Confessions of a Metal Edge Pen Pal

The Girls, 1988

When I was 11 I lied and said I was 13 when I submitted my full name, parent’s address, and list of favorite bands to Metal Edge magazine’s Pen Pals section.

Which was good because I was 13 when they published it.

I’d been a faithful reader of Metal Edge ever since my friend Annie, whose parents smoked Marlboro Reds in the kitchen and whose older brother played “Cum On Feel the Noize” in the basement had started decorating her room with its torn-out pages. We’d walk to the Rite-Aid not far from her house and buy each issue, taking care to get one from the back that hadn’t been fingered by other shoppers.

Soon my room was covered with long-haired, ripped-teeshirted Gods of Rock the likes of Rick Savage, Zakk Wylde, Stephen Pearcy, and Joey Tempest, their names discreetly printed in small white capital letters in the corner.

The Pen Pals page was newsprint like the other sections of the magazine not dedicated to preteen walls and promised the opportunity to make friends with metal fans world ‘round. On a piece of notebook paper I wrote:

Kate Daly
(house and street omitted to protect my parents, who still live there)
New Martinsville, WV
Likes: Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Europe, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Stryper, White Lion
Age: 13

and sent it to the address ATTN: Pen Pals. Each month I’d stand in the Rite-Aid and nervously scan for my name. I didn’t know they’d printed it until the first letter arrived from Japan.

They came from Sweden and Huntington, WV. Letters came from Minneapolis and Ontario and Nevada, and one day an envelope arrived from San Antonio, TX, decorated with the most beautiful artwork I’d ever seen.

Freddy Q. was an artist. Freddy Q. loved White Lion. Freddy drew an amazing rendition of the Pride album cover on a piece of typing paper and sent it in a legal-size envelope so it wouldn’t have folds. I wrote and told Freddy about my family, my tape collection, and how I’d stained the driveway spray-painting banners for the Def Leppard concert. I told him about my Swatch phone and how my friend Rachael and I met a boy at the WOMP-FM Monster Jam and called everyone in the Wheeling phone book with his last name, asking if Mike was there, and the $124 phone bill my dad was surprised to receive.

Freddy and I exchanged phone numbers and agreed that he’d call. I waited that night with my finger on the hook, popping it up on the first ring so my parents would assume it was a wrong number.

The voice on the other end surprised me. It wasn’t his Spanish accent or the fact that his deep voice made him sound at least 17; it was the fact that I was hearing the voice behind the slanted scrawl and the heartfelt pencil drawings. We didn’t have much to say.

Later that spring, around the time mom filled my Easter basket with To Hell With the Devil on cassette and Misty of Chincoteague in paperback, my love of the magazine had started to fade. I’d graduated to full-sized posters, Kip Winger in a Bastille Day tank-top and the iconic G N’ R band shot replacing the tear-outs. Freddy didn’t write after the phone call, but I’ve always wondered what happened to the boy in Texas who loved White Lion.

Maybe I’ll find him on the Internet.


Cover photo: The Girls, May 1988. L-R: Shauna K., Kate D., Rachael H., Annie K., Sheri E. Photographer probably Becky W. 

This essay was originally posted on Medium on September 16, 2013, and has been backdated accordingly.

My Boyfriend Is a Metal Head

Kirk Hammett

But we both like Zeppelin, so it’s ok.

I never miss a chance to talk about gear with an old guy at a picnic.

Late last summer at a pig roast in Buffalo, my boyfriend called me over to talk to an older guy who was dating one of his fifth-grade teachers. “Barry’s a musician,” he said. “I told him you played bass.”

“Yeah!” I said, pouring the head off my draft of Labatt Blue. “I’ve played for about 15 years now with a few bands in Pittsburgh.” I went into my usual spiel, how I started playing mostly surfy stuff, not Beach Boys but more The Ventures, yeah, we covered Telstar, Mr. Moto, Surf Rider. “We did some cool gigs, opened for Dick Dale a few years in a row, played with The White Stripes before they were on MTV. I have a Mexican p-bass, a ‘95, sounds great.”

“I’ve got a ‘67 Hofner, too,” (my companion makes a “Well, then!” whistling noise when I say this), “Yeah, it’s cool,” I respond, pretending not to notice, “You can tell someone had the pickguard on for lefties. I play with an Ampeg B-15 — have a B-100 for home, but I take the Portaflex to shows.”

“Ah, the best bass amp there is!” says my new musician friend as I nod knowingly.

“I’ve got a Les Paul custom with EMGs. Used to have a Mesa Dual Rec with a Marshall 4×12,” says my boyfriend.

“That’s quite a metal machine you got there,” says Barry the Musician.

I resist the urge to say it’s an Epiphone, not a real Les Paul, and make a joke about solid-state vs. tubes. But I don’t. Barry says he’ll friend me on Facebook and we decide to get some pulled pork.

I didn’t make the joke because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that he’s a metal head. I love his Metallica posters and his Children of Bodom CDs and his NIN tee-shirts. And I don’t care that he would probably buy a Flying V.

Tonight he’s downstairs picking out “Over the Hills and Far Away.” He really is a great guitarist. It’s not Bob Dylan, it’s not The Byrds, and we’ll never share a love of Leonard Cohen. And even if he doesn’t think the Troggs Tapes are that funny, he loves me.

And we both love music. That’s good enough for me.


Cover photo: Kirk Hammett, 

This essay was originally posted on Medium on September 16, 2013, and has been backdated accordingly.

My Divorce Goes to Eleven

Or, why I’d rather be your bandmate than your wife

When I got your name in the Borders employee gift exchange, I knew you’d appreciate a thrift-store shirt and some salt-and-pepper shakers. When you asked me to the Bob Dylan show on Valentine’s Day just a few weeks later, and offered to drive even though your car didn’t have heat, I knew it might be something.

I bought a bass with my September paycheck and played that Halloween show just a month later, dressed as Roller Girl. We were in a band. was in a band. I was playing bass in a band!

And you were, well, ok.

We spent Saturday mornings making fliers with my bootlegged copy of Pagemaker and Saturday afternoons walking around the city, staple gun and Scotch tape in hand. I spent evenings after work designing album covers, buttons, and tee-shirts.

We got married because I think we thought we had to. It seemed like the next step in growing up, like going with mom to Penney’s to buy a bra.

But afternoons at guitar stores do not a marriage make. A trip to Memphis for analog mastering isn’t a honeymoon. Releasing a 7″ isn’t a recipe for happiness. And reverb doesn’t say I love you.

You were cool about the divorce thing. We cried, of course. But you understood when I told you that I needed someone who would dance with me. Not onstage jumping up on the last note, not behind me at a packed GBV show, but really dance. Like at a wedding or a reunion when you’re going to look like an ass and that’s the point.

You’d always sit there.

I’m glad we’re still in a band. I love it, actually. I love lugging my amp up onstage, I love my blue P-bass, and I love the songs we play. It’s part of who I’ve been, and who I want to continue to be. I’m glad it’s who I can still be without you.

See ya at the show.


Visit the hi-frequencies website.

Cover photo: The hi-frequencies at the Mattress Factory, December 2000. L-R: Kate D., Bill M. Photo by Melissa S.

This essay was originally posted on Medium on September 12, 2013, and has been backdated accordingly.