I know. My pic makes me look like a priest, but I am a rocker through and through. I also write professional horror stories, and the mechanics of forming a metal band and writing a horror novel are eerily similar.
I was in a professional glam band in the 80’s, playing the same clubs as Skid Row, Cinderella, and Bon Jovi, so I know what you go through to get a band up and running. I realize that equipment has evolved, but please enjoy my antiquated examples for the sake of posterity.
Fall in love with rock. Choose your idols and study them. For me, it was anyone who invented a guitar sound immediately recognizable: Tom Scholz of Boston, Brian May of Queen, and of course, Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen.
Fall in love with horror. If you haven’t had a recent taste and books aren’t your thing, see the Jordan Peele films “Get Out” and “Us.” Yesterday. He puts on a clinic of utilizing the genre for the sake of aesthetics and social messaging in a way that is ultimately refreshing. For me, in my teenage years I was utterly sold when I saw Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978, and followed this up by reading everything Stephen King wrote. As for the former, no director had taken an image and made it so frightening (Michael Meyers in partial sightings with loud synthesizer stingers erupting when he entered certain shots) and in reference to the latter, no author got to the kernel of a character better than King.
Learn your instrument. For me, it was vocals, and I sang along with my records, practicing my moves out on the porch every single night with the windows giving me a “theater in the round” effect with the reflections. I also learned to play guitar, so that I could appreciate what my future musicians were going to be dealing with.
Learn the craft of horror writing. Learn to hide the monster, practice dialogue mechanics that avoid overuse of exposition, experiment with stories of different lengths, find your “voice” without being pretentious.
Find your band mates. Find a drummer who shines but doesn’t do “falling out of bed” fills that leave the band wondering where the cymbal crash is going to come at the end of a measure. Find a guitar player who enjoys the rhythm behind the vocal as much as his platform solo spots. Find a bass player willing to tether himself to that fucking bass drum and still have a personality.
Find your genre. If you’re a horror guy, write like a horror guy. If you like the detective strain, work out all the plot threads. If you’re a splatterpunk, make the scenes of climax majestic and poetic. If you’re into dark psychology, do your homework. Never follow a trend. In both music and writing, by the time you get signed, the trend will have changed. Be true to yourself.
Figure out whether you need a second guitar or you are going to go pure “power-trio.” If you have a second guitar, it fills in during the lead so you don’t sound like you just cut a huge hole in the music like a doughnut. It also opens you to more ego hassles and possible muddied verses if both guys are slamming the same power chord.
As a writer, try not to slam the same metaphorical power chord. Don’t spend so much time writing beautiful strange scenic paragraphs that bog down the story. Narrative summary, scene work, dialogue mechanics, and character descriptions need rhythm and balance. You are not trying to create a product that will have the reader say, “Gosh, the writer is good.” You are trying to create the platform that will act as a movie in the reader’s head, created mostly by the reader.
Avoid hyperbole. The worst thing a band can do is overplay their “popularity” in the moment. Don’t play a “Freebird” cover and say “How ’bout you?” Don’t dance like Mick Jagger. Own your space. Flaunt it in confidence, not arrogance. Hyperbole destroyed the 70’s and gave room for the God-awful intrusion of New Wave. We just got sick of going to Yes concerts and getting half hour solos by Rick Wakeman.
Horror writers should avoid hyperbole as well. Don’t have an antagonist stab someone “FIFTY TIMES!” Once is enough. Don’t have five chase scenes. Don’t over-explain the kill moments. Let the reader fill in some of the blanks, and for God’s sake SLOW DOWN! No one, repeat, no one speeds up to see a car accident.
Don’t let the sound man screw you if you are an opener. Their favorite trick is to give you no bass, no treble, and especially no monitors. Pay them off if you have to.
As writers, don’t let petty magazine editors break your spirit with the dumb shit. If they say first person voice is sloppy seconds to third person limited, write in first person and find a better editor. Flashbacks are good if there is a purpose and multiple viewpoints are a necessity. Don’t believe the hype. Many of these editors are jealous no-minds who can’t write their own way out of a paper bag. They spent a lot of money on an MFA, and basically just learned to write dumb-ass symbolic shit, like having a cow in a field staring at a microwave on a manure mound, just so their jealous, egotistical psuedo-intellectual classmates could argue all night as to whether it represents Marxism or totalitarianistic geo-politics…or some such lame horseshit.
Make a video. Lip sinc it and make it look live. Do it well. I know you hate it, but it is part of the game.
Writers, make a social media platform. I know you hate it, but it is part of the game.
Play loud, but control your stage volume. No use making the singer scream during the traditional vocal parts.
Write big, but control your ego. You’re not writing to make Mom proud. You’re writing to create a story that will (hopefully) make you faceless.
Metal and horror are joined at the hip. I believe hard rock is part of this too. Both are directly linked to our formative years, thrills, and rebellion. Both are sweet and dark and often glorious.