Have you ever wondered why your favorite metal songs are so genius?! This may be because they are the mad creations of a professor, doctor, or scientist. The brainiacs behind the leather, tattoos, and corpse paint are not always properly appreciated for their wisdom. You might not have realized that Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain has a degree in engineering, ex-Anthrax’s Dan Spitz is a master watchmaker who owns his own atelier, and Behemoth’s Nergal is qualified to become a museum curator. Will Nergal ever decide to put his education to practical use? Absolutely not.
Nevertheless, the metal community is full of scholars who have used their diplomas to try to change the world. Ex-Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in corporate communications and has worked at a corporate web company. Most importantly, Weinman founded an animal sanctuary on the premises of his New Jersey home with the help of crowdfunding. Weinman’s Party Smasher Sanctuary protects turkeys, horses, pigs, geese, goats, cows, etc. Weinman and his friends were recently forced to bust out their construction gear after Hurricane Ida swept away his animal pen this past September.
Similarly, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and System of a Down’s Serj Tankian co-founded a non-profit organization called Axis of Justice. You might have heard that before Morello became a stripper, he earned his B.A. from Harvard. What is more surprising, however, is that Jyrki 69 of 69 Eyes holds a master’s in analytical chemistry. In 2006, the “Dead Girls Are Easy” singer was named one of the Junior Chamber International’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World for his humanitarian work as Finland’s UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He received his award in Seoul, South Korea. Before that, Jyrki 69 had been a UNICEF spokesman. Jyrki has helped to combat the trafficking of minors in Nicaragua.
We realize that when people talk about heavy metal day jobs, they usually focus on comical career mismatches like Ozzy Osbourne’s time as an incompetent plumber’s apprentice — he was fired for “scrumping,” stealing, apples on his breaks — or Alexi Laiho’s “Set to Fail” stab at telemarketing. If only Alexi would have sung “Every Time I Buy” to his clients, he might have lasted longer. Today, we are here to further prove that it is possible to pursue your dreams as a musician and as an intellectual. There are plenty of metalheads who rock “Business Suits and Combat Boots.”
Which headbangers are endowed with massive IQs? Read our surprising list of headbangers with smart day jobs to find out. Although we promised a list of 10 musicians, we found that great minds often band together. You will see what we mean…
1. Insomnium's Killer Day Jobs
Insomnium’s Ville Friman — Biologist
Marcus Hirvonen — Environmental Engineer
Niilo Sevänen — Cultural Center Director
Ex-member Ville Vänni — Surgeon
Ville Friman is one of Insomnium’s founders, guitarists, and clean vocalists. He is also a lecturer in evolutionary biology at the University of York in England. He received his PhD from the University of Helsinki. Ville’s love and dedication to his job mean that he sometimes misses out on tours. Ex-Arch Enemy’s Nick Cordle has filled in for Ville. Cordle has also toured with Omnium Gatherum, which shares guitarist Markus Vanhala with Insomnium. In 2019, Insomnium finally added touring member Jani Liimatainen, ex-Sonata Arctica, to the band’s permanent lineup. Jani serves as the third guitarist in this 5-piece outfit. Marcus Hirvonen, Insomnium’s drummer, is an environmental engineer who studied at the Lappeenranta University of Technology. Insomnium’s co-founder, harsh vocalist, and bass player Niilo Sevänen has a master’s degree in cultural history. He has studied literature as well. Winter’s Gate (2016) was adapted from an awarded short story that Niilo had written a decade earlier. Niilo became the director and program manager of the Kotka Centre, which he left in 2017. At the Kotka Center, Niilo arranged cultural events like the Kotka Maritime Festival, one of the biggest summer events in Finland. The Union of Baltic Cities estimated that the four-day festival would attract 200,000 visitors in 2016. Niilo has also been a project manager and project worker at the Kouvola library.
