Recently, while going through boxes in my cellar, I found old cassette tapes from 1996 of my teenage foray into being an industrial metal star(if only a star in my head, since only a handful of people ever heard my songs). To describe how long ago this was: When I made these, it was natural to export the music out from the PC out to cassette tapes. Cassette tapes. Now, stupidly, I’m releasing the songs.
Although I’ve always wanted to be a comic-book creator, I once wanted to combine it with secondary careers as G.I.Joe soldier and international rock-star. By the time I was 16 my G.I.Joe-dreams were crushed, but I held on to my rock-ambitions. Previous years I had been guitarist and main song-writer for a rock-band and a punk-band, both incredibly shitty. The punk-band, called D.A.U(Meaning DEAD, an ironic and faulty backronym for Disciples Of USA), had even managed to to record a demo and get one song on a record in support for Oslo anarchist/punk headquarter Blitz.
But at 16 I was out of any bands, and had a PC powerful enough to run FastTracker with pretty decent samples(Some of the over 20 seconds long!). FastTracker was a music program made by two from the swedish PC-demo group Triton, who later founded Starbreeze Studios(Who are making some awesome games). It was based on the old Amiga trackers which I was vaguely familiar with, mostly as a listening-device for various covers of Axel F(From Beverly Hills Cop). It was not, however, created to compose vocal and guitar-based songs.
Musically I was into Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, the latter of whom had been a favourite since 1991. Ministry had just released Filth Pig, which I still adore. As an old Faith No More fan, I had also just been introduced to Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante and Mike Patton’s solo noise-records. Sometime in ’96 I had bought “Adult Themes for Voice”, and got into a type of noise and experimental music that I had previously only known at a distance. And even though I was, like many in the nineties, ashamed of my classic-metal past, I was still in love with Judas Priest, particularly Unleashed in the East and Defenders of the Faith. And I was still into Nirvana and Killdozer, and my all time best band: Stratosgutane.
I was exceptionally tone-deaf when it came to my own voice, but inspired by Jimi Hendrix who once said, and I paraphrase, “If Bob Dylan can sing, I can sing”, I had started strumming individual notes on my guitar and trying to hit the notes.
So I set out to create my own industrial metal, with some more eclectic influences. Damned Dead Face was my first song, and I based it around the drum-beat, made from a library of FastTracker drums, distored and destroyed. The rest of the sounds were all sampled with a crappy microphone, and tweaked(or raped) until it sounded how I wanted, including a sample of my mothers coffee-maker. The process was always accidental. Then I layered my guitars over that, and bit for bit wrote guitar and vocal-parts. The lyrics were improvised as I sampled, and written down afterwards. My intention was to be profoundly philosophical and nightmarish, though it came out mostly gibberish. I tried my best to do screams, tough-guy singing, my Portishead impersonation, and even my best Halford. Of course, I had no idea what chest-voice nor falsetto was so my falsetto-screams were puny, and not just in comparison with the Metal God non-falsetto shrieks.
I was incredibly pleased with Damned Dead Face, and convinced it was the best thing ever. I came up with the name Happy Needle Boy, based on the fictional comic Happy Noodle Boy made by Johnny The Homicidal Maniac if Johnny the Homicidal Manic -fame. Mine was more edgy and angsty, and I started my gas-mask fetish which became the symbol for HNB.
Next I wrote the Happy Needle Boy Theme, my fastest and most aggressive song, which seems to be lost. The lyrics went “Happy, happy needly boy” in an ascending choir of growls and screams. Then I made Nightmare, which was the first song where I wrote lyrics around a theme. It was based on when I was 5 or 6 years old and plagued by nightmares. Whenever I woke up, my first scream was totally silent, and the despair of thinking that no one would ever hear me still somewhat haunts me. The song is in two parts, the first is “I Just Can’t Scream”, which I ironically screamed, and the second about being comforted by my mother. This was also the first time I sang backing for my own vocals, or backing for anything at all, and I remember the endless attempts at creating harmonies(Which I now hear are pretty false). The lyrics contain a lot of weak rhymes, but it does somewhat tell a story that I’m proud of.
Inspired by Mike Patton and noise, I started making interludes, made to be annoying. Because that shit was fun. I planned on doing a whole album, with song – interlude – song – interlude, rinse and repeat. These were fun, experimenting with atonality, accordions, and just doing whatever shit I wanted.
I never made the whole album, but I did make another song that also seems to be lost. It was more of a straight up rocker, and the probably the poorest of them all. I can’t remember the lyrics, but it was something about a Carnival of pain or suffering or blood.
After that I never made another industrial song, most likely because even though I love my last song, I knew deep inside that it was crap. The first song I had failed at.
In 1997 I became interested in playing guitar and singing at the same time, and wrote songs inspired by country, Tom Waits, Killdozer, and a little Nirvana mixed in. The lyrics were all designed to be as weird, poetic, and horrifying as possible. But that is another chapter.
As I now am about to release my Happy Needle Boy project, for the first time ever, the prospect of other people hearing them is the most terrifying feeling of my artistic career. Because even though I was 16, and I recognize the faults and blemishes, I’m still really proiud of them, and actually like them. Now I prepare for shame. Yet, finding them again was an intensely great pleasure, and hopefully someone else will enjoy them as well, warts and angst and all.