. . .
I am a whore… Metaphorically speaking, for now at least… But who knows what my bosses will request tomorrow. I do something that I often loathe for at least 50 hours a week just for money.
Many prostitutes are forced into the game by a drug dependency. They perform degrading acts to scrape together funds for their next fix. My jones is not skag or crystal meth or crack. Metal forces me back to the corporate world each day to have my soul crushed.
As a child, my addiction was limited to CDs. However, CDs are a gateway drug, my friends. CDs led to gigs, and before I knew it I was emptying my bank account to travel to metal gigs all over the world.
Corporate prison we stay
I’m a dull boy, work all day
So I’m strung out anyway
– Alice in Chains, “Angry Chair”
I envy those who pour 100% of their energies into their passion. Talent and hard work allow bands like Napalm Death to travel the world on the back of their music. It is a tough lifestyle, but surely it is a spiritually rewarding one.
Others struggle for their art, working lowly paid jobs in between tours to put bread on the table. Their energies are saved for their art. This is the story of most of the underground metal bands that we celebrate at IO (see, e.g., interview with John Cobbett).
However, some of my heroes balance metal careers with demanding day gigs. Pig Destroyer riff machine Scott Hull is an IT guru for the US Department of Defense. Tombs’ Mike Hill recently returned to the world of mechanical engineering.
A few weeks ago, a Guinness or two too heavy in a Belfast bar, I bailed up Tombs’ Mike Hill after their awesome set. I asked the fellow engineer how he pulled it off. Hill spoke of a tight schedule – work, gym, practice, food, bed. Rinse. Repeat. That dude is truly filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run. He is a better man than I.
The professional life takes me out of my tiny flat in the West Glasgow sky at 7am and dumps me back there at 8pm, mentally and physically drained. You shower the corporate filth off your skin, and you eat. Can you then summon up the energy to live the metal life? Can you write anything?
Too tired from the old routine
– KEN Mode, “Batholith”
. . .
. . .
Still, on the 25th of the month, a bundle of pounds land in my bank account. Immediately I hatch plans for the next month’s adventure. Napalm Death in Krakow? Hellfest in France? Neurosis in Hamburg? Voivod in the Basque Country?
I intended to quit the corporate life when I first left Australia. I will work in London bars like every other Australian in the UK. Gigs and words will fill my evenings. I soon learnt that my desire to combine metal and travel could never be supported on a barkeep’s coin. So I sold out.
I’m putting in my two weeks notice
as of two fucking weeks ago
– Tomahawk, “Mayday”
A day wrenched in the works of the machine does not lend itself to the metal way of life. Project milestones and design reviews do not inspire Lemmy to sing upwards into a mic. If Lemmy had to spend an hour with blame-delegating managers or backstabbing colleagues, they might as well be chewing bricks. I am no Lemmy. I had to look for a new job.
On office casual days, I do not wear the “No Fucking Slave” Napalm T-shirt. I stick to the slightly ambiguous Dillinger Escape Plan t-shirt with the Black Flag inspired logo, or the tribal Neurosis hoodie, or the evil woman Roadburn t-shirt.
In general, I do not talk about my metal world to colleagues. If I catch a gig on the weekend, my fellow workers rarely ask the name of the band. If they do, then I really hope that it isn’t the weekend that I attended the Fukpig show. I am proud of my metal heart. However, it’s just not worth the effort of explaining Cannibal Corpse to an office of cats so far removed from that world. Try explaining “I Cum Blood” to civilians and then spending 50 hours a week with them.
I cannot imagine Kerry King sitting in front of his computer drawing electrical circuits for eight hours. Drawing electrical circuits is a good day for me. That is what got me into the game – designing cool stuff and making it work. Unfortunately, my day of designing is usually interrupted by meetings. Reptiles attempt to show everyone in the meeting that they know more than you. Morlocks blame you for the project running late. “You have put this whole project in jeopardy”. Sleep’s Matt Pike would not take that. He would exhale a “fuck this”, inhale the world’s biggest joint, and write the heaviest riff known to man.
. . .
. . .
Matt Pike is metal. Lemmy is metal. Kerry King is metal. The evidence above proves that I am not metal.
But I am metal! God damn it! I am metal. No job can take that away from me.
Whilst suits pass, Nails’ Unsilent Death deafens this worker bee to management speak and painfully unfunny jokes. 14 minutes later, I need to find a longer album. Management can talk longer than a Nails album.
In the better moments of my day, I am at my desk, earphones securely installed. Death metal and grind are not the most conducive to circuit design and calculations. As a consequence, I listen to a lot of doomy and atmospheric metal. Old standards of Neurosis, Isis, Sleep feature heavily along with Altar of Plagues and Year of No Light. Repetition of riffs drops me out of an office next to Glasgow airport. An hour later, useful work sometimes appear. Sometimes not, though.
If not, I stomp out the rest of the afternoon with Narrows’ “Gypsy Kids” (or is it “The Fourragere”?). I have to restrain myself from bellowing “Northwest squall!”. Despite repeated listenings, it is still the only lyric that I’m confident on.
Some days you ease into the morning commute with OM or Earth. Other days you just need a shot of grind before you face the day. Napalm? Pig Destroyer? Actually, Pig Destroyer works at any time of day. Apply as liberally as black coffee.
At those inevitable moments when self-loathing of your sell-out ways reaches a new high, administer lethal doses of Eyehategod or Jesus Lizard. Deep down under that sensible shirt and trousers lies a metal heart that wants to wake up bloodied on the floor of a Chicago bar, or in a pool of vomit in a N’Awlins squat. It is like the testicular cancer patients in Fight Club chanting the mantra “We’re still men. We’re still men”.
We’re still metal. We’re still metal.
. . .