Talking After Midnight: Sail On, Silver Girl
Dearest metal buttheads,
I’m gonna start off this column by being real with you. I’ve had an absolutely preposterous year, and as a result I took some time off to travel around the country and go a little nuts. As I type this, I’m sitting in an old friend’s Chelsea apartment in Manhattan, vocal cords raw and hoarse from shouting happily with my friends at The Black Dahlia Murder’s listening party at Saint Vitus Bar last night, reflecting on my life and what’s transpired over the summer.
I’ve been in New York City for a week, but in the past month and a half I’ve been in Portland, Seattle, Denver, Moab, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Northern California. As travel often inspires, I’ve had a good chunk of time to reflect on myself, what makes me happy, some seriously overdue personal growth, and a spring/summer that included going back to school, moving into an amazing new house, and ending a toxic relationship with a musician who subsequently released a song that references choking me.
In transformative times like this, after your emotions have run the gamut from enraged to distraught to euphoric to completely hardened and back again, I’ve discovered that your brain and heart tend to take the reins, sift through your kaleidoscope of memories good and bad, and spit out some serious lessons about who you are and what brings you joy.
This particular time, that handy little mechanism hit me with a realization: nothing in this world has brought me more adventures, filled my heart with more unadulterated joy, taken me to more places, or held up a mirror to who I am like heavy metal has.
As I look around me, I think about how I met Selby, the friend I’m staying with in New York: She first showed up in my hometown friend group around ten years ago when a buddy of mine took her on a date to a Slayer show. I thought, “I have got to befriend this girl.” Now, a decade later, neither of us talk to those guys much, but we’ve visited each other on both coasts, gotten into some seriously fun mischief together, and — no matter how long we go without seeing one another — we will always be close.
I think about how the first leg of my travels this summer was a road trip with two of my best friends, Evan and Sam, whom I met because Evan was the drummer of a heavy prog band I loved when I lived in San Francisco in 2008.
I think about falling in love with Kyuss as a teenager, and going to Palm Desert for the first time at 21 with my friend Ben just to sit amongst those infamous windmills, soak up the delightfully weird landscape, and imagine just how those riffs came to be.
I think about Northwest Terror Fest last June in Seattle, when Chris Pacifico, now the host of the metal cooking show Snacking For Vengeance, insisted on making homemade, exquisitely crafted gnocchi for me and IO editor Ian at 4:00 a.m. in his AirBnb kitchen while we recapped our favorite bands, split the last beer in the fridge, and blasted The Weeknd out of our tiny phone speakers.
I think about the time I got up in my Camden flat the Monday after Desertfest London 2013 ended and spent the entire morning laugh-crying with my friends Dan, Mart, and Ben in a pub because none of us wanted to disband yet. Or, how we then decided to get spur-of-the-moment matching wrist tattoos of The Black Heart sign so we’d never forget that weekend as long as we lived.
I think about my veteran music journalist, lifelong metalhead, and radio DJ friend Hannah Levin, who took me with her on a road trip three years ago when she moved from Seattle to Tucson, and the countless hours we have spent on a porch laughing, crying, pontificating, or cheering each other on in either of our cities or our occasional rendezvous in LA for festivals like Psycho California or Midnite Communion.
I think about the time I drove across Canada with my dear friends in the bands Chron Goblin and Black Thunder, went swimming in a river in the middle of the night in the Rockies, laughed until I sobbed every time they told each other to “stay out of the cabbage,” and didn’t mind one bit when I accidentally missed my flight back to Portland and “had” to stay one more day.
I think of all of the giant-hearted, down-to-earth, generous, empathetic, fun, smart, introspective musicians I know all over this world through not only metal fandom but also over a decade of working in this industry.
I think about being shown around, housed, fed, and otherwise welcomed with open arms by metalheads everywhere I go.
I think about the fact that I now live with two wonderful musicians in Portland, and often wake up with a smile on my face because I can hear them practicing through the walls or floor.
I think about the absolute army of powerful women, POC, LGBTQ, disabled, and otherwise marginalized people who, in heavy metal, have found the strength to withstand incredible adversity.
I think about every time I have walked into a metal show, felt the riffs reverberating all over my body, and immediately felt at peace.
