Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Aesthetics of Hate – Are Heavy Metal Live Shows a Form of Radical Performance Art

Hello again everybody,

Last year as part of my Drama degree I finished my Final Year Project dissertation on Heavy Metal music with the title above. I am immensely proud of the work and it allowed me to achieve a very high grade. Since discussing the work with people many have commented that they would enjoy reading such a piece and so I decided to upload it here where it could be freely available to everybody wanting to have a look.

Apologies for the formatting – this has been copied and pasted from NeoOffice on my Mac which, in turn, was copied from a Microsoft Word document on Uni PCs etc etc. However all the writing is still there and that’s the important bit.

So without further ado I give you: 



I would like to thank the following people for helping to create this dissertation

  • Peter Billingham for his continued support throughout this despite my last minute change of heart when choosing a topic.
  • Ian Christe for publishing Sound of the Beast: A Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. My Bible and inspiration.
  • Alice Cooper, Rammstein and Slipknot for providing me with so much material to justify as art.
  • William Grim for proving my point with his pathetic scorn.
  • The men and women who dedicate their lives to Heavy Metal and ensure that it survives despite all setbacks thrown at it
  • The bands I did not have the time or the word count to mention.
  • This dissertation is dedicated to the memory of:
    James ‘The Rev’ Sullivan of Avenged Sevenfold (1981-2009),
    Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow, Elf, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven and Hell (1941-2010)
    and Paul ‘#2’ Gray of Slipknot (1972-2010)


Heavy Metal Music-


Loud and harsh sounding rock music with a strong beat; lyrics usually involve violent or fantastic imagery

Princeton University 2011

On Friday 13th February 1970 Black Sabbath released their eponymous album and explored strange and new ground in what would become one of the first Heavy Metal albums of all time. This album would later go on to influence bands for the next forty years in what is still one of the most long running and evolutionary genres in history. Throughout Heavy Metal’s long running history it has become widely acclaimed for its combinations of excesses, experimentations and visceral explorations of both the human condition and the wider world in a way far removed from populist sensibilities. However, whilst the genre’s attention grabbing spectacles have challenged the bourgeoisie opinions for the best part of the past half century they have also attracted their fair share of detractors who view the musical phenomenon as nothing more than pop culture ugliness and an affront to the moral ‘right’.

‘He was an ignorant, barbaric, untalented possessor of a guitar and large amplifier system. Freakish in appearance, more simian than human, he was the performer of a type of “entertainment” that can be likened only to a gorilla on PCP. Lacking subtlety, wit, style, emotional range and anything approaching even the smallest iota of intellectual or musical interest, Mr. Abbott was part of a generation that has confused sputum with art and involuntary reflex actions with emotion.’

Grim 2004

Above is an excerpt from Aesthetics of Hate: RIP Dimebag Abbott, and Good Riddance, an article written by American Conservative journalist William Grim in response to the onstage murder of Pantera and Damageplan guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbot by schizophrenic fan(1). Grim’s views expressed in the article, so soon after Abbot’s death, are the epitome of the sort of detraction that Metal has experienced in the years since its creation. Believing that Abbot and his contemporaries could not be considered ‘music’ when compared to ‘artists’ such as Beethoven and Mozart, Grim shocked and disgusted an entire plethora of Heavy Metal artists and fans worldwide with his narrow minded and derogatory views.

In this essay I will prove Grim wrong. I aim to observe the Heavy Metal live show as a cultural phenomenon of radical performance art. Since the early days of the genre the shows have not just been about playing music to the fans but about performing the identity of the band, giving a spectacular show and creating a collective sense of cultural unity between both fans and artists worldwide. It is my belief that, whilst many view live music as merely a facet of popular contemporary culture, in reality it can stand as something with much more cultural and artistic merit and, whilst radical within this particular genre, can take on the validity of performance which makes it comparable to a form of alternative theatre.

My essay will start in the early days of Heavy Metal live shows, looking largely at one of the pioneers of the theatrical music concert; Alice Cooper. Retaining the spirit of the melodramatic and grotesquery within the genre, Cooper’s shows starting in the 1970s were some of the first of their kind in terms of the sheer performativity associated with the music. Whilst many performers of the time played their instruments and sang onstage; Vincent Furnier created the dark and villainous character of Alice Cooper, dazzling crowds with a combination of choreographed duelling routines, copious amounts of fake blood, gothic torture and, in the case of the 1971 tour, a climax of Cooper’s own execution onstage by electric chair. Whilst looking at this form and how it contrasted to the prevalent hippy subculture of the time I will also be analysing the influences cited by Cooper, his contemporaries, and his fans for his shows. These influences include such disparate genres as the Gothic literary movement, the French Grand Guignol and even the vaudevillian showcases of the recent past. I will also be looking at Cooper’s work through the perspective of Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and looking for commonality therein. For selected sections of this chapter, I will be particularly focussing upon Cooper’s 1975 Welcome To My Nightmare tour which was later turned into a concert film on the DVD of the same name.

Whilst Cooper’s live shows were the starts of radical and violent performances in the Heavy Metal genre, bands for the next 30 years continued to push the boundaries further and further to find the limits of taste. In my second chapter I will be looking at the spectacular onstage and how it has developed from the merely impressive to the almost death defying. The main focus of this chapter will be the Neue Deutsche Härte (literally; ‘New German Hardness’) band Rammstein and their performances from the mid nineties through to the present day. Rammstein’s performance of German songs has, by their own admission, alienated people who do not speak the language and so their themes and ideas are instead communicated through their extreme live performance combining elements of pseudo-violence, simulated sexuality and explosive pyrotechnics to create a spectacular show. Whilst attracting a great deal of controversy as a band due to their imagery and lyrical content, these elements of Rammstein’s career can be seen to closely mirror the ideas of the carnivalesque proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin due to the combinations of the grotesque and the poetic, subverting cultural norms and expectations through their shocking imagery. Rammstein’s performances and lyrics also play heavily on ideas of sexuality and this is an idea which is played with extensively in their songs, to reflect this, I will also be looking at theories of sexuality in performance in relation to both Rammstein’s live shows and music videos which follow the similar tangent of excess. Whilst looking partially at music videos, my research will also include material from the July 2005 performance at Les Arénes de Nîmes, France, featured on the Volkerball DVD released in 2006.

Finally, I will be looking at the live Heavy Metal show and how it relates to performative identity. Throughout its forty year run, ‘metalheads’, as they have often been dubbed, create a massive and closely linked subculture who embody a collective understanding and respect based upon shared musical interest, often as a result of abandonment by or resentment of the established popular culture. In my last chapter I will be looking at the band Slipknot, famed for their masked personas as ‘the nine’ and cultural identity of their fans as ‘The Maggots’. Masks have been a useful tool in theatre as far back as the Ancient Greeks and have found their way into many forms over years and I will be analysing Slipknot’s onstage personas in relation to the original theatrical conditions which encouraged the use of masks and looking into dramatic and cultural theories behind masks and how they relate to identity in performance. Extending outwards, I will also be considering ‘The Maggots’ as a performative tool and look into the broader social context which Slipknot are critiquing with their onstage appearances, both in terms of physical appearance and the levels of reactionary violence with which they approach their shows. To analyse the close links between Slipknot and their fanbase I will be using material from their 2009 performance at Download Festival in Donington featured on the 2010 DVD release (sic)nesses.

