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An Open Call To Nice N Sleazy
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We, Glasgow Accountability Network, are calling for an active deplatforming of James T McKay.

It is our request that Nice n Sleazy remove him from the role of booker due to his abusive behaviour both in and outside of work, as well as his lack of responsibility or contrition for these actions.

His abusive behaviour outside of work is not merely a private affair, it has a direct impact on his workplace, as this letter will show.

This is also an open call to the bands (i.e.The Cosmic Dead), labels, promoters and booking agents who work with James to deplatform him. Two of his record labels and one of his bands (Acid Cannibals) have done so. He is an actively harmful member of our music community who shows no interest in taking responsibility for his actions, and doesn’t deserve this platform, which enables him to continue to perpetrate harm.

Many of you may have seen disturbing stories of James’ violent and abusive behaviour recently, or heard about it through whisper networks over the years. For those who were not aware, summaries are provided in this letter from survivors who are willing to speak publicly. There are also many survivors with equally damaging stories who are not able to, because they are scared of James and his advocates, or because they have fragile mental health as a result of his abuse.

Multiple people have tried to raise concerns privately with the owners of Nice n Sleazy both in the past and recently about James’ behaviour, but have been ignored or brushed off. A public open call was nobody’s first choice.

James, problematically, is one of the main points of contact for the Nice n Sleazy email and social media inboxes, creating a conflict of interest when attempting to address this with Nice n Sleazy directly.

Recently, James posted an insincere and actively harmful public ‘apology’, which brushed over or ignored many serious issues about his behaviour. This statement brought forward criticism especially for the public naming of survivors; detailing of specific, irrelevant and intimate details of relationships; and manipulative and self-serving retelling of events. James blocked anyone who raised valid criticisms of himself or his statement, making it clear he doesn’t care about self-accountability, reflection or transformative justice. This is why we believe community accountability is the only option to stop this cycle of harm and to bring justice and healing to the affected parties.

It is James’ responsibility to seek professionals to help aid him from harming others. However, his mental health issues are not an excuse for the level of abuse he has caused.

Many people have privately tried to make him face up to his issues and undergo treatment over the years, but to no avail. He has also shown that he is perfectly able to control his anger and emotions in even very stressful situations when there are career or image benefits to doing so. Equating mental health to abuse is actively harmful to those among us who live with and manage these issues daily, without bringing harm to our community.

The music scene in Glasgow is a community, and the way that James behaves in both his professional and personal lives actively harms that community. Nobody has an automatic right to a prestigious job in an arts and music venue, and it is clear that James isn’t living up to the most basic expectations of professionalism or respect for others.

Testimonial A -  A female musician:

“The first time I met James he grabbed my head, licked me from my neck to my hair and when I said I didn't enjoy that he said I was ‘uptight’. I was 20, at a gig in some weird industrial estate alone and the lead singer of the band I came to see had no semblance of boundaries. Not edgy. Just dickish.”

The role of booker at a grassroots music venue holds a lot of social power, especially in a city the size of Glasgow. James is a gatekeeper who gets to decide who is given a stage and a voice, and he is able to deny an audience to those he has abused. They are robbed of their agency of choice, and forced to avoid him out of fear, not only for their physical and mental safety, but also for fear of reputational retribution. His abusive behaviour in his private life also actively hurts the business. It leads to customers, musicians and DJs who would bring in a good audience staying away out of either fear or solidarity. Several promoters have already withdrawn their online streams out of solidarity with the survivors who have spoken up recently.

As well as the gruesome statements of violence and extreme psychological abuse which are to follow, there are also more subtle negative effects on the music scene in Glasgow from James’ behaviour and the abuse of the social power gifted to him via his job.

Testimonial B - A former DJ at Nice n Sleazy:

“I know for sure that the time I was close to James left me really emotionally exhausted and confused. I have never really had any real explanation for that time, but it’s something that still bothers me.

