Sounds Like Armageddon
Imagine a wet and cold Wednesday evening in May, three fourteen year old boys embarking on rites of passage of their very first concert. Anxiously waiting in line with their tickets clenched in their fists, talking about how much they can’t wait. They walked into an almost pitch black hall, as a wall of heat overwhelms them, the smell of sweat, beer and anticipation rising through their senses. They reach the front of the stage awaiting the band they came to see. On walks to the stage are the first members of the band. They pick up their instruments and head to their positions. A shadowy figure walks the front centre of the stage and as the band rings out the first deafening note the lights rise up, covering the band in a sort of blood red film. Adrenaline shoots up the boys spines. One looks up and sees a female singer, at first was disappointed because he realises that this wasn’t the band he was originally there for but as she lets off an almighty scream that can only be compared to as a lions raw, the disappointment washes away.
Skip forward to later in the gig, after nearly twenty minutes of a pure aggression seeping from the speakers, comes a low melodic cacophony and the singer begins to speak rather than growl and for some reason the words that she said induced more fear in their minds than anything that had been said before, and three words came echoing through which described the night perfectly, “Sounds like Armageddon”, an eight minute spoken word poem that just sent him in to a fury of emotions, never before had this happened. Gradually as the song went on, it became heavier and more frantic, as the last note rings out; he knew that he would never be the same again.
Now as you probably realised that boy was me, and as I went home from that night, forever changed. I sat online for the next four hours reading up on this band, reading the singers poems and the poems of the poets the she likes, Jim Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Jack Kerouac, and before I knew it, it was 4.30 in the morning and my mum walks into the office, where I had been sat for the last four maybe five hours. She screams at me “What the hell are you doing at this hour?!” Now I may have cleaned up the language there but you get the point. When I told her, her mood instantly changed. Because as a child I was a nightmare to get to sit down and read, especially because until the age of eighteen I had a stutter as well as a stammer which for the first part of my life left me resenting the written word profusely. Now here is me reading wilfully and loving every word I red. Now at the age of twenty two aspects of the stutter and stammer still remain, and certain aspects of the resentment, but the passion for poetry has never faded.
In secondary school (high school as you it’s called here), I went to an all boys school where like most English schools you’d wear uniforms such as blazers and ties, restrictions on hair length, standing up when a teacher entered a room and refereeing to them as sir, mam/miss. The sort of place that looks down on individual’s creativity and non conformism. Basically like the boys and girls from the Pink Floyd video Another Brick In The Wall.
Unfortunately for me this played havoc with my self-confidence and resulted in a speech problem that plagued most of my life. The boys would ridicule me for this, and confidence shattering of all where the teachers would to, saying things like “Edwards read this paragraph Eng 92
to the class, if you can!” Resulting in an eruption of laughter from the class. Which pen ultimately dampened my will and want to read.
Going back to the aftermath of the concert. I came into school the next day, all be it very tired for only having a few hours sleep. But yet I felt revitalised, in the sense of now being introduced to a whole new world. I walked into the concourse where I met up with my friends as we did every morning and started to talking to my mates I was at the gig with the night the before, Duck (Mitchell) and Midge (Andrew). We started talking about the gig with a few other friends. As they were talking I realised that they were only talking about the headline band we had initially gone to see which they and I talked about on the train home from the gig. I jumped in and asked what they thought of the warm up band, as I had neglected to ask them before. Duck went first and said “Well…they were ok.” Midge added “The singer was fit (hot)” Which stunned me. A set that had shaken me to the core and as I now know had altered the course of my life and that’s all they had to say? I wasn’t too impressed with the headline band, comparing the intensity of the sound and the insanity of the crowd’s reaction. I couldn’t believe what they had said. I ran home, let’s just for arguments sake after school and not during last period science. I jumped online again and started looking for other peoples thoughts of this band. I couldn’t have been the only person who felt this way about them surely. To my relief I was right. There were pages upon pages of forums with people who felt the same way calling themselves Shadow Soldiers. There were reviews of how they had been inspired by the band, art work, tattoos and poems. Poems people had written about the shows, poems about the lyrics, poems in the style of the singers. I read them all and the more I read, the more odd little ideas came erupting in my head. So I started writing them down and as that happened, more started flooding out of the pen.
