In this post, Dane Prokofiev returns to NCS with the first new installment in his Keyboard Warriors series in more than a year. But what a comeback it is. Here, he interviews Keith Spillett — history teacher, basketball coach, father, and the man behind The Tyranny of Tradition, the best satirical metal site on the web and one of the best satire sites you could find regardless of focus. Not surprisingly, his responses to Dane’s questions are more literate and twisted than the average interview we post at this sinkhole.
Interplanetary Manhunt for Devin Townsend Impersonator
Tyranny of Tradition founder Keith Spillett impersonates Earth’s operatic extreme metal musician Devin Townsend in an online acceptance speech.
By DANE PROKOFIEV
ZILTOIDIA 9 — For the first time ever, Earth’s FBI has issued an interplanetary manhunt for a keyboard warrior. Keith Spillett, founder of metal satire website The Tyranny of Tradition, is the intelligence agency’s target.
Spillett, 109, is wanted for impersonating operatic extreme metal vocalist extraordinaire Devin Townsend in an online acceptance speech after winning the Metal Hammer Golden Gods first-ever “King of the Internet” award.
FBI director Leonardo CiDaprio said, “Never before has a keyboard warrior been so bold. Whenever keyboard warriors impersonate metal musicians online, like whoever was posting as “Tim Lambesis” on MetalSucks.net, the FBI used to do a Nick Fury and let them off. But this is the first time one has actually dressed up as the one and only Devy, imitated Devy’s voice pitch-perfectly, and filmed himself giving an acceptance speech for some dumb award. It has taken cyber identity theft to a new level.”
Inhuman entities have also expressed anger at Spillett’s crime.
“What a fetid man! Impersonating my loyal human pet HevyDevy. He probably tastes worse than that black cup of coffee I had on Earth seven years ago,” spat Ziltoid the Omniscient, before promptly wiping the glowing gob of purple saliva from the helm of its spaceship.
For impersonating Townsend, Spillett faces a sentence of up to one billion years in a special type of cryogenic sleep, during which he will be conscious and capable of hearing. The facility containing these special cryosleep containers is none other than Universal Music Group’s head office in Santa Monica, California. According to an anonymous source, there is currently one empty container located alongside the chief A&R officer’s computer speakers.
Townsend could not be reached for comment at press time. He was last seen in Earth’s China attempting to convert the Great Wall into sonic energy.
According to Earth’s U.S. government, its extensively-tapped telecommunications networks revealed that Spillett made one last phone call before leaving the planet. The criminal had a lengthy and demented conversation with an unknown caller. The transcript of the conversation is below.
Unknown caller: I thought the latest Godzilla was a monstrous visual buffet. Also, Aaron Taylor-Johnson didn’t look like Aaron Taylor-Johnson at all.
Spillett: I don’t know who these people are anymore. I just looked that dude up and thought Orlando Bloom and King Buzzo had their DNA fused with a Gila monster.
I’m not even sure why people continue to spend time and money to see giant lizards kill their neighbors and destroy their cities. There is something pathological about how much we revel in our own destruction. Even the toys I grew up with like Transformers now kill millions. And they say Cannibal Corpse is sick.
Keith Spillett about to swallow a microphone.
Unknown caller: Why is Jesus more metal than Glen Benton?
Spillett: You think if Benton had the choice of being nailed up on a cross or renouncing his work on Legion, he wouldn’t have had the common sense to do what Galileo did and back down. Jesus could have gotten out when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and he chose to stay and be crucified.
That dude was out there in Edge City, so utterly committed to something he couldn’t prove that he was willing to suffer and die for it. You give me a community of people who have that level of commitment to acknowledging the creative, transformative powers within themselves and expressing them through metal The Freak Future would be here tomorrow. I don’t care what the guy believed or whether he was the Son of God or not. That guy had passion. I’d love to get him to write for Tyranny.
Unknown caller: Do you think Jesus would have branded an inverted, inverted cross onto his forehead?
Spillett: I doubt it. The metal scene two thousand years ago was about iron; not shock value.
Unknown caller: How long have you been doing Tyranny of Tradition?
Spillett: I’ve been writing on the site for four years. It started out as a bizarre exercise in armchair existential philosophy, basketball coaching observations, and surrealist poetry. A few months in, I wrote my first metal article (some fake letter from Sarah Palin where she was raving about the first Ghost album) and Metal Sucks ran part of it.
