Guest Blog: Chimaira Frontman Mark Hunter, “Fear”
Mark Hunter is the vocalist and founding member of Cleveland metal act Chimaira. For more than a decade, Chimaira has been imposing its gravity on the metal community by continually touring the globe and selling more than a million albums worldwide. Their brand of heavy music has evolved and transcended both itself and the trends while maintaining its persistent, bludgeoning force. The band released its newest album, Crown of Phantoms, last year. Watch the video for “All That's Left is Blood” at the bottom of this post.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer”–Frank Herbert
It was 2007 and there were over 60,000 screaming metalheads eager to lay waste to a mud-soaked field. This was the biggest show Chimaira would play to date. We were at the legendary Castle Donnington ready to rock Download, an annual slamboree in the U.K. that hosts the biggest and best of the genre. Heroes of ours like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath graced the same stage we were now standing on. We were stoked, to say the least.
Five minutes to show time and an anxious feeling wreaked havoc on my nervous system. I’ve experienced stage fright before, but what I was about to do was insane. This many people? Yikes. Commence dry heaves, frantic pacing and elevated pulse!
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, when out of nowhere this unexplainable calm settled me. It felt as if gravity had been stripped from my skull. I was no longer the same person I was 10 seconds ago. The symptoms of anxiety disappeared and I was free from bodily stress, free of worry and all of my frantic behavior vanished. There was only one focused thought--destroy this crowd.
I’ve entered an altered state of consciousness and am now in battle mode. If I say, “Jump!”--I guarantee you will see 60,000 people jump. My confidence was that strong. How did I transform at the blink of an eye?
Had I failed to recognize the chemical signals as good stress, I would have let fear get the best of me and we wouldn’t have played an epic show. It’s possible that interpreting this as a panic attack would have induced one, causing a disaster of epic proportion.
Instead, I went with it and understood exactly what was happening to me. I had been this character hundreds of times, and this was no different.
How do entertainers, athletes, politicians and the like, get up and perform in front of all those people? Where does the confidence stem from? What are we channeling?
In my opinion, some of the biggest obstacles to overcome are ridding the mind of unnecessary fear, and replacing internal melodrama with courage. In “dude” terminology, it takes balls, but there is a little more to it.
Fear is a response to perceived threat. Note the word perceived. We’ll get back to that later. Without fear, we would not be able to detect danger. We need it or we would not survive. Even though it’s quite common to fear things like death, confined spaces, and the unknown, when we start letting fear swallow us whole, it’s a problem. Like when the little things cloud the big picture.
Anyone can Google fear and come to understand that the limbic system and amygdala glands are responsible for our emotional response system. You can learn about flight or fight response, simple methods to better deal with fear etc., but when it comes down to it, every individual is different.
For me, it was learning how my body works and a bunch of trial and error, but at the end of the day it's mind over matter.
Whether you’re a salesman tackling the corporate world, or the singer of a metal band corrupting the youth--the same part of the walnut shaped glob of crap in the middle of your head you call a brain is responsible for fear in all of us. What’s important to note here is that anyone can conquer it. Animals sense fear, and I believe humans subconsciously do as well. If you walk into a job interview with a fear that you won’t get hired, or you’re negative, chances are you’re going to continue collecting unemployment. Are you the type that says, “Bad shit always happens to me” and it does? While this isn’t about the law of attraction, there is something to be said for the notion of creating your own phobias.
When facing fear try:
1. Deep concentrated breaths
2. Visualize victory over defeat
3. Tune out all distraction
4. Stay positive
5. Be in charge
If you take a moment to analyze the situation and take your feelings out of the mix, the situation will become clear as day and you will be able to let go of that paralyzing, self-inflicted fear.
The things we worry about hinder progress.
Lately, I’ve been using heart math and apps to monitor stress levels. I’m now able to detect when I’m in a reptilian state of mind or stressed state, and am able to get myself out of it quicker than ever before. I haven’t had stage fright since my youth and when I walk on stage now, I’m extremely relaxed. I prefer a Zen state of mind.
Hopefully some of these tips can help the next time you’re faced with an event that leads you to fear. Channel that inner sniper and stay in the zone.
Heading back on tour this week. If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello!
01.30.14 - Worcester, MA - The Palladium
01.31.14 - Wilmington, DE - Mojo 13
02.01.14 - Poughkeepsie, NY - The Chance
02.03.14 - Springfield, VA - Empire
02.04.14 - Amityville, NY, Revolution
02.05.14 - Pittsburgh, PA - Altar Bar
02.06.14 - Reading, Pa - Reverb
02.07.14 - Jacksonville, NC - Hooligan's
02.08.14 - Fayetteville, NC - Drunk Horse
02.09.14 - Charlotte, NC - Tremont Music Hall
02.10.14 - Norfolk, VA - The Norva
02.11.14 - Knoxville, TN - NV Nightclub
02.12.14 - Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade
02.14.14 - St. Petersburg, FL - State Theatre
02.15.14 - Pensacola, FL - Vinyl Music Hall
02.17.14 - Broussard, LA - The Station
02.18.14 - Shreveport, LA - Riverside Warehouse
02.19.14 - Tulsa, OK - Vanguard
02.21.14 - Kokomo, IN - Center Stage
02.22.14 - Louisville, KY - Diamond Pub
02.23.14 - Newport, KY - Thompson House