Formative Bands and Artists

Here's a not-terribly-organized and somewhat incomplete list of bands and artists that were formative in my life and which points at which they entered my life.

Early years:

  • Beethoven (blame Charles Schultz and my mom for this one)
  • Taco - Puttin' on the Ritz (First time I really understood what a cover was)
  • John Williams - Literally everything he did in the 1970s, but most importantly Star Wars. Seeing a pattern here?)
  • Focus: My dad had an album of Focus that I pretty much destroyed, which is a shame. I think this is where I got a bit of my prog bent.
  • Charlie Balough: Roaring 20's Pizza and Pipes (this probably deserves a whole article on its own, but we used to go to hear a mighty Wurlitzer Organ in Grand Rapids when I was growing up. To this day I still love organ music. RIP, Charlie).
  • The Electrifying Mojo. DJ in the Detroit Area that was on late nights, but is the one that I credit with really introducing me to funk and electronic music.
  • Wendy Carlos. My first electronic music crush. Didn't hurt that she did the soundtrack to a movie about computers. Such an amazing talent.

High School:

  • Rush. The epicenter of the tornado that upped my drumming game.
  • Herbie Hancock. I think I'd heard "Rockit" before, but hearing the rest of his catalog was revelatory. Still an artist that I admire without hesitation (though I do pass on the vocal work from time to time)
  • Motley Crue. Considering one of my first CDs was Bon Jovi there was no place but up. These gents get reviled a lot for their simplistic music but when they're firing on all cylinders they spit fire. I've grown to appreciate that more as I've aged. I still fucking hate "Home Sweet Home", though.
  • Joe Jackson. His star was bright in our high school, and I'm grateful for that. An artist that has really kept innovating each album.
  • Frank Zappa. Came for the novelty music, stayed for the absolutely insane musicianship. Another guiding light in my musical development.
  • Metallica. The band that was my gateway into thrash metal. What hair metal had sparked Metallica fanned into flame.


  • Skinny Puppy. Came in at the "Rabies" album, which was just hard enough for me to really dig it. My further explorations were immediately rewarded. Phenomenal, and a band that I treasure.
  • Jesus Jones. Electronic rock that took itself seriously without being a parody of itself. For me the iconic British Invasion band of the 1990s.
  • Pop Will Eat Itself: Electronic rock that alternated between self-parody and self-aggrandizement with style and panache that few bands could maintain without flaming out. Their later stuff got progressively darker, but they stayed true to form throughout.
  • Mortification. The albums with Jayson Sherlock were absolutely amazing. Technical, crunchy, and brutal with lyrics that resonated with me. Their later albums were absolutely terrible by comparison, which is unfortunate because they were one of the few Christian metal bands that I would recommend to any death metal fan without hesitation.
  • Sepultura. There were a few bands that made me go "what the fuck is this, because I like it". "Beneath the Remains" and "Arise" were both such albums. Intense, tight, and technical. Really expanded my horizons on what thrash metal could be. The brothers Cavealra were truly the heart of this band.
  • Sisters of Mercy. Yep, I was in college when "Vision Thing" came out and I was hooked. What's not to like? Fast guitars, pounding drums, and Andrew Eldritch crooning away like a too-cool snake in your ears. Lovely.
  • Primus. Ho-leee-shit this band broke my brain in the best ways. Such magnificent bastards.

I could list more, but these bands and artists really shaped my musical tastes for decades to come. There's plenty more (Ministry, Anthrax, Megadeth, Kraftwerk, Front Line Assembly, Scatterbrain, Scaterd Few, Cinderella, Tourniquet, Prong, Pantera, and so on) that were inspirational (sometimes even moreso) but these bands were the ones that took what I thought I knew about music and showed me a wider world was possible. They've gotten me through a lot of highs, lows, and just flat-out dull days to make my world a little brighter.