Last week, it was International Woman’s Day – a day where we celebrate how awesome it is that some of us have a vagina. To me, this isn’t a day to make claims of superiority, or to focus on women to the exclusion of other identities. It’s a day to celebrate the social, cultural, political, and economic achievements of women, and to take action to give the next generation of women greater freedom and choice.
As a woman who takes pride in being part of the metal “scene,” (which is, by it’s nature, a predominently masculine culture) I thought it would be a great opportunity to highlight some of the “metal” women I admire, who have been role models for me throughout my life; as artists, mothers, friends, businesswomen, philanthropists, activists, and warriors of metal in their own right. Some of them you’d have heard of, others you might not, but all are awesome.
1. Suzi Quatro
Suzi Q was my Dad’s great teenage love, and I can see why. A firecracker on a motorcycle, with a voice so husky it was like she should be a representative for a Quit Smoking campaign, Suzi Q has sold over 50 million albums and was the first female bass player to ever become a major rock star in her own right. Her songs are filled with sass and attitude, and she plays the bass like a boss. I was thrilled to see her in concert here in New Zealand, where she spoke with openness and humour about the struggles of being a female in the rock industry, her life, and her inspiration. On 24 October 2013, Quatro received the Woman of Valor Award from the organisation Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women (MEOW) for her role inspiring and influencing generations of female musicians. For an introduction to Suzi’s work, try her album Suzi Quatro.
2. Bif Naked
When I was a teen, I wanted to be Bif Naked. I wanted to sing angsty songs about boys and travelling through America with my lesbian lover and get tons of tattoos and look like an Egyptian goddess. Her music is so raw and brutal – and her life has been pretty brutal at times, as well. Bif is an incredible woman, working tirelessly with the causes she believes in, even while she fights her own battle with breast cancer. I love that she lives her ethos of being punk rock, but is also unbelievably kind.
Bif Naked spoke at the University of the Fraser Valley for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2013, where it was announced she would be awarded an honorary doctorate from the university. For an intro into Bif’s work, try her album I Bificus, or her book (also called I Bificus).
3. Chelsea Wolfe
The current darling of the alternative music scene and a new obsession of mine, Chelsea Wolfe’s stunning albums have served as soundscapes for some of my own art over the last few years. She combines elements of neofolk, metal and gothic music into sweeping soundscapes of haunting beauty. Chelsea is profoundly shy and anxious of crowds. In her early performances she would wear a veil. She credits medical marijuana as an aid in helping her overcome this anxiety, and she is a prominent activist and spokesperson for the medical marijuana movement. For an introduction to Chelsea Wolfe’s work, try her album Abyss.
4. Angela Gassow
The first woman I ever really saw performing extreme metal, Angela’s aggression and power bleed onto every track. She brings that same energy to her live performances. She’s one of the major role models for women in extreme metal, and that is a label she carries with pride and compassion. She left her position as frontwoman for Arch Enemy in 2014 to focus on the management side of the band. But in Jan she announced she’ll be returning to the stage with a new project. She’s also the voice of Lavona Succuboso in Metalocalypse. Angela is outspoken about her views as a vegan, an anarchist, and a follower of the straight-edge lifestyle. For more information on Angela, check out the Arch Enemy album Anthems of Rebellion.
5. Jinx Dawson – Coven
OMG, Coven – the psychedelic rock band with occult lyrics from the 70s that had little goth me swooning at one point in my life. Jinx Dawson and Siouxie Sioux (another idol of mine) have been the style queens behind many a teenage goth wardrobe. Dawson was famous for elaborate “satanic” rites on stage – the band were at one point opening for the likes of Alice Cooper and the Yardbirds, and building a solid rep for themselves (Black Sabbath were called by an early reviewer, “England’s answer to Coven,”) before an Esquire article linked the band (unfairly) to Charles Manson, and their record label pulled their record. Coven never reached celebrity status, but they’re a pretty popular favourite among us buddy old goths. I admired Dawson’s vocals (she’s a trained opera singer, and it shows) and her commitment to performance. She’s also worked as a model, a fashion designer/stylist, and she still performing under the name “Coven”. For an introduction to Jinx Dawson, check out Coven’s Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls album.
6. Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer made her name in the alt music scene with her first band, The Dresden Dolls, in the early 2000s, and she made it again when she convinced her label to drop her, raised more than $1 million for an album on Kickstarter, and married writer Neil Gaiman. Amanda’s music is more “punk rock cabaret” than metal, but her attitude is pure rock n roll give no fucks, take no prisoners. I don’t always like all of her work, and I don’t always agree with everything she says, but I deeply admire the way she builds community, shares everything she is, goes after causes she believes in (there have been too many to name), and serves as a fearless leader for a new type of artist > fan relationship. Oh, and her music is amazing.
7. Andy Pants
Andy is an amazing friend of mine. She works with victims of sexual violence as a day job, has been 1/2 of The Apocalypse since we started it five years ago, is an amazing vocalist, and is also a wife and mother to two gorgeous girls (and stepmom to another). Andy and I go way back – we met through another friend who was her boyfriend at the time. He and I have the same eye condition, and when we discovered this she MAY have thought I was trying to steal him away. Not a chance. :)
She is the BEST person to talk to if you are in trouble and need to figure out what to do, and she is incredibly, unbelievably kind. This is the girl who will drop everything if you’re in trouble, and will go to the ends of the earth to do something kind without any thought of what she’ll get in return. She is always the life of the party, and getting everyone into trouble. :) I’d be pretty damn lost without her in my life. If you want to see Andy in action, check out The Asockalypse.
8. Grim Kim Kelly
Kim is regarded as one of the most important voices in metal journalism today, whether you love her or hate her. I adore Kim’s writing – she injects so much humour, intelligence, and wit into her pieces, you can tell she’s the author from the very first paragraph. If I see her name on anything, whether it’s an article on underground goregrind bands, a festival review, or a shopping list, I’m gonna read it. She also has moxy. You have to, to do what she does in a male-dominated scene where many internet-trolls aren’t afraid to spew ridiculous hatred at her just because she has breasts and an opinion. For more information on Kim’s work, check out her twitter.
9. Amy Howat
Amy is another friend of mine. She is also the brains behind Northwic, a bespoke wedding couture and costume design company operating out of Helensville, Auckland. Amy’s work is extremely detailed, bordering on obsessive. She’s super-creative and incredibly dedicated, as well as being a genuine kind and fun person. That picture is her, wearing the wedding dress she made for her recent wedding. THE WOMAN MADE HER OWN WEDDING DRESS and looked like a magazine spread. She and her husband are our fellow crazy build-a-house-live-in-the-country friends, and it’s gonna be amazing watching their house go up just as ours is finishing.
We’re currently working on a super-secret project at the moment, and I can’t wait to see what happens with it this year!
10. My mum
What self-respecting woman doesn’t put their mother – the woman from whom they receive so much of their personality, education, and attitude – on their list? My mum is pretty awesome, and not just because she conquered the Inca Trail in 2015, when she was 59. This woman is fun, compassionate, supportive, and incredibly kind, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.
There are so so many more women who inspire me every day with their stories and their art and their humour and their kindness. I couldn’t add them all to this list. Who have I missed? Who inspires you?
When I’m not blasting metal at top volume, I write dark urban fantasy novels. My latest book, Petrified City, first in the new Chronicles of the Wraith series, is out now. Grab your copy from Amazon, or join my mailing list to stay up-to-date with the series.