Released: 2016, Punk Books
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Where most metalheads will recognize Randy Rampage as the vocalist on a pair of classic Annihilator records, his storied past includes being part of the classic lineup of seminal punk band D.O.A., as well. As the title suggests, those years—1978 through 1982—are the main focus of Rampage’s autobiography, I SURVIVED D.O.A.. This book pulls no punches as Rampage (along with co-writer Chris Walter) chronicles the shady side of the business, living hand to mouth, his own struggles with drug addiction and a brutal injury while working as a longshoreman on Vancouver’s docks. I SURVIVED D.O.A. is a soft cover release on a small indie publisher but is very nicely put together with loads of photographs and gig posters. The narrative is casual and loose as if the reader is engaged in conversation with Rampage himself, which comes off a bit too informal at times but works with the subject matter.
To say Randy Rampage has led a colored life is an understatement. Growing up on Vancouver’s North Shore to an upper-middle-class family, Rampage didn’t come from skid row or a broken home and doesn’t apologize for or hide that fact. His surprising friendship with rocker Bryan Adams is mixed with the old-school Vancouver punks that eventually led to his joining D.O.A. and shaping the North American version of British punk in the early 80s. A shaky relationship with Joey “Shithead” Keithley and drummer Chuck Biscuits (later of Danzig) came to a head in early 1982, when Rampage was fired from D.O.A.. The next few years were spent as a struggling musician trying to get various local bands off the ground before meeting Annihilator’s Jeff Waters in 1988. Rampage and Waters were like oil and water right from the get-go but their mutual respect of each other musically led to 1989’s classic ALICE IN HELL album. Rampage’s tales of touring with Testament, Onslaught and Wrathchild America are intertwined with allegations of Waters’ jealousy and controlling behavior. Annihilator was—and still is—Waters’ baby and Rampage alleges lack of payment, bizarre road rules and eventually a fistfight which led to his being fired in late 1989. The nineties saw Rampage return as a full-time longshoreman and occasional musician before being crushed by a massive roll of paper in a barge, a danger all-too-familiar to this writer. A reconciliation with Waters led to Rampage’s return to Annihilator for 2000’s CRITERIA OF A BLACK WIDOW, a quasi-sequel to ALICE IN HELL, but the acrimony between the two was quickly refueled leading to an ugly yogurt incident on the bus and Rampage being left on the side of a barren Latvian highway during a Russian tour with Overkill to fend for himself. Rampage claims to have never been paid a cent for his time in Annihilator and paints Waters in a very unflattering light in the book. Later years with Stress Factor 9 and another short-lived gig with D.O.A. round out the book, leaving one to wonder what’s next for Rampage.
Metal fans looking for tales of Annihilator and the Canadian thrash scene have to be patient as those years aren’t touched until roughly three quarters of the way through I SURVIVED D.O.A. and even with two stints in the band, Rampage’s tenure in Annihilator barely totals three years. As a whole, though, Rampage’s story is a good one. He has lived the typical sex, drugs and rock & roll cliché, paid the price and come out the other side, although far from unscathed. Rampage’s influence is evident in the playing and style of Guns ‘n Roses’ Duff McKagan and his legacy in both the hardcore punk and metal scenes are undeniable but his reputation has been sullied in the press over the years. Seeing Rampage on stage with Stress Factor 9 at his worst health-wise was shocking in 2005, but it appears he finally has his demons under control and I SURVIVED D.O.A. finally lets Randy Rampage tell his side of the story.