Podcast on New Books Network

If you’re interested in my work, please check out this podcast for the New Books Network. I was pleased to do the interview podcast with Rich Schur for New Books in Pop Music.

Senses Fail and Sexual Identity

Metal folks will (or have) likely read in Revolver that Senses Fail lead Buddy Nielsen has come out as queer. In addition to celebrating another out member of the metalverse, I also want to point out that this is no Revolver scoop. Nielsen discussed his sexuality in a podcast with 100 Words or Less in November 2014. Check out Nielsen’s heartfelt and honest message in the podcast, words with which many of us who have come out can empathize.

New Articles on Heavy Metal and Gender

Hi everyone- I’ve been hard at work on a new article about communitas and heavy metal, but until that’s ready, be sure to check out these two articles!

First, a brilliant piece by Adam Kovac for Maisonneuve magazine, for which I was interviewed. One of the best pieces on Mina Caputo ever written.
Maisonneuve article: “Out Of The Pit”

Second, an article for the Dutch newspaper Information on their recent metal festival, featuring an interview with me about gender, sexuality, feminism and heavy metal. Written by reporter Anita Brask Rasmussen, and free here until 19 July 2015.
Information article: ’Metal leger altid med identitet’

Queerness In Heavy Metal: Now In Press

I’m afraid the long delay in updates to the blog is because I’ve been so focused on completing my book on queerness in heavy metal.

Queerness In Heavy Metal: Metal Bent is now in print and available via Amazon.com.  The book, published by Routledge, examines the many ways in which queer identities, performances, performers and fans exist inside heavy metal’s scenes and spaces.  Included in the book is analysis of the data from the Queer Fans of Heavy Metal survey, for those that participated.

In the coming months I’ll post links to reviews here, as well as my long overdue reports from the Metal and Cultural Impact conference in Ohio, the Metal and Community conference in Puerto Rico.  This summer I’ll post live from the international conference MHM in Helsinki, Finland.

Thanks for your patience!

Metal, Leather, and LA&M

Metal, Leather, and the LA&M
Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone, Ph.D.

This article was submitted to the Leather Archives and Museum for publication in their newsletter and on their Facebook page.  You can also find it here:  http://www.leatherarchives.org/resources/LAMSummary.pdf

We’re all familiar, even colloquially, with the popular image of heavy metal.  The stereotypical young man in leather and studs, surrounded by other men in similar dress, hair flying and hands in the air, while the air is filled with screaming guitars.  The problem with this stereotype, however, is the problem of all such images: they are practically myopic in their understanding of a subculture.  As a lifelong metal fan and a lesbian, I’ve always found that stereotype of metal annoying and incredibly heterosexist.  For the last few years, I have conducted research on queer fans of heavy metal, and the ways in which heavy metal fandom provides queer fans with a visual and visceral conduit for their marginalization.

When I arrived at LA&M in September, I was looking for all the hidden connections between the metal community and the leather community: two misunderstood and poorly characterized groups.  During the week I spent in residence at the LA&M, I went through entire collections: t-shirts, jackets, posters and photographs, playlists and periodicals, trying to figure out how metal and leather were imbricated.  I found many examples of the ways in which metal and leather collide.  For example, Rob Halford introduced the leather and studs style identified with heavy metal in 1979 and “came out” in a 1996 interview where he stated that he borrowed the look from leather clubs in California.  Interestingly, after Halford’s interview images in the leather community took a decidedly heavy metal turn.  For example, the 1995 International Mr. Leather official branding closely resembled Halford, as seen in this image of Halford from 1980.

Halford in 1980mr leather 95

Another example is this image of Doro Pesch, one of the originators of women in heavy metal, compared here with a leather poster entitled “Black Magic.”  The images have much in common: pose, clothing, even the fact that each woman holds a “weapon” of some kind.  Doro’s album cover, however, is supposedly intended for a male audience, while the Black Magic poster is supposedly intended for leather women.  The two images could just as easily be reversed, and for the queer female metal fan, both images communicate a similar message: women, leather, and pleasure.


One final example is a cartoon published in the spring 1994 of the women’s BDSM journal Venus Infers.  In this edition cartoonist Terry Sapp portrayed the debate between leather dykes and the discriminatory politics of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.   In one frame, three leather dykes stand along the Michfest fences, lamenting the music played at the festival.   For these three dykes, no rock and metal was one more reason the Michfest was not part of their community.

sapp cartoon

These are just a few examples of the wealth of information I gathered during my week in residence at the Leather Archives and Museum.  I continue to research and write about the connections between metal and leather communities, and look forward to publishing that work next year.  I welcome your thoughts and ideas as well, please email me via Clifford@ucmo.edu.  An important part of my research is a survey of queer metal fans, so if you are a metal fan and identify as GLBTTQQIA+, please consider taking my survey online:  http://www.ucmo.edu/surveys/?formID=4140.  My thanks to Rick Storer and the staff at the Leather Archives and Museum for their kind assistance, and to the Board for the opportunity to work at LA&M as the 2012-13 Visiting Scholar.

“I’m a feminist, and I …


“I’m a feminist, and I love Butcher Babies. I love burlesque. Not because I think someone like the Butcher Babies is a paragon of heavy metal sonicsphere either. But they are “hot.” As a lesbian fan of metal, I gain a great deal of pleasure from seeing them and watching them perform. The cover story in Decibel that featured Marissa Martinez among others is one of a few the Decibel has run featuring non-normative gendered performers. Martinez has been in another cover story for Decibel, and a story called “A Rainbow in the Dark” discussed glbtq performers a few years ago. Interestingly, however, those articles are infamous among queer fans for being so bad. They make it sound like queer fans and performers are rare, unknown, hidden, scared and secretive. It is just not that simple. If I derive pleasure from my “Hottest Chicks in Metal” issue, does that make me sexist? If we go by the definition that sexism is about power, and we decide that as a lesbian metal fan I wield little power, can that act even be sexist? And what about Revolver’s “Hottest Men In Metal” article and poll? Is that sexist too, or are we leaving that one out?

I guess what I’m trying to say, and what my work is focused on, is that the problem is not just sexism in metal. The problem is that we all continue to compare everything to masculinity. Metal, it is frequently presumed, has one standard: cock rock, straight white men with a growl and an axe (both literal and figurative) to grind. The consummate outsider that everyone follows- but is that person an outsider? If we continue to hold up the cock rock standard, then we compare everything to that standard. We compare the female performers, the queer fans, the trans singers (think about all the press about Laura Grace from Against Me!) to this single standard. We need to get about the work of questioning cock rock, about the work of seeing metal not as a great masculine monolith, but as the transitory space it is. That’s why we end up with the idea that when Dee Snider puts on makeup and women’s lingerie he’s really just so feminine he’s masculine, when perhaps we should think about what Dee was emulating in the first place. I think it vitally important, as metal studies grows and develops, that we work hard to avoid reductionary thinking about a genre/sound/community/space/place that we all know isn’t as reductive as outsiders consider it to be.”

From a reply I made to a discussion on Metpol about sexism in metal.