In Berzerker, we knew the importance of stunts.
You want to create a name for yourselves, and you don’t want people to walk away from your show bored to death by another four guys in black t-shirts making a bunch of noise. Metal bands know this. All the old legends had their stunts: Deicide would dress up in spikes and dump bags of entrails over the audience; Slayer had their nail armbands; Morbid Angel would self harm and bleed everywhere; Hawkwind would take massive amounts of drugs almost as performance art; KISS would fuck half the crowd. We’d really prefer people to like us for us, to understand the multilayered musical genius we bring to them, to connect with our music on such a profound spiritual level that all frivolity is rendered unnecessary. But that’d never happen, which is why I planned to have a guitar smashed over my head at a show in Dandenong Town Hall.
It was some gig around 2001, with Frankenbok and Blood Duster. The Alarum guys were in our lineup and we were still friendly with the ‘Bok. Samantha and Sarah from the previous blog entry had organized the show for a high-school communications project, I think. I don’t know. I forget exactly how the idea of the guitar-smashery came about. I may have mentioned how metal it’d be to see someone kick through a gig after getting a guitar broken over their head, and Frankenbok’s Aaron was like, I’ve got a spare acoustic I’ve been meaning to ditch, we can use that!
We spent some time preparing. Wooden acoustic guitars are surprisingly robust. We sawed through the weak points on the neck and the body. The idea was that when I got hit with the guitar, it would shatter into spectacular photogenic pieces. We decided that the techno-break during ‘Burnt’ would be the best time to do the deed. It was the bit of the song that normally entailed some manner of hijinx. Aaron would ‘sneak’ up behind me, smash the guitar over me, I’d aim a kick at him and chase him offstage. Too easy.
Something I kind of remember from before the gig – I was getting a late lunch at the KFC in Dandenong, close to the Town Hall, and I saw a dude making some scantily clad girls walk around the block. I was watching it for a while until I finally clocked what I was seeing. I disliked Dandenong for quite a while afterwards, a rough lawless place where hookers ambulated betwixt Town Hall and fast-food joints, and that dislike lasted right up until the night I partied with Skinless at ‘The Block’ in Baltimore. That night kinda reset my dodginess bar a bit.
So, the gig. We’re bashing our horrifying music out at a million miles an hour. Kids seemed into it. I had learned from earlier gigs to put a head-towel on so my that my mask wouldn’t move around, and my face was blacked-up like Al Jolson so none of my skin was visible to anyone. We’d also begun our lifelong romance with the smoke machine and strobe lighting. We used to rehearse with them going. We’d mask up, go into the rehearsal room in Luke’s house – which was a converted bedroom – turn the smoke machine and the strobe on, and rehearse for forty minutes. It seemed to affect us all in different ways. I remember I’d end up hallucinating a white horse galloping in the top right hand corner of my vision from the third song onwards. When I saw the album cover to Deftone’s “White Pony” for the first time, I nearly started flashing back.
We hit the assigned bit of ‘Burnt’ and I ripped my guitar off and stalked to the front of the stage. Then I realized I had a problem. My mask had no peripheral vision and we’d pumped heaps of smoke into the place, so I couldn’t even see the drum riser. I had no idea where Aaron was, or which direction he was coming from. There was just too much smoke. I had assumed that I’d be able to spot him coming from the corner of my eye and brace myself. You can handle some big hits just as long as you see them coming. But all I could see was smoke, and the other band members getting the fuck out of the way. When the guitar hit me, I was totally unprepared.
The guitar broke halfway across my shoulders and half on the back of my head. It didn’t splinter and shatter. It kind of just crumpled in half. I had that where-am-I feeling for a moment, then spun around. I could see Aaron scampering off the stage. I lost it for a second and swung a serious kick his way – which missed by a mile – then realized my mouth was wet. I spat on the stage and it was dark. When the show finished and I got my mask off, I had a look in the mirror and worked out what happened. I had chomped into my lip, and it bled everywhere.
It could have been worse. When I was a kid at boarding school, we had to do a task called ‘axesplit’ where we started the term off by riding a ute into the bush, about an hour away from school. We’d find stacks of logs and would reduce them to size by driving wedges into the cracks and bashing them with sledgehammers. Then we’d load the wood into the back the ute. I was lifting a piece with another guy, and a student teacher came up behind us unannounced and hefted the log up and over. I wasn’t prepared for the help and the log smacked me in the face on the way past, driving my front teeth through the inside of my mouth and out the base of my lip. We were too far out in the bush to leave straight away and couldn’t spare the vehicle so we kept working for another hour, then headed back. The matron did a shit job sewing my lip back up so whenever I drank anything, it would dribble out of my face. She also tied the stitches in a bow and cut the ends off, so it looked like I had a spider on my mouth. I was called ‘Spiderman’ for the rest of the year. An Austrian guy tried to hit the ‘spider’ off my mouth a few weeks later when I was skiing.
Anyway that was it for the show, the only other bit of it I remember is Tony from Blood Duster saying to Samantha “hey Sam…you’re eighteen now, yeah?” We headed back to Luke’s place for post-gig celebrations, but I didn’t feel like celebrating when we got there. I had a massive headache and it was getting worse by the minute. I had some Panadol but they didn’t seem to be doing anything. Occasionally I get those headaches where they just seem impervious to everything. Some of the girls recommended pinching the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and my forefinger, which stopped a tiny bit of the throbbing. It was still pretty bad though. I had another fistful of Panadol and ended up going outside to the pool in the backyard. I lay on the side and dipped my head in the water which seemed to ease the pain off a bit. It was a warm night, and the concrete by the pool was still toasty. I feel asleep with my head in the water.
I woke up slowly the next day. Someone was licking my face and my mouth. The sun was nice and warm, and the pain was gone. I kept my eyes closed. It was a bright day. The playful licking continued and I giggled a bit. I thought yeah, this is how gigs are supposed to end.
I opened my eyes. Luke’s small mangy dog was macking me, it was nearly midday, and I was sunburned.