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March 22, 2010

10 Ways to Get Involved in the Metal Subculture WITHOUT being a Poser

Ask a Metalhead, Tr00 Metal Life

Last week, we talked about not being a poser when trying to immerse yourself in metalhead subculture. I said I would offer up a list of suggestions on “metal” things you can do to entrench yourself as a dedicated metalhead without seeming like a try-hard poser.

If you want to get involved in the metal “community” above and beyond simply appreciating the music, I’d recommend the following: 

1. Get involved with a metal zine. You don’t have to start one – at least not right now – but you could contribute a couple of articles / reviews and help with the stapling. Zines have been the humble backers of the underground scene for over 30 years, and no one wants to see the art of metal “zining” die out.

irish-black-metal-zine

Cover of "Paddy Metal", an irish black metal zine. You can find them online at www.paddymetal.com

If you don’t know about zines in your area, check with your local record store – they often have a table for flyers and zines, and you can pick up copies of the underground metal publications in your area. Email the editors and politely express interest in becoming a contributor.

You will quickly discover zine writing involves a ton of work for very little reward. You may, however, also discover a hitherto underdeveloped talent for review writing, or you’ll learn about contacting PR companies for interviews, or compiling the local gig guide. You’ll learn some new skills, discover tons of new metal bands, meet some truly dedicated metalheads, and become a legitimate, respected member of the “scene”.

2. Save up your money and make the pilgrimage to Europe for the festival circuit. Take it from someone who knows: it will change your life. Go to Wacken Open Air, because it’s amazing, but look into other festivals too – it’s not hard to attend three festivals in a month and see all of your favourite bands.

Doing the Festival circuit serves two purposes: not only will you have an amazing time and see some awesome bands, but you’ll also meet metalheads from all over the world and have a glimpse into their lives. Nothing says “I’m committed to metal” like plonking down your life savings to go to Germany.

3. If you’re not likely to come into significant money any time soon, a cheaper way of meeting metalheads around the world is involving yourself with music discussion on metal forums. Either fan forums (like the House of Death, which forbids discussion on metal bands that aren’t Manowar), or more generalised metal forums like Metal Archives.

I spent a good part of my university life debating the finer points of genre classification with a couple of geeky Austrians on Metal Archives, and I tell you – nothing teaches you more about metal than having to defend your opinions to a bunch of people who’ve been listening to metal for 30 years.

Warning: be prepared to be told you know nothing about metal, at least twice a day, by people who know equally nothing about metal. You can’t take forum discussion too seriously, because people can get mean. Don’t take it to heart: they’re only mean because they’re stuck at home debating genre classifications in their pyjamas, instead of out at the Deicide show with seven hot metal chicks.

4. Support local bands. Many people will fork over $100 to see the big international tours, but baulk at shelling out a tenner to see three local acts play at the metal bar. Why is this? Do we think they’re going to be crap?

Well, yes, some of them will be, but you’re missing out on some real gems. The other week I went to see a friends cover band play, and the opening band – Hackmessah – blew every local act I’ve seen out of the water. For young guys, they’d written incredibly complex set of layered, technical songs, with a truly unique style (groove techno avant garde death metal … I don’t know!) and – get this – they made their own guitars. This kind of brilliance is going on in your own town, right now, so get out there and support it. After all, even your favourite international bands started at the local pub.

5. Offer to help out whenever the opportunity presents itself. I love going behind the scenes and finding out how things work, and I’ve found the real dedicated metalheads are the promoters and club owners and musicians and artists and organisers who work tirelessly to promote the scene for very little pay or recognition.

In May, I am running merchandise tables for the Auckland portion of a tour put on the NZ Metal Army. I used to manage a band, too (I wasn’t very good at it, but hey, you never know till you try!)

If you’re a talented artist / designer, offer to create band logos or gig posters. If you can mix, offer to do the sound desk or DJ between sets. When you see the drummer struggling down the stairs of the club with two bass drums, offer to take his cymbal bags out to his car for him.

