Headbanger’s Ball and my metal life

I was reminiscing the other day about my teenage days, so I thought I’d share my story about my love affair with metal.

When I was about 10 years old (1984), I really got into breakdancing. As some of you may remember, breakdance fever was sweeping the nation, and movies like Breakin’ and Beat Street only fueled the fire. I loved the music more than the dancing, but it was difficult to find outside of big cities. Over the next few years, I tried to track down as much breakdance and hip hop music that I could. I loved the Fat Boys. Friends were trying to get me into Motley Crue, but I wasn’t having it. I’d rather listen to Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. Then, one day, out of the blue…Guns n’ Roses kicked my ass. I remember watching the video for “Welcome to the Jungle” for the first time, thinking “WHO IS THIS!!??” My friends and I were all over it. Guns n’ Roses was my gateway drug. I got the t-shirts, posters, etc. From there I moved onto Cinderella, Scorpions, Whitesnake. I saw Whitesnake in concert when I was 14. I couldn’t believe my parents let me go (I was raised Catholic, and my father was in the military). So I was this pre-teen listening to these hard rock bands, but I was craving something a little harder. A friend of mine exposed me to MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, then hosted by Adam Curry (who was eventually replaced by the intolerable Riki Rachtman). I knew I had found something special just by listening to the intro music (by S.O.D.). I had never heard anything like it. Thanks to H.B., I got to see videos by Nuclear Assault, Megadeth, Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, you name it. Although as anyone who watch H.B. back then knows, to see one thrash metal video, you had to sit through ten awful hair band videos (like “Mr. Big”, ugh). I actually came upon Metallica fairly late in the game. My first exposure to them was through their first video, “One”. I was appropriately awestruck. “…And Justice For All” was my first Metallica album, so it holds a special place in my heart.

By this time, I’m in high school and fully immersed in metal. I was constantly looking for harder, faster, sicker. I only had one friend, Dave, who was into metal as well, so it was difficult to find out about new bands. I had a group of friends I skateboarded with, but they were all into hip hop. H.B. continued to be my only source for new music. What’s more, Dave started getting into punk bands, and I was headed toward death metal and grindcore. So we had less and less in common. Around this time, I met this guy – can’t remember his name, let’s call him Justin – while skateboarding in the neighborhood. He went to my high school, and he was into metal. He exposed me to all the dark, evil, heavy bands I was missing out on because they didn’t have videos. Slayer, Death, Napalm Death, Deicide, King Diamond and the like. Slayer was a revelation. Slayer was SO GOOD that I actually contemplated that perhaps they made a deal with the devil: their souls in exchange for that sound. Seriously, I thought that at age 16.

By the time I was as senior in high school, Dave had found religion (and a hot, religious girlfriend…hmm) and had no desire to share my enthusiasm for how satanic the new Deicide album was. It got worse in college. Nobody was into metal (this was mid 1990s, not exactly metal’s “golden years”), and I started going to hardcore shows in Buffalo, NY. Hardcore was a good compromise (yes, I compromised), because it had the chunky power chords of metal, but it was more “acceptable” to be a fan of. Slowly, over the years (college and beyond), I drifted away from metal to hardcore, then electronic music (I was a D.J. for a few years – a decent one, too). Eventually I realized how much music I missed out on while only listening to metal in high school, and I started adding lots of different types of music to my collection.

My re-acquaintance with metal (and subsequent re-obsession) happened a couple of years ago when I moved back to Kansas City. I started hanging out a lot with my friend Max Key, a fellow painter that I had gone to art school with. One of our many on-the-porch-with-beers discussions turned to music, and we discovered that we had almost identical musical tastes in high school. This led to the exchange of old CDs, old death metal cassette tapes, and a renewed interest in the genre. It’s amazing how excited you can get about something when there’s someone else there to share your enthusiasm. When Max and I got a studio together, we’d blast Slayer, Voivod, and Sepultura while working down there. Before long I was tuned into the metal station on my XM radio, and I was getting excited about new metal bands.

This drawing project was kind of a revelation out of nowhere. I needed a subject (like baseball), that I was fully invested in and wanted to learn as much as I could about. So here we are.


~ by mikehill25 on April 11, 2007.

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