We weren’t ever really romantically involved, but we spent a lot of time with each other and I stayed at his flat regularly over a 5/6 month period as I started Djing at Sleazy’s (a lot of which involved a lot of drinking) where my feelings toward him were definitely taken advantage of and used as comfort for a man that was near enough 10 years my senior”

“However what happened with James has always made me feel quite uneasy, especially knowing his standing within the scene is so massive and also knowing the impact that relationship has continued to have on my place within that same scene, and I hope it makes sense that I am vocalising this.

Continuously I have questioned James’ motives as a booker and recently was sorely awoken to the amount of responsibility he feels he has for my success and that of the club nights I have been involved in. Nice’n’Sleazy abruptly (1 month notice) cancelled by email a long-standing club night I run with friends, that has continuously been busy and bustling. Following this, I enquired as to why this was happening and why after supporting the venue and providing revenue for so long, we weren’t given any opportunity to save our night and the form of income it provided to us.

I was met with replies which suggested we were ungrateful for questioning the decision, that we owed thanks to him and Sleazy’s for allowing us to play. He suggested he was continuously jumping through hoops to keep us in a job, while we all knew fine well that we were staff favourites, and were continuously hitting top targets on our nights.

All in all this email interaction gave me the impression that he feels he has a large hand to play in my success as a DJ and that I should be thanking him, and made me feel like the hard work I had been putting in would never had worked out had he not given me the platform”

“The language he used in this interaction and others was something I have encountered continuously from men who have known me, language which is entirely there to manipulate my willingness to forgive or my preference to avoid confrontation. It was language totally riddled with problematic power dynamics, especially when this interaction was happening years after we stopped being close and was meant to be entirely professional.

This interaction culminated with me finally cutting all ties with Nice’n’Sleazy’s, a venue I had been regularly hosting nights at for near enough the last 6 years”

“I find it really hard to place my experiences, which has made vocalising them very hard. I don’t want to imply what I suffered was necessarily abuse, but it was certainly a misuse of my emotions and willingness to care, and also allowed a man the ability to exert power over me through the music/dj scene long after said relationship.”

Many high quality candidates applied for James’ job, and many experienced candidates, who haven’t abused anyone, could easily take it over. There are also some serious questions about James’ professionalism and stability in the workplace. At the time of his hiring he was banned from the venue for scary and abusive behaviour, leaving a strong question mark as to why he was chosen over an equally or more qualified candidate.

Testimonial C - A former coworker:

“Though I did see the good in James more often than not, I did unfortunately experience the ‘will I get nice James or angry James?’ when working in Sleazys. This ranged from being mildly uncomfortable to being in tears as I considered him a friend and did not know what I had done to annoy him so much. ‘That’s just James’. Having friends and colleagues be shouted at and sworn at. ‘That’s just James’.

The worst incident was in February 2019 when James got incredibly drunk and began throwing items around the bar. It was around 2am, when we began closing down the bar. First it was one of the spray bottles used for cleaning the bar. Then it was the metal sheets that lined the ice bucket. Customers were nervous, the artist performing the next night was worried he would appear at the gig and cause trouble.

Eventually, after hurling some more items, one of the members of security tried to gently usher him out. James responded to this by picking up a barstool and swinging it, whacking the bouncer in the leg with great force. He was removed immediately, then started shouting that he was Sleazys, that we only had a job because of him, that we would be nothing without him. From what I can tell, nothing happened. From a customer or another member of staff, I believed this would have resulted in the police being called and/or being banned/fired from Sleazys. This did not happen. “It’s just James”.

Despite James publicly positioning himself as an ally of women, LGBQT+ people and POC for kudos, he has a history of falling short when it comes to safeguarding actions at his workplace. There is little to no evidence of this work taking place at all.

Testimonial D - A non-binary musician who was booked to play gigs and DJ at Nice n Sleazy:

“In 2016 or so I was booked to DJ at Nice’n’Sleazy and I asked James if they had a Safer Spaces policy and he said they had a “no arseholes policy” or something to that effect and made me feel stupid for asking because I wanted people to be safe.”

“Over the next couple of years I heard that Sleazy's handled various situations badly (such as the story in Testimony E) and seemed to take no responsibility. After that I stopped playing shows there, attending shows there or going there at all.”

