Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sam Dunn

I profiled Sam Dunn, who directed the successful Metal: A Headbanger's Journey movie, for the Torch, the University of Victoria's alumni magazine. It was a battle of metal nerds for the ages...

Anthropometal

By GREG PRATT

Sam Dunn looks at heavy metal through an anthropological lens.

SAM DUNN MAKES A LIVING BANGING HIS HEAD. And it’s exactly what he wants to be doing. Because not only is he immersed in the heavy metal music he loves, he’s taking his background in anthropology and using it to question why he—and countless others across the world—have such a love for this often-maligned aural assault.
The 32-year-old Dunn and his partner in filmmaking, Scot McFadyen were behind 2006’s breakthrough documentary, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. In an ambitious look at the history of heavy metal, and a study of its social and anthropological aspects, the duo filmed in locales world-wide, interviewing many of metal’s biggest names.
“We wanted to make a film that would bring in both the metal fan and the curious outsider, that person who had a friend growing up who liked metal but they couldn’t understand why the hell they loved this music,” Dunn, BA ’98, explains over the din of a wildly loud coffee shop. “If you grew up in the ’80s, you had one of those friends. And, of course, we made the film for the curious, or furious, mothers out there who want to understand why their little Johnny listens to Slayer 24/7 in their bedroom.”
After it opened in 2005 at the Toronto International Film Festival, the good reviews started rolling in from metal fans (a notoriously tough crowd when it comes to people documenting their culture) and mainstream media outlets alike. The DVD has sold roughly 35,000 copies in Canada alone.
Combining what Dunn learned about anthropology at UVic and his passion for the music, the film guides viewers through the huge Wacken metal festival in Germany, explores the dark side of Norwegian metal, and features interviews with most of the metal’s key figures, including Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. Dunn and McFadyen explore the metal community’s unique sense of style, its language, and the fans who are attracted by a sense of rebellious unity.Martin Popoff, BA ’84, a noted hard rock and heavy metal journalist and author, says Dunn’s movie “got an astonishing amount of mainstream press. It made metalheads proud on a number of levels, because, even if it likely didn’t convince tens of thousands of outsiders to take up the cause, it possibly intensified or reinforced the beliefs of those already on the inside.”
And why should the non-metal fan care about Dunn’s work?
“I think people should care about music, period,” says Dunn. “Music is a hugely influential part of everyone’s life. I think music is not just music; it’s a very powerful medium for shaping who we are as people, for giving us certain emotions or feelings we can’t get through any other experiences. It can be a very transcendental experience. Especially metal.”
The movie was such a success that Dunn now finds himself in the role of a full-time filmmaker. He and McFadyen are working on a follow-up, Global Metal, which they hope to release this fall. So far they’ve taken their camera to Japan, Indonesia, China, and Poland and they hope to get to India, Iran, and Brazil. They’re looking at the common bonds shared by metal fans around the world and what it is they experience differently because of economic, social and political conditions, or religious upbringing.
It should come as no surprise that Dunn, the narrator and public face of the first movie, has become a spokesman for the metal scene. He appreciates that, but the fame has taken him a bit by surprise and it’s something he’s not always comfortable with. “I don’t mind, but getting asked for autographs is a very bizarre experience. I have trouble dealing with it sometimes.
“It certainly wasn’t a goal of mine to become a figurehead. But if getting noticed on the street means people are seeing the film and enjoying it, that’s great and I’m really pleased.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Business Examiner

I'm the Movers and Shakers editor and Calendar of events editor for the Business Examiner, a business newspaper and website based in Victoria, B.C. Below is a sampling of the Movers and Shakers column.

Creation
Rob Reid is the new chair for the board of the Creating Homefulness Society. Dr. Janice Mason and Louise Carlow are new members to the board of directors.

Synergistic
Jill Doucette, a fourth-year University of Victoria biology student, has won top honours at the national Nicol Entrepreneurship competition for her green business consulting practice, Synergy. Synergy focuses on implementing sustainable business practices within the coffee, restaurant and retail industries.

Raisers
The Vancouver Island Construction Association held its annual general meeting recently; close to $10,000 was raised for the United Way.

RRNews
J. Peter Meekison, O.C., Ph.D., is serving as Acting Vice-President Academic and Provost at Royal Roads University until a national search is concluded. In other RRU news, professor Audrey Dallimore has been awarded a $75,000 ($15,000 a year for five years) Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council Discovery Grant to pursue the paleoclimatic, paleoceanographic and paleoseismic history of the northern Pacific coast of British Columbia.

AGOwner
Jim Harrington, owner of AGO Environmental Electronics, recently won the 2008 Premier Award for Technology. Harrington was also recently nominated by the Loyalist Collage Alumni to receive the Outstanding Alumni award for 2008/2009, to be presented in June at the college’s convocation ceremonies in Ontario.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bridges

One of my regular gigs is for bridges.com, a site for youth to check out to read about different career paths and industry trends. It provides me a chance to interview and write about people involved in everything from computer programming to hiking trail maintenance. It's also fun writing for a younger audience. Below are excerpts from a couple of articles I did for them.

[From an article about BMX freestyle:]

Born as an offshoot of traditional BMX—which stands for bicycle motocross and involves riders racing each other around a dirt track—BMX freestyle involves doing tricks on a BMX bike.

Not only does it look super cool, but it feels great to practice tricks enough that you get them “dialed,” as they say in the BMX scene. It’s good exercise, fresh air and gives you a great feeling of satisfaction!

Canadian rider Jeff Favelle isn’t a pro, but he has the same passion for the sport that pros do. He’s been riding, on and off, for “the better part of 20 years.” He’s recently re-discovered his bike, and is riding harder—and better—than ever. For him, it’s a hobby that will never go away. So what does he get out of it?

“Exercise, stress relief, fun, camaraderie and a sense of progression,” he says. “And it’s fun to visualize stuff and work towards it, like any other goals in life.”

Favelle, who responds with a resounding “definitely!” when asked if people should get into BMX freestyle as a hobby, also points out that there are career paths in BMX freestyle, and not always doing the actual riding.

“Like anything in life, you can take this sport to the extreme and become a professional,” he says. “Many try, and very few actually succeed—much like other organized, more traditional sports. But the process involved, the training, the exercise, the discipline, and the mental toughness acquired is all worth it and rewarding, even if the end result is not a full factory sponsorship and being paid to ride.”

Brian Tunney is a professional BMX freestyle rider in New Jersey who also manages to work in the industry, being the Managing Editor of Dig BMX, a cool BMX freestyle magazine.

