HARRY METZLER IS ILL-ADVISED
Fender wins again. Like Beck, Zappa, Clapton, and Hendrix, it was a Strat that fueled Harry Metzler’s drive for rock n’ roll. He was only three years old, but he had found his true love — a double cutaway in turquoise.
Harry’s music education began early as his mother nourished his dream. A gifted coloratura soprano, she knows that a musician is not something one chooses to be; rather, it is something that one is. Anchored by the unlikely combination of his mother’s opera and his elementary school’s 1940’s big band music curriculum, Harry learned to play strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments while still a child. He filtered this foundation through his love of rock music, fronting several bands during his teenage years. While embracing the challenges of making music with friends, Harry honed his craft and became a uniquely versatile musician.
Inspired by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, Todd Rundgren, and Prince, Harry took the reins of his destiny. As a solo musician, he became the band: Ill-Advised. While attending college on a music scholarship at William Paterson University, he began work on what would ultimately become his debut album, Parkway Divides. “I could never find people who liked the same music I did or were as serious as I was,” Harry says. “I had been in bands where someone wouldn’t show up to a rehearsal or to a show, so I’d end up filling in on their instrument in addition to singing. I figured it wouldn’t be that much of a difference if I just wrote and recorded everything myself, since I had pretty much already been doing that for years.”
In true punk rock D-I-Y style, Harry built a studio in his basement with the help of a few friends and set off to work on the album himself, “I produced and engineered the entire album myself and wrote, sang, and played every instrument. I recorded instruments one at a time, using a placeholder for the lead guitar tracks first, then drums, bass, final guitars, pianos, synthesizers, strings, horns, etc., culminating with the vocals.”A few songs caught the ear of Los Angeles producer and mix engineer, Michael James, who had worked with bands like Jane’s Addiction, Hole, Jawbreaker, New Radicals, L7, and Chicago and ultimately mixed Parkway Divides. “I really dig the sincere heartfelt nature of your music because it makes me feel something on a visceral level,” Michael wrote in a fund matching challenge hosted by Pledge Music, “Listeners are hungry for the real stuff. Their bullshit detectors are sensitive, and they’re tired of posturing and pretense. Because your music is genuine, it makes me feel like I’m getting to know the real you when I listen to your songs.” David Donnelly (Aerosmith, Blink-182, Ministry) mastered the album.
Although not intentionally a concept record, Harry noted that the album tended to take on its own life. He explained: “I’ve always been a fan of the album as an artistic statement and I began to notice that the tracks sort of organized themselves. The first track is “The Creator,” the middle track is “The Great Divide,” and the last track is “The Last Goodbye.” It was completely unplanned; it just worked out that way. I love how vinyl records have a ‘side 1’ and ‘side 2,’ so I decided to call the first six tracks “Northbound” and the last six tracks) “Southbound” — a perfect metaphor for an album whose name is inspired by New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. “There are shared themes, both melodic and lyrical, throughout the record,” he explains, “I approached Parkway Divides as if it was one big classical piece, with the individual songs representing smaller movements that made up a whole. Everything is connected.”
Reviewing the lyrics, Harry realized the songs deal with themes like duality, light and dark, love and hate. At times, the songs contradict themselves, and he realized he was making a record about the human experience. He shared that it was hard to reconcile the loss of innocence with getting older and becoming more aware of the world. “Some of the songs deal with trying to understand how to hold on to the kid you used to be in a world where people are killing each other.”
After a successful run of the Summer Nights Tour in 2016, Harry went back in the studio to finish the 16-song politically charged follow up, Masochists. Inspired by events both personal and political, especially the 2016 United States Presidential Election, the album trades in pounding rock drums for electronic, syncopated rhythms and experimental soundscapes. “I felt like I had taken the sound on Parkway Divides as far as I could. The live band I was playing with had dissolved and the new songs I was working on were much more electronic and rhythmic – danceable, even.”
What initially began as an EP turned into a 1 hour 18 minute concept record about catastrophic human tendencies. “I didn’t deliberately set out to write a political protest album. I don’t really consider Masochists to be that anyway. I started recording this album before I even released Parkway Divides at the end of 2015 – before the election had even really started ramping up. It wasn’t until the election results came in and I wrote ‘Faithless Elector’ that I actually took a step back and looked at the lyrics to the songs I had written and saw how relevant the album was to what had been going on in the world.”
