Today we’re joined by Daniel DeLion. Daniel is a wonderfully talented death metal vocalist who also writes quite a lot. He is obviously very passionate about his art, which tends to be rather dark and some would consider it disturbing. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Warning: this interview touches on some pretty heavy subject matter (probably much heavier than any other interview)
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a writer and death metal vocalist. I sometimes draw as well but nothing spectacular. My focus is sadness. I write mostly poems but have a few short stories. This is actually the first time I’ve ever attached any image of myself or my name to my poetry blog. This is sorta a coming out. Perhaps my biggest goal of my writing would be to produce a graphic novel (or series) or TV series about an asexual anti-hero, a fantastically gory dark comedy. For now, my art is mostly about myself and my internal struggles.
What inspires you?
Irony. Contrarianism. Depression. Suicide. Self-harm. Anxiety. Realism. I’ve known for a long time that there was something different with how I see words and performing and other people. Since coming to terms with myself, I definitely cite my aro-asexuality as a reason. Since I’ve always had a hard time understanding love, sex, relationships, and everything else that American culture attaches, I don’t share certain solidarities as most others. I see a poem or Facebook post describing love and I say, “You’re wrong. Don’t tell me how I experience the world.” One common recurring theme is color. I’ve heard dozens of times that falling in love is like seeing a new color. So… I wrote a poem about “falling in love” and the world turning black and white titled “Too Good For This Universe.”
When it comes to singing and performing, it’s all about the performance. It’s all about giving people something to remember. Death metal is such boring scene. For years, I was typical and wore my most brutal shirt and casual jeans with Converse or Vans. Then one show, I decided to go with a kimono instead of a shirt. Then a flower crown. Then purple Sketchers. It was liberating. I was on stage, crying. I was screaming, confronting my depression, suicide ideation, anxiety, loneliness, and bodily insecurities. I never felt more alive.
I can name a couple dozen heroes that helped me embrace being myself, but in the end, I owe it to my need to rebel.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I have no clue when I started to like writing. I’m still not entirely sure if I do. I didn’t know I was any good at it until senior year, 2011. I hate reading. I could rant for a while of how the school system failed at making me comfortable doing art. I joined my former band in 2012. I had only been practicing death metal growls for a few months. The band The Project Hate MCMXCIX got me into death metal. I didn’t expect my band to last the almost 5 years it did. But, it was having to write lyrics that made me write outside of schoolwork. It was stupid. It still took almost two years for me to really start thinking of myself as a writer. School really hindered my confidence in myself. I was always being told that I was wrong. That’s what made me think of myself as an artist. Artists don’t follow rules.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Trigger Warning: Ridiculous Pretension Imminent.
Pursuing art is awful. Like, I don’t believe I’ll ever be a traditionally successful writer because I don’t ever want to make money from it. I write because it’s the only thing I have control over. I can control my artistic expression.
My advice would be to expect to hate art. Expect to hate what you create. My father always told me, “People always hate what they create.” That’s how he signed one of my birthday cards. I still don’t know what he created though… I’m sorry to be a downer but that’s my place in the “community.” I’m a tortured artist. I beat myself on stage. I bleed on paper.
“Artist” is a heavy word to me. I don’t know if I believe in “aspiring artists.” You’re either an artist or you’re not. If this was, “What advice would you give aspiring writers?” Then I could say, “Read the dictionary,” or whatever. But art is different. Over the years, I’ve met hundreds of musicians, writers, illustrators, composers, and plenty of others. You can tell an artist apart from the others. There’s a passion in them. Most people I met were just trying to make money from a hobby. Bands with more shirt designs than songs. They just wanted attention. If you’re that person, I don’t have much more to say. Enjoy your hobby.
But if you think you’re an artist, Be Prepared For Suffering. Know that you’ll lose sleep. You’ll lose friends. You’ll lose or gain weight from skipping meals or comfort eating. Know that you’ll question everything. You’ll wonder why you’re working so hard. You’ll wonder why it’s worth it. You’ll finish something after months or years and still be dissatisfied. But in the end, it’ll be worth it because it’s yours.
Bonus Tip: Drink tea, eat Swedish Fish.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I sometimes call myself Demisexual but usually stick to Asexual because it’s easier to explain. I also consider myself Aromantic. More specifically I’d be a Quoiromantic but don’t really consider that a label, more of a superlative. I only started thinking of myself as asexual last year and publically came out in June. It’s been an awful journey of self-discovery. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve hurt people I care about. But I’m still learning. Being asexual is tough. I think being male compounds the problems. Still learning. Always learning.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I don’t think so. Interestingly enough, sexualities and various nuances don’t come up too often at metal shows. Before my band broke up, I was working on a novel/collection of poems/anti-love story about an asexual and pansexual that would be a full album. It would’ve been cool to see some reactions but that’ll have to be put off until further notice. As a writer, I don’t know if I’ve ever faced anything explicit. It would take a lot for me to consider it “prejudice.” At my day job, I’ve dealt with some ignorance and rude questions.
Handling it is easy. I simply remember that it’s hard for people to understand. Most people never think of not having sexual interests. Most people are curious and don’t mean to be unbecoming. When I have had actual arguments, I do my best to be as easy to understand as possible. Not everybody wants to be educated, so to say. As long as they’re not being physically intrusive, I ignore it. I would advise the same to anybody reading. We don’t need bad vibes.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
- Contextualize everything. Most people aren’t bigots. They just don’t understand. You have to be better and choose to understand their misunderstanding. This also means that you can sever sex from anything and everything. Recently, I’ve gotten interested in rope art. Bondage art. It took effort but I learned that I could enjoy various BDSM aesthetics without being aroused by them. It’s all about context. This is a dense thing that’s hard to unpack.
- Never compromise or force anyone else to. This one is really tough. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve done things I wish I hadn’t. You need to exist for yourself. If someone wants you in their life but rejects your identity, move on. Do your best to educate but never force anyone to think anything. This also goes for struggling with representation. Don’t ever sign a petition to get asexual characters in a movie or whatever. That’s pandering. That’s dishonest. That’s fake art. You want asexuals in fiction, you write it. If someone says you can’t, write more. Never Compromise.
- Remember we care. The ace community is super rad. Without the online presence, I don’t know if I’d ever come to terms with myself. For reals. The Ace community is always here. You can try your luck with other LGBT groups but I say to stick with us. Maybe not me specifically because I’m a terrible listener, but the group.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My poetry: nothingbutaspaceman-writings.tumblr.com
My music from my first, and now defunct, band: deserteclipse.bandcamp.com #DefendDepressiveMetal
My new musical project: facebook.com/redruminthewheatfield
Thank you, Daniel, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.