Six Degrees of Kevin Talley

Back in the 90s, Kevin Bacon once commented that he’d worked with everybody in Hollywood, or somebody that had worked with them. That lead some college students create the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and later publish a book about the game. To play the game, a person names an actor, and then tries to connect the actor back to Kevin Bacon via degrees of separation. An actor’s “Bacon number” is the number of degrees of separation that it takes to link the actor back to Bacon.

Last year, Kevin Talley played on Six Feet Under’s newest album, Undead, and it brought to mind that old joke about Talley: he’s drummed for every band, ever. Of course that’s not really true, but it seems like it. Then it dawned on me. It’s a small world, right? Has Talley actually played with everybody in heavy metal, or somebody that has played with them? If Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a game, why can’t we adapt it to heavy metal and play Six Degrees of Kevin Talley?

Here are the rules of 6 Degrees of Kevin Talley:
1) The musician/band member must have recorded with a band that Kevin Talley also recorded with. If Metal-archives lists Kevin Talley and a musician in the lineup for a band’s album, demo, etc, then both Talley and the musician were band members.
2) Talley and the musician do not have to appear on the same recording or be “in” the band at the same time.
3) A musician’s Talley Number is the number of degrees of separation, using the shortest possible path.

For a simple example, we’ll try to connect Jason Blachowicz and Kevin Talley. This might not be the quickest way to connect them, but it’s an example of how the game works.

Jason Blachowicz:
1) Blachowicz has sung on all of Divine Empire’s records. Duane Timlin (“Cryptic Winter”) drummed on Divine Empire’s 3rd and 4th albums, respectively, Nostradamus and Method of Execution.
2) Duane Timlin/Cryptic Winter drummed on Dying Fetus’ War of Attrition. Talley drummed on Killing on Adrenaline and other Dying Fetus albums.

Therefore, Blachowicz’s Talley number is 2. To further this example, Alex Marquez, who has also drummed for Divine Empire (Doomed to Inherit) amongst many other bands, can also be connected to Kevin Talley via Duane Timlin, even though Marquez and Timlin were not in the band at the same time. Rule #2 deviates a bit from the spirit of how 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon works, but the rule is designed to save everybody’s sanity and make it possible to actually connect musicians back to Talley. It’s worth noting that big name actors often appear in several movies or TV shows a year, whereas even the most promiscuous and prodigious metal musicians rarely appear on more than one album a year. Rogga Johansson is the exception, obviously. He can probably be linked back to any band, including your brother’s step-uncle’s mother’s cat’s cousin’s OSDM band that played live once in that barn back in like ‘98.

Spiritual deviation aside, 6 Degrees of Kevin Talley would be a fun game to play when waiting to get into a show, when soused at 3 AM at a Denny’s after a show, or while waiting out a boring band at Maryland Deathfest 2013. The game also allows us to measure and analyze the network of musicians that make heavy metal a living, breathing, recording organism. The “6 degrees” bit of the Kevin Bacon/Talley game is actually based on some fascinating research into the Small-World Problem, aka the chance that two randomly selected people will know each other. The research indicated that within the continental United States, on average, it took about 6 degrees of separation for people to “know” each other on a first name basis.

Furthermore, both the professional research and the original 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game revealed individuals who are considered “nexuses” or “centers,” meaning that they know large numbers of people and are lynchpins in the social network. There’s an amusing and mindboggling website called the Oracle of Bacon which plays the 6 Degrees game for the user, linking actors together and showing the centers of Hollywood. Dennis Hopper is currently the best center.

After I created the game’s rules, I decided to try and connect Kevin Talley to some big name’s from metal’s early history. I figured there was no way to connect Ozzy or Rob Halford to Talley, but I was just as wrong as Cryptopsy recording a deathcore album.

Ozzy:
1) Ozzy and Dio both sang on Black Sabbath albums.
2) Dio and Joe Lynn Turner sang on Rainbow albums.
3) Joe Lynn Turner sang on Yngwie Malmsteen’s Odyssey. You know who else sings for Malmsteen? Tim “The Ripper” Owens, on Relentless.
4) The Ripper sang for Charred Walls of the Damned, and Richard Christy drums for CWotD. (Awful, awful acronym)
5) Christy drummed for Death on The Sound of Perseverance. Terry Butler played bass on Leprosy and Spiritual Healing.
6) Butler has played on, like, every Six Feet Under album ever. Talley drummed on Undead.

That was a lot easier than I thought, plus I linked Dio to Talley. Making matters worse, if you start with Halford, you can work back up the chain from The Ripper to Talley in short order. I decided I needed to try something harder: Lemmy.

