I Don’t Love Tool. You Do. And That’s Ok

Since this is the debut outing, before we get into the real guts and gore, let’s do this properly. I’m an old fashioned man. I believe in being straight with people. And in a disconnected world of glass and plastic communication, discarded and farcical monikers, I want to start this in the appropriate regard. The greatest endeavors begin with simple and plain introductions. And for you to trust me, or entertain my opinions, there can be no mystique. So, let me introduce myself.

My name is John Huber. That’s the credited name on all my finished works. It is also my birth name. I write horror novels and melodic death metal. I undertake both these ventures under the production moniker ‘SKELETON ROSE MEDIA.’ My books bear my fancy little name. And the music is released as simply SKELETON ROSE. I live the life of an independent artist. And I do have a few hundred involved fans in the distance and cyber webs, as well as in my daily grind. No grandiose or immaculate following, but a following nonetheless. Now. When I say independent, I mean ‘independent.’ Entirely void of any outside financial support. Devoid of hierarchical artistic input. All work, little play. Three hours of sleep. Chase the sun up, ride it back down again. I have to complete my work in the margins of the day because I keep a full-time job outside my passions for horror and songwriting. 

Though I can be very solitary, I don’t work entirely alone. If you view my work, you’ll see that many other hands do come upon it. I work with a team of illustrators, and while they are very talented, they are my acquaintances. They also work for free. Work colleagues. Full-time jobs. Very talented people who had their passion beaten out them years ago. Waiting for someone to put them to use in their chosen discipline. And within that purpose, they have been very good. I stand behind their work. My music, same story. I write everything you hear, lyrics included. I perform the vocals. But I can’t mix a track to save my fucking life. Nor produce it. That’s where Michael Schilling, the man with the fucking plan, has come in. Not only does he have a phenomenal ear, but he’s been great for my songwriting as well. And if there is one outside influence on my artistic direction that I will entertain, it is his. And by extension, Ty Bommersbach as well. Your fearless leaders of the SUPER METAL WORLD podcast. Who have been more than artistic colleagues in my little grisly playland of shattered glass. The place where I am so passionate about unpleasant things.

There’s a reason for that. And I’m going somewhere with this, so bear with me. I don’t allow many people credible artistic insight into my world. I’ve lived in very, very painful ways. My novels and my music are therapy. If you view my work, I keep the glass between us very thin. Some artists label me, and that approach, as arrogant. Self-serving. And I’ve been called those things. Sometimes by people I’ve never met. Now. I ADORE criticism of the final products, good, bad and ugly. I cherish any and all viewpoints. But, in the creation, I’m very, very close to my material. I’m also very stubborn about it. I’m at once complete and collectively undone. Rebuilt, but broken. I don’t trust many people with my projects… and by extension, perhaps… I don’t trust them with me.

I’ve been offered networking from publishers for manuscripts I have in production. I have been offered professional sound mixing, editing and tracking from labels. And while they are tempting, I always turn them down. I’ve been called foolish for doing so, maniacal and mad. And that’s fair enough, I would say. I can’t convince you otherwise with any of my actions. Not with enough conviction, anyway. But at the heart of any issue, there is always the true thing. And that truth about me is this: I have a very peculiar phobia. I live in terror that anyone handling my work will release it in a way I cannot live with. So, I decline opportunities for money. Renown. Popularity. Refuse many prospects to grow because I will not permit unfamiliar hands upon what I create. Anything and everything I release is entirely mine, and if I die penniless as a result, so be it. There has been no filter or edits or vision other than my own. In that way, you will know, should you experience my work, that if it bears my name, it is presented as I would have it presented. And only in that way, can you fully trust me. And that now includes this blog. Because… for all my endless mistrust, doubt, neuroticism, fidgets and discomfort, I trust the men that run this podcast. I trust them implicitly. With my life. And if you take music, and any artistry, as seriously as I do, then you should trust them, too. Let me tell you why.

