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Invitation for Killers tour crew to take part in sexual assault was an “unacceptable” joke, investigation finds

By | Published on Tuesday 4 August 2020

The Killers

An invitation for crew members on a Killers tour to take part in a sexual assault more than a decade ago was an “attempt at a joke or a ‘hazing'”, say the band’s lawyers. An investigation found that no actual assault took place, but conceded that joking about such a thing on radios used by the band’s crew was unacceptable. As a result, the band have said that they will establish a new system to make it easier for staff to report issues and concerns while on the road.

The accusations were originally made in a blog post written by sound engineer Chez Stock in 2018. However, at the time neither her name nor The Killers were specifically mentioned in the piece. Stock then named the band last week. In the blog post she detailed a number of disturbing recollections from the band’s 2009 US tour, which had been one of her early jobs in the industry.

Among other things, she detailed being bullied by her direct supervisor and hearing various discussions among her fellow crew members of inappropriate sexual activity and assault on the tour. She also explained how, following a show in Milwaukee “the [front of house] engineer came over [the] radio and said, ‘Hey guys, there is a girl set up in Dressing Room A'”.

That radio message went on “put your name on the list outside the door with your radio channel and we’ll call you when it’s your turn”, she wrote. “I knew I was not the target audience of this all call, and I am pretty sure I audibly shuddered while my stagehands just laughed and asked if they could put their name on the list”.

The Killers’ lawyers at legal firm Reynolds & Associates confirm that Stock joined the tour for three weeks in 2009. Some of what she heard discussed by other crew members – including being paid bonuses for bringing back girls from the audience for band members to have sex with – was “an in-joke based upon urban legends of tours from an earlier era – ie roadie folklore – and not something any of [the crew] actually did, were ever asked to do, or ever attempted to do”.

However, they say that their investigation did establish that the radio broadcast Stock heard did go out on a radio channel used by audio staff. It was traced back to the band’s former front of house engineer, who was “a problematic workmate” fired from their team in 2013.

It was also this person who had bullied Stock, they said, agreeing that “a pattern of poor management by this person, and a series of sexist remarks and rude comments, caused [Stock] great distress”.

Addressing the radio broadcast directly, the lawyers say: “It was established that the radio transmissions about a ‘line up’ in ‘Dressing Room A’ was broadcast by the aforementioned FOH engineer on the audio team’s radio channel only. The rest of the touring party – including band and tour management – did not hear this broadcast”.

Further interviews established that the alleged assault had not actually taken place, rather it was the “problematic” front of house engineer’s “attempt at a joke or a ‘hazing’ – either directed at members of the audio crew, who were busy loading out outside the venue, or for the entertainment of guests he had invited to the show and were with him at the time of his broadcast”.

The new statement does not address Stock’s other allegation that crew member names were then subsequently called out over the radio – implying it was “their turn” – or that members of the crew subsequently discussed what they claimed to have done with the woman. Although they do say that some other staff on that tour recalled that “vulgar language was sometimes used and that crass jokes were made and perpetuated on occasion” by “a small faction of crew”.

Through their investigation, lawyers say they were also able to identify a female guest who was given a backstage pass at that particular show by the front of house engineer, who confirmed that “she did not experience, witness or hear about a sexual assault”, adding that she had also “attended 2009 Lollapalooza festival later that year on the band’s production guest list”.

Ultimately, the legal team say, they “were unable to find any corroboration whatsoever of a sexual assault at the Milwaukee venue”, but nonetheless ask anyone who might have “corroborating information of an event as described in the allegation” to get on touch.

They then note that, regardless of whether or not the alleged assault, or other claims of inappropriate sexual activity, actually took place, the language used by some members of the band’s crew on the 2009 tour was unacceptable.

“Tour management stated [during the investigation] that they have become increasingly vigilant on this front over the years and provided documentation verifying that aggressive or derogatory language by crew results in dismissal”, they say. “Tour management and band members recognise that sexual language can be weaponised to make women feel unsafe in a predominantly male environment. They consider continued vigilance on this issue to be their responsibility”.

As well as this, they say that the investigation also highlighted the lack of a proper system for crew members to report issues or concerns while on tour.

“The band believe there should always be an easy way to report a situation that is concerning to anyone on the road with them, no matter their status or how briefly they are joining for”, says the statement. “They expressed regret that the temporary crew member was made to feel unsafe and bullied during her brief time with the band and understand that it is not always feasible for touring crew to raise concerns with their immediate superiors”.

As a result, “The Killers plan to take immediate action for future tours” and “have directed their team to establish a new system wherein the entire touring party are furnished with an off-site independent HR contact to call to report concerns of any nature, anonymously if they wish”.

In a social media post following the publication of the lawyers’ statement on behalf of the band, Stock said that she had “conflicting feelings” about the outcome of the investigation. “I am grateful that they, as an organisation, have taken my experience seriously and were moved to internally investigate and potentially lead the industry in a restorative manner so this never happens again”, she wrote.

“I was surprised to hear that the radio call that went out during our load out was an attempt to ‘haze’ the audio crew mid-tour”, she goes on. “But I am beyond relieved that the tour was able to find [the] woman [who was backstage at the show] and she is reportedly fine”.

“My blog [post] is what I experienced”, she adds. “And if ‘hazing’ is the reason why I heard about the bonus incentives and otherwise, this reflects the larger issue in this industry – that ‘hazing’ towards the only women on the technical crew was normal, expected, accepted and not questioned by anyone, including myself”.

“I hope that this moment is a learning experience for the entire industry”, she concludes, “and that we are able to come together in [a] comprehensive manner to have these discussions that are so long overdue. I hope that we are able to work together to develop a framework of reporting mistreatment and harassment that protects workers and fans and demands accountability of the people in power”.