A couple of days ago I found myself at Fortarock, a festival in the Netherlands, talking with some dude whose job was to arrange the transportation of the Iron Maiden fan club members who bought a tour package. As we shot the shit about Iron Maiden (in what would later prove to be a futile attempt to get him to get me an autograph) he told me how he often encountered people who simply follow the band through their whole tours. Apparently there are a lot people whose sole aspiration in life seemed to be to follow these Brits in whatever DVD promotion/revival tour they were doing, no matter the distance or costs.
This isn’t my first experience with something like this. I’ve heard similar stories from the people in The Guano Apes, Stream of Passion, Paradise Lost, Nine Inch Nails and even from some shitty little bands nobody actually cares about. It often isn’t even about being a groupie (many of the fans/stalkers are male, and them and the women there are often way past the age/size limit for being fuckable) but rather about people who seem to have put all of their attention into a band, to a point where it becomes pathological. There’s no hyperbole in this; it is undeniable that if you define your life by someone else’s work, to the level of idolatry, there’s something deeply wrong with you on a mental level.
The problem stems from an increasing (although far from new) tendency to define ourselves through what we consume, imagining that the crap we buy, the music we listen to or the movies we watch identify us as anything more than a consumer. Don’t get me wrong; there is a level of individualism in listening to Opeth instead of Ke$ha, or Watain instead of One Direction, but the idea that consumption equals uniqueness is downright stupid. If all you needed to get or do something (be it an album or attending a concert) was to pay a certain amount of money, you didn’t really accomplish anything special.
If you look through their bullshit, marketing experts have managed to convince you that your parents and any authorities are wrong, and that the only people who actually watch your back are the brands. They have, quite masterfully, convinced people that consumption equals rebellion, so that buying the insanely overpriced Beats by Dr. Dre (the best way to spot a douchebag), drinking Monster Energy Drinks, getting shitfaced on Jack Daniel’s or listening to (ugh) Avenged Sevenfold shows your combative spirit.
Bands are no different from any other product; at the end of the day they are nothing but a brand, and their music is their product. Going out of your way to define yourself because of what Metallica, Iron Maiden, Watain or whatever flavor of the month mallcore crap is currently topping the charts do is, to say the least, pure idiocy. It’s the kind of moronic idea that makes imbeciles get a clef tattooed on the back of their necks, because “music really defines me, man”, without actually knowing how to play any instruments, or who believe that carving Slayer into their forearms amounts to anything more than branding.
It’s OK to love heavy metal and admire the work of the bands and musicians who have made their art available to you. I sure as hell admire the work of many. Just don’t forget that there should be more to you than what other people created. Write something, grab a camera, play an instrument, develop a unique ability to imitate a platypus… do something that, in the end, you can claim is your own.
To quote KMFDM‘s “Dogma”,
“You are more than the sum of what you consume
Desire is not an occupation…”