Despite its setbacks, controversies and critics, Heavy Metal has stood the test of time and survived in one form or another for the past forty years and, in my opinion, part of this is due to the power of the live show. In the same way that theatre has amazed audiences through the centuries, the Heavy Metal live show deftly combines text, theory, set, lighting, staging, props, effects and, most importantly, sound to give the captive audience a show which can stay with them for years. It is for this reason that I aim to argue, through this dissertation, that the Heavy Metal live show truly is a legitimate form of art.

No More Mr Nice Guy: Alice Cooper, Early Theatricality and its Influences 

I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing

Till they got a hold of me

I opened doors for little old ladies

I helped the blind to see

I got no friends ’cause they read the papers

They can’t be seen with me

And I’m gettin’ real shot down

And I’m feelin’ mean

No More Mr Nice Guy (1973)

 During the 1960s, in the wake of The Beatles, popular music largely appealed to the prevalent ‘hippie’ subculture which placed its emphasis upon ideals of world peace, free love and compassion for all. Although this cultural phenomenon gave a great deal to the causes of live music and counter culture such as the establishment of Woodstock Festival in 1969, the live aspects of the still evolving rock genre were just about to experience their greatest moments. ‘As the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s relaxed into a liberal attitude towards drugs, sex and bacchanalian glory…rock music, always a bastion of youthful rebellion, was fast becoming the desired lifestyle, and the conservative middle class did not know how to cope’ (Christe 2004:17). At the forefront of this wave of rebellion was Vincent Furnier, the man who would be known to millions as the rock god Alice Cooper. Cooper combined his garish and confrontational stage image with equally controversial stage shows packed with gore, spectacle and stories plucked straight from the oeuvre of the gothic literary movement. Although many music concerts both prior to and following Cooper’s success have entertained audiences of millions by their reliance on technical brilliance, popular rhythms or empowering beats, Cooper’s live shows were some of the first of the new Heavy Metal genre and brought the fans a theatrical and spectacular show which has influenced the genre for nearly forty years.

By conventional, contemporary standards, Cooper can be seen as a precursor to the ‘Goth’ sub-culture with his use of black, leather costumes, excessive make-up and preferences towards morbid subject matter. In fact Cooper’s use of onstage persona and violent aesthetic stand as an influence on many future bands, including those mentioned in subsequent chapters. Whilst pre-empting the contemporary sub-culture, Cooper himself drew his influences from the Gothic literary movement, a form of Romanticism dating back to the 18th century. In his book Gothic Horror: a Guide for Students and Readers, Clive Bloom describes the Gothic in the literary context as ‘at once escapist and conformist, [it] speaks to the dark side of domestic fiction; erotic, violent, perverse, bizarre and obsessionally connected with contemporary fears.’ (Bloom 2007:2). Of course the Gothic prior to Cooper was not just limited to the worlds of literature and also found its place in the theatre as far back as 1750 in the London Patent Theatres. The plays themselves borrowed heavily from the Gothic literature and were often adaptations of the texts themselves, creating great spectacular stories of dread and terror using an array of stock characters and symbols to convey these feelings. Many of these symbols and characters can be found in Cooper’s own shows. These include the daring sword fight between good and evil, the tyrant (in this case Cooper himself, the self styled enemy of civilised society) directing the action to his will, instruments of torture onstage and the most recognisable, a phial of poison serving as a mechanism to create suspense, not a far cry from perhaps Cooper’s most memorable single ‘Poison‘ released in 1989.

Thematically, as well as practically, Cooper’s live shows were also greatly linked with the tradition of the Gothic theatre. When analysing the cultural phenomenon, Bertrand Evans describes a Gothic play as ‘one marked by features which have long served to identify a Gothic novel. These features include specialised settings, machinery, character types, themes, plots and techniques selected and combined to serve a primary purpose of exploiting mystery, gloom and terror’ (Evans 1947:5). As discussed above, Cooper’s shows included many of the icons and characterisations typically found in the Gothic oeuvre and these all came together in his nightmarish vision to create exactly the ‘mystery, gloom and terror’ which the Gothic commanded. A prominent example of this is Cooper’s 1971 tour where the audience were shocked and awed by the grotesque spectacles onstage. Songs were deliberately geared to play to people’s sensibilities such as ‘Dead Babies‘, a song heralded by the appearance of a spotlit pram and played with Cooper picking up the doll inside and singing whilst holding the ‘corpse’ like a trophy before hurling it into the audience, a fitting analogy of ‘gloom and terror’ is ever there was one. Of course such horrific acts were framed by the realisation that this was fiction and all onstage, allowing the audience a level of emotional distance and thus a sort of catharsis could take place, a realisation of the horrific as something removed from reality and that ‘aesthetic horror could…lead beholders to the sublime’ (Monk 1960:129). With the close of his 1971 show Cooper was ‘executed’ onstage, his body sitting, fried, in an electric chair before the cheering crowds and providing the ultimate artistic terminus to return them to their reality.

Of course whilst Gothic in its roots, it was not just this form of art which influenced the performances of Alice Cooper. In Sound of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal; music journalist Ian Christe cites Cooper’s shows as being inspired by the French Grand Guignol street theatre (Christe 2004:17) which saw its golden years between 1897 and 1962, a mere nine years since the beginnings of Cooper’s theatrical shows. Much like Gothic theatre, the Grand Guignol sought to entertain audiences through the darkness and terror of the human condition. However, whilst the Gothic stopped at the evil acts of its characters and explorations of human desire through stock icons and situations, the Grand Guignol exploded further into a full on frenzy of blood and gore on the streets of France. Much like Cooper, the Grand Guignol was maligned in its time for the sheer excesses and depravities onstage, indeed, when discussing the form Mel Gordon surmises:-

the Grand Guignol managed to transgress theatrical conventions and outrage its public as it explored the back alleys of unfettered desire, aesthetic impropriety, and nascent psychological trends in criminology and the study of abnormal behaviour

(Gordon 1997:2)

In the same way, Cooper presented himself as an upholder of ‘virtues’ such as these through his shows which tapped in to the very horrific. With reactionary, anti-establishment songs such as ‘No More Mr Nice Guy‘, ‘Schools Out‘ and ‘Department of Youth‘ alongside the grotesquely titled ‘Dead Babies‘, ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ and ‘Only Women Bleed’‘ making up his musical repertoire, Cooper was making no secret of his capacity to shock the bourgeoisie in the same way as had been achieved by the Grand Guignol in France during the preceding decades.

Similarly to Cooper’s Gothic roots, the Grand Guignol’s influence on Cooper’s stage shows comes in a combination of theories and intentions along with the practices and spectacles themselves which follow. Forever inventive in their application of mutilation, Guignol included acts onstage ranging from eye gouging with knitting needles and faces forced against scalding stoves (A Crime in the Madhouse by Andre de Lorde and Alfred Binet, 1925) to orgies culminating in throat slitting and prostitutes burnt to crisp (Orgy in the Lighthouse by Leopold Marchand, 1956). This shocking material was often not too far received from Cooper’s own shows which, for the first time in a live music event, employed copious amounts of fake blood and gore onstage to thrill the audiences with the sheer audacity of the situations before them. Of course these acts were not merely in the name of bad taste, as was perceived by the ‘moral elite’ who frequently derided both Cooper and the Guignol or who tried to stop them. Avid supporters of the Grand Guginol saw it as ‘the most Aristotelian of the twentieth-century dramatic forms since it was passionately devoted to the purgation of fear and pity’ (Gordon 1997:2) and it can be said that Cooper’s shows, with the massive following that the charismatic rock star created, attracted a similar level of artistic engagement from the fans, delighting in the spectacles of blood and gore before them as it expunged all the fears and trepidations instilled in them by the prevalent ruling agenda who frowned on it so much.

