Header_DenigrataA Lecturer in Popular Music at a British Higher Education institution, Denigrata Herself is undertaking her PhD in women in extreme metal. She is also the front woman/guitarist in Denigrata, an experimental black metal collective. Denigrata have coined the term noir concrête for their music, meaning the avant-garde dark noise initiated by Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen finds a different rhizomatic existence within their contemporary black metal performance space.

Denigrata Herself is a gender theorist whose research and publications to date focus on body performativity, reclamation of female space, tattooing, graphic novels, death metal and black metal. She is part of the International Society for the Study of Metal Music (ISMMS) and sits on various academic and equal rights boards in the UK.

For over a decade she was a lead guitarist in British death metal bands, she was signed to and worked for various independent record labels and now devotes her time to lecturing, researching and performing. She is choir master for her departmental chamber choir and presents annual post-modern renderings of canonical classical pieces with her choir, a string quartet, a contemporary band and Ableton performers.

Blog December 2014
Northern Darkness Calling: screaming into the void

Metal thrives through local communities and culture, drawing its performers, bloggers, promoters and audience from local sources, from people moved by the music who want to add and enliven their scene through their contribution. So, when people who put great thought, time and effort in to doing this are not supported by their communities, it seems like a miserable dislocation of priorities.

I am speaking here of the existence of zines; not webzines, not a social media imitation of what magazines used to be, a ghost that haunts the online space if you will, but an actual, hard copy analogue artefact. To leaf through the personally crafted and often hard-sought interviews, the artwork and the manner in which they have been lovingly crafted, offers something special.

As music becomes ever more assimilated into the digital make-believe that passes for contemporary existence, the blatant intangibility of culture grows and replicates and ceases to occupy space in the real world. A metal zine that you pay a couple of quid for, that you impatiently wait for to arrive in the post, that you cannot wait to unwrap and engage with, means something – it is real. Without getting embroiled into a Lacanian dialectic as whether anything is in fact, real (something I actually theoretically engage with) the simple fact that I can hold the zine in my hands, that it has been created, not by some megacorporation but by individuals who believe in the music rather than returned revenue, helps to reaffirm my existence in the real world. If I was to read it online, the experience would be a divorced, separated and somehow distanced ontology that doesn’t fulfil what it purports to represent. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading online sources as much as the next person, but owning a copy, knowing it is in my collection, means I get to engage with the artistic process of the zine on my own terms. I feel like I am part of it, the art object. Online, I do not feel like I am part of anything, I am just another faceless disembodied entity screaming into the void…

I am a particular fan and supporter of Northern Darkness zine. Hailing from the north of England and now in its second printing, with another one scheduled for the New Year, this has been an example of a zine that makes me deeply happy. It offers you something rare – personal effort for something that is loved: extreme metal. Zines are not created or maintained for money, unlike music magazines, their existence is solely down to a few committed writers, musicians and artists who want to do it. I have blogged about the significance and importance of intent before and yet again, it becomes a significant talking point. The desire to want to do something artistic, for your community, that everyone can enjoy, should be supported and when it isn’t, something in me becomes equally riled and disappointed.

The importance of promotion to cottage industries cannot be overstated – you need to get the word out that this is what you are putting your effort into and, much like unsigned bands, social media is a logical (albeit problematic) way of doing this. However, it is always important to know your demographic so when this has been identified and established, promoting on peoples pages should not be a problem. Yet to some it is and I struggle to analyse why.

You are into extreme metal yes? You clearly identify and like all the relevant pages on Facebook that signify that you are a member of this community yet you get pissy when people want to share what they are doing, after all isn’t this what social media is for…. And I’m not talking about the Facebook ‘over-sharers’ that, with the power of one status, suck you into their intolerable arguments or dinner pictures, Lord knows there are enough of them. I’m talking of once or twice a month posts that promote the zine. Hardly dominating your newsfeed is it. But to then be a dick about it, shows a nasty element of a growing paradigm of online intolerance.

Yes, the metal scene is really suffering at the hands of that at the moment. As ‘metal-gate’ would have you believe various quite frankly, bigoted fuckwits thinking their positions in bands automatically legitimises their backwards ideologies, but supporting a zine should not be part of a general closed-minded attitude that fails to help maintain a vibrant cultural scene. In fact, it acts as a direct counter to instances such as ‘metal-gate’ because it facilitates solidarity; focus on the actual music, instead of giving space to racist and sexist idiots who think it is ok to behave like a cunt. The online space has given them too much already.

The creators of the zine have suffered some disappointing attitudes and comments from, what I have always thought of, as an open-minded and supportive scene. I would really hate to think I was wrong and I refuse to be disheartened because of the few closed minded individuals who seem to forget that when you are mean and nasty online, you are in fact still talking to a human being. What does this say about our community?! That we are unwilling to support fellow creative people in their efforts? That we are not interested in new interviews and album reviews or live performances? Then I have to ask this, what the fuck are you even doing in extreme metal?! Because these are precisely the reasons our communities exist in the first place. We should applaud those willing to give of their free time, for no wages, their desire to offer us something real, something tangible. Who else would bother?

This is actually part of a wider discourse that extends to the support of local bands, local venues, local promoters and independent record labels. If we do not support our cultural communities’ efforts then there is a very simple result – there won’t be any. So before you get all snippy when someone promotes on your page, just think twice before you put your contemptuous fingers to the keyboard: question your response before you hit send, you may be affecting the growth of your scene.

Comments are welcome. Denigrata Herself can be contacted at denigrataherself@horizonvumusic.com