Music: It keeps kids off the streets and high on life. When they play, they don’t need weed, alcohol, or any sort of dope. Just hearing the high-pitched shriek of an Ibanez GS-X coupled with the deep soulful riffing of an Aria Pro II Lefty can bring a smile to anyone’s face. Perceiving all the mystifying notes in a madrigal can bring warmth to anyone’s heart. My name is Chris Carpenter, and although you may not know me now, I have a tale to end all tales for you.
2 months ago, I was arrested for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) and have ever since been serving my time in a highly classified corrections facility. The charges were flawed: It was only 3 pounds, not 13.
Anyways, I’m speaking for a reason. Music saves, but you have to believe in it. Now, before you go thinking that I’m some modern day messiah or a religious fanatic who claims to have found a new Christianity, I have proof.
The last time I was home, 30 minutes before my arrest, my mom only asked me one question. “What the hell are you doing with your life?”. Shit, I thought to myself, this is going to take awhile.
Chapter 1: Back to School
I always liked metal. Shit, I loved it. It was the only genre of music that brought out all my emotion and motivated me to do what I was doing at the time. Listening to the neo-classical riffs of Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God day in and day out may not get you to the title of “Most Popular Kid Ever” but it was what I enjoyed. Most of my time was spent playing my sleek-black rosewood-fretted Aria Pro II Lefty along to Metallica classics such as “Fade to Black”, and “Whiplash”. Hearing the same earth-shattering power chords come out of my amp as were feeding out of the 350 watt stereo was amazing, but it wasn’t until I was in my second year of high-school that I learned the true joy of music.
At first, I thought attending Auburn High School would be a mistake after I had left my friends there 2 years ago. Walking through those gigantic steel doors on the first day, wearing a midnight black hoody, deep brown hair flowing past my shoulders, Iron Maiden playing in my Walkman, 2 metallica wristbands, and carrying a guitar on my back, was like walking through the front gate of memory lane. The stone-dead gazes of the preps that didn’t know me, and the faint malignant whispers of the ones who called themselves friends all came rushing into my head like a 3000 ton waterfall colliding into the streets of New York City. Suddenly, as if in the blink of an eye, I feel someone jump onto my back and wrap their arms around my neck. Wrenching around as if I was a snake that had just sighted prey, I see my old friend Jay. 2 years earlier, we had started a punk-band named Standpost, that failed horribly after our lead singer decided he was going to run the show completely, when he had no idea how to compose music in any way, shape, or form. Jay was the bassist, and the only friend I still held onto in this solemn graveyard of hopes and dreams.
“What’s up fatass!?!? Your finally back! Dude, you’re coming over after school today. I got some new riffs to test out, and I want you to jam with me.”
“I knew I brought my guitar for a reason. Sure, I’ll come over, but, dude, I don’t think the bands’ getting back together.”
The Death of Punk
Well, for the next month and a half, me and Jay composed about 30 songs, just guitar, bass, and vocals. Needless to say, we were pretty proud of ourselves, but something was still missing.
RING. RING. RING.
“Hello?” I snatched the phone off of the counter in my kitchen as quickly as I could when I saw his number show up. Something was wrong. I just knew it.
“Dude, Kristin’s pregnant…” Jay stated so softly I thought I would need a hearing aid to make out what he was saying. Kristin, Jay’s girlfriend, was pregnant. Bombshell!!! How could this happen to such a young couple?
“My life is over man. I can’t raise a kid. I’M STILL A KID! What am I going to do? I don’t have a job. I still have to borrow money from my parents to do the things I want, and Kristin is about fed-up with me being a jackass. What the hell is going to happen to me?”
“Jay, calm down. I know you can make it through this. Now, I’m going to hang up the phone. Just talk to your mom about this and maybe she will have some answers for you.” Click. I didn’t want to hang up the phone, but I couldn’t think straight. It was as if I was in a nightmare sent from Satan himself. Dumbfounded didn’t even describe it.