“Personally, it’s changed my life,” he says of riding. “I’ve been around the world. I’ve learned that anything is possible and I’ll never back down from a challenge. I could go on for days about what I get out of BMX, but on the whole, it’s helped me to understand life a lot more than I ever thought possible. Plus, it gets me to the Bodega everyday for a 99-cent Arizona iced tea.”

[From an article about business analysts:]

If you want to become a private eye but can’t quite get into that line of work, perhaps you’ll find your calling with a jump over to the realm of suits and ties. Business analysts are the detectives of the business world. They solve business problems for companies.

“A business analyst does something different every day,” says British Columbia-based business analyst Darryl Karleen. “It’s a job that combines investigation and detective-like work. Rather than solving a murder case like on CSI, I try to understand and solve business problems. Sometimes this involves changing the way some people do their jobs so that that they can do it faster or more efficiently. Other times, our solution includes the installation and setup of new computer programs to help the people do their jobs faster or better.”

A business analyst needs to have an analytical mind and to be patient and thorough. They also need to be able to understand a variety of graphs, charts and internal documents so having good comprehension skills is also important.

Dave Bieg is the chief operating officer of the International Institute of Business Analysts. He says getting a bachelor’s degree is a start on the road to becoming a business analyst. But as with many careers, getting more education is generally a good thing!

Kathleen Barret, president of the International Institute of Business Analysis, adds that while there is no specific educational requirement, business analysts do need to have certain skills.

“Business analysts should have a good understanding of how business works and IT [information technology] concepts,” she says. “Business analysts must be analytical and not intimidated by ambiguity. It is their job to clarify ambiguity.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strung Out


Another one for Monday Magazine, where I wrote weekly and proofread every week until budget cuts and a tough economy found me and the paper saying goodbye. This one was a blast for me, and I think that comes through in the piece. My last few pieces for Monday were some of my favourites I ever did for them.

Punk-Rock Carpet Cleaners
Strung Out change to stay the same

Talking to Strung Out drummer Jordan Burns is a lot like talking to any number of dudes who play in California punk bands. He seems happy. Says “gnarly” more than the average person. Is content with where his band is at, some 17 years into their career, even if it hasn’t brought him to our city that often.
“We’ve only been to Victoria once,” he says while driving to the studio for day one of recording his band’s new album. “Do you remember the time? I do.”
I do too. It was around ’94 or ’95. It was at a venue long-since shut down; I was a young punk rocker and Strung Out was playing with one of my favourite bands, Lagwagon. I had the poster up on my wall for years; at some point I decided to throw it out, which was a mistake. But my memories—however foggy—remain.
Burns has memories of that night too; they involve Derrick Plourde, then-drummer of Lagwagon, who killed himself in 2005.
“We got to the club and they didn’t have a drum carpet for us. So me and Derrick created this plan where we went to a convenience store, walk in and tell the lady we’re here to clean the carpets. Then we grabbed a carpet and just walked out of there with it. We took the carpet back to the club and had a carpet to play on. That’s what I remember about our show in Victoria with Lagwagon,” says Burns, lost in the memory of Plourde. “It was so much fun touring with him; he was such a character.”
For a split second, my mind is elsewhere; it’s 1994 again. Long hair, cassettes, high school. I snap out of it, ask if they took the carpet with them; both Burns and I laugh, but it’s a bit too quick, too loud. We’re both elsewhere.
“Yeah. I got that in storage,” he says. “It says ‘Victoria’ on it.”
I ask about his band’s new B-sides and rarities collection, Prototypes and Painkillers, and get an update on their upcoming studio album almost as an afterthought. Because we’re really not talking about the present anymore; we’re talking about the past. But one thing about Strung Out is that they refuse to live in the past when it comes to their music.
“We’re always challenging ourselves to mix it up,” he says, now stuck in traffic, cursing, late to get to the studio. “This new album is doing that again, it’s completely different. We’ll keep making different sounds, but we always sound like Strung Out.”

-Greg Pratt

Airport runway expansion


This one was for the Business Examiner, where I put together a roundup of business news every issue called "Movers and Shakers" as well as do the event calendar. I also do some writing for them and it's always fun.

Victoria airport extension key to cruise ship growth

By Greg Pratt

Blue skying about a runway extension for Victoria has turned to hard calculation with the slow materializiation of the federal-provincial stimulus plan.
The proposed 1,400-ft. extension to the existing 7,000-ft. strip would bring bigger planes, more tourists and, crucially for the cruise industry’s hopes (see “Snaring the next-gen cruise ships,” page 1), the ability to have heavily-laden international charters land and take off in Victoria.
“It is very safe to say we’re in support [of lengthening the runway],” says Bruce Carter, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. “It does a number of things for our economy. The first is that it will allow for access for international charters, particularly from Europe and other places far away. That will be good for both our conference and tourism business and will provide a platform to allow us to attract a cruise ship to home port in Victoria.”
Carter, who says this would also help out the high-tech sector, adds that if bigger runways persuaded cruise lines to make Victoria their home base for Alaska cruises, it would substantially benefit the tourism and hotel sectors of the local economy.
“People normally arrive a day prior to their cruise,” says Carter. “So for each of those turns you’d get 300 or 400 hotel-room nights and the associated spending with spending a day in Victoria, as opposed to the current spending somewhere between four and six hours in Victoria and moving on. The economic impact of that is significant.”
A longer runway would accommodate planes that the current runway can not, such as the wide-bodied aircraft that are able to get to Europe in one jump from here, like the Boeing 767, the airbus equivalent, the 330,or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Carter believes that cruise lines would make Victoria their home base only if their passengers could fly here directly.
Richard Paquette, president and CEO of the Greater Victoria Airport Authority, says that the project will take an estimated $41.2 million to complete; they are proposing a three-way partnership with the provincial and federal governments. (In related news, Nanaimo’s airport is going ahead with a $9.1-million runway extension and upgrade, with phase-one work scheduled for completion in November.)
“This would be beyond the capacity of the Airport Authority to go this alone,” he says. “This is an opportunity for partnership, an opportunity for a project that offers some long-term benefits to the community, and certainly short-term stimulus, too.”
And while money is one obstacle, there are other logistic concerns in regards to doing this, even though the airport has the space on its grounds to do so.
“There certainly will be challenges,” says Paquette.
“Although it costs money to build runways and extend them, it’s relatively easy,” says Carter. “It’s a matter of sorting out what to do with the runway lighting, which is not a huge thing but needs to be addressed.
“My understanding around that is it probably either needs to go towards Sidney, into the municipality, or out into the water.”
“It’s been on our master plan for some time,” concludes Paquette. “We’ve been seriously talking about it for about two years. At this point, it’s still talk, there’s still work to be done, evaluations to be completed, but there’s a new urgency on this. If this is going to be part of the stimulus program for the Canadian and British Columbian government, then we have to get on with it right away,” he says, adding, “We are among the major airports in the country; we have the shortest runway.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Slipknot


Did this one for exclaim.ca; it's always fun to dig a bit deeper into a bigger band or celebrity. One of these days one of these dudes will just hang up on me, but so far everyone seems into having an interview that is a bit different than the usual.

