People reading my articles will most often find me decrying the absolute dearth of minority representation in the genres I care about most. It’s a familiar topic in media to anyone with an Internet connection and more than a single firing neuron. From the cinema to science and from hip hop to grindcore, across the board there is a lack of awareness, knowledge, or visibility to anyone not of a certain mold. *cough* straightwhitemale *cough*
In extreme music, in particular, I have always found this rather perplexing. These are genres on the fringes, specifically and ideally for those who feel ostracized, who feel marginalized, who feel different — why does there seem to be such little visibility of minorities in punk, in hardcore, in metal? Why does the scene continue to be overwhelmingly dominated by a single voice and perspective? While certainly we have plenty of amazing acts putting out an incredible amount of mind-blowing music, would we not all benefit from getting to hear from a plethora of voices? Slowly but surely, this has already begun to change.
Even in the last couple weeks, I, personally, have seen the products of a shift. Increasingly, minorities are becoming more visible in the scene. If you look back at my last few photo galleries, you’ll see people of all backgrounds: female, Asian-American, African-American, queer, trans, and on and on.
I’m proud of my scene. But there is always room for more growth and improvement. It is with the intention of highlighting this increasing change that I am embarking on a series of articles calling attention to a diverse set of groups within the extreme music world. But here, too, is where things get a little dicey.
“Already?” you say. “But you’ve barely begun!”
Well, some of you may have already honed in on the first issues, so the following are the caveats I hope you will forgive me for:
1. You have to trust me.
a. I know a great deal about music. A stupid, idiotic amount. An amount so great that maybe, just maybe, I could be doing something a whole lot better for the world were not so much real estate in my head taken up with song lyrics, album covers, liner notes, and minor trivia.
b. I dedicate an equally silly amount of time to really caring about all this stuff. I really care about diversity in extreme music. Hell, I really care about extreme music and what it does and can do for the world. Not that I believe a band like Light Bearer (a Satanic — or is it Luciferean? — crust/black metal band) could save the world or anything, you know, silly like that…right?
c. I’ve always been as involved as I can be in the scene: taking photos, writing reviews, filming videos, attending shows, buying records and t-shirts, etc. etc. While I have no musical talent that I have been able to tap into yet, I am an avid appreciator.
…all of this is to say that when I call attention to bands, it is NOT simply by dint of a member or members of that band fitting a particular type or identity that I deem them worthy of praise and success. It is because these bands are incredible acts on their own that deserve to be heard and be heard by the right people.
2. “By the right people” is part of the intention of these articles. Part of why minority representation across all media and history is important is because we live in a diverse world full of different types of people, beliefs, colors, creeds, religions, genders, races, and sexualities. And you know what? It’s all ok.
People should be able to aspire to be whatever it is they want to be. To feel at home wherever they want to feel at home. If seeing someone similar or even just closely similar to them is what helps someone pick up a mic, pick up a guitar, pick up a bass, pick up some sticks, then by Jove I’ve accomplished my goal!
3. Drawing attention to anything is often a two-edged sword in this fast-moving Internet world. You can be burned as a witch as quickly and easily as lauded as a champion. Not only can I not draw attention to every race, color, sexuality, gender, and belief, but even within the ones I do choose I will be making broad, sweeping generalizations. It’s part of the deal.
I do, sometimes, have a life and can neither afford nor do I desire to talk to every member of every band in the scene right now about their backgrounds, identities, and experiences. People will get lumped together. People will be ignored or glanced over. I am merely someone with a degree of knowledge and a soapbox to stand on (thank you, LAmb) doing the best I can.
I expect some degree of work on the point of those who may be interested, or offended, to help educate me. I am in dire need of it. You know an epic, queer, Native American screamo band? Awesome. Tell me about it. I’ll fit them in where I can, and if I can’t, I’ll tell someone else about it and this world will keep spinning along.
You have a bone to pick about the way I perceive feminism (its necessity or one of its finer points that I am not as smart about) or racism (how it is prevalent, even still, in our society and visibly so, or again, how I don’t understand a certain aspect of it)? I invite you to enlighten me.
