Musical roots and teenage rebellion

With few exceptions, I grew up not caring all so much about music…

Music was hardly even a part of my childhood, as far as I care to remember.

There was some gospel and contemporary Christian, mixed with sleazy 80’s love songs…

Nothing to get too excited about.

One exception was Christian artist Keith Green, who had enough charisma, passion, and uniqueness to grab my attention.

Other than that? I don’t know. Well, I liked the X-MEN theme song.

And I pretended to like MC Hammer for a second, for some reason?

Something pretty great happened in my early teens, though.

It was a perfect storm that wouldn’t have been possible without videogames…

First off, the game for Sega Genesis, Streets of Rage.

The music was out-of-this-world. It was love at first listen.

It was basically my first exposure to techno, if you want to call it that.

One day in the 1993, my little brother, bless his heart, told me he’d discovered the band that did the music in Streets of Rage.

No, he didn’t tell me about the actual composer of Streets of Rage, Yuzo Koshiro.

He told me about Ace of Base.

But I won’t lie. Ace of Base blew my mind.

For the very first time, I deeply loved music and could feel it in my heart and soul.

The synthesizers made me whole. The female vocals enamored me.

This song came a couple years later, but this is objectively the greatest music video ever:

So Ace of Base popped my synthpop cherry. Expanded my horizons.

Then along came another videogame that put its foot in that door and showed me newer worlds yet.

Mortal Kombat was the culprit.

Loving Mortal Kombat was extra-fun, because it seemed so… dangerous. Politicians tried to ban it (I still remember your name, Senator Lieberman).

By the time the Mortal Kombat movie came out, I was like, kompletely sold on all things-MK.

I bought the soundtrack on cassette.

And listened to it like my life depended on it.

That was 1995. I was 14…

And something about me would never be the same. I’d suddenly discovered Juno Reactor. Gravity Kills. Fear Factory. Type-O-Negative.

And little could I conceive the importance of this at the time, but KMFDM.

KMFDM’s track on the soundtrack was a remix of Juke Joint Jezebel.

More commonly known to me then as the song during the Sonya and Kano fight.

Clearly a high mark of cinema

I dug it. Didn’t change my life or anything. But planted a seed.

It takes some seeds a long time to grow.

In this case, the seed wouldn’t reach fruition until 1998.

But getting a little ahead of myself…

Some more context is needed, to paint a picture of how things were.

Who I was, and why.

And why I truly needed a powerful cultural force to come and help me/save me/take me away.

Well, first of all. You know that Mortal Kombat cassette? And those Ace of Base albums?

Well, at age 15 or so, I burned them…

Like, in a bonfire, not onto CD.

An evangelist came to my private Baptist school and led a revival.

At the end of which, all students were encouraged to burn all of material possessions that, you know, interfered with our relationship with God or something.

So, I threw my stuff in the fire with a lot of other students. We seemed happy about it at the time.

I don’t know. Since then, I’ve gotten rid of my stuff from time to time, to practice non-attachment. It’s liberating, honestly.

But back then, it was all fire and brimstone. Satan speaks through the music, you see. The first music I’d ever truly felt all the way through my body, heart, and soul, and it was all the bloody devil’s doing.

That school was the bane of my existence in so many ways.

I was discouraged from being philosophical, from asking difficult questions. I was told to shut up and accept things. When I’d point out contradictions in the doctrines presented, I was accused of being influenced by Satan.

I’ve always been a questioner.

When authority doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, why should it be respected and adhered to unquestioningly?

I won’t mince words. I fucking hated that place.

And the more my animosity grew, the more of an outcast I became.

Nobody knew how to deal with me, and I certainly didn’t know how to deal with myself.

I had too many unanswered questions. Witnessed too many double standards, and too much hypocrisy and sheer ignorance for me to just grin and bear it.

I ended up dropping out of my second year of 10th grade…

And I was so lost…

Up-for-grabs…

In late 1997, I moved out for the first time, into an apartment with someone who would become one of my all-time closest friends. Steven.

It was short-lived. Only lasted for a few months, because we were so irresponsible with money.

That was when I drank liquor for the first time. Smoked marijuana for the first time. Hell, the first time I jacked off was in that apartment (Miss October, I salute you).

Then I was forced out on a cold night in February, 1998.

Back to my parents’ house, in Mason, Michigan…

But first, I took a lonely stroll around Meijer, an all-purpose store that’s open 24 hours.

And in their CD section, I spotted something strange.

A KMFDM album.

Why strange?

Meijer just isn’t where you go when you want to buy a KMFDM album…

I’ve never seen one there since, and I’ve looked.

But there it was.

With iconic cover art by Aidan Hughes

I remembered their name from the Mortal Kombat soundtrack.

And also because I was a huge Bruce Campbell fan.

And I recall, on Bruce Campbell’s website, it mentioned that some dialogue from Evil Dead 2 was sampled in a KMFDM song.

Which, after eventually listening to every KMFDM song ever, I found was not even true…

But if the site hadn’t said that, I might not have purchased XTORT that night.

Meijer having it in stock against all odds. Bruce Campbell’s website and its oddly-specific misinformation.

It’s almost like it was fate for me to buy XTORT.

And honestly? I’d be a completely different person today if I hadn’t…

(More to come)


Also published on Medium.