The leak of a group chat has shed light on behaviors that members of Gloryhammer and Alestorm are alleged to have been involved with in regards to female fans. It also showed the racism with which they treated these fans, making many people question the kind of people that they had been supporting.
- On August 22, Gloryhammer unceremoniously fired their singer, Thomas “Angus McFife” Winkler.
- In a reply to the post firing Winkler, a Twitter user posted a screenshot of a screenshot (of a screenshot) showing accusations of emotional abuse against James “Hootsman” Cartwright supposedly written by an ex-girlfriend (the post has since been deleted, but an archived version still exists).
- Later on, Winkler issued a statement expressing his surprise and disappointment at his firing. Gloryhammer released a new statement of their own, cryptically stating that, out of respect for Winkler, they would not elaborate on the reasons for his firing.
- On August 23, a brand-new Twitter account posted screenshots of a private Facebook conversation between members of Gloryhammer. In this conversation (which has since been dated back to August 2017) Gloryhammer and Alestorm founder Chris Bowes, as well as bassis James “Hootsman” Cartwright, and keyboardist Michael Barber discussed theirs and Alestorm‘s attempt at having sex with as many of their fans as possible. In doing so they referred to them in an extremely misogynistic and racist manner, with Chris Bowes referring to the black fans that they had sex with as “niggers” and “coons”.
- On August 25 the band asked for time to respond to all the allegations, since they needed to avoid getting “distracted from what we need to do” (what it is that they “needed to do” remains unclear),
- On September 3, both Chris Bowes and Gloryhammer issued separate statements confirming the authenticity of the leaked messages, and begging for forgiveness for the “hurt, distress, and anger” that they had caused. Gloryhammer further added that they categorically denied any accusations of abuse made against any of the band members.
From the moment the conversations were first published, fans started to speculate about the identity of the Twitter user who leaked the chats. Suspicions rapidly landed on Winkler himself, who would have made the leak in retaliation for his firing, though he does not seem to be benefiting from them in the slightest. Some have claimed that the leak was done by drummer Ben Turk, an accusation that his wife categorically denied on Twitter, as well as on her since-deleted Reddit account. There she claimed that the chats had actually been leaked by a former partner of Turk, who exploited the attention surrounding Winkler‘s firing to hurt him and the band, and that they were now seeking a restraining order (Ben Turk declined to comment on this story). It is unclear whether the accusations against James “Hootsman” Cartwright would have also been publicized by the same person, though people close to the accuser (who first made the accusations in early 2021) stated that she had not been involved in resurfacing them, and that she was not pleased with the attention that this was bringing.
The theory that someone outside of the band leaked the photos makes sense. The screenshots show an older version of the Android OS, and at least some of the Facebook profile photos of the participants coincide with photos they were using years ago. This suggests that someone had been holding on to the screenshots until they could weaponize them to great effect.
Of course, the source of the chats is not important, seeing that Bowes authenticated them in his apology. What’s more, even if the leak was made by a vengeful ex-partner, that does not change the behaviors described in the logs, and which paint an image of an extremely predatory and misogynistic view of women on the part of (at least some) members of these bands. Let’s not forget that Alestorm and Gloryhammer audiences tend to be rather young, meaning that, even in the most charitable reading, we have men in their 30’s competing over how many barely-legal teenagers they can bed while on tour, while at the same time demonstrating an absolute lack of respect or concern for those women.
There is something deeply unethical about musicians approaching sex with fans like this, even when the behavior itself is completely legal. Are they the first to look at female fans in this way? No; Motley Crue built an entire brand around exactly that behavior, as did many other musicians. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a toxic view of sex in which women are pieces of flesh passed around backstage; it was wrong then, and it is wrong now. And while I’m sure that there are people who dream of nothing more than acting like predators among 18 year old girls, we should not miss the opportunity to call it out for the misogyny that it is.
Bowes has been extremely careful to keep Alestorm (his much more profitable band) away from the dumpster fire of this situation. His pathetic (and uncharacteristically literate) apology was posted only on the Gloryhammer Facebook page (after first posting a pitiful handwritten version on his personal Instagram), even though the chats show that at least one member of Alestorm would have been involved in the behavior described there. Bowes claimed that Elliot Vernon (keyboard player in Alestorm) “pumped a coon on warped tour, just to tick it off the list” (referring to their attempt to have sex with as many fans as possible), followed by complaints about black people’s sexual adequacy (Elliot Vernon did not respond to repeated requests for comment). Limiting this apparent apology to Gloryhammer, especially when we don’t know who else was part of these leaked conversations, should make us question its sincerity.
This fixation with the words used by Bowes and his merry group of misogynists has also infected some of the analysis made by fans. Once Bowes switched the narrative to “I’m sorry about these jokes”, many tried to explain the whole thing away as just “locker room talk”, or some variation thereof. The excuse (which says a lot about the person using it) assumes that men can only bond with each other by saying horrible things about women, and that there’s some kind of silent understanding between guys that “it’s just a joke”. And, yes, people sometimes bond over horrible humor, and say things they don’t mean, but that doesn’t mean that you can just excuse every bad thing somebody says they did as “it was just a joke“. The logs don’t suggest that these people are joking about doing horrible things to women; instead, they seem to show people who, lightheartedly, comment on things they actually do.
This is where the problem really is, and why it’s important that the people involved don’t get off scot-free simply by apologizing for their “words”. What they have shown is that they have absolutely no respect for their fans, and that they represent a danger to women.
In the leaked chatlogs, James “Hootsman” Cartwright wrote that nobody in the band should date fans (only “boink” them) since otherwise people would find out that they are all “a bunch of complete cunts”.
Well, now we know.
Napalm Records, Alestorm’s and Gloryhammer’s label, did not respond to requests for comment.
Correction: Added that Gloryhammer denied the accusations of abuse in their final statement, and fixed the link to the statement.