In 1999, my career kicked off when I started writing for Kerrang! Magazine in England. I had been reading the heavy metal Bible since the early ’90s, and I was ecstatic when then-Deputy Editor Paul Rees liked a live review of the Toilet Boys that I had submitted. My first paid assignment was a live review of dBh, a hardcore band from Liverpool.
I wrote freelance for K! until about 2003, interviewing the likes of Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Slayer, and Anthrax, reviewing gigs in London every week and getting a ton of CDs in the mail. For a young metal-head with a hankering to write, it was a dream gig, and I learned a lot. But some of my greatest memories from that time are of the annual Kerrang! Awards.
I was like a kid in a candy store. The bar was very open and there I was, in my early 20’s, with a “staff pass” around my neck, surrounded by some of the biggest names in rock, metal and punk. I was a novice – I couldn’t hold my drink and there was no filter between my brain and my mouth. Frankly, it was a mess. And I loved every minute of it.
Over time, each party has blurred into the next in my mind. I remember specific events, but not at which party they occurred.
I’ll start gently. One year, I was assigned to look after a glamor model called Jodie Marsh. At the time, she was all over the tabloids for reasons that I neither remember nor care about. She had been asked to present an award to the British band Feeder, and I was to make sure she found her seat ok, had a drink, knew where the stage was, that sort of shit. I took it seriously though, and my friends later thought that I was the luckiest guy alive, to get what they thought was a sweet gig. They were wrong – other writers were looking after Iggy Pop, Judas Priest, etc. But Marsh was sweet enough. When she went on stage to present the award, she was booed by many of the musicians present. She was quite distressed, but I managed to convince her that it was just two people booing. “They just sound louder than the cheers,” I said. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as a white lie.
One year, I dirty-danced with Matt Skiba from the Alkaline Trio. I don’t know how it started, I just know that we were both hammered drunk and he was singing “The Time of My Life.” We attempted The Lift, but that didn’t go well at all. I was supposed to catch him. I didn’t.
And then there was the year of the free absinthe bar. There’s a reason the notorious drink was banned in the United States for so long. I remember chatting with Ginger, the frontman with one of my all-time favorite Brit bands, The Wildhearts. He was drinking absinthe from a half pint glass and, not to look like a pussy, I did the same. The next thing I remember, I was on a train with sick on my shirt, somewhere between London and Brighton. Next time I spoke to Ginger, I asked him about it. “Mine was absinthe and water,” he said. “If you drink half a pint of absinthe, you might as well go crumple in a cormer.” Yup.
Alex Kirst was Iggy Pop’s drummer at the time that I met him in the men’s room at the K! Awards. He had previously been in the Nymphs. He was also very happy to play the “Lust for Life” beat on my head while I kneeled in front of him, despite the fact that a man on his knees in front of another dude in the toilets looks suspicious to anybody entering. Kirst was killed in a hit-and-run in 2011 at 47 years of age. The memory of him playing an Iggy tune on my head always makes me laugh.
One year, I walked around the room grabbing the ass of every musician I recognized. “Brian May, looking hot,” I’d say as I helped myself to a handful. The Queen guitarist saw the funny side. Ian Astbury from the Cult did not. Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth liked it a lot. Not my proudest moment.
I did get a great Lemmy story from the awards though. I remember hanging out at the bar and seeing two very young girls looking very depressed. I asked how they could possibly be having a bad time at this awesome event and they explained that they had won a competition to attend and part of the prize meant meeting nu-metal band Slipknot. However, Slipknot had decided that they were too busy at their VIP table to meet a couple of fans. “Look around,” I said. “Everybody’s here. You can just walk up to Rob Halford and say hi. Iggy’s over there.” But, you know, they were young teens and didn’t have the confidence, so I introduced them to Lemmy. What did the old diamond say?
“Those masked bastards don’t know how to treat women.”