“I told this to people for the first while when I was asked to play gigs there, and eventually gave up and just said that I didn’t want to because it seemed like nothing changed. This is the time to hold people accountable, to keep people safe.”  

Testimonial E - A Nice n Sleazy regular to whose abuser James knowingly gave a platform:

“From 2015-17 I was in a very abusive relationship. Such was the extent of the abuse that, when it went to legal proceedings, it reached the front page of a national newspaper, alongside stories in countless other sources.

But it isn’t about that. It’s about something that in my eyes, seems far more insidious. Almost every Monday, throughout our relationship, my former partner/abuser and I went to the open mic night at Nice n Sleazy, hosted by Gerry Lyons, where we often encountered James T McKay, both of whom we knew via social circles.

When the relationship inevitably fell apart, I didn’t go to Sleazy’s for a long time, despite it being somewhere I considered a nurturing space in which I had shared many memories with people I love. After some time, and after legal proceedings were underway, I reached out to James when I saw a video of my former abuser performing at the open mic night once again. I was shocked, despite the press coverage, that he was bold enough to still attend.

After initial empathy, and giving in-depth details of my trauma and those of other women, including an incident which took place outside Nice n Sleazy, my plea was met with absolute apathy.

I tried for almost a year of messaging James to try to address the situation, sending articles from the paper, questioning Sleazy’s Safer Spaces policy, again and again and again, before being asked ‘why are you continuing to send me these’ while my abuser was given an open stage to perform on whenever he felt like it.

Even once the facts of my abuse were proven in court, I was told my abuser was still welcome in Sleazy’s because in Gerry Lyon’s eyes ‘he deserved a second chance’. I wasn’t aware of the small print in Safer Spaces policies that applied to ‘second chances’ for abusers as long as they were someone’s pal.

I was told there was no point continuing to relive my trauma again and again through these complaints as it would fall on deaf ears. My final communication with James was as follows:”

[Verbatim text of Facebook messenger screenshot]
Witness E: “I’ve rethought this and I actually think you have a duty of care to keep him off your premises, and I will be as vocal about this as I need to be. You can be as supportive as you like, but at the end of the day it isn’t me that matters. It’s the women that are potentially at risk. And at the moment they are at risk on your premises as long as he or anyone like him is allowed to be there. (15th Aug 2019)

James: Oddhlh. I mt af. So. can;r p (16th Aug 6am)

Witness E:??

James: sorry, i was absolutely gon with the wind and unable to physically type (16th Aug 4pm)

[there is no further reply from James]

“Drunken garbage, swept under the rug and never discussed again. I love our venues, I love our city, but as long as this is allowed to continue, abusers have a home at Nice n Sleazy.”

Testimonial F - Another woman James failed to support:

“I lived with a man in Glasgow for 3 years who was psychologically and on occasion physically violent to me, and am still asked regularly about how he is and if we're in contact by men in the music scene in Glasgow who he worked with, despite them seeing his treatment of me.

James was not only one of these men, but on an evening I'd rather never have to revisit he witnessed my ex partner screaming in my face and pushing me against a wall in my own home, after requesting James and my ex "keep it down" at 6am before I had to get up for work a few hours later. He later the next day, casually, asked if I had "calmed down" and stopped being "hysterical".”

James himself has a history of physical violence, psychological abuse and severe manipulation against those close to him, such as flatmates and romantic partners. It’s particularly noticeable that in many stories of James’ abuse, the survivor loses things (housing, positions in bands, self-confidence, friends, mental or physical health, ability to play or socialise at Nice n Sleazy) while James gets to keep everything.

Testimonial G - A former flatmate and bandmate:

“It’s been about ten years since we shared a flat. I witnessed and was subject to much of the same violent temper tantrums echoed elsewhere. The place was absolutely chaotic and I took the decision to leave the flat and the group we played in together at the time, after a particularly serious incident.

Around 2010/11, when James and I lived together, we were friends and band mates. On the evening this took place, James and some friends went out to a party. Me and another friend decided to stop in and play some music and late in the evening they all came back to the flat. James was very drunk and irate. He picked up one of the guitars we’d been playing and smashed it off a chair. I asked him what he was playing at and he flew into a blind rage.

