Back in September Sabbath Assembly released their latest occult doom/rock album, Sabbath Assembly, to much praise. It was around this time that Craig and I had the opportunity to ask vocalist Jamie Myers some questions about her role as a “heavy metal parent.” She was gracious enough to respond to our queries about balancing her musical career and parenting, darkness versus light, being a role model for her young son Errol, and more. Full Metal Parenting presents: The Jamie Myers interview.
Hellbound: Everyone loves an origin story. How did the evolution into the metalhead that you are begin?
Jamie Myers: I would have to credit my older brother. I have a vivid memory of riding along with him in his truck down an old dirt road and he was blasting Kill ’Em All. I was around eight at the time and recall hearing the blazing guitar solos and angry vocals. I stared at bloody cover art and distinctly remember having the feeling that I shouldn’t be listening to it, like it was “wrong” or something. Naturally, I was hooked! He was always listening to Priest, Maiden, Dio, Slayer and other great metal bands, so I would always sneak into his room and “borrow” his cassette tapes. Once I was older I got to tag along with him to shows.
HB: Was there any part of your move into metaldom that took its roots from a rebellious standpoint? Personally, some of my family had their misgivings about my love of metal especially once they knew we were having children. “Time to grow up,” they said. Were your family/friends supportive of your musical preferences once Errol entered the picture?
JM: My folks have always been into music. They were always playing records in the house, and as a kid, I spent a lot of time digging through the stack and looking at all the artwork on the covers. I don’t think it came as much of a surprise when we started to collect our own music. My dad even bought me my very own turntable for Christmas when I was in the seventh grade (ha, probably so I would leave his alone). Thankfully I didn’t need to rebel against them in order to get my metal fix. They were and still are extremely supportive of my involvement in music.
HB: Was any part of your relocating back to Texas motivated by a desire to raise Errol in a region/community that wasn’t California? To that end, do you find that Texas is any more or less accepting of the idea of “heavy metal parents”?
JM: I spent my formative years in Texas and had a love/hate relationship with the state. I had wanderlust in my soul and always felt the need to explore, so it was only natural that I moved away when I was old enough. When Errol came along, I felt a need to connect on a deeper level with my family. It was important to me that he have the opportunity to form a relationship with his grandparents. Both sets of grandparents were living in Texas, so it made sense to return. I would have loved to have remained in California, but we had no family there, and as the old child-rearing statement goes, “it takes a village.” Moving back was a logical step.
HB: Some parents are clearly very over-protective and concerned about every possible nefarious influence their kids can be exposed to. (And if they can’t find anything to worry about, they’ll just as likely orchestrate a problem.) You’re someone who some might see as delving into the world of the wicked and mysterious on an everyday basis. So where do you draw the line around things that are okay for Errol to see and hear? Do you have any major concerns about what he’s exposed to as he’s growing up?
JM: I think being honest about life situations and certain subjects is paramount. Children are a lot more perceptive than we give them credit for. They have a way of cutting through the bullshit and can often sense when you’re not being straight with them. I don’t hide my art or music from him. I want him to know that it is perfectly natural for me and for him to express himself creatively. My best way to protect my child in any given situation is to arm him with knowledge about the subject and let him gradually draw his own conclusions.
That being said, I try to decide what is age appropriate for him in all aspects of life. I’m not going to grab my copy of Carcass’ Reek of Putrefaction off the shelf and shove it in his face or anything. At least not until he’s a teenager, haha.
HB: Creating dark art requires travelling to dark and grim places, but children are so often filled with endless joy and light. Do you see those two elements as being essential and beneficial in your own life?
JM: Absolutely! You can’t be grim one hundred percent of the time. You have to enjoy the beauty in life too. In many ways Errol helps me find and appreciate that balance.
HB: When my son was born, I remember being filled with hope that he would get to grow up in a world that was in far better shape than the one I grew up in. Nowadays, that really doesn’t seem to be reality. I think a lot about how I can raise my son in a world where the cost of hyper-capitalism is so often ignored and environmental and social degradation are rampant. Am I being too bleak? How are you preparing Errol for his future in this world? Do you see hope for future generations to reverse the tide? Or are we slowly sliding into oblivion?
JM: I worry about those things too, and we try to raise him to be conscientious of his surroundings and his environment. I try not to get too bogged down by the thought of how hard its going to be for his generation to make positive change in the world`, and try to focus more on small impactful ways I can raise him to be a thoughtful individual.
HB: The presence of women in heavy metal is much stronger than in was back when we were kids (and that’s a good thing!). How important is it for you to demonstrate to Errol that women can do and be whatever ever they want in what is still a man-dominated society, and often do it better without the same sense of equality?
JM: It’s super important, and I have to lead by example in this situation. I want him to see me as a strong and compassionate woman that is capable of achieving the goals I set out to conquer. I also involve him in activities that include girls, such as jujitsu. There are boys and girls of varying ages in his class and although it is a competitive environment, they are all treated equal and expected to treat each other with respect. When they “roll” together, they aren’t taught to go “easy” on someone just because of their gender. In fact, some of the girls in that class can kick some serious ass, so he’s seeing first-hand that girls can excel in a male-dominated sport. Hopefully he will learn that it also applies to other areas of life as well.
HB: A number of musicians who are also parents have spoken to me about a sense of guilt that they feel from having to be selfish with their time to both create their art and head out on tour. Do you ever feel any deep regrets about time away from parenting?
JM: I carefully evaluate the pros and cons of any time spent away from Errol. I never want him to feel like he has an absentee mother. I have to work twice as hard as I used to when it comes to carving out creative time. He will always come first, but I appreciate the moments I do get for myself so much more now that I have to earn them. In some ways I feel like I am much more productive because I feel like there is more at stake.
HB: Being a grownup, especially a parent, can lead to financial stresses. But since our kids are of paramount importance, what kind of sacrifices to your own desires (record collecting, concert attendance, etc.) have you found yourself making to make sure Errol never suffers from the penny-pinching?
JM: One of the main reasons we moved from California back to Texas, was to reduce our cost of living. We couldn’t justify paying an exorbitant amount of rent just to stay satisfy our desire to live there. Sure the Bay Area had great culture, music and tons of super restaurants, but we both would’ve have missed out on Errol’s childhood if we had chosen to stay. We would’ve had to work an obscene amount of hours just to make ends meet and to ensure he had a proper education. The lifestyle just wasn’t worth it in the end.
HB: Time for our favourite question! What are the five essential metal albums that have guided you through your metal parenting journey?
JM: Hmm, that’s a tough one. There are so many great albums that resonate with me for one reason or another, but if I had to choose five they would be (in no particular order):
Scorpions, In Trance: That whole album slays. Uli Roth-era Scorpions is top notch and Francis Buchholz’s bass playing on that album is aces.
Fates Warning, Awaken the Guardian: The complex, masterful songwriting on this album never fails to hold my attention.
At the Gates, Slaughter of the Soul: I spent a lot of time in the nineties scrounging up anything I could get my hands on that was from the Gothenburg scene. This album is a true gem and its mighty guitar war harmonies and well-placed vocals pack one hell of a punch. I love to listen to it on road trips at full volume.
Slough Feg, Traveller: A big yes to all things Slough Feg! They conjure up strong reminders of Manilla Road, Thin Lizzy, Saxon and many others. Scalzi’s distinctive voice marries well with the galloping, melodic, often folky riffs that showcase the technical proficiency of all the musicians involved.
Candlemass, Nightfall: Messiah’s vocals ominously float above the doomy riffs in a mournful way that touch my soul. This album is a classic, and no self-respecting fan of doom should be without it.