Personal career, take on digital journalism and black metal with Dayal Patterson
When was Dayal Patterson born, and what music did you grow up listening to, and how did that influence your nowadays career?
I was born in the early 80s in Cornwall in the very southwest of England, then moved into the countryside south of London at a young age and grew up near the capitol before eventually moving there. To be honest, I didn’t really pay a huge amount of attention to music in my first decade – my dad was a big fan of music, and my mother also to an extent, but the music wasn’t played in the house much except the radio.
I became interested in music in a serious way when I was 10 and discovered Guns N’ Roses. That was really the gateway to everything else that followed and by 12 I became interested in metal and then extreme metal. Everything from G’N’R to now was a gradual process of discovering more bands although I also explored other genres at the same time as a teenager, most notably UK punk.
You are a holder of a bachelor in photography, yet your career leans more towards writing rather than photography. How did this happen?
By accident really; I did pursue photography after I finished my studies to an extent and began taking photos for Terrorizer magazine and some others, but around the same time I was busy with my own fanzine, Crypt, and that soon led me to write for Terrorizer and Metal Hammer and as I got more and more interested in the writing, gradually the photography took a back seat.
For me personally, writing is a lot more fulfilling than photography and allows me a much greater deal of control over my career and creative endeavours, and as a curious person, it also allows me to discover more about things and people that interest me.
Of course, I am still very interested in photography and hopefully, at some point, I will find the time to do some ‘proper’ photography again, but I have to say that photography was just the form of visual expression that I found most comfortable working with at that time, and generally I saw it as something of a means to an end.
I guess ideally I would have studied photography along with design and illustration because I am just as interested in those things. And certainly, I always maintained an involvement with the design retouching, layout, picture editing, etc., both in my previous day job and with Cult Never Dies.
Working for big publications as well as creating your own heavy metal journals has been almost your whole life career. Can you describe how different it was working for big names like Metal Hammer, Decibel and more, compared to creating your own publications?
There are both pros and cons of writing for someone else. The negative thing is that you generally are not choosing what to write about (ie. a magazine will ask you ‘are you interested in interviewing this band?’ but will only occasionally accept a suggestion of a band to feature), how much to write about it in terms of word count, and you can only work when offered an assignment.
The main difference is that you have less work to do because you just write the piece, and then someone else takes care of the editing, layout and publishing. For a lot of people that’s all they want, but I ultimately like to have complete control of what I’m doing and so now I feel very lucky to be in a position where I can choose what to write about, how long that piece should be, how its illustrated and so on.
But having said that, I am very happy to be a contributor to Metal Hammer and Decibel, because these are high quality and leading magazines on metal. And when I was very active with Metal Hammer I ended up meeting and working with a lot of artists I wouldn’t have otherwise, such as Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, which definitely helped my writing and was a very interesting experience.
Digital versus print
How did the digital technology affect printed material, especially in a somehow not-a-mainstream direction as heavy metal?
It’s no secret that it has had a profound effect, and magazines almost universally have much lower circulations than they did 10 or 20 years ago, with that including rock and metal magazines. But on the other hand, metal fans are much more loyal and dedicated than most other genres and so the metal print scene is still fairly healthy.
Germany is the obvious example, but another interesting case is Metal Hammer Greece, which became not only the only metal magazine in print in the country, but the only music magazine in print.
In terms of what we do with our books, I guess the situation is fairly similar and I definitely think it’s fair to say that we would have sold more copies of each title if we were doing this in the 80s or 90s. But on the other hand a lot of what we do is very niche and underground and I think people treat books in relation to magazines in the same way as they do vinyl in relation to CDs – by that I mean that because there is so much free content online, the role of magazines and CDs has been undermined somewhat, but that means that people are more happy to invest in something more timeless and luxurious.
It also has to be noted that the internet allows us as a publishing house to bring these works to the attention of our audience in a way that might not have been possible in earlier eras, so in that sense digital technology has also been very helpful. And we create these books using desktop publishing, with all writing and layout done via computer. So that is another positive use of digital technology that allows us to do everything in-house.
Did heavy metal audience behavior and interests change all over the years since you started writing compared to today, and if so, in what sense?
In some ways of course it has changed, in part as a response to the advances in digital technology we discussed. It is much easier to be a follower of extreme and underground metal now, because everything is accessible at the click of a button. The most obscure recording can be played on YouTube the same day that one discovers the existence of the band in question, whereas in earlier times it could take you months or even years to find a record or band that you’d been recommended, even if they were not particularly obscure.