In 2011, guitarist and co-founder Dr. Ville Vänni parted ways with Insomnium due to the impracticality of balancing a career as a general surgeon with the demands of the band. He has become the chairman of the Finnish Trauma Association. Ville, who practices at the North Karelia Hospital, has travelled to Africa at least 4 times to work and train. He was eventually recruited to become a UN military surgeon in Mali for a period. Metal musicians who have experience in health care are not be as rare as you think. Slayer’s Tom Araya was a respiratory therapist, and Van Halen’s David Lee Roth spent 2 1/2 years as a surgical porter after his high school graduation.
Unfortunately, not all musicians have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Rammstein’s Christian “Flake” Lorenz could not become a surgeon because he refused to join the military. Hence, his nickname “Doktor” lives on. Most metalheads know that Rammstein’s Till Lindemann has undertaken miscellaneous occupational endeavors like basket weaving in his youth. Till Lindemann might have even made it to the 1980 Moscow Olympics if he had not been booted from the East Germany’s national junior swim team while in Florence,“… after being apprehended, post-curfew, by his coaches while clambering down a fire escape on a mission to find a city centre sex shop which sold porn magazines,” as Kerrang! clarified. Lindemann has published three books of poetry: 100 Gedichte/100 Poems (2020), In stillen Nächten/On Quiet Nights (2015), and Messer/Knife (2005).
2. Deathstars’ Work In Television
Whiplasher Bernadotte — Television Producer, Documentarian, Journalist
Skinny Disco — Television Sound Engineer
Frontman Andreas “Whiplasher Bernadotte” Bergh often quips: “There are porn stars, rock stars…so there had to be Deathstars.” Formed in 2000, Deathstars are the world’s best “deathglam” band. The Swedish group combines elements of black metal, death metal, electronic, pop, and so forth. According to Whiplasher, Deathstars are, “… like a Backstreet Boys from Hell in one aspect.” If there was an award for the metal band with the best visual presentation, Deathstars would definitely be an eligible candidate. We speculate that if Deathstars launched their own brand of cosmetics, they might just become the world’s next billion-dollar enterprise. Deathstars’ sometimes glittery stage makeup could only be the doing of self-described “control freaks and perfectionists.” The first thing people ask when they discuss Deathstars is: “Why are their videos so exceptional?”
Whiplasher has revealed: “I work in a production company when I'm not doing this music. I produce TV programs in Sweden.” Deathstars’ disturbing “Synthetic Generation,” which was banned from Swedish television, is a must-watch. Deathstars shoots their videos in Serbia and collaborates with the director or the production company to execute their desired image. Unfortunately, however, the band’s most recent video release was in 2014. Whiplasher began writing for “Sweden’s biggest newspaper” when he was just 17. He lived in the Middle East as a correspondent in 2001 or 2002: “… I was writing chronicles for a Swedish TV station, and I was filming for several months.” Whiplasher has discussed another one of his projects: “I spent some time with the Maori in Tonga. These guys lived in a deeply religious fishing community, and I made a film about their lives, which I think will surprise a few people.” Bernadotte has also lived in England and Northern Italy. We neither know where the frontman now resides, nor do we consider it our best business. Whiplasher’s sister, Jonna Bergh, is a television personality and a writer. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Styleby. Jonna started Cosmopolitan in Sweden and has also worked for Glamor. That must be why Deathstars’ motto is “Sex, Darkness, and Glamour!”
Deathstars’ fans were given cause to rejoice when Eric “Cat Casino” Bäckman reunited with the band in 2019. Cat has taught private music lessons, which we also consider a pretty hard job. He is famous for his bitch-slap playfight with Till Lindemann. Deathstars have found fans and friends in none other than Rammstein, with whom they toured in 2011, and their idols Kiss. Deathstars and Kiss first met when Kiss bought VIP tickets to a Deathstars show in Stockholm.
