Metal is fora life! Or at least, that's generally how the ethos goes, metalheads proudly pinning their colours to the mast long after their teen years have passed and people stop suggesting it's "just a phase".
But while loving metal can certainly be a big part of our lives, playing it forever is another thing entirely. Whether musicians find other, new passions outside of music to pursue or simply have to leave their bands to pay the bills, metal history is full of players who had to bow out. So we dove into the stories of some of the most fascinating post-music careers of former metal musicians...
Dan Spitz (Anthrax): The Master Watchmaker
Dan Spitz joined Anthrax in 1983 and served as their lead guitarist until 1995. He left to train as a watchmaker. He returned to the band briefly in the mid-00s, but today horology is his main focus.
“It comes from being in my grandfather’s jewellery and watch store growing up. It was less than a mile from the original Woodstock site, so I had timepieces on one side and Jimi Hendrix waking me up playing The Star-Spangled Banner on the other. I really didn’t have a choice in life!
“Back in 94/95, Anthrax were at the peak of our career, playing arenas, but I was the only one who was married with two kids at that point. My wife had travelled with us from the beginning, but it became impossible after our second child. When I left the stage I didn’t know what real life was. It’s very difficult to adjust, so I threw myself into something that was a challenge. I enrolled in a school in New York and graduated in a year and a half, before going to a prestigious school in Switzerland. They take six people from around the world every four years and I was chosen.
“There’s a lot of similarities in what I do now and what I did with Anthrax. Watchmaking has evolved into micro-mechanical art because we don’t need to have a watch on our wrists to tell the time like our grandparents. There’s a movement of independent watchmaking, which means that we don’t have the equivalent of a record company telling us what’s in style today. We can make what we want, which is just how thrash metal was back in the 80s.
“There is no part in any timepiece made to mankind that I cannot manufacture within my facility. I’m a one-man show, which is my insanity. Other people have helpers. I use new technology and design and old micro-miniature lathes where I’m literally carving pieces by hand. The new piece I’ve been working on for five years is the first ever timepiece designed from the ground up for metalheads. I can’t talk too much about it, but I can say there’s nothing else like it.
It has three patents pending on different mechanics and it’s fucking mind-blowing. It’s called the 100% METAL series one and this was always the goal, even when I was suffering in the Swiss winters at school. It’s the same feeling as when we had the Among The Living album in the can but we couldn’t play it to anyone.
“As far as music goes, I did some writing with Scott Stapp from Creed, but that’s all I can do because I suffer from neuropathy, meaning my hands fall asleep and I have extreme carpal tunnel syndrome from playing with my wrists curled and my guitar too low. The thoughts of being onstage never leave me, but this career allows me to continue to be not normal and remain the metalhead I am.”
Kim Dylla (GWAR): The Artist And Costume Designer
Kym ‘Vulvatron’ Dylla was co-vocalist in Gwar for two years from 2014, before being fired. Luckily, she had plenty to keep herself busy.
“Dave Brockie [aka Oderus Urungus, Gwar frontman and co-founder who passed away in 2014 and who Kym partly replaced] and I were good friends, so it was great to be able to pay tribute to his legacy and make an impact - I heard from a lot of people who loved seeing a woman up there being a monster. You don’t have to be a pretty princess, you can be a Scumdog. It was a great opportunity and I’m grateful to Gwar for giving me that. And I definitely miss the giant, blood-spewing tits on a daily basis!
“It sort of felt like a break-up, but I still make music and I had my clothing business, so it’s not like I didn’t have anything to do. The day-to-day of my job now is working 15-hour days designing and sewing, but the good part is when I get to fly over to Europe for the big festivals and see Machine Head headline Graspop wearing things I designed, or when I dressed the Abigail tour for King Diamond.
“I also created the style for [wrestler] Bray Wyatt from WWE. He had called me when I was on the road with Gwar and I answered as Vulvatron in character: ‘What do you want, you pathetic piece-of-shit human?’ He started wearing my post-apocalyptic style in the ring and then it became a trend. There’s a whole period of wrestling where everyone’s wearing post-apocalyptic and metallooking clothing, and I can’t help but feel I started that trend. He introduced me to people like Chris Jericho, who also sings in Fozzy, and I make things for him onstage and in the ring.
