Part 1 - The Beginning of The End
Part 2 - Getting To Know You
Part 3 – Connections
Part 4 - Fading Beauty
Part 5 - New Beginnings
Part 6 - Reminiscing
Part 7 - Betrayal
Part 8 – My personal injuries
Part 9 – Resurgence
It began in Aston, Birmingham in 1969 with Black Sabbath….
Factory worker and world renowned Guitarist Tony Iommi lost the fingertips of his ring finger and his middle finger on his right hand in a work related accident. Being left handed, this almost prevented him from playing guitar ever again. Instead he found a work around that would prove to be most beneficial for the metal movement that was to take place thereafter. After attempting to play right handed, He tuned his guitar down with lighter strings and used homemade plastic fingertips and created a new sound. After playing with several bands in the early 1960’s, he teamed with Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward under the moniker Earth. After some controversy with another band who shared the name Earth, in August of 1969 they changed the name of the band to Black Sabbath. This breathed new air into the band and they would go on to be pioneers in The Heavy Metal genre for decades to come.
Black Sabbath paved the way for other bands like Motorhead, Deep Purple, and Rainbow. It was these bands that would be influential and play a pivotal role in the lives of the next wave of heavy metal bands that was to come. It started out slowly in 1969 and took a bit of a nosedive in the 1970’s with the disco era, but the 1980’s and the 1990’s would be two decades of aggression that would shape the minds of millions of Die Hard metal fans, including yours truly! This is not to say that the movement is not still very strong today, as happens it is growing stronger as I type this, but the 1980’s and the 1990’s were crucial times for the bands and the fans that shaped the heavy metal movement. There are several genres and sub genres of heavy metal music that range from melodic and operatic to the most extreme fastest and most guttural.
Heavy metal came under fire in the 1980’s with the formation of The Parents Music Resource Center or P.M.R.C. which was founded by 20 wives of United States senators, two of which were Tipper Gore and Susan Baker in an effort to Censor Music after Tipper Gore’s own daughter came home with the album “Purple Rain” by Prince. The main focus and goal of the P.M.R.C. was to Print lyrics on album covers, Keep explicit covers under the counter, establish a ratings system for records similar to that for films, establish a ratings system for concerts, and to reassess the contracts of performers who engage in violence and explicit sexual behavior onstage. They also wanted to establish a citizen and record-company media watch that would pressure broadcasters not to air "questionable-talent." The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America refused to comply with the PMRC's demands. The RIAA in fear of losing revenue however agreed to start ordering stickers that read "Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics" to be put on albums containing profanity, violence, and sexual content.
Heavy Metal Music again in the 1990’s met with political strife in Norway with the conviction of the Mayhem band member Varg Vikernes who was also known by his stage moniker as Count Grishnackh, for arson related to several church burnings and also for the murder of his band mate Øystein Aarseth who was known as Euronymous. These events would create a dark cloud that would linger over the heavy metal community and lead many to believe that all heavy metal bands and fans alike were evil Non Christian vagabonds that roam the earth in search of victims. This tainted image of heavy metal would be long lasting. Even today people still associate heavy metal with an almost vampire like stigma. A lot of bands also were criticized and looked down upon by the masses due to the MTV generation. MTV depicted heavy metal as fun loving drug addicts and alcoholics.
Many bands as well as their fans were persecuted because of their image, whether it be long hair or tattoos. They depicted bands like Motley Crue and Poison as being beer drinking, motorcycle riding womanizers. This, however, is NOT the case with most heavy metal bands. In fact as part of the New York Hardcore movement there was an entire new genre emerging called Straight Edge, which was strictly dedicated to being alcohol and drug free. I myself admit freely to taking part in some Recreational drugs once upon a time. However after some negative experiences I fear that drugs can undermine the foundation of one’s memory palace. The damage that can be done especially by hallucinogens can be very detrimental, and in my personal experience irreparable. I have been proudly drug and alcohol free for over a decade now, but I have not fully recovered and fear that I never will from the damage done.
The mainstream perception of what heavy metal was in the 1980’s was not the reality. MTV only showed a small portion of the underbelly of what was to become The Heavy Metal Movement, but The Heavy Metal Movement was much larger than what corporate America would have you believe. It saddens me deeply to think that a few moments and select incidents that happened to gain nationwide and worldwide recognition could have such a negative impact on something so grand, but as they say, a few bad apples spoils the bunch.