Conversations
Slipknot’s Corey Taylor

By Greg Pratt

Four albums in and Iowan metal crew Slipknot are still terrorizing the mainstream. I have no idea how they ended up there: this is heavy, heavy stuff. But their latest disc, All Hope Is Gone, ended up at #1 on the Billboard charts, so they must be doing something right. With a renewed focus on his side, singer Corey Taylor is overjoyed at the album, his fans and recent victories like the aforementioned #1 and a headlining gig at Madison Square Garden. The masked men are hitting up Canada with some tour dates supporting the disc, so we took a minute to catch up with Taylor and all things knotty.

What are you up to?
I’m very, very tired. Today I got up at 6:45 because I had to take my son to school. I made breakfast and lunch for him, packed the lunch, took him to school, came home, cleaned the house, went and worked out, came back here, made myself lunch and now this is the second of two interviews I’m doing today.

That’s so not rock and roll.
Well, neither am I. What are you going to do?

So how’s everything going in Slipknot land?It’s going good, man. Everybody seems like they’re in a good place, but you know how we are. That could all go away in a ten-second period. Just the fact that my phone’s not blowing up with emergencies and panic attacks… I’m loving it.

Now that All Hope Is Gone has had a bit of time to sit, how are you feeling about it?
I go through these phases where I just have to put it on. At first, I would start with the front half; now I listen to the back half. It just sounds great. You know how that is, you get an album and fall in love with the first five songs and then you throw it on again and realize the last five songs are killer.

With All Hope Is Gone, you returned to a bit more of a heavier sound. Did that just feel like the right thing to do?
It just happened. We’ve never been the band that sits down and says, “We’re going to sit down and make this kind of album.” We throw shit at a wall and see what sticks, basically. With this album, everything felt dark. Everything felt really heavy.

So would you say the album comes from a good place or a bad place? It’s heavy, it’s aggressive, it’s dark, but you sound very positive about it.
I think all great albums have that; it’s all in the delivery. The lyrics I was writing were kind of both ways. I was raging on a political sense, and I’ve always had something against religion, but at the same time a lot of the stuff I was talking about started in a dark place but inevitably ended up in a positive place. I’ve always tried to put that in there, just saying, ‘Yeah, shit’s fucked up right now but it can be okay and this is why and this is how.’ So it’s just something that I think is overlooked. We catch a lot of shit for being dark and whatnot but unless you’re a real fan people miss the point where we’re like, ‘But it’s alright. It’s okay to be fucked up. It doesn’t have to always be that way.’ On this album, it was a great balance. That’s what we finally found.

And then the album goes to #1 on Billboard. What does that mean to you?
It’s very weird, man. When we were in the studio, I was the first one to say, ‘This album’s going to be #1.’ Kinda just talking shit, but at the same time, you hope for it. You don’t want to hope too much, but it’s definitely one of those things on your list of “holy shit, this would be fucking awesome.” So when it did go #1, it fucking blew me away. I was so fucking excited. I was really happy; I called everybody I knew and told them. I was very proud of that. Everybody talks about how it felt to win the Grammy. But fuck the Grammy. That’s seven old people sitting in a room deciding whether or not they’ve heard of your band. For me, it’s always been more about the albums, the gold albums, the platinum albums, people showing up at your show. That’s your audience coming out and saying, ‘We fucking love what you do. We all do.’ The album was the same way; our fans gave that to us. We worked hard and we earned it but our fans gave that to us just as much as fucking SoundScan did.

Speaking of the live show, you recently headlined Madison Square Garden. How did a band that sounds like you guys do that?
That’s a great fucking question, man. I don’t even know, to be honest. I still trip on it. Leading up to it, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I was like, ‘It’s fucking Madison Square Garden, whatever.’ Then you show up there and it’s like, ‘Holy shit, it’s Madison Square Garden.’ Seriously, when the curtain came up and we’re standing there and I’m looking at the Garden and we had damn near sold it out, my jaw dropped. You couldn’t see it because I was wearing a fucking mask, but it took me a second to get my shit together. I was nervous… I’m never nervous. It blew me away. When we finished the show, I came offstage, I just started balling. It was a heavy, heavy night for me. Nobody plays Madison Square Garden to make money, let’s put it that way. It’s very expensive to play. Someone told me it cost $50,000 just to turn the lights on in that place. So you don’t really play there to make money. You play there because it’s Madison Square Garden. It’s a prestige gig. For me, it was just one more testament to how far we’d come.

So you get offstage at Madison Square Garden and you’re balling; how come?
It was just big. I don’t usually let shit like that get to me, but it was a big night, and it was a fucking great show. It was probably the best show we’ve ever had in New York. Everyone was just going insane. It sounded like everyone was singing every fucking word. It was just one of those golden moments. It was Maiden at Donington, it was Cheap Trick at Budokan, it was Aerosmith at the Texas Jam. It was fucking heavy. The grind of this gig can break you down and make you very cynical but there’s moments like that that make you sit back and say, ‘I am living a dream. Are you kidding me? I get to do this for real?’ So I was giddy. I was 14 in my room reading magazines, just going, ‘Fuck, some day.’ And that day was that day and it made me very happy; I went backstage and hugged all my bros. I was sick as a fucking dog that night too, that’s what killed me. I had a sinus infection, I had an ear infection, a 100-degree fever and it just all went away.

So where do you go from here though? You’ve done Madison Square Garden…
Oh, it’s gotta be downhill. Everything after this has just got to suck. (laughs) In three years we’ll be playing fucking clubs again, by my estimation. But honestly, I don’t know. I definitely know where we want to go. Me and Clown have been conspiring for probably four or five months; we’ve got some ideas and some shit we want to do for the next album but… where do you go? You headline MSG and it’s damn near sold out. Where do you go? I guess you just keep going.

