Metal Down Under is the first film to fully document the history of heavy metal music in Australia. It will trace the origins of metal and explore this ever-evolving genre of extreme music in the land down under. Shan Siva hooked up with Director / Producer Nick Calpakdjian to understand more about this ground breaking film.
1. Hi Nick, this sounds like quite an ambitious project – I would imagine that with the likes of AC/DC and Rose Tattoo Australia would’ve produced a big production rock / metal documentary over the years so why hasn’t this happened?
Nick: While AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and a few other bands have made a large impact both locally and internationally; the metal scene in Australia is still an underground phenomenon. And already being a small country, our broadcasters have not been motivated to promote a niche film project looking into a relatively small part of the music scene.
That being said, I have learnt through starting this project that a few people have started projects similar to this in the past. However, it seems politics seem to get in the way and people run into road blocks which is quite sad.
2. What does ‘Metal Down Under’ hope to accomplish and who is it targeted at?
Nick: “Metal Down Under” hopes to portray an entertaining and thorough history of the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal in Australia. I want to show where the sound came from, how it developed and where it has been taken too. Additionally, I want it to be told through the eyes of the people that were there: the musicians, promoters, labels, critics and fans. The film is targeted at lovers of heavy metal as well as those interested in a unique part of our culture.
3. Is there something different about the Australian metal scene needing it to have its own story compared to other metal scenes around the world – I would imagine the struggles are the same if not worse (thinking of that Iraqi metal band)?
Nick: Every scene has its plusses and minuses. The obvious down side of being a band in Australia is that our local market is very small and spread out over a bloody large land mass. This means it costs a lot to get out on the road and play in front of a small amount of people.
We are also miles away from anywhere else in the world that bands want to tour in… the UK, Europe and the USA. Again, it costs us a fortune to tour.
That being said there is an upside. Being so isolated we are left to our devices to some extent and have developed our own sound. Presently we have bands like Psycroptic who come from not only Australia, but Tasmania (now that is isolated) and they are doing great things in Australia and internationally. Isolation gives bands the time to form their own sound and then get it out to the rest of the world when they are ready.
Australian bands are not scared of touring either. AC/DC set the benchmark in the 70’s with their relentless touring in Australia and it was that work ethic that turned them into the band they became. They blew crowds away night after night and never gave anything less than 100%. No other Aussie band could say they tour as hard as those blokes.
4. A lot’ve general media coverage of metal that I’ve seen over the years tends to be patronizing reflecting both an ignorance as well as a resentment of both the music and HM fans so how will ‘Metal Down Under’ seek to be a rockumentary and not a mockumentary?
Nick: “Metal Down Under” will tell the story of metal in Australia through the eyes of the people that make up the scene itself; passionate individuals that, in some cases, have dedicated their lives to metal. I think an educated audience that is genuinely interested in music and culture wants to see why so many thousands of people put so much sweat and tears into this genre. It will be a carefully crafted film that will aim to intelligently unravel the history of metal and the cause of its popularity.
5. One of the best rockumentarys I ever saw was Penelope Spheeris’s “Decline Of Western Civilisation – The Metal Years” – probably because it was objective if humorous coverage of the bands as voiced by themselves (most of the time when they were sober) so will ‘Metal Down Under’ adopt a similar approach?
Nick: “Metal Down Under” will draw some similarities from Penelope Spheeris’s “Decline Of Western Civilisation – The Metal Years” however as my film will chronicle more than 30 years, it will be more linear in it’s narrative. “Decline of Civilisation – The Metal Years” was edited more thematically and for my liking probably a little too MTV for the style of documentary I am making.
6. Unlike Spheeris who I would imagine shot most of her footage in LA (as that was the scene she was primarily focussed on) how will you accomplish your filming logistically given how huge Australia is, or will you similarly concentrate on only a regional scene?