Bassist Jonas “Skinny Disco” Kangur, who officially changed his name to Skinny, attended a prestigious Waldorf school. He became a sound engineer at the age of 20. Skinny met Andreas while appearing as television guest and extra. Andreas has helped Skinny become involved with the production company ITV. Skinny and Andreas have worked on the same cooking show. Skinny also has a talent for DJing. Parallel to his career with Deathstars, Skinny plays for a band called The Heard. Skinny is beloved for his off-beat humor and flare. His preference for classic rock qualifies him as the most old-school of his bandmates in terms of taste. Skinny enjoys Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Hendrix. He plays the banjo and has even made country music on the side.
Guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter, and producer Emil “Nightmare Industries” Nödtveidt, who also works in television, is a powerhouse in his own right. Emil wrote the song “Via the End” the night he learned of his brother’s suicide in 2006. Whiplasher provided the lyrics. “Via the End” begins: “I lit my scars in a new cigarette's light…” This heartbreaking, beautiful, and brutally honest song deviates from Deathstars’ pattern of coquettish irony. This song is clearly “dead serious.” Emil’s brother was Jon Nödtveidt, the frontman of Dissection. Jon was also music journalist. During Jon’s 7 years in prison for his involvement in a murder, he studied topics of interest and perfected his music. Jon and Dissection have recorded and mixed their material in Deathstars’ studio. Emil played live with Dissection on bass in 1997. Deathstars’ former drummer Ole “Bone W. Machine” Öhman was a member of Dissection for 5 years. Bone left Deathstars due to problems with his elbow. Ole, Nightmare, Whiplasher, and the original rhythm guitarist, Erik "Beast X Electric" Halvorsen, actually played in a black metal together in a band called Swordmaster in the ’90s. As a result, Whiplasher has such high standards that he doesn't even want you to know that Deathstars are metal: “A metal band for me would be something like Darkthrone, so we never claim to be a metal band, so let’s just call it more of a ‘Dark Rock’ band.”
3. Ozzy Osbourne’s Blasko — Manager
Rob “Blasko” Nicholson is one of the coolest bassists in metal. He is also one of the funniest men on Instagram. In 2021, Blasko became the Executive Vice President of A&R and Special Projects at Ripple Music. He has hosted the podcasts A New Level and The ManageMental Podcast with Blasko and Mike Mowery. That is incredible considering that Blasko played with everyone from Rob Zombie to Danzig. Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Sabbath are lucky to him. Watching Blasko onstage, Black Veil Brides would be the last metal band to come to mind. And yet, Blasko is the BVB’s manager. That is a major achievement in view of the band’s success. Nevertheless, the decision to assume responsibility for the group of “outlaws” required a man with iron balls.
Black Veil Brides’ Andy Biersack, a.k.a. Andy Black, has reflected: “We were never the darlings of any scene. Even after we had a record deal and started touring the world, we were the only ones outside the fanbase who believed in Black Veil Brides as strongly as we did.” BVB is a band that has endured a lot of hatred from within the metal community. This fact manifested itself at the 2013 Revolver Golden Gods Awards. On this occasion, Andy angrily defended himself against members of the jeering crowd who aimed to spoil the presumably lovely speech that he had prepared in dedication to his now late grandfather Urban Flanders. The “They Don’t Need to Understand” singer is one of the most tenacious men in the industry. Not even shattered ribs could stop Andy from finishing a concert. Andy originally came to fame with the release of BVB’s “Knives and Pens” video. He met the video’s future director Patrick Fogarty while hanging out on the set of Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), in which Andy’s former girlfriend starred. — Did you know that Zombie got his start as a production assistant on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?! — Andy tried playing his audio recording of “Knives and Pens” for Rob Zombie, but the latter was not interested. A cringe-inducing piece of trivia: As a kid, Andy went on a blind date with Jennifer Lawrence while he was trying to break into acting in California. Andy Biersack’s acting credits include playing Denise Richards’ son in American Satan (2017).