All of a sudden, people were actually reading the site. I was amazed. I figured I’d just be writing to no one. I had found a way to smuggle in all of my bizarre notions about reality in a way that people could become engaged with. Pretty much every idea I have now ends up intertwined with a metal band.
Unknown caller: What is the meaning of the name?
Spillett: When you first discover heavy metal it is an amazing experience. Every metalhead has their “conversion story” about how they discovered metal and it forever changed their lives. However, an experience that powerful makes it easy to become mired in the past, continuously trying to find that moment again. It becomes a tradition, not an experience. It starts to lose it’s meaning. You pantomime the motions, but it’s never like the original fix.
The site is about addressing how tradition holds sway over our lives and takes us away from the experience of the creative moment. For me, it’s been about rediscovering the parts of myself that are alive and expressing them. Relying less on tradition and more on expressing my internal experience in the moment.
Unknown caller: Derrida said there is nothing outside the text. Do you agree with him?
Spillett: I’m hardly a semiotics expert, but my reading on that expression is that he believed that it is impossible to remove the world from something that is written. Any piece of writing is a map to the world it was created in.
I think it’s a very valid idea, but I also have a notion that there are some experiences and feelings that are beyond what can be expressed in words. There are profound, transcendent moments that I believe can never be captured completely. The tricky part is that I’m not exactly sure I can come up with one experience that I’ve had that actually meets that standard. I don’t want to agree with him, but he’s probably correct.
Unknown caller: People often wonder how you get ideas for your satire, which is typically chock-full of random references. Do the ideas come from what’s trending on Facebook?
Spillett: Usually by the time something is trending I am already disgusted with it and want no part of the thing. I will rerun articles I’ve done on my Facebook Tyranny site if they match up with the world’s current fixation. A lot of the themes in our culture get repeated, so when you’ve written a lot of these, it’s not hard to find an old article that matches the present moment.
In terms of the writing part, I have a very good memory for obscure popular culture, history, heavy metal, and sports statistics. I’ll be driving home from work cranking Prong really loud and all of a sudden I’ll start thinking about Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton. Boom! Article!
Spillett and his friend Shawn moments after they were planning to kidnap Todd Latourre from Queensrÿche at a Renaissance Fair.
Unknown caller: Tyranny of Tradition is obviously meant to be a metal version of The Onion. Do you often read The Onion to get some ideas on how to improve your satirical writing skill?
Spillett: The real contribution The Onion has made to my writing was to teach me how people are willing to explore your writing if the headline catches them. The headline needs to contain a joke to which the audience already knows the punch line. Once you can get through that part, you actually get to write the article you want.
I have a ton of other places I steal my ideas from. I mercilessly pillage HL Mencken and David Mamet (the two writers who have had the biggest impact on me). Ideas from Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay from the movie Network show up in articles a lot.
One article I wrote was an homage to British psychologist RD Laing. Another was a reworking of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A recent one was inspired by an Orson Welles documentary about art forgery. Many of the characters I create are obscure references to movie characters, 1970s basketball players, or former Metal Church vocalists.
If the audience likes that, it is there for them. You don’t have to get that part though. If they just want the joke about Lemmy having three livers removed and playing a concert that night, that’s fine too.
I can’t control what the audience gets or doesn’t. Everything can be looked up on the Internet if a person is so inclined. I don’t try to “write to the level of the audience” (which is a disgraceful term that assumes the public to be stupid). I write what I think is funny and hope they like it too.
Unknown caller: What are the greatest hits of Tyranny of Tradition to date?
Spillett: The Rick Santorum Declares War on Heavy Metal piece really got the thing going back in 2012. It was doing pretty well on a Friday when I left to coach a basketball game down in South Georgia. It had a few hundred hits when I left. I got back that night and it had almost 200,000 hits. I thought it was a practical joke.
All of a sudden, people were writing articles about it. Very surreal. Since then, the Slayer-Westboro and Danzig-sues-the-world stories have done better than that. I’m still amazed that people read this nonsense, but I am also incredibly honored that people do.
I think most people recognize what’s happening in the articles. They don’t fool nearly as many people as claim to be fooled. I think most people like to play along in order to be deceived for the fun of it. Like Santa Claus when you are about 9 years old and pretty much know the deal, but you act surprised in order to more fully experience the event.
Unknown caller: Apparently you received a letter from Slayer’s lawyer regarding that Slayer-Westboro article. In a nutshell, what did it say?
