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Alexisonfire - The Band The Changed My Life
by CJ Smith of Dead Retinas

There’s not much that I can take from my high school days so please keep an open and honest mind about it. It’s a difficult period of my life, but I hope people can at least take something from it.

Through high school I wasn’t the most popular person, lets face it I was fat and ginger and in year nine I came out at gay. So my high school days were a complex range of insults, happy slaps and general disgust from people who didn’t understand.

Believe it or not it was Wade MacNeil from the band Alexisonfire that I was first attracted to after seeing the music video for “Hey it’s your funeral mama” from the album “Watch Out” and suddenly something turned from indulgence to obsession.

Watch Out was the first Alexisonfire record that I bought and it wasn’t my favourite at the time, I only purchased it for one or two songs however my lust and love for this band grew and grew as, to be honest the hate I received grew and grew. In particular a line stands out today as the line that got me through those years, from the song “Get Fighted”

“My Greatest Gift To You, Is A Dance Floor, Free From Insecurity”

I honestly have no idea why I picked this line from all the other songs as the one that reflected me the best, it just seemed to fit, like all the worries from another day of bigotry lifted off my shoulder. Perhaps is was the fact it was Wade’s gravelly voice belting through my CD player that I had an instant connection with it.

So Leeds 2006 hit and I had just finished high school, and Alexisonfire were playing the lock up stage on the Sunday and being a novice at festivals I basically stayed at the front from when the arena opened to when they came onstage at 7pm. The previous night I took a beer create box and in permanent marker wrote in massive letters “I turned gay for Wade” yeah I was obsessed, however I held my sign up and got a kiss on the cheek from Wade. Who is straight lets make that clear

After that I was hooked, and it was thanks to their music that I became so open about my life and experiences and “came out” to a lot of people. Their music has always hit home, and it’s always been there in my time of need.

I’ve travelled all around the UK seeing them live from 2006 to 2010 I saw them 26 times, including the 3 nights at the London borderline in Soho a venue no bigger then the Manchester Roadhouse. I’ve always met the guys when I could and got on first name terms with them, I still see Wade today and I’ve got to know him more and more, recently seeing him perform in Gallows at Leeds Slam Dunk festival in May 2012.

Crisis came out in 2006 and that’s when I really started to get crazy about them, I had that album on repeat for the next 2 years, the songs all made sense to me and all had a message whether it’s about love like in “Rough Hands”

“Sometimes love isn’t about how much someone suits you, but how much you’re willing the change to suit them.”

Or “Keep it on wax” a song about trash talking and backstabbing your friends.

“Times change, and people change with them. Some people love to play the victim. You threw caution to wind, washed away these few last years for nothing?

The album is where the bands popularity grew with the release of “This could be anywhere in the world” but people still maintain “Watch Out” is their best album.

Old Crows/Young Cardinals was the bands final full length and by far my favourite album, seems all the experience the band have had over the years have come to this point. It also has what is now my favourite track “Accept Crime”

Accept Crime is from what I’ve been told is a song about “Gay Marriage” this isn’t just the reason this is my favourite song. The track it’s self is 3:14 minute reality check for people. When the chorus blasts out “Hey, There’s no police. Hey, There’s no people between to beating hearts” is sort of became my anthem.

So a lot of people have asked me, why I’m so obsessed with them, well it’s a combination of things, it’s not only the physical attraction to Wade, a person that fully accepted me for who I was and am even before we even spoke, but it’s the quality of the songs as well, the lyrics match the concerns in our social culture today. There’s a range of issues in the songs as well, not just the ones that I mentioned they’ve got 4 albums worth and numerous EP to choose from.

Sure the attraction lies with the fact I did find my escape through their music and it was at that starting point in my life that I needed it the most, I wasn’t a happy person at all.

Maybe it was something about the age we were and the fact many people didn’t understand it, but when I say it was a difficult time it was a VERY difficult time and like I said before maybe it was the fact that not only Wade but the rest of the band just accepted me straight away there was no issue and speaking to Wade over the years it has never an issue, we don’t mention my love for him anymore even though he is the second man in my life first and for most my partner Dave, but we talk about life in general and various bands and projects. We’ve spoke about my band and what’s happening about that, and every time I see him he gives me a massive hug and we take another picture together.

So it’s difficult to recall of lot of what I wanted to say, I have shoved those years to the back of my mind, but when someone says “This band changed my life” in this case it certainly did, not only through the music they played but their attitude to life. I’m still ginger, I’m still fat and I’m still gay but I’m at the point where I don’t care. And I feel it was a combination of the social interaction with the band and the music that made me the self-confident person I am today.

Cheers guys it meant the world to me

CJ

CJ is bass player for Manchester punk band Dead Retinas - check out his band here www.facebook.com/deadretinas

 



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