex issue. It can’t be boiled down to a simple meme.
So how do we, as fans of heavy metal music, deal with a problem like Michael Keene? As with anything music related we should criticise constructively.
Assuming we wish to be a conscientious fanbase, we can’t enable Keene’s behaviour or let such destructive and self-destructive behaviour go un-criticised. He deserves the negative responses to his actions.
At the same time, however, he is a human being and he has some pretty major issues. Heroin addiction destroys people. There needs to be more than just criticism – Keene needs help, it’s as simple as that. I’m sure none of us wants to wake up one day soon to find that Keene has succumbed to his addiction or the pressure associated with it. I think we’d also rather he stopped screwing over his fans and bandmates.
So next time you need to comment on the slow-motion car crash that is Michael Keene’s musical career, just take a second to think about whether you’re saying anything useful.