When it comes to band gimmicks, stage antics play a huge part in whether or not certain bands make it. There are many acts out there that might meet this criteria. A pretty obvious one is Rammstein. When you take away their stage show, you’re left with simple, repetitive lyrics, three note chord progressions, basic drumming and Western techno club style keys. So, what makes these guys so beloved the world over?
For starters, the presence of a dominatrix on stage certainly helps get the testosterone driven moshers going. Dildos tend to make their way on and off stage as well. In the past, it’s been fairly common to see the members of Rammstein in full bondage gear- complete with dog collars and chains- throughout entire sets. Since many of the songs on Herzeleid and Sehnsucht deal with brutal sexual encounters of all imaginable kinds, these antics definitely fit the music, but are they really necessary? Obviously, it depends on how you choose to look at it.
Early in their career, Rammstein got lots of recognition in Germany because of their lyrical content and stage show. Then again, most Europeans are a lot more lenient when it comes to ‘explicit’ content in music (or anything, really- for those of you unaware, Europe is considerably more open sexually). Western fans got into them because of their hit single ‘Du Hast’, followed by web research on their live show. Afterwards, their first few US tours got them banned from several venues and states for things most European crowds and club owners wouldn’t bat an eye at. All this being said, geography aside, I think their stage show was necessary from a business standpoint. Rammstein uses basic song structures and repetition to get their musical point across, while their stage show fills in the blanks (sounds like modern American pop music, doesn’t it?)
Nothing More are another big culprit in the stage antics game. They’re an alternative metal act hailing from San Antonio, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. Their sound is pretty straight forward to say the least, but when you add some bongos and a spinning bass guitar to the mix, they instantly stand out in a sea of recycled riffs and catchy clean choruses- the likes of which their genre is becoming known for. During a typical Nothing More set, it’s common to see most of the band members go off on a slap bass tangent in the middle of a song. This tangent involves multiple members surrounding a single bass guitar and slapping it to the tune of whichever song they’re jamming at the time. The bass is propped up on a rotating stand and spun in between slap sessions, then once the cleverly timed interlude reaches its conclusion, the band returns to their respective instruments and they conclude the actual song.
Vocalist, Jonny Hawkins, also jams along with the drummer with other various percussion instruments throughout entire sets. It’s a kind of drum-off that reminds me of Clown from Slipknot or even Sully Erna from Godsmack in the song “Voodoo”.
But are they a solid band, you ask? Nothing More has a lot of great musical moments on stage that really showcase each member’s individual talent. However, it’s possible that if their stage antics weren’t part of their live sets, they wouldn’t be nearly as memorable after playing them.
Mudvayne, on the other hand, are a completely different story. In the beginning of their career, they received lots of recognition from label reps due to the visual aspects of their stage show. They appeared on the scene around the same time as Slipknot and Mushroomhead, with face paint, obscure stage names and matching uniforms. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect with all the faceless band appeal going on.
Their debut album, L.D. 50 dropped in the year 2000 and ended up being the catalyst for the global success they would later achieve with the album, The End of All Things to Come. A few more successful albums followed after that and the guys eventually dropped their face paint and stage names.
But in 2010, around the time lead vocalist, Chad Gray, and guitarist, Greg Tribbett helped form Hellyeah, Mudvayne announced a hiatus- a hiatus they’ve been on ever since. However, even though the four members of Mudvayne have gone their separate ways, you can’t help but wonder about the influence their former stage antics had on the people who made their musical dreams a reality. Did Chad Gray, Greg Tribbett, Ryan Martinie (bass) and Matthew McDonough (drums) get themselves signed with their original brand of heavy music? Or, were Kud (Chad), Gurrg (Greg), Spag (Matthew) and Ryknow (Ryan) responsible for Mudvayne’s success?
Another lesser known band, notorious for outrageous antics on stage, is Philadelphia’s Eat the Turnbuckle. They may just be the east coast’s most violent and controversial wrestling-themed underground death metal band. Having recently toured Europe on their “Journey to Parts Unknown” tour, a Scottish politician didn’t hesitate to cancel their show in Glasgow the moment he did some light research on the band. Eat the Turnbuckle are all about attacking each other with tables, ladders and chairs. It’s the kind of Philadelphia “brotherly love” that will instantly remind wrestling fans of a good old fashioned ECW pay-per-view event.
The guys are also known for mercilessly scarring one another with cheese graters and lengths of barbed wire. In fact, if you “like” them on Facebook, you’re bound to see at least one photo posted a day, highlighting a different instance of on-stage mutilation accompanied by the hashtag, “nolivesmatter”.
Musically, they sound like a handful of death thrash metal bands, like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide or even Dethklok. A great example of their sound is the song, “It’s Good to Be the Champ”, which they have a pretty entertaining video for on YouTube. It’s only about 2 minutes long and if you’re at all interested in checking these guys out, that’d be the way to do it. Since 2011, they’ve been attracting hordes of death metal fans, rock fans, wrestling fans, or fans who are a combination of all three. In April of 2013, they released Step in the Fucking Ring, which went viral in record time and scored them even more recognition, paving the way for their recent European tour.
All wrestling-themed antics aside, they’re just your average dime-a-dozen death metal act, comprised of five half naked, heavily tattooed, sweaty guys. But add some weapons, blood, guts and gore, and you’ve got yourself an intensely sought after spectacle.
There are many other bands out there with stage antics that appear to eclipse their music, but we have a lot more ground to cover in this series. In our next segment, we’re going to take a look at some female-fronted bands that only seem to be getting recognition because of- well, you’ll just have to wait. We have many ideas floating around for this article, but if any of you have your own ideas or suggestions about our gimmicks series, we’d love to read them. Questions and comments on here or on Facebook are greatly encouraged. We hope you enjoyed this latest article!