Reality is often a far cry from the animated series Metalocalypse in which the global economy depends on the world’s best death metal band, Dethklok. The joke works so well because many metal musicians with large followings still live like “regular jack-offs,” to use the show’s terminology, and even assume day jobs. Most likely, some of your favorite technical death metal guitarists can slip into a Starbucks or a Barnes & Noble without turning any heads or iPhone cameras.
On the other hand, there are definitely headbangers whose resemble Nickelback’s ironic “Rockstar” in some respects. As a child, #4 on our list fantasized about hiding in Ace Frehley’s bushes just to catch a glimpse of his hero. This dream materialized when Ace treated him to his private stash of softball-sized rocks of cocaine. #10 knew that he had achieved the success he had intended when Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee joined his band on drums for a rendition of “Girls, Girls, Girls” while Pamela Anderson twirled around an onstage stripper pole. We do not harbor any illusions about what it means to become a household name within the metal community.
However, the fact is simple that most artists, except for some misanthropic black metallers, want to be recognized for their work. Most of the musicians on our list have left impressive legacies while others are still in the process of rocking the world. Our aim is to shed light on their musical origins. Enjoy these 10 clips of well-known metal musicians before they made it big.
1. Yngwie Malmsteen’s 1981 Rehearsal Footage Proves That He Was Always a Virtuoso.
Yngwie Malmsteen, who was born Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck in 1963, resolved to become a guitar player when he first heard the news of Jimi Hendrix’s passing in 1970. He penned in his memoir Relentless (2010): “Seeing Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar onstage made me want to play the guitar. I swear to God, that was the initial reason. It just looked so fucking awesome.” Yngwie’s mother had already given him a guitar for his 5th birthday that she acquired while in Poland.
Although Yngwie mostly figured out how to play the guitar on his own, his musical family provided guidance. His siblings, Björn and Lolo, assisted him early on. Yngwie reflects that Lolo, who became a music teacher, may have been his greatest influence. Lolo taught Yngwie how to play “Smoke on the Water.” Yngwie, who is often credited as the inventor of neoclassical metal, enjoyed everything from jazz to folk as a child. His idols were as diverse as The Monkees, Ritchie Blackmore, and Niccolò Paganini, whose devilish reputation inspired tales like Madame Blavatsky’s short story “The Ensouled Violin” (1880). Eventually, Yngwie’s grandmother allowed him to play in the recording studio that his uncle had built in the basement of the building that she owned.
Luckily, Yngwie’s mother, Rigmor, held unconventional views that allowed Yngwie to cultivate his eccentricities. — Rigmor had separated from her husband, Lennart, who had been a Swedish Green Beret and an intelligence officer, when Yngwie was two-months old. — Yngwie’s bohemian upbringing meant that he was often free to skip school and to express himself as he pleased. As above, so below: The unauthorized Yngwie Biography by Anders Tenger reveals that Yngwie sometimes attended classes in a top hat and a long-tailed coat. Yngwie slept with his instrument and always brought it to school with him. Yngwie became involved in his first band in 1974. He played his first concert in the 6th grade. While with one group in high school, Yngwie was asked to play songs by the Beatles and Abba. Despite Sweden’s incredibly rich culture, Yngwie did not feel that the music scene and patterns of thinking prevalent at the time were not conducive to what he had to offer the world. “Anybody who aspired to be a musician had to play it down,” he wrote. “No one was doing anything extreme or experimental.” Yngwie, on the other hand, was always a “Black Star.” Keep Yngwie’s background in mind while watching the 18-year-old genius rehearse in 1991. The following year, Yngwie sent a composite demo tape to Guitar World. He eventually heard back from the manager of Kiss. It was Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records, however, who invited Yngwie Malmsteen to move to the United States to join Steeler in 1993. This was Yngwie’s foot in the door. In 1984, Yngwie released his first solo album, Rising Force.
2. Jeff Loomis Wins a Wisconsin Guitar Contest as a Teen.
Jeff Loomis was born in Wisconsin on September 17th, 1971 — a day after the one-year anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. Loomis is one of the myriads of musicians who have been inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen. Of course, Loomis had many other influences like Marty Friedman, with whom he would later collaborate, and Brian May. Loomis remembers that his father gave him his first guitar when he was 10 or 11. Jeff also enjoyed drumming. Thus, that after putting the guitar down for a couple of years, he picked it up again at 15.
