Steve Gergley ~ One Man Band

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: