Whenever we leave our beds and walk out into this little world with all of its curious inhabitants, it is necessary or at least unavoidable to interact with them in one way or another. Since we can’t simply know everything about every single person around us we have to categorise to a certain degree and therefore we judge people by looks, behaviour and other superficial tokens.
So let’s set an example… me. I am a tall boy with long flowing hair. I wear large boots, mostly cover myself in black clothes and I am rarely seen without a band shirt. A lot of people would assume that I spend every Sunday night sacrificing chickens and goats in cemeteries for the glory of satan, burning churches, kicking elderly people with my heavy boots into trashcans and being depressed and antisocial… or for short, the kind of person you don’t want to sit next to you for a 4 hour bus ride.
I apologise, but now I must make you look like a judgemental dick. Chickens and goats are kinda expensive these days, what with the rising cost of inflation which surpasses the slow increase in wages and at some point I have to get on the property ladder, so I can’t do that every… no – seriously. I’m a rather lovely person and I would like to give you a short glimpse what this whole metal head thing is like and how it is to travel with fabulous long hair and enough metal on my phone to cause heart attacks in a group of overly sensitive people.
So here is the first fact for you about metalheads. For us, long hair is sacred, for which I am a good example. Even if I look like chaos manifested itself on top of my head I swear it’s the neatest and most organised chaos you will ever find. I could talk passionately with you about haircare for more than an hour without a problem. To show you how serious I am about this topic, let me quote my mother: “You are worse than a woman!”. I guess I don’t have to mention, that I probably own more than just Shampoo for haircare, the additional weight of which in my backpack is totally worth it for looking so glorious.
The next point why metalheads always seem to come across as suspicious to others are the type of clothes that we wear. So let’s start with band shirts – why the hell are we wearing these?
For me, it’s like a second skin. I feel very comfortable with them, and every time I can’t wear them I wish that I could. The reason why I like this clothes so much is that I wear a visual statement of what I truly love: music (maybe comparable with little boys wearing their Star Wars t-shirts, because that’s something that they absolutely adore). On the other hand its like a hint for other people who enjoy the same music as you. Its the direct clue to which circles you belong to and what you like.
However, you shouldn’t be so scared of these looks because the majority of metalheads are some of the friendliest, kindest and funniest people you could possibly meet. I’m not telling you this because I’d like to trap you in a dark basement and torture you to Rammstein, I swear (just to Samsas Traum). It’s true, although our music might sound very aggressive to you, or maybe not even definitive as music at all, the people are pure gold (well most of them, all groups have some black sheep – or in our case… well maybe white sheep??).
But why am I talking about a subcultural thing without a single word about travelling yet? Well… you have some basics now and so I would like to tell you what it’s like to travel as a metalhead – in New Zealand from my point of view in this case.
I realised pretty quickly that subcultures aren’t that common in New Zealand, because this country is just simply too small with a tiny amount of inhabitants (1/3 of the whole population lives in Auckland). You get a lot of weird looks on the streets because metal isn’t a common thing down under and besides the Hippie-fraction, nobody has long hair. But there is a huge difference in New Zealand compared to Europe. You don’t receive as many judgemental looks… it’s more like a mixture of curiosity and interest. They are not scared at all, just maybe a bit confused because you don’t look like the average alternative foreigner, but that’s all. The only bad thing about NZ is the fact that it’s that far away, and so concerts are very rare and just the big, well-known bands do a side trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.… (a Kiwi told me this kind of event happens roughly five times a year… which isn’t often compared to countries from Europe) so this was my only real point of suffering.
And here I have to point out something absolutely beautiful about this community of black loving noise lovers. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what ethnicity you are, or if you are tall, short, thick, thin, gay, straight, Arabic or just Tom, it just doesn’t matter – you are part of our family… as long as you aren’t acting like a total prick (but then everybody will want to slap you in general). If you meet a stranger metalhead or a group they are very likely to welcome you regardless of if you have seen them before or not.
When I showed up in a hostel in Timaru (a historically important place where Tom and I started our questionable friendship while drinking beer together) there was a receptionist who was also interested in metal. He showed me through the whole hostel and declared instantly to everyone that I was the coolest person in the entire house since I obviously shared his taste in music with my long hair and black band shirt. It’s not that he wasn’t equally nice to everyone else, but I had a brother-like status since I entered the hostel, so the term “family” can be quite accurate.
But there isn’t just a light side during travelling as a metalhead. There is a huge problem of suffering, internal pain and suicide inducing rage – the average teenage party backpacker. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very tolerant and open minded person (and not only when it comes to music) – I love and listen to a lot of stuff which isn’t metal at all. I would miss a lot without the Beatles, Gorillaz, Chopin, Peter Fox (all the Germans now – GUTEN MORGEN BERLIN, DU KANNST SO HÄSSLICH SEIN SO DRECKIG UND GRAU – Tom), Cat Stevens/Yusuf, Bob Marley, Charlie Whinston, The Prodigy and many others – music is just too wide and beautiful to ignore everything besides one genre, BUT if there is something I can’t stand is charts music, gangster rap and every kind of electronic music which just contains a random mixture of basslines without a melody and unique, original style or lyrics which require more IQ points than a pot plant to understand. If I already offended you or your personal taste, please understand that I don’t care what you are listening to (my music taste gets questioned all the time) and that you are free to do so, and if you are passionate about listening to the sound of growing grass, that’s your problem and you can do what you love as long as you don’t disturb or harm others (apart from chickens, you can murder chickens in cemeteries).
But this is the critical point. Since the bluetooth-speaker, or at least the smartphone with inbuilt speaker was invented, people are very likely to blast their music out loud – especially in hostels. I don’t have to mention that the people who are practising this sonication the most, are those who offend my earholes, as listed above. It causes me pure stress when I’m forced to hear music I really dislike. Therefore I would never ever start to blast black metal in a hostel lounge because I’m pretty sure everyone else would feel the same (at this point I have to confess that I wanted to do that together with a friend at one hostel to piss off the people around us, because they really tested our collective patience for days). So, since the average teenage party backpacker is nearly everywhere in New Zealand, my headphones became my best friends, and besides that, I improved my disappearance skills.
So… I haven´t answered you the question why people like, listen and live this music, but I hope this was a satisfying insight into my life as a long-haired backpacker with a questionable music taste… this is a travel blog after all.
So long (and thanks for all the fish) – cheers and save travels!
~ Axel @ indieroad