Likewise, people generally attend shows at a much younger age than they used to, and it’s much easier to find like-minded people with similar interests in an internet and social media age, particularly if you live away from a major city. It’s also much easier to distribute music for bands and to promote releases and so on.
Most of this I see as a good thing, but at the same time, there is no doubt that the excitement, atmosphere and cult magic of the 90s will never be repeated and I’m happy I experienced that as a teenager. It’s hard for those who didn’t experience black metal in the 90s to understand what it was really about, just as I can’t automatically understand what 70s punk was about, even though I love the music, because I wasn’t born. And that is where part of the value of music books lies.
What do you believe has changed when it comes to black metal since you started writing?
Well, it became so much bigger and more accessible, that is the main change to the scene. In the early days, it was hidden and more dangerous, and the community was smaller and tighter and perhaps more dedicated because of it. But on the other hand, we have many more people interested in the genre now, which is good for shows, it’s good for bands, it’s good that we have more females interested and it’s generally good that there are more bands in existence, even if one has to sort of wade through more generic acts. Musically speaking, black metal has only expanded and the result is an ever more varied form of expression. The genre has really never stopped mutating and drawing influence from other scenes and genres, as well as from itself.
In your own opinion, how do you describe black metal’s musical status at this very moment? Also, is black metal dying?
Quite the opposite, it’s bigger, more varied and healthier than at any point in its history (although it could probably be argued that the 90s are still the strongest decade in terms of releases).
What did you discover in black metal, that you have not been aware of since you started your writing and photography career?
Well from an empirical point of view I think my first book, ‘Black Metal: Evolution of The Cult’ did a lot to clarify how black metal evolved in the first two decades of its existence, in terms of how each band was inspired and how they influenced one another. And doing those interviews I was learning along with the reader. In fact, for me that’s the main point of all my interviews and books, to reveal things that have never been revealed before and create a better understanding of an artist and their work, both for me and those who read the finished publications.
You have been in communication with lots of black metal bands, did you ever have a bad experience or an unexpected one that in a way shifted your musical belief in something or another?
I never really had a bad experience that I can think of. Of course, I dealt with a few time-wasters over the years that would agree to an interview and then just couldn’t be organized enough to make it happen, but I don’t take anything too personally with that – I mean it wouldn’t stop me listening to a band or whatever, just because a member was difficult.
Generally my experiences with bands has been very good indeed, much better than I would have imagined when I started working on this series of books.
What does Dayal Patterson listen to at home while writing? What bands and albums are on the top shelf?
Oh that would be a huge list! The music I listen to most often is unsurprisingly metal and within that I still prefer black metal, so I’m constantly listening to new releases and old records that I might have not listened to properly (or at all) from older times. But I listen to most other genres of music as well, to some extent at least, be it Hard Rock, Electronica, Hip Hop, Dance-Hall, Death-Rock/Gothic-rock or whatever else. Normally when I write a chapter I listen to the band or album in question while I’m writing and then when I’m editing or rewriting it I will listen to something totally different so I can see if my writing invokes the correct feeling with its descriptions alone.
With all this massive involvement in the black metal scene, why didn’t you ever form a band yourself?
Well I did create some projects and played in some bands over the years – even some live shows – but nothing of any significance. I’m a bit neurotic about letting people hear my compositions so I decided to just keep them for myself. I realize that’s a bit odd and it’s a bit of a psychological block really, and one I should work on.
Actually I studied music recording before I studied photography, so I’ve been making music since about 1996 when I was still a school kid. But another factor is that when I moved into London I realized just how many guys were in bands and playing guitar and made a conscious decision that I would find another means to express myself, but one that I could still relate to music. That was initially going to be solely design or photography, but that evolved into writing as we discussed.
If you would have the choice to form one, whom would be on your line-up and why?
That’s a very good question. Okay, if we’re talking black metal and distance (and eras) wasn’t a boundary I would go for Hat and Pest on vocals (aka Gorgoroth’s Antichrist), then we could have Nick Barker on drums, Euronymous on guitar, Sarcana of Gehenna on keyboards and maybe Robin from Mysticum on bass and maybe some programming.
That’s quite Norwegian-biased looking at it, but assuming I’m in the band on guitar, so that would be two Brits and since this is a fantasy line-up let’s have Sakis of Rotting Christ in there too.
In Dayal Patterson’s opinion; there anything the black metal scene is lacking? How about the audience?
I mean there’s always room for improvement and every scene has its share of good and bad characters, but nothing springs to mind. Less moaning would be good; internet seems to bring that to everything.