Metal Musicians Share Their Most Hilarious Punisher Stories
We’ve all met a capital-P Punisher at a heavy metal show or two in our lives. If you’re not familiar, a Punisher is a stranger or annoying acquaintance who wants to hang out so badly that they will corner you and talk your ear off about things you don’t want to hear about, edge their way into private conversations with your friends, and can’t seem to read your body language that you’d rather be doing anything else.
Of course, not every conversation with a musician you admire is Punishment. Most metalhead chat is innocuous enough: If both the musician and fan are laughing and enjoying themselves, the artist is probably fine. But if you witness a fan hounding your favorite sweaty, tired, musician who keeps looking around to find an out — chances are, they’re being Punished.
This is something rock and metal musicians have to deal with on a daily basis, especially those who haven’t yet hit the “big-time” and aren’t exactly getting ushered through venues by security or being fed grapes in a diamond-studded dressing room. For most metal musicians, Punishing occurs when they’re loading in and out of a show, selling T-shirts behind the merch booth, or desperately trying to find a place to sleep when the show is over. Sometimes, it can even happen when they’re finally free of responsibilities and just want to go say hi to the handful of good friends they have in that particular town.
Now, while you’re reading this, you may be asking yourself, “Am I a Punisher?” and the answer is yes — you’ve probably been one once or twice. Why? Because no matter how cool you are or how smooth-talking you are in everyday life, all basic verbal functioning flies out the window in the nervousness and excitement of meeting your heroes. It happens to the best of us. Just…try not to make a habit of it. A simple, “Hey, I love your work” goes a long way.
We decided to round up six metal musicians from The Black Dahlia Murder, Khemmis, Revocation, Inter Arma, Gatecreeper, and Immortal Bird to talk about not only their wildest, most awkward, most hilarious Punisher stories…but cringey tales of being a Punisher when they, too, met their idols. Because hey, we’ve all been there.
TREVOR STRNAD OF THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER
THE WEIRDEST PUNISHER I’VE EVER HAD:
“The weirdest Punisher I have ever had wanted me to punch him in the face. He was dead set on it. He was literally begging me to assail him. I couldn’t do it. It was just too weird. Another wanted me to sleep with his girlfriend. Flattering, really, but I didn’t take him up on that one either.”
A TIME I WAS A PUNISHER:
“I definitely fall into the Drunken Mess territory. I also believe this to be the worst kind of Punisher. Irony? Anyway. The Black Dahlia Murder was out on Soundwave, a massive outdoor touring music festival that traveled across Australia for a few weeks. Backstage at these things would get pretty sloppy… lots of ‘wild guy’ personalities in one place. As a punisher, the festival backstage is a great way to run into bands you look up to. They are often stuck in the same tent world maze that you are, and are sitting ducks for Punishment. After one legendary evening of partying that including my repeatedly trying to do the splits (there were bikini babes pouring Monster Energy vodka bombs and I had infinity of them) I was hungover and sweating my face off at lunch when I saw Billy Graziadei of Biohazard fame out of the corner of my eye. I figured it was my chance to go in for the ‘Hey I love your band!’ move so I waddled over to his table and began to introduce myself. ‘Hey man! I love Urban Discipline…I’m Trevor!’ I said, extending my hand. He looked me square in the face and said ‘Yeah I know who you are, you told me last night!’ Shamed, scolded and defeated, I promptly did a legitimate face-palm turned around and scurried off in my embarrassment. I can only hope I didn’t do my Evan Seinfeld impression for him, but deep in my heart, I know that I did. Sorry for the Punishment, Billy!”
BEN HUTCHERSON OF KHEMMIS AND GLACIAL TOMB
THE WEIRDEST TIMING OF A PUNISHMENT:
“The gear punishers have a knack for genuinely wanting to ask about my setup/nerd out about gear — which I’m often absolutely down to do — at the absolute worst time. At one of the dates of the Decibel Tour last year, a guy started asking (read: shouting) questions from behind the barricade about the pedals I was using. The house music was up, stage hands were ushering us off the stage, and this cat was a good 15-20 feet away; I had no idea what he was asking. ‘Dude…heavy as fuck… fuzz…what…delay…true bypass?’ I just smiled, pointed to my ears to indicate I still had earplugs in (I didn’t) and gave him a thumbs up. That seemed to be just as good as an actual response, though, because the dude grinned and responded with the ol’ two-handed-devil-horns.
