Obsessing over pop music and insecurity in metal

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Insecurity and heavy metal should be as far away from each other as possible as they are from two vastly different worlds. One is of the brave and adventurous mind, and the other frightened and self-pitying. The cognitive dissonance is undeniable.

Still, a large number of “metalheads” choose to (beyond my understanding) make it their mission to “wage war on pop music.” This hits a whole new level of confusion for me, because there is nothing remotely metal about the likes of Taylor Swift or One Direction, but these people continue to insist that there must be. Why else would they compare them?

Modern pop musicians have never tried to infiltrate metal culture. I’ve never seen a tween pop icon wearing an Imprecation shirt, metal band patches, or spiked wristbands. And that’s because metal is separate, dangerous in terms of intensity both in music and lyrical themes, and not meant for mainstream consumption. Pop music and heavy metal are two completely different things that contrast in both ideology and musical form. So why are people who claim to be metalheads so frequently talking about pop music like it’s metal’s kryptonite?

Maybe because they’re insecure about themselves, and engage in this behavior because it makes them seem edgy or tough. They aren’t as into metal as they are into the image that metal provides for them. They want to be seen as the rebel, the enemy of the norm, unique, but with mostly nothing to back that persona up other than a few YouTube comments on Justin Bieber videos. It’s an easily obtained identity, but entirely deceptive.

There is another and scarier possibility as well. A scapegoat is a relatively innocent creature into which people symbolically project their sins so that they do not need to see those sins in themselves. As metal gets more pop, metalheads feel more pressure to point to One Direction and say, “See, that’s pop, not this candy black metal or lite-jazz tech-deth that I consume.” In this case, it’s a status contest for what economists call a “positional good,” or a product purchased to make the purchaser seem more successful and sociable.

If people who participate in this nonsense happen to be reading, know this: that behavior is doing nothing to benefit heavy metal or its future. The only thing it’s doing is making the public incorrectly view heavy metal culture as the whine of insecure teenage brats. It also sets the implication that metal needs the approval or acceptance of the mainstream crowd (which only wants to assimilate it). The future of heavy metal will do just fine without Hollywood’s hand to hold, I assure you.

The sure mark of a poser is one who talks about what he hates more than what he likes. You want to contribute? Support good bands, leave pop music be, and polish the throne. If you’re unable to do that, then it’s about time that you leave the hall.

Interview with Jeff Tandy of Birth A.D.

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I’m interviewing Jeff Tandy, vanguard of the hateful and cynical Texas thrash band Birth A.D. He also played bass in the black metal band Averse Sefira under the pseudonym Wrath Sathariel Diabolus.

How were you introduced to heavy metal, and how have your tastes evolved over the years?

Unoffficially it was by seeing Alice Cooper on the Muppet Show when I was three years old, and my mother very graciously bought me the single. Officially it was exposure to traditional American heavy metal through secondary contact (Dio, Quiet Riot, whatever else was going on) then discovering thrash with a few like-minded friends. I had the proper evolution that all fans should experience: heavy metal, speed/thrash, then death/black. At that point you’ll be fully literate, fully integrated, and you’ll have avoided all the stupid stuff.

How was Birth A.D. formed?

We formed out of a need for something to do while we watched our guitarist let Averse Sefira languish and die. I had songs in the vault from my formative days (back when I had a very remedial thrash band called Afterbirth) and I had always wanted to record them just to have for posterity. Little did we know it would actually be something with promise.

And how did you meet the drummer and guitarist?

Mark and Brian had a band called Death of Millions, and I’d known them for years. Mark joined me in Averse Sefira in 2001, and that was basically that. I invited Brian in to try guitar because I knew he was a solid player, and it came together perfectly.

When you write songs, what comes first? The riffs? Lyrics? Rhythms?

The lyrics are invariably first. They actually shape most of the riffs, and that’s always how I write. In this band, the words have to be just right or the riff is worthless.

In an old Averse Sefira interview, you identified yourself as a hessian. What does being a hessian mean to you?

To be a hessian means you make metal part of your life in an integrated fashion. It’s not a hobby, it’s not a weekend diversion, and it’s not something you hide. It is akin to a faith, except without all the retarded masochistic tenets of worship.

What album are you looking forward to most in 2014?

I think the new Triptykon will be good. My friends in Death Wolf have a new one coming, so I’m interested in that as well. I don’t know, these days the time between announcing an album and actually releasing it is so narrow it’s hard to build a lot of anticipation. The Demilich compilation finally came out so I’m all taken care of for now.

What’s next for Birth A.D.?

We are finally looking into live dates elsewhere. I’m working on a new album, but I want to take some time to make it right. I feel like our first one will be hard to top, but I intend to try my damnedest! Thanks for the interview.

Final words?

Hail Hanneman. Cause problems! In that order.