BLÖÖDHAG: Reading sci-fi metal minds.
With EMP, our local Gehry-designed music fetish universe annexing a new science fiction planet, there's only one obvious leader for Paul Allen's new world, and it's not Allen--it's BlöödHag, the single rock band in all of Seattle that can truly say it spans the cosmos of EMP and the Sci-Fi Museum. They also understand the focused infatuation that draws people to both. Formed in 1996, BlöödHag is a speed metal band featuring sci-fi "writers" Prof. J. B. "Jake" Stratton on vocals, Dr. J. M. "Jeff" McNulty on guitar, bassist Sir Zachary Orgel, and Ambassador Brent Carpenter on drums. Their songs are all about science-fiction authors, like Thomas Disch--whom they've met; he said their ode to him was "the strangest flattery he's ever had"--and William Gibson. Their live shows include Stratton's brief introductory bios on the scribes as well as the light pelting of their audience with actual books. With a mantra of "The faster you go deaf, the more time you have to read," the band has toured clubs and libraries alike, as well as performing locally at a couple science-fiction conventions, or "cons." And, they recently helped usher in the Nebula Awards--the Oscars of science-fiction writing--by playing the opening ceremonies.

Stratton, an avid reader and the son of two librarians, says the pairing of music and science fiction is a natural coupling. "I think in heavy metal they intersect pretty directly. Heavy metal bands use science-fiction and fantasy themes in everything they do, and horror too," he explains.

With their humorous yet reverential take on both sci-fi and metal, BlöödHag have earned fans and write-ups in and beyond Seattle--Blender gave the band a mention and both the BBC and the Guardian have done pieces on them despite their lack of a UK label. And yet Stratton is quick to acknowledge the high geek factor in his band. "I have no shame in calling myself a nerd. I'm many different shades of [the word]," he admits. "'Nerd' just implies that you're obsessed with a particular thing--sports, music, whatever, and nerds can co-opt the word. It's just a matter of diffusing the meaning. It doesn't have power if you accept it."

He adds, though, that "nerd" is a universal term that extends beyond people obsessed with spaceships and aliens. "I think the myth that science-fiction fans [are the only nerds] needs to be shattered. That just because they're fans of a particular TV show or author... that somehow they're so low on the pecking order, and that sports fans or music fans are so much higher up. It's all equal levels of obsession over something that can't love you back and it's a common human thing. Sci-fi fans are no more ridiculous dressing up like a Klingon than a football fan [is] dressing up in face paint and buying the jersey."

The band's dual focus allows them to enter multiple subcultures simultaneously, an honor more straightforward bands don't often approach in their careers. "We play libraries and science-fiction conventions and places that are just a whole other realm of performance other than just getting on stage at a club where people are there expecting the same thing every fucking night," Stratton says. "It's always different when you're playing these shows. You never know what's going to happen in a library." Everyone from furries to teenage goth girls to middle-aged sci-fi fans (whose only frames of reference for the band are the names mentioned in the titles) have attended their non-club shows.

When asked what the Sci-Fi Museum should include in its collection, Stratton of course mentions the authors, as well as the cover artists, who have dedicated time to shaping the genre. "We hype science fiction because of its connection to heavy metal and also because I believe that reading science-fiction literature helps stimulate your imagination in general. It brings you more options in terms of thinking."

In regard to his own thinking, I ask Stratton which sci-fi device he wishes was real. Without hesitation, he answers "teleportation." "I just like the idea of moving effortlessly from place to place without walking because I'm lazy," he says, laughing. A good teleporter could also help BlöödHag out on tour, whether they're heading to a library, con, or club. "[Punk band] Alice Donut invited us to come play CBGB in New York in July and we can't afford to do that," Stratton laments, "but if we had a teleporter--bam, we'd be there, no sweat."