Interview with Metal: A Headbanger's Journey directors
Sam Dunn & Scot McFadyen
by Robert Newton
Sam Dunn is a metal fan. Like many fans, he played in a band
as a teenager, and when titanic fame, fortune and everything
that goes with it did not come, he made other plans. The other
plans of the 30-year-old Dunn, who was born in the relatively
metal-free Canadian province of Victoria, British Columbia,
included going to university and getting respectable by earning
a masters degree in anthropology. He never abandoned music,
though, and it was while searching for music for the 2000 werewolf
favorite Ginger Snaps that Dunn and Scot McFadyen
took a, umm...lycan to the idea of crafting a definitive
film documentary about Dunn's beloved musical genre. The two
then teamed up with Toronto's Jessica Joy Wise to co-write,
co-produce and co-direct the remarkably comprehensive Metal:
A Headbanger's Journey.
The film, in which Dunn
acts as an immensely insightful globetrotting tour guide, features
interviews with the likes of icons Tony Iommi, Bruce Dickinson
and Ronnie James Dio, and has enjoyed an acclaimed theatrical
run since its debut at last fall's Toronto Film Festival. It
has just been released in a fantastic 2-disc DVD set (the bonus
disc of which includes a rare peek at Dio's collection of frog
knick-knacks). GASPetc.com caught Dunn and McFadyen while on tour
promoting this DVD release.
GASPetc: What was the first metal album you ever bought?
Sam Dunn: If Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry counts,
then that would be it. Because I was a teen in the 1980's,
I heard what was popular, like Motley Crue, Ratt and Iron Maiden.
I found the death/thrash metal scenes from there, and in two
years flat, I was listening to Obituary.
Scot McFadyen: I wasn't a metal fan in the `80's at all. I
was into the Clash and indie pop. The first metal album I ever
bought was Guns 'N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction.
GASPetc: What was the first metal show you ever saw?
SD: In Victoria, B.C., there was not much metal at all. My
first big metal show as Quiet Riot in 1984, when they toured
with Kickaxe and Whitesnake. Eventually, I started traveling
[12 hours one way] to Vancouver as my tastes expanded.
GASPetc: What are some of the things that you consciously did to
make this film stand apart from previous efforts like 'The
SM: The fact that films like that exist was our reason for
making Metal. Spheeris's film was not an accurate
representation of heavy metal, and because of it, we knew exactly
we didn't want to make ours a VH-1 "Behind The Music".
By taking the anthology angle and making a well-spoken guy
like Sam the central figure, we hoped to make people take metal
GASPetc: Which interview was the most important to the film?
SM: We knew we had to have Tony Iommi, but we didn't land him
until later in the process. Getting him definitely felt momentous
to us, and even though we were in Norway when the call came
that he could do, and his people stated that we had to be
in Birmingham [England] the next Thursday if we wanted him,
we were happy to oblige. The interview was great, and Tony
was great, such a gentleman.
GASPetc: Which interview was your favorite as a fan?
SD: [Iron] Maiden is my all-time favorite band; they embody
all elements I love about metal -- the power, the aggression,
the melodic aspects, the visual, the theatrical. Interviewing
Bruce Dickinson on stage at the legendary Hammersmith Odeon
[now the Carling Apollo] was a huge highlight for me, and
definitely my most nerdy moment.
GASPetc: Did you ever have trouble keeping the fanboy in you at
SD: There were definitely moments, in that interviewing bands
like we did was a huge and important dream of mine -- or any
fan's, for that matter. While a lot of these are bands I worshipped,
I was definitely coming in with interest as an analytical observer.
As far as keeping the fanboy in me at bay, it was especially
tricky preventing potential fanboy moments when interviewing
Bruce on stage. I really wanted him to sign my copy of Number
Of The Beast.
GASPetc: Was there any music you were unable to get?
SM: We tried to get "Black Sabbath" by [Black] Sabbath,
but for some reason, Sharon [Osbourne] was difficult from the
SD: We wanted to use it to illustrate "The Devil's Note" and
metal's core sound, but instead used Diamond Head's "Am
I Evil", which also exploits sound of the tri-tone.
GASPetc: What was your budget?
SM: 1.3 million Canadian, which is around 1.1 million US.
GASPetc: From where did your funding come?
SM: It came from a combination of sources. It's pretty convoluted,
actually -- some came from a Canadian broadcaster, matching
funds from The Canadian Television Fund, and some in presales
from an international sales agent. We signed a distribution
deal with Warner Independent, and that really brought it
GASPetc: How long did production take?
SD: The full process, was a 5-and-a-half year epic journey. The financing
took 3 years financing. There was another 2 year timeframe
from research and writing film, shooting and editing, to
the premiere in Toronto in 2005.
GASPetc: How has the film been received?
SM: It's gone really well for us. After that first screening
in Toronto, we sold it to 15 countries. It has since played
festivals to sold out shows all over world. A lot of metal
fans are happy that there is finally a film that does not
make them look like idiots. Non-fans have come away with
a new respect after having been taken so completely into
a world they knew nothing about.
GASPetc: Were there any uncomfortable moments during shooting?
SD: The interview with [Norwegian black metal group] Mayhem at
Wacken Open Air was supposed to be about the origins of black
metal, its place in the history of the genre and the recent
controversy surrounding it in Europe. We didn't get any of
that. The band was just off stage with a few beers in them.
The audience was crowding them, and the setting was difficult,
too. They were not too interested in talking too seriously
about metal, but we tried.
GASPetc: What are some of the misperceptions about metal that you
felt needed the most attention?
SM: For me, the non-metalhead, I had previously felt that most
metalheads were younger and not very articulate. After watching
the film, people get a sense that not all metalheads crush
cans on their heads and behave like the kids in Heavy Metal
Parking Lot. As great as that movie may be, it's also
the only perception that a lot of people have. We also wanted
to stress that metal did not die in the 1980's, and, in fact,
is alive and well.
SD: Coming from an anthropologist's perspective, metal does
say something about the world, visually, emotionally, with
its themes of religion, sex, death and other 'taboo' topics.
In its own way, metal confronts those things and provides a
way of grappling them. We wanted to show that something that
on the surface doesn't seem to mean much can really be just
GASPetc: What is your personal standard for good metal?
SD: It can't be cute, has to be original, and has to have something
different about it. On the outside, a lot of metal appears
to sound the same, but if you pay attention, you'll hear
how good metal bands grab onto elements of other music and
make it their own.
[More photos can be found at http://www.metalhistory.com]