Bonus: He came up to the merch table later, high fived me, bought a shirt, and asked me zero additional questions about gear.”
TIME I WAS A PUNISHER:
“In July 2008, I drove 6-ish hours from central Mississippi to Sauget, Illinois to see At The Gates. I couldn’t believe I was seeing one of my bucket list bands and it was the kind of miserable summer day you’d expect in that part of the country, so I started pounding PBRs. I might’ve had a shot or three of Jagermeister too because, well, I’m from Mississippi. Buzzed and standing near the back during one of the opening sets, I looked over and saw Tomas Lindberg was next to me. I had just enough liquid courage in me to approach him, play it cool, and say something like ‘I’m a huge fan, and can’t wait for your set,’ or ‘Thank you for the music.
That didn’t happen. Instead, I steamrolled him in the most embarrassing display of fandom I could’ve possibly managed. ‘Holy shit you’re Tomas Lindberg! I can’t believe I’m talking to you. This is so amazing. I drove six hours for this show! I can’t believe I’m going to see you play tonight! I play in a death metal band, and we got our name from one of your song lyrics!’ The last one haunted me for months. Why did I say that? What did I expect to come of it? Jesus. He was incredibly nice, smiling and nodding the whole time, thanked me for coming out, very politely/professionally excused himself after a few minutes of my unending word vomit, and never once made me feel like the ass that I most definitely was.”
DAVE DAVIDSON OF REVOCATION AND GARGOYL
THE MOST AWKWARD TIME I WAS PUNISHED:
“One of my most awkward tour encounters happened back in 2013 when we were out with 3 Inches Of Blood. We had finished playing our show and were looking for somewhere to crash for the night, thankfully a fan had offered his place so he hoped in the van with us as we headed out. As he’s giving us directions he mentions multiple times how much of a fan he is and how we’re one of his favorite bands of all time, we were all very flattered until we pulled up to his residence and he exclaims ‘Man, I can’t believe 3 INCHES OF BLOOD are staying at my place tonight!!!’ I remember Dan doing his best Cam Pipes impersonation from the back of the van as he belt out the first few lines of the Deadly Sinners chorus as a joke… But it was clear immediately afterwards that the gentleman we were staying with was in fact not joking and had completely mistaken us for a band who we do not resemble even in the slightest.
I remember the van getting silent for a moment, each of us counting the seconds that felt like an eternity tick away. ‘Surely someone will speak up and correct this gentleman in this embarrassing situation,’ I thought to myself, but around the 10-second mark of silence I knew at that point we had to commit: We were 3 Inches Of Blood now. I entered his home with so many thoughts going through my mind, namely, ‘If we were his favorite band how does he not know what any of the members look like? He was at the show after all, or was he? What the hell is going on here and why is he showing me his collection of “chupacabra” skulls, dear God I just want to go to sleep…’
I ended up crashing out in a spare bedroom to try and escape the secondhand embarrassment, but my other bandmates were not so lucky. He had stayed up asking them detailed questions about what it’s like to be in 3 Inches, how the band got started etc. etc. Everyone was curling up in their sleeping bags feigning fatigue or pretending to be asleep outright and then it happened… His girlfriend who was also excited to meet the band had arrived home. However, she quickly realized that the dudes sleeping on the floor were not in fact 3 Inches, but instead a group of strangers who she did not recognize at all. I was asleep by this point but apparently the couple got into a heated argument that culminated with our mistaken innkeeper looking for answers from us.
I remember waking up to a shadowy figure standing in the doorway of the room I was staying in. ‘You’re not 3 Inches Of Blood’ the shadow man said coldly. ‘Dude… are you serious,’ I tiredly replied. He then proceeded to chastise me and my other bandmates for ‘lying’ about who we were, as if the ol’ 3 Inches Of Blood grift was a commonplace scheme for us. After he had exposed us as swindlers he must have felt satisfied because he still let us stay but I definitely slept with 1 eye open the rest of the night. As the morning dawned we hightailed it out of there and of course told the 3 Inches guys the next day at the show. We all got a laugh out of it, and luckily our heads didn’t wind up next to his chupacabra skull collection.”