Lemmy:
1) Lemmy, obviously, is Motorhead. Mikkey Dee has been Motorhead’s drummer for years.
2) Mikkey Dee drummed on King Diamond’s early albums. Andy La Rocque is King Diamond’s guitarist.
3) Andy LaRocque played guitar on Individual Thought Patterns. Terry Butler played bass on Leprosy and Spiritual Healing.
5) Butler has played on, like, every Six Feet Under album ever. Talley drummed on Undead.

That was still too easy. I decided that Udo Dirkschneider would be harder to connect with Talley. In the 80s and 90s, cross-Atlantic collaborations weren’t quite so easy as they are today. This one was much harder. I tried using Accept’s band member list as a starting point, but kept getting bogged down. I was about to give up when I remembered that I could use Udo’s solo band.

Udo:
1) Udo’s bassist on his first solo album, Animal House, was some guy named Frank Rittel.
2) Frank Rittel, who is some guy, played bass on Warlock’s debut, Burning the Witches. Doro, who is hot, sang for Warlock.
3) Doro sings in her solo band, Doro. Some guy named Nick Douglas played bass for Doro’s in her solo band, Doro, on albums such as Angels Never Die.
4) Nick Douglas, who also apparently goes by Nick Mitchell, played bass in Chris Caffery’s solo band, Chris Caffery.
5) Chris Caffery played guitar for Savatage on Dead Winter Dead and other albums. Alex Skolnick played guitar on Savatage’s Handful of Rain.
6) Alex Skolnick has played guitar in Testament on enough albums that I don’t feel like listing one. Steve DiGiorgio played bass on Testament’s The Gathering.
7) DiGiorgio played bass on Death’s Individual Thought Patterns. Terry Butler bass’d it up on Leprosy and Spiritual Healing.
8) Butler has played on, like, every Six Feet Under album ever. Talley drummed on Undead.

Linking Udo to Talley was a major pain in the ass and took several attempts. Pulling this off was both a revelation, a relief, and a source of dismay, because I could’ve washed my car or volunteered at a soup kitchen or whatever instead. There’s a way to link Udo back to Talley via Helloween, Dan Lilker, and then the Florida death metal scene, but it’s as tenuous and thin as Dave Mustaine’s singing.

At this point, I was getting incredulous. If you play 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon long enough, you’d find that a noticeable portion of Hollywood’s actors and actresses can’t be traced back to Kevin Bacon yet. I, however, hadn’t found a metal musician that I couldn’t link back to Kevin Talley somehow. I’m sure there’s no way to link any member of Loudness back, but I don’t feel like checking that. Nevertheless, I decided to take on one last challenge: Varg Vikernes.

Varg:
1) Varg played bass on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Hellhammer drummed on that album.
2) Hellhammer was in Dimmu Borgir and drummed on In Sorte Diaboli. Here’s where things get interesting. Snowy Shaw is given credit for playing bass and doing clean vocals on Abrahadabra. However, he was apparently only in the band for day before returning to Therion. Somehow, there’s a picture of him in his Dimmu
Borgir costume.
3) If we assume Snowy was in Dimmu Borgir, we can do this: Snowy drummed for King D on The Eye. Andy LaRocque is King D’s guitarist.
4) LaRocque was in Death, and so was Terry Butler.
5) Butler has played on, like, every Six Feet Under album ever. Talley drummed on Undead.

Beyond Snowy and his Neanderthal Borgir costume, there’s another potential Varg to Talley link: Gene Hoglan, who has drummed for more bands than he is inches tall, probably. Galder’s (Dimmu Borgir) side band is Old Man’s Child, and Gene Hoglan did session work for Old Man’s Child, and that leads back to Death and Terry Butler.

So, as it turns out, neither Kevin Bacon nor Kevin Talley are actually the center of their respective professions. We can learn quite a few lessons about the heavy metal social network from this game:
1) Terry Butler is a better center than Kevin Talley, and Talley only became something like a center after he drummed for Six Feet Under. However…
2) Solo bands lead to many connections between musicians. Whenever (solo musician) forms a band named after him or herself, people like (random musician) are hired. When (solo musician) finds out that (random musician) doesn’t bend notes well or farts too much in the studio, (random musician) is replaced, and another set of connections is formed…
3) Which leads to the final discovery: Butler’s not nearly as good a center as Chuck Schuldiner is. Death’s revolving lineup brought together so many talented musicians that we can use the band and Schuldiner himself to link disparate music scenes and individuals from all over the world.

6 Degrees of Death is a better name for the game, then. It’s another feather, if an odd one, that we can stick in Schuldiner’s cap.

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P.S. Kevin Bacon was originally offended by the game named after himself. Kevin Talley’s a fantastic drummer and hopefully he’s not offended by this post.

— Richard Street-Jammer