I am, as I often tell my friends, not smart when it comes to the finer points of that stuff. I have been categorized in the past as “so far ahead of the curve that I am behind it.” Take that as you will. I’m not entirely sure what it means either.
Long story short, I am focusing on the most visible aspects of identity in the hopes that someone of a similar ilk, making only the most cursory of assumptions and questionings, will be inspired to, at the very least, come out to a show and be welcomed by what may to them be an intimidating crowd.
In this manner, things such as genders, sexualities, religions, and descents may be passed over or mistaken simply because they are difficult to see. Looking at someone, you may be able to tell they present as female, but you won’t know for sure until you ask their pronouns. Same goes here. I’m just only doing the lazy bit. If you know better, let me know.
Furthermore, it should be noted that bands are by nature encompassing of a multiplicity of identities as, too, are individual people. Again, I am making no argument as to one above another; just essentially arbitrarily choosing which one suits my purpose in the moment.
4. You will notice my writing style here. This is a music blog, and I will be writing about music that mostly sounds like people being attacked by giant blenders. This is not an academic paper. I am, again, not good at the finer points of feminist or race (or indeed sexuality, gender, religious, etc.) theory.
That is not to completely excuse my ignorance, or to say that I don’t try and wish to increase my knowledge of such things. Just that, at any given moment, I contain a finite amount of information, most of which is dedicated to the aforesaid liner notes and lyrics.
Furthermore, this is a website primarily about music, not, alas, political theory. While reviews of bell hooks’ latest quote would be welcome, I’m sure, they would be equally as surely out of place.
5. In case I haven’t mentioned enough, I welcome input. There is a whole comment section below, which I believe to be sorely ignored by our readers. Participation and discussion, when not descending to the ugly depths of many Internet forums, is often a beautiful and mutually enlightening experience, no matter what your beliefs.
As long as you respect other people and are coming from a position not of moral superiority, but of genuine interest in exploring a common issue (as opposed to yelling from one mountain or another), people can often leave discussions with, if nothing else, an appreciation for the other person’s perspective.
I’ve seen it happen! I once witnessed a heated political discussion between a liberal African immigrant, a European-educated socialist, and a family of conservative Republicans voting for Trump over Thanksgiving dinner, and we all ended up crying from laughing so hard instead of calling each other names. It’s true. It can happen.
6. In the full spirit of admission, I AM AN UPPER MIDDLE CLASS WHITE CIS HETERO AMERICAN ABLE-BODIED MALE WHO ATTENDED A TOP 30 COLLEGE. This, more or less, makes me the ultimate personification of privilege. I am aware of it as much as I can be. Again, just doing what I hope and believe to be my best with what I have. Take all that with the proverbial pinch of salt, as the road to hell and all…
a. “Not Just (White) Boys’ Fun” is adapted from “Not Just Boys’ Fun,” a song by 7seconds. It is with a degree of awareness I use it, as the band is equally full of white, straight, straight-edge males who write super positive songs with intent to inspire thought. They just did it better, before me (1984), and to much more success.
b. On that “before me” and “to greater success” point: there is a veritable cornucopia of articles and publications that have done, are doing, and will do exactly what I’m doing. This is intended, as LAmb is more aimed at the layman than the diehard, as a starting point for the reader’s musical journey. It’s supposed to be just the first step down that rabbit hole, but I’ll show you some good shovels if you want to dig deeper, when I can.
c. On the cute referencing thing: I’m going to keep it up. Sorry. I think it’s clever and find it entertaining to make semi-esoteric titles that you’ll either figure out or you won’t until the big reveal. I will try not to be too tasteless. I’m going to go with allusions to classic archetypes of the alternative music scene most relevant to the identity at hand.
7. This page will act as an intro to my various articles in this series. It may get edited. It will certainly be referenced in each as I write them. They, in turn, will be linked below.
So, with those points in mind, I invite you to join me on the following articles, which will release weekly right here on LA Music Blog.