David Foster Wallace once wrote, “Good writing makes people feel less alone.” I would also offer that finding music with which you connect has a similar effect. In the mid-eighties, around the ages of eight and nine, some of the cassette tapes I owned (at least the ones I remember) were Run DMC’s Raising Hell, Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction, and the Ghostbusters Soundtrack. I had seen Ghostbusters, Guns N’ Roses was on the radio a lot at the time, but I don’t remember how I had stumbled upon Run DMC. I do remember listening to “My Addidas” on my headphones when I was in the laundry room in the basement of my apartment. I also remember I enjoyed the rest of Raising Hell and once snuck onto the M79 Crosstown bus while listening to “Welcome to the Jungle.” As I got older, I started to listen to more classic rock. Led Zeppelin found their way into the rotation. In 1991, I was twelve going on thirteen. Nirvana’s Nevermind changed everything. When I heard songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Something’s in the Way,” I felt like the music had been written solely for me. Since then, music had always had an important place in my life. In 2013, I taught English at a community college in Hong Kong. I shared an office a soft-spoken Brit, James, a gentle giant of a man. He also listened to Brit Pop. I created a podcast titled A Fistful of Faceful, based on the podcast Analyze Phish, in which I would play various heavy metal songs from different genres in an effort to convince James he should listen to these songs. The first episodes of A Fistful of Faceful were structured with me as the presenter providing some background history and then us listening to songs. James and I would both give our opinion. As we continued to record episodes we would move from traditional heavy metal and delve into various subgenres like Thrash Metal, a combination of punk music with an influence from bands who would be part of what was called The New Wave of British Heavy Metal. James’s metal taste catered toward music that was more accessible. Glam metal bands were probably his favorite. I never pushed my luck; for example, when I discovered he enjoyed Iron Maiden, I made certain to stick with similar songs in the future. I avoided playing the song Dopesmoker, by Sleep; a single 63-minute long song. It is a favorite of mine, but it wouldn’t have fit with the objective. In January of 2016, David Rees would analyze the song Dopesmoker in the New York Times. Here are two quotations from the article “It’s like a Mark Rothko painting hitting you over the head with a bag full of hammers,” and “The guitarist Matt Pike tuned his instrument down two whole steps, to C, and the weight and sustain of that low C is mesmerizing; Pike returns to it again and again over the course of the song, a total of 1,818 times by my count.” At one point, we switched places, and he attempted to convince me to listen to The Kooks and Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. When I left Hong Kong, James and I continued to record episodes for a little while, but it became too difficult with a twelve-hour time difference since he was still in Hong Kong. So, I began to have different guests whom I would try to convince to listen to heavy metal. Many of the colleagues at the school I taught at next would become my guests. My mother also graciously offered to fill James’ shoes every so often. Eventually, after the pandemic hit, I began to use the podcast as a platform to showcase the music of more contemporary bands. These days, I record an episode every day as a way to stay engaged and provide an opportunity for bands to have their music reach new fans. It’s also a great way to help with my ruptured brain aneurysm recovery. As Lester Bangs once said in Almost Famous “Music, you know, true music – not just rock n roll – it chooses you. It lives in your car, or alone listening to your headphones, you know, with the cast scenic bridges and angelic choirs in your brain.” Or, music, true music, could be coming to you from a podcast that had been started in an effort to convince a meek British teacher to expand his horizons.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com