Ever plan your full metal T-shirt wardrobe for the week the Sunday before school started? What about skipping lunch just so you can run to your locker and jam a few minutes of your fave new cassette purchase through the puffy-foamed headphones of your Walkman? 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 Two of our two-part series on misspent youth. Read Part One here.
Chris Moore (Repulsion, Magrudergrind, Aertex)
I started my first band when I was in 7th grade, we were called Munk Petal (you know, like ‘Punk Metal’… ugh). We wanted to start a band that sounded like the Misfits meets Black Sabbath, the end result didn’t sound anything like that, to be honest, I don’t remember what we sounded like except that it was bad. One day we were practicing “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, we got confident in our rendition and we opened the door to my mom’s garage to play to the neighborhood. At some point this older kid named Jason came over who was like Todd from Beavis and Butthead. He had a mowhawk, a really cool Slayer shirt and on top of that was chainmail but made out of safety pins, a bondage ring belt with a mag light in it. He was COOL and a total dick. He was like “you guys are trying to play ‘Iron Man’?” He took Nick’s guitar and played what we thought was the coolest version of it ever. He probably called us losers and left. Note: Guy in yellow is NOT Jason.
Ron Martinez (Final Conflict, Lower Class Brats, Booking Agent)
My first band was punk rock and we were called the Inferior (appropriately named). We were all in high school and none of us had any knowledge of how to properly play, No one had been playing their instrument for more than a few months prior to us forming. I was the singer because I didn’t have any musical instrument and besides, singers always got all the attention. We’d rehearse in my parents’ garage almost every day and our neighbors hated us and my parents for it. We had a couple originals and covers of punk “hits”. At the time I was obsessed with the Damned and I really wanted to be cool like Dave Vanian (and too stupid to know I wasn’t). I’d wear tuxedo shirts with ruffles over a fucked-up Germs or Circle Jerks T-shirt and scream into the mic, trying to look spooky. Our first show was a backyard party in Anaheim CA, halfway through our set the cops showed up and broke it up, threatened to confiscate our equipment and arrest us for “noise pollution. Had it not been for parents going on vacations and leaving their teenage kids behind I don’t know if we’d would have ever gotten to play. Lots of backyard gigs, amateur drinking, skating and the usual teenage shenanigans. I’m actually still in contact with my teenage bandmates and fortunately none of us have any intention of reforming the band.
Dan Gonzalez (Gruesome, Possessed)
I was in a power metal band called Requiem (Venezuela), and we had some original songs but we mostly played Blind Guardian, Iron Maiden and Helloween covers. In retrospect, that was incredibly ambitious but it was fun and we actually pulled them off well, because it didn’t matter, it was just fun.
Marco Mastrobuono (Hour of Penance, Coffin Birth, Buffalo Grillz)
I had this industrial/grindcore band when I was 15 years old called Nacrazoth. We were just terrible, guitar, bass, drum machine and nonsense vocals/lyrics. As you can see, we even looked worse than we sounded.
Matt Harvey (Exhumed, Gruesome)
My high school band was Exhumed, which is either a testament to my perseverance or my lack of personal growth. We played our first show six days after my sixteenth birthday (October ’91). In those days, we were really into wearing loud and colorful shorts. Our drummer (Col Jones’) mom would buy ridiculously patterned fabric and sew us shorts with dinosaurs and crayons and all kinds of dumb shit on them. Musically, we were pretty much going for an early Earache kind of thing with gory lyrics etc., so yeah… I guess it’s the “lack of personal growth” option from earlier.
Chad Gailey (Necrot, Mortuous, Vastum)
My first band was called Bruxers. We played crust punk when we started and eventually morphed into a sludgey/crust/death metal band. We disbanded in 2012. If Bruxers had never started, I probably wouldn’t have met Luca and helped form Necrot.
Luc Favie (FUBAR, Doomstar Booking)
My high school band turned into a “real” band, Maggots. We toured Europe and Brazil. Even released some records. We terrorized the local youth center with my growls. We started out as a Six Feet Under cover band, playing “Lycanthropy” for months. I think I was the worst Chris Barnes impersonator ever. But, to be fair, I’m still pretty gutted I never ended up in a car ad.