As months rolled on I stared discovering different poets. Several were musicians who incorporated poetry into their lyrics, and at this time I was playing some music of my own. Plus painting and sketching, basically trying to find an outlet for myself. My art teacher had often commented on my artwork in class and homework’s, that he thought I had some good ideas, but needed to work on my temper and my own harsh self criticism, in such that if something didn’t come out right the first time, I would throw it away and move onto something else. He always suggested I should stick with what I was working on and actually finish it. Well in one particular class, as my teacher Mr. Davies was going through a certain artist (I forget which) and was sat writing, to my teachers amazement and assumption that I was taking notes, when really I was writing poems. He finally glanced over my shoulder as he was walking around the class room but didn’t mention anything initially. When it came to the end of the class he called me over. The first words he uttered were “So you weren’t taking notes. What were you doing?” Instantly my back seized up and as I attempted to reply, my infamous stutter unleashed its ugly head and the only full word that he was able to decipher was “…poem…” His eyes opened wide and he said “That’s amazing, what made you start doing that?”As I realised I wasn’t going to be getting into trouble, my back relaxed and I told him the story I began with. He asked my who my English teacher was and picked up the phone and started to dial. Eng 92
They next day, first period; English. I sat wondering what my art teacher had said to my English teacher; Mr. Guy and wouldn’t find out till the bell went. As I gathered my things to go to my next class, I glanced to my door to find Mr Davies there talking to Mr. Guy. They called me over and asked me if they could take a look at my poems. Hesitantly I reached into my bag and handed over my, until then private notebook. They began to read them and for several painfully nerve racking minutes I awaited their comment and their approval. Before then, the only people who had ever seen my poems where the ones on the forums and only got feed back in the obligatory fashion as “nice work” and “great job”. Now here’s me standing there, face to face with not just one but two people who were going to critique my work. They read threw maybe three poems. They looked at each other and Mr. Guy went first saying “Very good, there’s a lot of promise but not sure of the dark overtone.” Mr. Davies concurred, “Really interesting”. Now to me I felt it wasn’t a great reaction, but a reaction none the less. Mr. Guy handed me a book and said “If you’re interested in writing poetry, read this” I looked at the title How to write poetry. The words I said weren’t what I was thinking at the time. What came out was “Thank you, that’s awesome.” What I really thought was “Oh great, a bloody text book, more homework, that’s all I need!” I walked away with the book in hand. When I got home, I put the book on the side and that’s where it stayed, until I eventually…moved it into a draw. To this day I still have the book, the spine unbroken.
I walked away from that moment, disheartened and disappointed. To this day I still don’t really know what I was expecting to happen from that meeting, but that wasn’t it. Over time my writing decreased until that that night at the concert soon became a distant memory. Eventually my notebooks sat in my draw on top of the text book. I started work again on my music and the age of fifteen I started a band with a few friends. Jamin (Ben, my oldest friend and to this day still is), Ginger (Patrick) my partner in crime and Barry (who never really got a nickname). We started off doing Rock’n’Roll covers such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, The Who, The Kinks etc. so we could get some gigs at the local pubs and clubs. We were playing two or three gigs a week and eventually started incorporating our own material. I wanted to have my own song in our repatois So I saw down, got my note books out and blew off the dust, and started to form songs. At the end of each session, I would get infuriated at the end product and discard it (sensing a pattern). After several attempts, I would look at my lyrics and started to remember how I felt when I was writing and the anticipation of how what you wrote and where between your mind and the page the decision to stop would come from. It was invigorating to get back to state of mind. I started to feel a slight regression to that night at the concert, how the sense of relief I got from those three words, Sounds like Armageddon.