Unlike other Social Movements that I have learned of, The Heavy Metal movement was purely accidental. Out of the ashes of Industrial Revolution and post-war working class environment came the Heavy Metal Movement. It was entirely accidental with no goals in mind at the time. Since the beginning of Heavy Metal Music there has been several common threads however. Many bands are speaking openly about anti-war solutions for example. Another theme I have seen prevail is the anti-drug and anti-alcohol message that comes through in the Straight-Edge genre.
I had always listened to heavy types of music growing up. It started when I was about 3 years old, because I was fortunate enough to have an older brother and he turned me onto bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Quiet Riot, and as the years went on, My tastes grew progressively heavier. In the early to mid 1980’s I saw the political fire that heavy metal bands fell under, like Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest. Bands that had controversial lyrics were openly accused of assisting in teen suicides. I saw Ozzy Osbourne virtually condemned for allegedly biting the head off of a bat. It happened at a record label meeting in which Ozzy Osbourne was to sign a record deal. Some details remain unclear to this day. This incident shocked the nation and caused for media havoc. The incident was later revealed to be a publicity stunt that involved a dove. Ozzy Osbourne was also accused of writing lyrics that promoted suicide, when in all actuality the song entitled Suicide Solution was an anti- drinking song about the negative effects of alcoholism. I saw millions of bands and fans condemned for the use of a hand gesture known as the Maloik (il malocchio), or The “Evil Eye”, commonly referred to as the “devil horns” or the “sign of the devil”. Millions were accused of being “Satan Worshippers , most of whom were devout Catholics or Christians.
I saw Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider and even Frank Zappa go up against Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center in court for what she claimed were obscene graphics on album covers. To me as a young child, it was very apparent that human rights were being violated, as well as free speech. I watched thousands, perhaps millions of music fans collectively protest, and this spawned many bands forming in the wake of these battles. Many of these had direct political motivation. (like Rage Against The Machine, which formed in 1991, for example, as well as the band System of a Down) As I watched it all unfold on the television, I decided to become more involved in the heavy metal music industry myself. I have dedicated most of my life to the heavy metal movement. During my Adventures with the heavy metal movement I have interacted with people of all color, religious background, political background and financial situations.
The Heavy Metal Movement does NOT discriminate. People from all walks of life are involved. The wealth a person has accrued or lack thereof does not matter. Neither does their faith, or even their level of education. We take all comers and welcome them with open arms. This is not true for most other Social Movements that I have seen. In all other social movements that I have learned of, there is always some sort of invisible boundary that separates them from the rest of society, whether it financial, color, religion or other factors that are key to their movement. One example of a movement that DOES discriminate is the Anti- Saloon League , another example would be the Ku Klux Klan. The personal accolades of a person, however, are irrelevant to The Heavy Metal Movement..
This inclusiveness would for obvious reasons stand out against the stereotypes. Most people think that ALL Metalheads are bearded, longhaired filthy animalistic brutes that wear only leather, chains and spikes. This is NOT the case however. In fact one of the heaviest bands that I have had the privilege of hearing consists of four Neuro surgeons who wear suits. It amazes me how society can have such a narrow view of things. This is largely based on media portrayal and perception, which tends to have a direct correlation to how the bands are viewed in the public eye.
I am also very much an advocate for civil rights, as someone who has had their own rights violated on more than one occasion. In the late 1990’s I was assaulted by the Rochester Police department and pepper sprayed as well as shot with a Taser gun, then I was beaten bloody and had my face bounced off of the police car. My mother had called the police and asked for an ambulance because I suffer from some mental health issues and she was afraid that I was going to have a panic attack, and instead we had the police show up and beat me although I was unarmed, My sister who was a mere 13 years of age at the time, and I was only 17 years old, as well as two other family members, my cousin and my aunt. The police were not aware of the situation and acted violently towards everyone who was present. And more recently I have been falsely accused and spent over three years fighting for my freedom in another case.
I am of the humble opinion that in order to gain a proper perspective of the story that I am telling, it is important, perhaps even crucial to know a little bit about the storyteller. With that being said, allow me to tell you a bit about myself.
I was born here in Rochester, New York, but traveled the country quite a bit as a child. I lived in Louisiana from age 5 to age 6, and then moved to Oxnard, California for roughly half a year. My family then moved to Colorado Springs for roughly one year. We then moved back to California to a town called Apple Valley near Victorville. In 1986 my parents were sent to prison and I was brought back to Rochester. My parents were released in 1989, after which I went back to California again, but only for a short while. All the while I was listening to bands and learning more and more as I went along before returning to Rochester in March 1990. This would be the beginning of my Journey.