Like Andy, Zombie, and even Blasko to an extent, a lot of metalheads have ventured into film, theater, and television. Sebastian Bach has notably starred on Broadway. Bach has branched out into reality television, fictional series, etc. To state another example, “Ardek,” or Clemens Wijers, actively composes music for films, theater, commercials, etc. He is the keyboardist of the Dutch symphonic black metal band Carach Angren.
4. Ex-Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow — Manager
German-born Angela Gossow has managed the Swedish melodic death metal megastars Arch Enemy since 2008. Although the vocalist retired from performing with Arch Enemy in 2013, it was only natural that she should continue to look out for the band’s business interests. Arch Enemy’s guitarist Michael Amott is Angela’s husband, and his brother Christopher Amott has also played with the band. Through her company Kult Management, Angela has also partnered with Obscura, Amaranthe, Eluveitie, and Michael Amott’s Spiritual Beggars. Angela studied economics in college. She then became an advertising and graphics marketing manager at a large company. Angela is a mother and a vegan. She was raised as a vegetarian because her maternal grandparents were butchers. Thus, her own mother stopped eating meat as a small child. Arch Enemy’s current vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, who was born in Canada, is another vegan who is known for her activism. Last December, Alissa reported that she was finishing recording her first solo album. This is a project that has been underway for years, so fans have high hopes.
5. Ensiferum’s Sami Hinkka — Licensed Practical Nurse and Kindergarten Teacher
Ensiferum is one of the world’s best folk metal bands. These Finns are so fiery that they even have their own “Gods of Fire” chili sauce. Although Ensiferum typically sing in English, we appreciate that they have songs in Finnish. Ensiferum’s bassist, lyricist, and backing vocalist Sami Hinkka has revealed that he maintains two jobs. Sami holds a bachelor’s degree is social sciences. He is also a licensed practical nurse and kindergarten teacher. Occasionally, this “Slayer of Light” fills in as a daycare substitute. Sami has also used his degrees to care for the elderly.
In his profession as an educator, Sami Hinkka stands in great company. At the Gates’ Tomas Lindberg is also a social studies teacher in Sweden. Before becoming an iconic musician, Gene Simmons taught 6th graders at a NYC public school. Simmons was fired for assigning his students Spider-Man instead of Shakespeare. In 1973, Gene served as the assistant to Vogue editor, Katie Lloyd. No wonder he is so great with makeup and branding Kiss’ image. Simmons also held a position at the InerAgency Council, where he “… learned the importance of making a professional package.” He was employed by the Direct Mail Agency as well. Boudewijn Vincent Bonebakker, the guitarist of the former Dutch band Gorefest, has taught music. Similarly, Finntroll’s keyboardist and guitarist Henri “Trollhorn” Sorvali can add high school music teacher to his CV. Furthermore, Trollhorn wears the hats of a mastering engineer, producer, and composer. He is part of the team at the video game company Rovio. Yes, Angry Birds features some of Trollhorn’s tracks. Meanwhile, Finntroll’s Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns should be your first choice for screaming/growling lessons, which he currently offers. We have another metal teacher coming up…
6. Darkthrone’s Day Jobs
Nocturno Culto — School Teacher
Fenriz — Councilman
Yes, the great Norwegian black metal musician Noctorno Culto, a.k.a. Ted Skjellum, is a school teacher. Noctorno’s bandmate Fenriz, however, is not sure if this is his current occupation. In any case, Nocturno’s time teaching overlapped with his time in the “spotlight,” or rather trying to elude it. “I want people to forget about us and only listen to Darkthrone,” Nocturno has said. This obscure figure released the documentary Misanthrope in 2007.
