My Year In Ten Bits Of Gear

Hobbies can be expensive, and metal is no exception. You can listen to music pretty much for free, but the all-consuming nature of metalhood compels you to also buy the clothes, collect the vinyl, go to the gigs etc.. Then there’s my guitar obsession: equipment, lessons… it all adds up financially. But the way I justify it, being a metalhead is cheaper than being a middle-class schoolmum.

Bottle of prosecco with the ladies? £20. Plastic cup of beer at a gig by myself? £3.

Cashmere cardigan from Boden? £80. Satanic band tee from a merch stand? £10.

A year of hairdressing appointments? £200. Not even bothering to brush my hair anymore? Zero quid.

And since I have completely changed my lifestyle, I reckon I have saved enough money to deserve those concert tickets and ever-expanding collection of black t-shirts. So here’s a rundown of the metal purchases that changed my life in 2017:

1. Vox Amplug 2 Metal mini amplifer: This tiny little battery amplifier, smaller than a matchbox, was a revelation: plug it directly into your guitar and earphones and you’re away, with distortion and everything. Why has it changed my life? Because now I can take my guitar into the bathroom and hide from the kids. Undisturbed practice = priceless.

2. Moldex Rocket Earplugs: There was a time not long ago when I poured scorn on earplug wearers. What kind of a metal pussy are you, with your, your.. earplugs? But how little I knew. Ear protection is essential and I never go to a gig without it now. In Switzerland where I now live it’s practically regulation; they hand out packets of yellow foam plugs at the doors. But much better than the bog-standard ones are these little purple guys. You can’t lose them because they go on a string around your neck, and they reduce just the right amount of volume rather than muffling everything. Now I can enjoy being right at the front of gigs, safe in the knowledge that my ears won’t be ringing dangerously in the morning.

3. Seymour Duncan Invaders: I play grindcore, usually downtuned to B, so I’m after the maximum depth and resultant tones from my sound. The Seymour Duncan Invader is the mother of all pick-ups; it’s not for the faint-hearted, and when I switched the standard pick-up on my trusty PRS to a set of Invaders, I instantly became 100 per cent more badass. You can’t really play clean any more once you have these, but who the hell wants to play clean?

4. Boss GT-1 Guitar Effects Processor: When I first started out playing electric guitar, my main goal was to build an impressive and pointless collection of colourful pedals, and build a pedalboard like the above. But since my electrical and carpentry skills are even weaker than my guitar ability, that was unrealistic. And then the other guitarist in my band recommended a multi-effects processor. This one has over 100 built-in effects, including noise suppressor. A game-changer.

5. Spiky boots: I bought these cheap in a vintage store, and they have actual spikes on the front, very useful.

6. Multiple Wallet Chains: Me and the sixteen-year old bassist in my band are waged in a long-running competition to see how many chains we can dangle from our jeans. I just don’t feel properly dressed without them now.

7. About 150 t-shirts: My collection is getting out of hand, but since I wear one every day I think it’s ok. You can’t go to a gig and not visit the merch stand. It’s just rude.

8. Battle jacket: I’ve finally collected enough patches to get sewing on something other than school name labels. Do I want to look like a middle-aged hairy biker bloke from 1983? Of course I do!

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9. ESP Alexi-600 Greeny Signature: Ok I didn’t actually buy this- it was a birthday present from my husband and kids. But it’s the most beautiful, wonderful guitar in the world and I love love love it. Everyone told me not to get a pointy guitar: ‘You’ll have someone’s eye out, it’s try-hard, you won’t be able to sit down to play it’. But who wants to SIT DOWN to play metal? Anyway you can sit down, you just wedge it satisfyingly against your inner thigh. Yes it’s a lethal weapon, yes it’s so big it doesn’t even fit in my car, yes it’s got a fluorescent green skull on it, but I look totally badass with it and hopefully one day I’ll sound badass as well.

10. Roy The Reaper Bobblehead: Ok he didn’t change my life. And I didn’t buy him either, he came free with my latest Children of Bodom hoodie. But he’s so cute and I just love having him nodding about on my desk. And come to think of it, my forthcoming novel (to be published this year, hurray!) is basically about the Grim Reaper, so perhaps Roy’s inspiration did change my life after all.

I guess I’ve already blown most of my 2018 metal budget on tickets for Hellfest. But I do have my eye on a Morbid Angel box set…. happy shopping metalheads!

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