A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my couch watching the Bad Religion episode of Guitar Center Sessions. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the show, it consists of the band playing their “hits” in an intimate setting interspersed with interview segments. As I watched Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Co. rip through “Generator” and “21st Century Digital Boy,” all I could think is “goddamn they look old.” The same thing occurred to me when I watched Animal Underworld, Henry Rollins’ new show on Nat Geo (which is fucking awesome, by the way). Sure, Rollins looks like he could still kick the living shit out of just about any mere mortal, but his hair is mostly grey and his face is showing the kinds of craggy lines that only come with advancing age. He definitely doesn’t look the same as when I started going apeshit over Rollins Band videos on MTV in junior high, or even when I saw him speak at my college.
I know I’m getting older; I’ll be thirty-three this year, but for some reason it’s extremely weird to think about my heroes aging. Rollins, Glenn Danzig, etc will all get old and eventually die; chances are they’ll go before I do and it will surely bum me the fuck out. You idolize these people who at the end of the day really are just people, the same as you and me, but in your mind they’re somehow going to live forever in a state of perpetual youth; Rollins will always be the boisterous, muscle-bound bad-ass of the “Low Self Opinion” video, Danzig will always be the swaggering killer wolf, howling “She Rides,” while scantily clad vixens bump ‘n’ grind in the background. At least that’s how it’s always been for me. I mean, can you imagine Henry fucking Rollins using a walker, or having to have someone help him get on and off the toilet? Can you imagine a world without Glenn Danzig (some of you out there would probably like to imagine a world w/o him, but that’s beside the point)?
Of course, heavy metal has seen its share of deaths over the years; we’ve recently lost Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, to name just a couple. But somehow it still doesn’t prepare you for the inevitable, maybe it’s because even though I dig the shit out of Dio-era Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Type O Negative, I never loved any of their records the way I love Weight or Lucifuge; I love those fucking records so much it hurts, I love them so much I sometimes feel like I’d wither up and die on the spot if I didn’t have them in my life. That’s an enormous part of what being a true fan is (at least in my estimation), and why it’s so devastating when your favorite band breaks up, or when one of its members passes away. The music is an extension of you, woven into the very fabric of your existence; this isn’t just entertainment, this is a piece of your fucking life, and its creator is gone forever.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mortality lately, probably because we recently moved the THKD bunker, which forced me to go through my CD collection (packing and unpacking), and I kept looking at albums and thinking “holy shit, have I really been listening to this album for twenty fucking years now?!” To have a piece of art affect you so deeply that it has stuck with you for over half your life is something truly special, but it’s also kind of scary; the youthful days in which you first encountered it are long gone. I’m reminded of that whenever I see the effects of aging in the faces of my heroes.
But, we can’t waste what precious little time we have on this planet dwelling on old age and mortality in such a negative way. We have to appreciate the fact that we’ve been so incredibly lucky to lead a life rich in art that has enhanced our earthly existences to such an unbelievable degree, and to know that even after the artists themselves have burned out or faded away, they will live on through their work, and through the fondness we hold for it in our hearts and minds, hopefully passing at least a small piece of that intense adoration down through the generations. As fans of heavy music, we benefit from a level of love and dedication that is rarely seen in other genres, and it is what allows our musical idols to cease being men and truly walk among the Gods.