Jeff Loomis is mostly self-taught, although he had some lessons early on. He famously auditioned for Jeff Young’s vacant in Megadeth when he was 16. This was facilitated by Craig Nielsen of Flotsom and Jetsom, who was a mutual friend of Loomis and Mustaine. Although Loomis told Megadeth that he was 22, the band was shocked to see such a young candidate. During his audition, a strung-out Mustaine stared mutely at Loomis. Afterwards Mustaine said to him: “Jeff, I want you to know you’re way too young to be in this band but one day you will be a great guitar player.” Loomis has since toured with Megadeth. In 2008, Mustaine invited Loomis to take over for Glen Drover. Loomis declined because he was in the process of making a solo album. According to Marty Friedman, who took over for Young, the rumor is false that Loomis had a role in connecting him with Megadeth.
Loomis has confirmed that he won the Guitar Wars contest in Wisconsin at age 16. “You know, I didn’t really want to do it, but my father insisted,” he told BOSS. We will assume that Jeff’s recollection is correct and that the following video was from a separate event. This two-part clip shows a 19-year-old Jeff Loomis at the 1991 Guitar Starz competition. It is uncanny how recognizable Loomis appears here. The judges initially ruled that 1st place was a tie — probably as an excuse for a bonus round — before conceding that Loomis was the clear conqueror. At the end, the event’s co-host Jeff Gilbert mentioned that Loomis had landed a job with Sanctuary. — Loomis’ previous band had been called Experiment Fear. — Loomis played with Sanctuary for a very brief period until the group broke up. Within the group, Jeff Loomis, Warrel Dane, and Jim Sheppard had objected to the grunge direction that Lenny Rutledge was taking. Rutledge’s demos apparently sounded like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
The funny thing is that Jim Sheppard had actually played alongside AiC’s Layne Staley in Sleze. Sanctuary would reunite almost two decades later in 2010. The important thing, however, is that the band’s temporary demise prompted the formation of Nevermore in which Loomis, Sheppard, and Dane were able to continue making metal with the addition of drummer Mark Arrington. Loomis has also participated in the one-album supergroup Conquering Dystopia. In 2014, Loomis secured a spot with Arch Enemy when Nick Cordle dropped out of the band in the middle of the tour promoting War Eternal (2014) after playing some amazing shows, including a gig at Moscow’s GlavClub. The War Etneral song “You Will Know My Name” might come to mind when reflecting on Jeff Loomis’ brilliant career. Arch Enemy fans might also get a kick out of Alissa White-Gluz’s audition for Canadian Idol in 2006. At that point, Alissa was already signed to Century Media.
3. Cliff Burton Jams with His Second Band, Agents of Misfortune.
Without a doubt, Cliff Burton was one of the greatest bassists of all time. He was the Geezer Butler of his generation. Burton was a genius from birth. In the third grade, his reading comprehension tested at the 11th grade level. Cliff’s late mother, Jan, was a teacher, which accounts for his bookish nature, while his late father, Ray, was a highway engineer. Ray has shared the contents of Cliff’s record collection by video. It contained releases by Mercyful Fate, Rainbow, Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, Rush, etc.
Cliff loved classical music, especially Johan Sebastian Bach. He even enjoyed country rock. Cliff’s first instrument was the piano. After Cliff’s brother, Scott, died of a cerebral aneurysm at 16, 13-year-old Cliff resolved to become the “best bassist” ever in honor of his brother. In high school, Cliff played with Jim Martin and Mike Bordin, both of whom would go on to play with Faith No More. The trio dubbed themselves EZ-Street. After high school, Cliff quit and began attending Chabot College. Cliff and Jim started the outfit Agents of Misfortune.
Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records recalls watching Cliff Burton play for the first time with the band Trauma: “The bass player… was fuckin’ out of this world. You could see there was something completely crazy happening on his side of the stage. He was wearing a blue denim vest and wide bell-bottoms, and really stood out.” In certain respects, Cliff was an acid-taking hippy of the best sort. Slagel recommended Burton to Lars Ulrich. Within 5 minutes of listening to Cliff at a gig, Lars and James Hetfield knew that he was the right guy to take Ron McGovney’s place in Metallica. In 1996, Cliff made Metallica move to San Fran from LA. Sad but true: Brian Slagel was also responsible for hooking Metallica up with Jason Newsted after Cliff’s passing. Slagel’s offer to allow Ulrich a spot on the first Metal Massacre (1982) album was actually the reason why Lars and James Hetfield reconnected to form Metallica in the first place.
While travelling through southern Sweden with Metallica, Burt won a card game. He was therefore awarded his choice of bunks. Cliff chose Kirk Hammett’s bunk. — Kirk had previously co-founded Exodus. — While Cliff was sleeping, the bus flipped, threw him from the window, and immediately crushed him. Cliff Burton passed away at 24 on September 27th, 1986. James Hetfield believed that the crash was due to the driver’s intoxication. The driver’s claim that he hit black ice could not be supported. John Gallagher of Raven told journalist Jon Wiederhorn about a “haunted” deck of tarot cards that had almost killed his drummer, Joe Hasselvander.
Gallagher alleged that images of a goat’s head and a face, which bore an strong resemblance to Burton, mysteriously appeared etched into Hasselvander’s door. Part of the deck had also been given to Cliff. The implication of the story is that evil spirits later killed Burton. Needless to say, this seems like a joke in poor taste. On the 23rd anniversary of Cliff’s passing, Metallica announced that they were postponing their WorldWired Tour so that James Hetfield could return to rehab.
4. Sebastian Bach Takes the Cake as a Wedding Singer?!
On June 17th, 1987, Sebastian Bach and Zakk Wylde performed at the wedding of photographer Mark Weiss. The event was held at the Molly Pitcher Inn in Red Bank, NJ. Steven Van Zandt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dee Snider, and Jon Bon Jovi’s parents were among the attendees. — Weiss had photographed the cover of Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Dead (1986). — In typical Sebastian Bach fashion, he summoned Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow onstage to for a duet of “Metal Health” specifically because the latter had asked him not to. Or rather, once DuBrow took Bach aside, Bach’s impish will to defy him was cemented. DuBrow had been worried about sweating in his choice of attire for the day, a blue suit. In this video, Bach sings Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” without DuBrow.
Weiss had become acquainted with Bach while photographing him with the Detroit-based band Madam X. By the time of Weiss’ wedding, Madam X had already broken up. Nevertheless, they rode in the same vehicle to the event where their bassist “Godzilla,” Chris Doliber, took the stage with Sebastian. Madam X immediately parted ways once again as soon as the wedding was over. Bach’s position in Madam X was certainly nothing to sneeze at. After all, the band was signed to Jet Records. Nevertheless, Sebastian still had to work as a telemarketer. While with Madam X, Steve Stevens of Billy Idol tried to get in contact with Sebastian, but the band’s co-founder and guitarist Maxine Petrucci prevented this from happening. During one interview with Madam X, Bach, who could have won the Guinness World Record for world’s biggest hair, quipped: “…we’d rather be way too much than not enough… And you, know, by the end of the show… you can see the wet spots on all the girl’s pants.” This is a philosophy that you can see on display in Redbank, NJ.
After Mark Weiss’ wedding, Bon Jovi’s father mentioned that his son’s friend, Skid Row’s Dave Sabo, needed a singer. Sebastian therefore sent the photographer David Feld, whom you can see on drums, a demo from his cover band VO5. You can compare Matt Fallon’s “18 and Life” demo to Sebastian’s version. This attests to just how lucky Skid Row was to have found Sebastian. Once Sebastian came into the picture, Skid Row became an overnight success. The 5x platinum debut album Skid Row (1989) spawned radio hits like “I Remember You.” Yet, the role of the Bon Jovi family in Sebastian’s development is especially odd considering an incident that would happen later. After Bon Jovi’s roadies poured ice milk in Sebastian Bach’s hair, Bach publicly called Bon Jovi’s brother “Bon Blow Me.” This occurred at a concert that degenerated into a massive egg fight. After the show, Bon Jovi led a mob in pursuit of Sebastian. Bach recalls in his 2016 memoir that when Bon Jovi’s father threatened to kill him, he responded: “And who the FUCK are you?? Colonel Saunders???”
