IMAGE: Leah Lubman
[BARDCORE] In 2008, local theme-metal act Dagger of the Mind faced a dilemma likely unprecedented in the whole history of rock ’n’ roll: Stay a band—or become a metal theater group? “We agonized over it,” says frontman Jason Simms (known as Lord Simms, Liege of Albuquerque, onstage). But in the end, Dagger of the Mind became the Metal Shakespeare Company.
Besides the name, not much actually changed. Simms’ band has always bridged the gap between music and theater, so declaring themselves a Shakespeare troupe was, honestly, just a formality.
In concert, the four-piece Metal Shakespeare Company takes the stage in Elizabethan garb, delivers stage banter in “Fakespearian” dialects and sings scenes from the bard’s works while playing power metal. Simms (an ex-WW freelancer) formed the group in 2005 as an English student at Lewis Clark College. He wanted to be in a band that sounded like Iron Maiden, but he also wanted metal-snubbing Portland scenesters to come to his shows. A gimmick was clearly in order. The group’s Shakespeare shtick has proven extremely popular in circles both high (a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland last year earned them a mention in The New York Times) and low (Simms reports the group can no longer play house shows “because we break houses”—or, rather, the crowd does).
To Simms, power metal and Shakespeare go together like peanut butter—and more peanut butter. He quotes the line in Macbeth that describes a Caesarian section: “From his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d.” “That’s about the most metal way to describe it,” Simms says. Metal and theater are “all about the victory of warriors and stuff like that,” and the two share similar visuals. “If you look at old Maiden videos, they’re wearing tights and high-tops just like we do.”
The group’s new name underscores what it’s about, Simms says. “If you’re in Boise and you see a flier for ‘The Metal Shakespeare Company,’ you don’t know what that is,” he says. “But you know you’re getting two things: metal and Shakespeare.” It’s a unique combination. “We could be the only metal Shakespeare company in the world!” he says, summing up the logic of the name change. “Why are we trying to be a band?”
SEE IT: The Metal Shakespeare Company releases a 7-inch with the Valkyries at Ash Street Saloon on Saturday. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+.