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The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music: Benjamin Myers’ Favourite Music
The Quietus , September 29th, 2021 09:41

Music journalist-turned-novelist Benjamin Myers shares the music that made him a writer from The Slits to Slipknot – and why almost all of it is impossible to write to…


Slipknot – Slipknot

I hesitate to include this, but then remembered I know too many people who daren’t mention the music they have actually enjoyed over the years, for fear of public ridicule, and while I’m almost certainly an annoying little handpump on occasion, I’m not a bullshitter. Also, this isn’t Desert Island Discs.

Anyway, at the age of 23, I decided to leave my job as staff writer at Melody Maker. Looking back, it now seems an insane move to turn my back on a position that thousands would have killed for. I was on a wage with a good overtime rate, had an expense account, and was travelling the world, but the wind had suddenly changed direction and when the Maker put Chris Moyles on the cover, I knew its days were numbered.

I was also regularly vomiting blood due to a stomach ulcer brought on by a rather destructive lifestyle, and just felt totally exhausted after three years of no sleep. So I did the sensible things and went to work for Kerrang! instead, where life was even more ridiculous, though I did manage to stop drinking and have gone the past two decades on tap water alone.

I probably only liked 33% of the music, but I loved the metal bands as people. The Americans in particular didn’t have the aloof veneer of British pop stars; they couldn’t hide their excitement and were just grateful not to be pumping petrol for a living. Also, there was still loads of money around because they were all selling millions of albums. I interviewed the legends – Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Motorhead – but also almost all the newer bands, such as Deftones and System Of A Down.

But one of my first jobs for Kerrang! was trailing Slipknot on their first UK tour, which was mayhem. It was a few days of bodily fluids, over-sold venues and a live show that, performance-wise, was a Grand-Guignol. The drummer had a human skidmark on his sock. His sock! I always particularly enjoyed talking to Clown aka Shawn Crahan, who displayed a raging intellect and liked to compare Slipknot’s music to the paintings of Munch or Van Gogh, which he would spend hours staring at during his days off in Europe.

The fans were brilliant too: one young boy turned up an instore signing wearing a Tesco carrier bag on his head, with “SLAG” scrawled across it. Another was carrying a dead crow in a jar. The first few songs on Slipknot’s debut just sounds like war. Totally ludicrous.

One of the other reasons for going freelance at that time was so that I would have more time to try and write novels, as I was even more obsessed with literature than I was music. And just nineteen very short years later I signed a book deal with Bloomsbury.