OpenSpace Q&A with Loki: Talking about his new video ‘Gaslight’, his recent crowdfunder and more

Maxine Blane

All the questions and answers from the OpenSpace Q&A with Scottish rapper Loki

SCOTTISH hip hop artist and social commmentator Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey  was live on OpenSpace from 7-9pm on Wednesday 7 September answering questions about his new video ‘Gaslight’, a view of domestic violence from the eyes of the perpetrator. He also talked about his recent crowdfunder and his upcoming projects.

If you missed it, don’t panic: We’ve collated all the questions and answers below, and they are also available to download as a document over on the OpenSpace page on CommonSocial. We’ll be uploading all the Q&A sessions hosted on OpenSpace to CommonSpace, and as downloadable documents that you can use as resources to share or start a discussion, so even if you can’t be online when a discussion is happening you can still get involved.

Join the OpenSpace page on CommonSocial now to make sure that you stay up-to-date with all the upcoming guests and what they’ll be talking about. If you’re not on CommonSocial, our editor Angela Haggerty has written a wee guide on how to sign up, and once you’re on you can join OpenSpace, or any other space you have an interest in and get a discussion started!

Q: Liam McCormick

Was Gaslight in any way inspired by your work with the violence reduction unit?

A: Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey

Yes. It was the first thing they commissioned me to do. It was supposed to take me two months and this ended up becoming a year. It was a challenging creative process to say the least. Not only was it the first time I had to run my work past someone else but also had to balance many other 'sensitivities' that exist in the public sector between government, third sector and the public. 

In terms of the topic I was keen to approach it from a perpetrator perspective from the outset. This, to me, seemed like the only way we could cover any new artistic ground. I spent quite some time researching. Obviously I cast an eye back through my own experience too as a man. I found many similarities between myself and those who become perpetrators: insecurity, low self-esteem, co-dependency, alcohol and substance misuse.

It's a tough balance to strike between showing an abuser's humanity and making excuses on their behalf. But it has to be done.

Once I made the conscious decision that I was going to make myself vulnerable in this piece then it began to flood out of me. I let go of my fear of people thinking or questioning whether I am the perpetrator and just came from my heart.

The full audio is about two minutes longer than the video. I will release it soon. It goes more in-depth.

Q: Angela Haggerty

Other than the audio, will you be releasing other material related to the Gaslight project in the future? Do you have any plans to widen the discussion through other means? (Writing, vlogging, events etc.)

A: Loki


Gaslight is part of a wider narrative I have been telling through my music. But works as a stand alone piece for those who are unfamiliar.

Now that it's out and the views are high this gives me confidence to push it further into mainstream domain in Scotland. I'm currently in discussions about the possibilities.

While I see this as music or poetry it's actually a short-film. This gives us scope to try and broaden the audience as much as possible and get high numbers of people involved in discussing this important topic.

Incidents of domestic abuse are reported every 10 minutes in Scotland and this increases each year. It's an unacceptable state of affairs. and I am keen to do my part in reversing this most ominous trend.

A: Angela

Cool. I see the Scottish Government's Domestic Abuse Bill is on the agenda in the programme for government so this seems like a really good time to get the discussion moving 

Q: Brian O’Rourke

what is in the domestic abuse bill

A: Angela

We're planning to cover the Domestic Abuse Bill quite extensively on CommonSpace @Brian O'Rourke so keep an eye out for that in the coming months

Q: Brian

it's called the "Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill" ?

A: Loki


Thanks for your question. I am not familiar with the deatil in the DA Bill but if I am correct it will aim to clarify and broaden the definitions of domestic abuse. 
This will likely be to include coercive and controlling behaviour such as invasions of privacy. No doubt it will also cover social media in some way, as most new legislation does.

I think new legislation, coupled with an ever more sophisticated cultural approach to tackling the issue, will eventually lead to plateau in reported cases – one would hope.

We have seen reductions in many other forms of violence and there is no reason to think gender-based violence cannot be reduced also.

The violence reduction unit have taken a radical approach to challenging both the public and law enforcement's preconception around the causes and effects of violence. 

I hope they will be allowed to continue their work indefinitely.

A: Brian

It does not seem to. Thanks for reply

Q: Loki

Are you concerned that the bill doesn't not go far enough, Brian?

A: Brian

The bill, seems to be aimed at preventing "revenge porn" , in my quick reading of it.

