Natural history of the present

A memory of Mitch Lucker

I am unexpectedly moved this morning by the news that Mitch Lucker has died following a Halloween motorcycle accident.

Mitch Lucker (1984-2012) performing with Suicide Silence. Supkowski on Flickr

Mitch was the “vocalist” for the American metal band Suicide Silence. I qualify the word “vocalist” because such is Suicide Silence’s extreme brand of metal that he more growled than sang.

Mitch was 28 years old. Very much in the “danger zone” for popular musicians, especially male musicians. I have written before about how the fast-living and risk-taking path to the top in genres like rock and rap disposes musicians to an early death.

Those who reach the pinnacle are five times more likely to die than their contemporaries of the same age and nationality. But we have no objective data on how many die trying or die in failure. I would predict that the few famous deaths that catch our attention are the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

I am no fan of Suicide Silence’s music. I am moved nonetheless by Mitch’s death because I had the immensely good fortune of sitting among members of the band and enjoying Mitch’s company on a flight from Sydney to Brisbane last year. I had just published Sex, Genes and Rock ‘n’ Roll, and I was on my way to give one of the first talks to promote the book.

It didn’t take me long to establish they were in a band, and I spent the hour or so in very pleasant conversation about life on the road and in a band. I was especially interested in the hard-living and risky lifestyle they led, the ratio of men to women at their concerts, and the sexual implications of their success.

They all turned out to be a delight. Mostly they wanted to speak about how they try to live modestly on tour, saving their money to pay off their houses and look after their families. They seemed almost nonchalant about the attention they get from women in their audiences. And they laughed that the only place those few women could be found was right in front of Mitch.

Mitch confessed to enjoying the extra attention he received, but finding it strange. He told me he seldom if ever washed his stage clothes, and that the sweaty exertions of Suicide Silence’s very energetic shows left him reeking by the end. And yet the fans persisted in trying to get close to him.

So despite looking like a metal band, and in fact being a metal band, they shattered so many stereotypes I held about their hard-thrashing lifestyle. Which is why I am so moved to hear about Mitch’s passing away in such a quintessentially rock ‘n’ roll way.