Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“Global Metal is more of a documentary in the true sense of the word,” says Sam Dunn, “because it’s about more than just music; it’s about culture and about youth and about globalization. These are buzzwords that even the CBC loves.”

I interviewed Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen for Unrestrained! last May, when they were in town promoting their latest documentary, Global Metal. Their visit coincided with the Rush and Iron Maiden gigs here—Dunn and McFadyen went to both shows, as they're shooting separate films about each. At the Maiden show, Dunn was actually on stage during "Heaven Can Wait," singing backup with a gang of contest winners. Lucky bugger.

It was a great kick to meet the two of them, and here are some outtakes from our interview, which took place at one of them Starbucks. (Dunn, by the way, was very impressed by the Mule Mobile, which has been my mainstay portable recorder for 25 years.)

Metallica's "Fight Fire With Fire" was a perfect choice for a theme song, seeing as kids around the world seem to have latched onto metal in response to societal or governmental oppression. How did you come to choose it, and when?

Dunn: I guess we ended A Headbanger's Journey with Metallica at Wacken, and we just kind of picked it up where we left off. "Fight Fire With Fire" is a great Metallica song. It set a template for extreme metal that continues to this day. It’s one of the first and one of the most well known that started with the acoustic guitar intro and then blasts you into this thrash metal song. And that’s something that bands are still doing to this day. So there’s somehing historically in there, but it’s mostly just picking up where we left off.

So it was more of a musical choice than a thematic choice.

Dunn: I guess. We met Lars and obviously we talked to him in Global Metal this time around. They really liked A Headbanger's Journey even though they couldn’t be in the film because they’d just finished Some Kind of Monster and were pretty burned out with cameras. He liked it enough to allow us to use "Master of Puppets" in the first one, so…

McFadyen: He was pretty awesome on this one. He found that Indonesian footage for us and sent it to us and he was like, “Don’t ever make a doc without us again.”

Dunn: I think Lars has learned that Metallica is big, but it’s not as big as the Internet. He can’t really stop it. I guess my perception of it... I mean, he’s got a bad rap because of his stance on Napster, but at the same time I think it was admirable that he was able to acknowledge [in the new movie] that this is something that is here to stay and it’s obviously something that is getting metal music to people around the world. I’m sure he would be shocked to discover that there were Saudi Arabian Metallica fans, right? I think he’s come around, which is a sign of wisdom.

Apart from your entry into China, lugging armfuls of professional film equipment through customs while on tourist visas, what were some of your hairier travel moments or experiences while traveling?

McFadyen: Our whole philosophy was that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. That was the whole way we went through this. They told us not to film in Tiananmen Square. That was a big thing. And we went in there with our little 16 mm camera, just walked in and filmed the Square. 15 guards came over eventually and put their hand on the camera and we were like, "Sorry." So that’s the way we try to go through things. It’ll catch up to us one day, maybe.

Dunn: We get asked a lot, "Was it difficult getting into all these countries, and were you intimidated or scared going to all of these countries?" We actually discovered that things were safer and more open than the way we had perceived it to be. Unfortunately we didn’t get into Iran. We wanted to get into Iran because the metal scene there is pretty interesting, but we couldn’t. We went to the Desert Rock Festival [in Dubai] instead, but apart from thtat, our experience was that we were really embraced by the metal scenes and generally it was a lot safer than we expected.

We don’t look like your average TV crew or like we’re with CNN. We liked our footprint to be small. I think that’s sort of what we like about making these documentaries is that you can be mobile and try and capture something that’s a little more human, a little more ground level than what youget through CNN or major news sources.

About the segment at Blackmore’s, the Deep Purple-themed bar in Japan, where drunken businessmen screech "Highway Star" at the top of their lungs—was that a typical night there?

McFadyen: That was the second time we had been there. We went when we were doing promo for the first film—just to drink. And we were like, "This is crazy." Because the bartender looks exactly like Ritchie Blackmore. We went back and there was a few more people there. I think they’d gotten wind that we were coming and as soon as we walked in, there was a cheer.

Dunn: Something we wanted to show there is that there’s a well-known phenomenon of the salary man in japan. It’s a slang term that is for the typical hard-working Japanese businessman, and the culture there is very much that you work, work, work, work, and when you leave work you drink with your workmates. That’s where you socialize, because the work environment in Japan is very work focused. The way you actually bond with your workmates is in that environment. So we just thought it was so funny to find these guys in, of all places, a Deep Purple-dedicated bar rocking out to "Highway Star." It was just something that people had to see, because we couldn’t believe we were seeing it.

McFadyen: There’s a few moments when you're filming where you think, “This is going in the film.” That was one of them.

As Canada’s metal ambassadors, in a sense, did you hear any interesting perceptions about Canada from people you met? Who’s the best-known Canadian band?

Dunn: Well, everywhere we go and we tell people we’re Canadian, they either mention Rush or Voivod. Those are usually the first two bands that come out of people’s mouths. I think Canada has kind of come into the fore because we are so close to the United States and yet we’re recognized as being quite different...especially post 9/11. I think that as Canadians, because of the society we’ve grown up in, we’re able to look at what’s going on around the world with pretty open eyes and have a certain balanced perspective on it that maybe other countries can’t.

McFadyen: We have a pretty healthy cultural perspective as Canadians. I think that comes across in this film. It’s kind of a positive message when you think about it. All these people were pretty amazing around the world.

Dunn: Another element to this is that if we were to do Global Metal 2, Quebec would be a good candidate because it’s recognized as a home of top-quality death metal music, has been since the days of Gorguts and Obliveon and all those old bands. It has its own unique scene. And it’s interesting—the Catholic, French-speaking, much more European section of Canada became the home for metal in this country. Next to Bergen, Norway, there's more metalheads per capita in Quebec City than anywhere else.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches with pint glasses...