Bach was always the youth gone wild onstage. Before Madam X, Bach fronted a band called Kid Wikkid. Sebastian’s father, David Bierk, had helped his son become comfortable fulfilling superhuman tasks in front of an audience at a young age. When Sebastian was a child, David, who was an art professor, tasked Sebastian with memorizing articles on subjects like Duchampian philosophy to recite before his pupils. David Bierk presaged Sebastian’s star status when he painted a mural of his son as a baby at Humboldt State University. David later painted the cover of Skid Row’s Billboard 200 #1 album Slave to the Grind (1991).
5. Zakk Wylde Was Too Cool for High School.
This next clip features Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde shredding as a high school student before he was discovered with Sebastian Bach. Wylde, who then went by his birth name Jeffrey Wielandt, often says that he practiced the guitar from the time he arrived home from school until the next morning. This left him drowsy during his lessons. Yet, Zakk maximized his time in the classroom by slipping music theory books into his school materials. Rolling Stone quoted Zakk about the pivotal moment when David Feld first spotted him. This occurred “… in a club with about three people in there — two heroin addicts, and a guy who worked the door.” Wylde was just 20 years old.
Realizing his potential, Feld invited Zakk to Mark Weiss’ wedding. Afterward, he sent Wylde’s demos to Sharon Osbourne. It took Ozzy Osbourne no time at all to decide that Zakk Wylde was the right man to be his next guitarist. This position had belonged to Jake E. Lee and Randy Rhoads. Zakk had built a shrine to Randy’s memory after he tragically died in a plane crash in 1982 along with the band’s hairdresser, and seamstress Rachel Youngblood. The fictional story that Wylde frequently recites is that he met Ozzy at 19 because he was the Prince of Darkness’ drug dealer.
When Sebastian offered Zakk a drink at Mark Weiss’ wedding, the future beer guzzler responded that he did not drink alcohol. Although the family man is truly clean, Wylde has quipped: “I don’t drink anymore, I sniff glue and eat paint chips. The results are astoundingly the same, I wake up with my pants around my ankles and they often hand me a list of people I have to apologize to.” Wylde remembers that Sebastian suggested on that occasion that the two of them should collaborate one day. We are still waiting for “Bach Gone Wylde.” It is crazy to think that the same wedding launched the respective careers of one of the greatest frontmen and one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Zakk is likely to shred any guitarists to bits. He is one of the most amazing musicians to behold. It is therefore fitting that Wylde has participated in Steve Vai’s supergroup Generation Axe with Yngwie Malmsteen and others.
Given Zakk’s long history with Ozzy’s solo career and his tribute band Zakk Sabbath, it is natural that those who enjoy Zakk Wylde’s music should also be fans of Black Sabbath. You can listen to Bill Ward and Tony Iommi playing in the group Mythology before Black Sabbath. This was also prior to Iommi’s factory accident, which forced him to play with thimbles. Iommi painstakingly makes them to this day. You can also check out Ronnie James Dio singing with his early bands. It is incredibly strange to hear the rock god crooning like Ronnie James Anka on Ronnie Dio and the Prophets—The Early Years (2012). Songs like “Judy’s Theme” and the doo-wopy “Blue Days Blue Nights” — the title of which is a play on Buddy Holly’s “Blue Days, Black Nights” — are a great way to troll your friends on a Dio playlist.
6. Remember When Bullet for My Valentine Went by the Name When Jeff Killed John?
Only Sebastian Bach was born perfect. Most people spend a great deal of time learning what suits them through careful trial and error. The nu metal band Jeff Killed John was formed in 1998. Jeff Killed John was the Welsh metalcore outfit Bullet for My Valentine before the group changed their name. Jeff Killed John allowed Bullet for My Valentine’s members to eventually determine the direction that would serve them best. Whereas Jeff Killed John was formed in 1998, Bullet for My Valentine released their eponymous EP in 2004, their next EP Hand of Blood in 2005, and finally their debut album, The Poison, in 2005 in the U.K.
