It’s an interesting world we live in now. It’s a time when people are literally seconds away from getting information on whatever subject they desire. Don’t know the capital of Madagascar? Google it*. Trying to figure out the name of the fifth Beatle? Google it**. Have a painful rash and want to know what could be causing it? Cancer. No, seriously, pretty much everything on WebMD leads to cancer, so don’t even go there. See a doctor who knows what he’s talking about.
See, I’m in the generation that was around before the Internet was a big thing. For some of you, that’s probably impossible to imagine. Hell, I have trouble remembering that time myself. But I still do. Instead of finding movie trailers online, we had to wait until the previews at a theater to see what was coming soon. Instead of reading about a tour online months before it kicked off, we listened to the radio or read about it in a magazine. And buying tickets? We actually went to a Ticketmaster location or called them up. No online purchasing for us. Craziness, right?
So what does this have to do with music? Elementary, my dear reader. It’s taken all the mystery of musicians out of music!
Allow me to explain. When I got my first Metallica record, I had heard of them only through music videos on MTV (yup, we’re going back that far). It was just around the time of The Black Album, so Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters were on constant rotation. I was able to see what the band looked like in these videos but I never really knew what they were like outside of the videos.
See, when they weren’t on the screen, they were these mythical gods who composed roaring tidal waves of metal. I thought that they must live on mountain tops and drink the blood of their enemies from elephant skulls while feasting on the finest of meats, fruits, and cheeses.
If you think this is a bit of an exaggeration, there is definitely a touch of that. But when you’re a nine year old kid, the imagination tends to run a little wild.
Let’s fast forward several years to an article that came up on Blabbermouth showing Metallica frontman James Hetfield in a white t-shirt, plaid shorts, flip flops, and holding an Armani shopping bag.
Mind. Blown. He does the same mundane shit that I do? WHAT THE HELL???
Now, keep in mind that this wasn’t the first time I’d seen a musician going about their daily lives on the Internet. But usually it was some pop star or RnB diva out in the club, getting wasted on cosmopolitans and shagging some B-movie actor.
However this was different. The pop and RnB genres lend themselves to the idea that these musicians go out and party. They go out and live life and don’t mind being seen doing it. Rock and metal makes me think that the musicians are lurking beyond the ever watchful eye of the paparazzi/press, as though they are some sort of shadowy figures that cannot, no, that dare not be seen.
When I thought of musicians, the only association I could make was their music. I didn’t know what type of clothing they wore or what movies the liked watching. I didn’t know what brand of instruments they used or what clothing label sponsored them. All I had was the music, the lyrics, and once every few years, a show to go to.
Alas, there are no more shadows. The Internet has created a light so bright that there isn’t really anywhere for musicians to hide anymore. As a matter of fact, they are practically being forced into that light. The music industry now requires bands to do tons of photo shoots, vastly more interviews, viral videos, guest appearances, late-night TV performances, behind-the-scenes studio videos, and more.
Coming back to Metallica, the biggest nail in the coffin lid, so to speak, was the film Some Kind Of Monster. Admittedly a fascinating and brilliant documentary, it showed the band in ways that fans should never have seen. Drinking wine at art auctions? Adorably playing drums with your wee little ones? Arguing amongst each other with a psychiatrist as a safeguard? These aren’t metal titans! These are regular, every day joe schmoes! The veil that hid even the last little bits of Metallica was forever removed.
Would I still lose my mind if I met Metallica? Most likely. I mean, one of the first songs I learned on guitar was Nothing Else Matters. But I’d be going into meeting them with a vast wealth of knowledge of who they are, what they believe, what they enjoy. I already feel like I know them without actually knowing them.
Look, I’m not saying that I oppose what is going on. I realize that the world we live in is vastly different from the world that was, even just a couple of decades ago. Average people these days cannot fathom a life without the Internet, social media, technology, etc… Such a life seems impossible. Hell, I freak out a little bit when I realize I’ve left my phone at home for a few hours. My leg sometimes gets phantom vibrations even though my phone hasn’t gone off. My body has literally conditioned itself to believe that I should be connected to the technological realm.
Bands these days are working much harder for much less. In order to make ends meet, bands have to be either insanely popular or have locked down a devoted, paying fan base. Neither of these are easily attainable. And in today’s day and age, can we really expect musicians to not take full advantage of the social media realm? Of course not! They thrive off of Facebook ‘Likes’ and Twitter followers. The more of a reach they have, the more marketable they are.
All I’m saying is that I miss not knowing what is going on behind-the-scenes of a band. Call it nostalgia, call it whatever you want. For as much as I embrace this new world and this new media, I sometimes wish I didn’t know as much as I do.
*Antananarivo **Stu Sutcliffe
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