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#993: IAM

RECORD STORE TALES #993: IAM

Rest in peace, Shannon Larratt.  Rest in peace, Rachel Larratt.  Both gone now, hopefully to a better place.

In the decades before the WordPress community, there was one place I could go to feel like I belonged.  In 1999, a Toronto native named Shannon Larratt created a community.  He called it “IAM” – “I am” – and it was a place for tattooed and/or pierced individuals to feel welcome.  You might remember Shannon and Rachel from their brief cameo in the Kevin Smith movie Clerks II.  Remember the “freaks”?  That was Shannon and Rachel.

I joined in the year 2000 and began making new friends, close and far.  Sarge was on there.  The Legendary Klopeks were on there.  The Lizardman was on there.  Dan Slessor from Kerrang Magazine, though Kerrang was still in his future.  It was growing, and growing fast.

IAM was different.  Shannon ensured it was not just a safe place, but also a cool place.  You could pay for a membership, or just submit stories and photos for credit.  I did both, but mostly paid, because I wanted to support the community, as did most people.  It’s hard to describe just what made it so special.  It was set as my home page on my browser.  I even had an app in the toolbar that notified me when I had new IAM messages.  I’d open my window and in front of me would be a grid of photos — the most recent IAM profiles that posted updates, in the form of a blog or photos.  It was always exciting to see a friend or girl that I liked post an update!  Or someone who had not been around a while.

There was one character named Raynutz.  He had no visible piercings or tattoos (the one and only qualifier for membership), and his was the very very last profile on the grid (which you could skip through page by page).  This meant it was one of the oldest since his first post was his only post.  All he had was a mullet and a pair of Ray-Bans.  Nobody knew the story behind Raynutz.  I always suspected it was a joke test account made by Shannon, but he would never tell.  Raynutz became pure legend by not interacting with people at all.  Hundreds of messages were sent to his inbox; nobody received a reply.  This eventually led to Shannon selling a “Raynutz Ate My Balls” T-shirt.

Sarge told me he knew the identity of Raynutz, but could never reveal it.

The Raynutz Ate My Balls shirt eventually inspired Sarge to create the popular Purp Ate My Balls shirt, with my face on it.  I went by the name “Purpendicular” after a favourite Deep Purple album.  At one point, I deleted my account after a bad day at work, but I received so many “what happened?” emails that I decided to come back.  I decided on a fresh start with the name “Dewey Finn”, named after Jack Black’s character in School of Rock.  As such, I decided to create a discussion forum called “School of Rock” where each day I would prepare “lessons” for the “class”.  Obscure rock trivia stuff, like listing all the Black Sabbath singers right down to Dave Walker and Rob Halford.  It became so popular that the School of Rock forum was one of the site’s most popular, third only to Shannon’s and my own personal journals!  At least for a couple weeks, I topped the charts!  I learned quickly that keeping up that pace was impossible and eventually I slid down the charts, but usually remained in the top 20.  It was fun and a precursor to becoming LeBrain.

What about that journal?  You guessed it — those journal entries formed the basis of many of the original (and ongoing) Record Store Tales.  Unfortunately I lost many of them when I deleted my Purpendicular profile and started Dewey Finn, and I wish I hadn’t.  I posted reviews, record reviews, and all sorts of personal stuff that I wish I still had.  Incriminating evidence against the people at the Record Store who were making life miserable for me.  Actual records of the days that “the bully” decided not to speak to me for three weeks at a time.  Customer stories galore.  Writings of what I was listening to and when.  I had so much good shit in there!  I posted minimum five times per day, with lists, pictures or stories.  One of my biggest regrets is hitting that delete button.  I remember Shannon wrote some funny code into it.  When you confirmed you wanted to delete your IAM page, the text came back, “Your IAM page is now deleted, throw your computer in the garbage.”

They had big BMEcons in Toronto.  People would come from all around the world.  They’d get tattooed, pierced, suspended, drunk, high, who knows!  I didn’t go, but I do know it was a good time with music and fellowship.

My interaction with Shannon was minimal, and none with Rachel, who continued on with the site after he passed.  Now I have heard that Rachel is gone too.  It seems surreal.  We lost Sarge earlier this year too.  Fortunately most of us are still around.  Mike, Liz, Shoe, and RooRaaah (those are all real names not aliases) are still my friends.  Shoe used to live in England, and now resides in Toronto, but I still have an old mix tape that she sent me from the UK back in 2002 or 2003.  Mix TAPE.