Kyle Shutt (The Sword)
The first “real” band I joined (toured in a van) was a ska punk band called Ten Betty Zain. I was 15 and the other dudes were 20 or so. I saw them once and their trombone player sucked, so I asked them (since I played trombone in high school) if I learned all their songs if I could join their band. They (and my parents for some reason) agreed to let me hop in a van and get my skank on throughout the southwest. Our crowning achievement was opening for Zebrahead in Lubbock, TX to NO ONE.
Jesse Matthewson (KEN mode)
We started playing our weird style of metallic noise rock back in ’96, with Shane being in the 8th/9th grade, and myself in 10th/11th, along with our friend, and KEN mode founding member, Darryl Laxdal. We played one basement show back in ’97 under the name The Bedlamites with this lineup (which was cut short by a guy vomiting on the floor of the house), a school talent show as Vital Signs in ’99 with a different drummer and Shane on bass and Darryl on vocals (where Darryl chopped up a stuffed mouse with a steak knife and we spewed fake blood all over the place), and made various demos through those years as The Mighty Bombula (just Shane and I) and Beatnick Freakout Contained In Styrofoam Cup (just myself playing all instruments, recorded on my trusty Yamaha four-track). Through this COVID business I feel a little like I’ve come full circle, back to recording demos in a room on my own again… something I haven’t done in a good 21 years.
Toby Driver (Kayo Dot)
One (of my high school bands) was a sort of atmospheric doom band called Celestial Providence. It was a prototype version of what would later become Maudlin of the Well a year later. Greg from Maudlin of the Well was also in Celestial Providence with me. Our drummer was god awful, a total weak link, and later he became a cop.
Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation)
I played drums in a band called Stigmata that eventually changed its name to Strangulation. I had answered an ad at the local music shop where I took drum lessons and called bassist Ben Marlin who placed the ad. I had been chatting with Diego Sanchez who was a popular skater guy at my high school. I remember my mom dropped us off at the downtown SOMA location to see Entombed. Right as they were going into the “Phantasm” part was the exact time my mom told us she would be picking us up, we were so damned crushed! Couple of years later, I was kicked out because I was pretty much a typical “hyperactive drummer dude” who was hard to handle and probably a little annoying. Eventually, Ben and Diego couldn’t lock down a suitable replacement for me, and Disgorge (USA) was looking for a new guitarist and bassist, so they joined. Right around that time I joined Cattle Decapitation. The rest is pretty much history!
Richard Christy (ex-Death, Charred Walls of the Damned)
I had two bands in high school, one was a joke band with my buddies called Bung Dizeez with original songs like “My Anus”. We played one show on a hay wagon at a friend’s farm in Bronson, KS with about 10 people in attendance. My other band was a cover band named Syzygy where I actually made money (about $75 per gig and $250 one time when we played a massive kegger at Elm Creek Lake!) and got free beer even though I was only 15 (don’t do what I did kids). One place we played was so rough that an average of three pool sticks were broken during fights on any given night, it was fun to watch from behind the safety of my drums. I saw my first set of boobs during a gig with Syzygy at an AmVets Hall in Nevada Missouri. We played Metallica, AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd covers, and we had one original song I think it was called “Get Tough.” The lyrics were about beating up mean jocks or something like that. The song title really should’ve been “I Wanna Beat Your Ass but I’m Not Big Enough.” I had to quit Syzygy when I turned 18 and moved to Springfield, MO to join the death metal band Public Assassin who I was a huge fan of. I skipped college to chase the death metal dream and haven’t looked back since.
Kevin Stewart-Panko (metal journalist, all-around swell guy)
It’s a long story, but Sepultura’s original bassist, Roberto Raffan, and his brother Wesley—who took the photo gracing the back of Beneath the Remains—ended up emigrating from Brazil and settling in Toronto. Through mutual friends, myself and Rob joined forces and spent far too many hours in the bedroom of his apartment trying to craft hi-brow next-gen thrash with tons of outside influences and all sorts of esoteric musical jibber-jabber. Prospective members came and went and it took us a year to find a drummer, some dude who lived in a party house with a basement jam space in the north ‘burbs. Eventually, we had some semblance of a short set of originals pasted together and I think the moniker I was out-voted on was “God Mourning,” which I still think is one of the dumbest band names I’ve ever heard. Didn’t matter because they slowly ousted me out of my own band because I was a boring, teetotalling non-partier. Never played any shows.
