Welcome along, Mr. Mackertich, and thanks for representing the mighty Amulet as the next subject of our Seven Ages of Metal investigations… on with the questions!
Here you are then – entering the world of metal, probably in your early teens, mewling about the unfairness of it all and puking on cheap white cider… Which band was your introduction to metal? How did you find out about them? “I can still picture it. Rows upon rows of fantastic albums at Tower Records, Iron Maiden and Motörhead taunting me. It felt like looking at the 18-rated films. It’s a superficial induction, but I’m sure this path is the same for many ten year olds. My dad humoured my earliest interests and made sure to play me Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and AC/DC to get me grounded. He is a die hard fusion and jazz fan, so bless the man for trying… At eleven I was handed Master of Puppets on cassette. No turning back. This was the first classic album I could molest on my shabby Walkman, I’d go to sleep listening to it”.
You’re in! The magical and bewildering world of metal lies at your feet… you’ve assembled a small collection of records and tapes – or CDs of course, if you’re a youngster – but you’re still very much a School child, whining because the olds won’t let you go to a gig – until the scales fall from their eyes – and you’ve got the Golden ticket in your sweaty little palm! Who were the first band you saw in the live arena? Did it confirm your suspicions about just how massive this hidden world was, how inspiring? Or was first ‘in the flesh’ contact a little disappointing? “Not disappointing in the slightest. London was a wild west in the mid nineties. As a twelve-thirteen year old I found out you could stroll into (almost) any age restricted venue if you bought a ticket beforehand. The summer of ’97 might have been the finest year of my life. Me and my best mate ran a tight scam ripping off the big record stores, and we spent every penny on gig tickets. Genius! The first real gig I attended was Pitchshifter supported by One Minute Silence at London’s LA2. Silly bands maybe but this was the real deal for adolescent Sam. I got savagely trampled one second into the OMS set, but by the end of the Pitchshifter I was crowd surfing like a pro. Hardcore all-dayers at The Garage, breakdance battles at Funkin’ Pussy, Akercocke at the Redeye. Stampin’ Ground, Knuckledust, Deicide, Saxon. I’d jumped headfirst into the world of live music and left my cautious friends behind. I can remember facing some ridicule about what I’d been up, no one at school believed I was out moshing on a school night. It was Ozzfest ’98 outdoors in Milton Keynes where it began in earnest. I got to see some of the flavours of the month (Fear Factory, Coal Chamber and good old Pitchshifter) alongside towering icons of our sport. Seeing Slayer followed by Ozzy and then Black Sabbath was insane and changed my taste forever. It’s these formative years I cherish the most”.
Ah, Ozzfest ’98 – I could tell you some stories about that show but sadly that’s another story for another time! You’re now a full-grown acolyte, a filly-fledged lover of the dark arts, as it were. But listening and watching isn’t enough. You need to consummate your love, by forming or joining your own metal band – tell us about your formative bands and what life was like on the bottom rung of the ladder… “I formed a band called Bowel Scum when I was fourteen, we wanted to be like Anal Cunt, but lacked the talent. We played two gigs at The Net, a youth club in Kensington. I got attacked after the second gig. Some lessons learnt. My second band was called Sonic Death, schoolboy dreamers and Kreator wannabes. Our best tracks were War Clones and Repeat Offender. We managed some garbage demos, but this is where I began to figure it out a little bit. We were held back by our drummer, so we sucked live. He was a thirty five year old South African reggae drummer and crack head. He never quite got the hang of Terrible Certainty”.
Mission accomplished – you’re in a band. A Soldier of metal mired in the trenches fighting for our way of life, possibly on a tour of the toilet venues of your home locale – what was your first tour like? What valuable lessons were learned? Or was there just too much fun to be had to worry about tedious life craft? “The night before my first gig with Amulet I had my head smashed open whilst I was sleeping. A metal cased Digitech Whammy Pedal no-one wanted fell off a shelf onto my head at three AM. I was pissing blood out of my forehead. Didn’t manage much sleep and I ruined about half the songs. Strong return to the stage. I suppose the lesson learned here is that sometimes things happen that are out of your control and no amount of practice can prepare you for being brained whilst you snooze. In general I’m no wild man on tour, I specialise in getting stoned and being annoying”.
Away from you now – your career is in full bloom. But what of the elder Statesmen, the justices who still reign, Saturnine and all-knowing? Which of the old-but-still-living Gods still command the most respect in your eyes? And why? “For me I’m most impressed when seventies/eighties musicians still sound the same as their famous recordings; guitarists like Russ Tippins of Satan or Terry Gorle of Heir Apparent. I’m even more impressed when an entire band have retained their sound, seeing Crimson Glory even without Midnight on vocals was awe inspiring. But this is just for my specific tastes. You have to give the Demagogue Lifetime Award to Iron Maiden. Untouchable dominance and pedigree”.
Tippins has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in metal – if you haven’t done so already check out his ‘other’ band, Tanith… And what about those who’ve maybe pushed it a little too far, those bespectacled and pantalooned ‘legacy’ artistes on their nth farewell trip across the globe? Is there anyone on our world you think might like to think about hanging up the old Les Paul and giving themselves and us a rest? “I’d never tell someone to stop rocking. Once you’ve entered the pantheon of rock there is no exit plan. Rock until drop”.
And the final age, of course, is death. We’ll all be left Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything eventually. Which deceased metallian do you miss most? And what are your happiest memories of them? “Manilla Road‘s Mark Shelton. I was lucky enough to meet the man several times, not only a cult hero but a gentleman with a sense of humour. A few months before he passed, Amulet played Frost and Fire Festival in Ventura California and we had a lovely afternoon chat in an sunny car park talking about our plans for the year. What a guy. Rest in Peace”.
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