The social stigma attached to Metal...

MikeM

Platinum Member
Metal WANTS to carry a stigma. That's a huge part of its appeal.
+1. That's getting to the quick, innit?

I was wondering about this thread driving home last night trying to put my finger on what it is that I find so grating about the genre (as a whole, but with scads of exceptions). I like loud distorted guitars, screaming vocals, pounding drums, a good technical challenge, etc. For every metal attribute I can think of, I can't point to a single one that makes me think, "no, I don't like that ..."

Then it came to me: It's the uniforms. It's the conformity among the non-conformists. It's what I absolutely LOVED about Helmet - that they looked like regular guys with short hair and normal clothes while absolutely blasting the paint off the walls. But they didn't care to look the part; they didn't want to be these method actors trying to look convincing all the time. Or never, really. They didn't have to.

I can pretty much extend that thought out to any purist form of music, be it punk, country, jazz, blues, or whatever. As soon as I see people doing the method acting bit, I get real skeptical and start questioning the actual art part of it, like where's *your contribution* to the world? Does your aesthetic sense really happen to align with everything your peers are doing? Seems unlikely. More likely it's an exclusive club to join.

I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member - Groucho Marx. I love that line.

I know it probably isn't fair of me to have that first reaction and I do grant a lot of passes (gee, how nice of me, right?) ... I just don't dig the acting bit or uniforms when it comes to my own musical preferences.
 

TYBG

Junior Member
To be fair, I think it's it's extremely difficult to change an opinion by expressing your own opinion. I'm aware that a lot of people have predetermined notions about all sorts of genres and there's not much that can be said to change that.
The stigma associated with metal music is similar to the stigmas associated with, say, rap and noise- although the stigmas come from different places, they all begin due to misunderstanding, beliefs passed down from peers and role models, and so on (People have had problems with vocalists screaming in music for generations now; perhaps Little Richard was the first? ;)). Metal is a genre as unspecific as pop. Pop encompasses all sorts of musicians, from David Bowie, to John Mellencamp, to Usher. Similarly, metal includes groups as varied as Kayo Dot, Pig Destroyer, Earth, and Kylesa, all of whom create entirely different styles of metal. Not all metal is double bass, growls, and distorted guitars yknow. John Zorn's Naked City did a pretty incredible job of mashing all sorts of genres together.. Decrying an entire genre based on certain exceptions is pretty harsh. As someone who attempts to listen to and appreciate as much music as possible, I feel like every genre has its ups and downs, and its worth exploring as much as possible. That may mean falling into some pitfalls, but there's always a chance you can find something interesting.
By the way, for those who have no interest in modern metalcore, I recommend trying Botch, Boysetsfire, and early Converge. Modern popular metalcore is admittedly pretty divisive. If you don't like the sound, most of the bands absolutely won't change your mind. The genre's roots are worth exploring though. It's kinda the same thing with most hardcore.

tl;dr the stigma is par for the course with all genres of music nowadays, and the bad qualities always speak louder than the positives. To each their own, but a little open mindedness never hurt.
 

adam!

Senior Member
It's what I absolutely LOVED about Helmet - that they looked like regular guys with short hair and normal clothes while absolutely blasting the paint off the walls. But they didn't care to look the part; they didn't want to be these method actors trying to look convincing all the time.
Totally agreed. Metal is who you are, what you like and what you play -- not a fashion statement. Unfortunately, there have always been the bands that consider image as important as the music they play, whether mainstream or underground. These people, along with their goofy actions, have always created the stigma for the genre. When Metallica blew up in the 80's, they were basically wearing the street clothes they always wore, resisting the current trend to wear makeup and women's lingerie. Or the bands that came out of Seatle in the late 80's/early 90's... They were just wearing what they normally wore... Unfortunately, out of that came the fashion called "grunge" -- which btw is not a type of music, unbeknownst to many.

