Kiss wanted to Rock And Roll All Nite. Guns N’ Roses were on the Nightrain, and Black Sabbath kept it simple and got Trashed. Ex-W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes embodied – some might say parodied – the perma-boozing rock star in The Decline Of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years as he bobbed around his pool on a lilo, guzzling neat vodka and disappointing his poor old mum. Fast forward almost three decades, and Chris, along with some of metal’s other notorious hellraisers, are now sober. James Hetfield calls himself ‘reborn straight edge’ and even has the X tattoo to prove it, while countless others including Slash and Steven Tyler have also decided enough’s enough. It’s hardly surprising that they became fed up of constant partying; anything can become routine if you do it too many times, and some have sadly had health problems or lost friends to the excess.
But some of rock’s younger stars are skipping the hedonistic stage entirely in favour of living a clean and sensible lifestyle, and even those who do like to indulge in a few beers balance it out with healthy diets or exercise. Whether it’s bands completing the Insanity workout on tour, Matt Heafy tweeting about weightlifting and martial arts, or Sam Carter posting up vegetarian protein charts, there’s a visible commitment to good living.
“Bands used to ask where the rider and the weed was, now they ask about the WiFi code and the nearest gym,” a rock publicist tells us. “I remember going out to see Asking Alexandria on tour once, and they’d brought a personal trainer with them. I expected them to be sitting around drinking beers before the show, but they were all on the floor doing press-ups!”
The excess and debauchery that seemed to come with the territory of being a rock star in past decades might sound like fun to some people, but for others in the industry, it’s a turn-off. “I don’t really look up to anybody from the 80s like that. I just think, ‘Well, you fucked up your career!’” says Black Veil Brides’ Andy Biersack, who drinks in moderation. “When I was younger, I looked at that and was like, ‘Yay, rock’n’roll!’ I don’t need to be constantly fucked up and on drugs to be cool. Once you don’t have that fucked-up part of your life anymore, it becomes a lot less attractive.”
Andy says over-indulgers can be annoying to people who want to get the job done. “People stumbling onstage, not being able to get their act together, missing the time they’re supposed to record because they’re too fucked up – all that stuff just becomes infuriating,” he says.
As the industry has changed over the last 30 years, there are fewer opportunities for lucrative album deals, and more of an emphasis on making money by playing live, meaning the bands need to be on top of their game at every show.
“I don’t see that many people going too wild all the time,” says Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall, who is teetotal. “[The music industry] is a competitive environment, and if you’re completely fucked up every night then it’s damn hard to put on a professional performance. There does seem to be a shift away from that. I see far more people doing some kind of training in the backstage room than lying with a needle in their arm doing lines of coke, put it that way!”
Liam Cormier from Cancer Bats, who is straight edge, agrees. “I used to want to go out [and drink] so I didn’t miss out on anything, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t,” he says. “I’ll still be friends with those people. If I went out, I’d only play a shitty show.”
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Professionalism aside, there are other reasons rock stars might want to stay sober. Liam, who changed his lifestyle at 21, reckons booze can dull the senses, making musicians less inventive. “It’s funny, because I grew up in punk rock, which was all about getting wasted, but it didn’t really work for me,” he explains. “On a personal side, I knew a bunch of guys who were straight edge, and I was getting more and more into hardcore at that point. The whole community is a positive place, and the people I knew who were getting wasted weren’t really working on creative stuff. I saw drugs and alcohol were holding a lot of people back.”
Meanwhile, Motionless In White frontman Chris Cerulli has never touched drugs or alcohol, and also based his decision on observing the behaviour of those around him. His reasons are deeply personal. “The only alcohol I’ve ever consumed was at New Year’s Eve when I was younger with my parents, and they let me have a sip of champagne,” he says. “I’ve never made a conscious decision to drink or get drunk. I grew up with people in my immediate family who were drug addicts, and one them has done some really, really terrible things to other members of my family. There were also people in my life who were verbally abusive to my brother and I when they were drunk. That was my first exposure to it – a family in turmoil. I remember thinking, ‘I’m never going to fucking be like this’.”
Despite making a choice not to drink, Liam, now 36, says he’s rarely experienced any negativity towards his lifestyle. “It’s very few and far between. There are some people who have a negative opinion of what straight edge is about, which is why it’s easier to just say I’m sober,” he says. “If you’ve met someone who was a dick about straight edge, in the same way that if you meet someone who’s really preachy about being vegan, you’re like, ‘Vegans are dicks!’ If you talk about something too much, whether it’s straight edge or crossfit, people can feel like you’re judging them.”
