Interview: Dom Smith

Recently DutchMetalManiac’s Glenn van der Heijden spoke with The Parasitic Twins-drummer Dom Smith about his platform called Wobbling About and Rocking Out, WARO in short.

Hey Dom, how are you doing?

I’m alright, thank you very much for your time.

Well, Tim said you wanted an interview about your platform.

Yeah, about a couple of things. I’m in a heavy metal band called The Parasitic Twins, I have cerebral palsy as well. We’ve been back touring Europe and doing lots of really cool stuff. I also set up an online platform to promote disability and mental health awareness that’s called WARO, Wobbling About and Rocking Out, which is pretty amazing. I’m really proud of it. The band has been doing pretty well, so we’re pretty pleased with that.

That sounds inspiring to me.

Yeah man. You have cerebral palsy as well, right?

Yeah, I’ve cerebral palsy as well. That’s why I was so enthusiastic to do this interview with you.

Absolutely, how did you get into writing? That’s awesome that you’re able to do that.

Yeah, it sure is awesome. Tim is a friend of mine, he created DutchMetalManiac.

That’s cool, it’s a good site.

I wanted to write for him and I tried to write a review. Then he said that I was actually good, so I could stay. That was the gist of it.

That’s awesome. I got a publication as well, if you ever need more places to write rock or metal reviews, you can happily help me out.

That’s awesome.

I get Tom, the PR guy, to give me your email address after this and then we’ll keep in touch.

I would really like that, thank you.

It is very inspiring to be able to speak to you as well, so thank you. You take some time of your day, that’s cool.

I read in this article in The Guardian that in England it’s very difficult with a physical disability to be in music. Can you tell me something about that?

With me being in a punk band, The Parasitic Twins, I used to play in small and dirty venues. It’s pretty intense. There’s always wires to climb over, I’m always falling around on stage, trying to get on stage. I managed to get there, just like you. When there’s a will, there’s a way. You can make things happen if you really want to. It’s hard, very hard and I think the venues do need to have more open mindedness in regards to disabled musicians. I think, like anything, it’s not always easy. If you don’t know anyone with a disability to understand what it is like to have one. If music venue owners don’t know anyone like me or you with cerebral palsy or another disability who works in music, then they are not going to make the adaptions that are needed. They are not going to make those adaptions, because they don’t understand why they should. What it is about, for any band and any artist, you got to make people aware, you’ve got to show them what’s possible. You have to got a conversation with them really, not going that they should do this or that adaption for me in your venue. Maybe that person wants that and doesn’t have experience with anyone with a disability.

So you’re saying that you have to have a dialogue on a civil level?

Yeah, it’s like a dialogue. Unfortunately, not everyone has the experience we have with disabilities working in music. People that don’t have disabilities are not going to understand what it’s like. So, people like me and you have to talk to people, we have to tell people what our needs are. That’s a big problem the UK and other parts of Europe have now. It’s about musicians and people working in the music industry with disabilities having a conversation with venue managers. They’re making people aware, it’s about educating, it’s about informing and it’s about inspiring.

It’s also about money for the venues.

It’s the costs, absolutely. That’s a very good point, but equally there’s a lot of funding for venue adaptions if they’re willing to make those adaptions in their venue. There’s potentially more funding for the venue as well. Again, it’s about exposure and being more aware of what’s available to you if you’re willing to make those adaptions. I don’t know what it’s like where you guys are.

Well, in The Netherlands they try to make adaptions, but it’s also a bit like, what you were saying, many people don’t know anyone with a disability. So, even if you have the conversation, then it’s still very hard to explain to people what actually is needed. Especially regarding the thought process in that whole matter, right?

Yeah, of course. As you say, people like me playing in bands, climbing up on stages and saying that something is quite difficult and it would be really good if I could get some help the next time, I come back playing the venue. They were only finding out that it’s possible for people with disabilities to play in bands. People like me and the people you read about in that Guardian-article, it mentions other bands. There are other bands with people with disabilities in it and it’s about that awareness. It’s about having that awareness and the experience with those bands. To make them as aware as possible for their venue.

