Sunday, August 01, 2010

My Metal History, Part 2.5: My Attempts To Play Music

Overlapping between high school and college I made some attempts to play metal music. Three of my friends and I had never played instruments before, so of course it seemed natural to form a band. Of course.

Two of them got guitars, the other got drums, and I got a bass. The guitarists and I played Ibanez, because that's what some of our main inspirations played at the time (especially Korn). We bought them in the $200 range, along with practice amps (although later on we would all get slightly better amps).

We were all self-taught, and had very little practice, so we never did get to be any good.

We practiced upstairs at the drummer's house, after covering the walls of the room with foam . . . as if that helped. We found tabs online, and the only song all of us ever learned to play was Danzig's "Twist of Cain." This was my suggestion, as the others weren't into Danzig like I was, but it won out over other suggestions because it was easy to play. To help them memorize it, I recorded cassette tapes for each of them with that song playing over and over.

Other than that, we started learning Megadeth's "A Secret Place," but never did get it down, and we also wrote some of our own simplistic stuff. The lead guitarist had some nifty multi-effect pedal, so one of our songs was three of us playing the same four-note riff over and over (very boring) with the lead playing weird stuff over the top of it.

I believe we only played one show, our high school talent show. We played both our simplistic song and "Twist of Cain." Because "Twist" only has a part for one guitar, the rhythm guitar player was supposed to handle vocal duties. Minutes before we were supposed to go on, he told me he had forgotten the rhythm of the vocals, and sang it to me all wrong. Whether he was faking it or if he had really lost it due to nervousness (he was always shy), he ended up playing guitar also and I had to handle bass and vocals. Since I had never done it before, it was difficult, but it would have been barely passable if I could have figured out how to face the mike while still playing.

Our band broke up at some point; whether it was after the lead graduated (he was a year older than the rest of us) or when we graduated I don't know.

The summer after my first year of college, another friend of mine asked me to join his band. He had stayed in town after graduating, and played with some younger guys; one was still in high school, one had just graduated, and I can't recall whether there was another one or not. Luckily, my friend played bass, and they just wanted me to handle vocal duties. Unluckily, my friend still wanted to handle the vocals he was already doing, so I ended up as a second vocalist with nothing else to do. Also, they leaned more toward the punk side of things and my voice has always been better suited to metal.

We did learn "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (not metal, but decent enough) along with a few other songs, including some originals. In one of those originals, my vocal duties included maintaining a single-note scream during the chorus (about 20 seconds or so). We played two shows, both with other (mostly punk) bands. One was in a local park and the other was at the county fair. After the county fair show, some kids came up to tell me that my sustained scream part was "awesome," and that I should have done all the vocals.

In my first or second year of college, I also tried to learn how to play a guitar I had bought for $7.00, and I continued to play bass during those years.

During my sophomore year of college, my friend and I practiced once or twice with a couple of Japanese students. It didn't last long, though, as we were practicing in the music building after hours (we weren't supposed to be there).

After that year, I sold all my equipment at a very cheap price to my bass-playing friend from the second band, and I guess gave it up for good. I took a piano course the following year, and wrote some interesting piano parts and some nifty midis (which I lost completely when my computer crashed). I would still like to get back into writing music someday, on the computer at least, because I think I have somewhat of a knack for that

For the past several years I have made no attempts to play my own music. I do, of course, growl/scream in the car, from time to time, and have perfected my death growl (no easy feat). I do a death growl, a black metal rasp, falsetto screams, and a vocal move similar to a cross between Wayne Static and Chuck Schuldinger.. If I ever get the time and opportunity again, I would like to find an extreme metal band which could use my abilities, but I guess I'll be happy whether or not that happens.


  1. My own playing experiments mostly included jamming on other people's instruments in their basements. No real songs though.

    As for my vocals, I'm quite good at death metal vocals, with a range of growls and screams. I can do the ultra low Kam Lee-type growls as well as higher-pitched stuff. I can also do a black metal rasp and some thrash metal style vocals. That's about it though.

  2. Nice. The real trick is switching between the death growl and anything else, and back again. It really puts your whole respiratory / vocal system into a completely different mode. That's what makes Akerfeldt so great, and I have no idea how he does it.

    I can do a bit of switching back and forth (not with clean vocals too well, though). A warm-up I like to do is to do a bunch of deep growling to get my voice primed for the death, and then go with an "Angel of Death" pitch-dropping scream, but starting higher and going lower than Araya ever has.