Editorials

THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM’S JUSTIN FOLEY ON HOW HE GOT INTO METAL

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The Austerity Program play this Sunday January 31, in Brooklyn at Public Assembly (70 N 6th St) with White Suns, Immanent Voiceless, Daniel Malinsky. You should go, goddammit!!!

I did not get into metal until relatively late in life. My teenage years were spent buying everything that came out on Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile. I’d see long-haired wasteoids hanging out in suburban playgrounds and think “Look at those chumps who’ve got it so bad for Reign in Blood while I know that Atomizer is really where it’s at. (Actually, I still pretty much feel this way.) At that point, MetalSucks was not a website, it was a personal belief.

Still, I was not unaware of what the metal kids were up to, even around fourth grade. A few of them that I invited to my birthday that year party chipped in and bought “Shout at the Devil;” since I only had about twelve records at that point, I figured that I’d listen to the record once a day because what else are you going to do? And it kind of freaked my parents out, and that was cool. And it had a pentagram on the cover which I spent a lot of time trying not to look at because I was worried something might happen to me.

I’d go over to Stan Vinson’s* house after school a lot. He had like four older brothers – one of them lived in the basement (mid-20s) and was straight out of Napoleon Dynamite: “You kids suck at nunchucks.” “Don’t touch my Maxell poster, I got it from a friend who works at Sam Goody.” “All the music you listen to sucks** – I’ve got a copy of ‘In the Mood’ by Robert Plant on reel to reel and it kicks ass.” It was pretty obvious that he was the coolest person I’d ever laid eyes on. He had a fiberglass Stingray that he never seemed to drive anywhere – actually there’s a lot of weird stuff about him that seems crazy now but at the time I just accepted as the way things were.

Stan and his older brother Jon were metalheads – Jon was especially bad-ass, because he had a guitar that we all acknowledged was an exact replica of the red guitar Eddie Van Halen played in the “Jump” video – well, except for the fact that it was a tan acoustic guitar his mom passed on to him, having grown tired of practicing her You Can Play Peter, Paul and Mary songbook. That and the stripes on it were not white, but instead poorly applied 3M electrical tape swiped from the basement tool box. Still, it was totally badass and we were firmly instructed not to touch that either. Sometimes I’d wander into Jon’s room and stare at his Powerslave poster for a while until he (or Stan) discovered me and told me to “get the fuck out of my room, you little homo.”

Stan spent less time with me as we went to Junior High and more with Bernard Ramos. Bernard was absolutely the most wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid in the whole school, and so of course he was into Whitesnake. Rumor was that he and his older brother had been taken away from his parents (Drugs? Crime? Possible occult involvement? The playground could only speculate) and placed with their grandparents. These kind souls had lots of money and no earthy idea how to raise two stonebag grandkids, so it looked like they didn’t even try. That Bernard ever even made it to school (and, to be fair, many days he did not) was a small miracle.

I remember running into Bernard one day during lunch – he looked like a diminutive, malnourished Andy Warhol without the glasses and with a biker jacket that said “Motarhead” [sic] on the back, painted with Liquid Paper. I was chasing a playground ball that rolled over by him. “Hey Bernard,” I said, breathing hard from running and playing and being a fifth grader during recess. “You wanna come play kickball with us?” He raised his deeply bloodshot eyes to mine. “Huh? Oh, no thanks man, that’s cool. Shit, I need some coffee…” Ten years old – I was terrified. One year later he introduced the entire school to the word “queef,” and even the eighth graders were in awe.

Funny though it may seem, not listening to metal – or at least not listening to whatever genre of music you’d call Poison – was considered suspicious at that school. But there was enough overt dumbness paraded around in the “Home Sweet Home” video that I was not interested in signing up for the Twisted Sister/Quiet Riot medley at the talent show (actually happened). As time went on I cared less about dudes wearing Aqua Net and more about figuring out what the hell was going on with the record cover for the third Peter Gabriel record. Stan, brother Jon, Bernard and the rest of the Megadeth fan club held a quickly fading interest for me; by twelve I had no problem writing metal off as the bastion of dumb losers.

Of course, all this changed about a decade later when I bought Bolt Thrower’s IVth Crusade as a joke and then it didn’t leave my turntable for weeks. Less than half a year later I was convincing my friend Thad that we had to be in a death metal band, and we were dead serious. Now I tell people I’m in a metal band (we’re actually just sorta a metal band), and I watch their face. I’m not going to say I was wrong all those years, but there were more than a few amazing concerts I missed because I was too busy buying a Hugo Largo record or trying to make out with a girl in an REM t-shirt.

So let’s hear from you. Who roped you into this music scene? What older cousin took you to see Anthrax when you were into Milli Vanilli and blew your nine year old mind? How many Lita Ford CD covers did you have stashed under your mattress? For a genre that’s often associated with substance abuse, youth, gender-ambiguity and a parading ignorance, I’m sure there are some wonderful tales you all could share. Post anonymously and name names – this’ll be fun.

Oh, and I told Vince and Axl that I’d do five posts for them and see how it went. This is the last one for now. I’ve got something further I’m thinking up but it’ll take a few months to put together. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s read and commented on this or any other things I’ve written. I’ve been having fun.

-JF

* All names have been substituted with “Sender” names in my Junk mail inbox. And I’m remembering stuff that happened a long time ago, so if you were in grade school with me and I got one of the facts wrong, give me a break. You and I both know whether or not you had a Trixter t-shirt, so be cool.
** He said things ‘suck’ all the time.

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