THE TIME I WAS A PUNISHER:
“Dan Mongrain has been one of my favorite guitarists since I was first getting into death metal. I remember Dan was filling in for Cryptopsy years ago for a couple tours so I took a road trip with some friends to catch the New Hampshire date and to try and meet the man himself. After the set I scanned the club repeatedly, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of my idols, when I found him I wasted no time and made my move. I had something very important to punish him with. This was a time before smart phones, this was even before RAZR flip phones existed if you can believe that. I had some archaic cell phone at the time but it had an interesting feature, if you dug around the settings panel you could change your ringtone by meticulously inputting midi notes into the system. So of course I had his solo for Deserted Waters all cued up and ready to go. Yes I was that guy, the hold your phone up to someone’s ear and play them music in a loud club guy. But it wasn’t even a real recording or a shitty youtube clip, it was the worst sounding midi played through a device that was already a relic of it’s time at that point. I was grinning ear to ear as I proudly presented him with the fruits of my labor, I’m sure it was completely inaudible but that didn’t stop me for playing it for him a couple times just to really drive home how much of a dork I was. ‘Sweet, man!’ he replied. ‘…What have I done?’ was my next thought.
He was really cool about the interaction but I knew afterwards that punishment had ensued. Now that Dan is the guitarist for Voivod I get to spend an entire month with him. Will I redeem myself? Only time will tell… Now where did I put that old cell phone?”
MICHAEL PAPARO OF INTER ARMA
WEIRDEST TIME I WAS PUNISHED:
“A guy showed up to one of my other band’s shows somewhere in the Midwest and was adamant about discussing Inter Arma’s lyrics with me. More specifically, he was a devout Christian and was somehow convinced that all of Inter Arma’s lyrics had Christian themes/undertones and glorified the God almighty or whatever and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. There was no one there and I couldn’t get away from the guy. He was punishing to the point that I became visibly agitated. A line I can remember him saying to me is “You’ve got to be a Christian, right?” Yeah sure buddy. I bet this guy could somehow interpret all of Immolation’s lyrics as pro-Christian or something.”
TIME I WAS A PUNISHER
“I recall a night at a bar in Oslo late last year where we were all drinking pretty heavily after a gig and Carl-Michael from Virus, Ved Buens Ende, Aura Noir, etc. came in minding his own business with some friends. We were absolutely sloshed and I definitely remember one of the IA guys just punishing the hell out of him but I woke up the next morning feeling slightly bad about it so maybe I did to? I can’t remember. His collective body of music means a lot to me so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I did. Whoops. Sorry Carl-Michael. It won’t happen again.”
ERIC WAGNER OF GATECREEPER AND SPIRIT ADRIFT
MY FAVORITE PUNISHER STORY:
“One of my favorite memories was in Moscow, Russia. After our set there was a dude in a trench coat, big black army boots and slicked back hair. Straight up looked like a villain from an action movie.This dude was a certified bad ass straight up. Well, after our set he asked if we had any custom guitar picks. The airline had lost my guitar and all of my stuff on the way there and so I didn’t have my picks or anything. I told the dude I was super sorry that I didn’t have any and explained the situation. He got super annoyed and asked me again. I explained my situation again, and then with a super intense tone he asked me if I would mail him a guitar pick once I was home. I told him that I would do my best to mail a guitar pick from Arizona to Russia.
He then pulled out a note book and asked me to draw one of the custom picks I had so that he could verify that he got the right version for that tour once I mailed it to him. My custom picks at the time had a cowboy hat on one side and read ‘The Dark Cowboy’ on the other side. The picks were goofy on their own, but drawing them made them even goofier. He then wrote down the size, shape, and color of the picks. He told me that his collection was very serious and that he expects to get one from the tour or at least an exact replica of one. He told me that he would not except anything that didn’t match the exact description I gave him. I told him to write the band email in a month after the tour to complete the transaction. Unfortunately, I never heard from him. If you read this and want it I saved one for you! Maybe we can trade for the picture I drew of the pick. That would be fun to have. I do want to say that I think this dude rules and that I have total respect for their collection and totally understand!
