Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds hits back at furious criticism over Azerbaijan and Israel gigs

Dan Reynolds, the frontman of the American rock band Imagine Dragons, has hit back at criticism of the band’s recent live performances in Azerbaijan and Israel.

Last month, Imagine Dragons were called out by System of a Down’s Serj Tankian after performing in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, last year.

Suggesting that the gig would be seen as an endorsement of the country’s authoritarian government, Tankian said he doesn’t “respect [Imagine Dragons] as human beings”.

Tankian had, along with a number of other prominent musicians, signed a letter last year asking the band to cancel their scheduled Baku gig, which ended up going ahead as planned in September.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Reynolds addressed the backlash the band had received following the concerts.

“I don’t believe in depriving our fans who want to see us play because of the acts of their leaders and their governments,” he said. “I think that’s a really slippery slope. I think the second you start to do that, there’s corrupt leaders and warmongers all over the world, and where do you draw the line?”

Asked about Tankian’s remarks, Reynolds responded: “I think I just said it. It’s a slippery slope, and I’m never going to deprive our fans of playing for them.”

Dan Reynolds performing with Imagine Dragons (Getty Images for On Location)
Dan Reynolds performing with Imagine Dragons (Getty Images for On Location)

Speaking to music outlet Metal Hammer last month, Armenian-American musician Tankian was asked about his thoughts on Imagine Dragons, having previously condemned the gig in Baku.

“Look, I’m not a judge for people to tell bands where to play, or where not to play… I get that they’re doing it for money, that they’re artists, that they’re entertaining, all of that,” he said. “But when there’s a government that’s about to commit ethnic cleansing, when Azerbaijan was starving the 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and not allowing any food or medicine in.

“You know, as an artist, if I found that out, there is no f***ing way I could have gone and played that show. But some artists do. And I don’t know what to say about those artists. I don’t respect them as human beings. F*** their art, they’re not good human beings, as far as I’m concerned.”

He continued: “If you are that blind to justice that you will go play a show in a country that’s starving another country, illegally, according to the International Court of Justice, according to what Amnesty International is saying, what Human Rights Watch is saying… If you still go and play that country, I don’t know what to say about you as a f***ing human being. I don’t even care about your music. If you’re a bad human being, I don’t give a f***. So that’s where I’m at with that. I have zero respect for those guys.”