Before I get on to some more meatier topics that are of interest to me, I thought I’d try and flesh out a little of my musical background, giving you a bit more of a personal insight into the Man Of Much Metal…
I first got into music through my Dad, who loved the usual suspects of the 70s and 80s; Dire Straits, Queen, ELO, you get the idea. These bands laid the foundations for my love of guitar-based music and, despite a few dabbles in the more embarrassing end of the music spectrum (‘Tetris’ anyone??), I have never looked back.
As I reached my early teens, my best friend since the year dot (also called Matt!) started collecting cassettes and introduced me to the likes of Def Leppard, Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses. These bands remain very special to me and I listen to them on a frequent basis, returning to Joe Elliot and co far too regularly to be healthy!
A part-time job enabled me to save for my first stereo and, after 6 months of Saturdays cleaning fish tanks and rabbit cages at a local family-run pet shop, I went out with my Grandfather and purchased the brashest and loudest stereo that I could afford. A three-disc multichanger Aiwa that constantly malfunctioned was the poor choice, but nevertheless, when it worked, it sounded great.
I was too young for the original heyday of vinyl and so it was CDs that became my obsession. I would earn about £15 a week from my Saturday job and it would all go on music. In the mid 90’s there was very little in the way of Internet access, so I would spend evenings after school trawling around the local record stores in Ipswich. At that time, we had the normal Virgin, HMV and Andy’s Records as well as the awesome Rex Records. Now, only HMV remains. No, that’s not entirely true – a great little second-hand record store, Out Of Time Records, has stayed open and in many ways, has thrived in the back streets of the town centre. Do you remember the feeling of flicking through rack after rack of CDs searching for that rare gem nestled within the dross? Well, this is where I can still experience this excitement from time to time. Even with the Internet offering us everything we could ever want, nothing beats the feeling of uncovering that CD on the shelf and holding it in your hands. I’m getting goosebumps as I write this, recounting so many great moments, like the discovery of the debut album by Dearly Beheaded in the first digi-book packaging that I had seen.
Def Leppard and Skid Row soon led to ‘black album’ Metallica and ‘Youthanasia’ Megadeth. These records are often villified by ‘true’ metalheads but I cannot dislike them as they were my gateway into a whole new world of discovery. Earlier Metallica and Megadeth were duly devoured and I explored the Bay Area thrash scene with real eagerness. Slayer, Anthrax and Exodus all featured heavily. Eventually, this led me to discover Machine Head and from there, Fear Factory. I loved the aggression and the power, but I also needed melody or groove. It was for this reason that death metal was always difficult to fully appreciate at that time.
Oh, and then I found Iron Maiden. It was love at first listen and, despite not embracing the likes of Judas Priest in such a vehement way, I took to NWOBHM with real gusto. ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ will forever remain as a top 5 song of all time.
Before going to University, I found myself exploring more avenues. Gothic metal was a big favourite and I utterly adored bands like Paradise Lost, Type O Negative and The Blood Divine. At Sixth Form, during my A-Levels, I was perhaps one of only three or four metal fans and I embraced this. As uniforms were a thing of the past, I was able to dress how I wanted and I began to let my hair grow. Looking back now, I must have been a real sight; black jeans, black ‘cowboy’ boots from Camden (before the days of New Rocks), metal t-shirt and a leather biker jacket that I decided to customise. I borrowed my brother’s Warhammer paints and drew the Megadeth logo on the back, accompanied by a large ‘Vic Rattlehead’ picture. I loved that jacket and I still have it somewhere at the back of a wardrobe!
And then I went to University where a whole new chapter began…