Sam Dunn, the Canadian filmmaker responsible for Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal, full-length feature documentaries on IRON MAIDEN and RUSH, as well as Metal Evolution, a television series detailing the history of heavy metal, is undertaking his most extreme venture yet: a documentary on extreme metal.
It’s the “lost episode” of Metal Evolution, and one that the networks that aired the series weren’t interested in, explains Dunn. So he’s doing it without the networks, creating one last Metal Evolution episode focusing on death, grindcore, and black metal.
“When we had our first pitch meeting with VH1 to do Metal Evolution, we had included an episode on extreme metal in that proposal,” says Dunn, who is currently nearing the completion of a feature-length documentary on ALICE COOPER as well as a documentary about the history of the devil in pop culture. “The way they saw it, thrash metal they were on board with, they understood, and importantly as a broadcaster, they saw an audience for. But I think they felt extreme metal was too niche, too underground, for their tastes and their programming, which at the time was hard for us to accept because we knew it was an important part of Metal Evolution, but, hey, they funded 11 episodes so we couldn’t really kick and scream too loudly. We got to make that series, which was amazing. So it was always our intention to do an extreme metal episode, we just had to wait.”
It’s apparent talking to Dunn how much he loves not only metal but the extreme side of metal. He cites the original Floridian death metal scene as spawning some of his fave bands, like DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, and OBITUARY, but also says bands like GOJIRA, ENSLAVED and VADER are some of his favourites.
“It’s always the underground that is the driving force of metal, and of a lot of music, in the sense that it’s testing the waters,” he says. “It’s seeing how far the music can be pushed. When you’re creating a series called Metal Evolution, you’re talking about the evolution of the music, it seems ridiculous not to have the one style that is kind of out on the edge, pushing it into the next phase. So this had to be done.”
So doing it he is, with a first crowdfunding campaign raising nearly $40,000, which went to cover the costs of travel (the crew went to Florida, New York, Norway, Switzerland, France, and the UK to talk to main players in the extreme scene), equipment rental, and filming over 20 interviews. Now they’ve launched a second campaign, in hopes of getting $35,000 more.
“We need some additional funds to cover the costs of editing, of licensing the archival and music for the episode, of doing the sound mix, all the fine tuning that it takes to create something that’s high quality. So that’s where we’re at right now.”
When we talked to Dunn, the pledge campaign was three days in and they had raised over $5,000. So things are going well, but with every successful pledge campaign comes detractors, which Dunn is certainly familiar with. He says he’s faced a “backlash from the metal community” who don’t quite get the economics of working in television and movies.
“There might be the assumption that it’s just me with a hand-held camera, travelling around the world, living this heavy metal holiday (laughs). Whereas I can send you an itinerary of our European leg, which took us to six countries in 10 days, with 20 interviews. It’s a lot of hard work. And we hire people who are good at what they do, and that’s where some of our costs go. We don’t hire people who work for free, and I think that’s part of the reason why what we’ve done so far has been a success.”
And once it gets made (they hope to have the episode done for November), this will be one more success story under the Banger Films crew’s belts. But the most important story here, as Dunn explains, is the story of extreme metal, its importance, and how it’s not going away.
“I think that hard rock, heavy metal, extreme metal, was always seen as being a thing that you got into at a certain age, it was a product of a generational moment,” he says. “I think the longevity of this music is proving that’s not the case. Rock and roll is not just young peoples’ music anymore. It was proven to some extent with Flight 666 that we did, and other films that other rock and metal bands have done. I think it’s kind of showing that you can be a career professional, a parent, a lot of different things, but you can still be a fan of a band called Vader or Napalm Death. These things are not necessarily contradictory. You can be a responsible member of society and still be obsessed with extreme music. And I don’t think anyone really saw that coming. That’s part of the reason we wanted to tell this story. It’s not going away and it’s never going to go away.”
And while Dunn says he enjoys other types of music, like jazz, extreme metal is, for him, "what keeps the world going around," regardless of age.
"I’m 39 and was listening to Vader yesterday, and just thought, ‘Why bother listening to anything else? Why waste my time? This is just so fucking great.’"
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