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Culture Mike Weatherley MP

Mike Weatherley MP: “Screaming Guitar is music to my ears”

Mike Weatherley MP is MP for Hove

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 07.01.53Everyone loves music. And often people tend to like most music. But heavy metal? Usually not - reasons include "terrible screeching vocals" to "you can't dance to it". This is an exchange I often experience:

Me: ‘What sort of music do you like?’

‘All music really.’

Me: 'Ah, so you don’t like my music then.’

No really – I like all music.’

Me: ‘Even heavy Metal?’

‘Oh no – of course not heavy metal!’

Heavy Rock/Metal has never been socially acceptable (unless one adds in the likes of Bon Jovi and Guns & Roses into the definition) and, for many, this musical sub-culture is something to be avoided.

When I was in my early teens, I always preferred my music guitar-based – any single that had a guitar riff in it got my vote. Others liked something you can dance to, but I liked guitars. It wasn’t until Deep Purple brought out ‘In Rock’ when I was 13, closely followed by my introduction to Black Sabbath albums, that I found a genre I could call my own. And once found, it becomes tribal and almost an obsession. Actually, scrub ‘almost’ – it is an obsession. Blues is good, thumping bass and screaming guitars even better. Disco, to quote a 70's slogan, sucks.

Most people have hobbies – something they become passionate about. Something that moves them. It could be hitting a golf ball sweetly in Portugal, following a football team and checking the results every Saturday, or going to Tolkien conventions. For me, it’s always been about music. From hours spent sifting through the racks at the local record store, to reading the specialist magazines or whatever. Given the time spent on this hobby, I suspect that if I had been this passionate about chemistry I would have invented a cure for something by now!

‘Metal’ crosses social divides and international boundaries. Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia, is a Deep Purple fan. If our paths should ever cross, I am absolutely sure we would spend the first 10 minutes talking about the merits of various Purple albums – and then get onto nuclear disarmament or some such. Anywhere in the world, if I see someone in a Maiden T-shirt, I know they will introduce me to the local metal bars and their friends.

And as with all sub-cultures, it has its own identifying characteristics – yes, I had the long hair and ,yes, I had the embroidered denim jacket interchanged with a biker’s jacket (which I understand is now back in mainstream high fashion!). And tattoos. I don’t headbang as much as I did when I was younger, but the air guitar still comes out to play occasionally. We have our own heroes and places of worship. Everyone has heard of Reading and Isle of Wight Festivals – but few have heard of Download (Donnington), which hosts 100,000 people each June, making it the second largest festival in Britain (after Glastonbury), and which I go to every year and camp with my family. Listening to metal live is an enduring priority – I still try and go to a gig every month and more often than that, if votes in the House allow me to get away in time.

It's 43 years now since ‘metal’ first was coined (precise date still debated – was it Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be wild’ (1968)? Was it Black Sabbath’s first album (1970)? - and a whole new generation is becoming as passionate; it is a sub culture that has endured, though. I know that I said Metal was unpopular with most people, but the passionate supporters make up for that – AC/DC and Meatloaf (yes, we accept Meatloaf as one of ours), both having albums that reached worldwide top 10 ever. If you are ever asked ‘which artist or band had a top 10 hit every year during the 80’s?’ in a quiz show, you may be surprised to learn that the answer is not Michael Jackson or some boy band, but England’s own Iron Maiden (who, incidentally, have just finished a worldwide sell out tourm and are still consistently in the top five UK overseas earners). So, sub culture yes - insignificant, no chance.

So how did a heavy metal fan end up working for 'the enemy', Pete Waterman? (After all, Pete was a music writer that rarely had any guitars in the final product.) Well, after selling my share in a manufacturing business and looking for my next challenge, I stumbled upon an advert for an accountant in the music industry and thought 'why not?'. When I turned up for the interview, I opened by saying: 'Pete, before we start let me say this – I fully accept you are loved by millions, but I have hated everything you have ever produced' – he lent over the table, hand outstretched to take mine and said 'congratulations, you have got the job!'.

I know that many reading this will be saying ‘but yes, we get all of that, but why do you like rock / metal?’ Ah my friends, if you have to ask that, then you will never understand why.

Some bands I am listening to at the moment: Shinedown, Stone Sour, Avenged Sevenfold, Maiden, Sabbath (their last album a few months ago went to No 1 by the way), In This Moment, UDO and the winners of my special ‘Rock The House’ award, Collibus – and occasional nostalgia with the likes of Rory Gallagher and Rush (although their latest Clockwork Angels is superb and fully back to form).


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