Dayal Patterson writer of Black Metal Evolution of a Cult talks to HMA
All British metal-heads familiar with eponymous metal mag Metal Hammer and the similarly popular “Terrorizer” will be familiar with the work of prolific writer, designer and photographer Dayal Patterson. A talented creative professional with an abiding passion for metal, Dayal has worked with everyone from Behemoth to Blasphemy – and even Brian Blessed – notching up hundreds of interviews as well as photographing famous bands and contributing to liner notes on albums by the likes of Marduk. He has also authored a seminal book on the evolution of black metal. Here he talks to HMA in more detail about his love for metal and the process of writing his book, as well as giving some helpful tips about how to break into the industry.
HMA: Your portfolio encompasses an impressive body of work – both writing and photography/design – based around the world of heavy metal music and musicians. You have contributed to the likes of Metal Hammer and Terrorizer and done hundreds of interviews with some of the most famous bands in the industry. You have also authored a book devoted to the history of black metal. The first question I have is simple – why metal? What is it about this genre of music that captivates and interests you to such a degree?
Dayal Patterson: That’s a good question. I suppose that – in terms of music – metal is more or less where I ‘come from’ with regard to my social background. There are a lot of other musical genres and sub cultures that I’ve had some degree of involvement in from punk to dancehall, but metal is something of a defining factor culturally, socially and so on; I look more or less like a metal guy, I have listened to it for over two decades, and I’d hope to say I know a fair bit about it. Why it resonates with me would be harder to say I suppose – maybe you’d need to ask a psychologist! But certainly as a writer and listener, metal offers a far wider spectrum than most types of music, and there’s a huge variation in sound, aesthetic, philosophy etc even within a subgenre such as black metal.
HMA: With so many interviews with big-name bands under your belt, not to mention the photographs you have taken of famous metal musicians, are there any that stick out in particular in your memory, any that you are especially proud of?
Dayal Patterson: I think right now I would consider the book the peak of my work to date, and I’m extremely satisfied with 99 percent of that. The fact that I was able to include and talk at length with artists such as Snorre Ruch of Thorns, the Mayhem guys, Cronos, King Diamond, Tom Fischer, Master’s Hammer, Beherit, Mysticum, Blasphemy, Ulver and so on is something I feel very proud about. As you say I have interviewed a lot of bands in my other freelance work so it’s hard to select particular bands. I guess names like Alice Cooper, Public Enemy and Brian Blessed stick in my mind because they’re so different from the sort of thing I’ve been doing with this book. And I think the articles I feel closest to are those rare ones where I do the photos and the writing, for example a trip I did last year to document Watain recording their newest album in the middle of nowhere in Finland.
HMA: What prompted you to write a book about black metal and can you describe your writing process? The subject matter must have been fascinating, but did it also prove to be a challenge at times, to immerse yourself so thoroughly in a genre characterised by such dark themes?
Dayal Patterson: The truth is that I was already immersed within the genre, and that’s what led me to write the book. Not to the extent that there isn’t room for many other things in my life, but it has to be admitted that black metal has been a constant source of fascination since the mid-nineties and time does little to dampen that – in fact, I wonder if the mystery that comes with distance (in other words the fact that these events are getting older and therefore a source of nostalgia to some point) just makes it even more fascinating. And writing this book doesn’t seem to have got it out of my system either to be honest haha. So writing the book, structuring and organising it all, that was very hard. But it was (mostly) very enjoyable and rewarding and was backed up by 15-20 years of knowledge and interest. It would be impossible (I believe) to write a book like this unless it was a consuming passion.
HMA: Is there another metal-related book in the pipeline?
Dayal Patterson: I’m not entirely sure of formats right now, but for sure there is some more of this story to tell. I have created an additional collection of material that either precedes, or couldn’t fit, in the book. It’s called Prelude to the Cult, which is released via my own Crypt Publications and is in an old school fanzine format and features interviews with bands like Taake, Enthroned, Mayhem, Beherit, Clandestine Blaze, Archgoat, Sigh, Hades, Marduk, Maniac/Skitliv, Frost/Satyricon/1349 and more. So that’s available at www.evolutionofthecult.co.uk, and a second part will be out around summer. So I’m aiming to sort of expand the picture with these, but maybe eventually a second book might occur. But that’s way down the line.
HMA: You have been blessed with multiple talents, being not only a sought-after writer but also a skilled designer and photographer. But which, if any, of these artistic mediums is your abiding passion? Do you consider yourself first and foremost as a writer or a photographer?
Dayal Patterson: Too kind! Well I would have to consider myself first and foremost a writer these days. My training is actually in photography (I have a degree and have been doing it a lot longer than the writing, which I’m not formally qualified in) but obviously I do a lot more writing these days. That’s partly a matter of circumstance though, in terms of passion… well I would say that I enjoy writing more than I enjoy taking photos, but I probably enjoy looking at finished photos after the event more than reading my old works (which I don’t tend to do very often). But I guess writing allows more expression, at least within the modern music scene. I would like to do more fly-on-the-wall/documentary style work with bands actually.
HMA: As well as working for Metal Hammer and other metal publications you have also done work for the likes of Vogue, Elle and Saatchi and Saatchi. There is obviously a great deal of difference between those sorts of magazines and companies i.e. the metal culture and the ‘mainstream’. Did you enjoy the contrast?
Dayal Patterson: Ah, you did your research. I’m not sure if I enjoy/enjoyed the contrast as such. I have a lot of issues with mainstream culture, but I have issues with metal culture too. Most of the work you mention was when I was working full time as a retoucher/designer, so that was my day job essentially. I still do high end retouching (and some design for that matter) and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the work (partly because I’m very experienced at it), but it doesn’t necessarily represent ‘me’. I think most people’s jobs are probably not something they believe in deeply, I’m lucky to have work (like this book and my writing for Metal Hammer/Record Collector) that does represent me in some way.
HMA: Do you have any advice for young metal-loving writers/photographers/designers hoping to break into the industry?
Dayal Patterson: I always struggle with this question because my route into this was very much accidental and really stemmed from the fact that my fanzine Crypt got a good reception and led people in bigger magazines to invite me to work for them. But the principle is the same I think – work very hard at it and create a body of work that proves what you can do. Then make sure it gets seen by the right people. On a more practical note, I’ve noticed that many of the people in the industry today did work experience at magazines – I didn’t so I couldn’t tell you much about it, but it seems to be working, judging by certain careers I’ve observed.
HMA: What does 2014 look like for Dayal Patterson?
Dayal Patterson: Busy, busy. Promoting the book takes up quite a lot of time and the freelance work keeps coming in. But I’m looking to organise a few events to celebrate the book’s release, at the moment in Berlin and London (and maybe some festivals). And then I need a real holiday!
HMA: Thank you very much for the interview!
Dayal Patterson: Thank you for the interest and support!
“To order Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult signed by the author with the Prelude to the Cult zine go to: www.evolutionofthecult.com“
Interview by Amy Van De Casteele – Copyright 2013-2014 © Heavy Music Artwork.