BLOGRONAUT: INTRONAUT’S SACHA DUNABLE ON HOW BANDS SHOULD HANDLE HECKLERS
I’m not generally one to say negative things about other bands and the choices they make (publicly, at least), but I feel that this really deserves some attention. I can only hope that young metal musicians who read this site can learn from someone else’s mistakes and hopefully one day make the metal world a little less embarrassing to be a part of.
A harsh reality of being in a band, or making music, is that some people won’t like it. ESPECIALLY in the heavy metal world, where people are almost unreasonably opinionated. What other type of music has the kind of audience who heckle a band they don’t like at a show, or argue for days in the comments section of an internet blog about why a certain band sucks? Once you put your music out there to be heard, you are, without a doubt, going to get some negative feedback. The way you handle it, however, is going to determine what kind of longevity your band will ultimately have.
I’m not a fighter at all, so I can’t really speak from experience on when violence is justified, but I know that a relatively meaningless heckling incident is not it. If you consider yourself a professional, you should act like one and think about how your actions affect the outside world’s perception of you and your band. I can think of one particular show as a perfect example of how to and how not to handle yourself in a situation like this.
Way back in 1998, I was seventeen years old. My friends and I drove down to San Diego to see Slayer, who, had you asked us then, were the most important thing to ever happen to music. It was our first time seeing them, and our first time experiencing what happens when you get a thousand Slayer fans in one place. We stood in line in front of the venue drinking beers and getting stoned with burly ass dudes twice our age, while every minute or so, someone would randomly yell out a Slayer song title, which was met by loud, passionate cheers from everyone else in line. It was seriously the most awesome, fucked up sense of camaraderie I have ever felt.
Anyway, there were two opening bands that night. Some unknown nu-metal dance rock band called Static-X and a fairly well known (at the time) hardcore band called Downset. The music of both would be overpowered by a continuous drone of “BOOOO!” from all the Slayer fans in attendance.
Here’s where my point is proven. Static-X, as shitty as they were and would always be after that, let the hate rain down on them and kept their heads down while they finished their set. During Downset’s time on-stage, I heard one of the funniest things I have ever heard at a show. The singer, Rey Oropeza, all choked up and defensive, tried to reason with the rabid Slayer fans by crying “Oh yeah? Well you guys all just paid twenty bucks to stand there and boo bands all night!” No dude, we paid twenty bucks to see Slayer, now get the fuck off the stage.
I never heard from Downset after that, and Static-X went on to be just as big as Slayer. Could what I experienced that night have anything to do with that? Absolutely. Static-X knew how to act like a professional band, and eventually they played enough shows to non-Slayer fans to sell a ton of records. Downset, on the other hand, seemed like the kind of band who would snap after ten nights in a row of getting heckled and beat-up some kid for playing Uno during their set.
There is nothing more simultaneously hilarious and pathetic to me than meathead jock metal bands who are all about violence. Seriously, what are you trying to prove? If you’re not Doc Coyle getting hit with a full beer in the middle of a guitar solo, then you have no justification for getting violent with someone in the audience who expresses their opinion of your band. Seriously, grow up. And yes, I’m putting this all on the bands, because it’s not the audience’s responsibility to be the mature ones. I mean seriously, this is a subculture of otherwise respectable people who, when put together in a crowded room, will scream like wild animals, willfully rub up against each other’s sweaty bodies, bang their heads in unison like robots, and tit-flash until the cows come home.
There are so many different ways to handle a situation like this and have positive results. I mean, if some kids busted out a card game while my band was playing, I would think that was hilarious and probably end up joking around with them. Believe me, Intronaut has been met with its share of indifference. In our early days playing out of town shows, half the time kids would leave the room after we’d played a couple of songs and they realized that we weren’t going to be a straight-up mosh pit soundtrack. Did we yell “Where are all you faggots going?” at them? No, we finished our set for the three people who were interested and went on with our lives. I have seen bands yell that very phrase. I can’t remember any specific ones though because, um, oh yeah, no one ever heard from them again.
Like I said, I hope some of you up and coming bands out there read this and understand what I’m saying. Keep in mind this applies to regular old life, too. If you’re driving and someone cuts you off, do you chase them down and try to kick their ass? If so, you’re wasting too much energy on something that is really irrelevant to living a fulfilling life. As for you hecklers, keep it coming. Consider yourselves heavy metal’s quality control.
Listen to some awesome metal that’s not a straight-up mosh pit soundtrack by visiting Intronaut on MySpace.