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Growing Up Metal in a New Zealand Beach Town

"The toughest part of being metal in Tauranga was the sand, and walking down to the beach in Dr. Martens with your pants tucked into your boots."

by Alex Harper
14 May 2015, 9:20pm

All photos by the author.

It was 1997 when I moved to Tauranga, a coastal town on New Zealand's North Island. I was 12 so I didn't really grow up there, but I grew up metal there. I discovered metal through my brother, he got Metallica's Black Album from the kid across the road. Before then, I was just listening to Crowded House, but when he put that on, it was instant. I was like: Fuck Crowded House, this is what I want.

After that, I took the reigns, made some friends, started getting metal magazines to find new bands. My hero was George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, I pretty much emulated that style totally. By the time I was 14 everyone was wearing board shorts, singlets, and all that shit. Me and my mates were in camo pants, Dr. Martens, and Cannibal Corpse shirts.

Tauranga wasn't really the ideal place for that, I would have rather been in Gothenburg, Sweden. So much of the music we were listening to was from Sweden so I thought that must have been a cool place to live. Especially when you'd look at the Swedish charts and see that metal is in the top ten albums.

Mt Maunganui Beach in Tauranga. Image via Wikipedia.

Living in Tauranga was more like being an astronaut in a submarine. That's not to say it was hard for us, we just weren't in the right place at the right time. The toughest part of being metal in Tauranga was the sand, and walking down to the beach in Dr. Martens with your pants tucked into your boots.

When I was younger I'd hang with the surfer kids, my brother was one, but I was plenty uncoordinated, so I couldn't surf to save my life. Plus they all loved Incubus, Tool, and other popular groups. We were a lot of more extreme. I mean, I love Tool now, but back then I was like, "It's not heavy enough!"

There were a few other metal kids in Tauranga who weren't in our immediate crew. Most of them sang in our band at one point or another. We were obviously different from everyone else, but people recognized our music was good. They were into the style, which is kind of surprising.

We really took it to the extreme like with songs like "You Don't Deserve to Live," and really terrible, horrible lyrics. We got disqualified from a battle of the bands because I got too violent in the mosh pit after we'd played. Apparently I was lining up people to punch. Our band was called Violence at the time.

We had a lot of bands, and generally hung out with the older guys who had their own bands because no one our age was really into it. That's how we got into bars and got our alcohol bought for us.

Everything we did was around the band. On Saturday I'd take all my equipment over to my mate's place and we'd jam for a couple of hours then we'd walk into town, probably go to music shop and look at CDs. Then we'd go home and drink Woodstocks and listen to death metal in the shed until the neighbors got pissed off. After that we'd go terrorize the other kids.

They'd usually have their parties down the beach. They were always just a bunch of dudes people listening to Sublime trying to awkwardly mingle with the girls there.

Before metal, I was pretty much a loner. But when we started the band people were suddenly like, "Oh it's that guy!" You'd think it would be shit being the only metal kids in a beach town, but generally people liked it and we just like, holy shit.

But we were definitely outsiders—you could spot me a mile away. Walking around town it was like: board shorts, board shorts, board shorts—camo pants! Outside of school and bands, when we were just walking around town everyone looked sort of disgusted with us. But getting attention is better than being ignored. And I did manage to score a couple of chicks out of it.

If I hadn't found metal Tauranga would have been a hell of a lot more boring. I would have been just another sheep. I'm not entirely sure how it shaped me as a person, I guess I'm used to being different and just not giving a shit. And I probably drink more than I would otherwise. That's the culture. Metal heads drink, listen to metal, party, and jam. That's kind of how I live my life. Well, in between work. I try and not let work impact my life in any way—I'm just like, eight hours and then quit.

I still love metal, but not like before. I definitely have way more diverse taste in music now. Right now I'm listening to Chris Cornell's Euphoria Morning album, and that's really quite soft. I also got into grunge, classic rock, and old stuff. But when I get drunk I definitely put something really heavy on. I guess I grew up.

Related: Watch our documentary on heavy metal in Bagdad

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