Academia can sometimes be seen as a complex world. However, during the last few years completing my BA and then MA studies, I took advantage of university to learn about things which interest me most. I took the riskier and more challenging route to research a topic which not only I was (and still am) intrigued by, but also a topic which was not heavily researched by academics: heavy metal in Poland during the 1980s. Doing this allowed me to dive deep into Polish history but also learn and implement various academic theories. This also allowed me to look at heavy metal from a different spectrum, one which is not the mainstream view that we are fed by mainstream publications or media. It opened my eyes to a vibrant subculture making its own rules and enjoying life in the grim realities of a Communist government. For this reason, we should cherish academic journals because they have the freedom to look at topics from different angles.
Three years ago we had the pleasure of hosting a guest article by Dr Karl Spracklen about the academic journal Metal Music Studies. Three years later, Karl returns to the realm of MetalRecusants.com… Enjoy our new interview below!
Dom: Hi Karl, to start off, what are you currently listening to?
Karl: Actually listening to Roy Harper, so not very metal at all right now. The last metal album was Rammstein’s Mutter (you can probably guess my computer at work is on alphabetical-by-artist play). The metal I am liking at the moment is the new Wardruna and the fairly new Moonsorrow.
You published the first issue of Metal Music Studies last year. One year in, are you content with it and how it is being received?
It has been a very good first few years for the journal. This year is our second year, and we are already accepting papers for next year’s issue. We have had literally hundreds of submissions, dozens of subscriptions and thousands of downloads. We have just started to offer membership of the International Society for Metal Music Studies, which now includes subscription to the journal. Check out our new website http://ismms.online/, or the Facebook page.
For those of us who are not in the academic world, could you explain to us how an academic journal works? How does it differ from typical magazines or other publications? How does the selection and editing process work?
People who want to write for the journal normally approach us first with ideas for papers. We have traditional academic papers based on research or theory, and shorter papers that allow people to make an argument or present some ideas. We advertise to other academics and metal fans our deadlines and details. We also approach people who we think we would like to write for us – but of course they still go through a review process. The key thing that is unique to academic journals is anyone can submit to any journal, at any time, and everybody has to go through the same editorial process.
We have a two-stage review process. The first-stage is where we can reject a submission because it does not fit, or its referencing needs re-working. We do accept re-submissions of those rejected papers if they tidy them up! Then the submissions go to two or more expert reviewers. We ask them to read and comment on the papers, and make a decision. This is what we call peer review, and we do it anonymously. It is only once papers are accepted that we and the publisher Intellect step in and do some copy-editing and proofing.
What is it that you look for in an article when it is submitted to Metal Music Studies?
Originality and contribution to our knowledge about metal music studies.
How did the non-academic world receive it? Do you receive submissions from journalists, fans, musicians and industry people?
We know there are many non-academics who have subscriptions. We do get mentioned here and there, and fans and musicians are beginning to notice. But it is a slow process –interviews like this help, of course. So far only a small portion of papers have come from journalists, fans and musicians who are not academics. But again, that number will only grow as more people read the journal, and the short-paper format is something that will appeal to anyone who wants to get involved.
And how did the academic world receive it?
We have definitely got noticed by other academics! They are citing our papers and our work, and reaching out to metal music studies.
What would you say was the most intriguing article published so far in the journal?
My favourite was Salli Anttonen’s paper on debates about authenticity and Nickelback (Anttonen, S., 2016. ‘Hypocritical bullshit performed through gritted teeth’: Authenticity discourses in Nickelback’s album reviews in Finnish media. Metal Music Studies, 2(1), pp.39-56.). The paper was about reviews of Nickelback, but I like the fact it stretches the notion of what metal is or is not in our very own journal! It got the journal and Salli a lot of positive attention around the world.
How does the future of Metal Music Studies look like?
Very healthy at the moment, I think we have a new generation of scholars coming forward and getting involved as well.
Do you still see heavy metal being frowned upon, whether it is in academia or generally? Do you think that heavy metal should have a wider recognition and acceptance?
People I work with and people down the pub still smile when I mention my metal research. But we know that metal is important, right?
Recently, the French band Peste Noire were withdrawn from the Norwegian festival Blastfest on the basis that they have nationalist lyrics and are claimed to be right-wingers and racists. How do you view the connection between ideology, politics and music?
I think that was the right decision. Metal is about politics, so we have to recognise that and shape the kind of metal we want to have. I am all for freedom to be creative and to be contrary, but promoters and listeners have the freedom to reject that contrary work of art.
How does academia and Metal Music Studies fit into this equation and how does it approach this topic?
I have already written on this topic in the journal, and took a lot of flak from the internet for saying (some) folk metal is a bit sexist and a bit racist. But even when we are publishing work that says how important metal is, and how important metal music studies is, we have to be free to do research and publish work that questions the things we metalheads take for granted.