Online Exclusive: The Metal Shakespeare Company

Simon McCormack
7 min read
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I knew Lord Simms before he became a pedlar of Shakespearean metal.

Back in the day, Simms was in an Albuquerque hardcore punk band called Question The Answers, or QTA as the kids called it. He has since moved to Portland (with the rest of Albuquerque) and is now charged with versification and axemanship for
The Metal Shakespeare Company. The good Lord was kind enough to send me a letter with answers to my queries. The Metal Shakespeare Company plays Atomic Cantina on Friday, July 31 with Flood The Sun, Dead on Point 5 and Made in Bangladesh.

Where did the idea for The Metal Shakespeare Company sprout from?

‘Twas a tiny metal seed, which when planted in a tavern and watered with ale, didst mature into a comely shrubbery. A companion of mine–a sculptor–didst offer the concept when while imbibing spirits I didst impart my desire to imitate the musick of Iron Maiden, though I feared it wouldst draw the mockery of mine cultured village if ’twere done not with a wink and a smile. So with this in mind, I didst one afternoon pass through the campus of Lewis & Clark College, whereupon mine ears were serenaded from a high dormitory window by an axeman most skilled. I didst follow the sound, and rap upon the door and meet a tall man with a beard and a Slayer headpiece, that selfsame Viceroy Matthew. Knowing him not, I was yet do so bold as to ask, "Sir, I intend to found a metal Shakespeare Company and couldst use an axeman as skilled as thee. What say you?" Whereupon a bond of bardcore was formed.

Do you think if Shakespeare had rocked-out a little more he could have broadened his audience?

Methinks had Shakespeare rocked the English language any harder, he might have transmogrified unto a purely steel form for so metal was his handling of our tongue.

What does your songwriting process look like?

Picture, if you will, a wizard riding a unicorn ejaculating rainbows. When first we began, ’twas not yet so glorious. Matthew didst forge our compositions whereupon I consulted the muses as to which scene woulst be the superior match and set the words thusly. Now, the musick is composed alongside the text. Thou shall see in our interpretation of the battle betwixt Tybalt, Romeo and Mercutio–in which the deaths of two of these are most heavily accentuated, the workings of our unicorn-mounted wizard.

Which Shakespearean works do you draw the most inspiration from?

Selections of three of the Scottish Play we perform. Methinks the "dagger of the mind" speech perhaps the most metal in all of Shakespeare (in fact, our full name is Lord Simms and H.R.M. Dagger of the Mind Metal Shakespeare Company). To be haunted by specters of weapons following a secret slaughter? Couldst easily have come from the mind of Sir Ronnie James Dio as from the bard’s. We also perform the scene of the drunken porter, Shakespeare’s love letter to alcohol.

I’ve known since your days in QTA that you were a big punk fan, but I never knew you were into metal. Has that always been the case?

Indeed, sir, in my youth, I was nourished by that simple frenzy, that base pleasure of punk. When I didst arrive for mine schooling at Lewis & Clark College, I was quickly acquainted with a man from the far off kingdom Bulgaria. In this kingdom, all musick was banned for many years by a tyrannical king. When his throne was seized, ’twas the late 1980s and the sounds of metal didst flood the Bulgarian plain it its celebration of liberty. This young man imparted unto me some of that spirit which the musick of Helloween, Merciful Fate, and of course that oft revered Priest and Maiden hold for him and his people. Thus, my palate shifted from that brass and bold punk to the shining steel of power metal most glorious.

How much play does the Metal Shakespeare Company get on any given night?

We are most fortunate when at a Shakespeare festival we perform, for then we may see an entire play following our performance. Otherwise, that play we see is that but we produce, typically some five or seven scenes.

Which of Shakespeare’s characters do you identify most with?

What a fine question, sir! ‘Tis one I’ve not pondered directly, for from moment to moment one may any of the bard’s characters be. Methinks myself most oft King Lear’s fool, one with a simple wisdom though powerless, led by madmen, and more want to entertain and by influence aid than to counsel directly.

When you were filming your music video, did you attract any curious onlookers?

Strangely, no. ‘Twas a dark and ominous day. Thou canst see it little, but verily, the day on which we filmed Hamlet III.i, was, and this is fact, the wettest day in our village this year! ‘Twas not by choice–it was the singular date that all the players could attend. Methinks this dark weather didst drive all from the campus of Lewis & Clark College but us. That, or the frequent falsetto screams.

What doesn’t the video tell people about the band that you think they should know?

Much as the "to be or not to be" speech is Shakespeare’s number one hit, our video doth put forth our most palatable personae. Other selections may be darker, heavier, more glorious and altogether more amazing, though less apt to remain with thee once thou hast them heard. And, of course, the video doth demonstrate our admiration of the bard but since in it we do not speak, it doth not us reveal as true bardolators.

Would you say Elizabethan-period garb is less gay, more gay or the same amount of gay as more traditional metal garb like spandex, makeup, women’s clothing, etc.?

Methinks theater costumes always gay–since my youth I have found joy in dressing a part. And though we be a merry band indeed, perhaps the garb of the greats of the ’80s is gayer than that which we wear, for ’tis brighter in colour, and for that, methinks it lifts the spirits more. We are mostly confined to the shades of the earth, though recently I have procured silver tights, but they are a magic item bestowed unto me and quite unusual.

Have you guys worked on learning much Elizabethan English?

Does not a theologian read Greek? Do not leaches cure disease? Do not all pupils know Latin? Does not the sun revolve around the Earth? Gracious, yes! From our lips pours the Queen’s English, and by Queen, we mean not Freddie Mercury nor Hilary Clinton, but that luminous and golden-crowned Queen Elizabeth.

Why should people come to your show at Atomic Cantina?

Much like Shakespeare didst compete with bear baiting for audiences, so shall we do whatever is required to draw in our audience, away from the baser alternatives, even if those alternatives we must to a degree imitate. In short, I will wrestle thee if required to steal thee from the WWE or kiss thee, be thee man or woman, if it is romantic pursuits that confound thy evening plans. Whatever thou needst, we shall be it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes! If Sir Frances Lord Bacon or the myriad others who attempt to rob the Bard of his rightful authorshippe read this, may they know their time is short. We shall come for them with the swiftness and ferocity of all the murders of Titus Andronicus combined!
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