Strength Beyond Strength: The Jason Statts Story

By: Posted in: diary, featured On: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013


As Decibel friend Brian Lew (aka Umlaut) says: the metal Gods work in mysterious ways. So there’s no need to tell you how we heard about Jason Statts, a Decibel reader and metal fan confined to a wheelchair after he was robbed and shot leaving his first ever gig about five years ago. The attack — which required an extensive hospitalization and spinal rehabilitation — still leaves him coping with pain that would incapacitate lesser people. Nontheless, Statts continues creating art (see below) with his pinky finger knuckle. His work will be featured on Nate Hall’s new record. Jason also blogs.

Statts agreed to share his story with Decibel. Please join Statts as he writes about his ordeals and how metal helped him stay together on the worst days of his life. He’s not just a survivor but a natural storyteller. –jmn

* * *

This is not a work of fiction. It is my real life. My every day. My “new” normal (a phrase I would come to despise while in recovery).

Recovery? Why? Were you an addict?

Good question. The answer is no. My story is a little more interesting.

Ever seen blood trickle from your best friend’s mouth and throat as he crawled on all fours screaming into a phone – screaming with only one vocal cord because the other was blown to bits by the bullet that first passed through your own neck – as you lay motionless? I have.

Wait. Back up a bit. You must’ve missed something.

Please, let me explain.

Music has always been a part of my life. My parents were both hippies, so there were always classic rock albums around the house. I grew up just south of the Tennessee border in a small town in Georgia. As I got older I started listening to heavy music. I can’t recall the year, but sometime in the ’80s I was introduced to Megadeth. My world changed. I never looked back. As the years passed I played in numerous bands. I played thrash, doom, noise, off-kilter cartoon music and more. Anything really. All I cared about was playing music.

Fast forward to the summer of 2008. I was in a band with two of my best friends, John Collenberger and David Williams. Our band was called sürt {the destroyer}. We played our first and only show on June 28, 2008. Just hours after we unplugged David and I were attacked. I’d never walk again; at least that’s what they say. Dave suffered injuries to his throat and is still down one vocal cord. Other than that he is great. For that I am thankful.

Two young men were convicted based on my testimony at trial. The shooter got life + 80 years, no parole. The other guy testified against the shooter. His sentence was much shorter.

* * *

I woke up in the hospital. I knew exactly where I was and exactly why I was there. I also knew I couldn’t move, not even my arms. I remember who did it, and I remember being pissed off — just a silent rage. I tried my best not to show it. People came to visit. All of them cried. My wife, my parents, family, friends. I’d smile as much as I could smile, tell those people that everything would be o.k. That I would be o.k. I was lying.

“Don’t cry for me, Argentina,” I said to my friend, Jen. She cried even more, sort of a laugh-cry.

Don’t do that anymore, I thought to myself.

The only thought of music at this point was the thought that I would never play it again. I was devastated.

Days passed, strings were pulled, favors called in, newspapers alerted. I was shipped to Atlanta to The Shepherd Center, a spinal cord injury specialization hospital and rehabilitation center. I was put in the ICU. Still no thoughts of music (aside from being angry I wouldn’t be able to play bass any longer). I was moved to a regular room and fitted for a chair. Still miserable; the pain was immense (still is). Days went by; I did my thing, got a bit stronger. Meanwhile, my workplace pitched in and sent me a new iPod containing my entire music library. Great gesture, but I wasn’t ready. Not just yet. I didn’t want to hear music, or even talk about it. I was afraid of hearing something that would take me back to when I was able to walk.

It took about a month for me to want to listen to music again. The first thing I put in my ears was Baroness’ Red Album. Hesitantly, I pressed play. From the first note I started crying. My wife at the time did as well; she watched for a moment and left me to it.

The tears were not from sadness, not entirely. I knew Baroness through the Savannah scene. The record had just come out and I was really proud of them and what they had accomplished. It made me very emotional. Soon the tears dried and a smile appeared. The riffs and harmonies are just great. It’s different from their earlier releases, in a good way. I was hooked on music, again. I relayed this story to John Baizley about a year or so after. He seemed genuinely touched. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.

Baroness broke through the dam I had constructed in my brain. After that I wanted to listen to music all the time. I sat in the dark (after everyone would leave) and listened to my iPod.

Saviours came next. I had almost worn out even the digital copy of Crucifire. The rawness and live feel of that record got to me. It reminded me of driving my vintage Toyota LandCruiser to work over the border in South Carolina, blasting “Rise to Pyramid Form” and “Circle of Servant’s Bodies.” I also played Into Abaddon quite a bit on these trips. I listened to both of these records a lot while in recovery. (Fast-forward a couple of years, and Death’s Procession would become my new favorite Saviours record. Tons of riffs, all of them pretty damn good.)

