It is the extreme sports of music.
Or the self-immolation of the extreme sports of music.
Metal plus punk plus noise plus death metal plus hardcore punk plus disregard for all musical convention but also plus a social conscious.
Or none of the above. Or all of the above.
Welcome to grindcore — a genre of music thats biggest names include bands such as Napalm Death, Carcass, Aborted, Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus and *cough, cough* Anal Cunt.
It’s the subject of Toronto filmmaker and high school teacher Doug Brown’s new documentary Slave to the Grind, which has its world premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival on Saturday, April 21 with Brown in attendance.
Prior to the screening, Mr. Brown spoke with theYYSCENE.
Q: I’m sure there are a couple of people who don’t know, so how would you define grindcore?
A: I would say there’s more than a couple of people that do not know what it is — part of why I made the film. Grindcore is a very aggressive, violent-sounding type of music that is both punk rock and heavy metal and should just sound uncomfortable and irritating. At its simplest core, I would say that those are the main components … I think a lot of people associate the music with the speed and, as a result, you play a lot really quickly and the songs are really short. Every rule can be broken, but if you’re not feeling irritated by it I would say it’s probably not grindcore
Q: What is it about grindcore that made you want to make this film, that pulls you in?
A: Well firstly, all the films I make are very selfish, it’s just a topic that means a lot to me. My last documentary Never Enough was about collecting, why people collect, organize and store things. Now, I’m a huge record collector and part of my record collecting journey has always been, “What is the most extreme music out there?” And I don’t necessarily mean extreme in terms of heavy metal, I mean extreme in terms of, “What’s the most minimalist rap I can listen to? What’s the furthest geographical spots from any other civilization, what kind of music are they making there?” In my travels, of course, that means also as a metal fan and I used to love old punk, listening to grindcore for the first when I was a teenager was like, “Nothing could be heavier than this, nothing could be more extreme than this.” A big part of why I like the music is it’s just so far out.
Q: Because it is such a niche music, why this film, why this film on a genre that doesn’t have a widespread audience?
A: Well, grindcore can — it doesn’t always — but it can mean something. And I mean that in the true sense of leftist ideals, exceptionally sociopolitical, and, I don’t know, we’re at a point in our world, there’s enough negativity going where it’s important to take a step back and say things that mean something to you, but, more importantly, have a good time. And the musicians who make grindcore and the fans who go to these shows they could be from any walk of life, but the one thing they definitely have in common is they like their music, so therefore when they go to a concert, how they behave is the same way — they like it to be extreme. The fact that there’s so much extreme horrible stuff going on in this world, why not focus on something that’s extreme and very positive?
And I’m the first to admit that this is hard music to listen to for the average listener, so there was an obvious deliberate choice when we were making this film it wasn’t going to be a concert film — that would be the most isolating thing for 99 per cent of our audience. But we knew that we had an objective to tell a story and this is, I think, the most important part, this had never been told. This genre has existed for 30 years at this point and there’s never been a proper, full-length documentary just on grindcore.
Q: Again, going back to the positivity of the music, I find that fascinating because I think there will be some people who just hear it and go, “That just sounds like angry shit,” but it’s not that.
A: What I actually think I like about it is it’s the epitome of removing all rules. So as much as it’s not that, it also can just be that. There are some people out there that don’t even consider grindcore music who play grindcore. I wouldn’t even say that it’s necessarily even music because if it’s trying break every single rule, well, then it can’t actually be music, it’s just kind of organized noise in that sense.
Going into this, I had a meeting with my two editors, this was before I started this project, four years ago, and I said essentially, “Imagine if David Suzuki was making a documentary on Jackass.” That was my objective from Day 1. I wanted to take it seriously in my approach as a filmmaker, but I also have to recognize that I’m documenting buffoonery …
I think the most exciting part about making this whole film was I’ve just been a music listener my whole life, I’ve never been involved in this community, but through making this film I have realized that there are some genres of music out there that are completely unaffected by the concept of celebrity and fame, and the fact that I just sent a few Facebook messages and being able to contact every single important musician in this genre of music from the last 30 years is quite phenomenal. There’s a true underground spirit of these people have been working together for so many decades on such powerful music, just to be able to realize these people are making a global difference and there’s no ego.
Q: That is one of the striking things about the film is how open and willing they are to take about anything and how accepting they are. Marissa Martinez from the band Cretin, for example, is trans and you never get the sense that there was ever any issue. Like, she’s trans — who gives a shit?
A: I would say as a genre everyone truly does give a shit about good things, and that is obviously a very biased thing to say, and obviously a very leftist thing to say — if you’re a racist or a homophobe it’s going to be a very tough community for you to exist in. That said, as you will see in the film the more extreme people get you’re going to see all shades. There is some very questionable lyrical content and band names that pop up and obviously it’s just to shock and offend the same way the sound shocks and offends. (Note: See late Anal Cunt frontman Seth Putnam, who is the most divisive character in the film.)
Q: Obviously I need to need to ask you about a Calgary band in the film.
A: Wake are a wonderful band from Calgary and members of the band reached out to me early on when I was in the early stages of development, really, I’d only done a few interviews. It was a band that I’d heard of, but I’d never really paid much attention to. To have a band like Wake in Calgary that is just that intense for those who at the end of the day want to check out something after seeing this film or even just based on this interview … grindcore should be intense and there is an absolutely authentic and pissed-off intensity about Wake that I was just so impressed with. We’re very fortunate to have a short live clip of them in the documentary just because they really are very riveting and singing about some very, very misanthropic topics so to speak, but, I don’t know, if you were to go to any city … everyone’s going to have that local band that means something to them, but right now Wake are becoming that band to other cities. I’m very impressed seeing how quickly they have become not just a Canadian amazing band but on a global scale very recognized.
Slave to the Grind has its world premiere Saturday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m at the Globe Cinema with director Doug Brown in attendance. For tickets and more information, please click here.