Life Lessons from Grunge Metal Music
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 15:10
Yes, this article is about grunge metal, but it is more universal than that. I realize it might seem ridiculous that I could derive life lessons from music that is typically associated with immorality. Beyond the music though, it is about raw, uninhibited passion, it is about outsiders finding their place in the sun. It is about the vitality that finding such passion brings to life.
You might hate heavy metal and all of the negative connotations that come with it: a raging migraine from all of the screaming, wailing guitars, high wattage and sound-crushing amplifiers. Even worse, metal has been associated with ritualistic animal sacrifice, drugs and bad pleather. Some of those things are true, indeed. Don’t worry, I’m not going to slay any small animals or start wearing all black.
I will start at the beginning of my music evolution. I admit I stopped listening to bands that had choreographed routines to match their songs after elementary school. I dabbled in listening to heavier mainstream music such as the Deftones and Rage Against the Machine in junior high. I was too much of a weird band and newspaper geek to explore anything really edgy until I left home.
The proverbial seas parted and I discovered Slayer, and thus grittier, heavier, more underground bands such as The Melvins and Karp. The music hit me like shattered glass right through my jugular. The sound itself is so angry, raw, so powerful. Listening to it feels cathartic. All of my anger, pain and resentments bleed away with each thrashing guitar and thumping bass line.
This has gotten me in trouble with my neighbors and my eardrums. I have ticked off a few neighbors, like the lady in the apartment beneath me who used to take her broom to the ceiling to tell me to turn it down. Whoops.
Beyond simply enjoying the music, it might not seem like a 25-year-old girl could really identify with the late eighties-early nineties (pre-Nirvana) grunge metal bands. I do not look like a scene kid. I am blond, I took out my facial piercing years ago, and I have a solitary tattoo on my upper arm. But the rad (to use the lingo from the time) thing is that early nineties grunge metal bands was not about projecting a certain image unlike current “hardcore” bands that seem more focused on an image.
What resonates with me about the early nineties grunge-metal bands is their ability to be create their own world outside the mainstream and do what they love. In the documentary about the band Karp, the members discuss being total outsiders and nerds in high school.
Karp was bullied and compared high school was a sort of dystopian prison. They formed a band to “break out of their prison.” They did not care what other people thought of them, they just went for it.
Breaking out of the high school clique-ridden prison did not come quickly or easily, but they were determined. Karp said they sucked at their instruments at first. They were persistent in practicing together and improving their playing. It’s very inspiring for a band you admire or any sort of artist to admit that they did not come out of the womb talented and skillful. Rather, it takes practice, diligence, patience and loving what you do.
After getting the loudest equipment possible and years of playing together, Karp gained a devoted following in Olympia and the Pacific Northwest. They just wanted to play music, have fun with friends and live simply. Karp members simply did not see themselves melding their futures into some sort of mundane nine to five existence, nor did they want to become the next Nirvana.
My romantic notions might cloud some of the realities of the lifestyle bands or people with creative jobs lead. Yet, there is something incredibly exhilarating to think about making a simple, modest living following your passion. Sure, a nine-to-five existence is reality for most people, can be satisfying, and it pays the bills. For many people, the rat race is mind numbing and soul stripping. Life’s too short for that.
In fact, life’s just too short for listening to music quietly. Turn the volume up louder. Metal taught me that. It also taught me that anger and disillusionment are part of life. You can suppress it or use it as fuel. Whether or not you like metal, when you find something you love and it resonates from deep within you, embrace it.