Ronnie James Dio, godfather of Heavy Metal horns
You may have noticed that my excursions about music history are much more objective than my passion for Metal might justify. I like to stick to the facts, extract as many details from my memory as possible and provide you with ample anecdotes. Yet today, I will tell you some things personal, for the simple reason that there would be no blog of mine without my indestructible enthusiasm for Heavy Metal or my inner urge to share it with you. If you don’t care, I won’t blame you. There are too many blogs out there filled to bursting with subjectivity.
As far as my memories go back, I have always felt drawn towards music. One of the first things I was conscious of possessing was a gaudy children’s radio. My sister and I used to dance a lot, like all children inherently do, I suppose. My parents, perhaps unconsiously, encouraged me, because we listened to music virtually everywhere: in the car, while eating or cooking, or while taking a sauna. We all adored Queen, and actually still do. As soon as I was able to comprehend some English, I could not help but memorising all the lyrics I came across, and today I can still sing along with most Queen songs. I also grew up with the German bands Silly and Karat, with Mike Oldfield and classical music. My mother introduced me to the impressionist magic of Claude Débussy, as well as Bettina Wegner’s chansons, Chopin, Ravel, Vivaldi. My father played Neil Diamond songs for us. We discovered the music of Tracy Chapman together, and got into Jazz and Dixie with The Top Dog Brass Band. Annual visits of Dresden’s Dixieland Festival were family trips, and sometimes still are.
I was presented with many different styles of music – but I had to discover Metal all by myself. I had already found out that there was a tendency for harder music in me, always having especially relished the most heavy, resonant, bassy songs of Queen and other Rock bands.
I was thirteen when I saw Rammstein for the first time. MTV played their song “Amerika” and I was amazed by much more than just the video: In this music there was an incredible power, a sense of threat, a seduction of the masses. Industrial Rock had caught me in its fangs. A classmate of mine, whom I happened to hear talking to a friend about “Amerika”, provided me with “Reise, Reise”, the full Rammstein album from 2004. This was the beginning of both my career as a Metalhead and my fruitful music-swapping-relationship with the headbanger who would later become my boyfriend.
I rapidly became obsessed, but I had to carry out this obsession in secret. My parents never strictly forbade hard music, yet I feared discussion, snide comments and incomprehension. I already had some experience: I used to listen to some Punk music which my mother and sister disliked, and which also promoted my mother to question my clothing, my attitudes towards Punk culture and the fact that Punk albums rotated more often in my player than any other records during that time. She feared I might listen to Punk and adhere to uniform dressing in order to please others, because Punk was quite fashionable back then, or in order to be just different. However, I was never much of a rebel, and I certainly never played music just for the sake of annoying or alarming my family.
Controversial and political:
I hardly dared step into the light back then also because of Till Lindemann’s controversial lyrics. Don’t misunderstand me: I love these lyrics! They are forceful, poetic, each one a precious piece of extravagant yet brute grandeur. I listened to “Reise, Reise” so often that I could soon recite every single line by heart. For the first time I was completely crazy for music. And I was lucky, too: My father was introduced to some Rammstein songs by a colleague, and when I finally stepped into the open, he was quite interested. I caught my sister with some of the choir samples on “Reise, Reise”. I caught my mother, God knows how. It is hard to retrace this development after so many years, but by now my entire family enjoys Rammstein.
Aged fifteen, I set ears on Machine Head. The above-mentioned headbanger played some of their songs to me. This is how I came across “Supercharger” (2001). Machine Head fans from the early days complained about the band’s change in style that occurred with this record. To me, however, the album will stay something special and wonderful forever, because it was the first Machine Head record I couldn’t stop listening to. Still I was regularly using headphones. Although my family was already used to hearing pounding bass from my room once in a while, and refrained from trying to intervene, I did not want to disturb them. Up to today, they cannot find their way into Heavy Metal, or understand in the slightest why the hell I have fallen for this music of all genres.
I want to plead for tolerance. Children and adolescents can suffer immensely, if adults – and especially parents – try to twist them into a different shape than they really are. I have encountered much scepticism, I have argued heatedly, and debated whether Metal uniformity affected my personality (it obviously doesn’t, since I don’t even look particularly ‘metal’…). This was one of the more complex experiences of my adolescence. Particularly those in the act of growing up deserve some openness. I don’t aim to advise you to be careless. Parents should indeed take an interest in their offspring’s musical taste, especially when there is some controversy, lyrics considered inadequate, or a dubious scene. These mouths are made for talking, and first impressions are not necessarily true. With respect to all people, we might be well advised to accept that taste comes in a broad range. De gustibus non disputandum est.