Something that’s always cracked me up about you guys is you have these butt-ugly masks on and you look hideous and you have all these teenage girls screaming at you…
Exactly! What the fuck is that? (laughs) I love it, man.

You must be laughing under the masks.
You have no idea. I smirk damn near the whole time I’m wearing that fucking thing. If you could read some of the letters I get… it’s un-fucking-believable some of the shit these people ask me.

When does grown men wearing masks become absurd?
I’m not sure, to be honest. We probably could ask Gene Simmons. I don’t know… That’s a good question. As long as it means the same to us as it always has I don’t think there’s a time limit on it. For us, it’s not about the bullshit; it’s about the content behind it. At least that’s the way it is for me. For me, it’s always had much more of an artistic bent than anything else. So when it starts to become Chewbacca from Star Wars it’s time to walk. As long as it still feels right and it means the same and it’s not hokey and not bullshit. As long as we don’t jump the shark, I think it’ll be okay.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kreator


I did this one for Monday Magazine and was pretty happy with how it turned out. Building character in these small pieces is a challenge but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Of course, when it's metal legends Kreator they pretty much build character all by themselves.

A quarter-century of violence
Kreator just keep on thrashing

It’s strange talking to Mille Petrozza. Petrozza, vocalist/guitarist of pioneering German thrash-metal band Kreator, is the man responsible for countless amounts of incredible guitar riffs and obscenely catchy songs that have been the backdrop to many a night spent drinking beers and talking metal shop with the pals. But Petrozza is a mild man when not on stage, and as we chat, this legend of Teutonic thrash is sitting on a bed in a hotel in Cleveland; “We’re in Cleveland today. The shows are all very good,” he says in a monotone at the beginning of our conversation, with the mannerism of a very polite man who’s done a lot of interviews in his day.
But polite does not a thrash album make: with album titles like Violent Revolution, Enemy of God and, their most recent, Hordes of Chaos, comprising the band’s new-millennium catalogue, you’d be right to guess that lyrics about relationships or drunken nights at the bar would be a bit misplaced. This is serious stuff, and this is where Petrozza starts to open up.
“The thing is, playing this kind of music, playing extreme metal, demands extreme lyrics, otherwise not only would it not fit, it would make the whole music sound ridiculous and pointless,” he says. “I think it’s just necessary to have these lyrics if you want to make sense in your music and what you want to get across to people.”
Looking back, Petrozza pinpoints 1988—four years after the band formed—as the year his lyrical focus shifted from fantasy to reality but is quick to add that he’s not here to preach.
“It’s not that we want to spread a message or tell people what to think but we do want songs that make sense, you know?” he says. “We want to be happy with the music and the lyrics so we can perform them more convincingly.”
In a better world, this man wouldn’t be in a quiet hotel room in Cleveland waiting to play an okay-sized venue as he trucks across North America in less-than-perfect conditions. He’d be rewarded for 25 years of uphill battle, 25 years of thrashing good times, 25 years of being at the forefront of an underdog of a subgenre. Maybe next time around, Mille. But until then, you should stop worrying about trying to convince anyone—your music already does that just fine.
-Greg Pratt

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Veganism


I wrote this piece for Boulevard Magazine in Victoria.

Where’s the Beef?
To vegans, it’s nowhere to be found

By Greg Pratt

If you’re looking to spice up your eating habits, one way to add more is to take away. To take away the meat, that is, and switch over to a vegan diet (abstaining from any animal products, including dairy: bye-bye, cheese!). It’s healthy, it’s fun and it’s tasty. These days there’s no shortage of information and organizations to help out; the worldwide vegan scene has come a long way in the past 20 years.
And the face of the local vegan scene is certainly Sarah Kramer. Kramer has written (or co-written) four vegan cookbooks and has become something of a celebrity in food circles. As Kramer and I sit down to eat and chat at a local cafĂ©, she is recognized by someone who asks, “You write the vegan cookbooks, right?” After Kramer accepts some compliments, she tells me about her growing up vegetarian.
“My mom raised me vegetarian since birth in Regina in the ‘70s, so it wasn’t easy,” she says, as we dive in to a delicious vegan lunch of huge yam crackers with various dips (it may not sound like much but, yes, it’s very filling and very tasty). “There was one health-food store, in the basement of our friend’s house. And there weren’t products; my mom had to make everything from scratch. I think that’s part of where my love of creating stuff in the kitchen came from. I was vegetarian my whole life, except for a small period in high school where I did a little experimenting, like teenagers do,” she laughs.
Kramer, now 40, was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in her early 20s; she says switching to a vegan diet helped her beat the condition. These days she feels and looks great, and goes non-stop promoting the vegan lifestyle. When we got together to chat she had just returned from a book tour for her latest, Vegan A Go-Go!, and is busy putting together a 2010 calendar and unabashedly debunking the myth that you won’t have any energy if you don’t eat meat.
Another myth is that veganism is inherently more expensive than a meat-based diet. Kramer says that if people are buying a lot of fake meat products or other pre-packaged food this may be the case, but if you’re making more meals from scratch, it’s not an expensive way to eat.
“I can make a giant pot of chili for six bucks if I go out and buy all the ingredients,” she says. “But a can of Amy’s chili is four dollars. Making your own wheat-gluten fake meat products is so easy and you can do it for pennies. It just takes a little time.”
The biggest vegan-related myth is that all vegans eat is bread and peanut butter, maybe some twigs for flavour, a bit of dirt as a spice . . . the truth is much different. Chatting with Kramer, we dive into a date/avocado/chocolate vegan cheesecake of sorts, which is almost too tasty for either of us to handle.
“Bland food is bland. So bland vegan food will be as bland as bland non-vegan food,” says Victoria’s Dave Shishkoff, the Canadian correspondent for Friends of Animals, a 50-year-old organization that promotes respectful treatment of animals through animal rights and vegan advocacy. “The most common way to de-bland foods is to spice them up, and luckily the all herbs and spices I can think of are plant-based. Veganism actually opens up a whole new world of flavourful delights for many people. Suddenly, the entire produce section of the grocery store is more in focus, and there is a very wide range of fruits and vegetables out there. Veganism encourages people to expand their horizons and try them all.”
I ask Kramer what her favourite vegan dishes are and it sounds anything but bland: Portobello Mushroom Bake, a side of Edamame Hummus and Vegan Nanaimo Bars or Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie for dessert. So Kramer and Shishkoff (who has been vegan for over 18 years) agree that vegan food doesn’t have to bland; they also agree that vegan living doesn’t have to be expensive. He says it can work well on a tight budget and can offer many very healthy and nutrient-rich foods.
“I favour and recommend a whole-foods diet, with a big focus on greens,” he says. “Since I buy primarily organic produce, it’s a bit pricier, but it’s worth it. One can be vegan and extremely frugal—think of how cheap dried beans, flours, fruit and other bulk items are, along with produce like potatoes and carrots.”
And consensus is having a vegan diet isn’t hard work like some may think it is. Shishkoff says that it takes some effort and a lot of commitment in the beginning, but don’t sweat it: it gets easier.
“It’s like any endeavour one might take on and requires education and adjustment,” he says. “One needs to spend some time learning about all the ‘secret’ animal ingredients in food, such as whey or casein, and apply this knowledge by reading labels and possibly finding new brands that are vegan.” “It can be tough but I think the trick is to be prepared,” says Kramer. “We’re really lucky in Victoria; there are a lot of places downtown where you can get vegan food.”
She’s right: one visit to local restaurants like Bliss (where Kramer and I eat as we talk), Mo:Le, Green Cuisine, Lotus Pond or the Joint, to name a few, will open up your taste buds to a whole new array of delicious, animal-free foods.
And good news for those who are vegan or thinking about making the switch over: things are getting easier. Local organizations like Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association (go to islandveg.com for more info) help people make the transition. Grocery stores are carrying more and more speciality products, and you’re no longer speaking a strange, impenetrable language when you tell your restaurant server you’re vegan.
“I remember back in the day when I’d be hanging out with my friends and all I could order would be salad and a baked potato,” says Kramer. “It’s not like that any more, at least on the west coast, for sure. We’re really lucky.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Kids on the Block