The Jeff Killed John video below resembles something like “Bullet for My Bizkit.” While watching this clip, it might occur to you that the last musician on our list, Zakk Wylde, would not take kindly the future “The Last Fight” performers. On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Wylde humorously threatened to beat up the Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. “Who wants a piñata Fred Durst?” Wylde has also engaged in a lovely “Limp Bizkit sucks cock” improvisation with Black Label Society. The song that you will hear played live in this clip went by the title “The Fall.” It was the opening track of a 2002 demo tape. Although this performance certainly misses its target, you must admire Matthew Tuck’s fire and bravado. No one can dispute the courage required to burst into screams while wearing an argyle vest. When Tuck shouts, “You don’t listen when I talk to you,” he begins to sound a little like a wannabe Chester Bennington. — Linkin Park has also been captured on video in their pre-fame days when they were called Hybrid Theory, which would become the name of their debut album in 2000. Before that, the band went by the name Xero. — In the end, this throwback Jeff Killed John footage proves that you never know what hidden potential a young band may reveal with a change of style. On a superficial note, it also demonstrates that there is a reason why some people wear black. Bullet for My Valentine truly deserves major credit for their astounding transformation.
Sometimes memes are true:
7. Dimebag Darrell Slays as an 18-Year-Old Guitar Wizard in 1984.
Dimebag, Darrell Lance Abbott, was such a teenage prodigy that he was banned from entering guitar contests after blowing other contestants out of the water. — By that point, Dime had already won a Charvel and the guitar that his friend the late Buddy Blaze would turn into the iconic Dean from Hell. — Dimebag used to hang out at his father Jerry Abbott’s studio where he would approach recording artists to see what they could teach him. Like Yngwie Malmsteen, whom he famously annoyed with a bag of donuts, and Zakk Wylde, with whom he became quite close, Dime was completely obsessed with his instrument. Initially, Dimebag struggled with the guitar. Therefore, he quarantined himself for an entire summer. By the time he emerged, he was a virtuoso. By Dimebag’s account, this period lasted for three months. Others have estimated that this phase lasted for six or even sixteen months. This is because the truth is that even after mastering the guitar, Dimebag clarified that he virtually stayed in his room for five years. Again, like Yngwie, Dimebag skipped school to hone his craft. For each of these guitar heroes, it was the case that a passion for music arose prior to an interest in the benefits of being in a band. Dime was naïve when he began. He and his older brother, Vinnie Paul, were firmly opposed to alcohol, drugs, and smoking.
For reference, Pantera was founded in 1981. Most Pantera fans have seen old videos of the group from their “glam metal” days. Rex Brown wrote in his memoir: “… although a lot of people like to say that we were playing a glam style of music, I think that’s a total misconception. Although the image we portrayed may have looked like other hair bands, the music we were playing was much heavier and showed more of a thrash metal influence from bands like Slayer and Metallica.” Vinnie Abbott and Rex Brown became acquainted as schoolmates as well as through their joint participation in All City bands. Initially, Rex simply borrowed gear from the Abbotts. In 1982, the brothers asked 17-year-old Rex Brown to join their band.
When Pantera recruited a 19-year-old Philip Anselmo in 1987, the band finally had the right frontman for success. Apparently, Pantera’s spandex era ended simply because Phil put his foot down one evening. He threatened to quit if he could not dress as he saw fit. Phil loathed beautifying himself with hairspray to look “prettier than a girl.” Before Pantera, Phil had lived from hand-to-mouth as the singer of Razor White, which covered some songs by Judas Priest. Once Pantera’s lineup was perfected, however, the group still faced many trials and tribulations. Even when Rob Halford invited Pantera to support Judas Priest on the European leg of the Painkiller tour in 1991, the group was sometimes greeted with booing that is said to have been unbelievable. During that tour, Phil actually won over one heckler by socking him in the jaw. Although Dimebag eventually earned enough money to wreak all the havoc he pleased, he always remained humble and generous in regard to his fans.
Dimebag was tragically shot in 2004 by a crazed lunatic, who lived with his mother, while playing a Damageplan gig at a poorly secured venue called the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. Eerily, the site, where three other victims were slain along with the shooter, will be transformed into an affordable housing development. Sadly, Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez of Alice in Chains played “Got Me Wrong” and “Brother” at Dime’s funeral. They had already lost Layne Staley two years prior. That day, Rex and Vinnie performed beside a cardboard cutout of Dime.
