Why Every Metalhead Should Be Concerned

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by T. Ray Verteramo
October 17, 2016

The American presidential election is a circus the whole world watches every four years. However, this year, the competition is not merely between a douche and a turd sandwich (thank you, South Park!), but a controversial, possible historical choice and a genuine threat.

Regardless of what your views may be, regardless of where you stand for civil equality or whether you believe Trump’s “locker room talk” is just that or sex-predatorial behavior, it doesn’t matter. Whether or not you love or hate Donald Trump, if you are a Metalhead, it would be wise to worry about him for one issue and one issue only:

Censorship.

CNN posted an opinion piece, “Trump’s Beef With SNL is No Laughing Matter”  crafted by Dean Obeidallah, a sometimes stand-up comic and the co-director of the documentary, The Muslims Are Coming! detailing this very concern, using Trump’s response to Saturday Night Live’s spoof on the second debate. He states:

“All kidding aside, Trump’s tweet that ‘SNL’ needs to be canceled because the show did a ‘hit job’ on him should concern every American. We have a rich tradition of comedy shows skewering our politicians. I can’t recall any President or presidential nominee responding to a TV show mocking him or her by saying it’s time to take that show off the airwaves.

But, then drives the point home:

Although I have performed stand-up in the Middle East, where leaders have shared a similar sentiment. In fact, Egypt’s Jon Stewart, Bassem Youssef, was arrested for mocking the then leader of Egypt and his TV show was ultimately canceled. But is that really a model we want to emulate in the United States?”

There is not one single leader of the free world, or un-free world, in any minute of history that has ever escaped criticism or mockery – that’s the price of power. What do you think the first thing a dictator calls for in order to ensure their absolute reign? They call to shut the people up to make them afraid to speak against them.

Once human expression is controlled, everything is controlled; what we learn, what we see, what we hear, how we live, who to love, George Orwell’s 1984. It starts with censorship.

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“Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!”

Consider the difference between Trump’s stomping foot to call for the removal of a piece of theater from our culture and Peron’s control over the press, or Hitler’s demand for books to be burned, or the PMRC’s campaign to treat Heavy Metal the same as porn by limiting the accessible age and venue.

Or did you forget the latter…? It was only 30 years ago. Newsweek — Parental Advisory Forever: An Oral History of the PMRC’s War on Dirty Lyrics

The defunct Parent’s Music Resource Center did not like what Metal had to say. They hated what it stood for and detested Metal’s fearlessness and prowess. They did not like its attitude of self-empowerment, basking on the dark side, and songs of death, blood, fear, desecration, rebellion, violence, sex, and conquest. They did not like what threatened their ideals and they tried to shut us up.

rs-209391-pmrc_01_1985_003mark_weissxThe PMRC wanted to put our heroes in the back room behind beaded curtains along with fist-banging college girls and strange hitchhikers with 13-inch penises picking up more than rides. The disturbing thing was that they nearly succeeded.

What saved us was the powerful testimony of Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver reminding the committee about our beloved First Amendment and calling out their fear and ignorance of our art. What we got were warning labels that still do us more good than harm.

But, the shield of the First Amendment may or may not be strong enough for a Commander-in-Chief who would be determined to chip away at its armor the second his fragile ego takes a hit.

hqdefault-1Censorship has a domino effect. Do we want to waste our government’s time and resources questioning a human right when it should concentrate on other matters like foreign relations, homeland security, infrastructure, the environment, and the economy? Because that is what can potentially happen.

Vote for who you want. This is neither an endorsement or a slam. But, before you pull those levers and check those boxes, ask yourself how much your music means to you and if you think it’s tough enough to survive a world leader with paper skin.

Metal: “Best Job In the World”…For Some.

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“The best job in the world” when you’re not working your other job.

If anyone has the right to speak, it’s Iron Maiden’s daddy.

“Personally I’m enjoying it more than ever, I’d say,” Steve Harris said in a recent feature by Stef Lach for Metal Hammer  magazine. “We all are…we’ll definitely make more albums and we’re having a great time.

This is still the best job in the world.”

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Absolutely it’s the “best job” in the world…especially once you’ve conquered the world.

And indeed it would be for a multi-millionaire who worked his way from street sweeper to legend, who had the right chops with the right talent, managed by the right staff with the right resources at the right time. No doubt he remembers what it was like to sleep in the back of a station wagon with his bandmate’s foot up his nose before he and his dominion’s minions started travelling the world, twice over, first class.