I don't know if it it goes far enough to prevent that, if that what it is for. But obviously that specific thing is an element, and not the totality of what you showed in your video and song.

A: Angela

I think the stuff about coercive/controlling behaviour is really important and long overdue, but I'm keen to see the detail of it, ie. what kind of evidence would be required to secure convictions for things like that? It'll also be interesting to see how much people generally understand about these aspects.

Q: James Holloway

Hi Loki, Congratulations on reaching your crowd fund appeal. I was wondering what will be you main central social focus? Or, will it be an eclectic range of social issues?

A: Loki

Hi James

The book will weave autobiography with case-study and reportage – hopefully. I'll also try and avoid attributing poverty to any one political party or ideology. All I want to do is write something that people who have lived it will see themselves in and people who haven't will gain deeper understanding and empathy.

Solving poverty will require political courage and in order for this to materialise we have to inspire a bit more confidence in our politicians. They are often hampered by short-term public demands caused by global forces outwith their control. But poverty requires decisive long-term action; drawing from all political positions – including conservatives.

Q: Jamie Livingstone

What does your work entail at the violence reduction unit?

A: Loki

My role is finished now. But as well as Gaslight it involved spending some time in the community. Sometimes this may be in a prison setting or a men's group. I also did a couple of school visits where I would perform for kids and lead a discussion. As well as this I wrote a few pieces for the VRU website and did public speaking engagements. It was a rewarding and challenging experience.

If you’d like to be involved in future Q&A sessions, head over to OpenSpace now!

Q: Modern Scot

What are some of the responses your work has received from the public – anything move or surprise you?

A: Loki

Modern Scot

It's hard to answer that without speculating. My audience is changing as I get older. Some people only read my columns while others only listen to the music. In terms of Gaslight it's actually the least divisive thing I think I have ever put out. The response so far has really surprised me. It's very satisfying to spend that much time trying to treat a sensitive topic with the proper care and respect while also pushing boundaries. Mick MacNeil was great to work with because he has so much experience. He suggested going for a classical music vibe and it just fit perfectly. 
Andrew MacKenzie, who directed, is a sort of partner in crime in terms of collaborating on more controversial topics. Very often it can be isolating being the one who tries to push the envelope…especially with such a niche art form. But Andrew is very encouraging and totally embraces the challenge…which leads to me feeling supported enough to fully commit and take risks.

I enjoy creating more than ever and I hope this is reflected in the quality of the work. Many years spent drunk, misfiring, unable to interpret reality never mind comment on it…I am grateful to have come to my senses while still relatively young.

Q: Angela Haggerty

Hi Loki. You said on Twitter/Facebook that you'd had some really positive reactions from women who'd experienced violence. Can you tell us more about how people have responded to Gaslight so far?

A: Loki

Most people are obviously moved by how powerful it is. But the comments that obviously mean the most are the ones from people who have experienced violence. This is a relief and also satisfying. In many ways this validates my creative choice, despite the inherent risk I took. When survivors tell you that your depiction is true to life then it puts your mind at ease because this was my aim.

Also, when survivors endorse the piece it helps to mitigate any accusations that I've used the women as a plot-device to advance the man's story. Understandably, many women are so tired of various forms of media which depict them poorly, expendable, inaccurately, hyper-sexualised or one-dimensional and subordinate. Given the often hostile world of social media I can forgive a feminist for perhaps only seeing the flaws in something like Gaslight.

I just hope it is evident that I have been considering a lot of the topics discussed over the summer as part of Trigger Warning and that in spite of my provacateour instincts, I am also a rational, self-aware man with a heart.

It is not my desire to always be winding people up or engaged in ceaseless debate. Sometimes I just want to do something to help.. Something positive. Gaslight is my way of trying to step up as a man in a community of men and say violence against your partner is NEVER going to be acceptable.

This video is aimed at men. It is designed to get under the skin of a perpetrator and force them to consider their own behavior.

This video is an attempt to challenge our ideas about what an abuser is and what drives them.

But it would be dead-on-arrival if survivors of abuse felt it was inaccurate or wide-of-the-mark in any way.
Hence my relief.

A: Patrick McManus

Good stuff

Q: Hannah Wilson

Hey Loki. What made you decide to start 'vlogging' on Youtube? Do you think it's a good platform for political debate?

