On the Fight for (Getting INTO) the USA

I write this, regretfully, not in Roanoke, VA at the SEDAAG Meeting. The abstract/registration deadline proved too tight for me after I moved to Tennessee and began working here. Next year! At least I’ve received word from a few of my colleagues who are there and having a great time. Serious respect is due to my colleague Derek Martin, who took home the honors for best PhD paper. I linked that video because he hates it.

Respect is also due to my colleague Matt Cook, who I just discovered drew inspiration from my site to resurrect his. So, I’ll feed the worm of mutual inspiration its tail and use that as inspiration for me to throw a quick update out there. I’ve relayed a number of fun announcements about new books in the works (both involving and not involving my work), but since I’m knee-deep in the end-of-semester crunch time, I don’t have a whole lot of time to contribute a substantial essay to the glut of web content for now. But there are a couple of items you all may enjoy coming in the next few weeks. For now, here are a couple thoughts about Canada.

In case you’re at all interested in underground/punk culture, progressive politics, or just great writing on underrepresented issues, Razorcake is absolutely essential. It’s a non-profit monthly fully dedicated to the universe it covers, and subscriptions are inexpensive and worth every penny. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute band interviews to the magazine and their (soon to be overhauled, I think) website in the past few years.

For those of you who have access to it, do try to find the latest issue and have a read of their interview with Steve Adamyk of the Steve Adamyk Band. It’s a simple, straightforward conversation about the restrictions that he and his band face in trying to set up shows south of the border (in the United States). Between the months-long application process and expensive equipment rental and management, to simply play three hours south of his hometown of Ottawa (without risking getting banned for years) has become nearly impossible for a musician of his means.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen bands from the Middle East remove all dates from their websites in order to fly under the radar of the State Department, and I’ve heard singers from the Great White North tell crowds “if anyone asks, we’re here for a bachelor party!” Granted, if you knew the latter band I’m talking about (they’re pretty good), you’d probably question their singer’s ability to say anything serious.

Toronto: Exhibit A (source: beatgoeson.com)

Considering what fertile power-pop music scenes Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal have grown over the past decade (or for that matter, have had for decades), it’s incredibly disappointing how our government denies us this goodness by leaning on poorly managed and antiquated border laws. I’ll never understand what the United States accomplishes with roadblocks for visiting artists, forcing musicians to construct elaborate lies just to build their fan bases and bring their music to potentially tens of thousands of fans. Fortunately, countries like Germany have been a boon for Adamyk and bands like his, opening their arms to his music (even releasing records for him). Here’s hoping that the network of American fans will, sometime in the near future, be able to show up and shout along with the solid, hardworking Canadian bands that don’t happen to be filling arenas (and asking their fans to play dress up).

Everything Else Matters: Thoughts on the “Metal” East [Part Two]

Mapping metal, especially its active “underground,” is a messy task at best. No laws or sharpshooting border guards keep bands playing within one style, nor are there any official music guardians or academic gatekeepers enforcing the standardized usage of terminology by critics, publicists, or fans. Moreover, styles are not watertight containers: they leak, bleed into others… With borders more porous than those between Mexico and the United States, or Pakistan and Afghanistan, not even fans or critics know where to draw the lines (Weinstein 2011, 41).

I should revise that  title to “punk,” to accurately reflect some research I’ve embarked upon lately, but then I would lose that amazing pun. Actually, given the overarching material on the project, Metal is a more appropriate term anyway. That being said, Deena Weinstein’s quote here is perhaps more applicable to metal, considering the orthodoxies that certain critics and fans hold punk rock to while metal is encouraged to diffuse and transform in more respects.


Anyway, I’m currently working on a paper about the ethnomusicology behind punk rock in a post-Suharto Indonesia. Kevin Dunn published a great on-the-ground piece on punk in Indonesia in the latest Razorcake which deserves a read by anyone interested in the intersection between DIY music and the homegrown radical politics of Southeast Asia. It started me thinking about how modern outsider perspectives on Indonesia have grown over the course of the past century, particularly since the nation-state is such a messy agglomeration of so many different scenes, styles, and ethical foundations. The United States would be part of a similar conversation if it were fifty different islands rather than a union of one gelatinous mass of forty-eight states, an arctic landmass, and a tiny tropical archipelago. But, we’ve got a world bound (and in most cases, choked) by flags, so in order to really understand the actual nations left on Earth, underground music that operates (ideologically, at least) outside the confines of these governments is a good place to start.

Ask any American fan of pop-punk about Málaga, and they probably couldn’t tell you much about the city other than her Ramones-loving sons Airbag. Or, as Weinstein referred to in this chapter, ask a Lithuanian black metal musician about Malaysia and they’ll answer similarly, but with plenty of depth:

Toward the end of the piece [in Malaysian magazine G.O.D.], he is asked: “What are you know about my country Malaysia, especially about Black Metal bands?” The Lithuanian replies: “About Malaysia I know very little, sorry. About bands? I know Aradia, Bazzah, Misanthrope, Nebiras – fine Black band. Death Metal I know Brain Dead, Suffocation [sic], Sil-khannaz, Kitanai Chi, Silent Death. Yeah! Nothing more!” (Weinstein 2011, 49).

Yeah! Indeed. Anyway, back to reading. Have a great week, everyone.

Dunn, K. (2013). One Punk’s Travel Guide to Indonesia. Razorcake 76. Los     Angeles, Gorsky Press: 34-45.

Weinstein, D. (2011). “The Globalization of Metal.” In (Wallach, J, Berger, HM, and Greene, PD, Eds.) Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 34-59.