When seeing one of Alice Cooper’s shows in the 1970s, Groucho Marx, a friend of Cooper’s, described what he saw as like a vaudevillian show (Denton 2005) and this presents a very interesting analogy between Alice Cooper’s performances and another form of theatrical entertainment. Finding its greatest popularity in the turn of the nineteenth century, vaudeville dazzled audiences with its incredibly varied stage show comprising comedy, magic and spectacle together to give an unforgettable night to their audiences and it was through this variety that Marx, a veteran of vaudeville himself, saw the comparison. Much like the sequential acts of the vaudeville stage, tours such as Cooper’s ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’, based on the album of the same name, featured songs which each presented their own individual narrative to the audience. Many of these songs featured a variety of acts from Broadway dancing skeletons during ‘Some Folks’ and spider costumed gymnasts during ‘The Black Widow‘ through to a battle between Cooper and a giant Cyclops with a glowing eye during ‘Steven’. The show even had its own vaudevillian master of ceremonies in the form of a disembodied voice belonging to none other than renowned horror actor Vincent Price.

Of course, yet again, we return to the spectacle of the entire show being the pivotal factor in its artistic merit, a point of commonality between vaudeville and Cooper, but in this instance the spectacle itself does seem to come at odds with the macabre presented onstage. Whilst discussing vaudeville, Charlie Holland posits that ‘if one thing has an enduring appeal to humans it must be novelty. The appeal of the new has inspired show producers to find, and performers to create, innovative and extraordinary attractions’ (Holland 1998:153). It is in the word ‘novelty’ that we find the true secret of Cooper’s art. The images presented to the audience, although rooted in cultural phenomena for centuries, were entirely new to contemporary audiences who had just awakened from the ethical upheaval of the 1960s, creating an enduring novelty factor which had seen the vaudeville flourish in a similar way.

As well as bearing resemblance to a number of theatrical styles across the centuries, the live performances of Alice Cooper can also be said to relate to the theoretical frameworks set down by early surrealist practitioner Antonin Artaud. In his first manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty Artaud discusses the issues of theatre and its technique as a critique of the human psyche, arguing:-

…theatre ought to pursue a re-examination not only of all aspects of an objective, descriptive outside world, but also all aspects of an inner world, that is to say man viewed metaphysically, by every means at his disposal…Neither Humour, Poetry or Imagination mean anything unless they re-examine man organically through anarchic destruction, his ideas on reality and his poetic position in reality, generating stupendous flights of forms constituting the whole show

(Artaud 2005:71)

Artaud’s ideas on the subject matter of ‘theatre’ can, especially in our post-modern age, be extrapolated to apply to performance in general and the Heavy Metal live show can certainly fall into this category. In the case of Alice Cooper, his 1975 ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ tour included theatricalised renditions of songs from the concept album of the same name, a concept album designed around the nightmare world of the protagonist ‘Steven’, played by Cooper. In this state of being, the show can definitely be seen as having Artaudian elements as Steven’s mind is deconstructed in the anarchic fashion Artaud describes above, filled with all manner of beasts including Cyclopses, spiders and trolls which he encounters with each progressive song on the setlist. This metaphysical representation onstage, bordering on the surrealistic, is one of the many artistic aspects which came together to create Cooper’s groundbreaking form of entertainment and allowed him to gain artistic approval even from the great Surrealist Salvador Dali himself (Denton 2005)

In conclusion, Alice Cooper’s stage shows of the early 1970s were some of the first of their kind for the world at large, presenting a musical spectacle of a genre still in its infancy, in a boldly theatrical fashion to audiences across the world. Whilst many of the older conservative generation, still reeling from the rise of hippie culture during the 1960s, saw the shows as nothing more than crass pornography corrupting their youth Cooper himself does have an entire array of artistic and cultural parallels which often predate their ‘traditional’ values. With spectacular, vaudevillian displays and confrontational metaphysical narratives, Cooper’s shows placed themselves firmly in a realm beyond any music concerts which had come beforehand and, much like the artistic movements of the past, challenged the established order of the time. It is for these reasons that Alice Cooper’s stage performances held up a mirror to the world and the people he saw around him and showed it for what it really. It is clear that Cooper functioned not just as a musician but as an artist and, with talks underway to take Welcome to My Nightmare to Broadway (Vineyard 2010), Cooper’s legacy continues to live on as one of the most powerful and influential artists in metal today.

Los: Rammstein, Carnival and Sexuality in Live Music

Sie waren sprachlos

(They were speechless)

So sehr schockiert

(So totally shocked)

Und sehr ratlos

(And totally powerless)

Was war passiert?

(What happened?)

Los (2004)

 As Heavy Metal music has developed and evolved as a genre over the decades the acts depicted by the artists onstage have escalated in their ability to shock and awe audiences in new and innovative ways. The now infamous 1981 incident when Ozzy Osbourne ‘unwittingly’ bit off a live bat’s head during a performance marked one of the most prominent examples in Heavy Metal’s tremulous history of what has been dubbed ‘shock rock’ by both its fans and detractors. Bridging on from instances such as these as well as influential ‘shock rockers’ such as the aforementioned Alice Cooper; various artists since the incident have all employed their own techniques. These have combined glorification of excess, hyper-sexualised acts and violent iconography and performance to, deliberately or not, garner a similar level of shock from their audiences. Whilst many do simply dismiss these acts as the work of shock rockers attempting to gain notoriety as a means of marketing, it can be said that the employment of excess, inversions of established orders and championing of vulgarity bear striking resemblances to the theories of carnival posed by Mikhail Bahktin. Known worldwide for their aggressive and death defying feats onstage, Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein have marvelled audiences with their combinations of controversial content with spectacular form in a way which truly reflects the anarchy of Bahktin’s work and their performances can be seen through this lens as transcending the ‘shock rock hype’ and living up to the standards of a work of art.

Originating from the Soviet controlled East Berlin in the late 1980s, Rammstein’s arrival on the music scene in 1994 was an explosive rebuttal to the totalitarian existence they were forced to endure during their genesis. Part of this rebuttal came in the form of the band’s confrontational lyrics. Never shying away from controversy, Rammstein often base their songs around contemporary events and tragedies so as to solicit a more genuine, and often controversial, response from audiences. Examples of these songs include ‘Mein Teil’ (My Piece, based on the 2001 Armen Meiwes(2) cannibalism case) or ‘Wiener Blut’ (Viennese Blood, in reference to the high profile 2008 Josef Fritzl(3) incest rape case). Whilst many decried these references as ‘bad taste’ on the part of the band due to their proximity to the events, Rammstein have actually succeeded in a carnivalesque sense by turning tragedy into art and, in some senses, comedy. Particularly referencing the lyrics of ‘Mein Teil’ with regards to the Armen Meiwes case, the verses often counterpoise viewpoints from Meiwes and his victim Bernd Jürgen Brandes so that the thematic constantly shift, often comically, from suffering to cooking. This can be found chiefly in one of the verses:

Die stumpfe Klinge – gut und recht (The dull blade, good and proper)

Ich blute stark und mir ist schlecht (I’m bleeding heavily and feeling sick)

Muss ich auch mit der Ohnmacht kämpfen (Although I have to fight to stay awake)

ich esse weiter unter Krämpfen (I keep eating while in convulsions)

Ist doch so gut gewürzt (It’s just so well seasoned)

und so schön flambiert (and so nicely flambéed)

und so liebevoll auf Porzellan serviert (It’s so lovingly served on porcelain)

Dazu ein guter Wein und zarter kerzenschein (and with it a good wine and gentle candlelight)

Ja da lass ich mir Zeit (Eat, I’ll take my time)

Etwas Kultur muss sein (You’ve got to have some culture)


This blurring of traditional form, whereby the binary opposition of good and evil as social constructs are placed onto an even playing field, is a fitting testament to carnivalesque ideals. Bahktin cites a key component of carnivalesque understanding as ‘the constant combination of falsehood and truth, of darkness and light, of anger and gentleness, of life and death. The dual tone of the people’s speech is never torn away from this whole or from the becoming; this is why the negative and the positive elements never seek a separate, private and static existence’ (Bahktin 433:1984). Lyrical binaries broken down as Rammstein has above are definitely key examples of this sort of combination.