Two months passed in therapy. I’d moved in with friends who lived very close to The Shepherd Center. My wife and I would go to the center daily. I’m doing well, getting stronger. Listening to more and more music. My brain has an uncanny ability to group certain bands together. The criteria for being in said group is unclear. But it works for me. In this case I’m talking about Watain, Trap Them, and Early Graves.

Watain’s Sworn to the Dark is simply amazing from start to finish. “Legions of the Black Light” and “The Light That Burns the Sun” are two of my personal favorites. They do it the way they want to do it. Plus, they have a sense of humor. At least I hope they do.

I originally judged Trap Them’s Séance Prime by its cover and I’m glad I did. I like nice drawings of skulls. It worked out in my favor. So I knew what I was getting into when I bought Seizures in Barren Praise about four months after the attack. It’s so angry, but so good. Focused. Sloppy-neat. It was just what I needed. I was still dealing with heavy issues and that particular record served its purpose. The guitar tones are like razor blades.

Early Graves’ We:The Guillotine was released around the same time. It was another I bought based solely on the cover. Another hit, in my opinion. Very fast, but very articulate. It’s technical, but not flashy or cheesy. Just… good. Makh Daniels handled the vocals; he later died in a traffic accident in 2010. He was excellent. Even now, I listen to it once every month or so.

As I said, for some reason my brain groups those three bands together. They make a pretty good team. Try listening to all three records one day. It’ll be a good day.

I finally left therapy. My wife and I moved back to Savannah. I had a few reservations, but got over them quickly. Initially, I thought I might be scared, but I wasn’t. A long time had passed and I was ready to be back in my own town.

We’d do our thing, go about the day, eat lunch. I’d sit at night and crank up my iPod. Skeletonwitch was a band I’d seen in Savannah a few times. I owned a couple of records; Beyond the Permafrost was my favorite at the time. They seem to have a very good sense of humor, and you can tell they have a blast on stage. I identify most with them, I think.

I tire more easily now than I did before. When I need an energy boost I like to listen to a band called Children. Hard Times Hanging at the End of the World is a masterpiece, in my opinion. Tons of guitars. There are mountains of riffs spilling out all over the place. Their sound is like getting your brain rewired, or maybe more like getting random new wires thrown in. Again, there’s humor here. I think that is always part of what I like about a particular band or record. Songs like “Power Spirit” and “Time is the Living” keep me coming back to it a lot.

It’s been a couple of years, maybe a little more since the shooting. I’m even stronger, physically and mentally, but my personal life starts to crumble. My wife of 15 years and I decide to go our separate ways, a hard choice for the both of us. We weren’t out of love, but we were out of hope for our marriage. The incident devastated us, and the damage was deep. It changed our world completely. We hugged as she packed her last few items. She left. It killed me, but I knew it was for the best. (Still do. We remain close friends to this day, I’m happy to report).

The next thing I listened to was Motörhead. Every record.

Motörhead is, by far, the coolest band ever. If it’s been done, it’s probably been done by Lemmy. Plus, he plays a Ric bass. Beautiful tones, too. I’ve listened to them since I was a kid. They were probably one of the first bands I ever got into. They encapsulate everything that’s cool about rock ‘n roll and/or metal. Shit, music in general. I’m not going to list a single album or single song here. Basically all that is Motörhead is what I like about Motörhead. I can listen to any song they’ve ever done and be happy. That’s the feeling they give me. Complete happiness. I have a smile from ear to ear when I hear them. They’ve gotten me through quite a bit. Lemmy would be proud. The coolest therapist I can think of.

Last April, a group of my friends known as the “Friends of Statts” planned and played a block party in my honor (and for my benefit). One of the best bands I’ve ever known agreed to get together and headline the festival — Floor. When I found out I was blown away. And then they actually played. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling and the awe and the honor to have them playing for me. Every single good Floor song was played that night. It made me feel like I was made of gold. Hugs were delivered to Steve (Brooks) and we’re friends now, at least on Facebook. Framing of the ultimate set list will happen soon.

It’s been a few months since the benefit. I feel better than I have in a long time. I’m finally getting the hang of this thing. I try to stay positive. I write a blog. I feel that every little thing helps. I try to tell people what good they offer to the world, no matter what. Every single person on this earth is worth something to someone.