Mike Schliebaum (Darkest Hour, Be Well, Zealot RIP)
Darkest Hour is my high school band but before I was spreading the Metalcore doctrine I honed my skills in an even earlier metalcore band. Indivision was my band right before darkest hour. A sound that bridged Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth Pantera, with early ’90s metalcore: Earth Crisis, Snapcase, Bloodlet, Unbroken, Undertow and Chokehold. Our demo tape was recorded by Ken Olden (Damnation AD, Battery, Better Than a Thousand). Even as crude and primate as it is, I can still hear the early development of my guitar playing and writing which I still find pride in, even if the music is cringe worthy at times. With Ken’s help I had my first enjoyable recording experience AND produced a demo that would propel me first band into the actual DC hardcore scene of the early ’90s and open the door for me to create Darkest Hour.
Carolina Perez (Hypoxia, Castrator)
When I was 15 years old, I was in a “metal band with my brother and first boyfriend, we never had a name but played covers. After we moved to the states and started over while in high school, we started a band called Sabottage (yes with two “t”s.) It was fun times and we even got to play in a church somewhere in NJ (we had no idea where), someone called the cops on us and made us stop. Good times!
Arjun Gill (WAKE)
I was in an after school rock bans throughout middle/high school in Saudi Arabia ran by our 9th grade math teacher. We played covers of everything from Metallica and Van Halen to Cake and Tommy Tutone. We played shows regularly in front of the school and community which gave me invaluable experience at an early age.
Megan Osztrosits (Couch Slut)
My first band was called Pocket Gallows and we were like a doomy band with piano, baritone guitar and drums. I did keys and vox, our song “Someplace Cheap” on the latest Couch Slut record [Take a Chance on Rock and Roll] is about a night of tour with Pocket Gallows when we got drugged by a bunch of bikers.
Jason Netherton (Misery Index, Dying Fetus)
I was in a heavy metal/thrash band in high school called Damnation (along with John Gallagher from Dying Fetus.) We released one three-song demo and did a few dozen shows around Washington DC before breaking up in ’91. Our biggest show was opening for Deceased at the old Bayou in DC—our parents even came to see us. People just heckled us and screamed “play some Slayer!”
Bungo Uchino (Coffins)
I was playing drums at the time in a grindcore band called ERROR. The band had one (!) only original song, also played songs by Filthy Christians and Nirvana! I think we did a couple of shows with terrible performances.”
Drew Daniel (Soft Pink Truth, Matmos)
In high school I danged on scrap metal and “sang” in a post-hardcore band called Cerebellum in Louisville, KY. We put out a cassette tape and then broke up. Half of the band became Crain. I sang for Crain at their first show. Still have love for my bandmates and still miss John Cooke (R.I.P.)
Doug Moore (Pyrrhon)
My first band was called Seputus, a two-piece I started in my junior year of high school with Pyrrhon’s current drummer Steve [Schwegler]. The idea was to play technical death/black/thrash influenced by Cryptopsy and Anaal Nathrakh, even though I had no prior band experience and really no idea how to play guitar or do vocals at all. The original version of the band never made it out of Steve’s basement for obvious reasons, but we revived Seputus as a studio project a few years ago and just finished our second “real” album.
Mike Williams (Eyehategod, Corrections House)
As a 15-year-old runaway from the boy’s home, I had my first REAL band, not just a bedroom band, but one that actually played a lot of gigs. We were called Teenage Waste and we were part of the infancy of a more second wave of punk in New Orleans. With songs like “Burn the Flag, “Girls Like You” and “(I’m a Fucking) Epileptic.” We even scored a short “residency,” playing a hood, dive bar called the Rose Tattoo twice a week, playing with locals like Red Rockers, Shell Shock and Goners and the Sluts.
Casey Hansen (Cult Leader)
Scabies is the bans I played in most in high school. We were somewhere between a punk version of Flipper and a weirdo crust punk band. When we played shows where there was a large contingent of “normies,” we would sometimes take an except from a song and play it for ten minutes like it was on a loop. At one show, we played “Sex and Violence” by the Exploited and “Sex Bomb” by Flipper BACK TO BACK until everyone left. At another show (an official high school function) we played a ghastly rendition of “If You Wanna Be My Lover” by the Spice Girls where “so tell me what you want what you really, really want” got repeated until we were bored and just kinda trailed off.