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November 23, 2011
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SJP


Headbangers rejoice over 'Metal'
By DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency


Rob Halford with Sam Dunn.

You asked for it, headbangers.

The new MuchMore rockumentary series Metal Evolution — the latest high- volume blast from Canadian filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen — was sparked by fan reaction to their 2005 documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, says one of its creators.

“Some people said they wished that film was eight hours long,” Dunn, 37, says with a chuckle. “I guess this is our way of saying, ‘Here you go.’ We have to be careful what we wish for.”

Not this time, dude. For fans of the devil’s music, Metal Evolution should be as welcome as a Black Sabbath reunion. Hosted by blond scarecrow Dunn — the onscreen half of the duo behind Juno-winning docs like Iron Maiden: Flight 666 and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage — this definitive guide to all things hard, heavy and hairy charts the course of metal from its roots in classical and jazz to its progressive future. Along with the expected array of vintage clips and new interviews with metal gods such as Rob Halford, Alice Cooper and Slash, the series takes some interesting detours, visiting the Marshall amp factory to probe the birth of distortion and having Dunn’s noggin scanned to see how music affects his brainwaves.


Follow QMI Agency's Darryl Sterdan on Twitter!

With the 11-part series (get it?) premiering on MuchMore on Friday, Nov. 25, former anthropology student, one-time metal bassist and new father Dunn got on the blower to discuss his newfound appreciation for nu-metal, hanging out in Iggy’s man-cave and Sabbath vs. Van Halen.

Some highlights:

You’ve been working on this series for more than two years. How much more work went into this than one of your documentary films?

Well, this series is 11 one-hour episodes on the entire history of hard rock and heavy metal. And each episode is really a documentary unto its own. Because what we discovered is that each metal subgenre — whether it’s thrash or shock-rock or glam-metal or grunge — has its own unique story. And its own cast of characters and key people. So it was a lot more work from a research and writing perspective because we had to pin down the key characters and come up with interesting stories. There were a lot of late nights in the writing room with Deep Purple on.

What were the biggest surprises and epiphanies for you?

One that really stands out to me was nu-metal, which emerged in the ’90s and was this subgenre that explored hip-hop and included turntables. Guys in bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park didn’t look metal. And I honestly despised these bands at the time.

But in doing the episode, I learned there was some value in what those bands brought to the genre because it tested the boundaries of heavy metal. Part of the charm of metal is the musicians’ and fans’ commitment to the music and the sense of community. But the downside is that can become pretty exclusive and even elitist at times. The nu- metal episode made me realize adding a seven-string guitar and bringing metal back to some sense of groove — which it really hadn’t had since Led Zeppelin in the ’70s — maybe wasn’t such a bad thing.

Just because I’m a crusty, thrash-loving metalhead from the ’80s doesn’t mean I can tell Linkin Park fans their music isn’t important.

Was there one interview that was particularly meaningful?

Meeting guys like Wayne Kramer and Iggy Pop. The MC5 and The Stooges weren’t bands I loved growing up, so meeting them really expanded my idea of where metal comes from and the different sensibilities musicians were bringing to the music in the ’70s. Iggy is such an icon and one of the all-time great performers, so travelling down to Miami and getting to hang out in his Everglades man-cave in the swamps of Florida was pretty damn cool. It was kind of weird. It felt like a scene out of Dexter — but there was a really nice Porsche outside.

What about Canadian metal? What’s our contribution to the genre?

The first and most obvious is Rush. One of our episodes is on progressive metal, and it kind of takes you from bands like Yes and Genesis through to contemporary bands like Mastodon who have taken elements of extreme metal and combined it with that ’60s prog-rock.

Rush was really the first band that combined British progressive rock with heavy music. They were one part Yes, one part Led Zeppelin. And an album like 2112 launched a whole new generation of musicians. We did a whole documentary on Rush and I though we had nothing more to say, but we’re still giving props to Rush. We just can’t get rid of them.

Speaking of having nothing more to say, at this point, even you must be getting tired of talking about metal. What’s next?

Yeah, I’m cutting my hair and wearing white from now on. (Laughs) Actually, we’ve discovered metal and rock may be a niche, but it’s a pretty big niche, and a good niche to be in. Neil Young and Leonard Cohen and The Rolling Stones have all had multiple documentaries, but there are still hard rock artists out there whose stories haven’t been told — bands like AC/DC or Alice Cooper. In fact, that’s our next project: We’re doing a documentary on Alice’s career, from the beginning right up to his comeback in the ’80s. That’s one project.

The other is a documentary on the modern history of Satan, of all people. Our exploration of heavy metal has made us realize Satan continues to be a pervasive figure in popular culture through film, literature and music. That’s an example of a film that’s obviously still rooted in what we’ve done, but it’s much broader. It’s not a music film. We’re pretty excited about that next step.

Last question: Black Sabbath reunion or Van Halen reunion?

Oh man, that’s like asking me to pick the favourite of my children.

I’ll be at both shows.

darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca

@darryl_sterdan

blogs.canoe.ca/ent

facebook.com/darryl.sterdan

 

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