Darkthrone fans already know that “Fenriz,” Gylve Fenris Nagell — born Leif Nagell, is one of metal’s most brilliant figures. This uber funny and intelligent musician has worked in the postal industry for over 30 years. He codes letters and operates machines. Some may find it puzzling that Fenriz prefers to stay put in his native Kolbotn. Fenriz was “accidentally” elected to his local council after posting a photo of himself holding his cat. He wrote “Please don’t vote for me.” As Plato believed, those who do not want political power are the best rulers. The Philosopher King Fenriz’s other jobs include DJ, music journalist, and radio show host. Pay $3 a month to access The Fenriz Metal Pact. If you know Norwegian, the podcast Radio Fenriz på norsk is also currently active. Alternatively, you can listen to old episodes of Radio Fenriz in English (2016-2019).
While on the topic of Norwegian black metal, we would like to mention that Gaahl , Kristian Eivind Espedal, is a painter whose art has been exhibited. Gaahl has even started a clothing label called Wynjo, which was launched in 2009, with his ex-boyfriend, a modeling agent. Although Gaahl is devilishly fashionable, he claims that his involvement was only financial. In 2010, Gaahl participated in a black metal musical. We are launching a campaign: Bring Gaahl to Broadway! It might also come as a surprise that Gaahl’s former Gorgoroth bandmate “King ov Hell,” Tom Cato Visnes, was yet another metalhead educator. King ov Hell taught primary school in Bergen until 2008.
7. Amorphis’ Olli-Pekka Laine — Officer in Finland’s Parliament and Tomi Joutsen — Youth Center Leader
Bassist and backing vocalist Olli-Pekka Laine quit his job working in Finland’s parliament in order to rejoin Amorphis in 2017. Laine holds three different degrees. As a member of the original lineup, Laine had played in Amorphis from 1990-2000. That means that Laine contributed to the game-changer album Tales from the Thousand Lakes (1994).
Amorphis’ sound and roster have altered a lot over the years. The group has had several different vocalists. Amorphis even planned to tour the United States in 2004 to support Type O Negative with Juha-Pekka “JP” Leppäluoto. The former Charon frontman remains one of the best voices in Finnish metal. Unfortunately, Peter Steele became ill, and this tour never happened. Of course, Amorphis have rocked the U.S. on many other occasions.
In 2005, Amorphis selected their current vocalist Tomi Joutsen who is absolutely incredible. Tomi once ran a youth center in his hometown. The “House of Sleep” singer was born in Lohja, Finland. A little bit of this vibe shines through in certain songs like “The Golden Elk” and “Wrong Direction.” We wish that we had been the kids that Tomi counseled in summer camp. We wonder how he dealt with those who fit the description of “Youth Gone Wild.” Tomi and Laine have become proud family guys like a lot of the artists on our list.
In 2013, Amorphis joined forces with the multi-talented musician Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy as a producer for the album Circle. Tägtgren is another inspiring musician. He owns a recording studio called The Abyss. Tägtgren actually bought the small town called Pärlby in which The Abyss is located. Thus, Tägtgren is dubbed “The Mayor of Pärlby.” The town boasts an approximate population of 120-130 people and is located three hours outside of Stockholm. It is about three kilometers away from where Tägtgren grew up.
8. As I Lay Dying’s Tim Lambesis — Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor
In 2013, Tim Lambesis was arrested for trying to hire a hitman to murder his wife, a former teacher. Tim feared losing his three adopted children during his ugly divorce. Tim entered jail in 2014 and was released in 2016. While in prison, Lambesis took 11 college courses. Tim earned four extra degrees in social and behavioral science, American studies, business, and alcohol and drug studies. He has become a certified addiction treatment counselor and group facilitator/therapist at a recovery center. Lambesis currently works for Reintegration which was launched in 2020 through the non-profit organization Vantage Point in San Diego. He helps those who are coming out of incarceration and/or drug addiction treatment find meaningful employment. This kind of service saves lives by preventing people from relapsing. Lambesis also collaborates with the non-profit Send Musicians to Prison. This year, critics berated Lambesis for leading a mental health class through two organizations founded by Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red — YourLife Gym and HeartSupport. Does everyone have a right to make a difference?
