Chester Bennington has been dead for 2 weeks….and I think I have words now.
I’d be lying in a real inappropriate “taking advantage of a death” type of manner to claim that I was an early fan of Linkin Park.
And the only reason to do so would be to draw attention to myself.
Kinda like when someone dies…. all of the sudden their “best friend” count is always quadrupled with people who are now full of stories about how close they were with the deceased. Maybe that’s normal but it has never sat well with me.
And I am sure today will find us with more “life-long” Linkin Park fans than their were 2 weeks ago.
And that’s OK. That’s a good thing….I think.
But I am not one of them.
Honestly, when “Hybrid Theory” first released I felt only those kids that also enjoyed Dragon Ball Z and other high school-social status-crippling things like Pokémon cards and…. pretty much any entertainment from Japan now that I think about it… were fans of this new “rap/metal” band. And as a high school freshmen who was working very hard to perpetuate the appearance of a rebel who didn’t care what people think while drowning in the anxiety of NEEDING people to think I was cool or something like it, I felt it was best to steer clear of this new product of Nu-metal.
Ironically, this was around the time I was constantly listening to Metallica, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden and proudly wearing their t-shirts (and keep in mind this was before fashion retailers decided vintage metal shirts trendy). I had long hair that naturally grew into this Carol Brady atrocity. Also, I had just started to learn to play the bass so I could start a band after it was decided that my friend was a better drummer than me and I was coming out of a second failed attempt at guitar. Needless to say I wasn’t doing myself any favors by listening to outdated music, choosing the instruement that comes with the least amount of glory, all the while heralding the poetic and political lyrics of one Dave Mustaine despite being apolitical by ignorance.
These days I am apolitical by choice, a pinch of distrust and some lingering ignorance.
So there I was trying to start a metal band with some friends, sporting a hairdo more fit for the Partridge Family band than Metallica and drowning in the 80’s wave of British and thrash metal while refusing to engage with anything modern in a poor……and I mean really futile….attempt at popularity.
Obviously my idea of “cool” was far ahead of its time.
I’ve never been proficient at self-awareness.
In the summer of 2003 Metallica came to Dallas, Tx and therefore my friend(the more skilled drummer) and I decided it was our chance to see them. It could be our last shot! After all there were getting up there in age and it was now or never……
Metallica is still touring and recording and I have seen them twice since that day in 2003……
….anyway, we got tickets and ventured towards Cowboy Stadium to our speed metal infused destinies.
As we arrived the opening band was just beginning. This band was Mudvayne and they scared me. Walking into that concert gave me, at that time, what I would consider to be most accurate idea of what Hell must look like.
In a weird way I kinda enjoyed it.
Mudvayne was followed by the Deftones (worst band I have ever seen live).
Though Mudvayne peaked my curiosity for modern metal followed by the Deftones immediately killing it, I was mildly interested in seeing what all the fuss was about for the next band….. Linkin Park.
I didn’t expect much but I knew they were gaining in popularity with the release of a second album earlier that year and this was a safe way to audibly participate without looking like I was selling out to the true Metal Gods robed in black leather and metal studs backdropped by dueling guitar solos.
Linkin Park took the stage and……
…..And…… I would be lying again for the sake of dramatics if I said that I was hooked after one song. I mean sure the songs were catchy but so was Britney Spears and that didn’t make her OK for my Motörhead t-shirt wearing reputation back then. (For the record my band would cover Britney’s classic “Hit Me Baby One More Time” only 2 short years later and these days I am an out and proud Britney Spears fan)
I vividly remember watching an uber fan of Linkin Park playing the “air turn tables”.
….is turn tables one or two words?
I am fully aware of the air guitar from my time spent in the mirror as a child wondering how to make sounds come out of my fingers like Bill and Ted. And I am an avid air drummer to this day. But this was my first and only experience with “air turn tables”.
I vowed to never be that lame.
Then the last song happened.
“One Step Closer”.
And that last song changed everything.
Chester Bennington belting the line “Shut up when I’m talking to you” took all the confusion and angst and pain and fear of being a teenager from the south who only found solace in music deemed evil by the popular Republican-voting- majority of everyone over the age 18 ……and Chester gave it a voice.
My eyes were opened to the truth.
I wasn’t cool.
My hair was stupid…..really stupid.
My taste in music wasn’t even my own. I just absorbed and expounded on musical roads I had followed my dad down.
Bass was lame. (I’d have to discover Bootsy Collins and Parliament and specifically the album “The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein” to appreciate my instrument again.)
With the last note of Linkin Park’s set I just felt this band understood myself in a way that I hadn’t yet come to.
They challenged my refusal to explore new music and experience new things and that there wasn’t rules to our preferences and pleasures in the arts.