8. Play That Funky Music… Ville?!
Ville Valo is one of the most charming personalities in metal. But don’t be fooled by his wit and his good looks, which even the late Alexi Laiho could not refrain from mentioning. Ville Valo has provided frequent glimpses into his lifestyle habits, which reveal that Ville Valo is one funky dude. He has confessed to rarely bathing at times and washing his clothes in hotel bathtubs. Kerrang! even caught up with him during a phase when he had been eating at the same ₤3.50 Chinese noodle buffet for days in a row. Ville and his HIM bandmates have been thrown out of at least one rehearsal space for urinating on, and thus eroding, the walls. Therefore, it seems fitting that Ville played slap bass in a funk band called Donits-Osmo Experience. In the video included here, Ville is just 15 years old. He sports dreadlocks and baggy clothing as he bops around the stage. Of course, this is also quite surprising given that the “Love Metal” founder is known for his exceptionally smooth voice as well as the darkly flamboyant style that he has since cultivated.
Ville co-founded HIM in 1991. The group temporarily disbanded when “Mige,” Mikko Paananen, embarked on his compulsory military service. When Miko returned, “Linde,” Mikko Lindström joined on guitar. HIM’s debut album, Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 (1997), was well-received in Finland. HIM has gone on to achieve massive international success. The German public went wild for Razorblade Romance (2000), which included the mega-hit “Join Me in Death.” Yet, the band never received the recognition that they deserved in America. Most of all, Americans seemed to favor their fifth studio album, Dark Light (2005), which was recorded at The Paramour Estate in Los Angeles. HIM then returned to Finland to make the experimental, Grammy-nominated Venus Doom (2007), which was released after Uneasy Listening Vol. 1 & 2 (2006).
At one point, Ville used his earnings to move into a four-story neo-Gothic tower home that was built in 1840 by the architect Anders Fredrik Granstedt, who designed the Embassy of Sweden in Helsinki. Ville is so beloved in Finland that he has attended the President’s Ball in 2006. Last year, he starred in a commercial for Paulig’s Presidentti coffee. Ville has made screen appearances, such as in the movie The Green Fix (2002). People around the world have tattooed themselves with the heartagram symbol that Ville created on his 20th birthday. Yet, the creepiest testament to Ville’s fame may be the fact that coloring books have been illustrated in his honor — the Ville Valo Relaxation Coloring Book, the Ville Valo Adult Coloring Book, etc. Let’s admire the man for his music as we witness how far Ville Valo has come since his teenage years. Join Ville as we return to a time when we were either “so young [or] our lives” had not yet “begun.”
9. Before There Was Rammstein, There Was Feeling B…
Before there was Rammstein, the band’s seven members were a bunch of funky punk rockers. These titans all paid their dues by participating in various bands. In 1983, an 18-year-old Paul Landers joined Feeling B. Soon after, a 16-year-old “Flake,” Christian Lorenz, hopped aboard as well. Christoph Schneider was the last of Rammstein’s future members to join Feeling B. Schneider’s other bands have included Keine Ahnung and Frechheit. During their time with Feeling B, Landers and Flake collaborated in the amusing Happy Straps. They founded the zany Frigitte Hodenhorst Mundschenk. Flake also participated in Magdalene Keibel Combo. Unfortunately, Landers’ commitment to Feeling B forced him to quit the new wave punk band Die Firma. Schneider, however, appears to have stayed in both Feeling B and Die Firma while Richard Sven Kruspe replaced Landers on guitar in the latter group. Schneider confessed to Metal Hammer that two of Die Firma’s members were spies. Meanwhile, “Ollie,” Oliver Riedel, Rammstein’s youngest musician, played in the folk-rock band The Inchtabokatables in the ’90s.
