The je ne sais quoi of DMD
You've seen the bald and spastic guy throwing himself around in front of the stage at the Metal Factory and Tavern 213. He's perpetually clad in long shorts, a T-shirt, and white socks that crinkle beneath his ankles. Sometimes, he's one of the three or four people standing for a show. But even when it's crowded, you'll see him up there in front throwing his head and clutching a cigarette. He's feeling something other people aren't.
He's Death Metal Douglas.
It was 2 a.m. The Fort Lauderdale Saloon (626 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale) and most of the bar had cleared out when his band, Radar O'Reilly, finally took the stage and opened up with a cover of the Who's "My Generation." Amy, the blond, bobbed obstacle between Death Metal's heart and the female population at large, was saddled up on a bar stool in a skirt, a rhinestone-collar necklace, and clunky black heels. A Budweiser rested on the bar in front of her.
I looked into her brown eyes and told her, in so many words, that I've had my eye on Death Metal for a long, long time. "That's funny," she said, and laughed with a contemptuous lack of concern that seemed to say, "Yeah, you and every other chick in this town."
On stage, his fingers twitched over the bass like insects in death throes. Radar's drummer, Buddy Banger, had a tattoo running up his left arm toward his glistening bare chest. The guitarist and singer, Righteous Richard, so named for his Christian bent, was growling up front, his eyes shaded by a prominent brow that deflected the overhead lights. It was loud as hell, and the paltry crowd of 15 was dragging -- it seemed because of the hour.
"Is everybody enjoying themselves?" Righteous Richard asked into his microphone.
And Death Metal followed with a touchy observation: "God, nobody's here anymore."
Where were they all, the adoring harem with their hearts on the line? Or the lovers of stoner rock, who listen to Radar-like bands: Monster Magnet, Queens of the Stone Age, and Fu Manchu?
"This stuff that we're doing is up to that level," the 35-year-old sex object asserts when we settle down across from each other at an outdoor table at Maguire's, sans Amy (sweet!), on a recent Tuesday night. "There's an audience for that stuff. They just haven't found us. I saw some of the scenesters at the Queens of the Stone Age show. The same people who won't give us the time of day."
Shortly, Douglas admits that he hasn't always been so invisible, especially with the females.
"Get this," the bald hottie says, underestimating his elusive appeal entirely, "I would never consider myself the biggest ladies' man ever, but I went to four fucking proms, man. Most people I know that are like me didn't go to prom at all."
Surprise, surprise, cheri.
Then the Don Juan of four strings keeps building the case for a powerful strain of masculinity buried in the gray mush of his subconscious. Long ago, he abandoned the sax and turned toward bass. "I started playing saxophone in the early '80s. Even though I was punk, I'd learn, like, all the solos to pop songs, crap like 'Urgent' by Foreigner. To hit the high notes, I had to crunch the reed, and I hate wood in my mouth, aw, yuck! I don't even like to bite into popsicles that have wood sticks. It grew to gross me out. I can't stand wood in my mouth."
His ease with his manhood oozes through every pore of his sheeny, opinionated head when he says the words all women wait to hear. "A lot of people are like, 'I don't like chick flicks.' I'll watch a chick flick, if it's good. I've been meaning to watch this Bridget Jones's Diary. I've seen parts of it. That's a great movie. Then you've got some piece of shit like Autumn in New York with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. This is the worst piece of shit I've seen in my life. All they do is talk about their relationship. Unfuckingbelievable."
Speaking of unfuckingbelievable, Death Metal launches into a tirade about his band's outsider status on the local rock scene. "I keep wondering why I even bother trying to play shows. We played a show at Churchills [5501 NE Second Ave., Miami] where there were like 25 people in the bar, [but] we were playing on the patio to the two or three people that we brought. I threw my bass down and went inside and fucking yelled at a bunch of people and told them what pieces of shit they were for fucking dissing us. 'You people fucking know me and you can't even come out and watch my fucking band,' you know? We haven't played Churchill's since.
"A few people out there say that Radar O'Reilly sucks," he says. "It's unfortunate. We played a couple of shows at Billabong [3000 Country Club Ln., Hallandale Beach] with a couple of bands, and their crowds would go outside... while we played... I don't like that shit. I want to be appreciated just like everybody else."
Disproving the laws of karma, he continues, "I've seen anywhere from 60 to 80 local bands. I like the Numb Ones a lot. I support a lot of bands. I buy CDs from other bands in this town, and none of that's come back to me, and that really makes me bitter."
Why, in Death Metal's opinion, do these scenesters have no time for DMD?
"I feel like we just aren't indie enough or whatever. People are so into being fricking cool. To say your band is an indie band is almost as cheesy and useless and meaningless as saying you're an alternative band. It's stupid, and anyone who does it is dumb. It seems like now it's a prerequisite that you wear a cardigan, you have to not be able to play guitar very well, and you have to like the Pixies, who I hate, by the way."
"They're horrible. Bad songs. I don't think there's anything intricate going on in that band. They're very mediocre musicians. Their songwriting is weak. The thing about the indie snobs is they love the Velvet Underground. I think the Velvet Underground is pretty fucking worthless. You listen to Lou Reed's Street Hassle, who needs the fucking Velvet Underground?"
Death Metal and I get to talking about the pair of Doc Martens he picked up at the Swap Shop for $10, and he confesses. "I rag on all these indie rockers, but I love the way they dress. I like the cardigans. I like the little glasses and stuff. I just don't like the attitude. It's the only thing I don't really gel with, you know? They're snappy dressers -- I have to give them that."
Does Radar O'Reilly suck? I wonder. So later, I call Austin Carl, who books live acts at Billabong. What does he think of DMD's band? "They seem to want to play good music," he says. "They try hard, but there's no continuity. They can't pull any particular sound off. They come across like a cover band. They play a long time, and people get up and leave. They didn't bring that many people with them, and no one wanted to play with them. They sound like they play AC/DC songs in a different way. They don't suck as musicians. They weren't together, and they compensated for that by playing longer. It's like are you here to play for yourselves or are you here to play for other people."
Carl isn't the only one with an opinion, though. J.C. Riley, who sings for the band Basketcase, tells me that he saw Radar O'Reilly at All Stars (2201 W. Sample Rd., Deerfield Beach) two years ago. "I was there for the chicken fingers, but [even now], I remember the intricate bass lines and the musicianship. They were better than I thought they were," he continues. "I was impressed, very impressed."
Why, then, I press him, can't Radar pull anyone to shows?
"Most people don't know good music," Riley returns. "Because 98 percent of the population is fucking stupid."
Is DMD, then, an AC/DC rehasher repelling audiences from local bars and clubs or a talent burning too brightly among the blind?
DMD explains his philosophy by quoting Brian Ritchie of the Violent Femmes: "He said, 'The best way to rebel is to be into everything.' Not to be close-minded about things. Those [indie] people remind me of people in high school. They are very cliquey. If you say you like metal, you're not cool. That's part of the reason I came up with this Death Metal Douglas thing."
So the next time you see his bald pate flailing on the stage, don't be afraid. Walk up, disturb his mosh, tap him on the shoulder, and say, "Hi, you're Death Metal Douglas, and my panties are wet."
You can do so at the November 13 Radar O'Reilly set at the City Link Music Fest at 6 p.m. in downtown Hollywood.
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