’96-’01: High School

Social Lubricant

Enrolling at Marr College from primary school was what seemed at the time a gargantuan leap into the unknown. As the eldest brother I was the first to move on up, and coming from the smallest school there weren’t many folk in my immediate peer group that were known to me. In fact, only one other person from my previous cohort remained amongst my peers. 1D2. Darley house was to be my educational residence until my departure in August 2001. Making friends was a renewed challenge, made more difficult by the fact many from other schools somehow managed to remain in their existing social groups and were seemingly quite averse to new inductees.

Luckily, the musical taste that had alienated me in primary school found a place amongst the larger crowd; there were other kids who really listened to music. The ability to understand and evaluate the musical preferences of others was a vital weapon in my arsenal when it came to gauging the personality of a new acquaintance (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2006).

I’ve never found the ‘in crowd’ cool. In Troon there was, at the time, a reasonable amount of money. As a result, those with money, and those aspiring to be like those who came from an affluent background, dressed much like their parents, and they dressed like people who play golf and dine at the lookout restaurant over their marina. Dull as dishwater. Just about as dull as the music to which they listened; the more adventurous amongst them had a few Oasis albums.

For the most part I wasn’t interested in chart music. It was abhorrent to my far more subcultural and niche cravings. That was what I found cool, the ‘alternative’ universe of music that to the mainstream eye was everywhere you didn’t look. The friendships that developed, and more importantly lasted, were those that had a similar sense of musical taste. Those relationships also served to inform one another of new albums and songs that were to be communally consumed and digested. Through these friends we were able to explore new music tastes and develop an ability to discern the cool from the passé (Miranda, 2013).

Music was ‘social lubricant’ (Lewis, 2002). It broke the ice, it informed friendships, it packed me off to gigs with a few friends of friends of similar taste. Some of those friends of friends became friends. Some didn’t.

Having compiled the timeline of influences and songs for this project, it has become (more) obvious that I became more and more favoured toward heavier, darker, and faster music, egged on by new social relationships and the endless pursuit of cultural capital (Thornton, 1995). Coincidentally it was also a period of profound personal loss, losing all of my grandparents within 18 months during the first couple of high school.

One of the themes of this project is the link between musical preference and identity, and the direction of the influence; did the music inform my identity, or vice versa. It is certainly possible that during this time I was projecting my biography (DeNora, 1999) and the weight of loss I was feeling, and looking to heavier music as emblematic of my experience.

The audio-analgesic effect of music served as a distraction and provided therapy for the emotional changes (Maslar, 1986), and serving as a to cope with the stress, loss, and loneliness (Miranda, 2013). The related process of emotion regulation using music as the primary resource allows not only distraction from distressing emotions but also a provides a mechanism to find a sense of self validation through shared experience, and in some instances encouraged the release of tension and energy through venting (Schwartz & Fouts, 2003). To this day I find stepping into a studio and cranking up the guitar and playing at earth shattering volumes to be a cathartic experience, and it always makes me feel better.

Counter to the interaction with the rock, metal, and punk scene kids, I was involved with the school brass band, having been under the tutelage of Sandy McAughtrie since the age of 8 through an extra-curricular school programme. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the tuition, but I loved the feeling of power when the band were performing like a well oiled machine; especially the massive sonic experiences produced in the huge church halls that hosted many of our performances. If I’m honest I could have been better, I could have practiced far more often at home, and I could have possibly  made something of myself playing horn in later life if I’d continued. I now can look back and understand how frustrating it must have been for Mr McAughtrie to only hear tiny improvements week after week.

Much of the music I experienced throughout my teenage years remains with me and continues to inform my contemporary tastes, although I do now feel slightly more open to new musical experiences and genres. It is unsurprising that longitudinal studies (Delsing et al, 2008) into the stability of musical preferences during adolescence confirm this. Turns out I’m normal after all.

My love for rock and metal was really formalised and characterised through the friendships and social environments I maintained, and further informed by new technologies and the inclusion of contemporary subcultural music in other media formats; gaming was a particularly unexpected influence uncovered as I constructed the timeline.


1996    –    1997    –    1998    –    1999    –    2000    –    2001

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