Here are my own stories: about how I grew up, how I got into the music I like
and the reason why I stand on this start point.
I have been enjoying so much in boy’s toys and games since I have memories. My first drawing on the wall of my grandma’s bedroom (which annoyed her so much because it is unremovable) is about me and my boxing match. I could not tell how many Ultramans (the superheroes in Japanese sci-fi television series Ultraman) I drew on my kindergarten textbooks and how many times I wore on Ultramans mask after class, pretending to be the powerful superhero, then destructed my imaginary enemies played by other kids.
I was completely a tomboy when I was little. My hair was as short as it could. Although I had my little dresses, it became hilarious when I put them on – if you cannot get the point, just imagine the twisted little face of a boy who was forced to wear blush and lip colour on. My hometown is located in the humid southwestern part of China. The weather becomes sticky in the summer, so I always ran around in my home without my little shirts on, even if my upcoming primary school’s staff visited.
However, my parents hoped I could become a little lady, a well-behaved girl who had a good taste in literature and classical music, and probably, a trophy kid. So, I had to attend my weekly piano class, in the next 10 years. I had never enjoyed my deserved summer holidays because I had to work hard to prepare for the amateur pianist examination held in mid-August. From level 1 to level 10, I could not tell how many opportunities I had lost to play with my friends, to make new friends or even try something new. I became extremely rebellious when I passed my level 10 then left my piano away as far as I could. That year, I was 14.
It was the time that I was much into rock'n'roll and heavy metal music. Courtney Love and Joan Jett were (and now still are) my crushes, my role models, my muses, the one who I extremely wanted to become. One day I thought, what if I utilize the music skills that I learnt from piano to play in a rock band? Since there are so many people who are into playing guitar and drums, why not try something different? So this time I choose bass. Being a rocker must be the coolest thing I have ever done, I thought.
I was starting to find anyone who wanted to play with me. Unfortunately, since most of my schoolmates were nerds, it was really hard to find a bandmate. It was even equally hard to find a ‘playable’ electric instrument because it was too expensive for a mid-school student to purchase. More annoyingly, most of the parents thought the kid who played rock music must be a bad boy/girl, so did my parents. I will never forget how upset after I have been told rock music and bass guitar were only for the boys, the bad boys. Me, as a girl, no way for me to try. Never. I should play the piano well. I should become a young ‘lady’, even though I was not happy with it.
(Say something else here: My parents even thought art and design were for males. They rejected my request for being an art school student and majoring in graphic design afterwards. But my drawings and art skills I developed really smack themselves in the faces. The thing became much better these years since I became more skillful in the field and they finally accepted the thing I am truly passionate about.)
As soon as I went to college, I started to practice the bass guitar. I have spent so much time on it, enjoying the sunshine of freedom far away from my parents’ shadow. Of course, my skills were developed so fast.
Playing in a band is not always an easy thing, even though you are skillful enough. I was playing in a tribute band at the moment. Although we got both boys and girls in a band, unfortunately, our bandleader was a mean guy. He never felt bored of joking about my flabby figure, my tacky dressing taste, my non-feminine voice, my bad skin condition which suffered from acne and had never been covered by make-ups. Not only because I am the youngest shy girl in the band, but also because I had never got a boyfriend. Boyfriend! My goodness! I couldn't even think there was such a ridiculous point to laugh at others. I assumed that he always thought a girl should be girl-like unless the total tomboy (such as my other bandmate who is a butch lesbian), no ‘in-between’. Had my any other bandmates said something for me? No. They chose to be silent because no one had experienced such things – being laughed at by the non-capability traits in a band, being annoyed by the unfriendly male-gaze.
I had been annoyed by this for a long time. The band split up after the leader’s graduation. Thank god. I finally got my time, my space to practice my skills without the buzz around.
I have been much into old school death metal and black metal from then on. I find myself in the fierce sound, the powerful drumbeats and the sophisticated composition of the music. I got another two role models here: Jo Bench, bassist of Bolt Thrower, and Fernanda Lira, vocalist and bassist of Nervosa. “I am a bassist first, then being female is a secondary when it comes to the band”, thought Jo Bench, so do I. “The things coming to my mind that I don’t like, I don’t agree with, things that I don’t think that are fair and I put them into the music”, thought Fernanda Lira, so do I.These words precisely describe the reason why when I started my metal band, I never reveal my feminine face and body on our band photo. I never dress like a sexy bomb or a fake boy on the stage (although I usually dress like them both in my personal life).
I used to cover my face, my gender identity when I am playing on stage. All I want to do is to make my audience focus on our music, our musical skills, the things we want to express, rather than paying attention to such things like ‘behold, here comes a chick’. Although the way I dress should match the music we composed, there is another layer of my appearance: I don’t want to fit in the masculinity of the metal music, either stand out like a sexy bomb. I am only a musician, an artist, beyond gender.
By the way, our first release has got much positive feedback from the community so far and our CDs have almost sold out, which is the most thrilling thing I have experienced since I started playing in a band. Maybe it is the right time to kick my former bandleader’s ass hard, huh.
To be honest, I have chickened out before the project started, because it seems a bit outdated and even a bit awkward to talk about sexism in the metal scene, in the year of 2020. It is not the age when women were significantly lacking basic rights. The world is full of possibilities, so is the metal music scene, as long as you take your art seriously and work hard enough. What is the point of starting this project? To worry too much about gender? Grouping with other girls to yell at the boys about the neglect? Or to utilize gender in order to acquire privilege then make ‘feminism’ as an excuse for it? I even can imagine this project will be unwelcome in the ‘die-hard’ community. So, why? I would never identify myself as a radical feminist who always tries her best to kick boys’ asses, and I don’t expect another Riot Grrrl movement in the metal scene. Since the system is patriarchal, where is the place for girls to talk their arts or share whatever they want without the pressure from the men-dominated community (Female musicians are minority in metal music productions, which is the fact cannot be denied)? Only whispering on your social media page? What I do here, is to try something else, to make another kind of zine about girls and the arts. This is not either the zine to objectify the girls nor to promote hostility among communities, but somewhere else to share, to support creative activities, to encourage each other and to aid the freedom of self-expression.
I am so grateful for the support from all of my interviewees. It means a lot to me, and to this zine, too.
Back into my heart, I sincerely wish every girl (and every boy, every whatever, too) can live in the way however she (and he, they) want, without the pressure comes from the nonsense stereotypes.