Any hope of the band we still had left at this point went up in flames right in front of my eyes. Knives forced into my chest would be more welcome than this, but, what could I do? This was an act of a higher power, and I couldn’t control it any longer. Whatever ability I possessed to play my instrument was torn and scattered. This was the only time in my life where holding my guitar made me swell with anger.
I kept going to school on a daily basis, helping Jay through what the world had dropped on him. Choir class was about the only fun we could have anymore. We still had the passion for music, and it was our release, our escape. Our sanitarium, asylum from the world.
Around Christmas, 2004, a new student arrived at Auburn High School. Standing about 6 ft. even, very little hair on his strangely shaped head, and donning a very gothic attire, this “New Guy” received a lot of shit from the other kids. Mostly, the group that I was in: The Preps.
Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t take well to people causing trouble with new blood. At this point in my life, I had been fresh meat at 2 schools in 2 years, and I hated it when people would shun me from anything and everything, so I started talking to this guy in the lunch line.
“Paging Mr. Waniska” (A little bit of Background)
My freshman year of high school, I was attending a school known as Dawson-Verdon Consolidated. New schools always suck, and this one did at first. Only 12 people in the entire freshman class took a little getting used to, but it was fairly easy, because there was no way to establish cliques or cast people out of the loop. Everyone had to get along. It was in this brick-walled education establishment that I met a lifetime brother: Dustin Theodore Kollogenski A.K.A. Stan. A sophomore at DV when I met him, stood about 5’0 ft. and had a mouth bigger than Texas. Dustin was a flunky of one of the worst kids in that school, Rodney Kephart. The only thing he would do was smoke weed, listen to rap, the occasional ass-kickin’, and then more weed. Somehow, I managed to pull Dustin aside for a few days at a time and get to know him. He wasn’t into rap, but he like metal! Another metal head! Yes! After a few months of hanging out with him in school, listening to Metallica in my walkman, and talking about the most non-sensical shit imaginable, we became inseparable. Finally, I was invited to stay at his house. Oh, the cast of characters I met there. Shelly and Nick Dettman: Dustin’s mom and step dad. Shelly was a college student trying to finish her work to get her criminal justice degree, and Nick was a straight hick. Bib overalls, flannel shirts, bushy beard, beer drinker, and tobacco chewer. Doesn’t get any more country than that. Then there were Austin and Nathan, Dustin’s little brothers. Austin has cerebral paulsy and epilepsy. He’s not the brightest person in the world, but still a blast to hang out with. It dumbfounded me how amazing he was at video games. Nathan, though young, I wanted to throw through a window several times. Major case of ADHD along with having Dustin as an older brother…not a good combination. He had the most perverted mind and dirty mouth I had ever heard on an 11 year old.
Stan and I hung out every day, doing things like listening to music, smoking weed, drinking the left-over beer while Nick was at work, and playing an endless amount of video games, but it wasn’t until that summer that we started having real fun.
RING. RING. “Hello? What’s up, Stan?” The same phone that had ruined any chances for Standpost brought me into the best and worst time of my life with this phone call.
“Hey dude. You have to come to Auburn! I’m at this dude’s house. His name is Joe. He has to be the most kick ass guy I’ve ever fuckin’ met! Scotty brought me up here after we got done pullin’ the transmission out of his piece-of-shit Buick.” (Scott Horr. A friend of mine since middle school)
“Really? Well, I’ll see if I can get there tomorrow. Meet me at Amigos around…4:30?”
“Alright dude. Peace.”
Well, 4:30, the next afternoon rolled around quicker than I expected. Before I was fully awake, I was in Auburn at Amigo’s, an implement of a Mexican Fast Food franchise. It seemed like forever that I was waiting in that parking lot, full goth gear, Marlboro hanging out of my mouth, long hair flowing in the wind, until Dustin got there in a 1978 Candy Blue Buick Regal. Scotty was driving. I hopped in and we took off faster than Superman on crack. The tires squealed a little bit as we rocketed out of the parking lot.