Nick: Australia is massive and it will take some working out to cover properly. Given that I split my time between Melbourne, Perth and South-East Asia I expect to be able to cover much of the country. Most of my research is leading me to Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. However I hope to cover all of our great land. I’ve had a DOP (Director of Photography) friend film interviews with ex-pats in London and a shoot has just been organized in New Zealand as well. With a bit of careful planning the key interviews can be grouped together and filmed in stages. I’m finding the participants to be pretty accommodating so far!
7. Apart from Peter Hobbs (Hobbs Angel of Death), most of the bands so far mentioned appear to be newer and from the underground so do you have any intention of approaching the older (i.e. Mortal Sin, Destroyer 666) or more established acts (Heaven, Rose Tattoo etc )to garner wider support as well as establish the roots of Australia’s HM scene?
Nick: We’ve got so many bands and artists lined up for the film and the list is growing. We’ve already interviewed Peter Hobbs, Steve Hughes (Slaughter Lord) and Tony Campo (Allegiance). We’ve also interviewed Greta Tate (Metal for Melbourne), Simon Lukic (Musically Incorrect – long running community music program) and Leigh Wilson (Videographer from the 80’s and avid metal collector).
Still to come are: Blood Duster, Karl Lean from Nothing Sacred, Phil Gresik (Mass Confusion, Long Voyage Back, Destroyer666, Bestial Warlust, Hobbs Angel of Death), Joel Southby from Taramis, Chris Rand from Segression, Adam Agius from Alchemist, Richie K from Dreadnaught and Dave Harrison from Allegiance amongst others.
8. What’s your background and personal motivation for being involved in a metal documentary – are you an HM fan?
Nick: I’m a lover all music hard and heavy. I grew up listening to AC/DC, Van Halen, Def Leopard and Motley Crew. I grew into thrash and bands like Allegiance in the early 90’s before getting into grunge and hardcore punk. I played in a punk band in the late 90’s before focusing my efforts on filmmaking.
For the last 10 years I have worked as a filmmaker on a range of films from documentaries about sex trafficking, politics, and the army to television series about action sports, cooking shows and adventure travel. I’ve made a bunch of music videos and an online portal and web series about guerilla media makers – Pro Juice.
After completing my first feature drama film as an editor I decided I wanted to direct a documentary about something I have always remained passionate about – heavy metal and hard rock music. For me it was a way to join my two passions together – film and heavy music.
9. ‘Metal Down Under’ is funded by a fundraising campaign so how has the support been so far – I understand that as funds become available then each stage of the project is completed so without sounding negative if funds dry up will that mean an end to the project or will you then seek corporate or network sponsorship?
Nick: The funding for the film is ongoing and a constant battle. We are raising money online through crowd funding campaigns, donations and merchandise. Bands have come on board and donated CD’s and merchandise as have magazines and t-shirt printers. AND Printing donated 60 t-shirts and 50 stubby holders that have been selling well. A digital distribution company is currently putting together a compilation album of classic Australian metal to be sold with all revenue going towards the film. We’ve also got promoters setting up a few benefit gigs too. We are also selling pre-orders of the film.
A lot of my own personal time and money is being invested into the project and it will get finished one way or the other. When the film has been mostly shot and partially edited, I will take it to the broadcasters for completion funding. However, I am under no illusions as to whether they will fund this film. I know heavy metal is not part of the mainstream and is not likely to be on their radar.
While making a film can be expensive, it pays to have a lot of friends. Equipment is relatively cheap these days and so as long as I am ready to work a few favors we will get over the line. And the best part is that the people in the film want to support it.
10. Battlehelm has readers from all over the world so how can you make it easier for these guys to make a donation – will fans get refunded their contributions if the project dries up?
Nick: The best way to help support the project is to go to our online shop at: http://www.metaldownunder.com/shop/
Here you can buy t-shirts, stubby holders, DVD’s, CD’s and pre-order the film. If you want to make a donation you can do so from the homepage. If you want a guarantee that this project will be completed, well then I can’t give you that. I suggest you buy something tangible from the shop and tell your friends to do the same. The less money I have to make the film, the longer it takes, that is all. If you want to support the project but have no cash, then like our Facebook page and help us spread the word of Aussie metal: http://www.facebook.com/metaldownunderfilm