Sure, laugh: I think this is one of my favourite pieces. This was for Monday Magazine.

Regret, divorce, compromise
It’s not all good times with the New Kids on the Block

Donnie Wahlberg, he’s got my back against the wall. I’m about halfway through a shockingly candid and interesting interview with the New Kid on the Block/actor and I ask him if he wants to write more serious lyrics than those found on the band’s comeback disc, the Block. I bring up a particularly taste-offending couplet in “2 in the Morning,” where Wahlberg sings “I gotta know if you’re mad at me/before Grey’s Anatomy.”
“What do you mean?” Wahlberg asks after a silence; I don’t really know what to say. I mutter, “It just seems so… kind of…” I fear this could be the end of the interview, but Wahlberg sets the record straight.
“It was written about my wife and my break-up,” he says. “We basically spent a summer not communicating. Pretty much every night we wouldn’t talk until two in the morning. I was sleeping on the couch and she was up in the bedroom. I’d send her a text saying, ‘Are we gonna talk or do you wanna sleep?’ And most nights she said, ‘I’m going to sleep.’” Wahlberg sounds distant and intense; I realize I’ve brought up the wrong lyric. “I just couldn’t compete with Grey’s Anatomy that summer,” he says.
He admits that although the lyric I mentioned is not a good example, there are plenty of “goofball lyrics” on the disc. It’s something he feels the band didn’t really think about: people might not want to hear a 39-year-old man singing about being “your boyfriend.”
“Music comes on certain stations and it’s young people listening to it; some of them are gonna like it and not care, and some of them are going to say, ‘I don’t wanna hear those guys singing it, I want to hear the Jonas Brothers sing that shit.’ But if we do another [album], I think your point is well taken and we may take a different approach, but certainly not because we have regret.”
Regret: something Wahlberg does feel about some of the decisions the band made when they were younger. Not that, say, pillow cases negate musical credibility, but . . . they didn’t help.
“We tried to stay as on top of things as possible,” he says. “It’s just . . . it was so big, you know? When something gets that big it’s really out of control; you have to do all you can just to keep your sanity and not forget who you are. Our mentality started to be, look, it may not last forever but we’d like to have some dignity when it’s done. So enough with the bullshit. Enough with the pink slippers and the cereal and the cartoons. It’s enough . . . it’s enough. We made enough compromises and did enough things that we look back on with some regret . . .” Wahlberg pauses, sounds intense again; I find it hard to believe this is the once-teen heartthrob of a time past; he sounds like a man whose eyes are locked in the thousand-mile stare as we speak; a man who may be talking about his divorce or may be talking about his band’s past when he finishes his sentence: “at some point we said enough is enough.” And he says it with such intensity that I just leave it at that.
-Greg Pratt

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Weakerthans


I've had the pleasure of interviewing and writing about the Weakerthans, one of my favourite bands, several times. This one was for Monday Magazine.

Talking poetry with the publisher
Discovering hope with the Weakerthans

If there was a gun to my head and someone was demanding what my favorite band is (and why do I imagine that will happen someday?), I would have to say The Weakerthans. Over the course of three albums, the group has touched me and many others in a pretty profound way for a lil’ rock band from Winnipeg. And although the music itself is wonderful, it’s the lyrics of singer/guitarist John K. Samson that help so many people feel so strongly about the band.
Samson, who has had his poetry published and helps run Arbeiter Ring, a book publishing company, penned his most uplifting lyrics so far for the band’s last album, 2003’s Reconstruction Site. “I was kind of conscious of it as I was writing it,” says Samson. “The theme of the record is, like the title suggests, trying to build a life worth living with the tools at hand. There are some dark moments on the record, but I think the overall message is one of trying to act, trying to be active and to move forward in a way.”
Speaking of moving forward, after a debut album that was lyrically despondent (1997’s Fallow – sample lyric being “with so much left to seek/the lease runs out next week”), a follow-up in 2000’s Left & Leaving that had a bit of hope in Samson’s words but was still tentative at best (“you said ‘true meaning would be dying with you’/and although I wanted to/I did not smile”) and the aforementioned inspiration of Reconstruction Site (“I’m so glad that you exist,” Samson sings through a smile), what direction is his writing taking for the next album?
“I’m not entirely sure,” he ponders. “I think the idea of usefulness and action are the themes I’m thinking about, and a kind of more directly politicized idea. I mean, these are very politicized times, so I’m trying to figure out a way to write about that. It’s a challenge.”
For Samson, his lyrics are a way to synthesize his thoughts and connect with people – something he insists everyone does, whether they realize it or not. “It’s not just people who are seen as strictly creative that do that. I think people do it in their everyday lives and their conversations and their interactions with other humans, and their interests and hobbies and desires. This just happens to be the way that I do it.”
-Greg Pratt

Cannibal Corpse

This one spread like wildfire on the internet. I've interviewed Cannibal Corpse several times and these guys are shockingly nice, friendly and down to earth. It's like interviewing your dad. This one was originally for Exclaim! magazine's website.