I’m doing well. Aside from agonizing pain 24/7 things are great. Seriously. I’m considered a quadriplegic, but have a nice range of movement in my arms. I can’t use my fingers, or make a fist, but I still use my hands. I’ll probably not walk again, but I’m o.k. with that. There are worse things. I will have ongoing medical costs. Who knows what the future holds?

I’ll keep being positive as long as I have Torche’s Harmonicraft in my life. It’s pretty spectacular. Perfect, almost. Music will always be a part of me. My being. It always has been, and I couldn’t see it any other way. It’s like air to me. I need it. And I’m glad there are bands out there nice enough to give it to me. Thank you all for that.

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Images of Jason Statts by Wayne C. Moore

  • A fellow metal brother

    This man has the best idea of what life should be within his mind & soul. I am touched & really hope he does get to walk again. We can all learn many great things from you and your incredible story, which is far from over. You will only continue to get stronger brother & the music WILL always be here for you!
    I’m looking forward to your ongoing progress brother! Be well and as always… ,,/CHEERS,,/

    • JH Statts

      Means a lot. Thanks. Glad it left an impression on you.


    Metal be your guide. My soul would shake your souls hand.

    • JH Statts

      Metal (and music in general) has always been there for me. I’ll never be without it. We’re shaking hands somewhere. Thanks.

  • misty statts

    Way to go Jason. As your sister, I admire and love you’re spirit. It gives me hope in darkness. All my love….Misty Statts

    • JH Statts

      I love you, too. Keep on track. Life is good.

  • Shannon Scott

    Great interview!

    • JH Statts

      Thanks, Shannon.

  • JH Statts

    Thanks, all. Your compliments are appreciated beyond measure.

  • JH Statts

    I’d gladly shake hands with any and all of you. Your compliments are appreciated beyond measure. Seriously.

  • Aaron Lariviere

    Killer article, Jason (and great assist from Justin)! Fight hard, never quit, and enjoy the music to the fullest. Fuck all the insignificant bullshit in life that so much of us get bogged down with; music is pure, and you’re showing us how it’s meant to be enjoyed. Bang on, brother.

    • JH Statts

      Thanks, Aaron. We’ve already talked a bit and I appreciate the comments and compliments.

  • Karl Jenkins

    Not only is your taste in music impeccable, but the two dogs shown (a greyhound and what I think is a Jack/chihuahua mix?) look exactly like two of my dogs from the last several years (although my grey has passed at this point). Anyway, I really loved the article and am touched by your spirit and never-give-up attitude. Way to represent metal!

    • JH Statts

      Thank you, Karl. Actually, my greyhound passed as well. She never had to see me in a chair… I think it would have broken her heart. The jack was a foster (one of many) and went to a great home. Again, thanks.

  • Beardsly

    Great article Jason. Thanks for sharing your story. It really is amazing how much music can mean in your life. I had a traumatic event myself, when a car I was in rolled off a forest road about 10 years ago. The car was mangled, and my head had been cut open, losing a lot of blood. It was a long time before any help arrived, and the whole time we were waiting, the stereo kept on playing the Deftones album Around the Fur, without skipping a beat. My friend that was keeping pressure on my head and I kept singing along until help got there. I look at the familiarity and comfort that I had with that album as helping to keep me calm. Anyway, keep your head up man. You know what they say: What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

    • JH Statts

      Music is one helluva drug! Glad you made it out of the woods.

  • The Path Less Traveled Records

    This is further proof how much of a positive impact metal can have on a life. Your positive attitude and story are very inspiring. It puts a lot of things in perspective for myself and I’m sure anyone who reads your story. I look forward to reading more of your writing on your blog!

    • JH Statts

      Thanks for reading, both this and my blog. Metal unifies people. No doubt about it. Keep putting out records. It makes the world a better place.

      • Matt Swanson

        I went to school with you and your brother Aaron. You are one of the most talented people I know. Keep positive and keep living

        • JH Statts

          I remember you. Thanks, man!

  • Devyn Batchelder

    Thank you for sharing your story. Utmost respect to you and your strength, I hope someday you can pick up bass again. Keep faith in music!

    • JH Statts

      Devyn, thanks for commenting. I do hope I can play again. One day.

      • Devyn Batchelder

        Either way, I hope you find fulfillment.

        • JH Statts

          I have. It’s good.

  • Viking

    Damn dude, talk about carrying the torch. There is no other form of music that speaks to someone in pain than good heavy metal, no better energy to let pass through your brain. Your story is a perfect example of how the power of music can let someone rise up from unspeakable depths. You’re inspiring a lot of people Jason, horns up for you man. Cheers.

