Metal John carries Torch of Rebellion

John Kyle CJSR GigCity EdmontonThere can be only one!

We refer of course to the designated heavy metal guru at the mighty CJSR FM 88.5 university radio station. Where once was Metal Mike (Berry) in a previous millennium, the torch hath passed to Metal John (Kyle), who has bravely held his lonely post for the last 20 years, give or take, toiling with no reward save the love of his followers, every Saturday night at midnight, spinning the finest in the most alternative heavy metal you will never hear on a commercial radio station.

“Mainstream radio and media is for zombies,” Kyle complains. “Probably 90 per cent of the wonderful music that’s out there will never be heard by people.”

Like many local metalheads, the 48-year-old announcer celebrates rare occasions of hearing something like Rage Against the Machine on Sonic, or Ace of Spades at 1 am on K-97; “I was pretty damned excited,” he recalls – but it’s not enough.

This is where the curators at CJSR step in. This Saturday night sees a fundraiser for the Canada’s longest-running metal show Mind Compression – featuring area metallurgists at the Mercury Room. The bands, all from Edmonton, are Bestir, Mass Distraction (pictured, below; not the one from Sweden), Screaming Radio and Marla Maria, with visual displays from artists like Spyder Yardley Jones, hero of Edmonton’s counterculture. The bands, like the art, lean towards the extreme side of the scene.

Kyle says politics in music is important to him.

“It is for me,” he says. “When I took over from Mike Berry, I’d grown up listening to his show, so for me it was the voice of rebellion. It really was. And these guys that we have playing, a lot of them are dads now, they’re seeing what’s happening in the world and they’re singing about it. Not that they’re warning the generation of their kids, but they’re trying to wake them up.”

The band Bestir, whose music is described as “doom-infused-grind,” is into Noam Chomsky, “whereas Motley Crue is all about cocaine,” Kyle adds. Everything has its place.

Mass Distraction GigCity EdmontonMetal John says he was bestowed his nickname in 1986, in high school, where he turned away from the music of his youth, the Pink Floyds and the Led Zeppelins, to an exciting new form of music that had sprung up almost overnight: Thrash metal. It was fast, it was loud, it was most definitely in your face. Bands like Slayer and Anthrax soon led the way down a rabbit hole bifurcating into countless side tunnels, deeper, dirtier, heavier, more extreme. In 1996, Metal John took over the volunteer metal DJ position from Metal Mike, and has been there ever since, more or less.

For a guy who’s been on the pulse of heavy metal for at least 30 years, having heard thousands of songs from hundreds of bands, meeting most of his heroes, Kyle doesn’t make a big deal out of being a leading authority on metal in Edmonton. When metal matters come up in the news, he’s on the list of experts to call; CBC got him to be the voice of reason when the band Deicide (i.e., murder of deities) got into trouble with religious folk, but he’s humble.

“I’d never say I was an expert. I’ve been waving the flag a long time,” Kyle says. “I guess I’m kind of a reluctant figurehead.”

Spoken like a true Highlander. Someone’s got to keep the flickering flame of truth alive during these long dark ages.