At the end of the day, metal might be going through some political growing pains right now. The world as a whole is in a strange period of upheaval, and metal does and should reflect that. We, as a community and as individuals, have some important conversations to have. But never, for one second, forget that if you fully throw yourself into this silly, dark, strange, and at times completely ridiculous genre we all came here to read about, and you refuse to take shit from anyone who tries to drain you of your best qualities, this is a world that will heal you of any heartbreak, loneliness, or otherwise dark time life throws your way. I’m so grateful metal found me and honestly, humbly, don’t know where I’d be without it.
So anyway. Thanks for reading. There’s no place I’d rather be than right here, bossing you all around. Love you all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go watch Subrosa lay waste to Saint Vitus bar with my arms wrapped around at least 30 of my favorite metalheads on earth.
And now for your regularly-scheduled advice-giving. As always, you can submit your questions at email@example.com or anonymously right here.
I’m in a band with a guy with politics pretty much opposite of mine. Nothing extreme, just of the meathead conservative anti-“SJW” variety. Our music/lyrics do not reflect this, and it doesn’t get in between us personally really unless it comes up. My question is whether or not I’m screwing myself associating with this guy. If he goes on some open tirade, how possible is it for me to separate myself as someone who’s JUST in the band? Should I just bail?
Libby Playing a Gibby
Truthfully, given that your band is apolitical and he isn’t “extreme” in his views (which I’m hoping means he isn’t a white supremacist, anti-Semite, homophobe, or misogynist and he just likes to get a rise out of people in an annoying way) I could probably write you a full essay on either: a) the importance of musically aligning yourself with people who are actively doing good in the world, or b) tossing aside mild political differences and coming together over a shared love of metal so we can all chill the fuck out for a goddamn minute.
But let’s look at it a different way.
Forget how this guy makes your band look. How does he make you feel to be around him? Is he the kind of person you truly want to spend your time around? Being in a band is not just about musical success. It’s an artistic project on which you’re going to spend a huge chunk of your time and effort, and it should be fun. Life is too short to waste creative or emotional energy on people who don’t make you feel good.
If it really doesn’t come up, and he’s not doing anything to actively hate anyone or take away others’ rights, I think it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend your time.
What’s your opinion on wearing a band’s shirt to that band’s concert? I’ve heard people say it’s lame but I think it’s a way to show the band some love. And like, I bought that cool shirt for a damn good reason and it shouldn’t matter where I wear it, ya know?
Wearing My Heart On My Death Metal Longsleeve
Dear Heart On,
Good lord. In this day and age, when you can’t escape bad news no matter how hard you try, and it’s tougher than ever before to make decent, livable money in music, exactly no one should waste their breath judging each other for excitement. Anyone who gives you shit about being proud enough of your band fandom to wear their shirt to a show is a monster and doesn’t deserve your time or friendship. Fuck ‘em. Buy the hoodie, too. Wear both at once and laugh at all of the miserable idiots who try to judge ya.
There is a girl I am too in love with, but I am 40, she is 20, and she sorta freaks a bit when I approach her. Frankly, I would be happy just being her friend, help.
Get over it and never, ever approach her again for any reason.
I’m just going to steal one of your example questions from your first column because it is the one I would have asked anyway: why can’t I ever get any publications to write about my band?
Too Lazy To Put In Real Work
This is likely because your band is bad and no one is obligated to like you or give you attention. Get back in your garage and practice until you’re covered in sweat and your fingers are bloody. That way, when you experience some humbling life shit that really inspires you to write a masterpiece, you’ll be ready and your art will speak for itself.
My only child is almost grown and about to leave the nest.
Romance/Human Sexuality has proven to be a treacherous curse, even surpassing the myth that is Progress™ in the annals of human lies that lead to despair.
My health has begun to capitulate as decades of drugs and alcohol, then later, healthy living and vigorous exercise have taken their toll on the fleshly funeral shroud known as Body.
The feeble human mind, product of genetics and specific misfortune, has begun to dim, losing its grip on what was, even at the very height of its powers, fumbling along with the dim tools of reason and logic, a tenuous understanding of creation and the relationships involved within.
So tell me. What does a Headbanger, Earthdog, Rivet Head, Hell Rat, or Metal Maniac approaching a half-century do with the remainder of her/his life?
Existential Crisis Much?
I dunno, man. Eat, fuck, travel. Try and be kind.