A few minutes later, we were across town, and walking up the sidewalk towards a strange looking house on M street. A fairly small house, but big enough for a small family, with a crooked porch, white screen door, and a backing door with cardboard for a window. Something was written on the make-shift window in black permanent marker. “’To those who enter this haven without divine permission, let their soul rest at the end of my blade.’ -Joe Waniska”
Holy shit. Better hope this guy takes a liking to me, otherwise….
“Joe, it’s me dude! I brought some friends!” Scotty shouted into the door while pounding the wood so loud I thought it would break. Then the door slowly swung open.
“Hey. Sup? Come on in.” He was a strange looking man at first. Mid-size, probably about 5’7, very stalky, very built, with matted black hair, a black wife-beater and a skull and crossbones necklace hanging in the middle of his chest. As I entered the house behind Scotty and Dustin, I noticed Jeremy Harder and Derek Beherends were sitting across the room from where I was standing. Jeremy was an Asian-American skater kid with a frizzy black afro on his head, several wristbands worn on his arms, and almost always wore a red & black striped shirt. Derek, however, was pretty much the opposite. He was short. Shorter than short. Shorter than Dustin. He wore a gray Adidas beanie on top of his head, Matrix style sunglasses on his face, and a simple silver chain necklace around his head. Both of them lived in Auburn. Derek, at home with his dad, and Jeremy, at his step mom’s house.
Joe was a 21 year old kid. He wants to be called a man, but he’s a kid at heart. This strange house that I had just walked into would make my entire summer one to remember for the rest of my life. Whenever I was in Auburn, which was at least 3 days a week, I would be there or the store, getting food, or having Joe get me cigs. We did everything imaginable. And before you start coming up with random things we could have never done, let me explain how crazy we got. Me, Dustin, and Joe, all got naked, put a half cantaloupe on our heads, and ran down main street screaming “I’m a hamster!” Yeah, we were crazy, but I wouldn’t trade any second of that for a moment of sanity. There was a lot of drinking and drugs, sex and flat out debauchery, but it was what drove us to keep smiling and coming back.
“Mark, you’ve seen the Roach in action. It has to be the sweetest guitar I’ve ever owned, and Riley was practically giving it away at the price I got it!”
“Yeah, it’s pretty kick ass, but I still think mine can hit harder than that thing.”
“Fuck you dude. Yours just kicks like that because of the bathtub of an amp you have, while I have that little lunchbox-looking Crate.”
William Henry and Mark Anderson: The Outcast Rebels. Mark had attended Auburn the previous year, and had made a reputation for himself as a runaway, school-skipping, fruity-as-hell son of a bitch, and William was the new student. The scapegoat. Nobody knew anything about him, and nobody really wanted to, except me.
“Hey. What are you guys talking about?” I questioned as I slammed my head against the wall in mockery of how slow the lunch line was moving.
“Just the new guitar I got yesterday.” Billy answered.
“Hell yeah! I’ve been playing for about 2 years now. Haven’t gone anywhere with it, but I think it’s gonna turn around now. I just got a Jerry Horton Papa Roach Custom Lt. Ed.”
“Holy shit. You have to be kidding me? The one from Riley’s?” Riley’s was a local guitar shop run by guitar hero Vince Riley.
“Yeah. Fuckin’ thing cost me about $347, but I still got it. It’s so badass dude. Do you play?
“Yeah. I’ve been playing for about a year now. Was in a band, but that kind of ended due to natural incidents. Lead singer was a douche, bassist is becoming a new father, and the drummer never wanted to play.”
“That sucks dude. So, what do you do after school?”
“I ride the bus to Peru, chill out at the library ‘till I have to go down to Decker’s to catch a ride home with my mom. Why?” Peru, Nebraska. A small town about 12 miles from Auburn. My mom worked at Decker’s, the local grocery store. I’d have to ride the bus and catch a ride home with her.
“Really? Hmm....Interesting. I live in Peru. You want to come over after school today and see the Roach? I bet you’d be interested.”