Spillett: It wasn’t their lawyer; it was their Press Representative. Thankfully. I’m on firm legal ground with what I do because my articles are patently absurd, but that doesn’t mean I really want to have an article I wrote about how listening to Slayer causes food allergies in front Antonin Scalia.
The email said something like “if you knew the guys in Slayer, you know that they’d never do anything like this.” Of course I know they didn’t picket the Westboro Church. I was the one who made the article up! Did she think I believed it too?
Then, to make things even more hysterical, some big music website printed an official denial from “Slayer’s press representative” proving without a shadow of a doubt that the article that was fake. The whole exchange was funnier than the article was.
Unknown caller: How did you deal with it?
Spillett: I didn’t bother responding. What am I going to say? Sorry for offending a bunch of guys who got famous off of writing a song glorifying the crimes of Josef Mengele?
I printed the thing off and put it in a frame.
I have had a few of these over the years with different artists and have handled it in a way that I felt was respectful and fair, but this was so silly that I refused to participate in a conversation about it.
Unknown caller: Much of today’s metal music reviewing seems to be overly generous with bombastic adjectives and superlatives. Do you think the line between music reviewing and promotional writing has been blurred?
Spillett: Whenever you write about anything you are promoting it. I don’t think there is a line. If people don’t think that the opinions they are reading might somehow be shaped by the interests of a record label, a corporation, or the possibility of fame and adulation for the writer, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d love to sell them. Everything runs through those filters.
Music promotion started with Alan Freed and Dick Clark taking payola. I can’t even say the words “objective journalism” without cracking up. I think I’m more likely to see the Loch Ness Monster in my lifetime.
People who write about heavy metal on the Internet are usually wonderful writers. In some cases, the grammar is lousy or the ideas are derivative, but so what? People who write about metal tend to do it for the reason that they love heavy metal. Passionately! When they experience an album they are elated. They feel the need to call out its virtues from the top of every mountain.
People who have this much love in them for something tend to use more exclamation points and “greatest ever” type expressions. If that is how they feel in the moment they are writing it, that’s how it should be expressed. If you love something, shout it to the world. If you hate something, use every word you can to destroy it. Why write if you are holding something back?
Unknown caller: You don’t make an effort to conceal your real name despite being a high school teacher. Do most of your students know that you write metal satire in your spare time?
Spillett: I write under my real name because I made a conscious decision when I started doing this that I couldn’t write from an authentic place if I could hide under a fake name. I have to take responsibility for what I write. I have no place to hide.
Some of the kids have read my stuff and think it’s hysterical. Others are like “What’s Venom?” Many of the others have much better things to do with their time then read the demented musings of their history teacher in their spare time.
The stuff I write is for a general audience. In many ways, my writing is an extension of my teaching. To teach, you have to become a good storyteller. You have to connect, give people the opportunity to laugh, think, or feel deeply about ideas. This is what I try to do in each facet of my life, whether as a teacher, a basketball coach, a writer or a parent.
Unknown caller: Why is the T-800 better than RoboCop?
Spillett: Because the people of California were actually insane enough to make the T-800 governor for eight years.
Unknown caller: Do you think Karl Marx would love the idea of sentient machines overthrowing their human masters?
Spillett: It depends on whether you view humans as sentient machines or not. Personally, I don’t believe in the existence of the soul and in many ways think of humans as machines. That is not meant to minimize what humans are. The human is an incredibly elegant machine; perhaps one of the most complex ever created.
I believe there will be a point where human machines are indistinguishable from “robot” machines. If the previous points I made are accurate, I believe that Marx would be completely in favor of the idea.
Unknown caller: So you think Marx’s version of Communism is not exclusively for the human race, but can be applied to any sentient species in general?
Spillett: Marx was a fool. An old dead guy who strongly influenced other old dead guys. I say this as a Marxist, of course.
If he were around today, he wouldn’t even know how to use a remote control. Imagine that idiot trying to navigate a PlayStation. My 7-year-old can use an iPad, Karl…care to take a crack at Minecraft sometime, Smart Guy?
When Marx was alive his biggest concern wasn’t Communism, it was keeping his family safe from velociraptors. I bet he’s never even seen Titanic.
Unknown caller: Hell yeah. I hope the lower-ranking Transformers adopt Marxism. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see infighting occur among the ranks of the Autobots and Decepticons due to the angry writings of some heavily bearded, human, 19th Century political philosopher?
Spillett: Rush could do a song about it!
I’d like to see a series of critical philosophical moments done with fake toy robots. Imagine The Death of Socrates, but they use Optimus Prime. Instead of hemlock they use diesel gasoline when he can only take unleaded.