I consider myself to be an open-minded, musically-diversified individual, and metal is one type of music I enjoy (although given the amount of metal bands, I am VERY selective in what I like). I also notice the older I'm getting, that love for metal is not going away... if anything it's increasing. Having said that, I've felt embarrassed for a LOT of fans I've seen at shows, especially the nod to yesteryear of wearing leather vests with band patches that's coming back.. "How cute, your mom has sewn your clothes for you". Anytime I go to a metal show, I try to avoid the black t-shirt thing, because it has really become a type of conformity (the last show I went to, I wore a baby blue Arrested Development "Frozen Banana Stand" shirt!). I've played with guys before that, before the show, asked, "you're not wearing that on stage are you?".

Moral of the story: Just be yourself, and don't apologize for the music you're drawn to.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
I regard what we've done with the image in Gloryhammer as a bit of a send-up of this obsession that the metal community has with pretending it isn't image-obsessed. You'd be amazed how many people complained that our singer doesn't have long hair and a beard. And yet they're criticizing us for dressing up in a daft way because it's about the music. Clearly this does not make sense at all. However, that's not to say that it's a bad thing, it's just that everybody presents an image whatever they do. Metallica presented an image of authenticity because they weren't trying too hard...but if they'd worn pastel-coloured tank tops in their everyday life, and then worn that on stage, I think they would have been laughed at however good the music was.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
Over on talk bass, there is a running joke question, which is:

"What's the best bass for Metal?"

This is always a trigger of merriment and for those that don't get it; vociferous arguement.

The analogy with Jazz is a good one because the biggest flaming of others goes on within these 2 genres. Er ... IMHO, AFAIK and LOL?

Deep breaths
Davo
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
Both metal fans and jazz fans are defending 'their' music against all comers, be that Kenny G or Evanescence...
 

StickIt

Senior Member
I just don't dig the acting bit or uniforms when it comes to my own musical preferences.
That is a very valid point, and I agree. I don't mind a little insanity at a concert, though, lol.

I try to avoid the black t-shirt thing, because it has really become a type of conformity
+1
I have joined your revolt. It is annoying and hilarious that Rock n' Roll has gone from rebellion all the way back around to conformity. I mean, a style is a style, but everyone (EVERYONE) has a black t-shirt on?!

Haven't listened to Helmet in a while...sounds like a great idea.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
+1. That's getting to the quick, innit?

I was wondering about this thread driving home last night trying to put my finger on what it is that I find so grating about the genre (as a whole, but with scads of exceptions). I like loud distorted guitars, screaming vocals, pounding drums, a good technical challenge, etc. For every metal attribute I can think of, I can't point to a single one that makes me think, "no, I don't like that ..."

Then it came to me: It's the uniforms. It's the conformity among the non-conformists.
In terms of hair metal, I absolutely agree.
In the late 80's, sometimes I'd get ahold of the musician wanted ads from LA, and they were hilarious. Instead of say "drummer wanted, must be into this band and that band" it was say "drummer wanted, must have this color hair, of this length, don't apply if you have this type of hair.." Absolutely ridiculous.

Outside of that, I disagree. I liked how in the 80's if you flipped through a magazine, the band photos told you something about the band. The new wave bands had their funny hair cuts. The classic rock bands had their look. The poofy metal bands had the big hair. Then someone like Metallica would come along with their jean jackets and plain t-shirts; it told you there was something different. When Guns and Roses came out, one look at a band photo and you knew they were different from the rest of the sunset strip bands.

These days, if you flip through a magazine, all the bands look the same. You can't tell a pop band from a punk band from an extreme metal band, they have the same basic looks.


It's what I absolutely LOVED about Helmet - that they looked like regular guys with short hair and normal clothes while absolutely blasting the paint off the walls. But they didn't care to look the part; they didn't want to be these method actors trying to look convincing all the time. Or never, really. They didn't have to.
But to me, that quickly became just as pretentious.

