Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Memories With The Thrash Queen

With the mid to late eighties came a huge musical turning point in my life. A virtually unknown METALLICA with former bassist Cliff Burton had just opened for W.A.S.P. at the Masonic Temple / Concert Hall. Also SLAYER played Toronto for the first time at Larry’s Hideaway in front of a mere 70 or so people. A never before heard musical style was beginning to expose itself for the first time in Canada. It was something exciting… it was aggressive, rebellious and extreme. It wasn’t my older brother’s mainstream, scratched and worn out Alice Cooper albums. It was something I could call my own. An underground secret society for those in the know. It was called Thrash Metal…

Growing up listening to thrash metal in the small college town of Peterborough, Ontario was tough. A two hundred pound stamp collector with facial acne had a better chance of a social life. 'Moondance', our independent record store had one plastic milk crate… a cardboard label with the heavenly words scripted upon it “M E T A L” Occasionally with enough begging and pleading they would Import a “Music for Nations” release from Europe to place alongside the TWISTED SISTER and POISON albums. Along with the Imported vinyl usually came a British magazine called ‘Metal Forces’ It was my bible.

“…the magazine was well known for its coverage of unsigned bands through its Demolition feature and championed the likes of METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH, OVERKILL, DEATH…, …long before they secured record deals… …a former writer for Metal Forces, has claimed that the magazine was the first to coin the terms thrash and death metal…"

Often out dated by the time it reached our shores, I poured through each page, reading about these new and upcoming acts. Often writing to them to receive their demos, or to find out what life, ...and the "scene" was like in other countries. Through the magazine's Pen Bangers section, I shared music and amazing correspondence. Tape trading with companions, and bands all over the planet our gift economy was legendary.

One day a package arrived from a woman in Ohio who went by the name 'Stella The Thrash Queen'. She was a DJ who did a show on W.R.U.W. called 'The Wrath Of The Thrash Queen'. Eager I immediately slipped the "tape cassette" into my "getto blaster", to get some sort of feel for who this girl was. Between the sounds of bands like EXODUS; AGNOSTIC FRONT; CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER and DESTRUCTION, I listened to her strange sounding drawled out Ohio accent. As I listened to the music from her radio show, and read her very long letter Cleveland became somewhere exotic
In her letter, as I can recall… she had found my address in Metal Forces and was excited to find someone else that shared her interest in extreme music. Stella was curious to know if I lived anywhere near Buckhorn, Ontario. Her Grandmother owned a trailer near there, and that she planned to come for a visit. I quickly put pen to paper and replied… beginning a friendship that would last more than twenty years. We wrote to each other for many months, and talked on the phone to all hours of the night. Finally we made arrangements to meet at her Grandmothers Campground in the Summer of 1987

Like twins separated at birth our first introductions were so completely comfortable it was indescribable. With her government cheese box filled with cassette demos, she turned me onto bands such as: OLD LADY DRIVERS; SADUS; and PRIME EVIL. I introduced her to: SLAUGHTER, CREMAINS, and SOOTHSAYER. We spoke each other’s language, and understood each other‘s sick sense of humour. Stella had this biting schoolgirl smile and dark inviting Italian eyes that would make you melt. We later walked along the beach and drank beer under the stars. Like excited children on the first day of school, we shared stories and stole glances, and joked about being so perfect for each other, that we should just run off and get married. If it wasn’t for the long distances between us we probably would have followed through with our plans.

Our relationship grew over the following year, and into the next summer, where we spent a lot of time together in Canada. Drinking beer, listening to metal, parting hard, and living the thrash metal lifestyle as much as humanly possible. We spent most of the summer hanging out in Toronto. I introduced her to the head shops on Young Street, and we spent a lot of money on vinyl at the Record Peddler on Carlton Street. Or sometimes we just killed time hanging out at places like Happy House, or INFERNAL MAJESTY’s band practice space Whenever we got a moment, we did interviews for radio and fanzines with Canadian bands

In August of 1988 I flew into Cleveland to visit the United States for the first time. Stella met me at the airport with a huge airbrushed skull sign that her brother had made for me, and within minutes we were off in someone’s vehicle drinking beer on our way to see FANG / FALSE HOPE and CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE at September's Night Club. The thing I remember most about Ohio, are the small differences that no one talks about. We called them pipes, not a bowls, and we used bottlers, not mufflers. I caught on quickly and learned to always order Imported alcohol, instead of the watered down crap the domestic companies passed off as beer. Another good thing to remember is always pay with an American two dollar bill. The bar staff consider them unlucky and refuse to take them [I still have mine] A stranger will always feel sorry for you and offer to buy your drink.

