Monday, December 14, 2009

Kyle Meets Metallica - Part One

K.J. Doughton and Umlaut have a friendship that spans over 25 years. We became friends mainly due to a cassette demo tape by some band called Metallica. This was when literally only 10 people knew about the band and eventually K.J. ran the band's initial fan club out of his parents' basement for the first 4 years of their career. It's been a long strange trip for us with The Rock Stars and this piece literally brought tears to my eyes.. If K.J. doesn't win "Dad Of The Year" I will be outraged. Life can be so METAL sometimes!

Cue 'Dyers Eve'..

Kyle’s Great Metalli-Adventure, Part One
by K.J. Doughton

Prologue: None of the following would have happened without the support of Grandma and Grandpa. Thanks to both of you for making this dream a reality.

My son Kyle never smiles for the camera.

He is, however, a fledgling guitarist and fan of loud music who turned twelve several days ago. What better birthday present than a Metallica adventure in San Francisco? Dad’s ancient history as helmer of the band’s first fan club (and a longtime supporter of Metallica’s early phases, through fanzine promotion and demo tape distribution) has its benefits. Perhaps by contacting some of Metallica’s key players, Dad could set Kyle up for a surreal trip through the world of our planet’s biggest metal band.

Mission #1: Contact Metallica Fan Club coordinator Vickie Strate, and ask if she could set up a tour of the band’s “HQ” center, where they rehearse, record, practice, sell their merchandise and Fan Club packages, and unwind by playing Kirk’s “Creature of the Black Lagoon” pinball machine.

Mission accomplished. Not only does Vickie send Kyle a birthday gift box (signed drum head, “Jump In the Fire” monster figurine, guitar picks, t-shirt), but she also arranges an HQ visit. The topper to all this is her willingness to get us into the band’s final “Death Magnetic” North American concert in San Jose on Saturday, December 12th. Not only that… she also provides VIP passes so that hopefully, Kyle can meet his favorite musicians in the flesh.

What a birthday present, eh?!?

With Mom and Dad in tow at 6:05 in the morning on a cloudy Thursday morning, Kyle jumps onto a plane and lands at SFO. The next morning, he’s en route to the legendary Metallica “HQ.” We’re greeted by Vickie, who set this dream into motion and proves to be the most generous and personable human being one could ever hope to meet. Dad provides her with some old fan club newsletters and bios from the early eighties, before she begins the tour.

One room is packed to the gills with various t-shirts and other merchandise. The mind boggles. Dad used to sell a couple of Metallica shirts each day from his parents’ basement when he ran the fan club. Now, with the holiday demand in full swing, the band has sold an astounding amount of merchandise in just the past 24 hours. Walls of black file cabinets house tens of thousands of membership files. It’s an awe-inspiring reminder of what a phenomenon the band has become since their inception in 1982. Kyle is overwhelmed and excited, but refuses to smile for the camera.

Vickie then transports us into the band’s game room, which boasts two pinball machines, an air hockey table, and various other diversions. Amidst foosball tables, Kyle poses for a pic. He’s having fun, but still no smile. What a rebel.

Next stop is the Metallica recording studio. Vickie confirms that the band produced “St. Anger,” and much of “Death Magnetic,” in this very room, a technical mishmash of knobs, buttons, consoles, mixing desks, mics, and amps.

Soon, we’re guided into the Metallica rehearsal studio, now stuffed with instrument cases destined for the band’s upcoming South American tour. Kyle poses in front of a never-ending wall of guitars (James’ personal stash), which resembles a shelf stuffed with oversized library books.

He’s tempted to touch one of Robert Trujillo’s bass guitars, but resists the urge. Ditto for the battered, bashed Flying V housed in a nearby guitar stand that James wielded during the “Kill ‘em All” era! Dad is about to have a cardiac, his heart is beating so fast.

Kyle gawks at the hundreds of fan-scribed banners wallpapering this practice warehouse, and poses in front of a spray painted mural of the band’s logo (James’ handiwork. Is there anything the man can’t do?) Meanwhile, Dad is intrigued by the “Wall of Inspiration,” a hallway decked out with framed covers of influential records most cherished by the band. Dad spots Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous,” the first Iron Maiden album, veteran NWOBHM’ers Tygers of Pan Tang’s “Wildcat,” and tons more. Cool, or what?

Thanks a million to Vickie and the other HQ reps who helped to make my son’s birthday present such an unforgettable dream come true.

Meanwhile, the question remains… will Kyle make it to the HP Pavilion in San Jose to get eyebrows singed by onstage pyro flames? Will he experience the punishing live power of “Fight Fire With Fire”? Will he actually meet the metal legends in person?

Most intriguing of all… will he ever smile for the camera? Stay tuned for Part II of “Kyle’s Big Metalli-adventure”!!!

Click HERE for Part Two of "Kyle Meets Metallica"!