Conversations
Cannibal Corpse’s Alex Webster
By Greg Pratt

It’s not easy making a 20-year career in death metal. Heck, only a handful of people on the planet have pulled it off, five of which are the longhairs in Buffalo, New York’s Cannibal Corpse. And to celebrate this milestone, the band is releasing a triple DVD, Centuries of Torment: the First 20 Years, on July 8. Over seven hours of footage awaits the eager death-head, including a three-hour history of the band, tons of live footage, going back to 1989—including a set from 2006 in Toronto—and seven music videos. We got bassist Alex Webster on the blower to chat about the DVD, the history of the band and growing older within a death metal context. While we chatted, his bandmates were in the same building working on a new song; the group’s next album is being recorded in September and October with Erik Rutan, who produced their last, Kill.

Where did the idea to do this exhaustive DVD come from?
It’s really the idea of Denise Korycki, the filmmaker. We met her when she worked for Uranium, which was the heavy metal show down here in America on Fuse. She did an interview for us for Kill, and that interview aired in 2006; then she stopped working over there and starting doing documentaries on her own. She was doing some backstage footage for As I Lay Dying when they were with us on the Sounds of the Underground tour and we got to know her even a little better. We had a bunch of footage that was filmed for Kill, and I approached her and Metal Blade with the idea of her doing a behind-the-scenes Kill tour DVD. We had done a behind-the-scenes studio thing before with The Wretched Spawn DVD but we had never done a behind-the-scenes on tour thing. That was the original idea; Denise came back to me with this history idea. She said she wanted to do that because we were one of the bands she had worked with that had such a long history. We have ten studio albums, we’ve been around 20 years, so that was something she really wanted to do. She’s the one who put it all into motion and did all of the work.

So is this celebrating your 20 years of being a band?
The timing is definitely right for it because 20 years is a bit of a landmark. I suppose we could have waited for 25 years but 20 years is a pretty significant anniversary for a band. She came to us with the idea; I don’t know if she realized it was also going to wind up being a 20th anniversary kind of thing, but it wound up being like that.

How long did it take to put the whole thing together?She started to do some of the filming when we were on tour with the Red Chord, the Black Dahlia Murder, Goatwhore and the Absence, the Metal Blade 25th Anniversary Tour. So there was all that going on, she was able to interview a lot of our fans on that tour and interview the other bands. I guess she started working on it September or October of last year, and she really just finished it up probably a month ago [May]. She had something like three terabyte hard drives full of raw footage [laughs].

Was it a very daunting project?
For us, the big thing is that we’ve never really let people take this close of a look at us before [laughs]. You know, there’s footage of us at home. We’ve let people in a little bit more with our personalities than we ever have before, and the history of our band has never been so extensively covered in anything, be it an interview or anything else. It’s very comprehensive look at the band.

Now you can move on to the next 20 years.
Yeah, that’s how I feel about it, honestly. For me personally, I’ve always preferred to look forward. So looking back and doing a history thing has been very different for me. Maybe the other guys feel the same way, too. We’re always looking forward to the next record, the next tour, and so on. We don’t normally do things that revolve so much around things that happened before. But it was good timing—with the 20-year anniversary, this was the right time to try and do something like this.

Did you ever think you’d be in a death metal band for 20 years?
When we look at it and think, ‘We’ve been around for 20 years,’ it seems kind of impossible, especially if you put yourself in the frame of mind we were in when we first started. Would I have thought when I was 18 this was going to be where I was when I was 38? No way; no way. We were hoping to maybe get one or two albums out. We had a no idea a 20-year career in death metal could even exist. Death metal was really in its nascent stages, there were only a handful of bands that came before us, like Morbid Angel, Death, and Possessed. You couldn’t say, ‘Wow, look at this band, they’ve been around for 20 years, we want to do that too.’ There was nothing like that, it was like, ‘Hey, this band’s got a great demo, I love this music, I want to do music like this.’ [laughs]. All of those bands were a couple years ahead of us. Most people would say the earliest death metal started was probably in 1983; I could be wrong, maybe a little bit earlier. We got started in 1988 so that was about five years after the beginnings of it, so it was still really new. So it’s remarkable to us; we’re kind of surprised, and being able to look back at it like this has given us some sort of perspective on how incredible the whole thing has been.

It is pretty crazy that you’ve managed to pull it off.
It is. [laughs] You never know what’s going to happen. That’s why we gave it the subtitle “The First 20 Years.” Why shouldn’t there be a second 20 years? We couldn’t have predicted these first 20, so we don’t want to predict it’s going to be over in 20 years either. We also wanted to let people know the band is very open-ended, we see our career as being ongoing and hope our best years are actually ahead of us. So this is the first 20 years and hopefully there will be a second 20 that will be just as fun. In 20 years I’ll be 58, so we’ll see about that [laughs]. But you know what I’m saying: we are far from being done and that was something we wanted to get across in the title.

Is there an age limit in death metal?
I think it’s not an age limit as much as a physical ability limit. One person might hit the wall when they’re 45; like some of these drummers that are playing so fast, they’re doing something that’s the equivalent of being an athlete, so it might be difficult for some of these drummers as they get older. Somebody like me, the bass playing, the guitar playing, that kind of stuff, [it’s possible] if you headbang a little bit less—which of course I don’t want to do, I want to be out there banging as hard as I can and putting on as good of a show as I did when I was in my 20s. But physically, my fingers will be able to do this until I get arthritis or something, which hopefully will never happen. You see jazz musicians playing really fast guitar and bass playing well into their elderly years.

As you get older do you find the themes—the gore, the violence—interest you as much?
I like horror in general, so I think we just try to capture an evil, dark vibe with the horror songs. I always thought that was an important part of death metal. I think there needs to be a darkness in the music and lyrics you’re trying to capture and that’s something that still interests me. Cannibal Corpse is the outlet for that for me as a musician. I do a few other things that are different, Blotted Science being the main one I do as a side band that’s a little different. But Cannibal Corpse, death metal, it should be horror, all the way. It should be dark, evil stuff that we’re doing.