To be honest this kind of outburst wasn’t that unusual for him at the time, over the course of us all living together (me, his girlfriend at the time and our other band mate) his rages and erratic behaviour increased. Me and my friend remained seated. James went off into the kitchen shouting and came back into the living room with a knife, threatening to stab me for being both ‘an English cunt’ and a ‘fucking goth’. He also kept shouting ‘I am Thor’.

One of the guys who’d come back with them from the party attempted to get the knife off James, so James instead picked up a wine bottle and threw it at my head, I ducked and it just missed me. He then collapsed on the floor and started crying. I told him I was moving out and went to bed.

After about two or three days he hadn’t said anything to me, so I knocked on his door and asked for a chat. I told him I was leaving the group and planning to move out ASAP. I suggested he phone his doctor and look into getting some proper help to deal with his anger issues and mental health. He told me he would. I went to stay with my partner temporarily until I found a new flat.

There was no apology, and truthfully, I never asked for one, I still don’t. I took myself out of a chaotic situation where I didn’t feel safe and moved on with my life. I think James should consider looking into how he can work on his anger and mental health issues, though that path is up to him. I genuinely wish him the best with that.”

Testimonial H - An ex partner of James’:

“In the beginning James was charming and warm. He was generous, talkative and we often found mutual points of interest. Initially I felt safe.

However flattering this primary attention was, my relationship with James was eventually revealed to be one of psychological bullying, emotional abuse and control. I lived in constant fear of his unrelenting manipulative, volatile and violent behaviours. I repressed and doubted even my own emotions, changing myself to avoid conflict and I found myself making choices I would have never considered making otherwise.”

“James never trusted me or believed that I loved him no matter how far I exhausted myself submitting to his controlling behaviours. James took advantage of my insecurities and subtly manipulated them, eroding all my sense of self worth.  I don’t know why he felt compelled to act in this way but in doing so I became socially isolated, convinced he was the only person who cared about me.”

“As the relationship progressed I became increasingly isolated, slipping deeper into the warped reality he created. He was able to distort my perception of reality to such a degree to which I felt I must leave my band and support network of friends. By the end of the relationship I had come to believe that all my friends hated me because I was awful. I genuinely believed that the only person who could ever love me was him and I was lucky that he could even stomach doing that”.

“Meeting my friends or bumping into them was always difficult with James. I never knew how he was going to behave and I frequently found myself apologising and making excuses for him. James led me to believe it was us against the world and everyone else was the problem. James often critiqued the music scene in Glasgow claiming it was full of “Bowlcuts” (musicians from London carrying a certain style he objected to and who he believed would dominate the scene and then leave) and that local bands/artists were ungrateful to him. During a time when he showed particular disdain for these “Bowlcuts” he told me that he carried a knife. Whether he did or not I do not know, however it was real to me and I worried about it as a potential threat to others.”

“James was specifically jealous of any male friends or acquaintances. At a gig in London I attempted to support one of his friends by buying some merch. I’d asked for an “extra large” t-shirt which James considered to be sexually provocative and indicative of me wanting to “fuck” his friend. James flew into a jealous rage which resulted in him throwing the record he had bought into the road. I tried to reason with him, rescuing the record multiple times only for him to throw it back to the ground.”

“I was constantly alert for triggers as James's erratic behaviours seeded feelings of fear and anxiety that followed me wherever I went. Often when I turned up at his flat I didn’t know if he was going to be furious with me or in love with me. Each conversation was an obstacle course and every environment required a risk assessment and for the majority of the behaviours I experienced I did not perceive him to be under the influence of alcohol or any other substances. These unpredictable and volatile rants often ended in acts of physical destruction to anything in his path. On one occasion I lay in his bed paralysed by fear and panic as I watched him stamp his acoustic guitar to pieces.”

“While preparing dinner one night I was talking about a platonic friend and his relationships. James started ranting about his hatred for the Southside of Glasgow where all his “enemies” lived. In his anger James picked up a pointed kitchen knife off the counter and plunged it viciously into a plastic chopping board. The force of the knife was so much that his hand slid down from the handle onto the blade cutting open his fingers. The injury resulted in his flatmate driving us both to A&E where I then spent the whole night supporting him through the physical, emotional and mental consequences of this act of violence.”

