Geek of the Week

Rock Star

By day, Mark Meritt is a USF professor of rhetoric & language. By night, he’s the lead singer of Ancient Mariner.

What makes you a geek?
I get up on stage and try to sound like, look like, and speak like Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden is the music of my youth, and now, in my late forties, I get to play out my schoolboy fantasies of rock stardom.

Which came first: your passion for metal or your interest in early 19th century British poetry?
Metal. When I was 14, I bought Power Slave by Iron Maiden. That album introduced me to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Metal led me to literature.

Which one metal album would you play on a desert island?
Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden. That was 1983, the peak of their creativity. Their song called “The Trooper” is based on Tennyson’s poem “Charge of the Light Brigade.” I learned that song note for note on my guitar. It was the musical moment of my life.

But wait. Isn’t metal dumb?
Yes and no. It can be dumb because it’s often blunt and visceral, but it’s much more musically complex than most people realize. And hey, any music inspired by Coleridge and Tennyson can’t be that dumb.

How can metal change the world?
Metal is music, and music brings people together. Even at a metal show, where the music is aggressive, you see unity among the people in the audience and among the bands backstage, too. It’s a musical communion — it’s just loud, is all.

Does your passion change the world in a way small or large? Nominate yourself or a friend for Geek of the Week! Email