Swedish black metal band Watain missed the first show of their tour with Morbid Angel on Thursday night when guitarist Pelle Forsberg was denied entry to the US after a lengthy airport interrogation at customs. The band issued a statement explaining the incident and expressing their frustration at Forsberg’s absence from the tour, which will go on without him.
As Watain tells it, Forsberg was taken into custody upon his entry into the United States and interrogated for a night in a holding cell. Based on Google searches and content on his phone (“of motorbikes, hunting and various things related to Satanism, Black Metal and counter culture in general”), the customs officer revoked and voided Forsberg’s US work visa — which had been granted five times prior — and deported the guitarist back to Mexico, where he had been prior to the tour. To top it off, Forsberg was slapped with a five-year ban from the States.
The border authorities then turned their suspicions toward the rest of Watain, delaying the band’s travel and racking up thousands of dollars in lawyer fees and last-minute flight costs. “After several days and nights of hard and excruciating and obviously ridiculously expensive work from lawyers and management,” the other four members were finally given permission to enter the US, though they must now tour with a makeshift lineup arrangement to compensate for Forsberg’s absence. With barely any time to rehearse, bassist Alvaro Lillo will be switching over to guitar and vocalist Erik Danielsson is taking over bass duties.
“Pelle had nothing illegal on his phone,” Watain’s statement read. “He did not behave suspiciously or provokingly. All this comes down to one grumpy officer doing the last hours of his shift, disapproving of Pelle’s appearance, private life or ways of expression. We would like to remind you that this is not a cautionary tale from 1980s Soviet, this is Trump-administered border policy in today’s United States. This is what you get with an imbecile, Christian, racist ape ruling the nation and ‘defending it at all cost’ from anything that can be considered alien and therefore unacceptable and potentially dangerous.”
According to a personal statement from Forsberg, the suspicion arose from his vacation to Mexico prior to the tour. He went on to explain his experience in detail, which paints a cold and dystopic picture of his treatment by US border officials:
“All this started with a personal vacation in Mexico to experience Dia de los Muertos, before going to the States to start rebuilding the stageshow for this tour. I got stopped at the border control in Atlanta, apparently I was red flagged because I already had a return ticket to Mexico the day after (cheaper to get the ticket like that). But all good, I had NO bullshit on me, with me or whatever. All papers/visas were under control. But then they proceeded with checking my phone to see ‘who I was’ basically. After that, they had me interrogated by 4 different officers for 7 hours. Then they asked me fill out a form where I responded ‘yes’ to ‘have you been treated bad by any officer’, and then all hell broke loose. Never in my life was I ever treated this shit! No information, no phonecalls, if I asked about something I just got a ‘shut up, we are making the rules!’ screamed at me. Got thrown into a cell with just a bean bag as a bed next to a toilet. Bright lights all night for 8 hours.
I don’t have any illegal stuff on my phone nor a criminal record. For sure some pics can be disturbing for ‘normal people’. I don’t live a normal life. It’s pics of me riding bikes with friends (that may have a questionable club patches/bikes etc), me chopping heads off road kills, welding weird things that look ‘frightening’, pics from tours where obviously weird shit happens all the time etc etc etc. Again, nothing illegal, no bullshit! Of course they also started to google Watain and of course they stumble upon these lowlife fuckfaces that accuse Watain of being a right wing band. This tiresome lie that has been going on for a while now, didn’t really help me in this situation. And in the end, this is just about a little border officer that didn’t like what he saw and read on the internet, who in turn decides that I, one of the founding members of Watain, CANT JOIN THIS TOUR! Be sure that I will fight this because this 5 year ban from the States has ABSOLUTELY no ground at all! But to all of you crazy fuckers out there! Watain never surrenders! Alvaro takes my guitar and Erik takes the bass once again! Join them! F*CK THE WORLD! I’ll be back!”
Watain are no strangers to controversy. The band had to cancel a show in Singapore earlier this year after over 16,000 people signed a petition, citing Watain’s Satanic imagery and “offensive” history. A year earlier, the band parted ways with touring guitarist Set Teitan after an image of him giving a Nazi salute surfaced online, fueling rumors of the band’s aforementioned political alignment.
They aren’t the only metal band to deal with US border controversy this year, as Orange Goblin drummer Chris Turner was barred from entering the States for a tour back in August.
As it stands, Watain will rejoin the US tour with Morbid Angel and Incantation on Friday (November 22nd) in Dallas, but they’ll be without one of their lead guitarist Forsberg for the remainder of the 26 shows ahead. Pick up tickets here.