May 152010

I suppose this topic is sappy, and sappy isn’t metal. But maybe it really is. You be the judge. And if you conclude this is just too much emotional tripe, chalk it up to an excess of tequila

What motivated us to write about parents (besides too much tequila) was our recent piece on an awesome KC band called Ares Kingdom and some messages we received in response to it. In addition to praising the music, we praised the album art — the kind of thing that many bands do poorly, and that’s often lost in our download culture when it’s done well.

The album art on the Ares Kingdom release is truly inspired, though you’ll never see what we mean unless you fork over the dough to buy a CD. As we explained in our review, the 16-page booklet that comes with the CD is a montage of historical artwork by many artists (including the cover art, which was created by Joseph Pennell in the last year of World War I), and the lyrics are written over the top of the art in beautiful silver calligraphy.

We read the liner notes too quickly and wrote in our review that the calligraphy was done by this band’s awesome guitarist Chuck Keller. That appears to have been an error, as was pointed out by a comment on our post by Splash.  According to the comment, it was done by Chuck’s father. And that (along with the fucking tequila) made us think about parents.

We don’t know Chuck Keller, or his dad. What we do know is this: We don’t deserve our parents. We don’t “earn” them. They are who they are, and we are who we are. If they love and support us (as appears to be true of Chuck Keller’s dad), that’s a gift, for which we should be fucking thankful. If they fail to understand us, or worse, if they undermine and damage us, it’s usually not our fault, though we so powerfully take our cues from them that we think it is. (more of this after the jump . . .)

Lots of metalheads followed a path to metal as a refuge — a refuge from rejection or abuse by peers, and by parents, a place where we could be become part of a community that we couldn’t find closer to home, a place where no one would judge us based on superficialities, a place where we could be ourselves, a place (maybe the only place) where we felt empowered.

Lots of metalheads followed a path to metal for entirely different reasons —  because it made us feel free and wild, because it was just a fuckload of fun, because it presented a primal voice for what we were feeling, or because it gave us a vehicle for creative expression that just didn’t present itself in any other way that made the right connection to our spirits.

In some cases, it was part of an escape from a fucked-up home life completely lacking in empathy. In other cases, it was simply what we needed to be, and we were lucky enough to get the full (if occasionally mystified) support of our parents.

So that brings us back to Ares Kingdom. While begging the forgiveness of Chuck Keller and his dad for our presumptuous speculation, here’s what comes to mind: This is a band that plays pretty extreme music. They’ve been laboring in the vineyards for a long time. (And this really isn’t age discrimination, because I’m an older than average metalhead myself.) And yet here we find Chuck Keller’s dad contributing beautiful, meticulous calligraphy to the album art for his son’s album.

Maybe Chuck and his mates deserved that kind of love, maybe they earned it, but we still think it’s more a gift than something deserved. Many things in life are deserved, both good and bad, but in our opinion, the devotion of a parent isn’t earned or lost. It’s either there, or it isn’t, it either survives or it doesn’t, and it has very little to do with you, and very much to do with them.

We’re all victims and we’re all beneficiaries of those who raised us — in widely varying degrees. And more often than not, we don’t even see with clear eyes the full balance of the equation until it’s too late. We all fuck up, and we either surmount the fuck-ups or drown in them, based to an an overwhelming extent by how our parents react. The same is true of our victories. We use them as platforms to greater things, or we waste them, based to a large extent on how our parents react to them. And in both cases, it’s much more a roll of the cosmic dice than anything we merit.

In the end, you are what you make of yourself. But there’s no denying that life is so much easier when you have a parent who has your back, and so much harder when you don’t. And the most important lesson you can take from the dice-roll of your own circumstance is to remember that fact, if and when you become a parent.

Chuck Keller’s dad cares enough about his son’s art to give his own art to the enterprise. We don’t know anything else about him but that, but that much is a gift.

Here endeth the lesson. Hope you have a good Saturday. Tomorrow, we’ll shelve our philsophizing (along with the tequila) and get back to some seriously awesome metal.

  11 Responses to “PARENTS”

  1. Awesome post man.

  2. Wish you could have been with us at the Ares Kingdom drummer’s wedding reception last night, Islander. Chuck’s best man speech was beautiful. We all got in a discussion about this very blog. Parents of the band were there, as were the kids of the band members. Chuck’s (guitarist) little son and daughter ran around like maniacs, Mike’s (drummer) teenage daughter & stepdaughter and preteen stepsons kept watch on my teenage daughter who kept disappearing with (bassist) Alex’s teenage stepson.

    Everyone loved your blog. Especially Chuck, who was in a drunken “I love you, man” mode. So much of what you said really needs to be said and we all need to examine in our own lives.

    Ares Kingdom is more than just a band, its members might as well be a family. Chuck and Mike have been friends since the age of five. Doug has been a friend of theirs since the mid ’80s, and Alex first befriended them when he was a teenager coming to watch Chuck and Mike in their previous band (Order from Chaos) back in 1991. These guys have grown up together, stood by each other in good times and bad, had adventures together, made fun of each other when they suffer a drunken injury, etc. Its refreshing to read a review or article about them that notices a greater strength this band possesses (in this case, Grampa Keller’s contribution). Great work, my friend.


    • Can’t tell you how much this means to me! Not many people leave comments on our posts, so it’s often hard to know whether what we write means anything to anyone but me and my collaborators.

      And I feel privileged to get to know more about the guys in Ares Kingdom and their families. I wish this kind of story were more common, but it seems rare for bands like this to stay together and continue playing as the years pass and they start raising families. It makes me appreciate the music even more (and we appreciated it a hell of a lot to begin with).

      Again, thanks for writing. You’ve made my day!

  3. Glad to have made your day. You made mine. btw, look in the linear notes under “General Staff”. You’ll see my name in there. Mike gave me the nickname 22 years ago when I erupted vodka vomit all over the floor outside his bathroom.

    • You’re lucky. I did something like that once with vodka, but the only nickname I got out of it was “asshole.” Fortunately, it didn’t stick.

  4. RIP to Charlie Keller.

    • Oh man, I am so sorry to hear this news. My condolences to all the family and friends. I’m going to re-post this piece again on our site tomorrow, almost 5 years after I wrote it, with a postscript.

  5. From Garden City Police Chief Tom Alber, a high school classmate of ours and lifelong friend, on Charlie Keller: “This man was the person that inspired me to become a police officer! 1971 or 1972 I was in the FIRST Officer “Friendly Program” and Charlie was the man! Charlie was assigned to traffic division, did some magic,taught us some poems about the colors of the traffic light , and visited with us about safety. I still use the same magic tricks and traffic light poem he taught us in the early 70s. I am grateful I was able to have breakfast with him after church and tell him that.”

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