In 1996, I had a musical awakening. I was 13 years old, & I didn’t know it yet, but the music I was starting to feed into my ears would change my life forever.
The internet already had me in its clutches: as soon as we had a modem, I could hardly step away. I loved chatting, & did it all day & night. One day, I met a boy from Arizona. He was 17 years old & a lot cooler than me. It started the way all great internet friendships start: I lied about my age, saying I was 16, & we started talking obsessively. I remember him telling me crazy stories about getting carjacked in Phoenix, but mostly, we chatted about music.
He’d ask me, “Have you heard of this band?”, & when I said no, took it upon himself to give me a musical education. He’d email me a song at a time, which took approximately an entire day to download on my 33.6 modem. We started with Korn & soon progressed to the likes of Marilyn Manson, Metallica & Pantera.
I’ll be forever thankful to that boy — who, by the way, is now a preacher with several children! — for introducing me to something different than what was playing on the radio.
In 1996, the Spice Girls were at the peak of their popularity, & I couldn’t understand the appeal of the “zig-a-zig-ah”. My veins coursed with loathing & teenage angst, & I wanted — no, needed — music that spoke to those feelings.
I spent hours browsing in record stores, & then I’d come home & assail my ears. My father was always banging on his floor with a slipper when I played music after they’d gone to bed! Even so, they encouraged me, buying me Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Cure & Siouxsie albums for my birthday. (Best parents ever!) I was looking around for music that I could identify with… & I found it.
The Cure introduced me to lush soundscapes & depths I felt like I could swim through. Marilyn Manson led me into a world of psychedelic lunacy, mania & unapologetic self-expression. I think I listened to Antichrist Superstar so much that it is part of my DNA. I identified with him so closely & still respect him so much as a musician & person. Courtney Love showed me that it was okay to be pissed off. She wasn’t trying to be beautiful & perfect, & through her I learned that there were other things women could aspire to.
As much as I can appreciate a good pop song — & I do love happy, feel-good, upbeat music — I owe such a massive debt of gratitude to my teenage idols, because I feel like that music saved me.
Even though I was a weirdo at school, discovering people who felt the same way I did — even if they were rockstars on the other side of the world — made me feel less alone. It gave me hope. It allowed me to see beyond the boundary of New Zealand, a tiny little country at the bottom of the world. It made me think that maybe it was possible to have an interesting, fulfilling life; to do something different.
It reminded me of what I already knew: that rampant, loud, & extreme self-expression was important; that I should never stop talking about what was true for me; & that I should never pretend to be someone else just because my existence made people feel uncomfortable.
Oh, & it taught me to appreciate the magnificence of a man wearing a dress!
All that being said, I hope you enjoy my weirdo nostalgia mix! I loved making it so I hope you listening to it!
Wearing extra-thick eyeliner today in tribute,
P.S. Thanks to Mercury retrograde for allowing me to glide down this nostalgic river! (I finally started reading The Long Hard Road Out of Hell a couple of days ago, & finished it last night… I never wanted it to end! But clearly, it is bringing everything back… Mazza forever!)