You don’t have to be stupid to rock!
Rockers have often been brushed off as stupid airheads with nothing in their heads but chicks and parties. You know – bad vocabulary, bad choices, not much to contribute with. Kind of like these guys:
But after almost 25 years in the business, interviewing more bands and artists than I can even remember, it hit me that I’ve rarely thought of anyone as “stupid”. Some have formal educations, some are street smart, and some are just naturally intelligent. You don’t always have to be a rocket scientist to be smart. Very few have been total airheads actually.
Then I started digging into it. You’d be surprised how many rockers you’ll find that have fancy titles and impressive degrees to brag with.
Brian May (Queen) for instance… PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College in London. He began working on it 30 years prior to completing it in 2007, but got sidetracked when Queen hit the big-time. Apparently its never too late to finish what you started…!
Offspring’s Dexter Holland: He has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology, both from the University of Southern California.
Metal is dead
You know how you sometimes find that special place on the beach, the perfect spot that you don’t want anyone else to find…? Or if you find a great place – anywhere, that makes you feel good, your own discovery that is yours, and yours only – that you will protect and keep a secret or maybe share with just your closest friends…?
That’s what metal has been to me my whole life. I can’t say that I chose it – it chose me. It was like an epiphany, a religious experience – and because metal wasn’t widely accepted, I felt like I was a part of a small, secret club or something.
It wasn’t on the radio, it wasn’t in the papers, it was just this… underground, rebellious movement in the eyes of a teenager, especially a female teenager, as there were very few female role models in metal in the very early eighties.
Metal was anti-establishment. It was a big fuck-you middle finger in the face of everything that was “adult” or “responsible”…. Parents hated it, religious groups hated it, polititians hated it, media ignored it (except for when Ozzy bit the head of a bat or Alice Cooper decapitated himself onstage or W.A.S.P got banned by PMRC for their lovely song “I Fuck Like A Beast“).
THAT is what metal has been to me, always. A freedom and an escape from everything that you’re supposed to be.
In a way I guess I don’t want to grow up. Metal has been that escape from everything that had to do with normality. But now, I’m beginning to wonder what the hell is happening. Metal is dying.
Two days ago I stayed up all night, watching the streaming online version of ABC’s “Dancing with the stars”. Kiss and Steel Panther had been announced as guests. I had to see what the deal was. I would have been better off if I had never seen that.
My god, what a sad sight. Kiss has never really been “rock’n’roll” in the “rebellious”sense, they would sell their own mother if they could make a buck or two, and that’s nothing new. Still it was disturbing somehow to see them on this family show, this absolutely squeaky clean family entertainment.… It made me sick watching people dancing freaking BALLET to Twisted Sister…! Oh my god, it was so…gay! And I don’t mean that in a homophobic sort of way, but you know what I mean. It was just so fucking WRONG!
Not only that, but all those hard rock anthems had been “cleaned up” and were sung by some…session singers, people who are as far from metal as you can possibly get.
I guess it’s stupid, but it actually made me sad to witness it. To me, this is the armageddon of metal. I see it everywhere. Judas Priest on American Idol – the show that kills music. Call it whatever you want but it doesn’t produce any new music. You have people singing covers and trying to sound like the real deal, like their idols who got famous the old-fashioned way, by working their asses off.
It’s really just a money-making show that’s looking for a product to sell. That means the “product” must be G-rated. No damn TRUE rock’n’roll here! It’s family entertainment for gods sakes.
I’ve realized that by talking to the Croatian guy, the rocker dude who I first saw on “Idol”. His label still hasn’t released any of his music, because he’s a rocker – and rock doesn’t appeal to the little girlies who are the ones buying records. Maybe – if you make it TRENDY. Like if you give Bret Michaels a dating-show for instance…
So, Priest appeared on AI, sold their souls to the devil if you ask me, Kiss on Dancing with the stars, Alice Cooper won’t be performing at any REAL rock-festivals in Sweden this summer, but he WILL be playing at Liseberg…! Liseberg is a family amusement-park! The man who got himself banned everywhere he went back in the day, who was arrested and feared by your parents and your teacher – is now a family entertainer, like a rock-Liberace or something.
And AC/DC sold their music to WalMart, the very same retail corporation that wouldn’t sell albums that the PMRC had labelled with “Parental Advisory”-stickers!
Yeah, I’m an idealist, I think it’s sad to watch the death of metal as we know it. It’s not rebellious anymore, it’s not anti-establishment and it’s not my “private island” anymore – or anyone else’s.