Unknown caller: Why do you dislike the word “metaller”?
Spillett: I have very strong opinions on the rhythm of language. I fall in love with expressions and feel angry about others.
There are lines I repeat from movies over and over. For example, in almost every David Mamet script the expression “this is your road game” shows up. When you walk into a place that’s intimidating and you are out of place like a hostile gym, you walk in like you own the place. Road game. I love how that sounds.
Fella walks up to me and says “Nice job with that.” I’ll look back and say, “It’s my road game”. I used to say it to my basketball team and the players would look at me and say, “But coach, we are playing at home.”
When words lack rhythm or a style that resonates with me, I get irritated.
It drives me crazy when people say things like “I wear many hats” in order to express that they have a lot of responsibly. How can you wear many hats? Do you have multiple heads? Do you wear them on top of each other?
It has no rhythm. It feels canned and has a deadness to it. It just doesn’t feel right to me.
Unknown caller: So you like poetry!
Spillett: I’m a confirmed ee cummings junkie. One of my favorite hobbies is randomly calling out lines from poems at totally inappropriate times. I randomly quoted a line out of “jehovah buried, satan dead” to the cashier at my local Publix supermarket yesterday while she was giving me my change (“King Christ, this world is all aleak; and lifepreservers there are none”). She was unamused.
I was watching football with a friend of mine last year and they called holding on the center from the Broncos. I shouted out “The center cannot hold!!!” I thought this was the funniest thing that had ever happened. He just stared at me.
Unknown caller: If William Shakespeare were still alive, which power metal band’s lyricist do you think he would be? Why?
Spillett: Lost Horizon. He could do wonders for that singer The Supreme Scrutininzer or Opus Androgynous or whatever. Besides, Sworn in The Metal Wind reminds me a lot of Macbeth.
I don’t know if Manowar counts as power metal these days, but Shakespeare never wrote anything on par with “If you’re not into metal, you are not my friend”. Maybe they could help him come up with better material.
Unknown caller: Do you prefer humor or metal?
Spillett: Anyone who has ever owned a Manowar album knows that there is very little difference.
Unknown caller: Binaries are awesome. Especially when they are used in questions to subtly persuade readers to think in certain ways. Wouldn’t you agree?
Spillett: Ha! Derrida, Marx, Robocop… now this question. You must be trying to give me a nervous breakdown here. This isn’t a question… it’s a koan!
Unknown caller: But, y’know, logicians have a way to deal with paradoxes. Hence, according to logicians, there are solutions to koans. Bertrand Russell, for instance, conceived “Metabenglish” (Meta-basic English) to deal with paradoxes. Paradoxes usually occur due to self-reference, so Russell thought that this was the problem, and decided that whenever self-reference occurs, we are no longer speaking basic English, but meta-basic English.
So when we say, “This sentence is false,” it is only a paradox if we are still speaking basic English. To resolve the paradox, we just have to go one level higher into the realm of metabenglish. “’This sentence is’ false” is really a sentence in metabenglish. If we form another paradoxical sentence in metabenglish, we just have to go into meta-metabenglish to deal with it. Take that, Zen Buddhism!
Spillett: You just ruined everything for me. I don’t want the map, I want the territory by God.
I knew paradox once. I used to play golf with them. *rimshot* Thanks. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
Unknown caller: If you could travel back in time to the late ‘70s to hang out with the young Black Sabbath, what would you do with them?
Spillett: Bring them ahead in time and make them play my daughter’s 6-year-old birthday party in February. She loves them! I play Sabbath on car trips for the kids and change the lyrics to be about stuff that they are interested in. I have this version of “Symptom of The Universe” that is about birthdays and cake. They go nuts for that one. “Into The Void” is now “Clean Up Your Toys”.
Unknown caller: I see. But wouldn’t you want to do something wicked like giving a copy of Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory and Korn’s The Path of Totality to the young Sabbath, convince them it’s the future of music and change the course of metal history?
Spillett: I might do that. Heavy Metal Must Be Destroyed. It’s the only way. If we could go back in time and strangle it in the crib, it would be fantastic. We could have Black Sabbath do all of their music and then go back from 2014 to the late 70s and talk them into writing pirate metal. We could have both metal and the destruction of heavy metal simultaneously.
For me, the solution to pretty much all problems that plague the human race is the complete annihilation of heavy metal. It’s over folks. Heavy metal is the old guy at the back table at Denny’s who mutters to himself while reading the obituaries.
