Author of infamous blog ‘Slagging Off’ is a total sweetheart in real life
The first time I met Paul Lawton was in Lethbridge in 1995. I immediately disliked him.
We were both crushing on the same girl. But unfortunately for me Paul and the girl were also dating. Teen angst is so embarrassing, and I quickly faded out of the picture and went back to Saskatoon. I wouldn’t talk to Paul again until 2011 in Calgary in front of Broken City Social Club during the Sled Island music festival.
It was 2 pm and we were both still silly from the night previous. It took a grand total of talking to him for two minutes before I took back every mean-spirited thought I ever had about him. Paul loved music in this super, awe-inspiring and intense way – it literally oozed out of him.
Paul, who co-runs Mammoth Cave Records, later took to the stage with his band The Ketamines, and subsequently tore the roof off the place.
Fast forward to 2013: Paul Lawton has become The Most Hated Man In Canadian Music.
Which is kind of funny if you’ve ever met him.
Back in February of this year, Lawton started a Tumblr blog called Slagging Off. Along with the heading “death to the Canadian music industry,” the blog was a series of then-anonymous tirades-masquerading-as-reviews against some of the bands that were playing at Toronto’s Canadian Music Week.
Needless to say it pissed some people off.
But, strangely enough, there were just as many people lining up to support the idea of opinions that weren’t predictably supportive of every single band in the country; Slagging Off, for all it’s vitriol, became a improbable beacon that galvanized music fans – you love it or you hate it.
Lawton has since ‘fessed up as the author of Slagging Off – his computer apparently got hacked in an attempt to expose him – and has gone after sacred cows such as FACTOR-funded labels and bands. Needless to say it pissed off even more people, including FACTOR grant-recipient Dan Mangan.
Not all the musicians are lining up with rotten tomatoes, however.
“Dave Bidini [of the Rheostatics] was one of the first people to message and say ‘this is awesome,’” offers Lawton. And Bidini isn’t the only one.
Ominocity recently caught up with Lawton and had a chat with him about Slagging Off, being called The Most Hated Man in Canadian Music and wrestling-style villainy.
Ominocity: A lot of people have dismissed Slagging Off as a collection of negativity. But it seemed to open up a lot of discussion about FACTOR funding that had never really been brought into the public eye before. Did the positives outweigh the negatives?
Paul Lawton: Not at first, especially during the witch hunt when I was still anonymous. I hadn’t set out to do this big thing. It was more for me and my friends who say these things in private. At first I was just shitting on all these bands that were on my level. And then my work computer got hacked and I was exposed. So I had to come out and say who I was.
And then there were a couple of days where it was just fucking harsh. People were sending death threats. And we were playing a show and some people had apparently come to fight me over some of the things I said. I felt unhappy about it so I stopped with slagging the bands and began to focus on the industry stuff and it took a different turn. Even bands that I had written mean things about were emailing me back and saying how it was amazing. It went viral first because I was saying things about small bands that a lot of people don’t say because they want to encourage the artistic growth and all that bullshit. But the stuff about FACTOR was really bringing people out of the woodwork who were unhappy with that funding body – keep in mind these were people from all levels.
I think at this point the positives outweighed the negatives.
OM: Has there been much backlash against your band The Ketamines?
PL: There has been a lot of jokes. There was some morning AM radio guy who made a joke about The Ketamines on Twitter hoping that someone would notice. And he made it like five different times.
There was a lot of talk at the beginning from people who said things like ‘well how dare you say these things when you are embedded into this scene? Who are you to judge music when you are making music too?’ I think that is a really dumb argument. Most music writers are people in bands. And they are embedded into this scene as well.
I guess we will see how it will go on tour. It’s definitely given us a lot more attention.
OM: CBC called you The Most Hated Man in Canadian Music…
PL: It was on a show called Day 6. I was supposed to be on the show with the guy from FACTOR. But he wouldn’t sit in the same room with me, which I think is super funny.
OM: I think it’s funny that the so-called ‘Most Hated Man in Canadian Music’ is actually a really nice and sweet dude – there seems to be a bit of a disconnect there…
PL: After I sat down with him we spent an hour talking and he said ‘a lot of what I’ve heard and read from you doesn’t really jive.’ In the segment they paint me as a villain, and it made me think of wrestling because all the bad guys are all usually really sweet dudes. But I’ve heard this a lot where people think it’s really ironic.
I know that I’m not actually the most hated man in Canadian music. I could give you a list of ten other people who would probably qualify more.
How Paul Lawton Became the Most Hated Man in Canadian Music: A Timeline
February 20 – Paul writes the first post of Slagging Off. The Ketamines asked to play Canadian Music Week in exchange for wristbands. “I looked at the lineup and didn’t recognize 90% of the bands,” says Lawton. “I start the site as ‘HONEST REVIEWS’ as I was honestly looking for bands to see with my wristband, but I was going to be brutally honest in my assessment because I was looking for the best of the fest. Anonymity allowed me to remove the social pressure of being nice to everyone. I only reviewed 100 because it was a huge time sink. I was about to stop but…”
March 15 – Paul posts on CBC Searchlight “BEST NEW ARTIST” – Slagging Off starts to go viral.
March 21 – Paul’s post on CMW “Where Music Comes Last” goes super viral and he is outed later that day as someone figures out the computer he uploaded the header image to. “My ex-coworker was blamed so I took responsibility,” says Lawton.
April 2 – The Slagging Off post “The Trouble with Factor” goes even bigger than previous posts. The site is generating massive traffic at this point with over 10,000 hits per day.
April 4 – Paul agrees to meet with Chandler from Vice Magazine. “I didn’t expect the post to be as much about ‘me’ as it was,” says Lawton.