Within the original carnivalesque conditions of the Middle Ages cited by Bahktin the established orders such as aristocracy and religious piety were often mocked and usurped by clowns and fools for the purpose of humour within the celebrations. As stated in The Morality of Laughter by F. H. Buckley; ‘Carnival Laughter is a critique of hypocritical or over-exacting social norms. Carnival-goers assert the superiority of the pleasure loving life over the narrow rules of ostensible superiors who would deprive them of human joys’ (Buckley 2005:37). In a similar way, Rammstein often draw upon established orders and texts when constructing their lyrics to create joy in a way far removed from the bourgeois association of high and low art. One key example of this is the poems of German Romantic poet Wolfgang von Goethe, whose poems Der Erlkönigand Das Heidenrösleinhave been adapted for the Rammstein songs ‘Dalai Lama’ and ‘Rosenrot’ (Red Rose) respectively. In fact, it was Goethe himself whom Bahktin made reference to when speaking of the coming together of dichotomies and so Rammstein’s usage of his materials as inspiration allows for a greater understanding of their carnivalesque roots, with both artists and theorists citing the man as influential.

Of course merely speaking of content only places Rammstein in a field of artistic or literary understanding. It is only when combined with form and performed live that the songs become works of performance art. According to lead guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe:

You have to understand that 99 percent of the people don’t understand the lyrics, so you have to come up with something to keep the drama in the show. We have to do something. We like to have a show; we like to play with fire. We do have a sense of humour. We do laugh about it; we have fun… but we’re not Spinal Tap. We take the music and the lyrics seriously. It’s a combination of humour, theater and our East German culture, you know?

(Grand Rapids Press 22/07/1999)

Rammstein are renowned worldwide for their energetic and explosive live shows. A motto adopted by the fans at many shows is ‘other bands play, Rammstein burns’ and this serves as a fitting analogy of some of the pyrotechnic brilliance on display. One of Rammstein’s most prominent tricks is the employment of Lycopodium masks during the song ‘Feuer Frei’ (Fire Freely), which fire giant streams of fire from the mouthpieces into the air above the audience as the band members chant ‘Bang! Bang!’. Of course spectacles such as these are nothing new to the world of the carnivalesque, which placed a great deal of its importance upon ideals of spectacle and excess. Rammstein pride themselves in the utilisation of excessive pyrotechnics comparative to other bands and this, in of itself, can quite easily put them into the role of carnivalesque wildmen, a role whose intentions are defined by theorist Samuel Kinser as ‘deep seated reasons for constructing inversions of culture and civilisation to an equally deep seated need to indulge in excess’ (Kinser 1999:9). By utilisation of highly dangerous and impressive pyrotechnics Rammstein have placed their work into the realm of the radical, extended further than acts from performers in previous decades such as Cooper, but also by association their performances have become carnivalesque and so do fit into the oeuvre of the artistic.

Of course it is not just the spectacular effects of the performances which set Rammstein out as legitimate theatrical carnival but also their use of props and costumes during several songs so as to convey meaning and, often, carnivalesque humour to their performances. During live performances of the song ‘Mein Teil’, lead singer Till Lindemann enters the stage as a blood soaked butcher with a large butcher’s knife attached to the end of his microphone. As the song’s intro plays in keyboardist Christian ‘Flake’ Lorenz’s smiling face appears from a large cooking pot and he is repeatedly harangued by Lindemann until the climax of the song when the singer takes a flamethrower to the pot and chases a smoking Lorenz offstage. As stated above the song is based upon the Armen Meiwes cannibalism case and by this association of transposing a tragic and high profile event to the stage in the fashion of a dark comedy places it firmly in the field of carnival. The carnivalesque is all about inversion and parody and Rammstein’s onstage antics mock the cannibalism case in a manner befitting that of parody, that is to say ‘the comic imitation of another’s socially typical speech, behaviour, thinking or deepest principles’. (Williams 2010:214). By mocking the ‘deepest principles’ of the bourgeois society who view such ‘close to the bone’ acts as bad taste Rammstein have effectively parodied the reigning societal order in a manner befitting those of the carnivalesque theories of Bahktin.

As well as the carnivalesque, Rammstein’s onstage performances exhibit many qualities espousing the raw sexuality of the human condition. With songs such as ‘Ich Tu Dir Weh’ (I Hurt You) and Pussy in their repertoire (which deal with issues of sexual sadism and promiscuity respectively) the band tread the lines of ‘good taste’ yet again. Particular controversies arose in 1999 during a performance in Worcester, Massachusetts when Lindemann simulated sodomy with Lorenz onstage using a rubber dildo during a performance of ‘Buck Dich’ (Bend Over). The incident landed the band in jail for a night but the controversy gave them a great deal of notoriety and antics of this type continue to this day. Despite these controversies merely appearing as ‘shock rock’, the content and performance of these sorts of songs are key components of the band’s artistic repertoire. Exploring sexuality as a fluidic entity and paralleling societal metaphors, the band often include performances whereby the strong (Lindemann, the band’s strongest member) assault the weak (Lorenz, the band’s weakest member). Using sexual acts as a metaphor is nothing new to the artistic world and has been theorised heavily by practitioners and academics for many years. When talking about the dynamics of sexuality and power, Alan Sinfield, professing himself to be viewing the issues as a ‘cultural materialist’ states the belief that ‘historic forces and the power structures they sustain determine the direction, not just of our societies, but also of our selfhoods.’ (Sinfield 2004:3). Through this framework we can see Rammstein’s onstage antics as an artistic statement; attacking the established ‘selfhood’ of the cultural materialist by having two straight men engaging in homo-eroticism whilst at the same time perpetuating the reality of the dog-eat-dog world they saw from the ‘historic forces’ and ‘power structures’ of their own lives in East Berlin.

As well as the band’s live performances pushing boundaries in their exploration of carnivalising society and sexuality, Rammstein’s videos have also attracted similar attention for their incredibly confrontational and diverse approaches. Furthering the theme of the canonical being carnivalised, Rammstein’s possibly most popular release, the 2001 video for ‘Sonne’, saw a gritty, industrialised retelling of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Simultaneously modernising the story and demonising the protagonist; ‘Sonne’ saw a sexually manipulative Snow White seduce the six dwarves (the band) to cater to her every whim and mine gold dust in a grimy and dangerous mine. This gold dust could then be injected by Snow White like heroin on the pretence of sexual rewards. When she overdoses into a coma, the dwarves take her lovingly to the top of a hill in a glass casket which is smashed open by a falling apple, prompting her to wake angrily. In this sense the band has managed to create the opposite carnivalisation to their exploration of cannibalism in ‘Mein Teil’, in that they have turned this comedic piece of folklore into a tragic indictment of human greed. Through images of excess, addiction and manipulation Rammstein have turned the tale into a grotesquery, similar to Bahktin’s theory of ‘grotesque realism’ related to the body, that is to say ‘the undying body of all the people, comically debased so that it can be reborn’ (Morris 1994:195). Whilst Rammstein’s grotesquery does not so much relate to the body as ‘the soul’, as it were, their combination of philosophical grotesquery and canonical form is a divergence from the original point of Bahktin to new areas of ‘grotesquing’, debasing the pure white damsel in distress so that she may be reborn as the powerful temptress in a manner befitting that of artistic exploration.

