This '80s Rock Frontman Knows: What Could Be More Metal Than Sharks? Meet Hans Walters, lead singer of the defunct hair metal band ZTOYZ — and shark biologist at the New York Aquarium.
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This '80s Rock Frontman Knows: What Could Be More Metal Than Sharks?

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This '80s Rock Frontman Knows: What Could Be More Metal Than Sharks?

This '80s Rock Frontman Knows: What Could Be More Metal Than Sharks?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/481286626/481501874" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Just off the boardwalk on Coney Island, sits the oldest continuously-operating aquarium in the U.S. That is where shark biologist Hans Walters works with his wife, Martha Hiatt. Back in the '80s, Hans sang in a heavy metal band, Z-Toyz, which moved in circles with bands like Twisted Sister. Hans recently came to StoryCorps to chart his path from heavy metal musician to shark keeper.

HANS WALTERS: When I was a kid, only the really nerdy reject kids loved animals, and I was one of those kids. And my mother always encouraged my love for sharks. When I was 5, we were getting ready to leave the beach and, lo and behold, there was a dead shark laying on the beach. And I said, Mom, I want to take this shark home. So my mother helped me schlep this three-foot shark into the backseat of the car. And I'm one of six kids. And we all had our snow cones and a dead shark with the windows shut, and it stank. We all got sick. I remember upchucking my banana snow cone in the backseat of the car.

So when I got to college, I was studying marine biology and I'd sort of accepted my nerd-dom (ph). You know, I think I had to play catch-up in the interaction with members of the opposite sex department, which is the main reason I joined a rock band. And we did pretty well for nine years, but at that point, I was 30 and decided maybe it was time to find something else to do. That's what led me to the New York Aquarium. When I got there, they would call the sharks Sand Tiger One, Sand Tiger Two, Sand Tiger Three. And I just started calling them names of dirty rotten stinking rock 'n' rollers.

MARTHA HIATT: (Laughter). So you went with Guns N' Roses?

WALTERS: Yeah, this ones Axl. This ones Duff. And then we got another group of them, and we went with AC/DC. So it's Guns N' Roses and Bad Company are in one pool, and AC/DC and Janis Joplin are in the other.

HIATT: I love when one of the keepers says to another, OK, I'm going to go feed Guns N' Roses.

WALTERS: Who's feeding the band? About three or four years ago, Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, he came to visit. And we were hanging out on the Coney Island boardwalk, and he said to me, when the music ended for you, you kind of fell right into marine biology. I always thought that was really cool that you had a backup plan. I said, no, you know, music was the backup plan. Marine biology was the original plan.

HIATT: So your mom, she obviously knew you became a marine biologist. How'd she feel about it?

WALTERS: She was thrilled. Her thing was - and she always said this from as long as I can remember - find something you're interested in and stick with it. That was it. Not, grow up, get a job and make a living - find something you're interested in and stick with it. And everything came full circle.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNS N' ROSES SONG, "SWEET CHILD O' MINE")

KELLY: That's shark biologist Hans Walters with his wife, Martha Hiatt, at StoryCorps in New York City. Their interview will be featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNS N' ROSES SONG, "SWEET CHILD O' MINE")

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