Bryn Jones started making music in the early 80’s under the name E.g Oblique Graph. In 1983 he changed the name of the project to Muslimgauze in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Since then he has been producing an abundance of material with an ever increasing frequency of releases, a situation that hasn’t changed with his death in January 1999. On the contrary, there has been a plethora of re-releases and dozens of CD’s of previously unreleased material.
Muslimgauze’s music can be described as usually monotonous “ethnic” percussion, interspersed with Middle Eastern sounds and atmospherics, with some excursions into ambient or slightly more dance-floor oriented material. This is however only half of what there is to Muslimgauze: The other prime aspect is the political impetus behind the music, without which, as Jones never tired to continually emphasize, there would be no music. This inspiration is provided by the adulation of Arab political and religious leaders such as Arafat, Khomeini, Gaddafi, Saddam, Abu Nidal etc. as well as organizations such as the PLO, Hamas and Hizbollah. In short, everybody and everything that is waging war against Israel in the region. The records are a platform to propagate this war, and so are his appearances in the media.
While Jones used to blame his anti-Israel stance as a reason for his media-underexposure, it’s on the contrary surprising how many papers allowed him to voice his hateful propaganda. One example being an interview article in the Village Voice, where Jones is given a platform to justify suicide bombings, and the journalist has nothing better to say than to suggest that maybe there would be other means (to be contradicted by Jones). The article wraps up with the idiotic claim that “Jones’s tactics epitomize the ‘nomad art’ espoused by Deleuze and Guattari: a flowing, deterritorialized music anterior to any orthodoxy whatsoever. Despite the stridency of his opinions, no one could accuse Jones of formal analysis. I don’t doubt the sincerity of his political convictions; in fact, I admire their untethered energy. (…) Muslimgauze albums sell only a few thousand copies each. Yet they make small yet powerful statements, each a paradoxical nexus of soothing art and hard politics.”
A reviewer in the magazine Fringecore is a bit more critical, but he too wants to be at peace with his subject and suggests that in order to propagate his views more successfully “Jones needs to raise credentialisation, by demonstrating a deeper insight into his subject matter.” This is something Jones obviously has not done. But the journalist fails to understand that this is entirely secondary: Jones is absolutely not interested in gaining any insights.
In fact Jones never had any contacts with Arabs, he wasn’t a Muslim, and he never traveled to the Middle East. Nor did he ever have any interest. His much repeated credo is: “Muslimgauze are pro-Arab/Palestinian and detest the vile stench of Israel”. One has to conclude that he is much less pro-Arab than anti-Israel. The country of Iran (a non-Arab Islamic country) seems to be a source of great joy for him – he dedicated a record to the flogging and hanging of a murderer in Tehran, as well as one to the Iranian female table-tennis team – because they had to play veiled!
Usually Muslimgauze is associated with the “industrial” scene, a scene with a fair share of far right ideas floating about. Usually these are confined to neo-folk or power electronics circles, and have more to do with neo-paganism and are usually euro-centric. But did Jones even have any political views besides his obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his admiration for Iran in particular and any Arab dictatorship as long as it supported the Palestinians? Hardly any interviewers asked him these question, so it needs to be reconstructed from a few fragments we have. Does it make sense to position him on the far right?
In the Eskhatos interview he is asked: “How do you feel about nationalism in general?” and answers: “It’s pretty important, it’s about where you belong so its very important.” Occasionally a certain anti-communism is seeping through.
In any case, his position is not the one that left-wing anti-zionists are usually taking. Namely they keep emphasizing the supposed difference between anti-zionism and anti-Semitism, as well as their support for the more secular and “left-wing” forces in Palestine and also on the Israeli side.
Jones certainly doesn’t spent time with “subtleties” like that. He totally and explicitly supports the most radical Islamo-fascist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and he justifies suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as “legitimate targets”. He accused Arafat of betrayal when he engaged in peace talks and later said that Arafat and Hamas were waging a two-pronged attack on Israel by talking on the one hand and bombing at the other. (This of course a realistic assessment usually denied by Palestine supporters on the left and the centre).
In Network News he showed himself as convinced that “The time is coming when everybody and every country will have to take sides, pro-PLO or pro-Zionist, the war to resolve this is not far away.” This suggests that he saw this as a worldwide conflict involving every individual everywhere.
The same interview shows him displaying some strong feelings in an entirely different matter: He was opposed to sampling (other people’s records) and says: “I view samples as theft (…) by people with no ideas of their own, these people should be taken to court and erased from view.”
One can only guess what he thinks should happen to the Jewish population of the Middle East, or possibly of the world, if he thinks musicians who sample should be “erased from view”.
As all interviews with Bryn Jones that are known to me show an extremely narrow scope of opinion he nevertheless thinks of himself and his fans as open-minded. He also calls the method of hanging people by suspension which causes a slow and painful death by strangulation as used by the Iranian regime “Justice.” (A “justice” that is also meted out to women for having extra-marital sex, as in the case of 16 year old Ateqeh Sahaleh in August 2004 for example. Usually cranes are used for these public executions).
Now people may have different opinions about what constitutes a “vile regime” (a term he uses against Israel in practically every interview). His vision of a worldwide intifada, and his denial of a place “where you belong” for the Jewish people, the emphasis on this particular conflict over everything else happening in the world, the naming of Jewish civilians, implicitly including children as “legitimate targets”, and at the same time his apparent disinterest in Arabs all point to a fanatical anti-Semitism.
The number of Muslimgauze releases has risen considerably since Jones’ death, in fact – while it’s hard to keep an overview – it appears that it has nearly doubled. So clearly there are people wishing to continue his work. As Muslimgauze’s music has been largely instrumental (except found sound snippets) a strong element to convey the message has been the packaging of the records and CD’s. Already during his lifetime this was partly handled by the various record labels that released his productions. One has to wonder then, what the involvement of these labels is regarding the quite explicit positions Jones took. An article in Industrial Nation gives (a) little insight into this. In one of the relatively rare mentions of his anti-Semitism in the music press two of the label owners are given the opportunity to defend him against the “slur” leveled against him. This is done in a rather unconvincing way, considering what is on record from the man himself. It’s done in the usual deflective manner of statements such as “he did (an) interview with an Israeli paper” (as if that was a proof for anything). Staalplaat, an originally Dutch label now based in Berlin, has put out the most Muslimgauze material since his death. Geert-Jan Hobijn from the label states in the same article that “He would not be my friend nor be on Staalplaat if he was [anti-Semitic].” Jones himself was less concerned, and when asked to respond to criticism he stated “tell them to fuck off”.
It appears that the marketing employed is similar to supposedly “controversial” bands such as Death In June, where it is deliberately left unclear whether or not they are “fascist”. In the case of Muslimgauze this hide and seek is less constructed through the ambivalence of statements and more by switching back and forth between the very explicit statements on covers, song titles (“Tel Aviv Nailbomb”) and in interviews and the mostly instrumental music. Like this they achieve in propagating extremist views and still get good reviews in the music press, which often prefers not to deal with any of the contents in depth. Nevertheless, the “controversial” aspect is a necessary ingredient for the marketing of otherwise often tedious and uninspired tracks.
the main source was the “official” Muslimgauze website:
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