Chester And Me

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I don’t take much pleasure in writing these sorts of things, but I feel that putting thoughts and feelings into words, can alleviate some of the gravity that Chester Bennington’s death has had on me personally. Honestly, I spent a good hour after glimpsing the headline, willing it, imploring for it not to be true, and someone had started some sick joke, like the occasional internet prankster will instigate fake death rumours of minor celebrities. I refused to believe it, outright defiantly unless it came from Linkin Park themselves. And an hour later my heart sank, as Mike Shinoda, a man whose craft I have respected for over 15 years, confirmed it was the truth.

I was very quiet that evening. Trying to process the disbelief and shock I’ve found myself in. 24 hours later and it still doesn’t seem real. I still don’t really know what to say. But I want to try and give you an idea. Even if it seems nothing but an incoherent stream of thought.

I became aware of Linkin Park’s existence around 2001, maybe 2002, when Kerrang was first available on my parents’ TV and my mum would play the In The End video whenever it came on. She loved that song so much, she bought it on single, in a time when singles from a plethora of musical talents came on CDs and were easily obtainable in the same capacity. I too grew to love the song, so much so that years later, I would perform Mike Shinoda’s rap parts in front of my high school class, with two other friends. I looked ridiculous in a short sleeve shirt with dragons on and spiked up hair, but whatever, I was only 12 years old. The deal was that for the performance, I would do the rapping parts, and my friends would sing Chester’s parts, and I complied with their request. Almost. The problem is the simplest words can be the most powerful, and the most catchy, and without trying to steal their spotlight too much, I couldn’t help myself. To this day, the vocals on that bridge are something I still aspire to mimic perfectly. Voice breaking aside, 16 years on I’d like to think I’m getting somewhere close. But I could say that for a lot of Linkin Park’s vocals. There are just some songs in their discography, that specific moments have a certain emotional frequency or delivery that I wish I could imitate. In The End. Somewhere I Belong. Paper Cut. Waiting For The End. From The Inside. Breaking The Habit. I can’t scream to save my life, but the contests I would have to try and hold that scream near the end on Given Up. Truly crazy.

The main contact, or true constant that Linkin Park really had on my life however, was in 2003, the year Meteora was released, and the year my parents’ marriage ended. That album was on repeat in my mum’s car to and from school, so in a sense, you could say that Meteora was the soundtrack to my parents’ divorce. I never truly saw it that way until recently when I listened to that album in full again a few months ago. It was never the most pleasant time in my life, I won’t lie, but I didn’t associate that album with bad memories, and I don’t now, having listened to it irrespective of that time period. I still think that album is incredible, quite honestly. Yet… With Chester’s passing, it does feel like it will eventually become another form of closure on that part of my life. I have grown so much and far beyond that 10 year-old boy I remember, that any lasting impact seems so superficial now, but the imprint of Meteora and the raw emotion in those vocals, it still has a connection to that time, and it does sting right now.

I have never claimed to be their biggest fan. Hell, I can’t stand Crawling and Numb by them. Conversely, I loved it when Jay-Z fused Encore with Numb, for some reason I enjoy it a lot more because of it. Numb has some truly powerful words in it, but there is a self-destructive anguish in it that is incredibly overbearing to me, and I find it hard to enjoy it for that reason. Yet whenever they were releasing a new album, especially after following Minutes To Midnight, I’d give the new single a chance. Results varied. I liked some of them. I didn’t like some of them. What I think matters more is I’ve always admired their guts to experiment with their sound despite the public reaction.

But even as I reach close to a quarter decade in age, Chester’s words, emotions and influence are still finding a way of speaking to me.

The bridge of Somewhere I Belong currently feels like words to live by right now, as I try to make a better life for myself. Leave Out All The Rest has always been a song I have considered for my funeral, and nowadays does make me cry. Lord knows I might be in hysterics when I hear it next. The beginning of Faint I truly consider to be one of the greatest song openings ever in terms of immediate impact and hook. Points of Authority will always be a staple of DJ sets for me. And as far as trying to match his vocals goes, nothing will stop me from trying. Maybe one day I’ll be able to nail them, but it just goes to show how deep his presence has been through out my life, and perhaps why this latest loss in not only the rockstar realm, but in the battle against depression and mental health issues, cuts far deeper than I realised.

