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Photograph by Chapman Baehler

Night of the Living Dread: P.O.D.'s Sonny gets ready to swing.

Hair Today, Dreads Tomorrow

What is up with metal musicians and dreadlocks?

By Spence D.

THE ORIGIN of dreadlocks stretches back to the fifth century when Bahatowie priests in Ethiopia began locking their hair. Mention of dreads can also be found in the tenets of such diverse religions as Hinduism and Christianity, the tresses symbolizing a devout perquisite of spirituality.

But it's Rastafarianism, a religious movement born of revolution in Ethiopia during 1935, which is most closely associated with the practice of dreadlocking. As for the expression "dreadlocks," it was initially coined by the conservative sector of Jamaica and intended as an insult insinuating the dreadful nature of the hairstyle.

In pop culture, however, Bob Marley is without a doubt the man most responsible for bringing the culture and coiffure of dreadlocks into the mainstream. It's safe to say that prior to Marley topping the pop charts few outside Africa, the East Indies and Jamaica knew what dreads were. Marley's universal popularity made him the dreadlock poster boy for an entire generation as well as generations to follow.

Dread couture, especially within the music industry, has largely been relegated to reggae and hip-hop artists. Yet over the past decade, a new purveyor of the natty hairstyle has emerged: the metal musician.

Drummer Mike "Puffy" Bordin, formerly of Faith No More, is the godfather of the metal dread look. Bordin still sports massive dreads, almost 20 years after he emerged in that groundbreaking band. The lineage of high-profile rock musicians with dreads has continued with the likes of Rob Zombie, Zack de la Rocha, and Jonathon Davis and Munky of Korn.

Recently, a whole new generation of metalheads has adopted the dreaded style. One only has to look as far as the current lineup of Ozzfest 2002; bands like Mushroomhead, Ill Nino, Adema, Switched, P.O.D., Flaw and Neurotica all contain members who sport dreads. Given that the music these bands create is light-years removed from the languid island rhythms of reggae, one has to wonder what the connection between metal and dreadlocks is.

Tim Fluckey, guitarist for Bakersfield-based Adema, has a theory about why so many metal musicians sport dreads. "The long, straight hair was getting pretty much bagged on for awhile, especially after the hair bands died out," he explains with a laugh. "So I think a lot of dudes were left over with this long-ass hair that they didn't want to cut off. They went to dreads so they wouldn't catch shit."

Fluckey's theory may loosely hold water, but the overall reasoning behind cultivating dreads, at least among the musicians interviewed, is a triple combo of convenience, laziness and natural occurrence.

"I was a fuckin' long-hair, an old-school fuckin' hippie," laughs Skinny, founding member and drummer of Mushroomhead. "Ultimately, I was into the whole Metallica/Megadeth type of heavy metal where long hair was cool. But as time went on, everybody was changing their hair--you know, music changes, style changes. But I was like, fuck it, man. I'm not losin' the hair; I'm not givin' up. It was just much easier to maintain it as dreadlocks than it was to have straight hair."

Switched guitarist Brad Kochmit sees it as something of the lazy man's do. "You don't really got to do much--you just wake up and there they are," he muses. "I think [the reason so many metal heads have dreads], honest to God, is because it's an easy fuckin' hairdo. You can either shave your head or [grow dreads]. I think it's for all the lazy guys out there."

While easy maintenance seems to be a big draw for many musicians, there is some care involved in keeping your dreads reasonably presentable. Most of the guys wash their locks at least once a week, so the myth about never washing your dreads is just that, a myth.

Beyond washing and rinsing every once in a while, dread care varies. "Everyone's got a different thing," says Lazaro "Laz" Pina, bassist with Ill Nino. No fewer than three of his band mates also rock dreads. "Cris [lead singer] uses gel; Jardel [guitarist] just put beeswax in his head the other day; Dave [drummer] has his girlfriend twisting 'em; and I just leave mine alone. So I probably have the most rattiest, natural dreads of the crew."

Skinny, who has been cultivating his dreads for more than eight years now, recently started wrapping them in hemp. Switched's Kochmit has an altogether different approach to maintaining his dreads. "I put a little bit of honey in there for awhile, but then it got all sticky and nasty," he states. "Basically, I just find anything and put it in my hair, string, solder, rubber bands, all that shit to keep it locked up. We had a day off in Fresno on our last tour; we were just bored, sitting in the hotel room. and there was this big ball of black yarn [sitting there]. So I was 'Fuck it, man, let's put some yarn in my hair.' I took the hair, and I tied knots around some yarn, and I weaved it in with the hair."

Maintenance aside, perhaps the most interesting issue surrounding metal musicians who sport dreads is the concept of cultural appropriation. After all, dreads are rooted in the religious beliefs of Rastafarianism. Surprisingly, none of these guys have been hassled because of their locks.

"I've never gotten flak," admits Kochmit. "People just assume that I am a pothead, though. I always get the ganja stereotype, but I never get flak for being white and having dreads."

Laz merely sees dreads as being more socially acceptable, especially when placed alongside all the other stuff that musicians do to their appearances. "I'm surrounded by musicians who do all kinds of strange shit to themselves, so dreadlocks are not really out of this world," he remarks. "In fact my experiences with meeting real Rastafarians has been pretty open. They usually compliment you on your dreads and invite you for some weed."

Fluckey has been hassled, but not for his dreads. "I haven't really had that much trouble with it at all," he says. "I used to have trouble all the time when I had cornrows, especially in Bakersfield. Racist white dudes would drive by and yell, 'What the fuck do you have cornrows in your hair for?!' I figured that I might get that with the dreadlocks, but actually it's been pretty cool. Normally, if you just tell people you're in a band, they just leave you alone. I guess you get the free pass if you're in a band. It's funny that way."

The dreadlocks swing at Ozzfest (with Ozzy Osbourne, System of a Down, P.O.D, Rob Zombie, and many others), which goes down Sunday (Aug. 25) at 9:30am at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View. Tickets are $43.50-$78.50 (408.998.TIXS)

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From the August 22-28, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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