A: Loki

Yes! I think Youtbe is the last great gift from God and I hope we don't ruin it with back-door censorship. If there is an argument for capitalism it is Youtube. 

Literally an open market of ideas where you can express and consume anything you want. Some people get millions of views and some only a little….but it's a vehicle that levels the playing field somewhat. 

I am not the greatest reader. Youtube helps me learn through lectures and interviews where I can listen to really interesting, intelligent people discuss and debate.

Youtube has broadened my understanding of the things in life I used to oppose without thinking. Raised in a very radical, left-wing community I was brought up to think Tories were inhumane, which is now a point of view that I realise is quite unacceptable as well as non-rational.

Vlogs are a natural fit for me. I can react on impulse and share with others in minutes. Having build my channel gradually I'm now trying to take things to the next level.

I think its a great medium and I do not know where I would be without it.

Q: Patrick McManus

Is their Audio to this live link?

A: Angela

No, it's just text based, Loki will write his replies

A: Patrick

Cool and thanks Angela 🙂

Q: Scott Glen

Hi Loki. In light of the recent social media backlash you received for accepting the JK Rowling donation I was wondering if you could share some of your thoughts regarding this experience. In particular I was curious about the feedback you had received from No voters

A: Loki

Hi Scott

I understand why people were angry. Their reading of the current political situation is pressing and urgent. Many people are still in that Sep 19th mindset. They have a very strong view that the Union is corrupt to the core and that Scotland is being deliberately oppressed/deceived. 

This is not a view I share. But I understand the irritation someone must feel. They must think: "Why isn't he using his platform to put pressure on the Tories at Westminster?"

But they neglect the fact that the only way you can put pressure on Tories at WM is to vote Labour.

People are perfectly entitled to criticise me and I welcome it and I reflect on that critique – sometimes more deeply than I should.

At the end of the day I have been writing and performing for many years. It would be extremely ungrateful of me to complain about being heckled for accepting 5K from Scotland's most successful writer.

At this point in my life I have to be pragmatic. And besides, I don't share the view that JK is some arbiter of injustice. I think that view comes from irrational political tribalism and while I understand why that occurs it doesn't mean I have to pander to it.

I spent my twenties drunk. My politics never matured. I never matured. Now I am under pressure to live up to what? Someone else's idea of what I should do or what I should believe?

I'll behave and act according to the call of my own conscience and the needs and aspirations of my community and the people I love. The indy movement is a very recent addiction to my life. It would be silly of me to re-orient myself around that sort of variable.

A: Ian Lowe

but this – "But they neglect the fact that the only way you can put pressure on Tories at WM is to vote Labour." simply is not true. the real truth is that Scots have *NO* mechanism to put pressure on any westminster administration. None. we are powerless, except in the circumstance that England happens to vote with us…. and in an increasingly right wing nasty English arena, that won't happen… and if we want to get to the absolute core of poverty – that lack of control, autonomy, of any way to influence our future.. that's the absolute core of Scotland's "sick man of Europe" problem.

It couldn’t be easier to sign up to CommonSocial – just follow these simple steps:

Q: Pedro Porrello

Hello Loki, hope you're well and congrats on achieving your book funding target. Since 'The Velvet Divorce' both the czech and slovak republics have used macroeconomic 'levers' to achieve poverty rates lower than that of the UK. Do you believe that a state can meaningfully lower it's poverty rate without macroeconomic powers such as large-scale borrowing or control of its tax base and are pro-independence activists wrong to emphasise the importance of these powers when it comes to tackling poverty in Scotland?

A: Loki


I recognise that alleviating poverty is a challenge without full independence. 

We are told that we can only address poverty by gaining independence. Because we don't yet have the power to do anything radical enough to address it. Yet we are also told that to gain independence we have to be pragmatic and appeal to affluent, wealthy, privileged people who are frightened by radicalism and whose interests are hard to reconcile with those in poverty. 

 Hence the u-turn on top rate of income tax, a symbolic signal that wealthy should pay more… as well as u-turn on abolishing the council tax, which is itself regressive. 

I appreciate the dilemmas our leaders face. But I also have to consider how exactly radical change occurs after indy. We don't want to upset people with money because they might vote No next time. So how can we deal with poverty after independence in any radical way when we've already promised the great and the good that their structural advantages will not be threatened?

See what I mean? The more pragmatic you become to win indy the less radical a prospect an independent Scotland becomes. Some argue: well at least we'll have voted for it….but I don't see the virtue in gaining the powers just to keep things the same. I'm always conflicted with this one but I remain open minded.