“My former career before Kylla Custom Rock Wear was in the field of digital archaeology and I also make art. My parents are high-energy physicists and I make giant photo-realistic paintings of large-scale physics equipment like stellarators. NASA and some of the big labs own my work and I show at physics conventions as well as in the art world. “I’m also playing with the Irish band Cruachan, I have a studio project called The Burned Over, a local band called Ectoplasm, and there’s a band with my boyfriend, Johan Söderberg from Amon Amarth, that isn’t out yet. My idea of fun isn’t sitting watching TV. I’m interested in a lot of things and sleep is the part that gets sacrificed.”
Peter Theobalds (Akercocke): The Movie Extra
Bassist with UK extreme metallers Akercocke from 1997-2007, Peter Theobalds has appeared Black Mirror, Luther and House Of The Dragon, plus Star Wars and Marvel films.
“I was drawn to acting as a way to avoid having to get a ‘real’ job. Being in a band broke any ability to accept a repetitive daily grind, and I’d often walk out of jobs out of boredom. As most of my adult life I’ve had long hair and a big ol’ beard, I’d get happily typecast as a Viking, medieval soldier, gangster, mercenary etc.
Oddly enough, I’ve only ever once played a musician and even that was with an unplayable space guitar prop in a Star Wars cantina scene. Solo: A Star Wars Story was the hands-down best experience ’cos it was a small set, a limited cast of characters, and we got to sit on set between takes and experience the principal cast work through lines and action.
Another of my faves was chatting to sweary Muppets, their puppeteers remaining in character between takes on the Muppets Most Wanted movie. Another fave was picture doubling for Daniel Craig as Thor’s brother, Balder [in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness] – dialogue and a dramatic death and surrounded by incredibly talented stunt performers on wires battling it out in an epic set-piece that was, sadly, scrapped in favour of a rewrite.
“It’s an absolute honour and privilege to get to work on nearly all the projects I do. I genuinely love the work and being around incredibly passionate and driven creatives.”
Jeff 'Oly' Olson (Trouble): The Brewer
Jeff Olson played drums with doom progenitors Trouble from 1981 to 2008 (with a brief hiatus), but found that doom doesn’t pay the bills and left to find a more steady career in a brewery in Allagash, Maine.
“It was a hard decision to leave Trouble, but it had to be done. I have my own home with two acres in Maine, and a wonderful wife. It’s a little crazy in the winter, but I build a rink and we skate and play hockey every year.
“I work at Allagash Brewery and through my whole career there I’ve done almost everything. There were about 13 of us to start and now there’s a complete staff of about 170, so I’ve filled gaps at the company that no one was working at the time.
Right now I’m the campus steward, where I’m basically the guy who does anything that’s asked when we’re building or working on something. I also got to make my own Red Howes beer, which was named after my grandfather. We named it after him but it had those cranberries in it as well. When we launched the beer, I played a solo concert and did a meet and greet.
“I don’t talk much to the Trouble guys. Everybody is on their own journey, I understand that. I wrote some stuff with my friend, Mike Dean of Corrosion Of Conformity, and lots of songs are written for another recording with my Retro Grave project. Ultimately, I’m lucky to be part of a powerful world of music. The people of metal, rock drum corps, jazz and classical are all a family to me, and I would never change a thing about my reflection of the past.”
Chris Lykins (Atrophy): The Surgeon
Chris Lykins was the founder and guitarist with Arizona thrashers Atrophy, playing with them from 1986 until 1990, when he left to pursue a medical career.
“It was such a great time when everything was blowing up in the 80s. We were spoken of as contenders for the next big thing, but really it was pretty well established that the big bands were Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. Even though there were a lot of second-tier bands coming through, it felt like it would have been very difficult to break through to the next level. Death Angel maybe had the chance and I thought Forbidden were fantastic.