6. Remember subculture fashion is just that – fashion for the subculture. It’s the clothing you wear to gigs and festivals, when having drinks with your mates or attending a metal party. It’s the clothing you wear to band practise and on stage. It’s not necessarily the clothing you wear on the street, or to work, or to dinner with your parents, or the first date with a hot girl or guy.

7. Write letters / emails to your favourite musicians and let them know what their music means to you. I call this “making a musician’s day”. Also, find all your favourite bands on Twitter and Facebook and keep up with their news and interact with them on that personal level.

8. Learn an instrument. You appreciate metal on a whole new level when you learn how bloody hard it is to play. I am hopeless, but I play the tin whistle. I have attempted (badly) to learn the guitar, bass and keyboard. 

9. Have other interests outside metal. Well-rounded, interesting people make friends easily, because they have several possible points-of-interest to share with others. If you only like one thing – metal – what are you going to talk about when you get bored of talking about metal?

10. Start a Blog. I did this, and it’s been awesome, and now I get to meet metalheads from all over the world, right here in my office. Even if your readership consists of two geeky Austrians and your mum, . Heck, at least it’s less effort than a zine.

I turn the floor over to you, my readers. Do you have any other ideas for immersing yourself in the metal “scene”, without seeming like you’re trying to be “uber metal”?

Tell us what you do over and above listening to music? Do you write for a blog or zine, play in a band, or help out at gigs? 

Gigantic Cookies and Geeky Austrians
Steff

8 Comments on “10 Ways to Get Involved in the Metal Subculture WITHOUT being a Poser

Tyler Gipson
March 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Very good article. I especially loved the point about supporting your local bands. I wish every metal head here in Utah could read that! The local metal scene here is terrible! No one supports anyone. I guess I’ll have to be the one to step outside of the comfort zone and just go to them.. and convert people with me! lol … Also, I just want to say.. CYNIC IS AMAZING!!!! \m/ >.< \m/

Elizabeth
July 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm

In May of last year a couple friends and I tried to make a zine under our parents radar, just for the fun of it. We finished it, and it took the entire month, but it was fun. One of my friends even designed a logo. I did all the finding pictures and stuff. It was really rough, just a ton of ink, staples, paper and tape. maybe when we’re older we’ll get back to it. For now it’s hidden in my memory box of randomness.

steff
August 9, 2012 at 12:31 am

@Elizabeth – that’s awesome. I have never made a zine, but have read a few – sometimes the roughest ones are the best. It’s great to give something like that a go, even if you don’t stick to it in the end. \m/

K'firah
January 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm

New to your blog but am really loving it!! Stay metal! I like the advice Nellie gives…check out MANY bands. Check out the influences of the bands you do like..see where the idols you worship get THEIR ideas from. Music is never created in a pristine bubble..everyone is connected. And along those lines never ever trash a band just to sound cool. If you don’t like something, move on.

Oh, one last thing…if you have a small, independently owned Metal music shop in your town, support it like your life depends on it. Buy stuff, help out, be their best friends. You will be sorry if it’s gone.

Keep up the good work Steff! \m/

Geller
June 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Another idea is to explore the Metal genre. Just sticking to the popular Metal bands out there won’t get you much respect. Most posers will just listen to commercial Metal and/or just wear commercial metal band t-shirts. Check out bands like Cynic. Also less devil horns please, they’re getting a bit over-worn.

steff
June 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Yes, gaining an appreciation of non-mainstream metal bands really does open your mind. I always think every band has SOMETHING good going for them (even if it’s just that the lead singer has beautiful hair, or something). If we only listened to mainstream bands groups like Cynic and Eluveitie and Wolves of the Throne Room wouldn’t get the appreciation they deserve, and THAT would be criminal.

Nellie
March 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Something I found that helped me was taking every band suggestion thrown my way. Even if I don’t like it, at least I know about it. Having an extensive knowledge of different genres and the pioneers of each genre will make conversations with long-time metal fans easier! If they see that you’re making an effort to learn, they’ll accept you into the fold :).

Nice to see the shout out for HackmessiaH. I’ve known Kyle (the bassist) since intermediate school. Poor guy had to put up with me hanging around like a bad smell for a couple of months because I was “dating” his best friend. Haha.

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