Full Metal Parenting presents: an interview with Bekki O

It’s been some time since we here at FMP have put anything together for you loyal readers. But hey, we’re parents after all. Life takes all kinds of turns. But Craig and I are back in the saddle (at least one stirrup) with an interview with Bekki O., an active metal tweeter from Knoxville and one half of the On the Rag Again podcast with Meg of Couch Slut. We’re hoping to get some more FMP columns for you shortly but in the meantime, enjoy a peak into the parenting life of Bekki!

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1. Everyone loves an origin story. How did the evolution into the metalhead that you are begin?

In high school, I got involved with what was left of my hometown’s dwindling punk scene. My girlfriends and I listened to a lot of X, Minor Threat, The Damned, Dead Kennedys, The Weirdos, and Blatz. My view of metal at the time was that it was a little too cheesy or high maintenance. Then my older brother (and this is weird now, because he’s so cookie cutter and straight-laced that I call him “50 Shades of Beige”) bought a copy of Slayer’s Undisputed Attitude. I was like, “Whoa! I know these songs! This is awesome!” And I’m not exactly sure how, but I found out about the Melvins. Thus, my curiosity was piqued, but I generally didn’t buy music or look for it very hard. My friends and I just made tapes for each other and that’s what we had.

 Hilariously enough, at this point in my life, when I was very concerned with labels and how people perceived me, I kept my love of Sonic Youth and Pavement a secret lest I get my punk rock license revoked.

2. Was there any part of your move into metaldom that took its roots from a rebellious standpoint? Were your family/friends supportive of your musical preferences?

When I started exploring it (metal) more, and by this time, I was in my twenties, I didn’t see it as rebellious at all. I mean, I was an adult. 

My love of louder, heavier things initially came from a place of rebellion in my teens. I grew up incredibly conservative, the child of an evangelical Southern Baptist missionary. The relationship I had with my mother was oppressive and abusive. When she would have one of her episodes and I was feeling all this hurt and anger, I would cry. And then my dad would say, “IF YOU WANNA CRY I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT.” So, I had to cut my emotions off. Which bubbled up and developed into anger. So, I really identified with this heavier, faster, lyrically angry music. It was expressing for me what I wasn’t allowed to express. 

And no, my parents wouldn’t have been supportive if they had known what I was listening to, but luckily, that was about the only thing they didn’t monitor and I kept my music to myself. 

3. Becoming a parent changes our perspective on things. For example, we couldn’t watch Law & Order: SVU anymore.  Did having children change the way you look at metal and its sometimes unsavoury nature?

No, not at all. I’m pretty open book with my kids. I don’t change who I am or what I like around them. I try to keep things age appropriate, as far as what they can handle, but I remember my old babysitter driving us around everyday, chain smoking cigarettes and listening to Guns n’ Roses. I didn’t think it was bad when I was a kid. It didn’t give me an appetite for destruction or anything, haha. I just really really liked the song “My Michelle.” I didn’t think too much about it. 

I try to live honestly with them. I don’t hide the fact that I smoke. I don’t censor my language around them (although I do tip-toe around subject matter at times). I don’t censor my music choices in the car (where they’re most likely to hear it). Sometimes they like it (my ten year old son, especially) and we can connect with that. He loves Black Sabbath, The Sword, Godstopper, Thou, and Kvelertak. I take him to any all ages show I can. My five year old daughter tolerates it at best. She calls it “stupid boy music” and prefers Katy Perry and Lorde. We listen to that stuff in the car, too. And to be honest, some of Katy Perry’s lyrics are far more distasteful to me than most metal lyrics. I’m way more uncomfortable with her songs like “I wanna see your peacock” than I am with cheesy lyrics about forging swords and riding into battle to gut the enemy. But, they like it. They like the beat. It moves them. I get it and I don’t want to squash that for them.

4. To that end, did your listening habits change at all? Do you shelter your kids from any particular genres/bands?

I think I covered most of that with the last question. Hahaha. My listening habits haven’t changed in the least. I honestly don’t think they can understand hardly any of it. Especially if it’s in Norwegian.

Funny thing though, I was listening to Danny Brown in the car when I picked them up from school one day. As soon as he started rapping about “stank pussy smelling like Cool Ranch Doritos,” I switched it over to Iron Lung. Hahahahahaha. 

I guess you could say that I shelter them *a little.*

5. As we all try, how successful have your attempts been to mold your children’s musical tastes to fit your own? Or do you expose them to a range of genres and go from there despite their ages?

I would say fairly successful… I mean, of course they’re gonna listen to whatever they have access to and they have lots of access to metal. My son gets a lot of stuff off of the Internet… he listens to Fall Out Boy and stuff like that. I hate it. But that’s what he likes. And I’m not about making mini-mes, here. They are their own little developing person. We share a love of some stuff and other things, we’re definitely on our own. That’s okay with me. 

