Thursday, January 8, 2015
Dispossesd an Interview with Artist Emily Harris
Atlanta artist Emily Harris is about to launch her Dispossed exhibit, that is a thesis study of the Atlanta metal culture, I caught up with her to discuss this and metal in general.
What inspired using metal heads as the focus of your visual medium?
I have been a metalhead since I was about 14. When I started grad school I was
in my early 30s and I guess you could call it sort of a mid life crisis. I was hungry to revisit my youth a bit and recall that feeling that metal music, hanging with my friends and going to shows was like back when I was a teenager. I didn’t know many metal heads in town and I found that making the local metal community my thesis focus, I was able to find friendship and also relate to people based on our bond to metal.
What kind of metal did you grow up on ? Hows does that differ from what you
listen to today? What are your guilty pleasures?
Well the first music I got into really was punk, with bands like Fugazi, Bad
Religion and the sort. I knew of metal but didn’t know much about it, then I
got Metallica’s Master of Puppets on cd and my life was changed forever. It
was the 90s so you had a lot of bands like Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the
Machine, Stuck Mojo, Sevendust, Metallica, and Megadeth. I would say those
were some of the big ones for me then. I still listen to some of that stuff, but as
metal has progressed, so has my collection. As I got older I got into the more
extreme stuff like black metal. As far as my guilty pleasure, I like old school
80s hair metal. It’s super cheesy but man is it fun to sing along with!
What do you think separates the Atlanta scene from that of cities like New
York, Tampa, San Francisco or Chicago?
I can’t speak for the other cities because I am not as connected to their scenes,
but I do know that certain cities have fostered certain movements in metal, like
the Bay area Thrash scene of the 80s, or Tampa’s 90s death metal scene. My
goal is to help push the Atlanta scene and hopefully bring some recognition to
some of the great bands we have here! I think Atlanta has a strong sense of
community although it is a big town and very spread out.
Any subculture carries a certain conformity in their non-conformity what does
the Atlanta metal scene tend to conform to ?
Certainly, you are right, and I touch upon that a bit in my thesis paper. You
know that is hard to say completely because everyone I know in Atlanta’s
scene is all so vastly different. The one thing I enjoy is the southern
hospitality. Not everyone is friendly, but the ones that are really radiate that
What stereotypes do you think are most prevalent in regards to metal today?
I am working against the stereotypes, but I think overall the stoner would be the
most common. I am glad to see that the groupie is no longer a dominant
stereotype for women; at the very least we are working against it. Also,
possibly the alpha male meathead types linger around a little too.
What's a bigger issue in the Atlanta metal scene gender or race ? Is it
For me it would be the gender issue, but only because I am woman. I have
been accepted and respected for the most part which is awesome, but I do think
it is harder for a woman to be taken seriously when you are approaching a
group of guys. Atlanta’s scene is predominantly white, but we do have quite a
few other races mixed in and everyone is friendly; there is no racism here, at
least not that I have seen. I haven’t seen anything homophobic, but I also don’t
know many gay metal heads.
How prevalent are drugs in the Atlanta metal scene ?
Atlanta is a big town, so drugs are going to be prevalent no matter what scene
you are in. Mostly I see a lot of drinking, but as for the others, I choose to
plead the 5th.
Seems every decade Atlanta had it's one or two mainstream bands that broke
big and various bandwagons reared around them ranging from the 80's with Hallows Eve to Stuck Mojo and Sevendust to now Mastodon, where do you
think this cycle sits today in terms of the Atlanta scene?
You are right, yes every decade seems to foster a new hit band. Mastodon still
dominates but there are other bands coming up from our underground scene
that are becoming big like Lazer/Wulf. I think a lot of that southern
sludge/doom mixed with rock elements seems to be popular down here with
bands from Savannah too like Kylesa and Baroness. So we will have to see
where it goes!
Do make any note of the divide of Atlanta bands where the bulk of the
"metal" bands intown seem to have all come from a punk rock back ground,
where the suburban metal bands just play metal and take more influence from
90's Pantera era?
Ha ha, I just got into some discussions about this recently. I think the Atlanta
scene has a big crossover with the punk scene, something that is unique to
Atlanta. I think a lot of people that are into punk originally get into metal later
in life because it is more musically challenging and sometimes has more to
offer them mentally. As far as the city versus the suburbs, it’s hard to say
because a lot of the bands that live in the burbs play in the city all the time. I
guess it just has to do with their influences.
Why do you think thrash and death metal are more popular in Atlanta than
black metal, when that might not be the case in other cities like New York?
Yeah we don’t have a huge number of black metal bands here. I think thrash
and death metal are the most popular styles of metal and people gravitate to the
bands they grew up on and are influenced by. Maybe because we are in the
South and it’s warmer and sunnier than New York where people are more
distant and disconnected, but that might be a silly answer.
What approach are you taking with the art show Dispossessed and how is it
connected to the documentary?
For me the thesis was both challenging and exciting. The show itself I wanted
to be engaging and not in a typical quiet gallery setting, because the work is about metal music, and therefore I really wanted to have some of our local metal bands play. The photography portion highlights my love for the people in this scene, because this project is about our connection to metal music and consequently to each other. There will also be artifacts documented by myself
of objects from people in the local community. My film Atlanta Metal , which will also be premiering gives some focus on different aspects and struggles within our community and the metal community as a whole. Really the whole project and the upcoming show is a 3 yearlong journey