Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: Metal Musicians Reveal Their High School Bands: Part 1

Ever carve your favorite band’s name into a desk while you daydreamed about anything but what your teacher is droning on about? What about drawing a band’s mascot in blue ink on the cover of a textbook to waste time until the sound of the bell? Well, some of your favorite bands have, too! Even some of the most prominent musicians in underground metal and hardcore today had to start somewhere. So, Decibel gathered up some of our present-day heroes and had them tell us about their high school, middle school and – in some cases – elementary school bands. Here’s Part One of our two-part series on misspent youth.

Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste)
I was in a band back in the early to mid-’90s called James River Scratch (terrible name). We pretty much wanted to be the Richmond version of Gang Green. We did a 7-inch on Beer City Records and a couple Richmond comps. I met a lot of people through that band that I’m still friends with today. It’s crazy how that shit works.

Tony Forest (l) in James River Scratch

Karim Peter (Nightshift Merch)
My best friend and I tried to start a band since 8th grade, but our friend that played drums sucked! Then we heard Agoraphobic Nosebleed on the Converge split and realized I could just program drums on a keyboard instead. We started a grind project called Force & Violence and recorded one song for a comp and, in true grindcore fashion, a 30-song demo with a couple other friends. We hopped on a handful of last-minute shows with a rotating lineup of “whoever would show up to practice for 15 minutes before the show.” It was a mess in every sense of the word.

Justin Pearson (The Locust, 31G Records, Dead Cross)
We were called Struggle. I was 15 when we started and 17 when we ended. Totally in over our heads, to be honest, as we were anarchists and communists, who were getting thrown in jail, beaten up by racist skinheads, and actually touring the continent. I’m shocked Ebullition released our records, which was a huge influence on me starting Three One G a couple years after I got out of highschool. The music doesn’t hold up so much, but the lyrics are oddly still very relevant.

Nick Barker (ex-Cradle of Filth, ex-Dimmu Borgir, ex-Lock Up)
My high school band was a thrash/ almost crossover band called Systematic Insanity… We did a cover of Misfits “Last Caress” at the school open day and the teachers lost their shit when they heard our vocalist belt out the lyrics.

Gary Ronaldson (artist)
We were a death metal band called Skinfather. Amongst our own death metal opuses, covered three songs: Pestilence’s “Twisted Truth,” Bolt Thrower’s “World Eater” and Entombed’s “Contempt.” Three gigs in pubs and the fourth supporting Fear Factory on the Dublin date of the Demanufacture tour. We switched to tracksuits and drop D tuning as soon as we heard Korn.

Skinfather featuring Gary Ronaldson

Pete Lee (Lawnmower Deth)
At some point in the ether, I reckon 1985, Steve Nesfield (Lawnmower D) and I formed our first “band.” NO CLASS. Of course, we loved Motorhead though I think we were aiming for some kind of NWOBHM vibe, hard to tell with the inadequacies in the band. Along with Dave Lee (now more rock and roll and is a tattoo artist) we had a magnificent whole ONE song, “Mrs Jennings Rises from the Grave.” I still remember the riff now. It was probably borrowed from Angel Witch. We never gigged; our drummer could only manage one drum at a time. But we looked hilarious, and lived the dream for a whole matter of weeks. With one song we were never going to gig, but we did have a terrific time confusing the local vicar as we rehearsed in the church hall, and I seem to remember with horror we performed it to my mother, including pyrotechnics, once. NO CLASS, we literally had none!

Pete Lee in No Class

Scott Rozell (Green Jelly, Blackhouse Records)
I was in a band called Antipathy for Mankind (total crusty punk stuff). We had stickers that we made that were all over the floor of this getaway car that was used in a murder/robbery, so that was super. The feds came to talk to my bandmates after it happened. Shit was wild for being a junior in high school.

Christoph Winkler (Internal Rot)
I had a joke band when I was 16 called Shitwhiff that jammed like three times. No one was on the same page, and all we did was figure out that the bassline to “Come as You Are” by Nirvana sounds great under the lead guitar line of “Wherever I May Roam” by Metallica.

Sean Garrison (Kinghorse)
I was in a band called Maurice. Two of us went on to influence a whole generation of musicians in a band called (Decibel Hall of Fame alumni) Slint. The other two (me) went on to annoy anyone taller than we were, which was 95% of the population.

Michael Vinatieri (Capitalist Casualties)
I was in a band when I was 17 called Apostasy. I did vocals and our lead guitar player was older than us by about five years. He came from Iowa, where he was in Rapid Fire NRG, which apparently spawned the vocalist of Guns ‘N Roses, Axl Rose.