It was more than just a new found appreciation after seeing a live band. I am not romanticizing an environment that convinced me to buy some albums. It was more than angst and rebellion. The following band was Limp Bizkit and it doesn’t get more anti-authority in the Nu-Metal genre. But Fred Durst’s words just didn’t connect with me. Not to discredit the lyrics of LB classics like “Nookie”, “Rollin'” and “Break Stuff”……but they just didn’t break through my resistance to all music post 89′. I mean there is rebellion for album sales and for rebellion’s sake and there is rebellion for the sake of finding out who we really are in a world that wants to mold us to one cultural and social dogmatic way of thinking and Chester and Company became a band that championed and gave words to that rebellion for me.
…what you were changing me into/Just give me myself back and don’t stay
I bought Hybrid Theory and Meteora the next day. I devoured them. For the first time I found myself reading lyrics as if they were poems…a habit I still have to this day.
BUT…. I’d be lying one time too many to say that Linkin Park became my favorite band.
They did something bigger than that.
They challenged my perception of identity and opened up a Pandora’s box of new experiences and the freedom to engage with new music.
I cut my hair and put my Metallica and KISS albums away for awhile and started discovering anything and everything.
If Linkin Park was this good AND contemporary….there must be others.
It was in this newfound freedom to simply enjoy that I discovered so much of the music that would hold the top honors of favoritism at different points of my life. My band went from being a metal cover band to an original pop punk band (if a pop punk band can even be original) as a result.
And I am thankful for that day in the summer of 2003. I was pleased to find some months later that that exact concert in Dallas was recorded for a live album and DVD for Linkin Park. I have yet to take a stab at “air turn tables” but I did end up becoming just as lame as that guy…..meaning a person who is free to outwardly love the art they love without a care for the opinions of those around him.
And I am sure that air turn table connoisseur is mourning, as I am mourning, as a wife and children are deeply mourning, parents and family and a world full of fans that are collectively moruning the loss of a human being that left a positive impression on so many.
I was at a camp when I heard Chester Bennington died. It was a kind of blessing. It was difficult to be outwardly emotional and conversations about Chester are hard to come by when you are surround by teenagers all born when Hybrid Theory was first released.
But it made me think why? Linkin Park was still touring and making new albums….they weren’t yet tourning Casinos playing nostalgia fueled greatest hit concerts…..so why hadn’t any of these teenagers been fans?
After all, I wasn’t alive when the bands that had been plaguing my headphones for years first came on the scene….but I had managed to become a fan of those bands.
Celebrity deaths are weird.
Suicide is a difficult thing to wrap your mind around.
Combine the two and you have an enigma that struggles to find footing in reality.
I didn’t cry when I heard the news about Chester. I was shocked but no tears. I have yet to cry over a celebrity death. I got close with Robin Williams. I anticipate that I will cry when Steve Martin goes and though I want to mentally prep myself for that day, I think I should stick with happy thoughts for now.
Robin Williams committed suicide.
To this day those words don’t make sense to me.
Robin Williams is symbiotic with so many of the happy thoughts from my childhood. If happy thoughts could truly make us fly I don’t think I would have ever come back to earth when I was a kid. I used to stay up late and watch Mork and Mindy on Nick at Nite and I wore the VHS tapes out of Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Jack, Jumanji, Aladdin, and Fern Gully.
How could a man responsible for so much laughter in my youth be so secretly unhappy that he would take his own life.
Maybe it wasn’t a secret.
Maybe the writing was often there and we were to busy wiping away tears of laughter to see the tears of a man who was medicating his pain with his art.
Mrs. Doubtfire was about the truths of divorce and the movie’s ending comes with no reconciliation.
Hook is about growing up and the death of imagination and loss of innocence.
Jack is about growing up too fast and not getting to experience the wonders of childhood.
Aladdin is about a genie who is filled with laughter, jokes, celebrity impressions and catchy songs ….all the while chained and enslaved.
Did we laugh at a man who was drowning?
I don’t know.
Maybe it was because we stopped laughing.
All the movies I named were from the early to mid 90’s……20 years ago.
I didn’t follow Robin’s career much past these movies. I grew up. I left Neverland because life beats that magical place out of our brains by calling dreamers and imagination enthusiasts lazy and immature.
I reluctantly watched Robin’s more serious movies. Don’t get me wrong, Dead Poet’s Society is a classic, What Dreams May Come is beautiful, and Insomnia showed us a different side of him…but maybe there were too many cheers for the “old stuff”.
The funny stuff.
The good stuff.
It’s easy to romanticize pain for the sake of art.
And maybe, whether we know it or not, we invite artists to sit in their pain for better songs, better writing, better stories.
Broken hearts produce more truthful words. Beautiful words. Vulnerable words.
And if someone else is willing to act those out or sing them to us so we don’t have to go so deep with our own demons than we are willing tell ourselves that the pain of an artists is different…..worth it…..maybe neccessary.
Artists agree to be subjected to criticisms of both the negative and positive nature the second they take up the title of artist.
But that doesn’t dehumanize them and rob them of the right to emotions.
It doesn’t mean our opinions can’t feel like daggers.