The only elephant remaining in the room might be the question “didja meet any girls there?”  I refer you to Record Store Tales #909:  2000 Dates and the girl I dubbed “Guelph #2”!  There were others — the girl that dumped me while I was in a hotel room in Barrie Ontario was an IAM girl.  The last of them was Thunder Bay Girl, who I swear to this day probably dumped all the hundreds of cassettes that I gave her into the landfill.  I was 30 and she was in her early 20s and I was learning that age did matter.  It was a lot of fun hanging out with these girls with hardware in their nips but I was emotionally in an unhappy place and I eventually realized that dating these young goth girls wasn’t the answer.

Here’s something interesting though.  In those IAM days, I thought that I hadn’t really figured out who I was yet.  But there I was the whole time:  the music-mad journaling guy, documenting the minutia of life.  And the Record Store Tales will continue on.

Part 95: Pierced and Scarred

RECORD STORE TALES Part 95: Pierced and Scarred

When you walk into a CD store today, you might see all sorts of colourful characters.  Maybe you’ll see a mohawk, purple hair, piercings and tattoos.  Something about the music scene attracts that sort of style, and young folks in CD stores often emulate their rock star heroes.

Well, not in our store!

When I first started in ’94, the rules were clear:  No weird hair colours, no piercings (not even ears, on men), no visible tattoos.  In a music store.

The rationale behind this was that we were a mall music store – we catered to mall rats who listened to Nine Inch Nails, but also to grannies looking for the new Anne Murray.  We couldn’t scare off the old ladies with an earring.  It all came down to personality really.  The man who called the shots and paid the bills as well as the paycheques didn’t like earrings on men.  He was a pretty clean cut, physically fit, unpierced chap and earrings on men were the opposite of his vision for a record store.

I know.  I know how weird that sounds, for a music store, but rules are rules are rules.

Then in ’95, we hired a girl with a visible back tattoo, so the tattoo rule quietly went out the window.  Guys were still not allowed to have earrings.

In ’97, one of our guys spent the summer in England.  He returned in the fall with a nose ring.  He knew the policy and didn’t care.  The boss decided to bend the rule, since he had “already spent the money” to have the piercing done. This opened the door a crack.  Before too long we had girls with nose rings, guys with eyebrow rings and visible tattoos, and I decided to get my ears pierced.  I put up with a little grief over it (“Why would you want to do that to yourself?”) but the policy was no longer in effect.  We were finally starting to catch up with the rest of the world in general, and music stores specifically!  Our new policy stated that facial piercings were allowed as long as they were not “excessive”.  “Excessive” was never defined, but it was understood that a couple were OK.

I decided I wanted a lip piercing, and later on a nose piercing.  I became very active in the body modification community, making friends in tattoo shops.  (Some of those friends are LeBrain readers today.)  I never went hog wild.  To date I only have two tattoos, and one earring left.  However as I went from my 20’s to my 30’s, working in a music store, I was able to explore different looks.

By 2004, there was a rollback of the piercing policy.  Sales had been slumping thanks to downloading, and changes were made.

While girls were still allowed to keep their nose rings, guys were not.  I was given direct instructions to remove my lip and nose piercings, immediately.  I protested.  “What about our policy?  The policy states that facial piercings are allowed as long as we don’t go into excess, and I only have two, which is less than others.”

The response was, “I know.  The policy was a mistake.  We’re changing the policy back, effective immediately.”

Our Niagara Falls store owner, Lemon Kurri Klopek, was very active in his local tattoo community, and even a tattoo shop overseas, which enabled him to tour there with his band, the Legendary Klopeks.  He sent some reading material written by Shannon Larratt my way, on why allowing piercings in the work place is good for morale and good for a unique store image.  I left these reading materials for my boss, who “filed” them.  I don’t know if he read them or not.  My piercings grew in.

In the long run, this policy change was a good thing.  Don’t get me wrong – it did nothing to fix sales slumps.  It did nothing to herd in old ladies by the gaggle, to purchase Anne Murray discs.  It did succeed in making me ask questions.  One question was, “Since I can’t have the piercings anymore, why don’t I just look for a normal 9-5 job?” The piercings were already out, it only made sense to make a new resume and make some serious life changes.