Will the band ever run out of lyrical ideas?
I think that, unfortunately, there’s enough evil shit going on in the world that there’s almost limitless inspiration just by watching the news. If you’re going to be writing about dark subjects, there are a lot of dark things happening in the world today and throughout human history. And some of it, in a macabre way, is interesting. I think that’s why people watch shows about serial killers. We just try to not rehash our own stuff and look for different storylines. There are only so many songs you can have about people being eaten by a zombie. I mean, we have a bunch [laughs]. We probably have more than most people and I’m not saying we won’t do another, but we would probably try to look at a different angle for it. One thing we’ve tried to make clear is that as much as we enjoy writing about horror and gore we’re not into real-life violence at all. Other than boxing and mixed martial arts [laughs]. As far as real violence and crime, we’re obviously against it like any normal people would be.

Floathomes

This one was fun, because I've always had a small obsession with floathomes. After doing this piece, that small obsession blossomed into a large obsession and now I want to move my family on to one.

This was originally published as a cover story for Monday Magazine.

Ups and downs and ups
The unwavering truth of floathome living—it’s great

Laura Fellman’s house shakes as we’re sitting in her living room. She doesn’t notice as I instinctively grip a bit harder the arm of the comfy chair I’m nestled in. She’s lived under these conditions for 16 years; to her these teeny shakes are imperceptible.
She lives in a floathome (commonly and erroneously referred to as houseboats; those are actually the boats you see in lakes that are indeed homes but have a motor). Hers is one of 33 located down at Fisherman’s Wharf, the popular tourist destination known for the always-busy Barb’s Place fish-and-chip joint and those funny floating houses that we locals regard with a lot of curiousity as we stroll past. (Incidentally, 33 is the limit for floathomes down there, so until someone leaves, no one new gets in.)
“I came to Victoria and didn’t really know the town,” says Fellman, when I ask how she ended up living on the water. “I had just rented an apartment. One day a friend asked for a ride to his girlfriend’s place; he’s directing me around, and we ended up at West Bay Marina. As we were pulling in there, I looked around and saw a for-sale sign on a floathome; I went down and knocked on the door, and two weeks later I owned it. And that’s the place you’re sitting in.”
Fellman’s home is noticeably small but not crowded; she admits that the floathome lifestyle dictates the person lives a minimalist life due to the generally smaller size of the homes.
“A lot of people living in a floathome are people who are ready to get rid of the excess in their lives,” she says. “Definitely you have to think twice about what you bring in. You can’t be much of a collector of anything. Some people rent a storage locker somewhere; I don’t do that, I make myself live in this space.”
And although the costs of floathomes vary (a very rough estimate Fellman gives is $200,000-$500,000), one thing seems to be the same across the board: the prices are rising.
“They’re going up and up,” says Fellman. “They vary a lot with the sizes and amenities. This is not an inexpensive way to live. We have a monthly moorage fee that includes an administration fee, then we’re charged by the square foot. That includes water, garbage removal and recycling removal. We pay for our telephones and propane ourselves. We also pay property taxes.”
It’s almost hard to pay attention to our conversation; the sun is shining through the sunroof and the many windows, while the stunning views of the water are distracting, to say the least. We step out onto Fellman’s back porch and serenity washes over me. Any thoughts I had about floathomes not being safe are laid to rest—unlike a normal boat, they are flat-bottomed and they are much heavier than a normal boat. This, no doubt, is the life.
Then come the seaplanes.
“I find sometimes with the airplanes you have to stop your conversation for 14 seconds until it takes off. That’s about how long it takes—we’ve timed it,” she laughs. “The rest of it is pretty interesting—you see all the interesting boats going in and out. But the planes were here first, so you have to learn to live with it.”
I ask Fellman about learning to live with the floathome rocking back and forth during windy times. She says it’s nowhere near as bad as us land-lubbers probably think.
“I’d say that in all the years I’ve been living here, maybe one night a winter I’m awakened by the movement,” she says. “You get used to it. I’ve only once in 16 years had something fall off a shelf, and that was just one item. That’s it.”
It seems a small price to pay for such a beautiful home. But it is a different life on the Wharf; while there’s no cable access for television, people make do with satellite dishes and the internet. Residents need to keep an eye on their floatation devices, so periodically hire a diver to go underneath their home to make sure everything’s as it should be. But the relative simplicity of this life is appealing; the peaceful atmosphere, despite the planes and taxi-boats whipping around, incredible.
Then come the tourists.
“I think most of us vacillate,” says Fellman on the endless stream of rubber-neckers, many of whom are attracted to her home because of the large amount of plants she has on the outside of her boat. “The tenth time somebody asks you the same question that every single tourist has asked you that day, it can get a little tiring. If I’m working outside my house, many tourists will stop and ask questions. On the other hand, they’re interesting, they’re from all over the world, they’re curious; it can get tiring, but it’s nice too. Every now and then I’ll have someone walk right in thinking it’s a business because we have our names on our homes. They think it’s a store. Sometimes I’ll have it locked and I’ll hear someone trying and trying the door,” she laughs.
There are also electrical limitations of living on a floathome, which the residents choose to keep low as one of their (many) contributions to green living. Their water comes in through hoses, which tend to freeze in the winter, and they heat with propane; most residents also cook with propane. Living on a floathome, especially in a busy area like Fisherman’s Wharf, sounds like a lot of work.
“Well, hey, we don’t mow lawns,” says Fellman. “We don’t have to clean out the garage. It’s a trade-off, but it’s not a lot of work. It’s just different.”
Another way the Wharf community is different than your average city block is that it is just that—a community.
“People really look out for each other here,” says Fellman. “We had a really big storm once a few years ago and one of the homes was just hanging by one rope, and everyone was out here at three in the morning, all the floathome owners helping out. When people go away there’s always someone down here willing to look after your place.”
“The people down here are a very eclectic bunch,” she adds. “It’s a very interesting group of people, and there are some very artistic souls down here.”
As we sit on her floathome, which at this point seems to me to be the only reasonable place to live on the face of the Earth, Fellman says this is indeed the life for her, and has been ever since that fateful day 16 years ago.
“I’ve been living this way ever since,” she says, “and I always say they’ll probably take me out in a pine box.”
Of course, it'll probably float.
-Greg Pratt

Metallica

This is one of my favorite pieces. Not only was the experience of meeting James Hetfield and doing a (extremely brief) in-person interview a blast, the resulting piece was one I'm quite proud of.

This was originally published in Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles, and Metallica linked to it on their website.