Do you get a no from a venue very often?

A lot of times, because we play in massive venues, we play in punk venues, pubs, bars. If I need help to get on stage or an extra step and I ask for that, they often will need allowances. I think we played good venues. I had conversations with bigger venues, they have said they are going to make improvements. For me as a band member I tend to say that it’s all good and that I climb on stage in small and dirty punk venues that will need allowances. I’m pretty adaptable, I’ll play anywhere, anytime and for anybody. I sort of make adaptions for small venues that don’t necessarily have the money for more expensive adaptions. I am able to do that. I walk with two sticks. People I know that are in wheelchairs fulltime and in bands were advised to speak to the venue in advance of them playing.

That’s what I am doing. I am in an electric wheelchair all the time. I always contact the venue beforehand.

Absolutely and that’s brilliant. I used to be in a wheelchair fulltime and I still supposed to be in it. I think it’s important that because I can stand with sticks, even while it’s painful, that I should do that. You do very well in the chair fulltime, you are exactly the kind of person that needs to be spreading his message, because what I would say to bands is exactly what I would say to people like you going into music venues and going to shows. You have to prewarn the venues.

Let me tell you, even if I prewarn the venues, then a lot of times it goes sour anyway.

If that’s the case then you should call them out on that, that’s not cool. Most venues that I spoken to when I go to shows or playing shows have been very welcoming and supportive. Whether it’s about getting a step or try to lift me somewhere, people will help. It’s a shame that you had that experience, I am very sorry that that happened to you. It sounds like you already are a good spokesperson for the metalscene where you’re from. You’re doing a great job and obviously it’s cool to meet someone like yourself who is out there speaking for journalists and for creatives. I’m speaking for people playing in bands, while drumming in The Parasitic Twins. What we are all doing is speaking for journalists, creators, people that are working in great industries, people that are working anyway. It’s about what’s possible for people in your situation. You might be in a wheelchair all the time, but it is not stopping you doing your job, it’s not stopping you going to shows. I think you’re a very good example of what person I like to talk to. You’re not just sitting there, resting, you are going out there and you try to contact people. That’s pretty cool man.

Thank you. I have to ask, if you play a show you must be extremely tired afterwards.

It hurts to play. I use a kick pedal, a little bit of hi-hat. It’s very painful. I don’t do blastbeats, we play metal, but I am probably the only metal drummer I know that doesn’t use a double kick pedal, but it’s very loud and very heavy. It’s also very painful and very tiring. People tell that being in a band is a lifestyle and it is. It’s something you do despite the pain, it’s like you going to shows. It’s hard to get out of your door, to go to venues, but you do it because you love it.

It’s hard but it gives you energy.

Absolutely, the same reason you go to the shows, the same reason you want to do interviews with bands. It’s the same thing, you get the buzz. That’s why you get up in the morning. Things hurt of things are painful, but you do them anyway because it’s about I do it because I always promised myself I would, I always wanted to do it. I put it off, I got older, I got a job and all those things. I was always like one day I would be in a band and then I put it off. Finally, I did it and I knew it was going to hurt, I knew it was going to be hard, but we played Holland, Germany. I am from a little city in the UK, Hull. It was the UK city of culture a couple of years ago, but apart from that it is not known for a lot of things. I never thought I would play music in your country or Germany. It’s so hard and it’s very painful. I am sort of leaning against something now and I am in pain, but it’s worth it, because it’s nice to talk to you.

I got to say that’s very inspiring. Your energy is so positive.

The biggest thing I can tell you is that it is about keeping positive people around you. Not everyone is going to get it, I still get stared at in the street, I still get people saying “Holy shit, you can play drums?”, after I come off stage. Sometimes people go up to my bandmate and ask who the drummer is, because they won’t even recognize that it was me playing.

Does that sadden you?