I listen, and therefore they are exposed, to so much stuff. Although I love really heavy stuff, I have a sweet spot in my heart for Cambodian pop rock from pre-Khmer Rouge times. I recently introduced them to the Presidents of the United States of America. We listen to a lot of Stax records and I’m fairly sure they balk at my love for the BeeGees. One of my most beloved genres is country music. I’ve been a huge Dolly Parton fan my whole life. We listen to a lot of that and Roger Miller is a household favorite. I feel like they’re getting some well-rounded exposure.

6. We at FMP have talked before about being “metal” on the outside as well as on the inside. Do you wear your metal on your sleeves? How do your kids and/or the public react to it? (I got an elevator stare the other day.)

Hahahahaha. This question cracks me up. I’m heavily tattooed, most of my arms and one leg, but almost all of my tattoos come from children’s book illustrations or coloring books. I’m an avid gardener and most of my tattoos are of flowers. I have a cat tattoo. I also have a map of Japan permanently emblazoned on me. The one that people seem to notice the most and compliment is a Shel Silverstein drawing from his book “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” There are no skulls or flames or anything even remotely considered “metal” or badass or dark. So, I guess if ink is somehow an indicator of my status as a metal fan, I’m failing hilariously.

I work in the medical field, so my everyday wear is scrubs. When I’m not wearing those (I jokingly refer to them as legal pajamas), I wear your typical mostly black band t-shirts and shorts or jeans. I know (because I’ve been told) that a lot of other parents at my kids’ school think I’m a lot younger than I am because of the way I dress. My kids think nothing of it, really. They’re just happy when I have pants on. We haven’t quite reached that stage where I’m a complete embarrassment because of the way I look.

7. As a parent, as hard as we try to make it otherwise, life has to get frustrating. Do you use metal as a way to deal with the stresses involved with parenting?

Of course. I rarely play my music loud when the kiddos are here. I have joint custody with their dad, so when they go to stay with him, I listen to my music LOUD. In the house, in the car, whatever. There are times when life just nails me, or my kids are on my last nerve, and I don’t feel/or I can’t react in the most basest form. This kind of all goes back to my childhood, too. So, I play my music loud, I scream and I yell, and of course, I play air drums on my steering wheel at red lights.

8. In general, drugs and alcohol follow metal around like lost puppies. Your kids are still young but have you started preparing yourself for those conversations once they’re a little older? Asking for a friend. 

Hmmmm… not really. Not yet, anyway. They’re still pretty young. My husband (their step-dad… who they refer to as their “fake dad”) and I aren’t into the drug scene and never really have been (sure, I was involved with a bunch of older heroin junkies in my teenage punk days, but I wasn’t aware of it until the very end of those times) and I’ve felt really naïve about drug culture in general. We drink, but not a lot. In other words, there hasn’t been a lot of exposure to that realm where they feel the need to ask questions yet. But when they do, I’m prepared to tell them what I do know from my experiences to help them navigate those issues.

The only time I can think of when drugs came up and it was related to music was when The Sword released their last album High Country. My ten year old loves them and wanted me to buy that record, but I wasn’t into it because it was all about weed culture and the record came with a stash box and shit. It was funny because, even though I don’t partake in weed smoking, I have zero issues with it. We all love Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” and I don’t think my ten year old even connects the two. However, I didn’t feel like it was age appropriate for him, so I just told him what I really thought which was, “this isn’t their best work and Sleep already did this with Dopesmoker which was waaaaaay cooler.” Hahahahahaha.

9. As metal lovers there’s nothing like the live experience. Has your concert attendance changed as a parent? Either more or less often, or about the same? And why or why not?

For a while, right after the birth of my son and five years later, with the birth of my daughter, a night out to see a show was hard to come by. I attended a few here and there. But! Divorce and joint custody offers all kinds of opportunities. Since my divorce three years ago, I’ve gone to every show I can afford to get to. Hell, in the past year, I’ve been to more shows than I’ve probably been to in the previous ten years. 

It also helps that they’re a bit older and more independent. If I really wanna see something, it’s pretty easy for me to call up a babysitter to come sit at the house while they sleep.

10. One of our more recent columns dealt with the issue of the “godlessness” (or anti-religious sentiment) of metal in a society still largely dictated by Judeo-Christian ideologies. What’s your take on the subject?

I don’t really care. I’m not religious in the least. My kids attended church for awhile (at the invitation and insistence of my devout parents). I allowed them to go because I wanted them to figure it out for themselves and selfishly, I enjoyed quiet Sunday mornings with my coffee and records. My ten year old has decided that he is a non-believer (he came to this conclusion because, in his words, “Mom! Everybody at Granny’s church thinks the earth is 6,000 years old! What about the dinosaurs?!”) and he no longer attends. He now enjoys quiet Sunday morning with me without his annoying little sister who still loves to go to church and color and sing with her friends.

11. Time for our favourite question! What are the five essential metal albums that have guided you through your metal parenting journey?

I’m not going to name MY favorite albums. Some are, some I couldn’t care less. But these are the albums that we can listen to together without much debate (and in no particular order):

-“Age of Winters” The Sword

-“Pink” Boris

-“Songs of Lament” Yautja

-“South of Heaven” Slayer

-“Meir” Kvelertak

Thanks, Bekki! \m/

Full Metal Parenting

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