METALLICA’S JAMES HETFIELD
The BW&BK Interview

By Greg Pratt

In two hours and 25 minutes, Metallica’s James Hetfield is going to go in front of 21,000 people and exorcise his demons. But right now he’s taking a second between interviews in the labyrinthine backstage of the night’s venue, which looks just like the countless backstages across the world where Hetfield came of age. He’s not screaming, he’s not running around; he’s just standing, silent.

When introduced, our handshake doesn’t quite meet up; we fumble to get it right; we wait a minute while the room we’ll be chatting in is cleaned up; we sit, and as I take a look at James, the years show on his face. This isn’t James Fucking Hetfield, Metallica monster. This is James Hetfield, human. It’s a reminder that James Hetfield is fallible, and James Hetfield is a really nice guy and James Hetfield is not some kind of monster, at least not anymore. He’s not larger than life, although he is really big.

Music critics are, as we know, also fallible: I recently placed the band’s newest disc, Death Magnetic, at the top of my “worst of the year” list for this publication; now that a few months have passed, I’d throw it in my top five for the first four songs alone. The band has come back after much internal strife and shocked the world with an album that is as angry as they’ve ever been, despite the fact that Hetfield is all smiles when we sit down to chat with him.

BW&BK: How are you feeling about the album?

Hetfield: Amazing. Very, very surreal still. Thinking that, you know, we were just about to break up or yell each other into not wanting to be with each other anymore and then we come out stronger than ever and put together an album that feels like we’re alive again.

BW&BK: It must feel great to sit back and hold the CD and just say, Fuck, we did it.

Hetfield: (laughs) It does feel good. And obviously, getting some positive response back, it helps, man. No matter what, I don’t want to speak for all artists, but at the end of the day the artist says, We’re doing this for us, I’m doing this for me, but yes, it feels good when someone else says you did a great job. It’s human.

BW&BK: Your lyrics… Lars says that he was surprised and a little bit sad about your lyrics, that you still have so much anger in you. How do you feel about that?

Hetfield: I feel happy about that (laughs). I’m glad that I do. It’s fuelled my life. Along with other things that fuel my life now, as well. But you know, we’ve all got our thing. We’ve all got our defect, of sorts, that we’ve hung on to, that seemed to work for us, or we’re wanting to shake or work on; there’s still some there. As far as anger goes, it’s not just anger anymore, for sure. I get to display it in my work. Lars, his defects come out other places (laughs), where people aren’t reading them, I would guess, but we all have our stuff that we work on. I’m able to express it. That’s one of the easiest things for me to express, so that’s kind of where and how it goes.

BW&BK: Is there a lot of happiness inside of you that doesn’t get expressed as much?

Hetfield: Absolutely. It’s getting more and more. It’s easier to do that. Possibly tonight when you see on stage, it’s all goofy, seeing four guys smile so much, but it feels good to be up there and really know that this is why we were put on Earth, I believe, to be together and to create music and create a fun live show where people can let loose.

BW&BK: Do you ever think there’s going to be a time when you’re too old to do this? When does it stop? Why does Metallica stop?

Hetfield: Sure. Why? It stops because… (long pause) Well, death doesn’t stop it, pyrotechnics don’t stop it, people leaving don’t stop it. Yeah, what does stop it? Bus accidents, all that, I don’t know. I think when Lars and I decide to not do it or we don’t feel it or something happens to one of us then it probably stops. But that doesn’t mean the spirit of Metallica or the love for it stops. Writing music will always be a part of me and my expression.

BW&BK: James Hetfield… there’s the James Hetfield persona. Onstage, you’re a mean motherfucker…

Hetfield: (laughs) Really?
BW&BK: Talking to you, you’re a nice guy, you’re smiling lots. Where’s the onstage persona come from?

Hetfield: 27 years of playing live and growing up in Los Angeles, disliking the music scene. I think a lot of the persona did develop out of where we came from. The speed, the intensity, the loudness, we wanted the attention. Growing up in Los Angeles playing with all the glam bands when the scene was all about looks, hair, whatever, and we were certainly not about that, we wanted music, we had to play louder, faster, for people to notice us. And you know, along with your normal mannerisms that’s part of what you develop, and it’s your sword up there, it’s your shield, it’s your everything, you’re able to hide behind it, you’re able to go further than I would just sitting here talking to you. I think it’s taking your body, your voice, your soul, your being to a higher elevation. When you get on stage, there’s something. I certainly wouldn’t do the things I do up there in front of my family at Thanksgiving (laughs). I wouldn’t. The music and the people take me somewhere. It’s like the Olympics for us (laughs). You go farther.

BW&BK: Do you need it?

Hetfield: I do. It sounds like a new addiction, and it’s not new. It’s just clearer that it’s somewhat of a healthier addiction (laughs). Being on stage, it is… (pause) I feel bi-polar up there. I go from just mean, crazy monster to “Nothing Else Matters,” where I’m trying to reach into people’s souls and connect. So there are a lot of extremes up there, and depending on the song, it takes you there.

BW&BK: Some Kind of Monster: now that it’s had a bit of time to sit, any regrets?

Hetfield: I watch it every night (laughs).

BW&BK: It’s two-and-a-half hours.

Hetfield: Yeah, I get off stage… (laughs). No, no regrets. No regrets. I would say it’s probably one of the best things that… it was a very big gift that was handed to us at that point. The making of a record and we started to… it turned into something else. It turned into the disintegration of a band, of friends, of a long-term career. It filmed us when we didn’t want to be filmed (laughs), it filmed us when we really wanted to be filmed… it was there, and it’s been an amazing mirror for us all. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other. There’s a lot of freedom now because of that. It has exposed our ugliness to the world so it’s made us stronger. Also, when someone tries to hurt you with something, something about your album or this or that… you can’t hurt me. You’ve seen me in the corner, crying. You’ve seen Lars yelling at me while I wanted to kill him. You’ve seen all of the ugly, dirty laundry. It’s given us freedom, it’s given us a lot more friends, because they see us as humans now, and it’s given us a lot more respect, I think.

BW&BK: People put you on a pedestal. And it showed the human side.

Hetfield: Yeah. And like you were saying, they want that stage persona. They think that’s you, so when you meet them at the airport you should jump on the luggage carousel and scream at them, “Fuck you!” Now they know a lot more of us. And along with that comes some psychoness, where people think they really know you. But it is nice to be known, and people can say, “He’s with his family having dinner and I’m not gonna go bug him, I remember in the movie he said it kind of bugs him and if he gives me the ‘hi’ sign I’ll come over.” So it has connected us with the world.