'Metal Evolution' Maker: 'What We Wanted To Do Was Show Where This Music Came From'

Banger Films' ("Metal: A Headbangers Journey", "Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage") groundbreaking documentary series "Metal Evolution" premiered on November 11 on VH1 Classic. The latest passion project from Canadian documentarians Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, "Metal Evolution" is dedicating each episode of the 11-part series to a specific facet of the heavy metal sound and culture. New episodes of "Metal Evolution" are premiering every Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT on VH1 Classic.

John Semley of The A.V. Club recently conducted an interview with Dunn about "Metal Evolution". An excerpt from the chat follows below.

The A.V. Club: You've done so many in-depth metal documentaries — or anthropological studies on metal, as you tend to frame them. Was there any worry, going into a series like this, that you'd have to dumb it down for people who aren't as familiar with the genre?

Sam Dunn: Scot and I, we really thought we'd get even deeper than before. It seemed that, with the films we made before, there was still an unsatisfied need for metal. A lot of people who saw "Headbanger's Journey" came up to us afterwards and said, "We wish this was eight hours long." So what we're saying now is, "Here's 11 hours." A lot of people really wanted to see that Heavy Metal Family Tree broken apart and analyzed. You'd think that people would be burned out on metal, but it's clearly the opposite. There seems to be this undying appetite for more metal.

The A.V. Club: And what about you guys? Do you feel at all burned out after four films and a documentary series?

Sam Dunn: Yeah, well, for us this was an opportunity to actually talk about the history of metal. "Headbanger's Journey" was really an overview of the culture of metal and the effects of metal as not being just music for [Cro-Magnons] and people who like to smash beer bottles over their heads. What "Metal Evolution" allowed us to do was to dig into the sound of metal and where it came from. At first, we worried about retreading the same ground. Then we kept digging and realized there were all these fascinating links between metal and all other kinds of music we hadn't even thought about before we started.

The A.V. Club: You trace it as far back as classical, and especially Paganini. There are some fans who would say you don't need to connect metal to classical music to legitimize it. Was there any worry about this? Or is the aim to remove your presence as a metal fan and approach metal from this anthropological distance?

Sam Dunn: What we don't want people to think is that we're connecting metal to jazz and classical and blues because we want to legitimate metal. Metal's already legitimate to us. And metal is already legitimate to a lot of people. What we wanted to do, quite simply, was show where this music came from. We weren't trying to dignify it or impress jazz aficionados by showing that Bill Ward, the drummer from BLACK SABBATH, grew up on the GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA, or that the MC5 were into Ornette Coleman. That's not the point. What we wanted to show is that there are connections between metal and other kinds of music that surprised us, and hopefully would surprise others as well.

The A.V. Club: It works very well, as in the films, how you treat it as if it's your own journey, and you're very much a part of discovering all these connections. Do you find that putting yourself at the centre helps you lead people down the path a bit?

Sam Dunn: When we set out to do "Headbanger's Journey", Scot and I were setting out to find a way to do a film that wouldn't alienate the metal community, but also wouldn't alienate the general music fan. What we found was that by having me be in front of the camera as a fan of metal, but also as someone who has a background in anthropology and has a real curiosity about this music, was a great way of bringing everyone in. We like to think of it as being a good referee. Referees know when to step in and when to let the game play out. And that's what we try to achieve. And with "Metal Evolution", we found no need to change what we were doing. It worked in "Headbanger's Journey" and "Global Metal", and we figured it would work here as well.

Read the entire interview from The A.V. Club.

"Metal Evolution" trailer:


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