I was interviewed a few months ago by your maestros of the SUPER METAL WORLD podcast. It was an ‘Artist Spotlight’ that went very well. They were kind enough to let me return for their review of Machine Head’s new album CATHARSIS. Which is a band I ADORE. Now. I’ve done plenty of podcast appearances before. I’m a regular host with the great folks from HORROR HAVEN, too. But speaking with Michael and Ty, you receive a genuine passion from them. And an ease of mind that seems to be lacking by such a dreadful degree in today’s online and downright nasty world of opinionated disagreement and expression. Quite simply, in a world of trolls, speaking with Michael and Ty is a refreshing and nearly therapeutic experience. They understand that, in life, there will be a differing of opinion. And… let’s put this in all caps so you know I’m serious… THAT’S OKAY. It’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to differ. That’s what makes life and any of its endeavors so interesting. Conscious and polite debate. I once heard it said that good manners were the most obvious sign of a good education. And for the manners of these young men, I’d say their education is top notch. And beyond their mannerly approach, their knowledge of old school metal is incredible. Their passion for all of metal’s diversity is overwhelming.

So, when they came to me, and asked if I would blog for them… I took my time. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked to blog. And those other endeavors fell through for all the same reasons I mentioned above. My opinions and topics and writing would be edited, subject to higher filtering. I had my initial pangs of mistrust when SUPER METAL WORLD offered this to me. But, in the end, I realized the pangs were on reflex. Because, if I won’t blog for these men, as fantastic as they are, then there are truly none I WILL do it for. So, I did say yes. Trust me when I say that I can’t wait to open all those beautiful little coffers in future posts. To really dig and explore these fantastic and beautiful things in blogs to come. Michael and Ty make this possible. And the mission for their podcast should be the battle cry for the entire metal world. I scream it from the rooftops, and I could kiss them for their open and loving approach to all things metal.

So, here we are. Now that we’re up to speed as to why I’m here, let’s open the fucking pit. Here’s the real hearty bastard. The real stinky cheese. And it is nothing new, mentioned by a great many artists and bloggers and posters alike. We live in a world addicted to the things that divide us. And more, to a very disturbing degree, it has infected metal as well. Which is something I NEVER thought I’d see come to pass. Because, well… this world will not tolerate many things. And metal fans are no stranger to that. And within this intolerant and diseased world, to the furthest fringe, those metal fans lurk and stalk. Wandering about for a place to call home, seeking out others like themselves. Other endangered species. For years, as I grew up, that’s where metal and horror found me. The one place I was accepted by all people. I didn’t have a home growing up. My parents abandoned me when I was very young. So, that went a long way. Meant a great deal. Gave me something I could never explain. Somewhere to belong.

By this point, I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes. But cut that shit out and really think about this. Sure. You know that metal is a place where everyone belongs, but do you really embrace that? Have you cut down someone for what they listen to? A band you hate, an album that ‘sucked balls bro’ or the ENDLESS fucking argument of ‘posers’ and which goddamn genres the bands belong within. The endless wars between us that we have all seen, heard and been participant of. Entirely frivolous. Don’t you fucking lie, either. We’ve all done it. Myself included. For years, there was none worse than I to lead the elitist ones. None could have my precious metal without my knowledge or say so. Until one day, I found myself hating, quite literally, every new album that I came across. Until I asked myself… “Do I even love metal?” Or do I just like the three bands I listen to? I made it my mission from that point to be a better ambassador for metal and horror alike. Because I’ve done the math on this, and trust me, six people with one beer kicking out a new thrash epic is a hell of a lot more fun than one person with six beers. Sitting alone. Angry. Bitter.

So I grew up. I learned that I was not the arbiter of taste. A fantastic statement given by a very cool man running RIFFS OR GTFO in California who was also on SUPER METAL WORLD. And that man was very, very right. That what I enjoyed was not the definition of ‘quality.’ That I did not have to be a fan of someone’s work to judge it fairly and understand its merit. But, the more I embraced a much more open and collective perspective, while still maintaining my favorites, I saw out in the metal world as a whole. And saw that I was very alone in that. That SUPER METAL WORLD was very alone in that. And it seems in this streamlined world of information and sharing, where your opinion travels faster than ever, a very bad thing has overtaken us as a community. The hate we’ve sung so long about, the violent wars and ostracism and outcasting, have come to our door. We let the war lines consume us and we have gone to battle amongst ourselves.

And I think it’s because we let the bands we cherish define us as people. BEHEMOTH (a band I fucking love, BEHEMOTH RULES!!! CAN’T WAIT FOR THE ALBUM!!!) frontman Nergal said it best on his Instagram some time ago. Some fans… some, not all, mind you… become convinced that they own their favorite artists. And in the doing, when we talk to others about their favorite bands, we measure our worth against them by the merit of the artists we support and endorse. And then, like any terrible story of oppression and war, we strike out for survival. Merit to fucking exist within a world that was created to accept EVERYONE.

