Rik Worth 22nd November 2019
As you get older you come to accept that your childhood friendships were most likely built on proximity, the physical rather than figurative closeness you had to one another. You accept your old friends changing or staying the same and, if you’re smart, you accept you’ve done the same.
Conversations with these old pals become status updates on the gang and trying to relive old memories. “Do you still see her much? Last I heard he was a teacher, after what he did!? Did they ever remove the Matey bottle from his arse?”
You both know something has changed but do you both know when or where it changed? Does Lee know what we were listening to when that gulf opened between us? I do.
We were at his house, in the upstairs back room where the family PC was. These were the days of Limewire and adolescent internet boot-leg exchange. I’m not sure if this came before or after Flux by Bloc Party was swiped from Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 new music show and made the rounds on the indie scene — a phenomenon I’m happy to discover was widespread — but it was around then, 2007-ish.
Lee and I had been drifting apart through secondary school, we were in different sets and lived closer to other people in our classes. As college rolled around, Lee left to attend the local college while I stayed at sixth form. We were trying to rekindle our friendship through something we loved, music.
As early teens, we’d practically lived at one another’s houses, staying up late on Fridays to watch WWF SmackDown live and listening to music. Lee is an excellent musician and began to teach me the guitar. Mostly a White Stripes riff, who we adored through the file share of Live Under Blackpool Lights that probably riddled Lee’s computer with viruses.
We also very much enjoyed, and a part of me is ashamed of this, nu-metal. Yes, for a time in my life I thought that Fred Durst was talented and likeable individual rather than the musical hobgoblin I now understand him to be. And though I rarely return to that genre if I can help it, I am grateful it revealed a world of hip-hop beyond Will Smith.
Somehow the Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace, Lois Jordan’s Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t (My Baby) and In The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia by Laurel and Hardy also made it onto our regular rotation, which must have confused the hell out of Lee’s parents.
Lee was utterly convinced I’d love this band he had recently discovered. I hovered in the long narrow room which only had seated for whoever was desktop DJing. As some kind of fast-paced, fantasy metal clogged the tiny room, I could see Lee getting into it. My own thought was: “This band were just trying to fill this song with as many notes as possible and that is not good.”
“I can’t believe you haven’t heard DragonForce,” he said as he loaded some now-forgotten media player.
DragonForce? I played D&D and even I thought that was utter crap. My assumption was that it was some kind of joke band, a less obvious Tenacious D with fewer comedy chops.
“I know it looks a bit cheesy but it’s really good. Listen to this solo…”
The truth is as we’d grown apart we’d individually begun to explore different music. I’d be swept up in the indie scene and the growing nu-rave movement. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the prefix “nu”. Again, nu-rave hasn’t stood the test of time but I’m more likely to give Myths of The Near Future a difficult re-listen than Significant Other.
I nodded in acknowledgement of Lee’s earnest enjoyment, politely taking a non-committal stance outwardly, while thinking it was utter shit inwardly
Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t averse to metal, but I was very much a best-of compilation style metalhead. I enjoyed the hits but couldn’t get behind the subtle nuances of the genre. As that the lengthy, indulgent, parody of a guitar solo went on and on, I nodded in acknowledgement of Lee’s earnest enjoyment, politely taking a non-committal stance outwardly, while thinking it was utter shit inwardly.
I took over over the decks and tried to ease the musical mood back to my pretentious electro tastes. I remember playing him LCD Soundsystem’s Tired. Something guitar-driven with distortion and a solo, a punk track by the what is essentially a dance band. That passed with a nod, so I tried Movement, in a similar vein, but I could see his interest fading.
I watch as it fell on deaf ears and we quickly went back to more of the Middle Earth metal of DragonForce.
As we swapped chairs and I braced myself for something I wasn’t used to in this place, listening to music I just couldn’t get behind even as a joke (remember we’d listened to a lot of nu-metal there, I knew how to enjoy drek), I knew a fundamental shift had occurred in our friendship.
The path we had walked down together had forked and we’d gone our own ways. As Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit to pursue his won interests, I left my hometown to pursue the Yorkshire-driven DIY movement spearheaded by ¡Forward, Russia!. (That turned out well. Don’t base your choice in university on the local bands, kids. It’ll only end in tears.)
For him, there is no shame in our murky musical past. Why should there be?
I sometimes wonder if we’d been closer toward the end of school and college if Lee would have picked up more of my taste or if I’d have taken DragonForce way more seriously. If that would have kept us closer.
But then I think: “God that band is just awful.”
Lee actually called me out of the blue from some Limp Bizkit gig he was at last year. For him, there is no shame in our murky musical past. Why should there be? It’s not like anyone of us is free from the sonic follies of youth. While I’d never be seen dead at that gig, I really appreciated his sense of us having this connection deep down somewhere.
I don’t see Lee regularly days but I bump into him on the few occasions I travel home across the Pennines. We still get on and chat about what we’ve been up to and what’s the latest gossip but we don’t really talk about music. When we do, it only reveals the real distance between us.
Main image: Tim Parkinson
Rik Worth 22nd November 2019