“He told the story in A&E that his hand had slipped while cutting haggis. I felt that I had to support this lie privately and publicly and became complicit in this lie. Through the proceeding recovery I also was obliged to comfort him and his overt self pity as he might “never play the guitar again”. However disturbing it was to witness the actual injury it was the silence imposed on me thereafter that was most damaging. I had learned never to start a conversation about relationships, men or any of my friends who are men again.”

“James utilized money as another way of controlling me. James would not let me pay for things when I wished to do so or would throw my money aside. This form of control was humiliating and disempowering for me. James used money as a form of obligation and something with which to inflate his narcissistic sense of moral superiority.”

“James began subtly controlling the clothes I wore, disempowering my identity and crushing my confidence. James held special contempt for items of clothing that had attained attention from anyone. ‘I hate this jacket: It's a form of peacocking’ is an example of the kind of remarks he would make. Often following compliments from other men I would find items of clothing to be missing and suspected that he’d destroyed or hid these items. Furthermore, following one of his displays of erratic behaviour I found some of my underwear ripped apart. This felt like a very intimate attack upon me.”

“After being constantly criticised, subjected to angry rants and outbursts of violence, with no social support I was exhausted and defeated. I had learnt that I could not share how I felt without any retribution, so I stopped sharing. While James was asleep I once packed everything I owned to leave. I felt unable to tolerate his rage or withstand yet another argument. It was simply safer to slip away. However, on awakening to find that I had left he contacted me and asked to meet up. He accused me of abusing a trauma he said he had experienced when a previous girlfriend had left him in a similar way. Once again it was all about him. I still loved him and felt guilty. I didn't leave, I hoped things would change.”

“If I wasn't in James's company he was constantly messaging me. I learned that there was a time period in which he deemed adequate to respond without there being grounds for an argument. I had to be available at all times for him and if I was unable to adhere to this I would be cornered into a fight centred around his insecurities. The cyclic nature of this was exhausting. I felt I had no choice but to withdraw further from my social circles, I left facebook and eventually instagram. I was isolated and trapped feeling that I was solely responsible for his well being and I was failing him.”

“Since the abrupt ending of our relationship I have been tormented by the devastating and far extending consequences of the traumas James has left within me. I still continue to experience periods of extinguished self esteem and when I feel myself slipping into episodes of depression I still hear his voice telling me that I am a bad person.”

Testimonial I - A former flatmate of James’ who witnessed the hand stabbing incident:

“Living with James directly impacted my mental health in such a negative way that I was often too scared/anxious/depressed to leave my room, even just to cook food in my own kitchen. James and I were on a joint lease but he seemed to think and act like it was his flat alone. He twice moved people in without me knowing until they were actually living in my flat.”

“Living with James also meant that I saw first hand how badly he treated other women such as his then girlfriend or the DJ mentioned above”

“He was like a black hole of negativity, and you just never knew when he was going to be set off on a rampage. A lot of his abuse is psychological gaslighting, but he could also go into violent rages and smash things up too, seemingly out of nowhere. Then blame it on his mental health, having seemingly no awareness of the negative effect he was having on other people’s mental health (ie mine).”

“I think part of the reason it’s tough to write about is that for a long time I have been upfront and vocal about how toxic and abusive this man is, and it just felt like no-one cared or was willing to hear it.”

“I’ve read James’ statement. James makes reference to his past trauma as if that gives him some kind of logical reason to act the way he did. I was actually dealing with my own past trauma in counselling while living with him, and being re-traumatised by him on a weekly basis. Nevermind about that, eh? Nevermind that I scrubbed his blood off the kitchen wall, while his girlfriend and our other flatmate took him to hospital, traumatised and ashen-faced. I love the way that James always manages to centre himself in every situation.

I feel like James is, always has been, and always will be concerned more about his image, how people view him, and his reputation than anything else, hence his complete disconnect with the image he likes to portray outwardly and on social media in comparison to the person written about in all of these statements”.