As time moved forward, I became familiar with bands like Carnivore, Carcass, and Possessed. I never imagined that we had so much talent right here in Rochester, although, as it turns out, this city is a breeding ground for ALOT of musical talent. On the surface it would appear that we have a real knack for breeding great drummers especially, with the likes of Tim Yeung, Dave Culross, Brann Dailor, and John Paradiso to name only a few, but there is much much more talent that stems from here with Multi-Talented musicians such as Erik Burke, and Mikael Bayusick.
The Journey I was going to embark upon in the early 90's was something special and much more meaningful to me. It was a social movement that I was to become enveloped by, although at the time I didn't know it.
The Following is my attempt to encapsulate the feeling of camaraderie that was felt deep within the bones of everyone who was witness to the metal bands in Rochester back then and the social impact that it had on me. I doubt that these tender morsels will completely duplicate that feeling, but someone needs to tell the story!
It was mid - summer in the early 90's when a loner type of kid became a part of something more, something bigger, Something much more relevant.
Part 1 - The Beginning of The End
It started with Buckman's Carwash (in its former location on Lyell Ave). There I was, about age 14 hanging out with some friends, doing tricks on our skateboards and on our bikes...
There we were, being kids…
We could hear some kind of music coming from the big warehouse next door. It grew louder and heavier. We approached the building with anticipation, wondering what is this? As we drew closer to the building, I saw a shimmering light, something caught my eye. What could it be? I got closer, and grew more curious with every step. When it came into sight fully, I quickly realized that it was a cassette tape. I picked it up and looked at the cover. "Nasty Trast" it read. I remember thinking to myself. "Self, what is this?" I put the cassette tape into my Walkman. My curiosity grew. With every breath I took, I could feel the air entering my lungs and the sweat from anticipation running down my brow. I couldn't wait to find out what it was.
I pushed the "play" button...
"THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!" I exclaimed. My friends all turned to me with the same curiosity that I had a moment prior. "What? What is it?" one of my friends asked. I then let him hear it for a moment, and we then passed the headphones back and forth between all of us present. We were all so excited and overcome by joy at the music that came from those tiny headphones.
We were all so excited at the music on the tape that we had almost forgotten about the music coming from the building. We regained our faculties, and headed once again toward the building, all the while I studied the cassette cover in my hand as we approached. As we neared the door of the building, curiosity and anticipation grew. Then all of a sudden we saw a man coming towards us. I looked up at the man. My jaw dropped and hit the pavement. I was frozen for a moment, speechless. My friends all looked at me. One of them finally asked, "Thor, what's wrong man?" I laughed nervously. As I just stood there, looking at the man, completely speechless, with a look of awe upon my face. I held up the cassette cover into the air for all to see. There was a collective silence. It probably only lasted a split second, but it felt like an eternity to me at the time. My friends and I all looked at each other in amazement, as if we'd all won the Lottery. It was this realization that stuck in my mind for years to come. This very moment has been etched into my brain, and forever will be. It was then that we ALL realized that the man at the door was also the man on the cassette cover. The man referred to on the inlay as "Donny".
"Hey" he said..
"Hi" I said
"Can we watch your band?" I asked...
"Sure" he replied
We all followed him into the building. We climbed the stairs. We went through some big doors. It was here that we heard the shredding of guitars and the wails of screaming echoing throughout the halls of this grand palace. I remember thinking to myself "wow! I wonder how many bands practice here." We approached a closed door. Donny opened it up, and we entered a room. We all stood in awe and we were introduced to the rest of the band known then as "Nasty Trast" There was R.C. on Bass, M.X. on Drums, Tim on Guitar, and Alvin (who would ultimately be replaced by Ty) on Guitar. They were very friendly to us, and welcomed us into their practice spot with open arms. The impact these events had on me would be everlasting. We all got to know each other. We then watched the band play for some time. I was very impressed. I had never been to a bands rehearsal before. I had been to concerts, and I knew people who were musicians, and had even helped move equipment before, but this was different. This was a legitimate band. Up until now I had never experienced anything as intimate or as enlightening to me as this. This event made me feel like a part of something, something I had aspired to become, something I had longed for since the 1980’s when I saw my favorite bands on television. This was it. This was what I was to take part in. It was something truly unique. Truly Special, and I am eternally grateful to all who were there that day, as it would help to shape the rest of my life thereafter.
- Quote paper
- Thor Shafer (Author), 2015, Heavy Metal As A Social Movement. My own experiences, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/300622