photo & text by nacrowe
CHICAGO's FALL OUT BOY was POP PUNK band i was familiar with throughout their peak in the 2000s with but never really a fan of. for me their music was always too clever by half with their OPAQUE and needlessly PROTRACTED lyrics as well as sonic misadventures for seemingly no reason (other than attempts at staying current to market trends) into other genres. i respected them but for me the point of POP PUNK was to be direct (to the point of being CUTTHROAT) and having the main focus be all about the hook. i preferred POP PUNK bands like NEW FOUND GLORY and ALKALINE TRIO on the traditional side and POST HARDCORE bands like AT THE DRIVE-IN and GLASSJAW on a more experimental tip during that period. FALL OUT BOY was a hybrid in my opinion that cut the difference but didnt force multiply the results. regardless i became aware of guitarist JOE TROHMAN as a creative entity through his side project THE DAMNED THINGS, a collaboration with THRASH METAL icon SCOTT IAN of ANTHRAX. to my ears that band creatively was much more ROBUST, the MELODIC hooks HARDER HITTING and they didnt appear worried about being clever or ironic at all. so that is my bias going into this book and i just want to get that out of the way right at the jump.
whats interesting is that the memoir NONE OF THIS ROCKS (HACHETTE, 2022) is not really all that concerned with FALL OUT BOY, it is more about the PSYCHOLOGY surrounding SUCCESS, FAME and POPULARITY and feeling like an IMPOSTER and completely unworthy of one's own success, irregardless of talent, work effort and luck. the memoir dives headfirst into TROHMAN's TROUBLED relationship with his mother and the extended CRUELTY he sustained as a child and the consequences of such on his EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT. TROHMAN fearlessly explains how growing up JEWISH in the midwest likewise isolated him outside of his household much as his mother's PETULANT and UNSUPPORTIVE behavior did so within. to share that MENTAL SPACE with him could be quite CLAUSTROPHOBIC at times and that feels like part of the point. you realize through that TENSION what a RELIEF and TRANSFORMATIVE experience it must have been to discover the CHICAGO HARDCORE scene in his teens. you can sense the freedom that comes when the IDENTITY you inherited marks you as the "other" in one environment and then in a new context you are but one of many in a supportive, ENABLING community with a shared INTEREST and PASSION. in essence your passion defines you.
ive read i dont know how many memoirs and biographies of musicians and artists since beginning this blog and NONE OF THIS ROCKS differentiates itself through its conversation of what people now term IMPOSTER SYNDROME, which is that UNEASY feeling of not being qualified for a position or level of SUCCESS. having lived half my life abroad (JAPAN, NIGERIA, ALBANIA, KUWAIT, VENEZUELA and MYANMAR) and returning stateside to venture into varying industries (starting a recording studio, making music videos, going back to school for my MBA) and interests (starting a bi-weekly internet radio show, writing semi-publicly about various content); i am all too familiar with that intense feeling of being fearful of being exposed as a COMPLETE FRAUD. i really feel that TROHMAN is quite COURAGEOUS in writing a book largely concerned with contextualizing why he feels this way (CRUEL mother, JEWISH "otherness," not being "sporty" or having fancy college degrees) and how it led him down a FRACTURED, non-functioning path with his INTIMATE collaborators in FALL OUT BOY that led him to drug abuse and other outside palliative efforts that didnt get at the core of his NEUROSIS and DYSFUNCTION. i also believe just as COURAGEOUS is how, ironically, it is his family that serves as his SALVATION. specifically the grounding effect of his wife and two daughters as well as the perennial support and guiding example of his father, not to mention friends and peers like SCOTT IAN who had the STRENGTH and EMPATHY to call him out directly during the depths of his chemical downfall.
for me this book is not about the career trajectory of a band, but the evolution of a musician to transcend aspects of his childhood and upbringing of which he had no control over and break the cycle moving forward as a creative adult fully aware but not defined by his mistakes and deficiencies. i found it all rather TOUCHING. my only gripe is stylistically the CONFESSIONAL, almost DIARISTIC fashion in which the book is written can feel meandering and in need of editing at times. also structurally much of the same plot points in his life are repeated several times for no identifiable reason. these are small concerns and inevitably they are AUTHENTIC to TROHMAN since i have no doubt he is the actual author of this book. a ghostwriter would never have allowed such to transpire so for better or worse, this is unequivocally his true and salute him for putting himself out there in such a NAKED fashion.
much like the DIY ethos of the HARDCORE scene, his example makes me feel like i should get off my ass already and start writing about my time living abroad already. i get asked enough to do such as it is. like TROHMAN, i just need to get over myself and just go ahead and do it.
somewhere along the way, legendary guitar player SCOTT IAN of THRASH METAL icons ANTHRAX learned he had a real gift for storytelling. his obvious mentor in this regard was HARDCORE frontman HENRY ROLLINS of BLACK FLAG/ROLLINS BAND fame who has maintained a longstanding second career as an in-demand spoken-word artist.
given his stature, IAN has seen things over his 30+ year career and his second memoir ACCESS ALL AREAS: STORIES FROM A HARD ROCK LIFE (DA CAPO PRESS 2017), which he penned himself, maintains his acerbic wit, cadence and voice. reading through this it is not hard to imagine him standing beside you performing each narrative as a spoken-word routine, which is definitely a compliment. there is a reason why most musicians don't write their own memoirs, and IAN proves himself a highly capable narrator. his style is very much utilitarian in that he doesn't get too wordy or overly clever with descriptions, which in a way describes his iconic no-sense rhythm guitar work and that of his musical idol, MALCOLM YOUNG of AC/DC.
obviously i don't want to give away any of the stories, but i will say that they deal with his outside pursuits regarding professional poker, moonlighting in tv shows like THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES, relationships and of course touring. highlights include stories that include the pranks of legendary PANTERA guitarist DIMEBAG DARRELL (R.I.P.), hanging out with MADONNA and the wardrobe choices of the immortal LEMMY KILMISTER (R.I.P.) of the almighty MOTÖRHEAD.
IAN comes off as a hardworking musician more than aware of how fortunate he is to have his career and the respect of his peers and this book, along with the previous I AM THE MAN: THE STORY OF THAT GUY FROM ANTHRAX (DA CAPO PRESS 2014), seem to be a celebration of that community of musicians. a celebration of how they touched his life, so in that regard i hope he keeps writing.
also keep a look out for the dude in concert. just learned he's touring with MR. BUNGLE in 2020. MIKE PATTON and SCOTT IAN sharing a stage. man, life certainly does not suck.