By now, the title of the post might start making some sense. TOOL’s new album is coming this year, that’s what they keep saying anyway. As an aside, I did see an official posting that they had entered the studio. So for you mega-fans, there is that comfort. But, TOOL is a band I always wanted to love. Their lines are haunting, ethereal and dark. And as a former drug addict, I can assure you that no greater soundtrack to a miserable and depravitous drugged out stupor exists. I say that with love, but that’s how their music has always struck me. As someone who is obsessed with the withered, the degradative, the haunted, I always wanted to love TOOL. So, in light of their coming album, I gave their entire catalog a listen. It was a first time for most of it. So, let me be entirely transparent. TOOL is not for me. It’s just not. The whole of TOOL, anyway. I like the major and popular tracks. Schism. Forty-Six and 2. Ticks and Leeches. Lateralus. Sober. But most of their catalog is very unfocused. And it makes me fidget as a listener. So, to that end, I do appreciate TOOL as a band. I LIKE TOOL. Their unique and definitive style. What they have done for rock and metal. But I do not love them. Most do, I do not. Which I now realize is a very unpopular opinion.

Point of fact, TOOL is much more beloved than I ever imagined. And not long ago, I got into a flame war for that very statement. I mentioned how I didn’t love Tool on a forum board. And… BOOM went the dynamite. I couldn’t believe it. And that’s also taking the Big Four flame wars on any YouTube video into account. I never responded to any of the comments, but ON AND ON AND ON went this war. Shot after shot. Until it ultimately devolved into name calling. Brutishness, crass and dreadful name calling. Personal attacks from people, toward people, that all online personalities involved had never met.

Now. Metal and rock is a place for hatred. For despair. Pain and torment and war and slaughter. It’s a place for everything. I will never tell anyone that any emotion does not belong in the genres that accept everyone. But so long we seem to have sung about it, that I feel it has begun to consume us. Turned inward and necrotic. Which is counter-intuitive to the point of all creative and artistic expression. To RELEASE. The letting go of. The CATHARSIS, as it were. Machine Head reference notwithstanding. (MACHINE HEAD FUCKING RULES AND WHILE IT HAD ITS FLAWS, I DO LIKE THAT ALBUM!! AND I WILL POLITELY DISCUSS IT WITH ANYONE!!)

I suppose… the simplest way I can put it is this. All the negative things. They unite us in this worn and twisted world we inhabit. The loud and crazed and beautifully ugly music we adore. But the hatred, the slaughter, the destruction, the terror and the horror… They are a bit like consuming alcohol. To be experienced, enjoyed, embraced and beloved. Even adored. But they are too be done so responsibly.

Bear the hatred. Sing about it. Embrace it. But let it go. When you’re done with it, let it pass in the night. And just like any person caring for a mean hearted drunk, do not pass it upon your brother. The same one that will pick you up in the pit each and every time you fall. Or, SHOULD pick you up in the pit, anyway. Feel all that anger that never leaves. Let it comfort you to know you are not alone in such destructive throes. But be sure your pointing it appropriately. Because it’s a bit like saltwater. The more you drink, the greater the thirst.

I’ll never tell you you have to be nice. But, for Christ’s sake, stop fucking it up for everyone else. It’s not cool and it makes us all look like intolerant fucks. Listen. Kill it in the pit, and love your brothers who are also there to adore the loud and angry chaos.

And for the love of God, keep listening to the SUPER METAL WORLD podcast. And the many other podcasts like it. The ones that embrace the original passion for the wondrous and expansive world of metal. A place for all of us. A home. Somewhere to belong. And the somewhere you belong, a true home, only if you never have to take up the fighting for. Especially amongst the others that you will encounter there.

A place where you don’t have to practice war to have peace. Not amongst your brothers in the order, anyway.

Peace, love and brotherhood. Horns High and Stay Brutal, everybody. Read you next time.

My name is John Huber. I work with a collaborative team to create, release, and promote original horror art and culture. We make books, music, digital photography, illustrations and much more. Can we show you all the beautiful things? Check out our catalog. There’s something for every kind of horror fan.