Hard rock is business now. You will hear the dorks on Glee singing some washed-up version of an old Pat Benatar-song or something and you will find the kind of r’n’r outfits that you had to look everywhere to find (specialized stores) – at H & M or any other major store. It’s sellable now. Metal sells – and everybody’s buying.
No more underground movement, no more middle fingers… no more rebellion. Metal is now Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, family amusement parks and WalMart. Guess maybe it’s time for me to grow up too…
REVIEWS….. The ticket to a secret identity?
When you write a review, whether it’s a CD- or a concert-review, you can be sure that there’s going to be lots of people having opinions about it. They don’t always realize that it’s all part of the game.
Reviews are nothing but one person’s simple opinion, written for the sake of entertainment and, to a degree, guidance. But there are always going to be fans out there who think that a review is a scientific essay. They want it to be “objective”. You can’t be objective in a review, that’s the whole point! :-)
When I got my first job writing for Swedish newspaper Kvällsposten, I received tons of records from all the major record companies. I didn’t have my own post-box at the editorial office cause I was working from home. I just went there about twice a week to pick up my mail and submit the material of the week.
Every time I got there, there was a sack full of LP’s waiting for me on the floor behind the film-editor. Back in 1988, vinyl was still the main material that people wanted their music on. :-) The CD’s had been introduced but it took a few years before the music that we got went from vinyl to CD altogether.
Anyway, as I was the rookie up there, the other music reporters taught me that as far as reviews…. I was not allowed to like too many records – which means I was not allowed to rate something 10 out of 10 too often. I don’t remember the exact quota, but it was strictly limited.
I was told that I would not be taken seriously if I liked everything, especially not if I wrote positive reviews too often. They wanted me to write negative, nasty reviews as much as I could, because not only did it trigger people to react – it was also good publicity for the band/artist. If people get upset, they tell their friends, or they write letters to the editor, they simply do unintentional PR for the publication!
And as weird as it sounds – when you write something really nasty about a band or an artist, people will get curious to hear it. “Is it REALLY that bad? CAN it be that bad?”
So, they try to get a listen if they can, or they talk to other people about it. EIther way – everybody wins.
A bad review doesn’t necessarily ruin sales, if done right. It can do the exact opposite.
I think that a band like W.A.S.P is the perfect example of that. There was not one “serious” music journalist out there that wrote anything good about “Fuck like a beast“, but all the bad publicity got people running to the stores and the record just flew off the shelves!
As I grew older and started to see music more objectively – not just in black and white, like when I was younger – it got harder to write strict “good” or “bad” reviews.
The review-editor at Sweden Rock asked me what I REALLY thought about one album that I had written about, because he couldn’t figure out if I liked it or hated it, I was beeing too diplomatic about it.
I told him that personally, I didn’t like it. No reason, it just wasn’t my taste. It was well played and for those who like that kind of music, I’m sure they would love it. It’s just that I didn’t and I didn’t want to be unfair and rate something low, when I knew it wasn’t really BAD…… It was a tough situation.
He told me it wasn’t about being fair. It was about having a personal opinion. If I didn’t like it, I should just say so, straight out, no excuses, no “buts” or “ifs”. That helped me get over the “objectivity-barrier”. Thank god. But he has actually been great with constructive feedback on my writing, I’ve learned a thing or two just by small details he’s mentioned from time to time. I like working with people like that.
One of the most memorable reviews I’ve written through the years was for “Hot In The Shade” by Kiss.
That, I will never, ever forget.
I wasn’t particularly impressed by the album, and wrote somewhere that Paul Stanley couldn’t sing…. And used some pretty undiplomatic expression to illustrate exactly HOW much I thought he sucked.
Mind you, this was before the internet – back in those days, people wrote regular letters. When I got to the office a few days later, there were TWO FULL POST BAGS there with my name on them.
It took me FOREVER to open all those letters! I had pissed off the whole RAGING Kiss Army! I think every Kiss-fan from north to south had a thing or two that they wanted to…uhh, “share”… :)
I got the message – loud and clear – oh boy, it couldn’t have been ANY clearer!
Lesson learned: There are some bands that can not be criticised unless you want to get a secret identity and move to Vladivostok! Don’t ever say that Paul Stanley can’t sing and don’t ever say anything bad about Metallica or Slayer if you want to live. :)
Another time, I wrote a review about a GWAR-concert at club Stadt Hamburg in Malmo, Sweden… That review led to local authorities CLOSING DOWN THE PLACE! I was not popular by some people after that. Like I had any idea what a simple review could cause!
[I actually found a video where that whole thing was mentioned…. only, there were no “local authorities” at that show that could be spat on… they based it solely on my review. Ouch..
