Vests: Painkiller Kim

I guess my intrigue of the vest, kutte, battle jacket etc. started when I first watched The Warriors. I was maybe 8 or 9, way before I was into Heavy Metal. The Warriors were a rough, and tough bunch. A crew with balls, and unwavering courage. I loved that the vests they wore in the movie didn’t come off once in their journey back home. It was like the vest was an extension of who they were, and that’s how I feel about the vest in heavy metal culture. Every time I see some Hessian rocking their denim with patches, I get the feeling that I’m seeing these people are saying, “These are my colors. This is what I’m all about.” I always wonder if there’s a story about the acquisition of a certain patch, or if they found their vest in a dumpster somewhere, but my social awkwardness prevents me from approaching anyone. Ever. Thankfully, the internet has provided me with the means to finally be nosy enough to ask these fine concert goers, and my favorite musicians about their vests.

Meet Kimberly, my first subject. It was a no brainer to kick this new installment off by interviewing this lovely gal. She’s got brains, beauty… a penchant for headbanging. I picked her because she’s at all the shows, knows a ton of people in the scene, and, well, has a number of vests that I have questions about.

Haad: What do they call you?

Kim: I suppose it just depends which circle of friends you ask. My birth certificate reads “Kimberly Amari Galdamez.” My teammates will sometimes refer to me as “KG,” one of my coaches will only call me “fireball,” some people in the LA metal scene know me as “Painkiller” etc. But a majority of people feel most comfortable calling me “Kim” sometimes “Kimmy” when they want to be extra endearing.

H: Where are you from?

K: Born and raised in Los Angeles!

H: When you’re not at shows contributing to your future hearing loss, what are you doing?

K: Where do I start? I’m currently a full-time Trojan at the University of Southern California completing my Junior year. I’m heavily involved on-campus through different organizations. Some of these organizations include: The Latina/o Student Assembly (secretary), USC Women’s club volleyball team (defensive specialist), Music Industry Connection (vice president), and USC Coaching Corps (coach). Off-campus I work for the non-profit organization Starving Musicians Program as Executive Assistant. When I’m not at meetings, catching up on emails, or trying to pass my classes I really enjoy dining at different restaurants in LA. I’m a sucker for Happy Hour specials and wine bars.

H: When’s the first time you saw someone rocking a vest that was patched up?

K: Let’s go back to the year 2005. I was merely 14 years old. By then I had been to a few metal gigs in the LA area and had made friends in the scene. Most of them embraced the 1980s style. I admired how much detail most people put into their look. It wasn’t just about bands shirts and jeans, but something more. Some took pride in their leather jackets, their vests, their patches, their sneakers, their boots, etc. From then on out I was hooked on spandex, denim and leather. Sometimes a person’s image can say a lot about how they feel about the scene. And before I turn people off, I don’t mean choosing fashion over music, I mean reinforcement.

H: What made you decide to get your first vest?

K: I made my first vest to showcase the bands I supported in the LA scene. It wasn’t about looking “cool” or “kvlt” but just about showing my support. With time I made more and eventually I made my main kutte that I wear to most shows and festivals.

H: When did you get it, and have you made another one since?

K: I’ve had many vests since I made my first one in 2005. I really just took an old jacket in my closet and decided to create a vest. When you’re young you have so much extra time to get creative.

H: Which band had the honor of gracing your first vest?

K: This question actually made me dig far and deep into my memory. The first band to grace my first vest was Fueled By Fire. I met them late in 2004 and became really good friends with them. They were one of the first few bands in the Los Angeles thrash scene that I was close with. Believe it or not, those guys are like brothers to me and we’re still very close. Fun fact: they went to my high school graduation in 2008, among other important events in my life. After I added them to my vest other local bands followed like: Execution, Witchaven, Merciless Death, and Malicious Assault.

H: Do you believe that there’s a certain “patch etiquette” or a set of written or unwritten rules to follow when it comes to vests/patches? Feel free to get into different topics here — the mixture of band patches from various genres, the placement of patches, if there’s a particular order in which spaces need to be covered etc.

K: I’m going to try to answer this question without sounding elite or like a “metal fashion” Nazi. It sounds ridiculous, but I have some rules I hold myself accountable to and I know a few people that do the same. It’s all based on personal preference. I’m very detail oriented with everything I do, so I’m no different with my vest(s). At this point I have a few vests. Each one has a “theme.” My pride and joy is my kutte with all embroidered patches. Other vests have printed patches, only studs and buttons, only a back patch, and so on. I’m not saying all people should go through similar processes. After all, a kutte is about who you are. Let your taste and personality show.

H: Which patch would you say is your own “holy grail” of patches? In other words, which one do you love and appreciate the most?

K: I have a few I’m crazy about, but one of my prized possessions is my embroidered MANOWAR Sign of the Hammer back patch. I mentioned earlier that my main kutte is all embroidered patches. For the longest time I couldn’t decide what to put on the back. For a while I had several patches covering the back, but once I came across the MANOWAR back patch it felt complete.

H: Finally, this interview series focuses on the vest/kutte/battle jacket culture within the metal scene positively, but do you believe there are instances where this subculture can be looked at negatively?

K: I absolutely think this subculture of vests/kuttes/battle jackets is sometimes looked upon with a poor connotation. While there are many that support and exalt it, others think it’s too superficial, which I can understand. Diehards use it as a means of showing off their rare of merch, what bands they worship, and sometimes their sewing skills (haha). There are instances where it even becomes a competition, more so in Europe I would say. I can’t even start to try to list the differences between the US and European heavy metal cultures, but we can leave that for a different time. In the end we can all agree there are excessive amounts of subcultures not just in the US, but in LA alone. It’s just a matter of finding your niche and enjoying it.

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