Individual Thought Patterns: Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Music Scene – 10.19.15

Cover of Natalie Purcell's book

Cover from Natalie Purcell’s book, Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture

I just realized that although I’ve been working on this research for some time, I’ve rarely posted anything that’s part of the draft thesis. So in case you were wondering…here’s a sample of what I’ve been writing about. I’ve included the abstract, table of contents, and just the working introduction, which reads very auto-ethnographic.
Draft – Individual Thought Patterns
And of course, please feel free to contact me if there’s something just glaringly odd/off. It’s still a draft form so I’m sure my advisor and second reader will have changes in mind.

Thanks  \m/

Advertisements

Heavy Metal, Motherhood, and Parenting

Lately I’ve been in a writing rut with regard to my thesis research on women in metal. All the things I usually try to do to get out of said rut are failing. I went to Yoga, started reading material not pertaining to my research, and I even thought about painting again; anything to get my mind off schoolwork.

Instead, while browsing an old sheet of notebook paper with ideas about possible thesis topics, I ended up revisiting this idea I had when I was pregnant with my daughter, Ella. It was on researching mothers and motherhood in heavy metal. I decided to give more time to researching this topic.

During the course of my research with women in NY’s extreme metal scene, the concept of motherhood came up a handful of times, both during the one-on-one interviews and in the online survey. In general, women said that future motherhood would be a challenge to them simply because of the lifestyle change. A few said that they look forward to figuring that lifestyle change out, while the majority of my interviewees said it wasn’t in the cards, mostly because they couldn’t see themselves as both musicians and moms. I found this bit intriguing, as I bet male musicians rarely think of this concern, or at least, not in the same way. It’s not like they would have to be drumming insane blast beats while being 7 months pregnant or anything.

Motherhood and metal also became a reoccurring theme in my daily WordPress musings because 1) I’m a newish mom myself and so I follow parenting blogs here and there (see beautiful pic of my daughter below) and 2) women in my age group are starting to settle down and have children.

Ella_motorhead2

It wasn’t surprising that when I read a review of Kim Gordon‘s forthcoming book, Girl in a Band, I was immediately fascinated with her memoir of life on the road as a musician, performer and new mom. As a rock icon, I definitely look forward to reading her book. To add, motherhood and balancing everything else is a challenge that Gordon seems to have successfully managed.

On top of women like Kim Gordon, there are others, specifically in metal that I was curious about. One example being women like Simone Simons from Epica (see video below):

It’s amazing to me that the topic hasn’t really been explored. Considering that all these musicians came out of somewhere, you’d think the topic of moms and motherhood would have been researched. There’s a dearth of information about home environments and adolescent studies with regard to reasons for listening to metal and it looks like there’s little on the way about mothers and their influences on these musicians. I would like think that in one way or another (whether it’s positive or negative) it would be highlighted.

On that note, I unfortunately found this video while I was researching that made me upset. It’s a recording of a conversation between a mother and her musician-son..well sorta. Understandably, we don’t have the entire context of why this mother felt so disgusted with her son. I’m sure anxiety and being afraid of something she didn’t understand played a big role in her reaction but it was disheartening to see the approach she took in addressing her son.

And yet, over at places like the Jarakarta Globe, psychology lecturer Gita Soerjoatmodjo writes on her experience of being a mom who doesn’t feel a need to reconcile being a metalhead with parenting. She references society’s perception of metal music and talks about, how for her, it’s an empowering and constructive force, not something to simply be rebellious or violent about.

In addition, I’ve noticed a wave of new parenting columns catering to the metal community. Both Decibel and Hellhound magazines offer new parenting columns in their issues. Just look at the cover of Decibel’s March 2015 issue:
Decibel cover_1024x1024So it goes without saying, while I’m on break with my thesis work, you’ll probably see me writing something researchy about what it means to consider motherhood within the heavy metal community.

L’Amour and the History of Metal

If you’ve been following my research all this time, you’ll know I’m a big scavenger of all things NY metal. A lot of my research hasn’t only been about the women in NY’s extreme metal scene but to the overall subculture in general.

As of late, I’ve been looking at venues and their histories involving where metal and underground shows were taking place back when extreme metal was growing. After all, the subculture had to be existing somewhere! One such place that was brought up to me was L’Amour.

Back in November 2014, I met a fellow presenter at the Metal and Cultural Impact (MACI) Conference who was from Jersey, presenting on Metal and the USSR. He told me about L’Amour, a venue in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge area that closed down in 2004. Sadly, it was a place I never got to venture to because I really had no connections to the metal scene in the boroughs during my teens. My relationship with metal only became serious in my mid-20’s, during college and beyond. And to add, in the 1970’s when they were having some of their awesome shows, I wasn’t even born…so yeah.

What’s great is that just like Metal Kingdom, the Queens venue that I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, L’Amour also catered to others in an otherwise small and marginalized scene of underground music. It’s closing most likely led the same crowd to start hanging around at places like Metal Kingdom. It wasn’t until 2010-2011, that Saint Vitus and Acheron, both Brooklyn venues opened their doors.

From MetalSucks.net

From MetalSucks.net

These venues allowed for folks to find a place to connect and participate in something that larger society just did not get. Moreover, what made going to such a venue exciting and provocative was the surrounding air of the beginnings of the extreme metal scene. Early shows debuted what would later become a who’s who of metal royalty, including bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, King Diamond and Overkill.