Strangely, for a generation so bombarded with new enteratainment content every second….with whole record stores in our back pockets, entire libraries in our back packs, and the entire catalog of television at the click of a button….we don’t like change and rarely want to give it a fair shake.
We are content to move on and move on fast while clutching the past. We will absorb every episode of “Cheers” while simultaneously reading every Harry Potter book with “Friends” up next in our Netflix queue and sitting on J.K. Rowlings wizarding world of spin off books.
Never realizing that Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Aniston were the only survivors of change while Kelsey Grammar sat in a POW camp in a creativity killing cell called Frasier for 20 + years. The rest were simply swallowed up by big budget flops and mediocre mini-series brought down by the collective sigh of “I liked them better in that one show”.
….oh and J.K. Rowling…..stick to wizards and dragons. We aren’t interested in your romances that don’t involve minor teens with black magic capabilities.
You tell me what the cast of Full House did between back then and “Fuller House”.
“Mr. Stamos, quick question off the topic of your current project…..Will there ever be a Full House reunion………….?”
Listen to that for 20 years and your self esteem as an actor or artist of any kind is likely to crash and burn.
Again…Thank you Linkin Park for encouraging me to engage outside of my own preconceived notion of myself and what my “identity” is supposed to like.
I don’t know why Robin Williams committed suicide.
I don’t know why Chester Bennington committed suicide.
I just can’t help but thinking of Edgar Allan Poe drunkenly wandering the streets in distress before his death.
A macabre poster boy for the “tortured” artist.
Maybe “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” was always on his mind before he hit the bottle.
“Your one novel was cool and all Mr. Poe, but could you stick to short fiction please?”
Be an artist…..but be one that lives in MY expectations of YOUR art.
Maybe being typecast as the funny guy who does voices goes from being annoying to plain painful…especially when the funny voices don’t live up to old ones.
Maybe exploring new sounds and subjects and realities for your music only to be met with cries for “the old stuff” becomes too much too deal with.
I should state that I am only thinking out loud onto a keyboard.
These aren’t answers or suggestions or maybe not even my actual opinions…..just some “maybes” that are pouring out.
Just thinking. Only thinking.
We can throw around words like “mental health” and “depression” loosely as if that really eradicates the question mark at the end of “Why?” in the subject of suicide.
Others can call them stupid in the ignorance of the idea that fame and money should be enough to for anyone to live for.
Or you can call them cowards because of the pain they left behind for those that survived them.
But I don’t think my friends from high school was a coward…..just a girl who just became to overwhelmed by hard to answer questions about who she was.
I don’t think my dad’s friend was a coward…just a brilliant man who felt suffocated by a world that thought his eccentric behaviour was dangerous.
I don’t think my cousin was a coward…..just a girl who threw herself into her own art to escape past demons that would eventually overtake her.
I think its getting harder to notice those people that need help.
Strangely enough, I think we can see the cries for help in Robin’s films and Chester’s lyrics only after they’ve gone silent.
But with noses buried to deep in phones and eyes glued to social medias…. maybe we aren’t noticing the suffering happening around us.
Add me on Sarahah and hurl anonymous insults or futile advances that I can do nothing about.
Feed my ego or destroy my self-esteem
We invite pain and conflict and emotional/manipulative abuse on ourselves.
How can we hope to notice someone slowly dying next to us?
(Sorry. That was a misplaced rant about what I believe to be an all time low for social media.)
Suicide will never be an easy thing to digest.
I will always be uncomfortable on the subject of celebrity death.
I have felt both ridiculous and justified for mourning over Chester Bennington.
As normal as death is in life….death is not normal.
It can’t be.
It was never meant to be apart of the plan.
At least not the plan that I subscribe to.
But needless to say, people are, for the most part, inherently good. If you’re battling yourself or the world and you feel you are losing I promise that there are people willing to stand next to you. To listen. To shut up, turn their phones off, disengage from themselves and sit with you and sympathize, apologize, rationalize, or familiarize themselves with you.
I’ve spilt more tears in conversation with strangers than I have with those closest to me over the last couple of years.
Even if your alone….you’re not.
I apologize for the lack of structure….if there ever is any in my writing…..in this post. I just sat down and started typing without much rhyme or reason outside of I just wanted to join in the collective mourning of Chester Bennington and the impact he had on myself and many others. It’s difficult to keep my mind focused and from wandering deeper down into itself.
Or maybe I meant to write about Robin when he died and never found the courage until now.
P.S. I am always grateful to those who constantly bug me about this website and consistently remind me of my failure to write weekly.
I am humbled.
Since my last post I find myself one month from having a wife and a bonus language to go with her.
Life has been busy……not that it’s an excuse…..because life is always busy.
But I am thankful to those of you who take the time to read these, decipher them, judge them, enjoy them, curse them, disagree with them or whatever.
I have not abandoned this.
Only ignored it.
And I may continue to ignore it for the time being….