As I've said, I always thought the great irony in grunge was it was supposed to be about rebelling against the "uniform" of spandex and hair spray but instead, it was just replaced by a new uniform of moppy hair cut and flannel shirts. 100 guys trying to look like David Lee Roth vs 100 guys trying to look like Kurt Cobain; it's still 100 guys following a trend.
I remember talking to bands looking for a drummer in the 90's, and conversations would be like "cut your hair, get some appropriate flannel shirts, and don't tell anyone you own an 80's album". Not much different that being told to have your hair a certain color.

Then it became "lets try to not look like anyone". And it seemed some bands almost went out of their way to try to not look like a band. And I just think "well, what's the matter, are you afraid your mom might find out you play in band?

Rock has always been about being dangerous and visual.
Think Elvis. He looked (as far as his time period was) dangerous.
Johnny Cash all in black. The rebel.
The Beatles all looked nice and all in their nice suits, but those mop top hair cuts were considered dangerous. The look was part of the band.
The flower power bands with the long hair and tye dye shirts; Dangerous to society.
Hard rock and metal with the leather, really dangerous.

Now, where the danger? Where is the expression? Every band now looks like the guy at the coffee shop.

As 8mile said, Metal WANTS to carry a stigma, it's the appeal. But there is no stigma when you it look like your mom dressed you for band practice.
 

Armor of Light

Senior Member
I just went to my first metal show in a long while a few weeks ago. As I Lay Dying with The devil Wears Prada. My 16 year old son wanted to go..it was his first concert. Good stuff! I'm 47 now. I grew up in a musical household where my dad (RIP) was the leader of a swing band for as long as I can remember. I get the same charge out of Benny Goodman and Miles Davis and Brubeck and Husker Du and Helmet and Joe Jackson and Missing Persons and Black Flag. NWOBHM was totally it for me when I was younger of course..and then came Metallica so I got into punk!

Anyway..That show I saw with my son yes, contained some stereotypes, but there were girls there too! And the band members I was surprised to see contained short haired normal guys, hipster looking bass players, and P90X style macho man muscles...not like the drugged out waifs back in the day. Except Ozzy who always looked a little pudgy. During the talk to the audience parts, they were very polite and friendly. I never could stand that part of the grunge era...they all seemed so depressed and douche-baggy!

Great show! The double bass work was well-applied and spot on. One band even had keyboards and they fit well.

Metal fits a mood I think more that it defines a lifestyle. Like Tabasco sauuce! Keeps the people away if you need it to..
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Now, where the danger? Where is the expression? Every band now looks like the guy at the coffee shop.

As 8mile said, Metal WANTS to carry a stigma, it's the appeal. But there is no stigma when you it look like your mom dressed you for band practice.
I get what you're saying, Ian, I really do. But for me, I don't want to look "dangerous". That part has zero appeal to me. Even in the '80s (maybe especially in the '80s) I didn't want to look dangerous. The danger (if there is any) and expression are built-in to the music itself with me as its lowly messenger. You can rag on grunge for that but Rush wasn't all that different, were they? Seems to me they flirted with a few different "looks" but for the most part they were WYSIWYG. I probably picked up my generic preference from them long before grunge came along, and when grunge did come along, I thought the look of it was a breath of fresh air, tbh. Especially someone like Matt Cameron who never looked like a band guy. I always thought that was cool. I still do.

If metal wants to carry a stigma, that's fine with me, but I don't have any desire to advertise to the world at large that I play. If anything, it makes it that much sweeter when they do find out - hopefully by actually seeing me play in some shitty hole in the wall somewhere. I've had co-workers come out to see my band before and there is almost always this, "Wow, I wasn't expecting that at all!"

And just question your very last point: is there really no middle ground between looking "stigmatized" and having your mom dress you? :)
 
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I enjoy that outlook, image doesn't have to be involved at all. Chuck Schuldiner, the frontman for Death would go on stage with socks and sandals to play death metal, didn't seem to bother anyone else. I think he was a great example of someone who just wanted to be himself instead of appeal to others. Basically I mean to say that musical substance overrides corpse paint and long hair, at least IMO.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
the frontman for Death would go on stage with socks and sandals to play death metal, didn't seem to bother anyone else.
It should. It looks utterly ridiculous.....within the metal relm or outside of it.