Whilst ‘Sonne’ carnivalises folk tales from centuries ago, the video for the 2005 release ‘Mann Gegen Mann’ (literally Man Against Man) takes ‘grotesquery’ to the modern sexual arena through its exploration of homosexuality. The video depicts the band naked, covered by their instruments with the exception of Lindemann who dons a ‘latex diaper” interspersed with images of a group of oiled up, naked men wrestling one another. As the song develops this climaxes into a massive chaotic fight as the men reach for a demonically dressed Lindemann, pulling out his hair. Whilst many detractors saw this as flagrant pornography and tried to have the video banned the combination of song and video do carry and important message. When sung, Lindemann emphasises the word ‘Gegen’ in such a way that it is unclear if he means ‘Gegen’ (against) or ‘Gay gen’ (Gay for) so as to epitomise the struggle of being homosexual in the social climate, furthered by the video where the men struggle against one another and, although Lindemann is separate from the violence, he is still despairing and demonised. Within the framework of Queer Theory the song explores inherent ‘queerness’ within male competition and rivalry by taking a grotesquely literal interpretation of the ideological debate. Bridging on from explorations by American critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; Queer Theory explores ‘the appearance of queerness in all its forms within a heterosexual hegemony, including underlying patterns of sexual variance which give the lie to any idea that our culture is as straight as it likes to think it is’ (Fortier 2002:124) and this espousing of underlying variance into artistic confrontation is a clear feature of Rammstein’s work.

In conclusion, when simply passively viewing the giant pyrotechnics, comically parodic costumed shows and law-baiting onstage sodomy Rammstein have set themselves out as one of the most outrageous and awe inspiring bands to come out of Europe during the 1990s. However, when one considers the critical theory underpinning these decisions; the roots in medieval carnival, the confrontation of societal norms and the fierce loyalty to expression of new and innovative ideas Rammstein cease to be six East German rockstars and instead become six champions of spectacularly guttural art to both delight and engage fans worldwide.

Pulse of the Maggots: Slipknot, Masks and Cultural Identity

This is the year where hope fails you.

The test subjects run the experiment.

And the bastard you know it the hero you hate.

But cohesing is possible if we try

There’s no reason, there’s no lesson

No time like the present

Tell me right now

What have you got to lose?

What have you got to lose

Except your soul?

Who’s with us?

Pulse of the Maggots (2004)

Whilst Rammstein’s excesses onstage attracted controversy as far back as the mid nineties; they were not the only band provoking a reaction over the past two decades. Formed in 1995 by percussionist Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan (#6) and bassist Paul Gray (#2), the Heavy Metal icons Slipknot have been attracting controversy, criticism and potent debate amongst music journalists and the wider artistic community for many years. A great deal of this debate stems from the band’s provocative and eye catching image, largely centred around their use of masks and matching uniforms in any and all public appearances. Whilst many are quick to dismiss this as simply gimmickry in order to promote and sell more albums the band members themselves are ardent in their dismissal of these claims. When questioned about the masks in 2002, vocalist Corey Taylor (#8) explained by saying “it’s our way of becoming more intimate with the music. It’s a way for us to become unconscious of who we are and what we do outside of music. It’s a way for us to kind of crawl inside it and be able to use it.” (Taylor 2002). By separating themselves from media concerns as individuals, the band has created a widespread and loyal fanbase worldwide committed solely to the music and not the individuals. With any artistic form one of the key driving factors is in what way a work speaks to its audience and with their collective identity of ‘the nine’, Slipknot have spent the past 16 years creating music for the outcasts and downtrodden in society with the message of becoming part of something greater and never being alone, a message truly befitting a work of art.

In the world of theatre and performance masks are by no means a new concept, finding their roots as far back as the Ancient Greek theatre of Socrates, Aeschylus and Euripides. In their original context, the Ancient Greek Theatre took its place at the Festival of Dionysus, god of ecstasy, madness and wine, and it is from the mythology of Dionysus that the mask itself finds its way into theatre. Dionysus was originally thought of as one of the few Gods whose appearance was sudden and grandiose and within festivals and worship this appearance was explored through the use of mask. When discussing this mythos and related ephemera, Walter Friedrich Otto begins his explanation-

The galvanic entrance of the god and his inescapable presence have found their expression which is even more expressive than the cult forms we have previously discussed. It is an image out of which the perplexing riddle of his two fold nature stares – and with it, madness, This is the mask”

(Otto 1995:86)

 In the same way that the Greeks used masks as an artistic symbol to represent the idea of Dionysus, many of Slipknot’s masks onstage follow a thematic or personal link with their own personalities. Examples of this include guitarist Jim Root (#4) whose jester styled mask represents his fun loving side whilst the late Paul Gray wore a pig mask in the early days to portray the addictive personality which would ultimately spell his demise. In this way the band cease to be nine people onstage and instead become symbols upon which audiences can interpret their own meanings or extrapolate their own personalities, a key component of many artistic interpretations of the self for centuries.

Dramatically speaking, the mask can function as much as a metaphor for society as it can function as a symbol pertinent to a specific thematic. By its very definition, a mask is a tool by which a person can separate their public persona from their private self. “Sociologists argue that the social self is not organic but is rather a performed character; a part learned. Playwrights used the artificial and theatrical mask to reinforce the concept that social roles are patently dramatic (Smith 1984:126)” In this sense, Slipknot’s utilisation of mask affords them a certain degree of performative ‘identity’ when onstage. Whilst each of the band members have appeared in side projects or other endeavours unmasked, almost every appearance pertaining to Slipknot has been done masked. This furthers performative identity whereby outside of Slipknot the band members are people whereas all efforts as a band stand for something above personality and ego and become a ‘dramatic’ performance of a part both on and offstage.

A key example of this performative identity comes from sampler/keyboardist Craig ‘133’ Jones (#5) whose personality and statements in interviews have aroused a great deal of controversy. Whilst the other band members have all appeared in documentary DVDs or other projects unmasked Jones will always appear either masked or with his face pixelated(4), going so far as to keep his mouth zipper open during interviews but closing it before answering each question. This increased anonymity allows Jones to ‘play’ his character a lot more, appearing to all those outside of the band as a quiet sociopath, as described by Ross Robinson

When I first met him he never talked. He was super-quiet and never spoke a word. I would point at him and say, hey dude, I bet you’re the most psycho fucker in this band! And he still didn’t say anything. I would try and get him to talk and he would just sit and stare at me. The first time he talked during an interview he said, “if I wasn’t in this band I’d probably be out killing people.” And when he said that, it caused so many problems, all these letters coming in. So the only time he talked, he caused a bunch of shit!

(Robinson 2010)

 Despite his outward sociopathic demeanour, appearances by Jones in DVDs and interviews have alluded to a much more friendly personality. Following the release of the self titled album in 1999, Jones conducted two online text interviews and fans have noted a much less hostile personality than those noted in public appearances. Furthermore, in the making of video of Sulfur, Jones is seen conversing with the cameraman about his mask, jokingly stating “Wow I can actually do this thing myself!” (Roadrunner 2008). Both of these examples allude to a difference between Jones’ public persona and his actual self. This dichotomy of character and self has its precedence in art and theatre with performers such as Hugh Hughes, the persona of Welsh performer Shôn Dale-Jones and has artistic merit in confronting audiences with the thing they fear the most, encouraging the purest of emotional reactions.

Whilst exploring themselves and their place in society, the band also use their performative identities to critique social elements affecting them. Whilst many see Slipknot’s imagery as gimmicky, they play against this theme by numbering themselves from #0 to #8(5) within the group. As well as further distancing themselves as individuals from the ‘greater concern’ of the music, the numbering motif along with their onstage uniforms and jumpsuits stand as a subversive criticism of the music industry which produced them. Taylor explains: “Originally, we were just going to wear the jumpsuits […] we figured we might as well take that further and number ourselves. […] We were basically saying, ‘Hey, we’re a product!” (Taylor 2001:80). Although appearing as a gimmick to their detractors, Slipknot’s own ‘gimmicky’ appearance is in fact an ironic affront to the music industry and commercialisation which places so much emphasis upon gimmicks and selling points and shows that they are capable of functioning as artists on both personal and political levels within the community.

No band, irrespective of genre, can continue to function and succeed without fans to support it and Slipknot is no exception. With their personalities removed from performance, Slipknot place a great deal of their emphasis upon the fans, a subset of the Heavy Metal community collectively named ‘The Maggots’, a reference to early iconography used by the band. During shows Slipknot includes the audiences greatly, encompassing them in the shared ideology of the downtrodden, ignored and alone in society fighting back. During the 2009 headlining performance at Download Festival, Donington, Taylor riled up audiences by repeatedly goading them to sing along or begin songs for him unaccompanied before the band joined in, constantly praising their commitment to the band and the band’s love for them, the fans. This was epitomised before the performance of ‘Everything Ends‘ when Taylor described the band’s message as ‘basically the noise of all of the people who have been misunderstood for too fucking long saying fuck you, you will not control my fucking life!’ (Roadrunner 2010). Whilst at first glance this appears merely as a band with a strong and dedicated fan base, performative elements appear in the finale of the gig when the band perform their ‘crazy test’, a running motif used in live shows for many years. Whilst playing their final song ‘Spit it Out‘, the middle section breakdown is extended so that Taylor has a chance to speak to the audience, asking them to sit down on the ground ready to ‘jump the fuck up’ on his command. During the 2009 performance this amounted to close to 80,000 people sitting on the ground patiently, more than has ever taken part before and, when the order was given at the end of the final crescendo, 80,000 Maggots rose to their feet in collective celebration.

This close relationship between performer and audience and the inclusion of the vast crowd in performance is an artistic technique familiar to both music and performance audiences in many different aspects. The captivation and inclusion of crowds is indeed a throwback not just as far as earlier contemporaries Rammstein and Cooper but also to the extremely propagandistic rallies of 20th century political leaders who have been both compared to and defined as acts of performance by theorists repeatedly. Referencing specifically the Nuremburg festivals of Germany’s Third Reich, aestheticist Günter Berghaus references ‘the magic of the flags, banners and torches, of the mass rituals and the Führer-cult, the transfiguration of death and the oath of allegiance numbed the senses and satisfied the ‘age-old lust for horror’ as much as the desire for sensation and need for community’. (Berghaus 1996:175) In the same way that the fascist rallies of the Third Reich became performative in terms of sheer spectacle and inclusion of audiences in that spectacle, an excess described by Berghaus as becoming a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Work of Art)’, Slipknot’s shows owe much of their spectacle to the utilisation of the audience. Similar to a sort of twisted and radical form of Forum Theatre, both examples retain their artistic elements by inclusion of audiences in the greater whole as performers, in this instance relative to the music, in the same way that the band has sacrificed their own identities. At first it would seem at first that comparison to such a political ideology with natural associations with ‘evil’ is counter-intuitive to the argument of Slipknot’s inclusive message giving a voice to the bullied and misunderstood. However, it is merely the artistic form which alludes to this and not the content, similar to the ideas posited by the aforementioned Rammstein in their song ‘Links 2-3-4‘ (Left 2-3-4) which borrows from Einsheitfrontlied by Bertolt Brecht. The song alludes to the heart beating on the left, sounding aggressively militaristic whilst at the same time maintaining liberal, left wing sensibilities as a response to detractors who saw no difference between militarism and fascism.

One thing which is surely agreed about Slipknot is the highly confrontational nature of their performances. Slipknot shows typically include such technical equipment as hydraulic drum risers to elevate the percussionists, computer screens and pyrotechnics while the band, especially in early days, attracted a great deal of notoriety for their own actions going as far as stage diving, fighting and even setting each other on fire (Gray 2010). These acts, combined with Slipknot’s aggressive lyrical themes and ‘wall of sound’ style music (as described by some critics) do draw up certain parallels with the British ‘In-Yer-Face’ theatrical movement of the nineties. First defined by Aleks Sierz in the book In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today, the confrontational nature of the acts performed onstage ranging from sexual masochism and mutilation to drug-fuelled hedonism and rhetorical profanity affronted the unsuspecting audiences and attracted remarkable amounts of debate pertaining to suitability and taste. Sierz describes the In-Yer-Face movement as follows

Any drama which takes the audience by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until it gets the message. It is a theatre of sensation: it jolts both actors and spectators out of conventional responses, touching nerves and provoking alarm…it affronts the ruling ideas of what can or should be shown onstage…crucially, it tells us more about who we really are

(Sierz, A. 2001:4)

 At the time of publishing, the young, angry British playwrights were considered artists just as infrequently as many contemporary rock stars, such as Slipknot, are today. However after close scrutiny of the choices made by writers and how they are reactionary to society and the self they have made their way into the artistic repertoire and many are even finding their way in the 21st century into a form of canonicity. With clear, brutal audience interaction, sensational provocations of response, questioning of bourgeois values and hierarchies and insights into the maggot-like nature of the self, Slipknot’s shows share many of the properties which set out the once maligned writers as artists, in a sense transcending to a state of art themselves.

Tragically, on 24th May 2010 Slipknot bassist Paul Gray was found dead in a motel room in Iowa, having overdosed on a mixture of morphine and fentanyl, aggravating what doctors described as signs of significant heart disease. Whilst the band currently remains in relative limbo, their repertoire so far speaks for itself in terms of artistic achievement. Utilising a range of different techniques to produce the most confrontational and inspirational shows for their fans the art is self evident. Since appearing in 1999 Slipknot have become one of the most powerful and influential bands of the past 10 years and the 80,000 Maggots at Download 2009 and millions more worldwide stand testament to that. In June 2011 the band will headline the Sonisphere Festival, their first performance since Gray’s death, and will not return as eight men going back onstage but, rather, eight artists blighted by tragedy and returning to their canvas.


Looking at the three examples in the essays above, it is clear that Heavy Metal has many elements befitting that of a legitimate artistic movement. Starting with the early steps; Gothic influenced showcases of Alice Cooper, through to the excessive displays and cultural inversions of Rammstein and finishing at the cultural and sociological phenomenon of the Slipknot fanbase, we see a movement that not only provokes criticism and debate from the world at large but also one which manages to evolve and change, constantly finding new and innovative ways to rise above detractors and continue inspiring people worldwide.