See it mentioned in the info text to this video. ]
I don’t know, it’s as if some people have their whole life hung up on their favorite bands. So when you criticise the band, they take it dead serious and dead personal – as if you’re criticising them.
I still think it’s fun to write reviews though. It can be diffucult after more than 20 years, finding different ways to describe something GOOD or something BAD, because you don’t want to keep repeating yourself. Yet, there are only so many superlatives you can use. It requires creativity. Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you don’t. But in the end – it’s all just entertainment.
Or… is it? :-D
Does integrity exist in rock’n’roll?
AC/DC and Walmart…. A match made in heaven? I think not.
AC/DC and wallets, backpacks, t-shirts, mugs, baseball-caps, stickers and so on – better? Maybe not, but somehow more accepted because it’s still kept “within the family” so to speak.
I guess in the word integrity in rock’n’roll means “staying away from whatever is mainstream”.
Fans upset signature song used in Walmart commercialWe all know how pissed off fans get whenever their favorite metal band decides to experiement with something new.
Van Halen doing “Jump” in 1984 caused a MAJOR protests. Oh-my-god. Blasphemy! KEYBOARDS in metal? What the f***. People back then could maybe stretch their tolerance to hammond-organs but no way in hell synthesizers had any business in metal.
When Judas Priest attempted it two years later with Turbo, they got the same reception. To this day, people feel like their heroes let them down.
Both bands were accused of being sellouts – because they were trying to cater to a wider audience. So they were treated like traitors. Being a metalhead means “keeping it in the family”.
I guess that’s why “real” rockers generally don’t like anything that has to do with stepping outside that frame.
Ozzy doing a reality-show, Judas Priest performing with James Durbin on American Idol, AC/DC selling their music to WALMART?!?! Where does it end, how much can metalheads accept?
We all know that it’s tough to be a musician these days. Nobody buys records anymore. Oh come on – honestly. When was the last time YOU actually BOUGHT a record? Possibly a collector’s item, but mostly, we all download or send mp3’s back and forth via e-mails or chats…. Artists can’t live on pure love and air only. :-) They need to survive.
I guess that’s why we’re seeing more of this now. KISS has always been a money machine. Funny enough, most of us have been perfectly okay with assisting them with that, by buying all kinds of “fun stuff” with the KISS-logo on it. But we did NOT like it when they did “I Was Made For Loving You“, because THAT was a HIT that NON-METALHEADS bought and liked. God forbid! Sellouts!
I guess that’s also why “real” rockers dislike bands like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard or Europe – because those bands actually appealed to everything and anything from kids to teenage girlies to actual music lovers. The reason why people think that Motörhead is a REAL metal band, is because generally, non-metalheads don’t like them.
You won’t see Lemmy in a reality show, he wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything like that. I guess out of most musicians today, he would be the ONLY musician I would say has true integrity that is solid as a rock. He is cool that way, I admire his attitude. It’s brave. I mean, alright, he let “Ace Of Spades” be used for a beer commercial, but that is somehow still rock’n’roll and very Lemmy. Its not WalMart!
Most bands nowadays are acting like whores. They would do anything for money.
One of the worst ways of moneymaking, is the “VIP packages” that are so big in America. Where they CHARGE fans to meet their idols. That is one of those things that I just have a hard time accepting.
What the fuck – I bought the records and the merch, I “liked” them on Facebook and added them on MySpace and Twitter, I’m wearing their freaking t-shirts and I’ve been crushed in the front row at their shows. And they can’t meet their fans for FREE? What’s wrong with that picture?
I realize that you can’t meet everybody, but usually, there are only a few people hanging around before and after the shows. Would it hurt inviting them in to listen to the sound check or have a beer on the bus? Providing they seem fairly normal of course…. I would never, EVER degrade myself to the point where I had to PAY a band to say hello to me, like some beggar. Fuck that.
I remember a girl from New Zealand who was a HUGE Billy Idol-fan that we met in Copenhagen years ago. She was traveling all around the world to see him. God knows how much she spent on tickets, hotels and all that. I should know – I did the same this year going everywhere to see guitar-hero Gus G play with Ozzy and Firewind. It’s not exactly cheap. But you do it for the love of rock’n’roll.
She had bought the most expensive “VIP-package” in several cities, Copenhagen being one of those cities,
I couldn’t believe it when she said how much she had paid, but I forget now the exact amount… Well – they let her in – ten minutes later she was out in the cold again! They “let” her take a photo with Billy and she wasn’t even allowed to use her OWN camera, she got an autograph and a poster and some other junk and after ten minutes it was BYE BYE BABY BYE BYE………..