“Sounds like a plan to me dude.”
And that’s how it begun. I bolted out of the school doors after my last period study hall, and sprinted to the bus, anticipating Billy to be about 5 steps behind me. He was already there!
“Psyched? Me too dude” he whispered to Mark, sitting next to him. Mark lives in Peru too. Didn’t know that one.
Normally, I would get off the bus at the stop by the college campus, but this time, I found myself getting off right in the middle of town: Kansas Street. Led by Billy, and accompanied by Mark, we ended up at a small Bache-orange house. This was Billy’s house and home, the place of magic for the next two years of my life. I slowly crept up the cracked sidewalk behind Billy, gently pushed open the door after him, and lightly stepped into the house. My first memory of that house will always be the large Wiccan Pentagram on the wall, and Billy’s mother, resting in a chair, sound asleep, her thick coke-bottle glasses fogged from her breath. She had sandy-blonde hair, a fairly large build, but a very happy and rosy face. The kind of person that anyone would be more than happy to call “Mommy”. And we all did just that.
“Mom, wake up. We have a new kid in town!” Billy shouted with excitement and a little bit of aggravation.
“Wha? What’s going on? Oh, you’re home from school already? Sorry, I must have dozed off here. What time is it? Holy shit, I was asleep 4 hours! Wait…sorry for babbling.”
“Hi Mommy.” Exclaimed Mark like a crazed child without his medication. He was apparently very attention-starved by his own parents.
“Hi Mark. Billy, who’s your new friend? I don’t think I’ve seen him before.”
“This is Chris. He’s a fellow stoner! Hey dude, you want a cigarette?”
“Your mom let’s you smoke?” I asked. Puzzlement riddled my voice.
“Yeah, she buys for me dude. You want one or not?”
“Yeah, I guess. My mom hates it when she catches me with smoke on my breath. The last time she caught me, she grounded me for like a week. It was bullshit.”
“You don’t have to worry about that shit here. Cigs flow like water here, because we have just about the cheapest brand you can buy, but we have a lot of them! I’m gonna go get the Roach, hang on.”
Billy jump, skipped, and leaped through his dining room and kitchen and flung his bedroom door open, letting it slam into the adjacent wall. All I could hear coming from that room was a lot of rattling and banging and crashing, until he emerged, stumbling out of the door with a very large black guitar case, and one of the smallest amplifiers I had ever seen.
“Pull that fucker out!” Mark shouted over the clatter Billy was making setting up his equipment.
SNAP. SNAP. CREAK. The lid of the guitar case flew open with so much force it put a dent in to floor it was on.
“Here it is. My pride and joy. The Papa Roach Custom. 2 double coil humbucking pickups, set neck, stop-tail bridge, and a mahogany fretboard. Every inch of this fucker is made for 100% pure metal madness.” The fiery end of Billy’s burning cigarette couldn’t even compete with the fire in his eyes when he held that guitar and finally amped it up for the first time.
We took turns playing the beautifully crafted instrument of the gods for about 2 hours. I demonstrated my (at the time) minimal aptitude for punk rock riffs and my vast range of metal ability, along with tapping skills and harmonious soloing. When Billy played, I was white knuckled and red faced, eyes wide open with amazement as he did things I never thought possible with a guitar. Pitch bends at least three whole steps up from the original note, screaming harmonics that made every inch of me want to start a mosh-pit in the middle of his living room, and deep, extensive rhythm riffs that kept my heart pounding the entire time. But Mark, the one who was the true master at metal rhythm guitar, threw out riffs left and right, as Billy sang and screamed along with every chord change and hammer-on. Religion? Cigarettes? Black clothing? No, my friend. It was music that brought us together that day. Closer a connection than I had had with any one person in my entire life. They became my family that day. My musical family. The family I was missing with Standpost. I had found the missing ingredient in my life: Metal.
We were soaked in sweat after the intensive jam session, and it was hotter than Arizona in the middle of March outside. I didn’t want to leave that house, but I knew I had to.