Of course these three bands are merely heads of the much more potent Hydra that lives, breathes and grows every day. With more time and less constraints, essays could be written analysing thousands of bands from the hundreds of sub genres which have arisen and gained notoriety since 1970 with influences as vast and diverse as the human mind can imagine. However, I feel these three key examples are adequate as an overview of the sort of artistic merits Heavy Metal is capable of.

In Aesthetics of Hate, William Grim cites the work of ‘Dimebag’ Darrell, and by association Heavy Metal as a whole, as ‘Lacking subtlety, wit, style, emotional range and anything approaching even the smallest iota of intellectual or musical interest’ (Grim 2004). With regards to subtlety, Slipknot’s personas are drenched in enough subtlety that many detractors do not even realise they are looking at grotesqueries of themselves. With regards to wit, Rammstein’s upsetting of established orders through unusual dichotomies and carnivalesque inversions becomes a biting satire drenched in the wit of the socially conscious. With regards to style, Alice Cooper’s drawing upon a plethora of historical artistic sources creates a style in of itself in the modern age of the director. With regards to emotional range, each band includes songs of love, loss, aggression, empathy, sorrow and regret and, as for ‘the smallest iota of intellectual or musical interest’; frankly the fans speak for themselves.

There is no doubt that the Heavy Metal live show is radical, by its very definition it is made to be that way. But, as so often happens in society, art itself comes from a radical response to external oppression. Just like Corey Taylor’s adage of what the music stands for; Heavy Metal is the voice of the oppressed and misunderstood speaking out against a social regime which they perceive to be wrong. Stanislavski, Brecht, Dada, Surrealism, Absurdism, the Gothic, the Grand Guignol, The Theatre of Cruelty, the carnival, In-Yer-Face. All of these are theatrical movements and practitioners which have been dissatisfied with theatre as it existed at the time and found radical, as it was perceived at the time, forms and subjects to rectify this imbalance towards the bourgeoisie. Much like the hordes of Heavy Metal fans, they found a voice for their hate and it was not long before this voice evolved to become an aesthetic.

To conclude I would like to take some words from William Grim’s own hateful article: ‘A confidant civilization imposes its morality and aesthetics on it young people’ (Grim 2004). Imposing morality and aesthetics in this way has long been a goal of the conservative civilisation and Heavy Metal is a voice standing against this. When trying to silence Heavy Metal; detractors, critics and elitists would do well to remember Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Although a law of physics, this is a concept which has found its way into the political, cultural, social and, by association, artistic, community for centuries. If you push people and ideas hard enough, time and time again they have proved that they will push back. So however much you may try to fight an entire artistic community into submission we will fight back with our art giving just as good as we get.


Chapter One: Alice Cooper, Early Theatricality and its Influences

  • Artaud, A. (2005) The Theatre and its Double. 4th eds. Calder Publications: London
  • Bloom, C. (2007) Gothic Horror: A Guide for Students and Readers. 2nd eds. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke
  • Christe, I. (2004) Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. Alison and Busby LTD: London.
  • (2010) No More Mr Nice Guy lyrics [online] Available: [Accessed 1/2/2011]
  • Evans, B. (1947) Gothic Drama from Walpole to Shelley. University of California Press: Berkeley.
  • Gordon, M. (1997) The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror. De Capo Press: New York.
  • Holland, C.(1998) Strange Feats & Clever Turns: Remarkable Speciality Acts in Variety, Vaudeville and Sideshow at the Turn of the 20th Century as seen by their Contemporaries. Holland and Palmer: London
  • Monk, S. H. (1960) The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in 18th Century England. Modern Language Association of America: Michigan
  • Denton, A. (2005) Enough Rope Episode 82. [online] Available: [accessed 7/1/2011]
  • Vineyard, J. (2010) Alice Cooper on Loving Lady Gaga and his Broadway ‘Nightmare’.[online] Available: [Accessed 7/1/2011]

Chapter Two: Rammstein, Carnival and Sexuality

  • Bahktin, M (1984) Rabelais and his World: Translated by Hélène Iswolsky. Indiana: Indiana University Press.
  • Buckley, F.H. (2005) The Morality of Laughter. Michigan University Press: Michigan
  • (2010) Los lyrics [online] Available: [Accessed 1/2/2011]
  • (2010) Mein Teil lyrics. [online] Available: [Accessed 1/2/2011]
  • Fortier, M. (2002) Theory/Theatre: An Introduction. Routledge: Abingdon
  • Kinser, S. in Eisenbichler, K. & Husken, W. M. (1999) Carnival and the Carnivalesque: The Fool, The Reformer, The Wildman, and Others in Early Modern Theatre. Rodopi: Amsterdam
  • Kruspe, R. Z. (1999) Grand Rapids Press 22/07/1999. Grand Rapids Press: Michigan.
  • Morris, P. (1994) The Bahktin Reader. Edward Arnold Publishers LTD: London
  • Sinfield, A. (2004) On Sexuality and Power. Columbia University Press: Columbia.
  • Williams, G. J. in Zarilla, P. et al. (2010) Theatre Histories: An Introduction. 2nd eds. Routledge: Abingdon

Chapter Three: Slipknot, Masks and Cultural Identity

  • Berghaus, G. (1996) Fascism and theatre: comparative studies on the aesthetics and politics of performance in Europe, 1925-1945. Berghan Books: Oxford
  • (2010) Pulse of the Maggots lyrics.[online] Avalable: [Accessed 1/2/2011]
  • Gray, P. (2010) Our Last Interview with Paul Gray. [Online] Available: [Accessed 8/3/2011]
  • Otto, W. F. (1995) Dionysus: Myth & Cult. Indiana University Press: Indiana
  • Robinson, R. (2010) Ross Introduces the Members. [Online] Available: [Accessed 3/3/2011]
  • Sierz, A. (2001) In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Theatre Now. Faber and Faber: London
  • Smith, S. V. H. (1984) Masks in Modern Drama. California University Press: California
  • Taylor, C. in Arnopp, J. (2001) Slipknot: Inside the Sickness, Behind the Mask. Ebury Publishings: London
  • Taylor, C. in Soghomonian, T. (2002) Interview with Corey Taylor of Slipknot. [Online] Available: [Accessed 4/2/2011]
  • Nine: The Making of All Hope is Gone (2008) Documentary. M. Shawn Crahan. USA: Roadrunner Records
  • (Sic)nesses. (2010) Live DVD/Film. John Probyn. USA: Roadrunner Records


Videos of performances mentioned

Performance DVDs used as primary research

  • Welcome to My Nightmare. (1976) Live DVD. David Winters. USA: Atlantic Records
  • Volkerball. (2006). Live DVD. John Smith. Germany: Universal Records
  • (Sic)nesses. (2010) Live DVD/Film. John Probyn. USA: Roadrunner Records