Perhaps there is something I am missing.

A: Pedro

Thanks for your response. Then do you believe that the economic zeitgeist of an independent Scotland will develop into something even more right wing than the current UK economic zeitgeist?

Q: Patrick McManus

Hats off for trying to tackle something that is highly sensitive. Do you think that we are tackling the dis ease or just fighting the symptoms of Domestic Violence?

A: Loki

These topics are so politically sensitive. But my hunch is: if you can alleviate poverty you will reduce all violence.

A: Patrick

I agree that the majority of violence is linked to poverty and neglect.

Q: Patrick McManus

Would you consider doing a role reversal video – Same theme? 

A: Loki

Yes, of course. If you mean female on male violence it has been a theme in my music in the past. I have been in unhealthy relationships and also grew up around violence.

A: Patrick

It's a tough one. I too grew up around violent male and female adults. Couldn't really say who was to blame or who were worse. Had a brother who was in a relationship and he suspected his beloved was having an affair for years. She would keep telling him he was paranoid and needed treatment…He Eventually believed her (so did I) he got on medication. Things then got too much for him and committed suicide. Afterwords she admitted she'd had been having an affair after all. Would you consider this a form of domestic abuse. I mean I know no one put the rope round his neck. Again a tough one.

Q: Peter Black


One the the big factors in group cohesion is agreeing on a "common enemy".

For me, my unity with the YES movement was, and still is, based on the idea that the common enemy was poverty and Indy was the most likely means to begin to tackle the problem. I get the impression you are similar.

The YES campaign gave me a space to feel we were all pulling in the same direction, though we had subtly different destinations in mind. 

Now, without an ongoing Indy Campaign, many who are Indy Fundementalists see moves to highlight how we can tackle poverty within Scotland today as a criticism and betrayal of SNP actions or inaction, and this causes a lot of the YES unity to break and turn upon itself.

What do you think we can do retrieve the YES unity? 

Is it even worth attempting it?

A: Loki

Thanks for your question

This is the big challenge. On 19th Sep 2014 we handed our power back to politicians. The Yes movement will never be the same as a result. But while I understand why some are frightened of SNP getting criticised, I would say it keeps them on their toes. And I'd also say it increases the chances of indy being a more radical prospect. Left to its own devices the SNP would take a little action on poverty with one hand and give Amazon and Google the back door key with the other.

Pressure and scrutiny keeps them in check. Let's not forget how friendly Salmond was to bankers before the crash. Politicians act based on who is leveraging them politically. As citizens we need to remember they are servants – not pop stars.

Q: Angela Haggerty


You put so much of yourself out there in your work, whether it be about your own past experiences or your current politics, and you've taken a lot of flak on social media as a result. How has that affected you personally? And what advice would you give to others who feel put off when they're being shouted down like that?

A: Loki

When I was a kid our lives were always spilling out into the street. People at school knew we came from a dysfunctional home. I had a choice: either I talk about it or let them talk about it.

As I got older I started expressing my story in different ways and it gave me a currency to trade locally. Then in my teenage years I was asked to speak and perform at things or do radio slots.

In my twenties third sector and political people and broadcasters would ask me to share my experience at their events and programs.

Essentially, my story has always been used as a conduit to authenticity for certain people and groups I have come into contact with. They hold you up as an example of how they are 'engaging'.

I come into conflict with people who made an assumption about who I was and what I believed before I even knew those things.

Since I got sober I decided to deploy my story in service of my own agenda. I access the platforms I need to access depending on what it is im trying to achieve. I have my own plan and my own views and I don't want to be wheeled out by anyone as an attack dog any more.

Though sometimes, it can be worthwhile letting people think they are controlling you, because they'll hold the doors open all the way as you walk through.

People watch on from a distance and speculate about your intentions and give you pelters because they think you're this or that….but truth is….they don't know me.

I take criticism in my stride because I know I am deeply flawed. The pain comes when you try to resist what is. Many of the pelters I get are well deserved. And the stuff that's just nasty isn't anything compared to what I've been through in my life.

Fuck sake man. Geez peace.

A: Brian

"Essentially, my story has always been used as a conduit to authenticity for certain people and groups I have come into contact with. They hold you up as an example of how they are 'engaging'." < I know this, i recognise it.


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