    • JH Statts

      Agreed. Metal, and all it entails, can do wonders for the brain. Appreciated, from one Viking to another.

  • Phi Nguyen

    Wow, one of my Music Fraternity brothers shared this on facebook, and I am so glad that I clicked on the link! This blog entry was so inspiring and it reminded me of why music is such an essential part of my life. Thank you for having the courage to share your story with the world. I can’t speak for all others, but I know that it enriched my soul.

    Phi in Richmond Hill

    • JH Statts

      Phi, thanks for reading, and for the kind words. My goal is to help others appreciate things in life, no matter what. Glad it helped you out. See you around.

  • Mandy

    Jason- my partner, the music fanatic who first introduced Baroness to me recommended your story to me.

    You have such a strong, beautiful voice. I can’t wait to read more
    From you.

    Thank you for your generosity of spirit in sharing- from two Aussie fans .

    • JH Statts

      I’ll try to write as much as I can. It helps keep my demons at bay. Thanks, Mandy!

  • Jo

    A lovely read. Metal as life-saver. All the best to you, Justin.

    • JH Statts

      My name is Jason, but I’ll take your compliment. Thanks much, Jo!

      • Jo

        Aaaargh! I looked at the URL and everything! :) Apologies and m/ :)

        • JH Statts

          No problem at all!

  • Gary Davidson

    Love the positive attitude, thanks for sharing.

    You certainly have a one up on some people – that is a sweet sweet beard you are rocking :)

    • JH Statts

      I try to maintain a very positive attitude. The beard is not going anywhere soon. Thanks!

  • Gustavo Lima

    The story of a true warrior and how music in general can help a man. Never give up brother, life is prepraring great things. Greetings

    • JH Statts

      Cheers! I’m going with the flow.

  • brian lackey


    • JH Statts

      Lackey! Thanks!

  • Stephanie Dos Santos

    You’re a natural-born writer Jason and I do believe I will read this ever time I’m feeling sorry for myself. Metal does transcend all of the barriers doesn’t it? And I think that all of us has at one time or another let the music lift us and take us away when life has thrown a wad of crap our way. I’m glad you didn’t do anything stupid like shave that awesome beard and I agree with you that the Garnette brothers rule! I look forward to reading more from you… Perhaps Decibel should give you a column. A hug from Paris, Stephanie

    • JH Statts

      Stephanie, I’d love to do a column. We will see. Thank you for reading, and for taking it to heart. Hugs back.

  • Mark Rand

    You never cease to amaze me, Jason!

    • JH Statts

      Appreciate the sentiment, Mark.

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  • jdiddy

    Excellent writing man! I tried to write about my sit a long time ago, but it wasn’t readable. Loved the way you wove the band coverage into your story! Love you!

    • JH Statts

      Thanks for the love. If this is who I’m thinking of, keep on truckin’.

  • Scott Rosenbluth

    My best friend was a fantastic stand up bass player in a psychobilly band. His truck was flipped by an impatient driver in a random accident and he was in a coma for about 8 months. The damage to his body is permanent, but the saddest thing is what happened to his mind. He wont be feeding himself or dressing himself ever again. Please realize the gift you have been given, and share your strength with the world. Your story made me incredibly emotional, sad and happy, angry and uplifted. Basically, it brought out all the emotions I’ve felt about my best friend and how unfair life can be. Your art is amazing. Your writing is captivating. Your strength is a beacon, let it shine for those who need it. Thank you sincerely.

    • JH Statts

      Sorry to hear about your friend. I’m extremely lucky to have my brain… another few inches up and I would’ve been brain damaged or dead. Luckily I’m neither. Thank you. Stay strong.

  • Quinton Arledge

    Jason, what town are you from when you write: “south of the Tennessee border in a small town in Georgia”? I’m an Eastern TN / Western NC / Upstate SC guy, so it is always great to know that other Decibel readers and Skeletonwitch/Watain fans are around.

    • JH Statts

      I’m from LaFayette, GA. It’s in NW Georgia. Thanks for the read.

  • Tara

    Amazing! Thank you for sharing Jason.

    • JH Statts

      Thank you, Tara!

  • Mike Finnimore SCAD ’96

    I’m so glad I got to read this. I have known of your situation and am truly in awe of your strength and ability to share your story of the importance of life/music.

    • JH Statts

      Thanks for reading. Hope you are well. Take care, Mike.

  • Jeremy Graeff

    Your courage is inspiring Jason! Thank you for sharing your story. I can scarcely imagine what the last few years have been for you, but your ability to adapt and take the best from the incident and the aftermath is awesome!