It’s just a matter of time before they are playing reverse mortgage commercials featuring Kerry King at two o’clock in the afternoon. Imagine it, one day you open your mailbox and there is a copy of the AARP magazine that was supposed to go to your neighbor and David Vincent is on the cover wearing pleather pants, watering the begonias in front of his house. This is what we have to look forward to.
We need to take responsibility for its destruction instead of letting the thing collapse under its own weight. The language and iconography must be warped to the point of complete incomprehensibility. Metal today has become about vultures picking the last remaining flesh off of its rotting corpse. Who gets the money Hot Topic is making off Misfits statues? Will people pay 100 dollars to watch Iron Maiden do some songs they wrote 30 years ago?
There is nothing left to do except destroy it completely. Revolution for the hell of it, as Abbie Hoffman liked to say. After that, we must destroy its destruction. We must revolt constantly against stagnation. On and on South of Heaven.
If we do not, we risk becoming 50 year olds screaming “Play Raining Blood!” to a bunch of 70 year olds. We will end up like those pasty, bloated, middle manager type guys who get excited to load up the cooler once a year and go see the Beach Boys. Can you think of anything more obscene?
Unknown caller: Can you explain what is anti-humor?
Spillett: Nothing is less funny than predictability. There are many jokes in our culture that get passed around and recycled over and over again. “MOAR COWBELL!!!” They are usually funny the first time you hear them, but when you know they are coming they are agonizing.
I like to be surprised. Anti-humor recognizes which way you are leaning, but takes you in another direction. Its contains a recognition of the established, culturally accepted punch line, then turns the thing on it’s head. Anti-humor shares many of the same characteristics of a good Twilight Zone ending.
Unknown caller: Is satire anti-humor?
Spillett: Who knows? I tend to enjoy the things that don’t mean to be satirical but are. The hardest I’ve laughed in the last few months was listening to the Georgia Republican Senatorial Debate. The Democrats are hysterical too, but this debate was too much for me. You should have heard some of the ridiculous things these people were saying. Dog whistle politics meet Theater of the Absurd. I wish I could be half as funny as these folks were by accident.
Our world has become somewhat of a parody of itself. Our institutions are ridiculous, our cultural standards are insane, and our ability to delude ourselves into outrageous logical fallacies is remarkable. I’m not sure what satire is anymore. It’s meant to be a lie that exposes the truth, but who knows what is true.
Unknown caller: Are you anti-human?
Spillett: No. As frustrating as I can find people’s actions and decisions, I have a deep love and empathy for what people experience. People deal with terrible loss, they watch their bodies decay, others treat them poorly, they experience all sorts of physical and mental pain, and they suffer the uncertainty of never knowing when they will die and not truly knowing what happens afterwards. How could you look at a person who lives under these circumstances and feel anything but admiration for their willingness to get out of bed everyday?
If I am anti-anything it is the terms of human existence. I am against the suffering inflicted on the human race by how our world is set up and by the horrible things people do to each other in an attempt to make sense out of the whole thing.
Kurt Vonnegut once said something that, to me, best expresses the point of human existence, as I understand it. “We’re all here to help each other get through this thing, whatever the hell it is.”
Unknown caller: Do you snort anti-matter?
Spillett: I’ve been clean of the stuff for 11 years now. I spent almost a month in Betty Ford’s Neutrino Clinic back in ‘03 and have been on the right path ever since. Hopefully, Kreator will grant me the ability to change the things I can’t and accept the things I can.
Unknown caller: There is a new theory that the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy could be a wormhole instead. Do you think we can finally divide ourselves by zero if we go to wherever the wormhole leads to?
Spillett: You remember that film with OJ Simpson where they faked the moon landing in Arizona? I know this guy Joey who was a security guard in Astoria, Queens in the studio where they brought in Stanley Kubrick to fake the moon landing.
Outer space is lies. All that stuff in the sky is an illusion. There are some people who sit in a basement office in the Pentagon and make up things like wormholes and galaxies to distract us from texting and watching American Idol.
Stars are nothing more but small holes in the veil that covers our planet. There is nothing out there.
Nothing can be divided into zero except for the human pancreas. Our pancreas gives us the power to travel to other dimensions. However, we have not discovered that yet and rely on it simply to sustain our bodies in their current form.
Part of our evolution into The Children of the Freak Future is understanding the power of the human pancreas. Once we understand its power, Heavy Metal Will Be Destroyed.