From the Wilderness…To Wagner: A Musical Journey

During my college ‘wilderness’ years, I used to wake myself up every morning with Marilyn Manson’s ‘Mechanical Animals’. I was most fond of the track ‘Fundamentally Loathsome’, which seemed to tap straight into my psyche and set the tone for the day.

Fast forward eight years, and I’m working in London. Every day, riding the number 23 bus up the Edgware Road, I used to steel myself for a day of dealing with two difficult managers by blasting out Metallica on my iPod.

Walking to my desk in time to the beat of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, I felt invincible. At least up until the point that manager one had his first rant of the day, and manager two insisted I bent the will of the world to his need.

Heavy metal was a constant in my life from my teens – with my specialist subject being the ‘Big Four’ thrash metal bands: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth, though i loved to keep my nose to ground for new talent, poring over Kerrang and Classic Rock with a notepad and pen.

The louder, the faster, the harder, the better. When Metallica headlined at the Big Day Out event in Milton Keynes in 1999, I was there, in the moshpit. In 2008 when they played a one-off gig at the O2, I was there in the gods, beer in hand, revelling in their majesty.

But then something very strange happened.

Last year, I turned 30, and almost overnight, all appetite for louder, faster, harder left me.

I know – it took me by surprise as well.

My iPod, formerly the home of Appetite for Destruction, Reign in Blood, and Death Magnetic, is stocked to the gills with Goldfrapp, Bat for Lashes. I’m writing this piece to the strains of Yves Montand – one of the three ‘french classics’ albums ordered from the Guardian music store, no less.

I have become a Classic FM groupie – Jane Jones plays complete works of an evening and I am regularly in raptures at her choices. My current favourite is Sibelius – I am in awe of his vision.

I still consider my tastes as diverse, and I still keep my nose to the ground for exciting new bands, and composers I haven’t discovered before. It’s just nowadays, Wagner’s as heavy as it gets.

Why the sudden turnaround? I think it’s complicated – it could just be a natural progression with age. But I think part of the reason is that the disaffected youth in me has finally been laid to rest.

Instead of fighting the world, and thinking in a truly insular fashion about my own struggles, I want to fight for the greater good in the world at large – not just in my own head. And the soundtrack to this is completely different.

Plus, as my own boss now, and carrying the troubles, and frequent disappointments of self-employment, I need as much peace as I can get, wherever I can find it.

Originally published on the Huff Post UK 6/12/2012

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About the Author:

Since September 2012, I have been chief writer and editor for the current affairs and arts blog After Nyne, and now After Nyne Magazine (to launch February 2014).
I became a Huffington Post blogger in November 2012.
I am the author of two published poetry books Gold After, and Brittle Fires for Tempest Press's Virgo Rising imprint.
From September 2012 to February 2013, I was Founding Director of Tempest Public Relations, working with a range of clients including Irish American writer Micheal O Coinn, whose debut poetry pamphlet, Five Words, was published by my publishing house Tempest Press, and Callie Carling, author of breast cancer memoir Callie's Story, also published by Tempest Press.
I also acted as the official UK PR consultant to the US based Free Sara Kruzan campaign's Day of Action in London in 2012.
Before this, I was founding director of artist's agency Liquid Gallery - parent company of the Liquid Art Fair Battersea, and Nyne Magazine.
Outside of work, I have a keen film historian, with a particular interest in films from the 1930s to the 1960s. I am a voracious and omnivorous reader, and enjoy cooking, and country pubs with my husband and dog, Willow.

  • Anya Pham

    Interesting meditation on the soundtracks of our lives. My boyfriend and I, as teenagers, were also headbangers. He mentioned once that his conscious choice to switch from metal to punk is what helped alleviate so much of his anger and depression during his early 20s.

    I think there’s also something to be said for the fact that the quality of music on the production end, especially with major labels, leaves much to be desired the last couple of decades, too. Audio compression and way too many digital effects and not enough effort put into textures and techniques makes modern-day Metallica a completely different band from 80s Metallica.

    My tastes have changed since our headbanger years, but it’s still fun every now and then to rock out like the 16-year-old who had the confidence to take on the world. 🙂

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