It was my first metal show ever. As I walked up to Funky Winkerbeans on West Hastings, I fought an urge to slowly back away, as though I’d encountered a grizzly.
I was dressed like my mom at a soccer game. People clad in leather and studs, and otherwise appearing intimidating to me, gathered at the entrance.
But judging a book by its cover is, as ever, foolish: Everyone just seemed stoked to have someone new checking out their scene and made me very welcome. I relaxed, got some drinks, and focused on the hardcore percussion of Dead Asylum‘s female drummer.
She is Samantha Landa, with a mane of curly auburn hair, no tattoos, and blue lipstick. And she’s a force to be reckoned with behind a drum kit. I wanted to find out more about her, but the 27-year-old is one of the busiest people in Vancouver. So after my ears stopped ringing, we caught up over email.
You’re rocking the metal scene in a major way, drumming for Dead Asylum. How did that happen?
I’ve been drumming for 15 years, but I only started getting into the Vancouver metal scene in 2008. When I was at UBC, I co-founded a ‘folk metal’ band (yep, it sounds paradoxical).
The community is really tight, and even though girls are still somewhat of a minority we have a lot of ‘brothers’ who stick up for us the way we’d stick up for them. The whole concept of family extends far outside of blood relations.
What IS the Vancouver metal scene?
It’s a community of like-minded individuals who are drawn to heavy music and its culture. The 19+ scene typically hangs out at Funky Winkerbeans, the Rickshaw or the Astoria – all in the Downtown Eastside, presumably due to people erroneously misinterpreting our behaviour. We’re seriously lacking in venues for metal in Vancouver.
I’m a drumming (and metal) noob. Is metal drumming different … than other kinds of drumming?
In some ways, yes. You often end up testing your endurance with metal drumming, although some of the best drummers I know are technical as well. We typically play patterns with our feet, which isn’t that common in other genres.
What have you found people normally think about metal musicians?
I’m a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure: corporate marketing specialist by day, metal drummer by night. When coworkers or friends outside the metal scene come and see us play, they’re surprised, but they always have a great time.
People seem to think metal musicians are dark, brooding creatures that must fight a lot from listening to scary, violent-sounding music. I can guarantee that the people who think this have never been to a metal concert and don’t know any metalheads.
In fact, metal aficionados are usually the nicest, gentlest, and well-behaved group of all. It’s probably because we’re all just happy nerds who deal with our emotions by listening to aggressive music and moshing at live shows.
I was definitely intimidated, but it was totally misplaced. Do you know a lot of female metal drummers? I’m certainly no expert, but you seem like a rare breed.
I think there are more of us now than ever before, which is great – it means that we’re getting less intimidated to enter a male-dominated genre. I try to support female drummers as much as possible.
I love meeting people, so playing an instrument is always an effective conversation starter. When I say I’m in a band, everyone assumes I’m the vocalist. When they find out a drummer they usually ask a lot of questions.
What is the best part about being the only girl in a band?
I don’t have to deal with girl drama.
What is the worst part about being the only girl in a band?
I have to deal with girl drama.
What makes metal bands different than any other band?
Metal bands incorporate numerous influences and we probably have more sub-genres than any other music type. There’s death metal, black metal, power metal, thrash metal, symphonic metal, folk metal, neoclassical metal, among many others.
Metal musicians typically invest thousands of dollars into their equipment. Even if mid-level gear is technically sufficient, there are a lot of metal musicians who want the best of the best, especially since we may see more wear-and-tear (mo’ metal, mo’ problems?).
Where does the inspiration for the songs come from?
When Dead Asylum first started, anyone who wanted to contribute a song idea would write some riffs and bring it to the rest of the band. Now that we’ve been playing together for almost three years, we can just come up with ideas on the spot and write songs together from scratch. I’m not sure how or why it happens, but it’s pretty freakin’ magical when it does.
What is something you want people to know about Vancouver’s metal scene that you think they don’t?
That it’s safe, fun, and more accessible than you may think. It’s not a scary place to spend an evening. Many people have heard one ‘metal’ band and decided they didn’t like metal. Then they’re introduced to some other bands and end up finding some aspect of the genre that they like.
Also, I’ve seen thousands of people go to Iron Maiden and Metallica concerts but they won’t spend $10 to see Vancouver-based metal bands. Remember, Iron Maiden and Metallica were once local bands. You have to start somewhere!
*End of Interview*.
Connect with Sarah Gray on Twitter @GraySazz
Feature Image: Samantha Landa / Moloich Photography Ltd.