Hookworms Singer MJ Denies Sexual Abuse Allegations, Band Announces Split

Matthew Johnson Hookworms
Andrew Benge/Redferns

Matthew Johnson of Hookworms performs live on stage at The Piece Hall on May 26, 2018 in Halifax, England. 

English band Hookworms announced on Wednesday (Oct. 31) that they have called it quits, just hours before singer MJ (Matthew Johnson) revealed in a lengthy post that he has been accused of sexual, emotional and physical abused by a former partner.

"We're deeply shocked by the allegations that came to light yesterday regarding MJ, and take them very seriously," the band wrote on Twitter. "As a result we have cancelled all upcoming Hookworms shows and can no longer continue as a band." 

While asking for privacy during this difficult time, the band made it clear that this is "a matter for MJ as an individual, external to the band" and that no one in the group or their extended team had any prior knowledge of the allegations before they became public on Tuesday (Oct. 30). 

The allegations surfaced when Alanna McArdle, ex-Joanna Gruesome singer and Johnson's former partner, tweeted on Tuesday that she was contacted three weeks ago by an unnamed woman [referred to as "L"] who repotedly dated Johnson in 2016 and shared her story of "horrific abuse" she allegedly suffered during their relationship. The woman, a survivor of sexual and physical abuse -- who allegedly shared that information with Johnson -- claimed that Johnson "made jokes about the specific details of L's past experience, joking about raping her, mutilating her body, and punching her in the face. He sexually assaulted her, triggered her PTSD, and at the time remained unapologetic for his actions." 

McArdle said that over the past two years Johnson maintained that his actions were "out of him being in love with her," and that she's seen evidence of Johnson's texts with L "admitting to these sexually and emotionally abusive actions," and that she's been in touch with L over the past few weeks to discuss the alleged incidents. "Given the social stature that Matt has in the UK music scene, and the (to put it mildly), worrying and clearly manipulative attempts he has made over the course of many years to position himself as a feminist activist and ally, she and I were both frankly terrified at how he has abused this power and trust to such a horrifying extent," McArdle wrote.

Given Johnson's position in the music industry and what she called his "commitment to building a narrative around him that posits him as a politically aware and active person," L reportedly asked McArdle to make her story public.

In the wake of the revelation of the alleged abuse, Johnson posted a lengthy response, in which he said, "I deny and always will deny the allegations that were posted yesterday." The singer wrote that his understanding was that both he and L were unhappy with parts of their brief relationship, stressing they had not been in contact for a while. "She contacted me recently and during our exchanges (we did not meet), she asked me to characterise some of my actions towards her as abusive to assist her, she said, with her ongoing recovery from historic sexual abuse that occurred prior to us knowing each other. I regret now accepting any blame," he said. 

"I felt pressured into disbelieving myself and also believed I was helping her," he continued. "I offered her support in other ways so to read what she has told someone else about me is confusing and upsetting. More importantly, the picture and image painted of me yesterday is untrue. I was not abusive towards L and in light of yesterday's allegations I now regret accepting any blame as she asked me to do."

Johnson characterized himself and McArdle as "two different people," noting that she did not make the allegations herself and that he has tried to maintain good ethics in his public and private lives. "The image presented by Alanna's statement yesterday is not one I recognise and is untrue," he wrote. 

Leeds-bred noise band Hookworms formed in 2010 and released the album Microshift earlier this year on Domino Records. Over the past year, the band has supported women speaking out against abuse in the music industry and, in August, retweeted a comment critical of the band The Orwells, who've been accused of being "homophobic, transphobic, racist sexual abusers."

At the end of her note, McArdle asked her followers to spread her tweet widely "for the sake of the safety of women and survivors of sexual, emotional and physical abuse... I would also ask (thought I really shouldn't have to) men not just in the scene but EVERYWHERE to stop turning a blind eye to the abusive actions of your friends, to actively hold people accountable, to stop performatively giving "support" to women solely for the sake of your image." 

A spokesperson for the band could not be reached for further comment at press time.