I have toured twice now with a certain black metal band, and they are my favorite band to work for. I think I’ll start with my favorite thing I learned while with them:
1. Nothing can both create and destroy as much as hope.
We had a day off in Oregon back in January, and spent it going on a hike which almost killed me because my Floridian body cannot take altitude. After being worried for a few hours that some of the guys did actually die (they ventured off trail), we made a celebratory bonfire upon their return. Well, if I’m being honest, it was just a fire outside to keep us warm and give us something to do. But in my mind, I was celebrating the fact that no one died. Everyone was quiet, exhausted, watching the flames consume, and I had a sudden thought which I shared out loud, “Fire is the only thing that can both create and destroy so much.”
“No, hope.” One of the guys immediately countered with. As dismal as that sounds, he was right. Hope is the ultimate creator and destroyer. It has made me begin actively trying to let go of all my hopes. Having zero expectations of anyone or anything sounds blissfully peaceful.
2. “Peer pressure is where all of the good stuff happens.”
Something the lead singer said. He tends to be the wise one. We always associate peer pressure with negative influences, but it can be equally as positive. Peer pressure can occur when you’re getting your heartbroken and the people surrounding you convince you that it’s a better idea to climb a mountain with them rather than sit alone moping and drinking beer. That happened to me on this last tour. Sure, sometimes peer pressure does not lead you on a good path, but I think part of the point he was making is, even if it’s not the “right” path, maybe something interesting will happen. Maybe you’ve learned something about yourself or someone else, and maybe you’re better for it. As I write, I’m realizing that peer pressure is another concept that can also create and/or destroy. Whether it’s a negative influence or a positive one, I find how powerful it is to be very fascinating. The lesson is, don’t hang out with assholes, and then you will almost always have a positive peer pressure experience. Real friends won’t hurt you.
3. “Things” create an invisible barrier between us all.
I’ve understood this for a while, but I see it with even more clarity now. These guys don’t need much and they are unconcerned with luxuries. I think part of the reason why it is so easy to begin to feel like part of the family with them, is because there is no superficial concerns in the way. We don’t much care how we look or smell around each other, or what we do or say around each other either because everyone is so non-judgmental. It’s a kind of bond that you can only find with people who don’t give a fuck. And these guys truly don’t give a fuck.
Especially as a girl, I am often way too in my head and concerned with my appearance. When I’m out on the road, and especially with this band, some of those voices go away. I wake up and don’t usually even wash my eye crust away until the afternoon, once load-in is complete. I don’t normally put on make-up, I wear the same shirt three days in a row and I look in the mirror once a day. And that’s how they know me, with no falsities filtering us. It’s fucking beautiful when your mind is clear of all that everyday nonsense. Your brain has more capacity to notice and experience things and each other when it’s not distracted by hair products, cell phones and how your Levi’s fit.
It also makes me think about a lesson that the boy with the white hair once told me. He was explaining to me why he tends to wear black on black everyday. He has enough to think about, so what he is going to wear, is one less decision he needs to make, hopefully making room for decisions that do matter. So I guess what the black metal band and the boy with the white hair taught me is that the road to peace of mind can only be found when it has paved away superficial mental clutter.
4. Being a vegetarian is a luxury.
If you’re really hungry, fuck vegetarianism. I was a vegetarian for several years, then a pseudo vegetarian, and now all I can claim is that I try to avoid meat. I don’t dispute the probable health benefits of not eating meat, and I don’t support the inhumane treatment of animals that are no better or worse than us. As I’m sure you’ve already come to understand, these guys are very low-maintenance. They don’t ask for much on the tour rider, so we often have minimal food available. I like that about them, but it also means that I know what it is like to be really hungry when there are no food options other than a package of sliced ham that was left-over from one of last weeks venues. When you’ve been on the road for a while, working your ass off, and there is no food around and you haven’t gotten a good meal in for a few days… trust me, you will welcome that processed pig.
I think of being a vegetarian as a kind of luxury because before mass production and before GMO’s, the only way one could be a vegetarian is if one happened to live in one of the few places on Earth that happen to have plentiful and varying vegetation. You think that there are many vegetarians in Russia? Doubtful. But I don’t live in Russia, so I can easily avoid meat when I’m home, if I want to. So now I proclaim myself a “non-asshole-vegetarian.” Meaning, I try to stay away from it, but I’m not high maintenance about it. If someone makes something for me that has meat in it, I’m not going to be an asshole and tell them that I can’t eat it. Or if I’m in Eastern Europe (which I was recently) I’m going to enjoy and adjust to their culture, which I am here to tell you… is a lot of meat, cheese and bread.
5. Moderation can be overrated.
I have always said that everything in moderation is healthy. Embracing your vices in moderation is healthy. These mother fuckers though, take their vices head on, like a bull. And just like a raging bull, they have battle wounds and sometimes they look rough, but fuck, they make decay look beautiful. They know themselves better than most and I think that a lot of that is because they have taken their minds and bodies to the limits. I think we all learn a lot about ourselves when we let substances kick our ass sometimes. They haven’t crossed the line completely, they just dance with the devil on the line between moderation and insanity. Sure, we have lost some brain cells, but I think we gain so much more. We gain camaraderie, travels, experiences, wisdom and hard work. I understand that you can gain all of those qualities while practicing moderation, but the point is, it seems like you can get there by practicing extremism sometimes as well.
6. Black metal bands have the most competent fans.
As we all know because of my Merch Girl Rants, the people who I typically deal with at metal shows are abhorrently stupid. It’s honestly incredible. However, with the black metal band, I only get a couple of dumb questions a night. Usually, I only get a couple of NOT dumb questions a night. So it’s safe to conclude that there is something about the Satanist crowd that makes them more intellectually competent. Those five hours I spend selling t-shirts and patches is a lot less painful when I’m selling for the black metal band because I actually feel like I’m dealing with other humans, rather than a subordinate alien race.
7. Calling someone a mongoloid is a very fun insult.
Try it soon! “You fucking mongoloid!” It’s wonderfully satisfying when someone is acting like an ape.
8. All pain does is hurt.
I like this lesson because it can apply to physical and emotional pain. Some of the guys are slightly sadistic, and I’m slightly masochistic, so we end up doing shit like shooting each other with BB guns, burning ourselves due to a bet and whipping each other when someone fucks up a guitar riff. I used to hate anticipating pain, but I’ve seen their scars and I’ve seen them take it, and now I try to shrug it off and I think to myself, don’t be scared of pain, all it does is hurt.
I got my heartbroken on this last tour, and I applied the same lesson. All of the pain I was/am feeling, I just breathed it out and tried to remember that this is all it does. It just hurts, that’s it. So there’s my final gift to you babe, you can blame it all on me because I’m not scared and I’ll take the pain.