Chris says he’s “never found anyone disrespectful in the music scene”, and, like Liam, doesn’t feel the need to remove himself from situations where drink or drugs might be involved. “I still hang out with everyone. A lot of guys in the band do stuff and it doesn’t bother me. I’m a pretty boring person because of my nature!” he laughs. He does find the idea that choosing sobriety means condemning yourself to a life of stamp-collecting in a darkened room strange, though. “The misconceptions are laughable. I’m not sure where the stigma of ‘If you don’t drink or do drugs you’re a boring person and sit in your house all day’ came from,” he says. “My theory is that people feel that that’s what their life is without alcohol, so they drink to get away from that. So of course if they feel that way without alcohol, they think you do, too.”
Both Chris and Winston think online trends have a lot to do with making healthy lifestyles cool. In a world where over a million Instagram users post the word #kale under their pics and a clothing line called Sober Is Sexy exists, these aren’t great conditions for the party monster to thrive.
“The internet is full of really healthy things, so I think it’s influencing people,” Chris muses. Veggie Winston thinks the internet has helped make healthy diets more accessible, too. “It’s very rare that I have someone say, ‘You’re vegetarian, I can’t believe you’re not skinny and weak!’ Whereas 10 years ago there were people who couldn’t believe I was alive without eating 50 cows,” he laughs. “If [healthy trends] encourage young people to have that kind of lifestyle over the badboy rockstar image, I think that’s a positive thing. I’ve always thought the rock star attitude of waste, destruction and ego was one of the stupidest things ever to be associated with music.”
The music industry may not be the hive of villainy that it once was, but neither is it turning into a nunnery. Skindred’s Benji Webbe has no intention of reining in his partying. When Hammer went on tour with the band in issue 278, the frontman was pouring champagne down his throat and shouting long into the night. “On Sundays I’m normally too hungover to even talk!” he laughs. “Everybody deserves one night a week where they spoil themselves. When I first started [touring with Skindred], every night was a party.”
Even booze-loving Benji, though, knows there’s a time and a place for getting wrecked. “It’s an age thing. You’ll do it all the time when your career starts,” he says. “Then you realise your body can’t take what you used to do and you cut down. You realise there’s a job to do. If you want your career to last, you’ve got to get your shit together, because fans are paying to come and watch you. I won’t drink before I play, because it’s not fair on my bandmembers or the people coming to watch.”
The coke-sniffing, whiskey-swilling, TV-hurling rocker of old isn’t cool any more, but taking care of your health, it seems, is.
“I only recently had two glasses of wine at dinner, and I got completely drunk!” says Andy, who hadn’t touched a drop for a year. “It made me laugh, because I realised I couldn’t go back to the way I used to drink. I think I’d just die. It’s not that I don’t drink anymore, I just took some time off and now I really like the idea of not drinking something that makes me feel bloated and shitty. I might have a drink here and there, but I’m enjoying a healthy period of my life that involves eating well and exercises and not being fucked up all the time.”
“The people I know in rock’n’roll try to look after themselves,” adds Benji. “People choose one night a week [to party]. I don’t think even Lemmy did it every night!”
Sex, Mugs & Rock’n’roll
Many bands sell beer, but there’s also an array of merchandise for people who prefer a good workout or a nice night in
Billed as ‘The World’s First Soothing Soda’, Les Claypool invented SeaPop after he ruptured his inner ear while scuba diving off the California coast, leaving him more susceptible to motion sickness. He says it tastes like a ginger snap dipped in ice cream.
When you’ve had enough of moshpits, why not pull out your Monopoly set? All the railway stations are studios where the band have recorded, and you can buy yourself the Whiplash Water Works. It doesn’t get less debauched than this.
Slayer Xmas sweater
Possibly the least metal item of merchandise ever, but definitely the most metal Xmas jumper. This allows you to worship Satan over a nice family dinner of slaughtered turkey or goat, before settling down in front of a re-run of The Snowman.
When the controversial Atlanta metalcore crew aren’t smashing stages, they’re getting hench as fuck. Vocalist Chris Fronzak has launched his own range of workout clothes, Deadlift, including black clothes with the word ‘Dead’ printed on them. Move over, Beyoncé.
Don Brewco tea
Who doesn’t love a nice cuppa? Bouncy pop-rockers Don Broco, the least metal band ever, had their tea-total (sorry) fans in mind when they released the Don Brewco collection, which includes tea, coffee, hot chocolate and a Don Cocoa mug. Lovely.