    • JH Statts

      It’s been a long road, but I’m in the clearing now… and it’s pretty nice out here. Thanks!

  • Johansen72

    I’ve just read this after having put my 3 yr old daughter to sleep in Norway – your story moved me deeply. Your courage and belief in music and life is awe-inspiring. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and pray for your health and future.

    Thank you.

    • JH Statts

      Kiss your daughter. Keep her safe. Nothing’s more precious in the world. Thanks for writing. You guys make great films over there, btw.

  • Lea Aus Nord

    “When two beards meet at an intersection, the larger beard has the right
    of way”

    Jason – reading this from the other side of the world (South
    Africa, where something similar could easily happen to me or somebody i
    hold dear) – i realize again how much we all have to appreciate every
    moment of every day. Inspiring others by sharing your experiences is one
    of the best things you can do. Thank you for that. Keep rocking, and don’t let your physical limitations ever limit your spirit – in the end you will achieve more than you can imagine m/>_<m/

    • JH Statts

      I’ll keep moving. And I’ll never let it get the better of me. You seem to know what’s up. Thanks!

  • Krystal Perry

    I’m going to put a little bet on how sometimes you get a little tried of being called an inspiration and so forth, and how sometimes you don’t feel so positive. But I’m also going to bet that metal, and the screaming, thunderous anger in a lot of the music, surrounded sometimes by melody, is your way of screaming that rage yourself while losing yourself in the melody. Hell of an outlet.. the best.

    But yes, sorry, you ARE an inspiration with your positive attitude through everything you’ve been through, but don’t ever discount future possibilities, and don’t EVER lose hope even on the worst days, Thank you for sharing your story, and keep going.

    • JH Statts

      Krystal, thanks. Great description. I’m glad it has a positive impact on people. I’m good. No worries.

  • Jon

    Keep it up man ! I wish you all the best in life ! m/

    • JH Statts

      Thank you!

  • Gregory Geller

    I’m going to start listening to the entire Motorhead discography starting tonight.

    • JH Statts


  • Medusa

    This was extremely humbling. As a bass player myself, you’ve lived through my worst fear. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad to see what I imagine being the end of the road is just the start of a different path for you. My best wishes to you, and everyone in this family we call the scene.

    • JH Statts

      Very glad you read. Thanks!

  • Luca Rizla Rizzardi

    Heavy Metal is Love.

    Thanks for this story, you gave me a lot.

    • JH Statts

      Thanks, Luca. Great news!

  • Robert Tolle

    As someone who is volunteering w/ The Wounded Warrior Project, I find that music has an incredible power to heal. Your story is a powerful one, Mr Statts. I believe music can heal our wounds. I’m going to share your story w/ some of the Vets I’m working with. They need to know what you learned. That despite all odds, you found strength beyond strength in music, and within yourself. They can try to break your body, they can try to take your life, but they can’t break your spirit. Keep the iron faith, brother. You got a story that needs to be heard. I wish you nothing but the best. Be strong.

    • JH Statts

      Thanks, Robert. You do a noble thing each day… thank you for that. I’m honored. Keep up the good work!

  • Marcela Slade


    • JH Statts

      Marcela, you are a bright star in my sky. Thanks!

  • Brett England

    An amazing read, Jason. My brother in metal and fellow bandmate, Neil Gilbert, told me about this soon after I joined with SMI. You are a true warrior, you have shown the power of music at it’s best. Very inspiring. Continue doing what you do, brother.

    • JH Statts

      Brett, thanks man. Neil is pretty awesome. Glad you liked the piece.

  • Michael O’Donnell

    The Lord bless you and keep you man, The Lord make His face shine on you, The Lord lift you up in His right hand and give you strength…

    • JH Statts

      Michael, I’m not particular to any religion, but thank you for the sentiment.

  • Pedro Novo

    Thank you for your story Jason.

    You are inspiring! You gave everyone a lot with this.

    Cheers from Portugal

    • JH Statts

      Pedro, I’m glad it resonates with people. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

  • Mommanita

    I knew….it would come… would not be easy…but it would be from you…yours. And it has….all my love…fo-evah!

    • JH Statts

      You know I love you forever, too. You’ll always be my mom #2. Thank you!

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  • Akash Gura Goredo

    This is the kind of real-life story that should be aired on prime-time TV for all young adults, for them to know what real life can bring to you – unwarranted violence, physical loss, excruciating and permanent physical pain, emotional duress, mental agony – and despite all of this, the courage to get up and getting on with life.

    Some humour, if I may, Sir: I suspect that Metallica’s ‘One’ should never be allowed on your playlist, right?

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