Tag Archives: metal

Things I Learned From Working With a Black Metal Band

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.

 

 

 

 

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Merch Girl Rant #2

I thought I was going to start this entry by bitching about the absolutely mind boggling stupidity of the merch customers that I deal with every night.  However, I had the unpleasant experience of being back at Warehouse Live in Houston, Texas this week.  I hate that fucking venue.  I have unfortunately been there before, which is not uncommon in the touring world.  You end up frequenting a lot of the same venues across the country.  I swear that I must go to the Agora Theatre in Cleveland every time I’m on tour.  At least it’s a good venue.  The only good thing about Cleveland, by the way.

Many of the venues that I go to are pretty divey and rough to say the least.  They do their best with what they’ve got though, and for the most part, try to make you as comfortable as possible.  And I love dives!  I live in shitty dive bars and venues and I feel right at home.  Needless to say, I am not high maintenance at all when it comes to venues.  I usually spend my time sitting on the floor counting shirts anyway.  I don’t get irritated when there is not a shower, I don’t get mad when there are stairs for a load-in and I couldn’t care less about catering or the rider.  I only care about common courtesy.  When a band is coming to play at your establishment, at least have the respect to remove old moldy hair from the shower drain, and spend the $10 to purchase a new shower curtain once it becomes ridden with enough mold to give me a fungus infection.  Today’s venue had that, plus the most disgusting couches I think I have ever seen in the greenroom.  The carpet had those black gum stains that have been there for at least twenty years, and the smell… it smelled like the holocaust inside.  What are we supposed to do with that?

The merch area had to-go containers of left-over food in it and other random pieces of garbage.  The local crew was a joke.  It was the slowest load-out we’ve ever had on this tour, and the man settling merch with me had a massive attitude, to which I of course, put into check.  Usually, the venue takes a cut of the merch sales.  It’s ridiculous, but it happens.  20% of the cloth sales (meaning they don’t take on media/CD sales) is typical.  I think that’s bullshit.  I can understand 10%, just because they’re providing you with a place to sell, but that’s all they provide.  Usually they don’t help with merch at all, and the person who is settling with you shows up at the very end saying, “you’ll be settling with me and the cut is 80/20.”  Oh, hello.  Where have you been all night?  It would have been nice to know of your existance when I needed change or when I had to pee and there was no one around to keep an eye on the table.

I told one of the house managers at the venue how I felt.  I was so irritated by the end of the night and basically told him that they need to take a little pride in their establishment and have some respect for the people who are coming to put on an event that day.  I said that it’s just plain rude to make us work in an environment like this.  I don’t think he gave a shit, because I’m just the merch girl, but at least I felt a little bit better for getting it off my chest.

Now, onto the fun part of the rant.  The customers.  How is it that you’re a grown man and you do not know your shirt size?  A regular fucking t-shirt, when I ask what size, how is it possible that you look at me dumbfounded?  Like that question has never entered your mind at any point in your life.  Then!  I tell them their size, because I can tell by looking, and they proceed to say, “No… let me see an extra large.”  I get them the XL and then they hold it up, say it’s too big, and THEN agree with my assessment that they are a large.  Thank you for wasting my time, now go away.  Always trust your merch girl.  The boy with the white hair said that I should make stickers with that slogan.

On this run, I have a lot of different shirt designs, so they are all labeled with little signs I have made.  For example, one shirt is labeled “Mosh $25” another says “Green $25.”  I swear to God that I only get maybe two customers a night who actually read the fucking signs and call the shirt by the appropriate name.  Everyone else says, “can I have that shirt?”  And they barely point, it’s mostly an ambiguous hand motion.

“Which one?”  I ask.  Then they point a little bit better, but they are still quite a distance from the display, and there are ten shirts all lined up side by side, so it’s hard to tell which one they are pointing at, which is why I take the god damn time to label them!  “The one that says mosh on it?” I ask.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“What size?”  Blank stare.  Jesus Christ.

Right before doors open, the merch boy who works for the other band on the tour looks at me, takes a deep breath and says, “ready for four hours of stupid questions?”  He is so right.  It is truly unbelievable the stuff we hear.  If I could set up a camera in the merch booth, that shit would go viral.  We sometimes  get the fanboys who treat the shirts like they are the actual band members.

