I was angry and sad and sick of my shitty life that was nothing but sleep and YouTube and working the overnight shift in a refrigerated warehouse, so I formed a one man noise metal band and built a studio in the basement of my house. Using my vast and useless savings, I took to the internet and bought an electric guitar, a five-piece drum kit, an electronic drum machine, a digital recorder, and other musical things I didn’t know how to use. This last aspect was crucial. Any technical skill would’ve spoiled the intended effect. The purpose of my project was not musical sophistication. It was the creation of cacophony, the complete destruction of all thought and feeling.
Once my studio was complete, I started writing my own songs. Each morning after work, I trudged downstairs, switched on my digital recorder, and began to play. Some days I slashed at my guitar while my drum machine jackhammered from the powered speakers beside me. Other days I bashed the skins of my drum kit as preprogrammed synth loops buzzed like a swarm of angry bees. At the end of each week, I vomited my anger over the noise and uploaded the unedited wav. files to my Bandcamp page on the internet.
After six months of recordings, I received an email from a man from Germany. His name was Reynold. He said he was a fan of my music and asked if I could send him a video clip of one of my shows. I wrote back that I had never played live and doubted anyone would ever want me to. In his response he said this was not the case, because his own noise metal band and two others were gearing up for a small tour of the east coast of the US, and he wanted me to play a few shows with them. Making sure his messages weren’t a scam, I clicked on the Bandcamp link he included with his second email. His band was called Marrow Scratch. The album art was a low-res picture of a burning truck tire. The songs were caustic, biting, and radioactively abrasive. The vocals were abhorrent and unlistenable. Their music was the most glorious thing I had ever heard.
Without a moment of hesitation, I replied to Reynold’s email and agreed to play on his tour.
My first show took place on a Friday night a month later. That day I called out of work a half hour before the start of my shift. For three minutes my boss screamed at me over the phone and said if I didn’t show up tonight, then I shouldn’t come back on Monday. I didn’t say a word. I ended the call with a tap of my finger and deleted his number from my contacts.
Around eight p.m. I drove out to a small place in Topine called The Luna Café. There I stood on the weathered floorboards in the corner of the room and stared out at the three or four people waiting for the beginning of the show. They looked ragged, worn out, and beaten down by life. They had caved in cheeks, deeply wrinkled faces, and fingers stained yellow from too many cigarettes. Seeing them there, I smiled. They looked exactly like the person I see in the mirror each afternoon when I wake up for work and trudge to the bathroom to take a piss.
Glancing to the back of the room, I saw Reynold and his bandmates leaning against the rear wall, watching me. I gave Reynold a nod. He nodded back. For the first time in years, I didn’t wish I was a different person, living a different life.
Checking my phone, I realized it was time to start the show. I slipped my purple Ibanez onto my shoulder and huffed a sharp breath. I pressed play on my drum machine and stepped out onto the stage..
Steve Gergley is the author of the short story collection, A Quick Primer on Wallowing in Despair (LEFTOVER Books ’22), and the forthcoming novel, Skyscraper (West Vine Press ’23). His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, X‑R-A‑Y Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine, New World Writing, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fiction can be found at: https://stevegergleyauthor.wordpress.com/