Although strangely enough, many Europeans seem quite comfortable with it......disturbingly so. But much like those frightening handknitted matching jumpers (sweaters) that far too many American couples are all too willing to don for cheesy xmas photos.....those caught wearing socks and sandals deserve all the scorn and ridicule they get. :)
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It should. It looks utterly ridiculous.....within the metal relm or outside of it.

Although strangely enough, many Europeans seem quite comfortable with it......disturbingly so. But much like those frightening handknitted matching jumpers (sweaters) that far too many American couples are all too willing to don for cheesy xmas photos.....those caught wearing socks and sandals deserve all the scorn and ridicule they get. :)
Big long tube socks with shorts is another classic.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
As I've said, I always thought the great irony in grunge was it was supposed to be about rebelling against the "uniform" of spandex and hair spray but instead, it was just replaced by a new uniform of moppy hair cut and flannel shirts. 100 guys trying to look like David Lee Roth vs 100 guys trying to look like Kurt Cobain; it's still 100 guys following a trend.
Sorry, but I forgot to address this point.

There is no irony with respect to what grunge was "supposed" to be, though it's true that it was in large part a rejection of the LA hair bands that were dominant at the time.

I've lived in Seattle my whole life and it rains a lot. Usually daily unrelenting drizzles from October through June. Yeah, a lot of people wore flannel, and still do, and look soggy and scraggly like they've been out in the rain because they have (little known fact is that practically no-one here uses an umbrella - you just never see them. Not sure why, tbh). It's important to understand that it wasn't some contrived "look" that people were deliberately going for as a fashion statement. It was the absence of the LA rock look, sure, but it was also just how people dressed - not just of our generation, but the ones before and since. Not unlike SoCal people wearing shorts, flip-flops and tans all the time.

And also remember that it wasn't fashionable until AFTER the whole unlikely, unexpected, and unprecedented explosion of one small cities' music scene went virally global, and nowhere was the whole fiasco a bigger surprise than in Seattle. I've been here playing in bands from long before grunge right up to the present and I can tell you that it was very surreal, which feels like a huge understatement. So I don't think you can really blame the genre for how its "fashion" ended up spreading - that would be like blaming Nirvana for selling out AFTER Nevermind suddenly and unexpectedly went through the roof as if they'd somehow engineered, targeted, or anticipated the insanity of their success.

The irony, if there was one, was the LA guys trying to dress like they were from the NW to mimic and cash in on a vibe that was never about cashing in. I won't even go into how many guys from LA ended up here looking to hit the big time. Come to think of it, my bandmate is from LA! (though he wasn't looking to cash in when he moved here in '96 - he just hated LA).

Anyway, I imagine what you feel about the followers and adherents of the grunge look probably isn't all that different from how I feel about it - that now the look of it IS about the look more than the pragmatism that it originally was, and I'm not any more interested in following the look of grunge as I am about metal, punk, country, goth, camaro rock, blues, or whatever. Deliberately going for the look of anything just goes back to that acting / comforming bit I was grousing about earlier.

Grunge had its 15 minutes and then faded pretty quickly as most of its adherents got turned off, not by the mainstream success of its originators, but by the mainstream success of its imitators (STP, Bush, et al). The very people that essentially created it turned their backs on it in a "this isn't fun anymore" kind of way, as if to carry on would be essentially joining the ranks of what they'd turned against to begin with: money-driven "art".

But metal is different, metal has been around for a long time, and while its details and forms have evolved over time, its brutal seriousness and aesthetic of darkness and anger has not. I'm not sure how its been able to persevere over generations without offing itself the way grunge did, but then again, metal has never been as afraid of the mainstream success of its imitators and pretenders and is always accepting of new followers with a welcoming growl and a raised clenched fist (with horns).
 
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