I thought it was pretty neat to find wordpress blogger Maya over at VisuaLingual post a write up about her experience and time with L’Amour. She makes a beautiful case of women participating in the scene during the 90’s, when the number of women were even fewer than today.

Kreator at LAmour

Keator @ L’Amour, 1978–Image from Thrasheaters.com

And finally, my librarian self was happy to see a book in the works by resident L’Amour DJ, Alex Kayne called, “LAmour: Rock Capital Of Brooklyn” to be published in 2016. I’m sure it will stand to be a significant work of reference for other metal academics like myself.

L'Amour Book by Alex Kayne, Image from Amazon.com

L’Amour Book by Alex Kayne, Image from Amazon.com

Welcome to Metal Kingdom Documentary

With all the ongoing research I’ve been doing for my thesis, I came upon this gem. It’s a documentary produced back in 2006-2009 by Denise Gaberman called Welcome to Metal Kingdom (see video below). Gaberman chronicled the lifespan of a small metal venue that opened in Queens, NY, back in 2006 called Metal Kingdom. The film is about 35 minutes long and offers a nice snippet of what the metal community, especially the Pan-Latino metal community looked like in the early 2000’s. It documents the year-long journey of the owner, Salvador Gil, and his partner Edwin Mazariegas, towards maintaining the venue’s life amid financial, political, and renovation complications.

Having seen Sam Dunn’s series, Metal Evolution, I found this documentary, in contrast, even more fascinating and quite different due to its exploration of the ethnic groups participating in NY’s local metal scene. Metal has so often been stereotyped as “white male adolescent” music and this documentary contradicts this notion and in fact shows the director’s perceptiveness to include interviews with women and people of color within the scene. Of particular interest to me were the interviews with two sisters (Denise and Wanda Ramirez) who were in two different extreme metal bands in which they employed male vocal stylings-something that is still rare in the more commercial extreme metal bands that are fronted by women. Add to this, that we still see very few extreme metal bands with women period.

Since my research is ongoing, I hope to reach out and get further insight on both the men and women from the Pan-Latino community as it definitely looks like a gap in local NY Metal scholarship.

Review: Mortals show @ The Acheron, 7/18/14

mortals1

Mortals at the Acheron, 7/18/14

Finally got to see Mortals live! I discovered them through one of the participants in my research about women in extreme metal who recommended some local NYC bands with female members. Lucky for me that when I started researching Mortals, my delight was made sevenfold when I found out the entire trio were women who skillfully and creatively came together to play some of the best death metal I’ve heard.

They played last month at the Acheron to a full crowd as part of their record release party for their 2nd full-length EP entitled, Cursed to See the Future. Opening for them were the bands Mammals and Godmaker and though I usually write about opening acts, they really didn’t impress me much (apologies to Mammals & Godmaker fans!). Both bands did an adequate job of warming up the crowd, but you could tell what everyone was really waiting for; the proficient and technical abilities of Mortals’ pounding funerary dirges.

Mortals opened the evening with an almost art-school video viewing for the title track, “View from the Tower“.  Amidst good-hearted laughter and smiles,  everyone watched as the film unfolded; an homage to old school serial killer movies. As comical as the scenes were, it only added to the creative and satiric minds these musicians have.

They opened their set playing songs from the new EP as well as a song not yet released. Overall, drummer Caryn Havlik’s exuberant bats in the belfry playing never lost it’s pulsating preciseness. Add to that drumming, the vocal growls of bassist Lesly Wolf and the velocity of Elizabeth Cline’s speed guitar and you had a culmination of pummeling death driven songs. Heavy rifts and driving tempos abound as each song takes on it’s average five minutes or more spotlight. Wolf’s vocals give a fullness to each song, making one think of sludgy mire-full screaming.

mortals3

The fact that these Brooklyn Deathheads were women really didn’t detract or add to my overall impression of the what the crowd was perceiving. As an ethnographer, scoping crowds at each show I’ve attended has become part of my obersvation method and it was clear to see previous ideas by academics I’ve read, dismissed, at least in the particular show.

What’s often said about extreme metal music scenes is that there is almost always a lack of women in relation to men as well as a lack of diversity. That was not the case this evening! I witnessed a surprisingly diverse make-up of Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, and Caucasians, with Caucasians counting as slightly higher in number overall. There was also an overwhelming even count between men and women at this show with the average age looking to be between mid-20’s to 40’s. Clothing was as expected, with men and women wearing either heavy or extreme metal t-shirts. There were also a handful of fans wearing your non-affiliated standard uniform of a black shirt with black jeans. Otherwise, the other remaining styles that could be identified were some punk and hipster looks–after-all, we were in Brooklyn!

In terms of my research, the results of the attendees of this show confirms my belief that due to the location (NY Tri-State area), we’re seeing more diversity with fans and musicians in the overall EMM scene.  The increased accessibility of EMM here in NY has made it a little bit more acceptable to women and it will be interesting to see if my survey findings as well as interviews corroborate that assessment.

The bigger question will be whether female participants in the EMM scene see their involvement in light of any kind of feminist agenda.