Bruce Dickinson Was Wrong About Punk Music
Todd Owyoung for Riverfront Times
Bruce Dickinson rules. He's the greatest singer for one of the greatest bands of all time, Iron Maiden. But recently, he unleashed some pretty charged words in an interview with The Guardian. In addition to dropping one of the most incredible quotations ever, "fame is the excrement of creativity," he also said a few harsh words about punk rock, referring to it as rubbish and saying that the lack of talent in punk was an excuse to call it performance art. He goes on to state, "Half the kids that were in punk bands were laughing at the art establishment, going: 'What a fucking bunch of tosspots. Thanks very much, give us the money and we'll fuck off and stick it up our nose and shag birds.'"
Not totally untrue. The problem, however, lies in his words that immediately follow that thought:
"But what they'd really love to be doing is being in a heavy metal band surrounded by porn stars."
Whoa, waitaminute. Perhaps the English icon is referring strictly to the British punk bands of the '70s and '80s, citing some sort of inside info. After all, dude's basically a rock god. However, and no disrespect meant to porn stars, but the idea that punks wish they were living decadent lives in heavy metal bands is way off-base.
For starters, identifying yourself as a metalhead doesn't mean the same thing that it used to. As metalheads are often shy outcasts growing up, becoming extremely proficient at an instrument and knowledgeable of your genre was integral to the preservation of the minuscule ego you were clinging to. Through this principle, you formed communities and bands -- excellent metal was almost guaranteed, because playing eyeball-spinning, creative and blazing fast music was all some people had going for them.
Then in the early 2000s, some terrible things happened to the genre through the internet: First, it exposed a bunch of cool and dark bullshit to cute little dudes who could use it to get girls. Second, it removed the mysterious and evil veil that metal had to reveal a bunch of dorks. We found out that death metal bands didn't kill people and gothic metal bands slept in small apartments, not graves.
Metal is no longer scary to anyone aside from your friend's religious nutjob parents -- it's something a large part of society considers to be fairly juvenile. Unless you live in rural South Carolina, no one looks at your long hair and thinks you sacrifice animals in the middle of the night.
While punk isn't much better in terms of the aesthetic associated with it, the people playing it are still often genuine deviants, freaks and transients. There are punk shows regularly happening where people light their genitals on fire, hurdle giant pieces of broken glass into the audience, or huff glue out of a bowling ball. In metal, maybe once every four years some band throws a goat skull and gets sued immediately after. But in punk rock, this shit happens regularly. And it's absolutely fascinating -- but you don't hear about it.
Why not? Because you have to know people in order to find it. Yeah, you can spend hours researching punk blogs and downloading obscure cassette tapes, but then what? By the time any of these releases are available for download, about half of these bands have broken up. Those that are together rarely publicize their tour dates and many of them don't play legitimate venues. In order to know where to see a band that spray paints obscenities on themselves in the middle of their set, you have to get involved. You're forced to talk to people -- not only find out where shows are happening, but to help you navigate through the immense terrain that encompasses 40 years of obscure rock 'n' roll. There aren't PR companies that distribute the latest underground punk record to 50 different review sites. The easiest way to learn about punk music is to talk to people who are really into it.
Although there's people in any scene that use music sheerly as a place to drink and stare at their iPhones, the average punk community contains an oddly large amount of dedicated men and women who are proud to screw up their jobs, lose money booking bands, and stay up late with violent drunks for the sake of propagating art. And that's where Bruce Dickinson has it wrong -- neglecting the fact that there are (and always have been) people out there who are proud to be punk losers because it means they care about something bigger than themselves.
Besides, I'd rather have a few drinks and bike around at night rather than spend a few years learning how to fly a fucking plane.
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