“Touring through Europe with Sacred Reich was great, and we got to play the legendary Marquee in London and got spat on in Dublin - by kids who looked like they were having an awesome time. I’d put my med school plans on hold when we got signed and my father died from renal cell carcinoma while I was touring. That really gave me the impetus to reapply and I took my MCATs [medical exams] in Paris in the middle of that European tour.
“I took off when things were starting to go downhill, for thrash at least. In America you have to have four years in university followed by four years in medical school, and then my residency in head and neck surgery was six years. I kinda thought being a surgeon was like being a human mechanic. My dad was an airplane mechanic in the military and then an electrician. He could always fix anything, so maybe I thought I should learn to do something that my dad can’t do!
“The details of my work week can vary, but I’ll typically do three days of office and two days of surgery. Surgeries go from the simplest procedures, like putting tubes in a little kid’s ear, to very complicated head and neck cancer cases or facial reconstructive cases that can last for hours. We’ll do everything from tubes and tonsils to parathyroid tumours, skull base dissection or putting in a hypoglossal nerve stimulator for sleep apnea.
“Some patients know what I used to do. I’ve had a few who saw me perform and others who have searched for my name and pictures of me as a 22-year-old have popped up, which can lead to some fun conversations after they’ve gone down an internet rabbit hole. I also play in an Americana-type band for fun. I’ve cursory contact with some of the band but I still practise guitar for hours. Music never really leaves you.”
Matthew 'Tuds' Archer (Paradise Lost): The TV Director
Tuds Archer was the original drummer with Paradise Lost, playing with them from their formation in 1988 until 1994, when he ‘fell into’ television work.
“We were all mates who’d grown up together, but we all needed a break. I sort of fell into TV work. I went to a gig and ended up chatting to the boys from [MTV rock show] Headbangers Ball. I ended up doing a lot of off-camera interviews with bands, which led to an internship, and I was eventually offered a position at MTV. I had to make a decision and I jumped in feet first and decided to work in telly.
“It was the mid-90s, so I did stuff with the Pulps and Blurs when they were new bands coming through the door. I got flown out to do tour reports and I’d do stuff for MTV’s Most Wanted. It mostly blurs into one, but interviewing James Hetfield or finding myself sitting three feet away from David Lee Roth, it just blows your mind.
“MTV was a great training ground and I ended up going down the Big Brother route. I did 24 Hours In Police Custody and 24 Hours In A&E. I also did One Born Every Minute on a labour ward and at the time I didn’t even have kids. I was honorary uncle to about 100 babies born on the show! I’ve also worked on the likes of Love Island and First Dates, which I love.
“I’m still in touch with the Paradise Lost guys and me and Nick [Holmes, singer] are best mates. Most people from Halifax went straight to working in the Halifax Building Society – as it was then – when they left school. I think we’ve all done alright and if it does all goes wrong, me and Nick can open a pub.”
Matt Drake (Evile): The Independent Cinema Manager
Matt Drake fronted Brit thrash revivalists Evile between 2004 and 2020. He now runs The Amity Cinema in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.
“I had quite a serious health scare – a pulmonary embolism, which was very scary after what happened to Mike [Alexander, Evile guitarist who died of the same condition in 2009]. It was one of those things where you look at things differently afterwards. I’d already started thinking about quitting Evile anyway because I’d become a dad.
“I’d always wanted to show films to people, but I never dared and I didn’t know how. One of the things I really wanted to do with it was to show films that had been overlooked, but I also want to celebrate films that mean a lot to me. The room I’m using now is in an upstairs cocktail lounge at a place called Magic Rock and there’s a full bar. It’s not what you think of when you think ‘cinema’, but it works so well.
There’s a crowd energy and if people want to quote along, laugh, cry or go for a drink you can. I also do mystery movies, which is great; you don’t know what you’re going to see until it starts. One of the best ones I did was Brian De Palma’s Blow Out and the audience was completely still for the entire thing. I’ve only had one bad response, when I showed [1990 B-movie horror] Tremors and this guy was going, ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake!’
“As for the band, I only miss that hour onstage. Evile were never going to get to that stage where you’re successful enough to get other people to do all the other stuff that needs doing. Being realistic, I thought, ‘Nah, I’ll just go and be a dad and show some films to people.’”