Another extraordinary talent, that seemingly succumbed to his demons.

Rest in peace, Chester.

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Bowie And Me

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Credit: Vanilla Underground/Amplified

To clarify from the outset, I never had the opportunity to meet David Bowie and I don’t think I could the handle the opportunity if I did. I probably would’ve melted in the presence of his aura. As long as somebody poured me into a glass so I could live the rest of my life in there, that would’ve been grand in that scenario. Or a fish bowl, so at least I’d have a little food. Anyway, this isn’t going to be an obituary or tribute of sorts, as plenty of people would’ve been doing that already and probably better than I would. And by all accounts, I’m not the biggest Bowie fan on the planet. But what I am is a fan of music, and a person who appreciates David Bowie’s music, the importance it had and his legacy.

Fun fact for you folks: 1 January 2015. I’m on the bill DJing a New Year’s Eve event in Quake Nightclub in Woking. The evening winds down rapidly at around 20 to two in the morning, and I’m the only DJ and person left in the entire nightclub. So to fill those twenty minutes before the place closes, what did I do? Played the greatest hits of the 80’s. I didn’t give a shit and nobody else did, because nobody was there. So I spin a couple of tracks, Blondie, The Clash I seem to remember, then I have one last song to play before I try and find someone to sort the mess out, and instinct only told me to play David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes. It seemed more poignant that night, as Quake was only open for one more evening, and I had the pleasure of playing the last ever song in there. Well, I did, right until Quake posthumously reopened later that year and I lost that privilege. I’m still rather upset about that.

 

 

For me, Ashes To Ashes is quite possibly one of my favourite songs ever, period. To me, it epitomises what the perfect pop song sounds like, and balances being unforgettable and rapturous, just as well as being melancholic and haunting. I own David Bowie’s Low, which according to NME is a perfect album from beginning to end, and while I don’t agree with the vast majority of things I see or read from NME, they’re spot on with this. People point to Sound And Vision from that album, when in reality, there’s such a strong collection of songs to be found, it’s a pity that it gets overlooked so often, despite being part of the Berlin trilogy. Another fun fact: Joy Division were originally called Warsaw, after Warszawa from this album.

 

 

He has an incredible back catalogue of songs, my parents can certainly attest to that. Although they are no longer together, they are huge Bowie fans, and I know they haven’t taken his departure from this world to the next particularly well. In a sense, I have grown up with Bowie, kinda like a family pet that’s always been there. But now he’s gone, it feels like somebody has hoisted my soul from my body, trampled all over it and returned it to me afterwards. His loss, as a fan of music and a fan of his own work, to me, can only be described as spiritually devastating. This is going to sound very overdramatic, but had David Bowie not made music at all, my parents may have never had that mutual connection through his music. Of course there are many other factors involved here, but had a mutual love of Bowie not been part of that, there could have been a distant chance I may never could’ve been conceived, could never have been born and could never been alive.

Quite frankly, if David Bowie didn’t make music, then there may have been a remote chance I wouldn’t exist.

Like I said, overdramatic, but in a weird way, that’s sort of the thanks I can give to David Bowie. Thanks for helping me to exist. I’m sure there’s a generation of young people such as myself who could say the same thing if they wanted to, but that would largely depend on whether they work on an abstract and undeniably bizarre level of thinking. Or the thought doesn’t freak them out or anything. You know what I mean. The kinda thinking that makes you want to go get an Aladdin Sane thunderbolt tattooed somewhere because his death actually has more importance than you realised. Not on my face obviously, somewhere sensible.

Bowie always thought to challenge others with his art and his music, and that’s one of the reasons why he is revered as such.

Farewell David Bowie. Artist. Chameleon. Pioneer. Genius. Icon.

I’ll leave you with a song I’m not seeing often enough in the Bowie media flurry. This isn’t a reflection of how I feel, but perhaps how others may feel and perhaps how the planet should feel without him.

 

 

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