Edward Banchs tells Air Guitar about his book on African Heavy Metal, expresses his opinions on Pussy Riot and talks about his obsession with guitars!
Please give a brief introduction of yourself?
Well, I was raised in a small industrial city/town in Central Pennsylvania, Altoona. I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I was 19 just to get out of that place. I wanted to pursue music. I started a band with some like minded gentlemen called Negative Theory and we gave it hell for four and half years. Playing thoughout the region; Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, even as far west as Arkansas. We shared the stage with bands such as DRI, Sworn Enemy and Rwake. We were dirty, loud and angry. I MISS IT! I left Pennsylvania for South Florida in 2004 just to get back into college (university as you may say). At the time, it appeared that our band was not going to do much. In retrospect we just needed a break. We got back together after five years to play with a band that we are all fans of, Architect (Syracuse, NY- Metal Blade). It was great seeing those guys again, they are my best friends. And I really do miss living among the mountains and winters of Pennsylvania. Florida is flat, hot and too much of a contradiction to my personality. I live in Orlando now, which is a little better than south Florida in terms of peronality. Who knows what the future has in store, maybe some more music with my best friends, maybe some change of seasons again. Florida lacks a proper autumn.
Into the gritty, how did you get introduced to heavy metal?
Growing up, my neighbor and I were obsessed with guitars and the sound that came from them. MTV, at the time, was heavy into the glam metal, and we ate it up, I even made a guitar out of carboard with the Poison logo on it! They were the local guys who ‘made it’, so everyone was into them…as was I. So I learned about the other types of metal through a show that he and I were told about, Headbanger’s Ball. Saturday nigths at midnight. Every Saturday, we soaked every note, of every band. Needless to say, the glam was ditched as the Anthrax, Skid Row tapes came in. Once the ‘90s came it was Helmet and Biohazard and even my Korn phase. Once I got into hardcore in the late ‘90s, extreme metal got into my radar. Here I am today with the same obsession.
You are based in Florida, what can you tell us about the metal scene over there that we don’t already know about?
The local musicians complain frequently and often, like anywhere else. They think that no one here cares. Often they are oblivious to the history of metal in Florida, and rock in general. Besides the death metal that are well known, all of which still call Florida home, bands like Marylin Manson, Poison The Well, Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory, Less Than Jake, Saigon Kick, Nonpoint, and even Matchbox 20 and Creed, are among the many who started out of Florida. Lynard Skynard and Tom Petty are also with Florida origins, so the complaints are ridiculous. A local Orlando band that is doing well is Trivium, they will be the first to tell the work that is involved with getting a break music. The work ethic, the dedication, all are involved. In general, American bands are thought of as being in a great spot, and yes the opportunities here are better, but the work must be put in, all of the bands I mentioned worked ridiculously hard and were extremely dedicated to their passion. Luck goes a long way, but talent goes even further.
As far as who is up and coming, I must confess I’m oblivious. I go to few gigs, and local support is rare for the national and international touring acts.
Currently, you are working on a book about heavy metal in Africa. Do give us a short synopsis of why you have chosen to write about the once ‘dark continent’?
I am an Africanist. I studied the continent academically, I was an intern for a lobbying firm in Washington D.C. working the Diplomatic Corps on issues such as development, foreign policy and aid for Africa. I LOVE Africa. I have an MA in African Studies from the University of London. I want to earn a living somehow, someway working with Africa. Aside from metal, it is the other aspect of my personality that I consume my self with. Everyday, I check the African news sites and the metal news sites. Everyday. So it made sense for me to pursue the book. I was tired of finding nothing about metal in Africa, and I knew it existed. I fear that many judge it as a novelty, and that is a gross misrepresentation of the genre in the continent. The photos of Africans with guitars were not taken seriously, often they were mocked and the comment boards were not kind. Thus, I want to write about the dedicated and passionate thoughout Africa that defend the faith everyday. Frank Marhsall, the photographer in South Africa, did a fantastic job of capturing the passion in Botswana, yet it is getting overlooked.
The idea was in my head for years, I just went for it. I was tired of telling people that metal in Africa was real. It is about time the metal world includes Africa in their conversation.
What are the myths about Africa that you would like to dispel – in terms of music?
Everyone has the image (outside of Africa) of the percussion cirlces, the chanting, the hymns, the prayer songs. While that is respectable, the demand for Western music is incredible in Africa. Heavy metal fans are no different. The beauty of the genre is its adaptability with tradition and culture. Quite often, many do not believe that this music exists in Africa, yet they can believe that hip-hop exists because of some bogus stereotypes. It is no different, a Western genre that spead globally, much like metal. Africa has long surprised people, hopefully African metal may do the same.
The generalization of Africa in Western culture is patronizing. Too many fall into the trap of generalizing an extremely disparate and diverse continent. Few realize that Africans have the same interests, goals and passions as anyone else in the West would. My book is called, Heavy Metal Africa; Life, Passion and Heavy Metal in the Fogotten Continent, because I feel that Africa is fogotten as a result of stereotypes and generalizations.
I fear that the stereotypes of Africans is the biggest obstacles metal musicians in Africa are going to have to face. I hope my book changes that.
What can you share with us about your book, so far?
It is ambitious, it is challenging, and it is taking on a life of its own. It will be a while more before I’m near completing it, but I look forward to sharing it with the rest of the world. I’ve met the nicest, sincerest people throughout this process. There are moments where I’m so humbled by the generosity of everyone involved, I get even more motivation to keep going. They trust me, and that means the world to me.
What are the challenges of having to publish your book?
Books about Africa and Heavy Metal have small audience. The industry is very competitive, more so than music I feel, and it is taking a hit, much like music as a result of the pirating of books. So it is difficult getting someone to take a chance on a new author writing about a topic that many already feel is a contradiction. But I am optimistic something will happen.
I’m going to be biased here and ask you, what do you think about the metal scene in South Africa? What do you like or dislike about it?
I love it. So many talented acts. Dedicated, passionate, and most importantly, in my experience, there is a mutual respect and a fraternity. Bands are proud of the other bands’ acheivements and applaud the other bands’ efforts. I LOVE it. Overall, throughout Africa I notice the same thing. Everyone is there to support each other in the ‘game’, as we say in the US. Great respect for each other. Too many good bands that stand out for me, I cannot just name them. I love the diversity of the scene, black metal, death metal, thrash, glam/sleaze, power metal, prog, metal-core, hardcore, and blues/stoner. I LOVE IT!!!
As a BA degree holder in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University, what are your thoughts about the punk-rock group Pussy Riot?
Well, well. Russia is showing itself to be the ‘free’ country is disguise. I applaud their efforts. They struck the wrong nerve with the government by protesting in the church, that perhaps hurt them in court. But the message was clear and in many ways, they won. They showed the world what sort of country Russia really is. Still!
What are your hobbies outside of music?
I read a lot, I explore vegan cooking , and enjoy sports here and there. I write about sports for theopinionation.com as well.
Are there any last words that you would like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity, thank you South Africa for having a great metal scene and I look forward to shaking all of your hands, sharing a beer with you and talking about metal! I need to get back out there soon. I love SA. Beatiful country, great people. All the best.