This paints a clear picture that James is someone who actively harms the people around him as a pattern of behaviour, and therefore isn’t suitable to hold any kind of power or responsibility in our music community. If Nice n Sleazy wants to continue to be a part of that community, receive our labour and our money, then we ask for Nice n Sleazy to reconsider James’s position within the organisation.

Given the ample evidence provided in this letter, we believe Nice n Sleazy have failed to ensure that everyone associated with the establishment (employees, hirers, invited performers and the general public) is protected from personal, physical and emotional harm while on the premises or engaged in activities related to Nice n Sleazy.

 

Testimonial C continued - James’ former coworker:

“This problem goes beyond James. I believe that James needs help and what I think has added to his behaviour is being in venues that have not held him accountable for such actions.

This is where I’d like to discuss Szymon: Szymon more often than not gave James a pass, told colleagues that he was “just James” and “a good guy” despite being shouted at or made to cry by his attitude towards them. Szymon also added to Sleazys not feeling like a safe space for many people. He dismissed womxn coming forward to say they had been groped/assaulted in the venue. Friends who spoke about feeling uncomfortable because of men in the venue behaving creepily were told to “not cause trouble”.

Szymon would ID girls to then search for them on Facebook and add them as friends. On several occasions he yelled at womxn employees and grabbed some womxn employees to stop them serving customers. Womxn did not feel comfortable asking him for support or to go to him with issues of harassment when working as they did not feel like he would listen. By having this kind of behaviour in Sleazys, it’s no surprise that James was not being held accountable and dare I say continued to damage others and himself.”

Immediate Demands for Nice n Sleazy:

  1. Do Nice n Sleazy recognise their irresponsibility as an employer and safe-guarder of both staff and patrons, by hiring an individual who was previously banned from their establishment for violent behaviour into the role of booker, which holds both social and professional ranking?

  1. How did Nice n Sleazy adhere to both their own duty of care policy, and those within licensing laws, by allowing a perpetrator of abuse in the midst of a court case onto their premises, despite a direct request from the survivor to ensure their safety during their visit to the venue? If these policies can indeed be detailed, can they too be justified as wholly satisfactory if this was the outcome?

  1. We call on Nice n Sleazy to detail how these issues raised will be remedied explicitly, such as through company policy, staff training programmes, company and administration restructuring, and donations to appropriate organisations. These requests should be completed with total transparency regarding associated partners, aims and time frames to allow for accountability, and to ensure informed consent for all who wish to enter the venue.

Medium Term Considerations for Nice n Sleazy:

  1. How have James/Nice n Sleazy directly or indirectly profited off the free labour of marginalised people under the guise of exposure or opportunity, due to their standing within the community?

  1. Can Nice n Sleazy incorporate allyship work into their day-to-day operations going forward? What will this look like? What local organisations will they partner with?

  1. What does accountability for staff look like within the Nice n Sleazy structure going forward, and how will the safety of employees be safeguarded?

  1. Does Nice n Sleazy acknowledge that this accountability and transformative justice work is being provided to them by the community at it’s own risk, and that this should be an undertaking by the business itself?

  1. Nice n Sleazy need to seriously consider the impact of staff members’ behaviours on the reputation of the venue, and subsequent effects on employees, musicians, DJs etc without fixed income.

  1. Management and owners of Nice n Sleazy need to be responsive to complaints, and accountable to the community which has built the reputation that they live off, particularly when the reports are consistently of such a serious nature. A transparent response to this pattern of brushing aside reports of abuse and complaints generally, and a plan for how this will be resolved going forward is appropriate.

  1. Nice n Sleazy must seriously consider how to best provide a safe space for young artists and musicians. It is abundantly clear that they have, at best, been paying lip service to this only until this point, and we cannot accept our most at-risk and marginalised within our community being used, abused, harassed and cast aside in order to turn a profit. Nice n Sleazy have the time, and an opportunity to support these people who have helped their venue, and we won’t wait any longer.

Appendix: Summary of the impact of Nice n Sleazy platforming James T Mckay

The impact from James’ actions and Nice n Sleazy’s continued platforming of James includes but is not limited to:

Signed:

Glasgow Accountability Network