No, because you don’t like to say. I play more shows because I want people to be aware of what’s possible. I want people to see that I can play and I want people to become more aware that there are other people like me and you doing really cool shit. The more people go “wow”, fair enough, that’s more awareness. The more people go “holy shit”. Some people might be look “is that weird?”, then I say no, because maybe next time they see someone with a disability playing music and they think that it’s really cool. They won’t be so surprised.

So you really think that we ourselves can change their views in that regard?

Absolutely. The best example I can give you is you writing these articles because people go “Holy shit, this guy Glenn is writing these articles, it’s causing him pain, it’s hard for him to do, but he is there doing it”. That is because you want to change people’s perceptions. The more people you meet, the more people meet you with writing these articles. Then people change their minds all the time, because of you. It takes people like you and me and lots of other really good musicians and creative people, people have to experience it. They have to meet us.

So it takes people to inspire people?

Yeah, it’s communication. You want more adaptions in music venues? Then use communication, don’t assume people are going to know about it. People aren’t always going to know about it. People might not always be accessible, because they don’t understand what it’s like. People like us can change that.

It’s a dirty fight, but someone’s got to do it.

Absolutely and here we are. Things might not be the best for you, you might be in pain, but I already know the kind of person you are, because you are here talking to me. If you didn’t want to do it and if you are the type of person, I think you are, you would be going to shows, you would be talking to me.

I completely understand. I must say I am really inspired.

It’s all good. I am really impressed with the work you’ve been doing, I really like the website you are working on. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me as well.

You have that platform, WARO, what is your mission with it?

My mission is to spread the word and to tell stories of people like you, so now I am going to reverse it and we will keep in touch so I can interview you for my platform. It’s called Wobbling About and Rocking Out, WARO in short. The idea with that is to not only spread news about inspiring people with disabilities, but also about spreading mental health awareness. Now you hear more about that, especially in the music business. Mental health affects a lot of people. We do interviews with inspiring, motivating people that have disabilities, that have mental health issues, so they can tell their story. I want you to tell me how you became a writer, about your struggles and how you deal with everyday things. It’s making people aware that there are some amazing people with some amazing challenges. People that struggle to get up every day, they still get good shit done. They might be musicians, they might play in bands, they might write for music websites. In short, it’s a platform to spread awareness and to support people with disabilities and mental health issues, to tell their stories. Hopefully by doing that, we inspire other people.

And maybe there will be a normal view about people with a disability.

Absolutely, we’re spreading the word that there are people out there who do incredible stuff. It’s making people aware that people with disabilities could do just as good if not even a better job than other people. We are making people become more comfortable with disabilities and also with mental health issues.

What’s the best reaction you had after a show when they actually realized you’re disabled and you’re drumming in a band?

The best reaction I had was in Germany. We played in a venue in Hildesheim. A guy came up to me and he said that his wife struggles with a disability and that she has nothing to look forward to. She struggles with hope, with finding motivation to do stuff. She is a really big music fan, she loves heavy metal. He took a video of our performance and he said that he would show it to his wife and that he would tell her and her family that anything is possible if you are determined enough. If you want to be in a band and you have a disability it doesn’t matter because if you are determined enough, you can do anything you want. He was close to tears, even crying a little bit, came up to me while he said he would show the video he recorded of us playing to his wife to try to get her to feel a bit more motivation, to be a bit more inspired with her own disability. That was a wonderful thing for me.

That is what keeps you going right?

Absolutely and honestly speaking here to you, you taking the time about my band and this other stuff. That’s what motives me.

Same goes here. I had a ton of fun doing this interview and I really hope we keep in touch.

We’ll do.

Here you can read our earlier interview with The Parasitic Twins’ guitarist/vocalist Max Watt.

WARO (Wobbling About and Rocking Out) Official Website
WARO (Wobbling About and Rocking Out) Facebook
WARO (Wobbling About and Rocking Out) Instagram
WARO (Wobbling About and Rocking Out) Twitter
The Parasitic Twins Facebook
The Parasitic Twins Twitter

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