Thursday, October 20, 2011

Craig Metal

SKULL

Dave has asked me to say a few words about our lifelong friend Craig, who tragically passed away recently, focusing on our tastes for music and how that helped to bring us together. I could write a book about Craig. Maybe, someday, I will. But, for now, I will stay on topic.

I was aware of Craig for some time before I actually met him. Even in a high school as large as ours, his dynamic personality and charisma was hard to miss. I met him, oddly enough, when he started dating my twin sister Mary. Our friendship basically began with Craig tossing me the keys to his car so I would get the Hell out of the house when he came to visit her because I was a third wheel. Unfortunately, their dating relationship didn’t last long, but their friendship endured for life.

Craig and I had some mutual friends through which we came into closer contact and we began to get to know each other better. Our senses of humor meshed as well as our zest for contraband, and we began hanging out a bit more. What we did not see eye to eye on was music. Craig was mostly a hardcore punker and I was all about metal. But, this gave us something to debate over and something to give each other a hard time about. Eventually he opened my mind with Millions Of Dead Cops by MDC, and I blew him away with Sodom’s In The Sign Of Evil. Our friendship was galvanized as we helped each other explore new realms of extreme music. Craig took me to my first non-arena concert ever. We saw Suicidal Tendencies supporting their self titled debut full length at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago. I was sixteen and was enamored by the fact that I could be right in front of the stage during the show. Unfortunately I learned the hard way the risks this posed when the pit started up and we got pushed forward against the stage. I realized too late that the knucklehead directly behind me was covered in spikes. I had welts that lasted for days.

Craig turned me on to other bands such as The Exploited, GBH, and DRI, while in turn I (and others such as Dave) helped him discover bands like Metallica, Celtic Frost, Venom, and Slayer. He became a rabid Slayer fan and we saw them together many times. One of these shows was at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. Arriving late, I foolishly parked in the Domino’s Pizza parking lot across the street from the venue. My car was towed and we had to cab it back to the ‘burbs after the show. We devised a grand scheme to ditch the cab upon returning home, but, when I was ready to implement our plan, I turned to Craig only to find him passed out drunk next to me, costing me forty bucks. Typical Craig. We also delved deeply into Rush together, and he was the finest and most enthusiastic “air” musician I have ever known.

As we got older, music took more of a backseat and became just one of the many things we shared and had in common. After Craig’s first bout with a brain tumor (that he barely survived) he mellowed out quite a bit, but I know he popped Reign In Blood, Kill ‘Em All, and Morbid Tales into his deck from time to time. Sometimes while hanging at a bar with him or just sitting around and watching TV, he’d look at me and say, “Hey, Skull,” and then belt out a Warrior-esque death grunt for no reason except for the sheer fun of it.

I miss him terribly. He left us way too soon. Rest in peace, my Zombie brother.

DAVE

I met our friend Craig way back in 7th grade when we both somehow ended up in orchestra together at Holmes Junior High School around 1982. As I recall, neither of us had much use for playing the viola, and we spent most of our time goofing around. I remember once that we convinced a lot of other kids to shoot rubber bands into the crowd from the orchestra stage during a recital as we played for parents, alumni, and other distinguished guests. My social studies teacher remarked that he enjoyed the recital, but felt that the rubber bands were an unnecessary embellishment.

I met Skull a year or two later in early high school, and we all became part of the same circle of friends. I gravitated towards extreme metal, Craig towards hardcore punk, while Skull dabbled in both. We would all gather in my basement after school and on weekends as I had two things going for me at the time. First, a loud stereo combined with me being the first kid in my high school to own vinyl copies of “you name it” from Metal Blade, Combat, New Renaissance, Noise, Neat, Megaforce, and just about anything else floating around at the time; and, second, I also had a pool table, which greatly aided the cause in getting us all together on a regular basis.

A number of favorites ended up in our early rotation, and the time of 1984-85 really stands out. We endlessly replayed Sentence Of Death by Destruction, Morbid Tales by Celtic Frost, In The Sign Of Evil by Sodom, and, Craig’s personal favorite at the time, Apocalyptic Raids by Hellhammer. As Skull mentioned above, Craig’s calling card became his version of Tom G. Warrior’s death grunt, and we greeted each other in this manner for literally decades afterwards. Craig was such a fan of the song “Triumph Of Death” that, one time, Craig was so excited that we drove 10 miles from a party back to my house just to listen to the song. We drove back to the party afterwards; that is, after blasting the song on my stereo three or four times at top volume (and scaring the Hell out of my mother). When we graduated from high school a few years later, Craig tried unsuccessfully to have his name read as “Tom G. Warrior” during the ceremony. Craig also couldn’t get enough of In The Sign Of Evil by Sodom, and would frequently laugh at Angelripper’s bowl haircut.

There was a period of time during these years that we all latched on to my beat up, taped from a tape from a tape copy of The Ultimate Revenge on a battered VHS tape. We watched the video endlessly for a time, and Craig convinced me to drag it to whatever party we were headed to for the evening. We would take over the VCR, pop in the tape, and promptly clear the room. This went on for some months until Craig ran over the tape in someone’s driveway.

In our later high school years, we hit the concert scene, and I attended a few shows with Craig. I distinctly recall seeing the infamous Celtic Frost/ Voivod/ Running Wild tour at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago, and you can bet that this was a highlight of our social calendar. Craig was so excited that he drove his motorcycle to the concert, only to discover after he arrived that he had left his ticket at home in Mt. Prospect. So, he promptly drove back home, got his ticket, and made it back just in time to catch Voivod. He jokingly referred to Running Wild as “Posing Wild,” anyway, so I don’t think that he was all that disappointed.

After I moved away from Chicago to eventually settle in Los Angeles, Craig and I only kept in touch infrequently over the years, something that I deeply regret and cannot ever rectify.

My friend Craig passed away in late September due to brain cancer. He was 43 years old. He is survived by his wife and two young children.

3 comments:

Chris Davison said...

Great article, guys. \m/

Skull said...

Just for the record: The copy of "In the Sign of Evil" I blew Craig's mind with was Dave's vinyl that was making the rounds like all his new acquisitions did. I remember when I had it at home to tape it, my mom read the lyrics and wept.

The Dragon of M87 said...

"Masturbate to kill myself" probably didn't go over well.