Over the past several days, Amen Dunes leader Damon McMahon has been the subject to an onslaught of online criticism following the resurfacing of a 2014 quote in which the songwriter, who is responsible for one of Uproxx’s favorite albums of the year, appeared to make a misogynist remark about working with women. It all started harmlessly enough, when iconic rock critic Jessica Hopper sent out a (now-deleted) tweet about not connecting with the recent album, Freedom, which resulted in a wave of fellow music listeners chiming in. One response pointed towards this old quote and it caught the eye of a number of people who looked at McMahon’s words as bizarrely against the idea of working with women.
“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,” McMahon said about the older album Love, and when pressed about whether he’d ever work with women in a more collaborative way, he said the following:
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.
When viewed in the context of the interview, it’s understandable why it struck so many people negatively. But the online pile-on resulted in Amen Dunes releasing a lengthy statement explaining the quote that most people didn’t anticipate.
In the statement, McMahon opened-up about past sexual assault at the hands of two women from throughout his childhood until he was 18, and that experience wound up being the impetus for creating his recording project. As he explained, “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.”
McMahon admits that his interview was phrased poorly, but the resulting backlash feels like a teachable moment in what many call “cancel culture,” where there could be a larger story in play when quotes are taken at face value. Hopper for her own part acknowledged and apologized to McMahon for him having to go public about his abuse when he might not have been ready to do so.
In all, this was a moment that a lot of people likely wish they could have back, and a reminder to act with empathy because things are not always what they appear to be.