Heavy metal scribes' most hair-raising stories
In the recent book "Precious Metal," the writers of heavy metal geek mag Decibel give detailed history lessons on 25 of extreme metal’s greatest albums. The book is as heavy as its subject matter -- 365 pages! -- and bulges with interviews with every member of every band, as well as producers, cover artists and bit players. Most important to metal dorks are maddening amounts of trivia and minutiae. Did you know that former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Adam Doll almost ruined a day of recording their landmark "Calculating Infinity" by throwing a packet of barbecue sauce into the computer's reset button?
While metal musicians are just as diverse as any other group of people, it’s no secret that a few of them get into wine, women, song and Satan. To go further down the spiral of unearthing tiny details for the sake of a good story, Christopher R. Weingarten asked a few of the contributors to "Precious Metal" about their wildest experience as heavy metal feature writers; here are their most memorable run-ins.
In the fall of 2004, Carcass bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker and his girlfriend took a stateside vacation that culminated with spending a week on my futon in my one-bedroom, Philadelphia apartment. After a few hours of shopping and approximately 90 seconds of looking at the Liberty Bell, our Liverpudlian pair decided to do what millions of tourists before and after them had done: Ride the ducks.
Anyone unfortunate enough to live in a city that hosts these duck tours is surely familiar with the free bill-shaped duck callers handed out to the tour’s riders. If not, here’s a sample of their madding sound, which assaults pedestrians throughout our streets. Jeff, it turns out, became immediately attached to his duckbill. In fact, he it took it pretty much everywhere with him for the duration of his stay. That meant to dinner; to a book signing he attended with me for "Choosing Death"; to the Napalm Death show that night, where he made his way to the front row to get vocalist Barney Greenway's attention, only to quack at him in between songs; or to the bar afterwards, where I finally convinced him to temporarily put it the ... away after explaining that a number of large gentlemen didn't find it quite as amusing as he did.
As a 17-year-old senior in high school, I had only published one issue of my photocopied zine, "Heavy Heroes," when I managed to convince someone at Combat to let me do an interview with Mercyful Fate on their first U.S. tour in late 1984. They were happy to oblige because no mainstream magazines were banging down their door to interview lead vocalist King Diamond, whose stage get-up at the time featured corpse paint and an upside down cross painted on his forehead. He also used a microphone holder reportedly made from human thigh bones to screech lyrics largely about Satan and other occult-themed topics.
I was petrified. Though I was a huge fan of the band, King Diamond scared the ... out of me. I was sure this dude was seriously evil and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Did he even speak English, I wondered. When I was brought in to meet him before the gig, he was in full makeup, which only added to my anxiety. ... The things that I remember most vividly to this day are how blue his eyes were, how well he spoke English and how smart and how nice he was. Which I gotta admit, at the time, was a little disappointing.
After the jump: Gaahl from Gorgoroth, pictured.
In January 2008, I flew to Bergen, Norway, for Revolver magazine, so I could interview Gorgoroth, a three-member black-metal band who openly identify themselves as Satanists. The band had acquired some notoriety, because one member had served two prison sentences for battery and another had spent time in jail for sexual assault. What most black-metal fans didn't know at the time was that vocalist Gaahl assists modeling agencies and is known for his good eye. He's a behind-the-scenes go-to man in the fashion world there. He was candid, funny, and nothing like the grim image the European metal media portrayed him to be.
Gaahl called and said he'd we could start out the night at the finest wine bar in Bergen, so I met him across town. When we got there, I said, "I will pay our bill," as is customary. At the end of the night, the waiter brought the bill. Because oenophile Gaahl had selected only the best vintage wines, it was hundreds of dollars. I've since forced the exact amount from my memory, though I'm incredibly appreciative of Gaahl for teaching me the value of fine wines, monetarily speaking and otherwise. It was worth it.
October '93. A friend and I traveled two and a half hours to Detroit to interview Cathedral's Lee Dorrian while they were on tour with Flotsam & Jetsam. We suggested interviewing backstage, but Dorrian didn't want to. We finally settled on interviewing in my car. Dorrian was wearing purple corduroy bell-bottoms, a white long-sleeve Renn-Faire frilly shirt and some rad hippie boots. He looked like he belonged to the Haight-Ashbury scene [more] than very urban Detroit. We are interviewing our hero, things are going well, the windows start steaming up, and within minutes there's a knock on the passenger's side window. My first thought it was the police. He rolled down the window. It's a near-toothless beggar asking for a handout. Lee says, "Sorry, we're doing an interview, mate." The beggar replies, "Can I sit in the car with you?"
Hoovering magical powders into your face with your favorite bands might sound fun or even glamorous, but driving into a chain-link fence in Fresno at 40 mph on amphetamines plied by a rock star who shall remain nameless is not a good look.
[Corrected at 11:30 a.m., Aug. 25: An earlier version of this post misspelled the first name of Adem Tepedelen as Adam.]
-- Christopher R. Weingarten
Photo: Gaahl of the band Gorgoroth, a secret oenophile. Credit: Peter Beste.
Weingarten is a guest blogger and a professional music journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. He's reviewing 1,000 records on Twitter. Follow him at twitter.com/1000TimesYes.