Excess All Areas ; Who Better Than Our Jazz Man to Spend an Evening at the Homage to Heavy Rock and Eyeliner That Is the Kerrang! Awards? SHOLTO BYRNES (He's the One Who's Rakishly Removed His Bow Tie) Enjoys a Glass or Two with Murderdoll and Friends
Byrnes, Sholto, The Independent (London, England)
I've shared a stage with a keyboardist from The Pogues, a guitarist who's toured with The Who, and Billy Ocean's former conga player. I've played gigs with bands as oddly titled as Fritz and the West Highland Terriers, and Mr Kipling's Exceedingly Good Jazz Funk. I've even stood behind a mixing-desk and chatted to Freddie Starr. But none of this, I knew, would prepare me for the Kerrang! awards, a byword for excess, bad behaviour and the mysterious world of heavy metal.
If the past is another country, then metal is a different planet, a place inhabited by men with strange names and stranger hairstyles, a place impervious to the subtle distinctions between mezzo- piano and mezzo-forte, and where eyeliner pencil and the power chord jostle for the throne. Dark tales are told of previous Kerrang! ceremonies, of booze-laden tables being trashed, broken limbs, and hair set ablaze, the wild men of rock returning to a primitive and ignoble savagery. So it was with some apprehension that I donned my dinner jacket and patent-leather shoes beforehand, shuddering to think what my dry-cleaning bill would be the next day, and wondering whether my tailor would ever forgive me.
First impressions outside the Royal Lancaster Hotel fitted the bill. A horde of pale-faced girls wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Biker", "Killer" and "Let's fuck" awaited their idols. The dress code was strictly black, occasionally relieved by tartan, tattoos, and distinctly well-fed flesh spilling out of waistbands and market-stall tops. Then a man with white make-up, red and black dreadlocks, and what appeared to be a leopard-skin parasailing harness dangling round his trousers, stepped out of a tinted- windowed car. As if stung by a thousand wasps, the fans screamed as one, desperate for a snatched moment, a kiss or a signature. "Who is he?" I asked my neighbour. "Oh, that looks like a Murderdoll," came the reply.
He spent a very long time walking along the barrier sharing himself with the fans. That's not very rock'n'roll, I thought, but how considerate of him.
Other bands made their way through the crowds, pausing graciously for the paparazzi, all greeted with ecstatic screams by the crowd, and all, with the exception of Gary Numan and Paris Hilton, totally unfamiliar to me. Two members of Electric Six turned up, incongruously clad in white tuxes and looking like cheap wine- waiters. They made a beeline for me. "Nice dinner jacket, man," said one. At the drinks reception, boisterous young men charged around like the lager lads they could have been had the muse not taken them. Quite pretty girls, the kind of girls you see on the bus or behind a till, stood around in small groups, mostly ignored by the men.
And then the ceremony began. The tables were stacked with beers, rum, Canada Dry, and a wine labelled "Death Cult Armageddon". An unusual grape, I thought, until I read underneath, "New Album Out 08.09.2003". Ashley Bird, Kerrang!'s editor, came on stage to read a letter he'd been sent by a 12-year-old girl who'd heard that musicians didn't eat well on tour and was offering to cook some proper food for them. "I don't mind when they come round," she wrote, "because I'm off school until 8 September!"
Behind a railing at the back of the room, a select group of the magazine's readers strained forward, waiting for the bands to show themselves. Guest presenters strode up to the microphone: pudgy Jack Osbourne, his hair like an upturned floor mop; Page 3 lovely Leilani; and the poor- man's Jordan, Jodie Marsh - "the woman who manages bigger tits than Louis Walsh", as the co-host, the Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray, put it. One group had to hang around the podium as a band member had gone to the loo, a fact announced to the audience along with the additional information that he'd been kicked out of his hotel the previous night "for pissing in the basement". …