Whether subconscious or otherwise, the meticulously layered album takes the listener on a journey, contemplating the possibility of nuclear annihilation. “The idea of people voting for a candidate who had no intention of helping those very same people – and didn’t even try to hide that fact – seemed incredibly masochistic,” Harry says, “I started thinking about all the things human beings do – the decisions we make and the actions we take – that bring about our own suffering. The whole idea of pressing the ‘fuck it’ button and blowing it all up and how it relates to the human condition. You start to question whether or not people are actually enjoying the pain they’re experiencing when they keep making the same decisions over and over again.”
“New Jersey’s Ill-Advised is an unapologetic, brash, and critical rocker, whose abrasive yet down-to-earth swagger shines triumphantly in both his persona and his work. Masochists, his recent album, is something of a mark of both maturity and anger for the rocker, his music successfully coming through and showing off his dark and introspective art.
“The 16 track concept record is ambitious as it is skillful, with the project’s brainchild Harry Metzler stylishly lamenting about the current state of the Western world. With a musical flair that borders on the edge of alternative, industrial, and metal inspiration, Ill-Advised rolls feverishly and mercilessly in Masochists. Indeed, with the record’s largely dark and bleak outlook, Masochists feels like we witnessed the graduation of Ill-Advised, an artist whose work is absolutely contagious. Masochists is a thematic wonder that is unafraid to speak out against the current events of our real world, and its story telling is something we definitely haven’t seen since the likes of the late My Chemical Romance.”– 24 Hour Music
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
“I always knew I wanted my third album to be a double album. I went into the recording for Parkway Divides with the idea that the first three albums would be connected – that they would live in the same artistic space. It was a challenge, too: can I make a double album in 2019 and hold people’s attention?”
Lisieux I: Renaissance was released on May 17th, 2019, the first installment in an evolving trilogy inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux, a blood relative on his mother’s side, ““The title came to me during the mastering of Masochists. I had tackled the personal and the political, so delving into the spiritual seemed like the logical next step,” he explained in a radio interview with New Music Saturday, “I wrote most of these songs on piano – I wanted to get away from production and back down to the immediacy of the song. There aren’t any long intros or 7 minute songs. I wanted to grab the listener immediately.”
Harry read Therese’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, and found he related to her more than he expected. “I was raised Catholic, although not in a strict way, even though my grandmother was an ex-nun. It was more of a cultural thing – I’ve always used the imagery in my lyrics. The main character of Masochists, Father Lunatic, was a sort of Guy Fawkes meets the Young Pope meets the Joker, after all. When I accepted the context of her writings – that she was living in a convent and her connection to God had become a way of staying sane after her mother died – and looked at her as a person, I started to relate more to her, especially her artistry.”
Therese was a prolific writer, not only with her journals which were later compiled by her sister into a biography, but also as a poet and playwright.
A few lines from her poems made their way into songs on the album, like the first single “Wound” and the neo-monarchical anthem “She Will be Queen.”
“I found these side-by-side translations of her poetry during my research. I thought it would be cool to include a refrain from one of her poems in a song as a way to connect the present to the past. One of those is in the bridge of “Wound” where I sing in French in a harmonized falsetto – to channel her and provide a feminine quality juxtaposed to these really aggressive, masculine instrumentals.”
“‘She Will Be Queen’ came about after a few lines in one of her poems triggered these lyrics in myself. It was this wild experience where I was blending phrases and lines from her poetry with my own lyrics on the spot – almost as if she were writing the song right there with me.”
Lisieux I: Renaissance translates literally to rebirth, a central theme of the 8-track LP. The first of a 24-song double album split in three parts, each song representing a year of St. Therese’s life.
“I view each album I make as a concept record, even though on the first listen it may not be apparent in a linear sense on the first listen. In an era where nuance and complexity seems to be, at best, lost, and at worst, feared; the use of metaphor has been vital to my music. I wanted to create a impressionistic feeling with Lisieux I. The way the album is sequenced is to mimic the experience of reincarnation; flashes of past lives coming and in and out of consciousness. These vignettes are filtered through my own personal experience, with many layers to uncover and interpret.”
That’s not to say that the record cannot be direct when needed. The final track, “End Of The Beginning,” is written from the perspective of a school shooter, chronicling their descent from loneliness to paranoia. “I try to write music that works on multiple different levels. It’s up to the listener to take from it what they want, based on their own experiences,” Harry says.
“At the end of the day, I’m an album artist, no matter how inconvenient that may be,” he explains, “And as long as I have something to say within that medium, I see no reason to throw it away. Albums exist beyond the superficiality of the moment – they are a complete thought, a statement in a time where soundbites and tweets are the norm. Most artists today seem afraid to stand up and say what they believe if it’s inconvenient. I’m not.”