I’ll never forget that. A die-hard fan like that should be invited in for FREE, get the red carpet for supporting Billy in every possible way. Not be treated like crap – because that was really shitty. I don’t blame Billy for that, he was super cool after the show.
“His people” told fans that Billy would not sign anything because he would risk getting a cold if he stayed outdoors. Billy didn’t give a fuck, he talked to everybody and signed anything people put in front of him.
The VIP-shit is some management’s idea – I would assume…..
But fans generally don’t complain about the “VIP”-bullshit. Cause it’s still “in the family”…
So I guess it’s cool to make money as long as you make sure it’s for the right people. Making money is okay when you’re a rocker, you just need to make sure you do it the right way. Cause integrity for metal-fans is about staying true to yourself, keeping it METAL.
Many people have taken on the heavy metal lifestyle because it’s always been an alternative to whatever is normal and mainstream. It’s a form of escapism, a full-time escapism where you just refuse to be a part of whatever society tries to sell as normal.
So I guess AC/DC stepped WAY out of line in that respect. But as integrity isn’t a big deal in today’s world in general. I guess they are laughing all the way to the bank (and Walmart…)….
In the rearview mirror – GENE SIMMONS
[Short clip from “that” interview….]
I was drifting away into dreamland when the phone rang, killing the silence. I took a quick look at the digital alarm-clock and the green digits showed that it was almost 2 in the morning.
I closed my eyes and decided to ignore the ringing.
There was a quick squeaking sound coming from the other bedroom, followed by steps that disappeared into the kitchen. The ringing stopped. I heard my mother’s voice saying something I couldn’t hear and then footsteps that got closer…. She knocked on my door, and I heard her say with a tired voice, somewhere from the darkness of my room:
“It’s for you. It’s Gene Simmons…”.
Dammit. I was angry. Who did he think he was? I got up, walked with determined steps to the kitchen where the handset was lying next to the phone. I grabbed it and said: “Yes?”
“Hello, Daniela, this is Gene Simmons…”, said the very professional voice at the other end. I wasn’t in the mood for diplomacy, so I just blurted it out:
“You were supposed to call three hours ago, I didn’t expect this call. You’ll have to wait a few minutes, I need to get my taperecorder…”
I didn’t wait for an answer. I just put the handset back where I found it and went back to my room to get my stuff. I didn’t even care if he would still be there when I came back. But he was and I finally got my interview. At frikkin’ two am in the morning, when the whole house was sleeping.
A Kiss-loving friend of mine almost dropped down dead when I told her what had happened. “You can’t be serious! You let Gene Simmons wait on the phone?! Are you NUTS?”
It didn’t even occur to me at the time that it was rude or that you shouldn’t handle a rockstar that way. As usual, I was driven by emotions and I was just pissed off that night. It was the third attempt for an interview with Gene.
Kiss had just released “Hot In The Shade” and Brita Jungberg from the record company PolyGram had offered me an interview with Gene. She said he would call me on a Tuesday at 8 pm Swedish time. I was well prepared and that evening I waited by the phone, excited to get a good interview with one of the greatest names in hard rock.
I waited. And waited…. And waited. He never called. No big deal, anything can happen, I was sure there was a good reason why didn’t. I called Brita the next day and told her that Gene hadn’t called, so she set up a new time for me.
Once again, I sat there in the kitchen, trying to keep the parakeets quiet, bored to death but I couldn’t imagine that he wouldn’t call again. But the phone was as dead that evening as it had been the first time.
I was getting pretty annoyed, cause my time is just as valuable as anybody else’s. I thought it showed a lack of respect to act that way. I didn’t feel like doing that darn interview cause I had lost the enthusiasm for it, but I decided to call Brita one last time and see what the hell was going on. She wasn’t sure but she thought it had something to do with bad weather and problems with the phone lines or something. Oh well. Whatever.
That evening, I sat there staring at the phone for the third time, and it didn’t ring. I was absolutely furious when I went to bed that night. I cursed Gene Simmons and fuckin’ goddamn shitty Kiss, mumbling all kinds of things, with black smoke coming out of my ears. That’s how I fell asleep that night. Until my mother woke me up after having answered the phone at 2 am. And there he was – mister “fuckin’ goddamn shitty” Simmons.
Most people don’t get waked by the Demon himself in the middle of the night on a Wednesday..
But the interview turned out well. And it made a memory – at least until the next time I met him and he asked me (and a bunch of other blondes I’m sure) if I wanted to be the mother of his unborn child.
I looked at him as if he was from another planet. Well, at least he’s got a sense of humor! :D