Matty Healy Talked About That Malaysian Festival Kiss After Being Told Not to Talk About That Malaysian Festival Kiss

"As liberals are so fond of saying, 'Silence causes violence, use your platform' — so we did that. And that is where things got complicated."

Photo: Markus Maier

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Oct 10, 2023

The stage is where the 1975's Matty Healy takes his cigarette breaks and eats his raw meat. It's also where his soapbox is.

After rattling off an advertisement for online therapy last week, the musician took the opportunity that the band's Still... at Their Very Best North American tour provided to address something that happened this summer: the 1975 got kicked out of Malaysia — and the three-day Good Vibes Festival they were headlining got cancelled — after Healy criticized the country's strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws and kissed bassist Ross MacDonald during their set, which was then cut short.

Amid the fallout, the band ended up on the hook for financial damages over the festival's cancellation, with Future Sound Asia (FSA) organizers demanding they pay $2.7 million USD for leading the event into "financial ruin." 

Naturally, Healy also faced criticism from Malaysian LGBTQ+ activists for the way he staged his protest. Julian Casablancas of the Strokes was also a tiny bit pissed after his band didn't end up getting to play the festival, saying that performing artists "should be knowledgable and respectful toward the culture you're not familiar" and that such protests "should be strategic."

Healy gave Casablancas a call-out by name during a lengthy onstage speech about the whole ordeal in Fort Worth, TX, last night (October 9).

"Unfortunately, there [are] so many incredibly stupid people on the internet that I've just cracked," the performer began. "And everyone keeps telling me that you can't talk about Malaysia, don't talk about what happened in Malaysia, so I'm gonna talk about it at length… I am pissed off, to be frank." 

In the ensuing diatribe, Healy argued that they had been booked by Malaysian festival organizers who should have been aware of the band's politics and staging. He said that kissing McDonald was an "ongoing part of the 1975 stage show which had been performed many times prior," adding that it "was not a stunt simply meant to provoke the government." Healy contends that, if the 1975 had altered any regular proceedings of their live show to "appease the Malaysian authorities' bigoted views of LGBTQ people," it would have been a "passive endorsement of those politics."

"As liberals are so fond of saying, 'Silence causes violence, use your platform' — so we did that," he added. "And that is where things got complicated." In his opinion, the response of detractors has been a "bizarre mangling of colonial identity politics," he argued: "Those who took to Twitter to voice their outrage over the 1975's unwillingness to cater to Malaysian customs would find it abhorrent if the 1975 were to acquiesce to, let's say, Mississippi's perspective on abortion or trans rights." 

Healy went on to reveal that the Malaysian authorities had briefly imprisoned him and at least one other member of the band. He said lots of other things, but perhaps the most interesting part was this idea of performers performing their politics — regardless of the laws in any given place — and that not doing so would likewise be judged as complicity.

He said:

The idea that it's incumbent upon artists to cater to the local cultural sensitives of wherever they've been invited to perform sets a very dangerous precedent. It should be expected that if you invite dozens of Western performers into your country, they'll bring their Western values with them. If doing the same things which made you aware of them could land them in jail in your country, you're not actually inviting them to perform, you're indirectly commanding them to reflect your country's policies by omission. This goes against the very idea of a site of cultural exchange where differences are allowed to coexist. This fact is a more valuable idea to protect than the bigoted sensitivities of those who wish its demise.

You can listen to Healy's entire rant below.

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