The next few days were a whirlwind of memories… I met Stella’s son Ian for the first time. He was probably around five years old. The same age as my youngest boy is today. Stella cooked dinner and Ian and I played with his toys. Stella was such a great mother, who always looked out for her son’s best interests. That week I also met Stella’s friend Roger for the first time. He was so good to us both when I was visiting. I owe him a thousand thanks and many dollars for showing me around while I was there. When I wasn’t getting him kicked out of motels, we visited local attractions and spent some time in Detroit at the Henry Ford Museum. We also saw a bunch of Punk bands play the Agora Ballroom or maybe it was the Phantasy Theatre. It doesn‘t matter I guess. While on my trip, I also managed to stop by W.R.U.W. 91.1 on join Stella on the air while she hosted her radio show ‘The Wrath Of The Thrash Queen’. I was impressed by her professional attitude, and how much she really tried to help plug the newer up and coming bands.

Stella saved some cash and returned to Toronto in the Fall of 1988. I somehow managed to get us both on the guest list for the North American Metal Onslaught with: DEAD BRAIN CELLS; BLESSED DEATH; BLIND ILLUSION; SAVAGE STEEL; AT WAR; and HALLLOWS EVE at the Concert Hall. We got there early and hooked up with Larry LaLonde formerly of POSSESSED, who was raving about his new band BLIND ILLUSION who had just picked up Les Claypool on bass [They later evolved into PRIMUS]. The four of us went to the beer store, and struggled with our cases back to the hall where we spent most of the evening hanging out back stage and getting completely wrecked. Somehow we managed to stumble to a cheap, roach invested motel near the lakeshore. We were surprised to find AT WAR staying in the room next to ours. The evening was just beginning when we drunkenly banged on the door pretending to be the police.

I don’t remember much about the next time Stella came to visit. I do know it was Nov of 1988, because I have some video of us hanging out backstage with SUDDEN IMPACT; SACRIFICE and ANVIL again at the Concert Hall. Sam, and Dave from FALSE HOPE and another friend drove her up. I remember them being upset that they had to pick me up, and never realized how far North of Toronto, [2 hours] Peterborough is. When we got back to Toronto Sam and Dave took off, while the three of us went to the show. It’s too bad, because whenever Stella visited I always cashed in my favours and made sure that she was treated like royalty. Bands and promoters always had beer waiting for us…

It wasn’t until the following fall that that we saw each other again. Her friend “Psycho Tim” drove her up and they both spent a week with my room-mates and I at my Peterborough apartment. We drank way too much, and had tons of fun that week. Saw a local band called ALCHEMY play a house party… Got harassed by the cops for doing nothing. That happens a lot in Canada.
Later that week we ended up in Toronto. We went to Castle Loma, and also spent a day in Kensington Market. We ended up being asked by a total stranger to go back to her house, while she packed and moved out. She wanted us there in case her boyfriend came home. Which of course he did… Drama seemed to follow Stella where ever she went… We bailed at the first opportunity and took refuge at The Siboney Club. SUCKERPUNCH; SUDDEN IMPACT, and THE GOO GOO DOLLS happened to be playing, so that was a added blessing. Afterwards we went to a three floor apartment party right on young street. TOM PETTY was playing at The Gardens that night, and he came over to join the event which was beginning to grow out of control. Nothing stranger than seeing TOM PETTY and THE BUNCHOFUCKINGOOFS chatting to each other. I don’t remember where or if we even slept that night…
The next night it was over to The Rivoli club on Queen Street. MY DOG POPPER and SUCKERPUNCH were playing. MY DOG POPPER were such a great band. Two drummers, two bass players and a medieval catapult onstage firing T-shirts and stickers into the crowd. Sometimes they loaded it with Mashed Potatoes, Liver, or Cow Tongue. The food fight that night was some of the best fun ever… Someone came into the bar with a large box of 40oz bottles of whiskey, stolen from the back of an unlocked liquor store, he began to hand them out to anyone willing to hide them from the bar staff. Within a short period of time the audience, including ourselves began to get really, really, really drunk. We weaved and wobbled down Queen Street after the show. The three of us fought, we cried, we cursed, we yelled, we hugged, mainly we fought… Somehow we managed to get a bus back to Peterborough. They returned to Cleveland the next day.
I was somewhat taken aback by how insane our visits were becoming… Stella was a hell of a lot of fun, but she was also a handful of trouble. I knew that if we were to continue our long distance relationship we would probably kill each other one way or another. My bet was alcoholism… We both knew our relationship wasn’t to last. Over the next few years, The Thrash Queen and I slowly began to grow apart. Last time I saw her in person was at a show in Toronto with OVERTHROW; BLESSED DEATH; GOTHIC SLAM; LUDICHRI$T; RAZOR and DEATH ANGEL.
Although we never saw each other again we continued our correspondence through the mail, or over the phone during troubling times. We found it amazing that after long periods of time, of not hearing from each other… we always still shared the same interests [Horror Movies; Apocalypse Culture; Extreme Politics etc…] We often spoke of visiting each other again. The fact it will never happen is a regret I will forever hold. Stella’s death in Oct of 2010, was too sudden and too soon. I’m very lucky to have known her, and glad that she remained such a huge part of my life for so long. I’m going to miss you Stella… Save me a pint...

1 comment:

  1. wow man , that must've been awesome seeing all those bands over the was sad to hear about her passing. I am sorry.