I don’t know what it is about me that seems to draw the crazies. I certainly don’t go looking for them, but they spring out of the woodwork and in an instant decide that I’m the kind of person who wants to converse with random strangers. In actual fact, little could be further from the truth. I’m a fast walker and I habitually avoid eye contact with people in the street. Wearing tinted glasses makes this easier, I find. More often than not, I have earphones in, too, just to create more of a barrier between myself and the world. But where the crazies – and drunks – are concerned, this exterior seems to send the opposite message. Or perhaps they’re just oblivious.
So I was walking back home after watching The Yawns play at The Basement. It was a little after eleven. I was more or less sober, having only consumed three and a bit pints (it would have been four, but while trying to photograph the band, I’d managed to spill the majority of my last pint, much to my extreme annoyance), but feeling buoyant because it had been a good show, and I’d had the chance to catch a few words with Joe Coates (the man behind Please Please You, and the majority of decent gigs in York), and Mark Wynn, cool music scene people I don’t see nearly often enough. I had just parted company with my mate Big Sam, the Balaclava Boy, and had not yet plugged myself into my MP3 player to create my hermetic space. I was, however, wearing a black Thinsulate hat pulled low to the bridge of my nose and felt pretty sealed off.
I’d clocked a guy leaving Sainsbury’s with a carrier bag as I crossed the road, and had seen him remove a bottle of wine from the bag, crack the cap off and take a long slug from the bottle. I thought nothing of it, and wasn’t concerned by the fact I’d probably have to overtake him. Up ahead a way, he stopped to roll a cigarette, and it was at this point I came to pass him.
“’Scuse me, mate.”
I should’ve walked on by and feigned deafness. But I’ve tried that before, and been harangued all the way down the street for ignoring such people. I figured he was going to ask me for a light. It happens a lot. I simply explain I don’t have a lighter because I quit smoking and that’s that. So I stopped and looked at the guy.
“Do you like heavy metal?”
“I hope you don’t think I’m, like, stereotyping or making assumptions, but I thought you looked a bit alternative and like you’d be into different stuff like heavy metal. I hope you’re not offended or anything.”
“Not at all. It’s not my first choice of music,” I professed, “but I like some metal.”
“Yeah? Like Sepultura an’ that?”
“Not so much,” I replied.
“No? What then?”
My ears weren’t only ringing from the gig – I’d left the house in a hurry and irritatingly forgotten my earplugs – but from the clutch of upcoming Southern Lord releases Lauren at Rarely Unable had recently put my way and that I’d spent the afternoon getting my lugs round. These were still fresh – and loud – in my mind and represent, to me, the only kind of metal worth listening to. The really heavy, abrasive stuff. The nasty, gnarly stuff, the full-throated sonic annihilation of grindcore and crust is far more my bag than the overblown fretwankery of the ‘big’ metal acts. I attempted to explain this to him, although as succinctly and as accessibly as possible.
“So, like Slayer an’ that?”
“Not really,” I said. This really wasn’t going anywhere and I rather hoped my less than leading response would leave the conversation as extinguished as his poorly-rolled ciggy.
“No-one listens to metal,” he moaned. “I mean, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I’m a shit-hot guitarist. You probably think I’m just a drunk wanker, and I am drunk, but I can play all the songs. Metallica, Iron Maiden. I’m 40 years old and I’ve been playing guitar for 20 years but I just can’t find a band to play in. Do you know where I could go to find other people who are into metal who’d want to be in a band with me? Do you play?”
“Nah. I play guitar a bit and can move a bar chord around in time but it’s pretty basic. I gave up on playing music and now I write about it instead.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a music writer.”
“Like a journalist?”
“Yes. I review stuff. CDs and live music. And I can tell you that a lot of people do listen to metal. It’s a huge market.”
“Yeah but I can’t find anyone. There’s nothing I’ve ever found that I can’t play. I can do all the solos, even. But no-one’s interested. It’s all DJ this and fucking MC that and… you know what I mean? You’re not a DJ are you?”
“Hell no. I’m a writer.” The guy was beginning to get on my wick and I was pleased to arrive at my turn-off from the main road. “I’m off down here,” I said.
“I know you’re probably thinking I’m some drunk twat, and I am drunk, but don’t worry, I live round here, I’m not trying to stalk you or follow you home or anything. I am a bit drunk, but I’m a decent bloke, y’know, and I know I’m a good guitar player. I mean that. I don’t like going up to people and saying ‘I’m a shit-hit guitar player, though.”
“Maybe you should. If you’re serious, you need to get out there.” I believed he wasn’t going to stalk me or follow me home, and I doubted he was about to turn and knife me, kick me head in or smash the now half-empty wine bottle over my head, but figured it was still wiser to humour him – because he was clearly a drunk twat – than risk it by tying to shake him in an obvious fashion.
“Is that what you’d do?”
“And you’re a DJ?” There was a broad hint of incredulity in his voice.
“No, a writer.” There was a broad hint of weariness in mine.
“So how does that work?”
“I get sent music and I review it. I go to see bands play and I review them.”
“Where? Who do you write for?”
“Websites, eh? And you’re a journalist? But you don’t know where I can go to meet people who’d give me a chance? How do I find people that are into metal? I’m a fucking awesome guitar player – and I’m not just saying that, and it’s not just because I’m drunk – although I am drunk – I can play everything and I love metal. Satriani, you name it.”
“Maybe you could go and see some bands playing. Talk to them. they’ll know other musicians, people in bands who are looking for a guitarist.”
“And they’ll be into metal? I mean, I’ve got a band in theory – like me, and a bassist and a keyboard player but we don’t need a fucking keyboard player.”
“No, that’s a bit 80s hair rock, I’d have thought.”
And so it went on in this way until we reached a junction where our routes diverged, much to my relief.
“It’s been good to meet you,” he said. “Thanks for listening. A lot of people wouldn’t have done.”
“That’s the kind of guy I am.”
“You’re a good guy. What did you say your name was?”
“Thanks. I’m Chris.”
“Right, yeah. I’m Steve. And you’re really a DJ?”
Some drunk bloke I found on the Internet
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