Heavy Metal Hawaiian

Growing Up Out Of Step In Paradise


K. S. Anthony 



Copyright 2003 by K. S. Anthony


Photo of a man with guitar on stage.

In 1987 Hawaii, kids who listened to Heavy Metal were decidedly not part of the mainstream. Kids who listened to thrash metal, speed metal, or black metal--the brands of music laced with violent and occult imagery--were even further outside the boundaries of pop culture, which, if memory serves me correctly, revolved around Whitney Houston, reggae, and asinine radio bands. Glam rockers, known for their big hair and spandex, could be tolerated by the locals: they looked like chicks. They might get called faggots every so often, but at least they didn't get accused of conspiring with Satan himself to destroy the earth. If you had long hair, wore black clothes, and walked around listening to Slayer on your walkman, chances were pretty good that you were going to get chased down the street or, at the very least, verbally abused by passers by. It was simply not accepted. Heavy Metal and its listeners were, for all practical purposes, viewed as the sword and the arm of The Devil. To make matters even worse, the High School I went to was nearly all Mormon.

So there I was, 13 years old, wearing torn up blue jeans, black Chuck Taylor all-stars, a Slayer Hell Awaits T-shirt and carrying my stolen (from Waldenbooks) copy of The Satanic Bible in my backpack, surrounded by Mormons of every shape and color in what was then one of Hawaii's worst public schools. I could, on a daily basis, expect to be asked by any number of people if I worshipped the devil. I had to be careful when I walked under buildings because people would spit on me or throw food at me. People constantly wanted to kick my ass for no reason. I was no good at sports, so I usually skipped P.E. altogether. I never ate in the cafeteria and spent most of my lunches hanging out by myself on the second or third floor or in the library. I never ate at school or did lunch duty. I waited until after school to go eat pizza at 7-11 and hang out with my friends on the wall until it got late and everyone had to go home. If you weren't a surfer, a jock, a wanna-be gangster or a geek, you were pretty much on your own. I was in honors classes, but did badly and no one wanted to have anything to do with me anyway. There were a couple punk kids and a couple of metalheads, but they all were older than me and had better things to do than look out for my scrawny ass. The few friends I did have were all a few years ahead of me and had different lunch periods. In general, they stuck up for me when they could, but they weren't always around.

By eighth or ninth grade, things had improved somewhat. There were more metalheads and I actually had a couple of metalhead friends. Mike was my best friend. Ironically, Mike, who was always in at least as much trouble as I was, is a police officer now, as are most of my friends from that time period. It would have been nice to have a badge and a gun then. We were constantly getting messed with. He lived in a far lousier neighborhood than I did, so he probably got it worse than me. I couldn't go to his house without some idiot trying to beat me up or chase me down the street. It got to the point where we started carrying weapons to school: we'd go into the mountains, cut pieces of hardwood, sand them, burn or carve band names into them and keep them in our backpacks like clubs. We had pieces of chain, biker rings, knives, brass knuckles, and various other primitive devices. I had a piece of garden hose taped at the ends in addition to my homemade band logo beating stick. I remember once when we got searched and suspended, from School after a big fight, the principal was looking at all the things Mike had burned into his club and was reading them out loud in this exaggerated voice of disgust: "Slay team? Kill again? Face the slayer? Metal Militia?"  It was unintentionally hilarious. The first time I got kicked out of school (for bringing a bag full of knives and other bladed objects to school), I was wearing my Venom's Legions T-shirt and was getting hauled into the office by security just as my friend Clay, who was several years older than me, was getting hauled out in handcuffs by the police. Two generations of metalheads. The cop looked at both of us with total revulsion. We looked at each other, smiled and nodded approvingly. That was metal.

Okay, admittedly, we liked the reputation--at least I did. It was teenage rebellion. If people hated me, fine. If they were scared of me, better yet. Unfortunately, I think they just hated me.

Anyone who has ever been a metalhead has been in a band. If they claim they haven't they're lying. Mike and I, however, were in the worst band of all time. We called ourselves Blasphemy. My two other friends, Gill and Stephen were in the band also. Our lyrics were as inflammatory and anti-Christian as we could get: the more hateful and violent, the better. (Example from "The Prophecy": Destruction of the land of peace/The saints and prophets slain/Slaughter of the lambs of God/Satan's mighty reign!) Anything that antagonized the fucking Mormons was acceptable songwriting material. We had a great logo that Mike drew. We had flyers; we had a press kit. We had everything except talent. Mike had a drum set, so we practiced at his house, making vain attempts at playing our favorite band's songs. Since I have what is probably the worst ear in the world, I generally figured out how to play the songs wrong, sang them out of key, and basically ruined them. After practice, or sometimes during practice, we'dget stoned and watch skateboarding videoes or the quintessential metal movie The River's Edge. I started wearing a black watch cap after seeing in imitation of Crispin Glover and almost never took it off. But it didn't matter what we did: we sucked. It wasn't until I started playing punk that I got any good.

Every year, the Hawaii Public Schools sponsor a statewide talent show called "Brown Bags to Stardom." By tenth grade, Blasphemy had convinced itself that we could not only play, but also win awards. Never mind the fact that I couldn't play a lead. Never mind the fact that we only knew half of the song we chose, "Black Magic" by the Los Angeles speed metal band Slayer. Never mind the fact that we sucked: WE were gonna play Slayer at Brown Bags, maaaaannnnnn.