Metal is my life and I understand that everyone fuels that passion in different ways. Be a proud Punisher! You love metal and anyone who tells you that you can’t love it in your own way sucks!! Much love to all of the Punishers! Much love to the pick collector up in Russia! I hope to see you again soon!”
THE TIME I WAS A PUNISHER:
“Back when I was in middle school my bad ass mom scored backstage tickets to see Metallica through a radio station. It was Metallica and Godsmack. While Godsmack was playing we went back stage to meet Metallica. They had a chocolate fountain backstage and I thought that was wild. We were standing waiting for them and Rob Trujillo snuck up from the back and was standing next to my mom. My mom asked him ‘if he was excited to meet Metallica’ he said that he was ‘very excited and couldn’t wait.’ She had small talk with him asking him questions about how long he’s been a fan and stuff. I was nervous and didn’t say anything.
Then the rest of the band came out and we met everyone. I had them sign autographs into a Master of Puppets guitar tab book. There were full page pictures of everyone and I had them sign on their pictures. When the time came to meet Trujillo I had him sign a picture of Cliff Burton. I remember being so nervous to meet them but not feeling nervous at all to have him sign a picture of Cliff. Looking back I feel like a true punisher. Sorry Rob.”
RAE AMITAY FROM IMMORTAL BIRD
TIME I WAS PUNISHED:
“So many stories immediately flood my mind when asked about Punishers, and I’ve experienced every single one on your list. I am so tired of rehashing tales of misogynistic idiots, Internet creeps, and people who go for a hug when I’m offering a handshake, so let’s go with an International Edition! Reims, France. 2017. Our very first show in Europe. The last notes of our set are still ringing out, I haven’t even put my fanny pack back on, and Matt is sitting behind his drum set. House music hasn’t started up yet when a dude who looks eerily like someone we all dislike back in the good ol’ USA comes over, phone outstretched, imploring us to listen to some ‘brutal Polish black metal.’
No introductions or cursory formalities like, ‘Hello’ — Just BRUTAL POLISH BLACK METAL AND IT HAS TO BE HEARD RIGHT NOW…On his almost unintelligible phone speakers. While we’re still on stage. As we’re tearing down, this guy is right there with us, shouting into our ears that we will ‘never understand music’ unless we listen to these bands, black mirror shoved in our faces, practically stepping on the backs of our heels as we try to get away.
I responded to one of his recommendations with, ‘Oh cool, I’ve never heard of them,’ and he looked at me as though I’d shit in his breakfast cereal. One of our tourmates came over at one point to rescue me and this guy mutters, ‘I know you’re trying to ignore me. I know you are.’ Brooding incel vibes with a French accent, très cool! Then we all had to sleep at the venue, and guess what, he was in one of the opening bands and stayed the night there, too. We didn’t get much rest. But at least we got a story.”
TIME I WAS A PUNISHER:
“I’ve been Punished, but have I Punished others? I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and can’t come up with a concrete piece of anecdotal evidence. But the reason why is not because I’m a fucking cool kid — it’s really the opposite. When I was in high school (and even college), I was so terrified to interact with the people making the music I loved that I totally avoided them at all costs (aside from watching them perform). I remember being too afraid to buy merch if a band member was at the table selling it, so I’d send a ‘brave’ friend to do it instead. I just couldn’t handle the pressure of, ‘Hey, great set, can I get that shirt in a small?’ Nowadays, I’m a lot less nervous and a lot more comfortable with myself! I’d say the closest I’ve gotten to a real punisher moment was when I met Lamb of God at a CD signing event about ten years ago. I was in college, I was already actively pursuing music, but for some reason seeing them right in front of me after being so into them in high school totally freaked me out. I could barely speak and I almost started crying when Chris Adler addressed me. It was just a LOT to process! But I don’t think I was a Punisher, so much as a super enthusiastic and overwhelmed fan. But hey, there’s still plenty of time for me to hone my Punishing skills, now that I’ve got a bit more courage. So watch out!”
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