It occured to me last month while I was attending a Swans concert. As front man Michael Gira and his collection of cronies pounded, screamed, and riffed their escalating cavalcade of oppressiveness onto a swarming crowd of fans, I couldn’t help but feel something truly necessary in the whole ordeal. I sang along when I knew the words, refused to wear ear plugs in fear that it might lessen the experience, and felt fully immersed in the music while being completely sober. So, that’s where this question arose: How can I find this shit so life-affirming, while others are so quick to label it noise?
Well, looking back at my upbringing, that’s not to hard to give an answer too. My first real exposure to having an obsessive interest in music actually started with hip-hop. As I was entering my teen years, I found that the crappy pop-punk bands my peers listened to didn’t do anything for me. I wasn’t interested in guitars, or subject matter pertaining to dating life (or lack thereof), but I was interested in stories about…drug deals gone wrong. As I got older, however, and I naturally became an angsty teen fed up with the ignorance of those around me, it was then that I found a real attraction to metal. There was a moment where I primarily listened to teen-friendly nu-metal like Korn and Slipknow (more the former than the latter), but I was certainly more drawn to “arty” mainstream metal bands like Tool and Deftones. The music was loud and abrasive enough for it to be accessible to my sensibilities, yet also subtle and intelligent enough to suggest to me that I was really listening to something high-brow
In college, I actually went back to primarily listening to hip-hop. I was in my comfort zone for a while here, so I found plenty of escapist thrills in the songs of Wu-Tang Clan and Biggie Smalls. However, in the latter period of college where I found myself disillusioned, I reached out to more “arty white boy shit”, and boy was I gonna find I liked this! Once I realized there was a wealth of amazing music out there that I hadn’t yet discovered (then again, haven’t I always known this), I certainly branched out into music that was heavy in a different way. Joy Division and the Pixies immediately became favorite bands for me, with the latter introducing me to a particular producer name Steve Albini. Albini’s trio of bands (Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac) were exactly what I needed to get into punk, as it was mostly free of preachy political commentary, but just kept all of punk’s hardcore sex and violence at a really delicious level. While I certainly dabbled with plenty of “hipster-esque” bands like Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors, they didn’t get nearly as much love from me as bands like Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., and The Melvins. This was the music that really made me happy to be a pissed-off nerd!
While in recent times, my taste in music has grown more eclectic by 10x. I can easily adapt to the musings of Leonard Cohen, or be completely immersed in the vocals of D’Angelo, but I still often find myself more frequently listening to the more abrasive artists on my I-pod. Hell, if I were to compose a list of my favorite albums of the last few years David Comes to Life and The Seer would be at the very tip-top. So in a nutshell, I feel the heavier the music is, the closer I get to giving my Id a workout. As someone whose favorite rapper growing up was Eminem, this statement should make even more perfect sense now.