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BNL Drummer Sets Record Straight On Racism Claim

By JIM SLOTEK, Toronto Sun, February 10th, 1999.

Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart admits he was somewhat distracted before the band's date on Saturday Night Live last weekend. He was grieving with his wife over the death of her father, and freaking over a wire service report in The Sun and other papers which seemed to imply he was a racist.

At issue was a Dec. 22 Amnesty International fundraiser the band played in Toronto, at which he uttered the words "wagon burner." An offended person complained to various media and to Barenaked Ladies management. As Stewart tells it in a fax, he had told an anecdote onstage about a friend who used the phrase, and was clearly mocking the friend. He says he eventually smoothed things over with the complainant, but not before she sent out her releases.

"We talked about harmful effects of racist language and how we both encountered it in our lives. (She) is an Aboriginal person and I am Mulatto," he wrote, adding, "I spend my summers on a Chippewa reservation where I have owned a home since 1993. I mentioned my alarm at the prospect of her misquotes reaching my friends (there)."