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Iron Metal






Iron Metal I/Rock on the Hole









Alabama, USA


I was reading a while back about this guy called Mingering Mike who, back in the 70s, created a whole fictional recording career for himself and his friends. He hand-painted album covers and disc labels and recorded a cappella cassettes of his original compositions. It got me thinking back to my own imaginary music career, as Yugoslavian heavy metal singer/guitarist Jim Rock, leader of the band Iron Metal.

The germ of the idea was formed during repeated viewings of a videotaped nightclub performance by the Swiss heavy metal band Krokus, a program shown innumerable times on the fledgling USA network during 1982. By December of that year, I had developed a minor obsession with the show, especially frontman Mark Storace's mangled attempts at stereotypical heavy metal between-song patter ("See this little shitty newspaper bit? The Brooklyn Zoo rocks tonight!") After watching it with my best friend, Tim, we hit on the idea of forming our own imaginary metal band. The idea was to be from an even less likely country of origin than Switzerland, so we made our "band" natives of Yugoslavia and gave them the cleverly redundant name Iron Metal.

I had only started teaching myself guitar a year earlier and still couldn't play chords. A friend had shown me an open E tuning, and I'd developed a small amount of skill for making a bar across all six strings and moving from one fret to another without pausing too long to think about it. Tim and I took turn writing lyrics, using the four-line-verse-four-line-chorus template of the first Ramones album and concentrating on the most metal-oriented subjects we could think of-sex, alcohol, drugs, the devil, policemen and their nuts, and bridges engulfed in steam-all expressed in the English-as-a-second-language style of Krokus.

I hastily picked out a sequence of "chords" for each song and wrote down a number to represent the appropriate fret on which to lay my meaty ring finger. Then I plugged my no-name hollow-body electric guitar (purchased in a pawnshop a year earlier) into my distortion device-an old cassette deck which wouldn't play tapes anymore but could still pass a signal-and sent the output into a retired home stereo amplifier which pumped 10 watts per channel into an old pair of car stereo speakers that I'd inherited. Two mikes were plugged into my new cassette deck, and Tim and I made like two wacky Zagreb-born rock stars for around 11 minutes.

Who knew 1982 would be such a banner year for imaginary metal? That was the year that three American comic actors and technically proficient musicians-alumni of the Credibility Gap and the National Lampoon shows-and TV's "Meathead" were in L.A. shooting a feature-length improv comedy about the declining fortunes of a once-hot British hard rock band; a continent and an ocean away, some of the leading lights of the British "New Wave of Comedy" were making a short film for the 'Comic Strip Presents...' series, concerning a barely competent young band in the Def Leppard mode. Meanwhile, in my bedroom in my parents' house in northeast Alabama, two musically challenged hillbillies were conjuring up minimalist metal with our two growly voices and one poorly played guitar.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of all this is not that we were both legal adults at the time of this first Iron Metal session, but that we continued to make recordings in this vein for the next nine years. (I eventually learned how to play actual chords!)

When I listen to these early recordings now, it's difficult for me to separate them from the severe head injury I suffered in a car wreck a few months before Iron Metal was born. My period of recovery was a scary and disorienting time, but it turned out to be quite productive. I made several new and enduring friendships then, and my altered brain chemistry allowed me to devote a surprising amount of time and energy to the kind of idea that normally would have been nothing more than a throwaway gag in a soon-to-be-forgotten conversation.

The material you have here represents a triple-album set (in just under 30 minutes!) composed of the group's first set of recordings, the 11-minute 'Iron Metal I' from December 1982, along with the more ambitious double-album set 'Rock on the Hole' from about six months later. Much as George Michael's UK solo hit "Careless Whisper" was released in the States as a Wham! record to help build brand-name recognition, this Jim Rock solo album is now being released under the Iron Metal banner. I apologize to any purists who have been offended.

Perry Amberson
April 20, 2004