Over time I carried on writing poems and left the song writing to the others until I left them to join a new band, a black metal band named Artisian. I’d met this guy a musicians forum when playing Rock’n’Roll wasn’t fulfilling my needs with what I wanted to express. After exchanging a few emails, we met in a rehearsal studio in Tottenham Court Road, ironically round the corner from the venue from that first gig that sent me on this journey to begin with. Later on in my music career, I would eventually play in that to two thousand Eng 92
people. It’s amazing how something come full circle. With this band, we released an album later in the year and toured around the U.K. and some of Eastern Europe as well as Scandinavia. But in my time in this band, my band mate Iain, who was several years older than me encouraged my poetry and incorporated it in to some of his lyrics that would appear on the album and subsequent albums. At the same time I was in college at the lovely death trap that was Croydon College. I had been working on a web design qualification. I began work on a website for the band as well as for my poems and made regular posts. I also read everything that came to hand. Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Ted Hughes, T.S. Elliot, Wordsworth etc.
After so many years of writing poetry and reading everything, travelling and touring, by the age of twenty, I had hundreds of finished poems and one day went on to the website of the band that began this journey, and I noticed that the singer had put together a collection and was for sale. I quickly ordered it. After, I searched around the site where she had published here work and I found out it was a self-publishing site. Immediately a million ideas came to mind of how I should have my very own collection. I agonised for weeks and after some help from two friends, Andy the photographer and Urania the model for the front cover, I had my very own book. The one thing I hated as a child, now I had written one. Subsequently I published my second collection early last year.
Now comes the final stretch of this winding journey. Just after I published my second collection, I came to Seattle to see my father, who had moved here when I was fourteen after leaving my mum. I had reconciled with him and was trying to find a way to move here, which ended up with me going to BC. Originally I was moving here for a girl I had met in the previous summer when I was in Seattle, but like most if not all love stories (especially mine) it didn’t pan out. Moving on…I had seen that my step sister’s ex-boyfriend had a gig soon after I landed. He had a new bass player filling in for a few gigs. It just so happened to be the bass player from the beginning band. I was shocked, and met him and told him my journey and how he influenced my bass playing and how the band had influenced my poetry. He was taken back and we spent the rest of the night talking and drinking. A few days later he left for L.A. to begin work on the new album. Then jumping forward to about a month ago the band came to Seattle and played at Studio Seven. As soon as I found out you can imagine how quickly I snapped up tickets. As I went to the gig, I did my usual ritual by that time of heading to the bar and setting up camp for the night with a view of the stage. Half way through the night the bass player I’d met the year before walked into the bar area and was talking with a few fans. I sat and peered on, not wanting to intrude. I take another sip of my drink and all of a sudden I hear a shout from his direction “Hey London!” (which he had nicknamed me on our first meet). We talked for a few moments and then he said, “I’ve got someone I’d like you to meet”. He leads me away from my sanctuary and took me into a room in the back. I walk inside and there she was. The singer! Trying to hold myself back from turning into a Wayne’s World moment and falling to my knees and crying the mantra “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” I composed myself and just said “Hi”. Eng 92
After all my triumphs and struggles with literacy, I’ve really only learnt two things. Find your own way of reading. Everyone has a different thing they look for and everyone is more than willing to help you with their way, because that’s all they know. I’m not saying ignore peoples help. Just don’t get discouraged or disheartened when their way doesn’t work, you’ll find your own way for literacy to speak to you. I struggled for years with speech because of confidence in myself and my ability, and it still does affect me. But when I became more confidant with the meaning of my words, my only struggle became my accent and that; I wouldn’t change for the world. The second, it’s very rarely only ever one moment, one event or one person that can change you view on such a thing as literacy. There are so many aspects to literacy, I’d be surprised if it was just one. If it was for you, then great, but for myself, it was a long arduous journey of self doubt and self evaluation that for me, hasn’t stopped.
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