After all, this is the same guy who publicly bashed Kurt Cobain only days after his suicide, and who set a new standard for cock-rock misogyny with the lyric: "Got you in a stranglehold, baby/then I crushed your face." But when the Nuge sat down last summer for a television interview with San Antonio heavy-metal enthusiast Robb Chavez, he positively oozed Uncle Teddy warmth. "I'm the friendliest gringo you're ever going to meet," a grinning Nugent said, before putting his arm around Chavez and launching into a pious spiel about the majesty of the American dream.

This kinder, gentler Nugent could be explained by the tranquilizing effects of painkillers, taken for root canals he had the previous week. More likely, though, it was Chavez' personality that made the difference. Chavez is so sincere, so idealistic in his devotion to all things metal, he has a way of turning even the most nihilistic death-rocker into Mr. Rogers.

Chavez has been pulling off such minor miracles for nearly six years, as the host - and creator - of Robb's Metalworks, a weekly cable-access show (Tuesdays, 11:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable Channel 20) best described as San Antonio's answer to the old MTV show Headbanger's Ball.

Chubby and bespectacled, with cocoa skin and short black hair perpetually covered by a Yankees baseball cap, the 32-year-old Chavez doesn't look the part of the classic, lion-maned, Nordic metalhead. But he's a perfect mouthpiece for the local metal underground, which has long attracted Latinos who like it loud.

Chavez credits his older brother, Gilbert, with turning him on, at a young age, to Judas Priest, Moxy, and Triumph ("one of my favorite bands from that time"). But his true awakening as a metalhead came later, in middle school. "I had a friend who had an older brother who played in a metal band called Wicked Impact," Chavez says. "He was a a guitar player, and he was a really cool guy with long hair. One evening we were at my friend's house, and his older brother came in and put on the Metallica Ride the Lightning record for us. It had just come out. They were still on an independent label, but the word on them was spreading like wildfire.

"That was it. I fell in love with that new era of heavy metal, and after Metallica, everybody started following suit."

Chavez's mother periodically asked him when he planned to grow out of this fixation. He remembers responding: "I don't know. Maybe never."

Headbanging aside, though, Chavez has grown up to be a parent's wet dream. He's a college graduate, with a master's degree in business from Our Lady of the Lake University, where he works as assistant director of admissions. He is a committed husband, and a doting father to his 5-year-old son, Cruz. He lives in a comfortable two-story house in a gated subdivision on the North West side of town.

Yet, it's not hard to find hints of Chavez's heavy-metal heart within his suburban home. In the living room, he keeps a miniature drum set, which should enable Cruz to carry on the family tradition. And Chavez' upstairs office is a veritable pop-culture museum. One wall features a gallery of framed pictures of Chavez with many of the metal icons he has interviewed, or as he puts it, "worked with": people like Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Glenn Danzig, Biff Byford of Saxon ("a favorite of San Antonio"), and members of Type O Negative, Lizzy Borden, and Ill Niño. The other walls display posters of Hatebreed and Pissing Razors, and Guitar World magazines with Metallica's Kirk Hammett on the cover. His shelves are packed with giant action figures of Bruce Lee, Evel Knievel, the Terminator, the Incredible Hulk, Batman, Rob Zombie, and tons of others.

Chavez might have been content to simply attend metal shows and mosh with his friends, if not for the encouragement of a friend, Sam Gaitan, then an online editor at the Express-News. Gaitan urged him to put together his own TV show, even creating a logo for the program. Chavez took the idea to Time Warner (then Paragon), who agreed to air the show if he could put it together.

Ever the conscientious planner, Chavez waited eight months before launching the show in June 1997, because he wanted time to build up a video library. He remembers that at the time, the only rock show on local public-access television featured a couple who smoked pot on the air and played the same Cannibal Corpse video every week. He wanted his show to be professional, to treat the music seriously.

"In other parts of the world, especially in Europe, metal is treated like an art form," he says. "That's the way I'd like to see people treat it here."

That hunger for respect has always driven metal players, who flaunt technical skill and fretboard dexterity as proof that they are real musicians. You rarely find country, R&B, indie-rock, or

11:30pm Tuesdays
Time Warner Cable Channel 20
blues musicians hyping their classical influences, but metalheads do it as a matter of course.

As a result, Robb's Metalworks has its share of Spinal Tap moments, like when members of the El Paso speed-metal band Demise talk about the heavy influence that Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart have on their sound. But Chavez always manages to rise above the absurdities of his surroundings: a well-informed, good-spirited cheerleader for the music he loves.

The show's grassroots popularity - even metalheads in other Texas cities know all about it - enabled Chavez to create a highly successful, annual metal showcase in El Paso, with his first San Antonio showcase planned for May 3 at Sam's Burger Joint. The program has also turned Chavez into an unlikely celebrity.

"I'll be at Wal-Mart, at Target, at a restaurant, and people will be looking at me," Chavez says. "And my wife will say, 'They probably recognize you from the show.' And some people will get their nerve up to come up and say something. People all over the state know about Robb's Metalworks. And that is because of the power of word of mouth. People talk, especially in the close-knit community that we are." •


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