We practiced a little more than usual, thus further eliminating any chances for Mike's neighbors to get any peace and quiet, and debuted at lunch on stage at the school cafeteria a week before the contest. We started with a song from the River's Edge soundtrack: "Lethal Tendencies." The song hadn't even started before the first roll hit me in the head. We were pelted with food by the second song and the security guards closed the curtains on us. Everyone hated us. No matter. We weren't about to give up, no matter how much food they threw at us or how many death threats we got or what names they called us.

The next week, on the day of the contest, we set up our equipment in the gym for the contest. I taped a piece of paper with a pentagram drawn on it onto my guitar, so I could hold up my guitar after we played and thoroughly piss everyone off. Mike drew our band logo on the bass drum head with a bunch of paint pens. I couldn't find my Slayer shirt, so I had to wear my Iron Maiden t-shirt under my army jacket. The announcer couldn't even pronounce our band name. We came out to face the entire school; to stand in front of the people who, for no reason, had pissed on us all the time we were there. Everyone booed us. It didn't matter anymore: we had endured so much bullshit that we were going to play no matter what. I walked up to the mike, guitar slung low like a gunfighter and introduced the song--"Do you feel the power of the BLACK MAGIC?" Stephen's notes came thundering in with Mike's bass drum, and I began playing the sinister opening riffs, my strings tuned down a half step for the perfect Slayer sound. I stared at all the people in the audience through my curtain of hair. I saw all the pricks who had made my life miserable and growled out the opening lines as I had (incorrectly) deciphered them--"Curse--Black magic night--waiting to kill!" To me I sounded just like Tom Araya, the singer from Slayer, when I probably sounded more like Tom Arnold. We began screwing up about halfway through the song. I played the world's worst solo-the guitars were both off-the song was over-and suddenly, I just snapped. Feedback was still coursing through the speakers as the last power chord resounded through the gym. I stood there, staring with hatred at everyone there and hit another chord, before bellowing into the microphone, "WE DON'T NEED NO ED-U-CATION! WE DON'T NEED NO THOUGHT CONTROL!" Mike slammed into the floor tom with a martial beat, matching my power chords exactly. "NO DARK SARCASM IN THE CLASSROOM-TEACHERS LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!" The place was dead silent except for my voice reverberating through the gymnasium. "HEY TEACHER: LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!" I held up my guitar, revealing the pentagram and yelled something nonsensical and profane into the microphone before giving a double sign of the horns, for extra Satanic hate power. Mike grabbed his drumsticks and threw them into the audience, missing the principal's head by an inch and hitting some girl in the face. We stormed off the floor, defiant and proud. No remorse. No repentance.

We had to leave school early that day because everyone wanted to kill us: the pentagram confirmed all the rumors that I was Satan's right hand man and Mike's assault with a deadly drumstick did not go unnoticed by, well, everyone. We didn't win anything but a three-day suspension each and even more harassment than before. The impromptu Pink Floyd cover made us some unlikely friends, but not enough to keep us from getting chased down every time we went out in public. Mike learned to box and after he turned one kid's face into pulp after one too many "devil worshipper" comments, people began leaving us alone. (a witness was heard telling friends that Mike's " eyes turned red, like he was possessed by the devil" when he beat that kid's face into mush, much to all of our amusement) We all grew out of the metal thing: everyone cut their hair and bought skateboards, though I never cared about skateboarding and owned a thirty dollar old school banana board. We all discovered the burgeoning hardcore and punk scene that exploded in Honolulu around that time. We went to see local bands, made new friends, and found out that we were not alone in the universe. We still listened to metal, but bands like Bad Religion, The Adolescents, Suicidal Tendencies, The Misfits, JFA, Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, and Excel were more likely to be heard if you came over to any of our houses. I shaved my head when I was 16 and bought a flight jacket after meeting some skinheads who I thought were the most impressive people I had ever seen. For me, it was all about Skrewdriver, The Business and the 4 Skins. People no longer stared at me in the hallway: I had short hair, wore Fred Perry polo shirts and looked to them like a preppy. The band broke up. We had other things to do, other forms of trouble to get into. I was in a punk band for a couple of years and got to play shows at local clubs where no one wanted to kill us and people liked what we did. Our social status in high school didn't improve at all despite whatever cosmetic changes we made, but by the time we were seniors, it wasn't as bad as it had been for the first three years or so. We thought of it as a massive joke. Me and Gill and a couple of other guys got conned into playing some pre-graduation school event during our senior year. It's embarrassing to even talk about: we played "Patience" by Guns N'Roses, "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure and the metalhead suicide anthem "Fade to Black" by Metallica. An unlikely mix, I know. We actually sounded good and it was kind of nice to play songs that girls liked: not that any of us got laid for it, mind you. By that time, grunge had started breaking through and it became safe for people to look different. The "alternative" became the mainstream. I hated it. I still hate it. It's safe now to be "different." Everyone has a piercing, dyes their hair or is part of some oh-so-hip fashion trend. But if it's safe now, it's because people like my friends and I took the flak for it when it wasn't safe. It's because we got slammed as tomorrow's serial killers on Geraldo or called "Devil Worshippers" or got suspended from school simply for having the audacity to be ourselves instead of cowering under the shadows of social conformity. It's because we stood in front of and faced down crowds of Mormons, held aloft our pentagrams and told them all that, regardless of whether or not we were ever accepted, we were never, ever going to go away.

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