But, he is in the minority. Not just because he is among the crème de la crème of the entire industry, but because he has the luxury to be able to do his one and only job and make a living from his one and only job.

Iron Maiden, as well as the other father and mothers of Metal, started in a time when an artist’s presence was exclusive and you couldn’t buy just one song without a b-side or an entire album.

Record labels could afford to front a band for studio time and publicity. It was easier to make that money back, once the band was invested in. Getting signed was essential.

Video was the format of the ’80’s that changed the game forever.

However, once MTV came along, (when the “M” still stood for “Music”), the video destroyed the radio star. Suddenly, the novelty of being in the same room with your musical heroes was satiated with a moving picture in the comfort of your own home, raising the prices on concert tickets and personal appearances.

Now that the digital age has arrived, the game is changed again in ways which overfeeds the audience and starves the artist. It may be easier to be discovered, but it’s harder to remain relevant.

Nearly every musician in Metal today has a day job or even two. It has even become much more commonplace for a musician to be a member of more than one band, as well, whereas twenty years ago, it would have been considered rude or ridiculous. They have very little choice because 20 or 50 little cents of royalty, if that, cannot cover the hundreds of big dollars that it costs to write and record a single song.

Touring, if not budgeted correctly, can easily put a band in the hole as easily it could pull it out.

There was also a special role for management and admin during Metal and Maiden’s prime time. The “Rod Smallwoods” are an endangered species and the artist is now usually forced to double as their own gatekeepers.

The one thing we can learn from the Rap and Hip-Hop culture is the power of the posse. Metal bands don’t move in packs.

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Rappers, like any other successful artist, get the gold because they have a whole team that helps them earn it so they can focus on their art. Metal bands are usually on their own.

If the Rap artist can show their flow, they attract and draw people who support, promote, and pump them up. Those people aren’t just fluff; they know that if the artist is elevated, so will they. It is like a presidential campaign every day, with the clubs treating the fans and the artists as royalty. They understand that without either, they have nothing.

But, in Metal, we don’t. If a brand new Metal band can manage to get a gig — providing that the venue doesn’t prefer the safety of a tribute band and they can sell their own tickets — they’ll get some pats on the back and more demands. With that, they will have to work that much harder and dish out more money to make sure that their work is promoted, the music is heard, the fans get what they want, and the downloads are paid for.

It has officially come to the point where to accuse a Metal musician for doing it for the money is laughable.

Even the “selling out” doesn’t sell enough. Unless you were fortunate to be a golden child of the golden age to strike gold before downloads, “the best job in the world” is one of the hardest.

The only reason why anyone would be crazy enough to do it today is because it is in their bloodstream to do so. No other genre has that power — and that is what really proves Harry right.

T. Ray Verteramo
September 14, 2016

 

 

Iron Maiden: The Tour of Souls

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IRON MAIDEN – “The Book of Souls” World Tour 2016
Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Event Center, February 28

On February 24th, the Jedi masters of Metal kicked off a world tour to shame all others.

Iron Maiden’s latest release not only surpassed fan expectations, but sales as well, performing “50 percent better than any other previous release,” according to Bruce Dickinson. That is 50 percent better than their staple classic, The Number of the Beast, which features their first footprint on the Billboard charts, “Run to the Hills.” Fifty percent better than “Piece of Mind,” which features not one, but two MTV video darlings, “Flight of Icarus” and “The Trooper.”

Deep into their 50’s, over thirty years later, these six modest and magnificent men have raised the stratospheric bar that they, themselves, have set. That is a tremendous feat and image to wrap one’s head around.

Blood brothers A 22816No band in the history of music since the Beatles and the Rolling Stones has had more influence on generations of music, community, or economy than these men. As musicians, each of them are the creme-de-la-crème of their craft; Nicko’s consummate attention to detail, Murray’s elegance, Smith’s undefeatable craftsmanship on song and string, Janick’s presence, Bruce’s iconic vocals and showmanship, and the unarguably attested greatest bass player in the world, Steve Harris. Together, along with a formidable management and artistic team, and a beloved larger-than-life mascot, have been able to create a universal empire that continues to transcend color, race, religion, gender, age, or time.

Iron Maiden is a big deal.

A Maiden show is not just a concert, it is a privilege. It is an event. It is a pilgrimage to the Metal Mecca. And “The Book of Souls” Mayan theme is a perfect fit for this experience; beautiful, brutal, mysterious, and tribal.