Till Lindemann founded First Arsch in 1986. In 1989, Till participated in one of Feeling B’s songs. Landers and Richard Kruspe can be heard on the First Arsch’s only album, Saddle Up (1992), which featured songs like “Priest in Love,” “Pregnant,” and “Big Dong.” Kruspe also played guitar for the band Das elegante Chaos (1987-1989) before founding Orgasm Death Gimmick in 1991. The riff for “Sehnsucht” was plucked from Orgasm Death Gimmick’s “Cyber.” Kruspe aspired to create something truly German. He felt that with Orgasm Death Gimmick, he was halfway obeying trends that were emerging in California. This group blended a large palette of influences: metal, jazz, reggae, and again punk and funk. Orgasm Death Gimmick certainly sounds fresher than some of the other pre-Rammstein bands mentioned. It is possible to say that at times Feeling B’s music, for example, was the product of too many cooks in the kitchen. Flake has stated: “The good thing was that [frontman] Aljoscha [Rompe] was so notoriously unmusical that it also made it all very special. He could sing something too late but still keep the pace, and no one pulls that off unless you’re some kind of rhythmical genius.” Feeling B’s direction makes more sense if one factors in their secret ingredient — booze. Aljosche amusingly defined communism as “free beer.”
It is not surprising given Feeling B’s geopolitical context and the group’s pro-GDR leanings that their music resembled that of certain late-Soviet and post-Soviet groups. Landers looked remarkably like Russia’s Konstantin Kinchev, although that is where the comparison between the two ends. Aljosche’s dislike of money meant that his bandmates were kept on short purse strings. At their height, Feeling B accrued “enormous popularity.” This was still a far cry from the global stardom that Landers, Flake, and Schneider would achieve with Rammstein, which was officially founded in 1994 yet actually conceived in 1993. You might be surprised, nonetheless, to learn that in Rammstein’s infancy, the group was so poor that Till once stole a cow when there were no chickens available to snatch.
Flake revisited old Feeling B material in the 2007 release Grün & Blau. Sadly, Aljoscha, passed away in 2000. In 1990, Rompe co-founded Autonomous Action Wydoks, a political association of squatters that became a production company. Early on, Wydocks loaned support to Orgasm Death Gimmick and Rammstein. The following video offers clear glimpses of Aljoscha, Flake, and Paul Landers.
10. Steel Panther’s Michael Starr Ran with the Devil as an Atomic Punk.
Prior to joining Steel Panther, Michael Starr, Ralph Michael Saenz, had been active in the music scene for quite some time. Although Michael may seem like a California native, he was born in Chicago in 1965 and only moved to Van Nuys, CA in 1979. Starr has played in several groups over the years. Starr founded a Van Halen tribute band that went by the name Atomic Punks (1994-2008). A testament to the Atomic Punk’s quality is the fact that David Lee Roth nabbed two of their players. Michael Starr also landed a job fronting the L.A. Guns. By Starr’s account, that was the first time he had been in a band that made good money. Michael Starr recorded the EP Wasted (1998) with the L.A. Guns. According to Tracii Guns, the reason for Michael Starr’s 1998 departure was the fact that the future “The Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World” singer was disappointed in himself for spoiling his sobriety on tour.
The history of Steel Panther overlaps with that of Atomic Punks. Starr revealed on the Life in the Stocks podcast that he was placed in a disco band by an agency. In 2000, an agent asked him to join a band called Metal Shop with Russell Parrish, and Ray Luzier, who later found his way into Korn. Years earlier, Russ and Michael had tried to start a band together before splintering off in their respective career directions. Russ briefly joined Rob Halford’s band Fight. In the 2000s, Russ became Atomic Punks’ bassist. In 2003, Metal Shop starred in a commercial for Discover Card as the fictional band “Danger Kitty.” When Metal Shop’s drummer ran off to play with David Lee Roth, “Stix Zadinia,” Darren Leader, came aboard. Darren had played with Russ in The Thornbirds, a group that was anything but glam. Metal Shop became Metal Skool and axed their agent. They were signed in 2008. Steel Panther released their debut album Feel the Steel in 2009, which featured hits like “Community Property” and “Fat Girl.” Although Satchel writes and composes most of Steel Panther’s hilarious material, it clearly takes an English major to deliver highly intellectual songs like “Pussywhipped” with the proper cadence. Starr has denied rumors that he holds a PhD and worked as a professor. However, the amusing way in which he responds does little to clarify the matter. In any case, we are glad that Michael Starr finally achieved the fame he had been working towards.
Watch Michael Starr perform Van Halen’s “Runnin’ with the Devil” in 1996 to confirm that he has always suffered from “The Burden of Being Wonderful.”