Alex James

Slow Life | 2 May 2009

Hell for leather

I was in a heavy metal band once, kind of by accident, couldn’t help myself: said I’d play a couple of songs with them at a party and that was that, joined the circus. That band was called Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction and I loved them for many reasons: looked great; one really, really good song; guitar player was a karate black belt; drummer taught music at a high-security prison; the singer was a thoughtful and fearless vagabond king. They were all exceptionally bright and they got through a lot of bass players; some died, some ran away, but I was with them for ages, captivated by high voltage and high volume.

I still have the heavily embroidered denim jacket the band bequeathed to me. It’s the jacket all their bass players wore, next to the skin at every, sweaty gig. The jacket has never once been washed, a potent mess of provocation and stitched-on symbolism. Boy, it felt good to make so much noise, more relaxing and peaceful somehow than sitting in a really comfortable chair in the sunshine.

Until that point, I didn’t think I liked rock music but when I scratched its ugly surface, there were actually lots of beautiful things beneath. Having said that, I still wouldn’t be too thrilled at the prospect of going to see any of the remaining rock dinosaur tribes perform. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Deep Purple, even Led Zeppelin, all just a little bit corny or rubbish one way or another, and those are the best ones. Rock music has to be loud, obviously, and it has to be fairly simple and aggressive. Possibly for those reasons, bad rock is the worst, the ugliest music you’ll ever hear. But when it’s good, it’s really, really good.

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