This year, their set consists of glorious lighting rigs of stars, suns, and beams; stones and swamp vines; and the grandest Eddie entrance to date. The use of the Minotaur in lieu of the traditional Baphomet-esque imagery for the “Beast” is ultra-classy, even for Maiden standards. Though the set list beholds a few surprises, such as the inclusion of “Children of the Damned” and the exclusion of “Aces High” and “Run to the Hills,” the choices they dished from a 130 plus song buffet were no less delicious and fulfilling.

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Bigger plane, bigger sets, bigger lights, bigger sounds, and bigger tour would have much less impact or meaning in the hands of any other band. Maiden is the only entity in existence that can pull this off and keep their impeccable integrity as artists and professionals. They keep it real and they keep it strong making “The Book of Souls” tour quite possibly – and never to be said lightly — the greatest show on Earth.

CNN Feature

index“Before Marilyn Manson, there was everyone else. Rather than try to understand or even pay any kind of real attention to what was happening, members of the Moral Majority determined that the heavy metal influence was a satanic influence. Ozzy Osbourne’s infamous, “Suicide Solution” presented a prime example of the present hyper-defensive climate, as every Metalhead in the world understood that the song was written about the late Bon Scott, former lead vocalist of AC/DC. But, rather than doing any respectful research, the Moral Majority and other intimidated self-appointed and elected elders of the communal council jumped to the conclusion that the song was giving instruction on how to take one’s life. At the same token, Iron Maiden’s legendary “Number of the Beast” is a classic composition about a dream, but the voting folks just took bits and pieces of the tune, came to their own conclusions, and proclaimed them to be advocates of Satan. Fear mongering escalated nearly out of control, bringing Tipper Gore (then wife of former vice president, Al Gore) to the forefront of the anti-conformity battle, with her minions marching behind her, calling themselves the Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC) and they meant business.” – T. Ray

September 2, 2013

On an unusually cool morning in Austin, I saw the ad for citizen reporters to share their personal experience from the ’80’s. Before I even started my coffee I said, “I got this,” and my submission practically wrote itself. Headbangers was one of nine essays vetted and chosen out of 60 entries to be featured. When the article was published, it gained a little attention from some of the bigger Metal Facebook pages. I did some reviews, went on to do some interviews, then…

Being alive is sometimes like swing dancing: You just go where you’re thrown, find your groove, and try to stay on your feet. As long as the music keeps playing, you’re alright.

Living Metal: Headbangers and the Witch Hunters
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1030707

720x405-pmrc_02_1985_013©mark_weissx’80’s Throwback: What Life Looked Like When Crossfire First Aired – Feature Article
http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/06/living/80s-style-politics-crossfire-irpt/

From the Report: “Music defined us. T. Ray Verteramo fell in love with heavy metal, which was under heavy fire at the time by Tipper Gore and those of the self-proclaimed moral majority. It was a topic of discussion on ‘Crossfire’ when Frank Zappa was a guest. Verteramo believed it to be an issue of free speech. The experience shaped her. ‘When you’re judged so readily, so quickly, and so harshly for so long, it’s hard not to become more empathetic...”

That Big-Breasted Elephant In The Room

Metalheads: Of Hatred and Healing
Sexism and Homophobia in Heavy Metal

liv“Porn, fashion, make-up, prostitution, skin bars, and sex-trafficking are generally female-centric businesses, raking in billions and billions of dollars for male-centric owners. The music industry, which has been cashing in on estrogen for decades, is no exception. Women are still struggling to earn respect because patriarchy understands that it is very difficult to control what you must respect. Controlling women is a golden goose. Why hand over the eggs?”

T. Ray

April 17, 2015

http://www.maximummetal.com/feature.asp?ID=605

Maximum Metal is a unique site in that it is comprised of writers who love Metal, not Metalheads who write. There is as much passion for the word as there is for the lyric. We respect each others’ work because the work earns the respect. So, when my strong, thoughtful comrade Mr. Greg Watson asked me to collaborate with him on a socio-political commentary he wanted to pen, that took real trust. That meant something. He knew that sexism is a platform that not too many artists are willing to stand on, but needs to be done. Once we got the blessing from the powers-that-be, Greg set the stage and passed the megaphone.

Collaborating writers is nothing like a band — it’s like getting a couple of hermit crabs to share a shell. But, we did it. I was proud to and I’m still amazed that nothing got cracked in the process.

You gotta stay loud in this world, my friends. Silence is lethal. Stay loud. \m/

“Carry on to your Heaven
Carry on to the End
It’s all for those who dare…”