“Oh man!  Look at that one!  That is so sick dude!”  And they high five each other and then notice the hats  I have on the table, “Oh shit!  Look at the hats!  You got to get one man, that is so cool.”  Then they fucking high five again.  Once I am able to snap them out of being star struck over t-shirts, and am able to actually get them to make some decisions so I can get through this line that has been steadily increasing during the ten minutes that they have diddle daddled around like little girls at a prom dress shop, then they continue to stare at the shirts, even though they have already made their purchase and even though they have already spent ten minutes staring at ten of the same shirts.  You would think that the shirts have LED screens in them with a sports game playing.  It’s unbelievable.  Then I tell them to get the fuck out of the way so I can do my job.  I don’t say that, but I wish I could.  I’m only pretend nice for the sake of the bands I work for and I try to be professional.  So the assholes move over five feet, and then AGAIN hold up their shirts that they just bought, and giggle.  They look at the tour dates on the back, find the date for that particular night, point at it and say to one another, “there it is, man!”  Then they high five again, and if I’m lucky, then they’re out of my life forever.  Usually not though, usually these types find their way up to the merch booth a couple of more times a night.  It’s absurd.

Then I get the guys who continually ask me the same fucking question multiple times a night.  “Can I get that shirt in a large?”

“Sorry, we are out of that one in large.  I have medium or XL, or I’ve got large in the other designs.”

“You don’t have that shirt in large?” they say again.

“No, sorry, man.”

“Are you sure?”  They’ll ask as they look over the table, where all of the shirts are stocked.  Why the fuck would I lie to you about that?  It is not in my best interest in any way to not give you a shirt you damn moron.  “You got any in the back?”  Um… this isn’t Macy’s.

“No, there’s none in the trailer.”  Then they come back ten minutes later asking if I got any more shirts.  Yeah man, I got a fucking UPS delivery between now and when you asked me ten minutes ago.  Then, they will come back at the end of the night, thinking that I won’t remember them, and casually say, “Can I get that shirt in large?”  They think I’m purposely witholding from them or something.  What I want to say is, “I still don’t have that mother fucking t-shirt in a god damn large you annoying asshole!  Trust me, if I did, I would have happily given it to you with haste, so that I never have to talk to you ever again.”

Another absolutely amazing question I get all of the time is, “Which shirt has the tour dates on them?”  I never really know how to respond to that question because my display displays all of the backs of the shirts, and I currently have about six shirts with tour dates on the back.  So over half of my display is a sea of tour dates.  First, I honestly look into their eyes to make sure that they’re not blind and that I’m not about to be semi condescending to a disabled person.  When I deduce that they are not in fact blind, which they never are, I just kind of wave my arm across the entire display and say, “all of the ones that you see with tour dates on them, have the tour dates on them.”  I mean honestly, how in the hell else am I suppose to answer that question?!

Now let’s move on to the girl shirts.  The girly shirt is labeled “Girly” and it is clearly tapered in a girly form fitting way and it’s purple.  When a man is asking for a girly shirt, I want to believe that he is being nice and buying one for his girlfriend or daughter or something, but I know better than to assume that these people are not being stupid, so I always like to clarify.  Nine times out of ten, they didn’t fucking realize that the small purple shirt labeled “girly” is in fact for girls.

You’re probably thinking that these types of occurrences only happen a few times a night.  No.  I promise you, that only a few times a night, does it NOT happen.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that maybe two to four people  a night do not ask me something stupid.  I love these people.  And if he’s cute, I’ll go as far as giving him a $5 discount, just so that I can award good behavior.  They usually end up giving it back to me as a tip, so it works out.  The stupidity levels vary from scene to scene.  The metal heads seem to be the dumbest.  Surprisingly, the black metal scene has the most competent fan base.  This is one of the reasons why working for the black metal band that I tour with is my favorite band to work for.  They’re great people, and also the people who come to their shows I can relate to on a human level, instead of being onslaught by stupidity all night long.  Black metal fans are usually Satanist, so maybe that has something to do with it.  You have to be at least mildly competent to be a Satanist because it usually requires some analyzing and research.

If you are reading this and go to shows often, please be one of the people who walks up and simply says, “The mosh shirt in medium, please.”  And have your money ready.  Us merch people love people like you.  And use cash.  Yes, we do normally accept credit cards, but they’re a pain in the ass and slows everything down and credit cards are just not very rock and roll.  You’re going to a metal show, have some damn cash on you for christ’s sake.

Rant complete.  For now.

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