Global Metal Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn

Global Metal Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn
With their debut film Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, filmmakers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn introduced the world to the culture and history of heavy metal. For a genre that is often misunderstood, seen as little more than a fad, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey proved that this underground force is far more temporal than generally perceived.

Taking that reality a step further, sophomore effort Global Metal successfully reiterates such a notion by delving deeper into just how universal, yet unique, metal’s various factions have become. Visiting a host of countries, the duo explore the vibrant histories and unique characteristics pertaining to heavy metal. Global Metal documents the independent, distinctive traits metal has taken on in the likes of Brazil, China, Japan, India and other cultures.

From these perspectives, we learn how despite having the same adoration for heavy metal, we ’bangers are not all equal. For example, Brazilians and Indonesians have embraced metal as it pertains to their political climate, and Israeli and Iranian fans are impacted by religious struggles, while Japan is content to enjoy metal as little more than outright fun entertainment.

As Global Metal unfolds, it becomes far more than a simple endeavour to portray more headbangers’ love for loud, fast guitars. While Dunn and McFadyen are clearly tied to this perspective, they allow the film to blossom into an anthropological study of distinct nations and their struggles from a ’banger’s point of view. While the majority of North Americans and Europeans are free to embrace their personal musical preferences, we see the vehemence with which metal fans in other stricter countries must defend their personal right to appreciate this oft-misunderstood style.

Brilliantly informative, entertaining and occasionally hilarious — intentionally and otherwise — Global Metal may be shunned by the unwitting for its direct connection to the Devil’s music but when one allows its deeper intention to reveal itself, Global Metal becomes a fascinating look not just at metal but at the world in general.

Studying the globalisation of heavy metal is a monumental task. How did you get the idea? Where did you start?
Dunn: Promoting A Headbanger’s Journey, we had people from all over the world saying, "You know, there’s metal outside of North America and Europe. Check out our country.” We wanted to do something different, not just hit the celebrities we missed the first time around or broach other themes within metal like drugs.

McFadyen: We made a list of interesting countries and researched them, looking at the bands, the back-stories, politics and contrasts within.

Dunn: It was hard to pare down the list. Some countries had histories of oppression or dictatorships. It was a long process to find out how we could present the different ways metal comes into countries and affects fans.

How did your perspective of metal change after making this film?
Dunn: Metal is always accused of being detached from the world, with its fantastical element, that what it’s saying doesn’t have any relevance to personal lives. To come back from places realising you met someone where Slayer’s "War Ensemble” means something to them is mind numbing. Here, metal has that voyeuristic, one-step removed from reality atmosphere. Globally, metal’s message has personal relevance.

How will the film appeal to non-metal fans?
McFadyen: This is more of a metal movie because it gets into tighter pockets of a specific genre but it’s also very broad in depicting lesser-known aspects of the Western world.

Dunn: It gives something new to devout metal fans but because of the world issues and politics, it leans more towards the conventional documentary.

What is your greatest aspiration for Global Metal?
McFadyen: Hopefully it’ll open up the world in a positive way, breaking some stereotypes of metal heads.

How is metal viewed universally?
Dunn: Metal was always seen as being attached to a particular moment but now it’s finally being appreciated as legitimate music. It’s multi-generational, bigger than it’s ever been. That’s the corner metal is turning now.

With this documentary, you start with a broad view of metal and then hone in on its various incarnations in different countries. What was appealing about the nations you focused on?
McFadyen: We knew of the bizarre visual theme metal takes on in Japan, so that was intriguing. With China, we found out that after the Cultural Revolution, a Chinese-American went back there and started the biggest metal band in that country. There were tons of cool stories; it was hard to cut down to the few we did.

Dunn: It was about finding the countries with interesting stories, not just about metal but where we’d learn about the country as well, presenting a different side than what we’re used to seeing. Israel was a close third — another place we could hedge our bets. We knew we were gonna get a great mass of material we could chip away at. [The band] Orphaned Land were a great example of how national culture and custom were mixing with metal. It was like going to a heavy metal bar mitzvah.

So in essence, you’re using the music as an introduction to the country, expanding outside of the margins of metal because politics and religion weigh so much heavier in some of these places?
McFadyen: Exactly. Here, metal is taken at face value, for the most part, but in some of these countries, things like politics or religion are tied incredibly close to the music, for good or bad. It’s difficult because [we’re] touching on a lot of bigger things. We can give a flavour or idea but we can’t go in-depth in just two hours. I think people will walk away learning something but there’s a hell of a lot more to learn.

Dunn: We also wanted to make it more visual than A Headbanger’s Journey because we’re travelling to all of these places trying to give people a sense of life there, at least in the context of at a metal show. There was travel in A Headbanger’s Journey but it was guided more by the themes and people than place. Place was important in this film.

It must be difficult to digest these vastly different concepts of metal. Did you walk out of each country fully understanding the place it maintains in their societies?
Dunn: Sometimes, but not always. Japan was a great example. We were still puzzled after we left. We didn’t know if we understood what was going on, it was so different than everywhere else. In most other countries, there’s some sort of rebellion or direct response to authority or aggression going on. It wasn’t like that in Japan; they were so happy. We realised that the act of going to a metal show and getting out of your suit serves a specific function. Everything does in Japan. It’s all compartmentalised and orderly. Thankfully Japan is so over-the-top visually that it works as well. Going into some countries like China, there was a better sense ahead of time with what we were getting into though. It varied.

And then you had to put it all into one concise package that was hopefully self-explanatory.
McFadyen: It took a lot of editing. You capture everything you can and then it’s like panning for gold, trying to narrow down the elements. Or like that old game Kerplunk!, where you take out a stick and hope the whole thing doesn’t fall down. "Okay, we didn’t need that part to keep the film intact…”

You must have found a lot of kindred spirits aching to share their tales and let the world know what they’re going through.
Dunn: We got to meet metal heads from all around the world. In Jakarta, we arrived late and when we got to the hotel, the guys who run the metal scene there — all six of them — were waiting for us. There was a lot of good will from the bands and fans.

McFadyen: You always hear about what’s going on in North America and Europe but with some of these places you only hear about them when a disaster happens. You don’t know what’s going on culturally. Hopefully this changes things a bit.

You have plans to release a CD with tracks from some of the bands in the film. How was it discovering these "big” bands you’d never heard of?
Dunn: That discovery element was exciting for us. Not knowing is frightening but it’s also exciting. Finding the bands was a great experience: black metal bands from Beijing or Iranian metal bands. It expanded our perspective and hopefully will for metal fans who see this. We all know Slayer, Metallica and Iron Maiden, so check out these bands.

How do you think the film will appeal to non-metal fans?
Dunn: It’ll be interesting to see how non-metal fans in these countries feel about the way their country is portrayed; how the general public responds, especially to their metal contingent. Maybe it will break down some internal barriers.

You rightfully earned respect for A Headbanger’s Journey. Global Metal is a step above that. How do you feel about your contribution to the metal scene now that some of your favourite bands treat you as a peer, not just a fan?
Dunn: It’s cool that this is our job. We can contribute to the scene other than just as fans. Not that being a fan isn’t the greatest contribution but I’ve always wanted to do something on top of that. This is way beyond what I could have hoped for. (Banger/Seville)