Interview with Edward Banchs, author of Heavy Metal Africa

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Interview with Edward Banchs, author of Heavy Metal Africa

by JP

Edward Banchs, author of Heavy Metal Africa
Edward Banchs, author of Heavy Metal Africa

Many people recognize the mystique of the ‘so-called’ Dark Continent. What inspired your life-long interest in Africa?

Just a curiosity that began as a child and hit full stride in my early twenties. Just tired of living a life full of assumptions, and I really wanted to know a lot more about the rest of the world. Africa just became a place I could not get enough of; I could not stop reading books on the continent and its political history. My interests led to me pursuing a degree on the matter, starting with my BA in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University and an MA in African Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Tying it in with Metal, tell us briefly about your experience as your evolution into being a metalhead?

Started like most American kids growing up in the 80s/90s: MTV! I could not get enough of the sound that the guitar was making and fell into this music right away. But the 80s was consumed by Glam Metal, and don’t get me wrong, I was into the sound, but not the image and look. My first record was from Poison (“Open Up and Say Ahh…”” and
second from Skid Row. It became something I could not stop listening to. But, once I learned about Headbanger’s Ball everything changed and my interest shifted towards thrash (Anthrax!) and in the 90s I was really into Helmet and Faith No More, and got into hardcore bands like Vision of Disorder, Earth Crisis and Snapcase.

I have a strong love of all metal and am just excited to get my hands on a superb underground black metal record as I am a new Slipknot or Metallica record.

p.s. Interesting thing about Glam Metal, now that we can look back and the hairspray, makeup and spandex have come off, there were some great albums being released in this era.

Lastly how did these two seemingly dissimilar interests, Africa and Metal meet?

Simply put: I was just asked a question about metal in Africa by a friend in graduate school. I really could not answer his question, and that bothered me. I’m the sort of person that has to know things, and this is one thing I did not know anything about. So his question, “what do you know about metal in Africa?” sparked a curiosity that led to this.

How long did it take you to write the book, from deciding to do it to it coming off the printing press?

Five years!

How many interviews did you conduct?

Easily over 200. The exact amount I am not sure. And yes, I listened to each one about three times while transcribing them!

Did you have any ‘go-to’ bands to listen to when times were tough during your journey’s to the various countries?

Each trip brought wonders with it. First trip allowed me to connect to Skid Row again because of my host and I  0bsessing with our love of their first two records. There were plenty of bands that I love that I always played to get me through, Darkest Hour, Converge, Every Time I Die, Will Haven, Faith No More, Cult of Luna, Katatonia, Machine Head and Maiden were constant go to.

I also found Periphery’s music quite remarkable flying music. I guess it was my interest in trying to meet Misha (as he has Mauritian roots) that kept those records in rotation. I didn’t realize how much I would love their records. I own everything they have now.

In Kenya, while bedridden with Malaria, for some reason, Protest The Hero and Metallica’s Black Album never stopped playing in my ipod. “My Friend in Misery” just kept hitting over and over…guess that is the affects of malaria!  Misery!

And, I had a moment one night in Mauritius. A very special night overlooking the ocean with a six pack in Mauritius and I could not stop playing Karnivool’s “All I Know.” I don’t know what it is about that band, and that song in particular, and why I even played that song as it was an afterthought on my iPod, but that song hit me. One of those moments I am never going to forget. I played it -no joke-about 12 times in a row.

Were there any people who declined to be interviewed?

Yes. I was honest with everyone. I just think there were some who did not understand why I was in their countries, and what I wanted to do.

It is hard to pick favourites but in terms of bands what were some of your  favourite discoveries (in terms of Metal bands) while doing your research?

Every single band in the book!

We very seldom get political at, but if you could use this interview as a mini-platform to dispel just one myth or misconception about Africa as a whole, or any one of the seven nations you visited, what would it be?

Africa is misunderstood. The people of the continent have the same aspirations and ambitions as anyone else in the world. While I will concede that, yes, African leadership in some countries (Congo, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe) is failing their nations – so are we. As Westerners we should be aware of the industries that we are
supporting and the leaders and the causes we are surreptitiously contributing to.

We cannot go and just continue to purchase oil, diamonds, uranium and coltan from corrupt leadership thinking we are truly supporting Africans. Also, since you have afforded me this opportunity: PLEASE STOP BUYING IVORY!

What was your writing routine like? Were you staying up all night with coffee and cigarettes banging away at an old typewriter…or were you sitting in a trendy coffee shop in the mornings with a laptop…or probably somewhere in between?

I found it comfortable to work at home during my late nights. I was working second shift while writing this book, and it was best to get home, unwind, and go at it! Yes, plenty of coffee and metal in place of cigarettes! I do not have a television in my living room, and it is so much easier to focus on my work without those distractions. I would also turn off my phone and go until about four/five am.

Sometimes I would leave and sit at one of those coffee shops, but mostly to read back and clean up. And yes, I even did portions of this in airports and even on the flights back home. If you have the spark you need to get it while you have it! I kept paper and pens around too just in case.

Though, there were moments where I had to take time away from the book entirely. Sometimes I walked away for weeks at a time to give myself a break, read a few other books, and relax. There were moments where it got to be too much, and I needed a break.

Was your initial thought to self-publish or to seek out an publisher?

Publisher of course. But it was tough. So, I reached out to a small press here in Western, Pennsylvania and they were more than happy to take it. It runs like a self-publish business, but they also reject a lot of books they receive. I’m still optimistic that my agent will sell this to a big press though. I honestly feel it has the potential to reach a large audience.

Was it a hard sell to get HEAVY METAL AFRICA into production?

If you are willing to put in the work and time: NO!

What has the initial feedback been like?

Fantastic. I cannot believe how well the book is being received. I am beyond grateful to say the least.

Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon?

Yes I do. In time, I will make a decision on when to start the next book. Right now, it is all about Heavy Metal Africa!

Thank you we look forward to your next book!

Thank you very much. Looking forward to sharing it with!


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