Interview: Mike ‘McBeardo’ McPadden discusses his new book, ‘Heavy Metal Movies’
Heavy metal and horror movies go together like peanut butter and jelly. In honor of that cherished metal musical film combination, Bazillion Points Books will release “Heavy Metal Movies” on June 9, a guide featuring the most metallic movie moments of all time.
With the book’s release just days away, author Mike “McBeardo” McPadden checked in with Audio Ink Radio to give his thoughts on what makes a great metal movie and how he got into the whole heavy music phenomenon.
When did you first get into metal music? What bands got you into the genre?
I discovered metal in 1975, when I snuck in some wee-hours TV viewing. Kiss were on “The Midnight Special,” NBC’s overnight rock concert series. I was seven years old, and Gene Simmons spit blood and I was frozen with terror—while at the same time wanting more. And there it began.
From that point, I felt drawn naturally to hard rock, with my next big stop being the Ramones. They and the Sex Pistols, who I saw on a CBS variety show hosted by Telly Savalas, seemed to be of a piece with Kiss, so I came to the punk-metal crossover naturally as a kid. The rest of the world, or at least among the meat-for-brains New York City rock fans, didn’t share this opinion, at least not yet. You had to pick one or the other and punk felt more organic to me at that stage.
And then, in 1986, when I was eighteen, I saw a completely gorgeous punk girl with a giant spiked Mohawk and piercings and the whole works — which was extreme then — and she was wearing a Metallica “Ride the Lightning” T-shirt. I immediately walked up to Tower Records and bought a Metallica cassette, and I got into thrash and openly embraced stuff I secretly loved all along: Alice Cooper, Sabbath, Priest, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, the whole schmear. And Kiss, of course. Then and forever.
What criteria did you use to designate a “Heavy Metal Movie” for this book?
That, in essence, is the mission of the book. It’s easy to say “I know a Heavy Metal Movie when I see one” — and I think all fans do know one when they see one — but what exactly does that mean? Narrowing that down is akin to how you can hear Deep Purple and Mayhem and Cinderella and Five Finger Death Punch and Meshuggah and, somehow, you know they’re all metal. The book attempts to identify that mystery metal element within the motion picture medium.
So with that in mind, there are obvious movies directly about heavy metal music—Spinal Tap, Airheads, and such. Then there are documentaries like Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Decline of Western Civilization II, and Anvil; and concert films like The Song Remains the Same and Metallica’s Through the Never. Heavy Metal, the 1981 animated movie, is sort of in a class and a genre all its own.
Past those qualifiers, I added movies with characters that love heavy metal, appearances by heavy metal musicians and/or soundtracks dominated by heavy metal.
The next level consists of movies that get name-checked by heavy metal music, especially in terms of band names, song titles and lyrics. Black Sabbath is named after a 1963 Boris Karloff horror film, and Iron Maiden must have fifty songs that are directly about movies they love.
After that, it’s movies that inspire or were inspired by heavy metal: Conan the Barbarian, the Mad Max series, ’80s slasher films … and so on. All told, it’s a big list.
Are you scared of any metal fans or performers saying, “Hey, you left me/X band out!!” Of course, you can’t fit everyone in.
Oversights are inevitable, but it still won’t be fun when, just as inevitably, any and all such missing material gets pointed out to me. Still, I do want to know what I missed!
One easy out is that these are just my picks for the “most” metal movies. It’s fun to be King Judge Heavy Metal Movies! … Right after the book went to the printer, it struck me that I should have reviewed the 1964 movie “Fantomas” — a realization that dawned on me because I’m constantly wearing a Fantomas, the band t-shirt. That was a real “duh” moment. Alas, it was too late. So let’s really hope for that Volume II!
What’s your favorite genre of “Heavy Metal Movies?”
It’s so much easier to answer that question in regard to heavy metal music. I’m a ’70s stoner/doom/psychedelic/electric blues guy foremost, with deep and flamboyant theatrical leanings. My music tattoos paint quite the picture: Alice Cooper, the Melvins, the Butthole Surfers, King Crimson and Meat Loaf.
In terms of movies, I’m far more fluid and diverse. Horror is my favorite genre overall, and certainly that applies in a metal context, but the movies I love most tend to be weird, arty, hyper-aggressive midnight movies and/or through-the-cracks oddities that developed cult followings. And here, too, my film-related tattoos present a vivid snapshot:Caligula, Eraserhead, Planet of the Apes, Pink Flamingos, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, the 1972 amok nature epicFrogs, the X-rated 1976 Alice in Wonderland, and C.H.U.D. Oh, and also Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf-Man, plus the Three Stooges.
Are you thinking about a follow-up to the book?
Yes, I’m in the process of pitching an encyclopedic roundup of a very specific movie genre that only existed — and could have only existed — in the ’70s and ’80s. I expect a healthy crossover of reader interest from the Heavy Metal Movies audience.
What do you think of the current state of metal music?
There’s no recapturing the explosion of creation in the ’70s followed by metal’s mad, breakneck, unpredictable evolution throughout the ’80s. And now, with commercial radio and MTV negligible and technology continuing to fracture the culture into incalculable micro-scenes and micro-moments, the masses will never experience the monolithic impacts of watershed events like Metallica’s Kill ’Em All ramming down the wall that separated metal from punk or, for that matter, Metallica going on to infuriate millions of old fans by gaining billions of new ones with the Black Album. Still, with all that stated, right now is as great a time period for metal as any other.
In his definitive heavy metal history book Sound of the Beast, Ian Christe — who also published “Heavy Metal Movies” — wrote that “metal swallowed punk and moved forward.” I think that’s proven true of every rock and pop genre since then. Metal just keeps adapting and expanding, and so does its devotees, both in and out of bands.
Photo: Mike ‘McBeardo’ McPadden by Chris Roo via Bazillion Points Books