“Well, guys, it’s been kick ass rockin’ with you, but I must take my leave. My mom’s waiting on me.” I stated as I put my hoody back on, grabbed another cigarette, and started heading for the door. “But, Billy, I have a question for you before I go.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“What does that star on your wall mean?”
“It’s a Wiccan Pentagram. I’m a Pagan.”
Ignorant me. “You’re a…..witch?”
Grand “Island Magic”
After about a good solid month of nothing but cigarettes, fire, and music, it was time for Mark to go visit his Grandparents in Grand Island, Nebraska. We all thought he was just going to go up there for a couple days, come back, and complain all about how his grandparents did nothing but bitch at him while he was up there, but he had a different idea. You see, Mark gets attached very easily.
“Hey guys. I just got off the phone with my Grandma. Guess what?” Mark had excitement in his voice as he spoke to me and Billy.
“Umm….You’re not going?” I asked him, ignorantly.
“No dude. You guys are goin’ with me!”
“Are you serious?” Billy inquired with a little confusion in his voice.
“Yeah dude. Chris, you’re gonna’ love it. I have a HUGE amp up there, a different guitar, and a grand piano!”
Three days later, we were in a forest green Windstar van traveling towards Grand Island with Mark’s grandparents. It was about a 3 hour drive, but we didn’t mind much. We had Slipknot playing in the stereo full blast! As soon as I could scream out the first line to “Eyeless”, we were there, unloading everything we had brought into a beautifully stylish duplex house.
It was late when we arrived. We didn’t have much time to do anything except get acquainted with Marks grandparents. After an hour long conversation, me, Mark, and Billy all hit the sack. We didn’t know it consciously, but somehow, we knew we had a big day coming.
7 o’ clock in the morning, I shoot straight off the couch, wide awake, and bolt for my guitar, sitting in the corner of the room. Mark is already awake and sitting at the piano playing a very dark piece he wrote himself. Simple chord structures and an overlapping trill melody. I strapped my guitar on, plugged the sucker in, and hit the loudest power chord I have heard to this day. The next thing I know, me and Mark are off on a completely original writing rampage. He’s on the piano or secondary guitar, and I’m on lead thrash. Billy slowly stumbles into the room, microphone in his hand, and, at the same time Mark and I hit a solid, sustained chord, Billy comes in with a vocal solo sent straight from the heavens.
4 hours later, my fingers were bleeding, Billy was puking from the amount of emotion he put into his words, and Mark had jammed every last one of his fingers by hitting the keys way too hard. We all decided to sit down and smoke a couple cigs. Billy stated we had to talk about something, and we all knew what was coming.
“Guys, that was the most intense thing I have ever experienced. I can’t even begin to describe what just happened, except for pure fuckin’ amazing. We have the talent and the connection. We have the drive. Hell, we have the power. We need to start a full on band.” The same fire I saw in his eyes as he first held in his very own possession The Roach, I saw again as he was talking.
“No shit, man. I know we can do this. Look at what we just did. Especially you, dude. You had to throw up halfway through and you still came back for more! That’s fuckin’ dedication! Mark, your skills at piano and melody blow me the hell away, and your ability to match and compliment my riffs as I’m throwing them out is beyond compare. We must do this, in the name of all that’s metal. All that’s ROCK!”
“All we need: a drummer, a bassist, and a name.” declared Mark.
“Let’s see….Seductive Beast? Rose Dragon? Island Magic?”
“No, Billy. I’ve got it…..Severed” As I muttered the future name of the band, I rose from the couch I was sitting on, walked over to my guitar, flipped on the amp, and started playing a simple, but extremely heavy riff, that would soon become Severed’s first song.
Billy shot up quicker than a hospital patient that had just an adrenaline shot. He grabbed his mic, switched on the PA, and belted out the notes and words that will ring in my head forever. “Watch her cry bloody tears. Contemplating all her fears. She blames the world for her life, as she reaches for the knife”…..