Want to be a rich rock star?

Five steps to making a killing in 'nu-metal.' Hurry, before everyone else beats you to it.

October 28, 2001|By Malcolm Mayhew | Malcolm Mayhew,New York Times News Service

If you've ever wanted to start a rock band -- and even if you haven't -- now is the time to do it.

Specifically, a "nu-metal" rock band. "Nu-metal" is the hip way of saying "new metal" or rather "All those new bands that kinda look and sound alike."

These bands, such as Staind, Slipknot and Drowning Pool, are suddenly everywhere, climbing up the charts, touring the world, getting played on MTV.

If you want to make a quick buck, forget that second job; form a band that sounds just like them. It's what everyone else is doing.

To help you along, here's a how-to guide on piecing together your metal band. You can thank us later with a nice big check.

Don't worry -- follow these directions and you'll get one.

STEP 1: Find a name

There are a few simple rules one must follow in picking a name.

Rule No. 1: It must be dark. Think sinister. Think gross. Think of something Beavis and Butt-Head would like.

"Band name is the important thing," says John Tunnell, owner of the Dreamworld Music Complex in Arlington, Texas. "With a band name, you at least get a pretty good idea of what they're about. If someone says to me, 'The name of our band is Ripping Your Heart Out,' we pretty much know it's going to be metal."

Some already-being-used examples to follow: Disturbed, Nothingface, Full Devil Jacket, Saliva and Place of Skulls.

Names yet to be taken: Gouge, Sludgehammer and Splinterhead.

Rule No. 2: If you don't want to do sinister, at least take a common word or phrase and misspell it, like Korn, Staind, Shuvel and Linkin Park have done. Lightning Rodz, for example, is still up for grabs.

Rule No. 3: For best results, try combining menace with a misspelling. That's the route taken by Skraped and Mudvayne.

"And the harder it is to pronounce and spell, the better," says Desiree Henry, a booking agent for Dallas' Galaxy Club. "Try to make it as hard as possible to make print ads come out correctly."

STEP 2: The visuals

Two words: tattoos, piercings.

"If you're gonna be in a metal band, you're gonna need as many piercings as you can stomach and tattoos you can fit on your body," says Tunnell.

Tim Ricketts, a tattoo and piercing artist in Fort Worth, Texas, recommends starting with ear piercings. Lots.

"Most of them get the entire ear done, from the cartilage all the way down to the ear lobe," he says. "Get your nose pierced, too, especially the area in between the two nostrils. And the labret, the area of skin between the chin and the lip, that's popular, too."

And tattoos?

"Go all out," Ricketts says. "Anywhere there's skin, get a tattoo. Roses, skulls, dragons -- just go wild."

Those not wanting to permanently pierce or color their bodies can indulge in the latest metal fad: wearing creepy masks for the same shock effect, as with Slipknot and Mushroomhead.

Hair is also a very significant metal-band visual. The singer of Static-X, for instance, has a towering, Eraserhead-like mound, making him instantly recognizable.

STEP 3: Stage names

A trend started by Marilyn Manson, using odd pseudo-names has become an in-thing. Manson's bassist is Twiggy. Korn's bass player answers to "Fieldy," its guitarist to "Munky." And the members of Mudvayne are known only as Kud, Ryknow, Gurrg and sPaG. The weirder, the better.

STEP 4: Stage devices

A metal band's stage show is key to success. Lose the interest of concert fans who are expecting major visuals, lose money.

Slipknot's stage features spinning drum kits that resemble creaky, freaky carnival rides and a blinding strobe attack.

And why do you think people continue to go see Alice Cooper and Manson? Surely not because they're putting out quality music. It's because you never know what they're going to do next.

"You need lots of smoke, lots of lights, and if they can work some blood in there or force themselves to throw up, that would definitely help in their ventures," Tunnell says. And despite the popularity of props and stage antics, actual musical gear is still an important stage device, too.

The guitar, says P.J. Harrington, a salesman at Guitar Center in Arlington, Texas, is the most visible and viable instrument a metal band can wield. Axes of choice these days, he says, are the Paul Reed Smith models, named after a Maryland-based musician whose company, PRS Guitars, operates out of Stevensville.

"They're great guitars, very nice and handmade," says Harrington, who plays in a goth-metal band, Ocanthus. "The guy from Limp Bizkit plays one. The guy from Creed has his own model."

STEP 5: The songs

Lastly, because it's perhaps the most unimportant element, especially if you have all the others, there's the music.

"You gotta have volume," says Jeff Stratton, music editor for Florida alternative weekly New Times Broward-Palm Beach. "That's the No. 1 thing. And be angry -- very, very angry."

The No. 2 thing: a breakthrough song. You'll be forever doomed to underground clubs unless you come up with a catchy song that mainstream rock radio can play.

Even the least likely of candidates for mainstream radio, the super-heavy Slipknot, has a captivating tune on its hands, "Left Behind."

"It doesn't matter what the rest of the record sounds like, but if they're smart, they'll have at least one song that can get played on the radio," says Linda Hollar, editor and publisher of Harder Beat, a hard-rock magazine.

"And personally, I would like to see more of a trend toward focusing on melody," Hollar says.

Not that that's a requirement.

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