  1. On 8th December 2004 at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, former Pantera guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrel Abbot was murdered by Nathan M. Gale during a show with his band Damageplan. Gale jumped onstage with a handgun and murdered Abbot along with Security Chief Jeffrey Thompson, fan Nathan Bray and roadie Erin Halk. Thompson and Halk each tried to disarm the gunman whilst Bray had been attempting to perform CPR when shot. The killer was then shot dead by Columbus police officer James Niggemeyer when he attempted to take a hostage. Investigations into Gale’s motives following the death indicate that he was a paranoid schizophrenic whose delusions convinced him that Pantera were stealing lyrics that he had written.(
  1. The Armin Meiwes case refers to the murder of Bernd Jürgen Brandes and subsequent conviction of Meiwes. In the case, Meiwes posted an advertisement online for a man who would willingly be murdered and eaten. Brandes answered the advertisement and allowed Meiwes to cut off and flambé his penis as a meal before being stabbed to death and dissected. The case attracted a huge amount of controversy in Germany due to its unusual circumstances and tricky legal proceedings as the victim had volunteered willingly, thus making a murder conviction difficult. Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter in 2004, was later successfully retried for murder in 2006 and remains in prison to this day. (
  1. The Josef Fritzl case refers to the kidnapping, imprisonment and rape of Elisabeth Fritzl by her father Josef in Austria. Fritzl held his daughter captive in a cellar under his house for 24 years and continually raped her, fathering seven incestuous children in the process, three of whom were forced to live in the cellar with their mother/sister. Fritzl was arrested in April 2008 and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for incest, rape, coercion, false imprisonment, enslavement and the negligent homicide of the infant Michael.(
  1. Jones did eventually appear without his mask or any pixelation on 25th May 2010 at the press conference following Paul Gray’s death. At the conference, all eight remaining band members appeared on a panel unmasked before journalists along with Gray’s pregnant widow and his brother.(
  1. Slipknot (as of the latest recording at the time of writing) is:-#0 – Sid Wilson – Turntables#1 – Joey Jordison – Drums

    #2 – Paul Gray (Deceased 24th May 2010) – Bass/Backing Vocals

    #3 – Chris Fehn – Custom Percussion/Backing Vocals

    #4 – James ‘Jim’ Root – Guitars

    #5 – Craig ‘133’ Jones – Samples/Keyboards

    #6 – M. Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan – Custom Percussion/Backing Vocals

    #7 – Mick Thomson – Guitars

    #8 – Corey Taylor – Vocals


It’s not what you know…

Hello again everybody and apologies for the long delays in between posts. As per usual it’s been a while since inspiration has struck and I have decided to post another musing on the world we live in. It’s that time of year when the academic community comes to a brief standstill and many young people across the country traverse from one phase of life onto the next. For myself this means the end of my BA (Hons) Drama Studies degree and the transition from student to graduand (becoming a graduate once the ceremony is over and I have the actual certificate). You may or may not be pleased to know that I managed to achieve a 1st in this relatively low impact course which is an achievement in of itself but not one I will be dwelling on too much in this blog. To do so would be arrogant and damning myself with premature praise, as the title of BA (Hons) does nothing for me until it is actually appears in the professional context along with a suitable paycheck so hold off the celebrations for now.

With regards to the ‘suitable paycheck’ I come on to the title of this little blog, particularly apt when looking for careers in the theatrical community. As the title suggests, as much as many people may try and fight or deny it, the theatrical communty is pretty bitchy and clique-y (sic) and people are more likely to hire somebody they know can do the job well, i.e. a person they have worked with before, as opposed to somebody off the street who has a first class honours degree in a very relevant subject. Now just to make it clear I am in no way decrying this practice or saying it is a bad thing; nor am I singing its praises as the way forward in creating the most revolutionary and innovative theatre that the world has to offer, I am merely saying that this practice of a sort of social nepotism does occur.

But why might people do this? The fresh faced young graduates are eager, keen and full of fresh new ideas which have the potential to revolutionise the things around here and the way they are done. Surely they are the future and should be treated as such! I mean, they have been educated in such a way surely?!

…Educated. That is a word which always touches a nerve with me and a word which represents the exact problem with the way things are done. Sure these graduates are educated but what have they learnt? That’s the real question. I’m sure many of you reading this are insisting that education and learning are one and the same but when you consider the root verb the distinction is quite clear.

To learn is an independent act, occuring entirely within one’s own faculties.

To BE educated is a transient act whereby one person bestows knowledge onto another.

A person cannot have education without BEING educated. It is an act entirely dependent upon the influence of another and it is this fact where the problem lies. Dependence upon another person means you are assuming their views to be correct and true (again, two different things, we may get to that in a later post) and so any view contrary to theirs can result, on your part, in confusion at best and rageful vitriol at worst. Conversely, when one learns it is completely without influence as it is a process which occurs within the mind. Of course learning from somebody else is mostly the case but they merely bestow the information, it is YOU who does the learning. People chose to learn whilst often education is forced upon them and, as I said, this is a problem. Oscar Wilde once said:

Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

I believe this is the crux upon which my argument lies and the exact reasoning behind the maxim of ‘it’s not what you know…’. The fact of the matter is people who certainly KNOW the job are far more likely to get it than those EDUCATED because you cannot teach the learning, if that makes any sense at all. They have not been educated in the job…they have learnt the job, a process far more likely to prepare them. Universities are a wonderful thing in that they educate us to an extent but more than anything they prepare our brains to learn and be receptive to the knowledge that it is up to us to create within our own minds.

Only if you can master that do you truly earn the title bestowed. Have I? Time will tell. Sometimes I just remember that all the effort in education comes from the eduactor and ends when he or she goes home. Learning is the soul and it will never, ever stop.

Cleggmania – The Hangover

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Well it’s been over 6 months since the UK’s last general election, Labour’s been out of office for half a year, they have Ed Milliband (The allegedly ‘more weird’ of the Milliband brothers if such tautology was even neccessary) in the chair and the coalition has been doing its best to cut the defecit. The only problem with this? It’s going to be tough, seriously tough, you cannot please all the people all the time and, in times like this, it’s going to be hard to please some of the people some of the time.

Now, at the time of the election I was not registered to vote, a while of uncertainty as to whether or not I was registered at University or home lead to me procrastinating (quite rightly with the amount of work Uni was piling on) to the point where the deadline passed. If I had been registered I would have put my word in for the party I saw standing for real change and the values I believe in; the Liberal Democrats. At the time there was a massive amount of hype surrounding them thanks to the ‘Cleggmania’ effect of the TV debates and I really thought he could be a force for rel progress. Unfortunately this was not the case as marginal Lib Dems defected their votes to the two main parties in an attempt to ensure the one they hated more didn’t get in (this is my opinion of how it panned out, I don’t claim to be a great political journalist or anything, just an opinion) and the Tories took the chair, offering concessions to the Lib Dems in order to ensure the coalition we have now.

Now of course at the moment I do seem to just be telling the story of what you probably already know and six months down the line does seem to be a bit late to talk about it. The thing is the coalition brought with it a lot of optimism for progress and discourse and right now, in the midst of the student loans debate, the bubble has very much burst.

I’ve always tried to sympathise with politicians, like I say you can never please everybody, and I always like to think that a new government coming into office is like cleaning up after an epic house party the night before. Cameron and Clegg walk through the front door to find Mandelson passed out on the floor, Darling vomiting into a pot plant and Brown coming out of the kitchen with his trousers round his ankles saying ‘see you in four years’. Once the dregs are out the clean up can begin and, whatever promises you made to yourself and others about how long it would take or how many sponges you’d need (I’m sticking with the metaphor here) there’s always another layer of crap underneath the one you just tidied up.

But this is too far. The election fees debate has not sparked such frustration and anger from students merely becasue fees are going up but because we were lied to. We were told by our soon to be Deputy PM that tuition fees would not go up and, guess what, they very well may do. Time will tell if our protests make any difference but, in the meantime, my vote seems very insignificant right now. If a man I believed in to make change and keep fairness, decencey and liberalism in politics can make it into the second most senior post in the cabinet and still lie and corrupt the system then what hope is there. After 13 years of Labour I thought things would be different. Lesson learned I guess, when you’ve been lied to enough times eventually you won’t believe anything anymore.