Stay Ugly (Book review)
Released: 2017, Burning Horse Media
In a recent issue of Decibel magazine author Ian Christie noted the phenomenal rise of Metal publishing. That is true on all fronts but what might be interesting to note that as time of writing this review, there were very few actual autobiographies by extreme Metal people. King Fowley (Deceased, October 31) is in that sense a pioneer yet again.
STAY UGLY: THE LIFE AND NEAR DEATSH OF KING FOWLEY is an independent publication, like much of his work over the years it is very underground. This is not like a big glossy hardbound, story of big-name rockers like a Mustaine, a Snider or Bach; this is the unfiltered saga of a working class Metal guy. Running at a decent 322 pages, this paperback is adequate, not too many frills it and definitely looks and feels self-published. It does have several colour photos published on plates in the middle. There is no big name guest star writer of a foreword or afterword but I’m sure that is by design as there would be no shortage of people who would want to step up to the plate for that one. In terms of extra features, there is a long (50 question!) interview with Fowley and a semi-comprehensive discography and that is about it.
STAY UGLY is co-written by an old friend of Fowley by the name of Mike Sloan. Now, if you know anything about King, he writes/types like he lives his life…speed, full-blast and he has the bad habit of…. TYPING ALL IN CAPS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!! AAARRGGHHH!!!! I can only imagine the actual physical pain with Mike Sloan must have gone through to focus Fowley’s semi-derailing bullet train of death thought pattern into the comprehensive book we have today! One interesting feature was that at the end of each chapter there were any number of testimonials from friends and band members. All of them came the same conclusion. He is genuine. He is loud. He is insane. And not necessarily in that order. He is Metal. The testimonial idea was neat but at times it seemed like and endless parade of people saying how great he is and sharing old, insider drinking stories from back in ’87 or whatever. It’s cool but if you weren’t there the stories of him drinking motor oil, stealing milk or passing out on a porch somewhere might make you cringe!
The book follows your standard chronological pattern, detailing his life growing up on a diet of horror films and heavy metal and in later years, girls, booze and drugs. It was no surprise to learn that KISS was his gateway band like so many of us. Fowler has had no shortage of tragedy, losing his father at a very young age, then losing his mother who was still quite young, and then losing the mother of his child and having no shortage of health problems. The book is a bit of a tell-all, lots of stories of sex, drugs and rock and roll and surprisingly he maintained the willpower to quit both drugs and alcohol cold-turkey. Quitting anything cold-turkey once is hard enough, he did it twice! I especially like how it is current, it takes us right up to spring of 2017. So many of the big aforementioned ‘rock star’ autobiographies dwell on the past and stop giving any relevant or significant detail after the mid-90’s. King takes us right up to the recording of the forthcoming album, which as or time of writing is unreleased and is slated to be called GHOSTLY WHITE. I’m also glad that he didn’t skimp on details, the love of music and Metal stands tall giving each ex-member his due. He does not try to rewrite them out of his history. Despite him almost frying his brain with drugs, alcohol and suffering from a stroke, there is some good detail about Deceased and Oct 31 for all the trivia fans like me! I’m surprised he could remember it all but several people interviewed said he is very bright and good at remembering things.
Fowley is a survivor and among the truest of the true. There is an old Raven song, ‘When The Going Gets Tough’ and I think that Fowley epitomizes that. (Even though he probably wouldn’t like the Raven album the song came from, Stay Hungry, 1985) He kept Deceased and Oct 31 going for decades with sheer will power, hard work, no money, little help and an endless revolving door of guys who could not keep up to him, preferring a quieter life. I can hardly say I blame them but that is also why so many great underground Metal bands gave up and never made it… they didn’t have a King Fowley in their band. He never compromised which to his own admission made it hard for some labels (like Relapse or Metal Blade) want to work with him. The highly entertaining story book wraps up, Fowley is married, sober and in a stable living arrangement and the band is still having some great times on small tours of America and big retro-themed festivals in Europe. I’m sure Fowley has lots of life left in him and as he says, he has no regrets and this is not the end and I’m sure he will stay ugly to the very end. Up The Tombstones!