I first met James Thomas aka SpiderXDeath many years ago when I went to a local punk show and saw his metal/d-beat band, Deathcage, totally rule it! Still to this day I remember the amazing feeling I walked away with from that show; that kind of feeling where you’re totally inspired, amped up and feel like you can conquer the fucking world. BEST feeling! The day after the show I met Spider for our chat, we sat beside the river that snakes through my hometown and talked for hours. As the conversation for my punk & spirituality project unfolded, I listened as he told me his story, of addiction and coming out the other side, standing over drug dealers, brawls, self-harm, jail, life changing health scares, healing through art and the power of punk rock. These days I’m stoked to say my friend has totally transformed his life turning negatives into positives and can be found travelling the world as an international tattooist. I am so proud of him and I can’t wait to share the full story with you when my book comes out, for now here’s an extract from, Conversations With Punx.
BIANCA: What feeling do you get from performing live?
SPIDERXDEATH: It’s like this really good adrenalin rush, like my body is exploding and is exploding onto everyone. It’s hard to explain. It’s like we’re becoming everyone and we’re trying to lift everyone’s spirits.
B: So Deathcage is an uplifting band?
SXD: [laughs] Yeah. Before I go out on stage I imagine that everyone wants to fight me instead of imagining everyone is naked. That’s how I get aggressive. I kind of punch myself in the face a bit. [laughs] It’s like acting; I turn into Spider and I’m not really James anymore. I put on my leather gloves. [laughs]
B: I can tell it’s obviously something you have a great passion for and totally love because when you’re talking about it to me you’re just beaming this happiness. You’ve got the biggest smile on your face!
SXD: I’m trying to express this emotion like my DNA is exploding onto everyone and it’s getting me into their skin and they’re feeling the same way, sort of reaching out. It’s hard to explain.
B: It’s a beautiful thing! [laughs] How has hardcore/punk rock helped in your personal evolution?
SXD: It got me out of the suburbs and made me more adventurous. As a kid growing up in suburbia there was nothing to do. Joyriding, setting shit on fire and total self-destruction felt like your only option. I discovered punk and slowly I drifted away from my old school chums. Nowadays they keep doing the same crimes but on a larger scale; a lot of them died from heroin, car accidents or are inside. I went to California to finish school and when I got back no one was really around, and I figured I’d be in the same boat if I didn’t stay away from them. I started going to shows instead of robbing service stations.
Punk in general opened me up to a lot of stuff like a vegan lifestyle—which I was pretty strict on for 10 years— being straight edge and generally questioning authority and my own actions. I think that it’s fine to change the world, but can you change yourself? Most punks who wanna smash the system need to do some soul-searching and realise that no one leads a perfect life, no one has all the answers.
B: What was your first contact with punk and hardcore?
SXD: It was when I was about fifteen I was hanging out with this guy called Chris and he gave me my first fanzine. He was the first gay guy I met that wasn’t your stereotypical gay guy: he was a punk. He made a fanzine and gave me a mix tape of Minor Threat and Lip Cream, all these bands. I thought it was so awesome. Years later he encouraged me to do my own fanzine. I started going to shows. I went with a lot of school mates but it was different because they’d just come and just get fucking loaded and fight everyone and make out with some. I just distanced myself from them. I wasn’t really a big drinker.
B: Is there a particular album in your collection or song that has prompted you to reflect on your life or change it in anyway? Is there a particular band that changed your life?
SXD: Bands like Crass, Conflict and Rudimentary Peni hooked me in from the start and changed my view on life. It wasn’t until later down the track when I was at rock bottom that I started listening to more Japanese stuff. I always loved it, but hearing old bands like G.I.S.M. and Deathside got me back into punk.
More Conversations With Punx extracts to check out:
- Good Riddance’s Russ Rankin on “becoming less self-centred and more other-centred”.
- Agnostic Front’s Roger Miret: “I feel I speak for those that are oppressed…”
- Quicksand’s Tom Capone: “We were always just doing it from our hearts, never trying to make a quick buck.”
- Bad Brains’ Dr. Know: “I follow the heart and look at the signs”
- Death By Stereo’s Efrem Schulz: “The whole idea of punk rock was to believe in yourself…”
- Mark Unseen chats the Paranormal, Ouija & Freaky Things.
For more SPIDERXDEATH.
*Original SpiderXDeath photo by Benny. All flash art by SpiderXDeath.