Chris Boggess (3 Floyds Brewery)
I was in a band called Meat Snack. I’d describe it as folk core and we were horrifically bad (mostly because of me, not a good singer). We played one show opening for a death metal band named Carnage. They were kind of Carcass-y and frankly blew me away. It was the first death metal band I’d ever saw play live and got me hooked on death metal to this day. After that show, sadly, Meat Snack disbanded

Enrique Sagarnaga (Crypt Sermon)
Back in high school I used to be in a band called Octubre Negro (Spanish for Black October.) We were a death metal band with a punk ethos and our name was a nod to the violence and fallout of a political coup led by various indigenous communities in Bolivia that took place in 2003. We recorded a demo that was never released. It sounded like a group of pissed off, shitty death metal kids worshipping Cannibal Corpse, Krisiun and Carcass to the best of our abilities. I think we played two shows, ever. We had a mean “Hammer Smashed Face” cover!

Will Butler (To Live a Lie Records)
My high school band was birthed from a small group of skate punks right before the turn of the century. We lived in a town mostly known for Camel cigarettes and there was not a lot going on but to listen to music and skate. We were in high school and both were the only punks and knew the only punks in town, but I had this drive to make things bigger, so I’d make full size fliers and hand them out at school. Most of the time these folks would just look at me weird when I handed them a flier for a punk show for a band called The Dead Body Men.

Nate Newton (Converge, Cave In, Old Man Gloom)
My first band was called Lift with some friends from high school (who I’m happy to say are still my friends.) I’m not sure what we sounded like, we thought we sounded like we were influenced by Dischord bands, but there may have been a pseudo rap part in one of the songs. What I’m trying to say here is that it wasn’t good. At all. Our first show was at a house party on my street. The living room mosh pit was out of control. We got to open for a lot of great bands though, and that led me to wanting to get serious about making music.

Ross Sewage (Exhumed, Impaled, PERHAPS Ghoul)
Senior year, I started and industrial metal band called N/A with Matt Harvey, my friend Greg and a drum machine named Dr. Rhythm. After I figured out how easy drop D was to play, I kicked Matt out. We recorded a dem with nerdy songs about Godzilla, Unicorn Predator, etc. We played one show, a high school benefit. Matt and [ex-Exhumed drummer] Col Jones attended, saw I could do death metal vocals and asked me to join Exhumed. I folded N/A, joined them to make some gore metal.

Ross Sewage in N/A

Aesop Dekker (ex-Agalloch, ex-Ludicra)
We were called SLA which stood for Suburban Liberation Army. We played hardcore but weren’t very good, so a lot of our songs were more mid-tempo and “oi” sounding. We played our first show in our singer’s kitchen while his mom was in the hospital. They found a better drummer and “demoted” me to singer. This lineup played one show at the University of Miami and some skinheads took umbrage at my treatment of the American flag in the venue and expressed their discontent by spraying me in the face with a fire extinguisher. I didn’t want to be the front man after anymore.

Matt Knox (Horrendous)
My first band was called Speedcasket, or alternatively TRFB (The Raunchy Fucking Bensons). We were a skate punk/trash band worshipping RKL and Ribbed-era NOFX. We only played twice, one at a local park in our hometown to a rapt 25 people (that included our families). Our drummer was so nervous that he drank almost an entire bottle of his dad’s rum, projectile vomited everywhere and was almost too hung over to play. On top of this, we realized the “out of town band” we had lured to play was so pissed at the shitty turnout/experience, they stole our microphone stand.

Dwid Helion (Integrity, Psywarfare)
In 1986 I found myself locked in a boarding school for disruptive boys. My parents had finally come to the realization that my interest in skateboarding, heavy metal and punk rock certainly was the devil’s handiwork, so I was sent off to boarding school to be cleansed of these impure affiliations (spoiler alert: their plan did not work.) We decided we had to start a boarding school “band” which was myself (Dwid Helion) and Billy “TBO” Gill, friend, classmate and partner in crime, and together we were Eerie Wax. We plugged in an old synthesizer, rigged up some old headphones to be used as microphones. We wedged the amp between the dorm window and performed our only live concert for an unsuspecting student body. Scathing nightmarish electronic sounds permeated the school grounds while we screamed insults at fellow classmates and the staff. Eventually, the staff turned off the power to our room, ending our performance. My memory wishes to convince me that we performed a glorious, hell-raising raucous, but nostalgia always finds a way to sugarcoat the past.