9. Sarcófago’s Wagner “Antichrist” Lamounier — Professor of Economics
Wagner “Antichrist” Lamounier was the original vocalist for the Brazilian gods of thrash metal Sepultura from 1984-1985. At that time, Sepultura had not yet been signed and had yet to release their debut album Morbid Visions (1986), so metallers are more likely to remember Lamounier as the frontman of Sarcófago. Lamounier left metal in 2000. He is currently an economics professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte. Sip some House of Mustaine wine from metal’s most endearing entrepreneur when you fathom that career move.
10. Bathory’s Jonas Åkerlund — Director
Many people do not know that Jonas Åkerlund is a musician. Åkerlund drummed with the Swedish black metal legends Bathory from 1983-1984. Åkerlund and his cousin released two songs with Bathory that made their way onto a Scandinavian compilation album, which was produced by Björe Forsberg, the father of the group’s late frontman, “Quorthon,” a.k.a. Thomas Forsberg. Åkerlund also believes that there is a possibility that some of what ended up on Bathory’s debut album, Bathory (1984), may have been recorded with his participation. However, this is probably not the case. Åkerlund’s association with Bathory is shocking in light of his role as director and co-writer of Lords of Chaos (2018) — the failed film about Norwegian black metal in which Rory Culkin stars as Mayhem’s Euronymous. The unrivaled, late Morbid and Mayhem frontman Per Yngve Ohlin, known as “Dead” and nicknamed Pelle, was depicted by the actor Jack Kilmer as the result of odd casting to accompany a shallow Hollywood script. Dead’s brother Anders Ohlin weighed in: “All I can say about this film is that it is a commercial product in the category of fiction. This means that the film is not a documentary or truthful.” Mayhem’s “Necrobutcher,” Jørn Stubberud, commented: “I saw it and it just made me sad.” Although he has yet to see the movie, Mayhem’s “Teloch,” Morten Bergeton Iversen, who joined in 2011, recently posted a Lords of Chaos monkey meme. One fan laconically summarized the motion picture: “Lords of Chaos is just a black metal version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Rolling Stone awarded this effort 1 1/2 stars. Note: Mayhem’s original drummer Kjetil Manhem left the band in 1988 for a long inventory of white collar positions. Music remains one of Manheim’s hobbies just as blogging seems to have been from 2014-2017. It is well-known that “Euronymous,” Øystein Aarseth, was a record label founder, producer, and owner of the legendary Helvete record shop.
Jonas Åkerlund shot his first music video, Candlemass’ “Bewitched,” in 1988. As classic as Candlemass’ “Bewitched” may be, Jonas’ clip ranked #4 on a VH1’s “List Awesomely Terrible Heavy Metal Videos.” Dead appeared in the background as an extra. As a Swede, Dead was “euphoric” when he first heard Bathory. However, Dead could only stomach Bathory’s early music. He came to detest their vocalist: “One guy who is posing to be so Evil and Dark, but really is a wimp is the incredibly stupid Quorthon of Bathory.” In another expletive-laced rant, Dead suggested that maybe Quorthon’s father wrote his lyrics for him, which was not far from the truth considering that the duo composed songs together as a collaborative team. If it had not been for Dead’s disappointment in Quorthon, for whom killed a sacrificial hamster, he might not have shifted his focus towards Mayhem while in his formative Morbid days. Speaking of Dead’s taste in music, he also enjoyed the bands represented by our #9 slot, Sarcófago and Sepultura.
Despite the cheesiness inherent in much of Åkerlund’s content, he has collaborated with virtually every bigwig in the industry from Blink-182 to Paul McCartney to Kesha. Åkerlund currently has a film about the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in pre-production. He has directed several Rammstein great videos like “Mein Land” and “Pussy” as well as the epic Rammstein: Paris (2017), which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. We will conclude this list with one of Jonas Åkerlund’s most brutal accomplishments.