Sex, Drugs, & Awesome Hair

The glamtacular history of 1980s heavy metal in the Twin Cities

He was also looking to bury Mike Findling. He started hiding his lazy eye behind a pirate patch. "Before the patch," he says, "I'd be onstage and the guy over here would think I was looking at him. Meanwhile, the guy over here thinks I'm looking at him! I couldn't connect with my crowd."

The pirate shtick evolved to include a hoop earring and a black bandanna pulled tight around his forehead. He scoured library shelves for a band name that would lend cohesion to his new accessories. Blackbeard was too obvious. He settled on Slave Raider—the term given the pirate traders who captured slaves and sold them to the British Empire in the 19th century. It was at best an unfortunate oversight by a man who had sought out black band members. His own definition of a slave raider is a "black pirate." He admits he has no patience for books.

He christened himself "Chainsaw Caine" and purchased a chainsaw as a stage prop. After less than a year of playing the Twin Cities club circuit, Slave Raider was selling them out, building a regional following, and making the kind of cash that would make any pirate proud. In the never-written history of Twin Cities metal in the '80s, in a music scene full of bands with stratospheric aspirations, Slave Raider was the band that "made it," if only for a second.

Details

See more photos in our GALLERY of 1980s metal promo stills from the Twin Cities and our SLIDESHOW of modern hair metal heroes Hairball.

For more on the bands featured here, including video, read Jeff Severns Guntzel's REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK. Plus, revisit the past with scanned ADVERTISEMENTS from City Pages era archives.

Hairball is Findling's 401k. He is on contract with the band for his services as manager and booking agent. For Findling, who some years ago took his first and only "straight job" working for five months as a roofer, the safety net is not just financial, it keeps him "off the roof" and inside the only world he knows well.

The patch, the chainsaw, the screaming guitars and his signature show-starter, "Let's get this party started!"—without these things Findling looks every bit the world-weary tradesman he is. And with his blue flannel work shirt and close-cropped hair, you'd never guess that his trade was heavy metal.

IF THERE WAS anything that distinguished the local metal bands of the '80s from the punk bands, it was money. The punk bands almost never made any and the metal bands made plenty. At the dawn of the era, the standard-bearer in the Twin Cities scene was a band called Dare Force. At a time when bands like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements were traversing the region in dirty vans, playing in dirty clubs, and sleeping on dirty floors, Dare Force was packing ballrooms and clubs 300 nights a year and riding around with a four-man crew and a bus. It would not be unusual for the band, with bangs feathered and shirts opened, to find themselves in the back of a limousine.

Their show was divided into three sets. Half the songs were their own and the rest were covers: Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, the usual suspects. Dare Force was the first Twin Cities band to buy wireless systems for their guitars. The guitarists would walk the venue and step onto tables at opposite corners—a guitar war would ensue. Brian Bart, in tight blue jeans with zippers on the thigh and a studded leather vest for a shirt, would call out with his white Gibson Explorer, an archetypal metal guitar that looks like a misshapen star. John O'Neil, in a white hip-hugging jumpsuit, would answer on his Flying V, the guitar riding on his thigh like a pair of spread legs.

And the girls? "The dance floor was full of them," Bart says. "And they were all dancing with each other. There were unbelievable groupies. Especially with Dare Force. It was always like: 'Two o'clock, check that one out!'"

In those days, a band like Dare Force, for all its success, was nearly as DIY as the punks who disdained it. Bart recorded the band, booked the shows, handled the press, found the transportation and the crew. The band owned its PA and designed its own light show—complete with "pyro."

"Our light show was unbelievable," Bart remembers over breakfast at the Hilltop Family Restaurant in Excelsior. "There were the rain lights, the flash pots, the god lights—you would stand on those—and we'd have 60 par lights, even in a small club."

Today Bart lives in Minnetonka, where he's made a good living recording music at his Logic Studios.

There was no MTV in 1980, and as far as anybody in St. Cloud, Rochester, or Moorhead could tell, the members of Dare Force were full-blown rock stars.

The biggest crowd they ever played before was at a stadium in Puerto Rico. The band stayed in a top-flight San Juan hotel, and 5,000 people bought tickets to the concert. Five thousand more, who could not afford tickets, burned cars and crashed the gates. "We were in the backstage area outside," Bart says, "and we saw the burning cars, and all of a sudden there were thousands of people running past us toward the stage!"

They gave San Juan an hour of Twin Cities metal. "We got $10,000 for that one hour," Bart remembers with a smile.

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