Stay strong since 1995! It is my great honer to have a discussion in Transgressor with the trilblazer maiden who gives me a lot inspirations...
Hello Rita and Toine! I am so glad to have you two, the true pioneers who have made one of the earliest fanzines for women in the metal scene, in the interview! At first, for those who are not familiar with Metal Maidens, could you introduce yourselves to them, and tell how did you come up with the idea to make a fanzine for women in heavy metal?
Greetings, we are Toine and Rita van Poorten from The Netherlands. We started Metal Maidens in the summer of 1995 and published a fanzine about women in heavy metal and hard rock. We also focused on the punk rock scene and in particular (which was very hot at the time) the Riot Grrrl movement.
The reason to start a fanzine about female rockers was because I (Rita) thought the women in rock and metal weren’t given the proper credits. I decided to do something about it by publishing a ‘zine about and for female rockers to get them noticed and recognized for their input and not just their looks. I also missed a very important part of information in the many established music magazines and I wanted to share that with mutual fans from all over the world.
How was your printed zine going back then? I have dug in an interview of yours back 2002, it seems that you pretty enjoyed making printed version, but why finally you stopped making it and turned to online?
We’ve had a steady group of readers and subscribers and a circulation of 300-400 copies of each issue (quarterly). We were very blessed with a nice bunch of contributors from all over the world. They worked very hard with a lot of dedication and it was all about the love of music and to support the female musicians. Those were the happy days, when people still read a paper magazine, bought a physical CD or vinyl record, instead of gazing at their smart phone the whole day and listen to songs on Spotify. The scene and world has changed a lot since then and not always for the best, I think, but that’s my own personal opinion.
Sadly, we pulled the plug in 2005… People didn’t seem to be interested anymore to read a physical ‘zine. It also became too expensive and time consuming for us to go on. You have no idea how many hours it takes to put a ‘zine together, get it to the print shop, do the distribution and have a social life and a steady job next to it. Also, a lot of our writers/reviewers moved on and as we tried to recruit new people several times, but failed. That’s when we (Toine and Rita) decided to continue Metal Maidens together. The positive factor is that as an online zine and Facebook page, we’re able to reach more people in our quest to support the women in rock and metal!
We have, almost overwhelmingly, so many ladies playing 'conventionally feminine' parts (singing in a clear voice or playing keyboards/violin etc.) in the metal scene generally. But it is relatively rare to see girls picking up 'unconventional' parts (for example, playing the drums, shouting/ growling/ screaming etc.). After the establishment of Metal Maidens, we got metaladies.com, metalgoddesses.com etc. Most of them report metal women whatever the genre is (mainstream or underground). Do you think such ways of reporting will lead to the situation that there is a lack of opportunities for the women who are playing unconventional parts to express their opinions?
Well, this is not a negative factor right away and their decision, but it could be. I see it as very short-sighted and maybe a lost opportunity for all those ladies who dare to walk outside the paved path or playing unconventional parts. So it that perspective I fully say “yes”…..
Do you mean that there is no need to change the way of making zines/platforms, just keep what the things they are doing here? Am I right?
Sure, the platforms/zines can always do better and focus more on the artist rather than the fact that she’s a girl…It shouldn’t matter anyway but that’s what is in the head of some people. That’s the same in other occupations.
Do you think are there any new possibilities of the zine/platforms to aid the freedom of female musician’s artistic expressions (such as experiment on images or alter the way of interaction between readers and the zine/platform)?
Hmm, tricky question. I’m not sure if many are ready for that just yet. To experiment on images, I don’t know about that, but interaction is always good. For us at Metal Maidens it has always been the music that counts.
It’s been decades since you came up with the idea of ladies’ metal fanzine. What have things been changed, especially for those women in the extreme metal scene?
Well, there’s a lot more acceptance, also in the more extreme metal scene. Therefore more ladies are picking up an instrument, instead of just singing or playing keyboards. Please give them a fair chance and the opportunity to develop themselves, instead of only bad critics. It’s so easy to put somebody down.
In the year 2020, do you think the extreme metal scene still need feminism or not? Why?
There’s nothing wrong to stand up for yourself being a woman in a male dominated world. Feminism is a word with a heavy edge to it and I’d rather like to call it equality. I think in the extreme metal scene there are still a lot of steps to be made but comparing to for example thirty years ago, things have changed radically.
Both punk and metal are essentially rebellious. We got Riot Grrrl movement in the punk scene while metal scene never has one. What do you think is the reason for this?
Metal has always been a way of life. The fans are very well-behaved and social and they love to drink a beer with their friends and listen to their favorite music. I guess, the only rebellious is the long hair and tattoos, which is more or less a tradition or an image. Punk rockers are more involved into politics and giving society a kick in the head. The Riot Grrrl movement combines feminism with punk music and politics.
Regard to the way of handling gender inequality, do you think are there any differences between punk and extreme metal?
We feel that punk rockers are more rebellious against the establishment and against the given rules and laws, whereas extreme metal turns itself more against other stuff like religion for example. But we don’t really think that they think differently about gender inequality in common. Both styles don’t really think in gender differences in our opinion. It’s not a topic they’re using in their lyrics, although punk comes closer to the Riot Grrrl movement and I think that punk rockers are more against gender inequality for that reason. They actually don’t think in ‘labels’, ‘boxes’ or ‘genders’. To them we are all the same, we’re all human beings in their opinion. Where we do see that in the extreme metal world, is still a bit more a male dominated streaming, but the topic is less an issue here. The extreme metal fans and bands have got other things on their mind to worry about. Also, we think that there are more female fans into punk rock rather than extreme metal.
You mentioned there are more female fans into punk rock than extreme metal. I am curious, why does this happen?
For example in the early 80s, late 70s punk rock bands like The Runaways or Blondie (Deborah Harry) already paved the way for a lot of women and the extreme metal came much much later. The punk rock genre is also much more accessible, I guess.
The Facebook page of Metal Maidens ’Zine is updated regularly. Is your original site (www.metalmaidens.com) still active like the Facebook one? If it is possible, are you willing to return to the printed version of Metal Maidens?
Yep, the official website of Metal Maidens is updated regularly and we will keep it alive for as long as we think we can make the difference to support all these female rockers and metal ladies.
Unfortunately, the printed ‘zine is not an option anymore….. Like I mentioned earlier in this interview, it has been a lot of fun making it and I’m really proud that we made forty magazines and two specials about female cover bands and a special about the Ladyfest in Glasgow, Scotland. That was then and we’re living in a totally different time frame now. Clearly, a lot of readers get their information through the internet, instead of reading a magazine. Also there’s no support from the major labels, like in the old days and we buy 80+% of all the stuff that we review ourselves and the rest is from independent (DIY) artists and small labels, which we welcome very much.
Thanks for being interviewed! Any last words for readers and those girls who want to live a metal life?
Thank you so much for the interview, Ming! To to all our readers and those girls who want to live a metal life, I’d like to say: keep the metal flame burning and follow your dreams! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!!
You can find the official Metal Maidens website at: http://www.metalmaidens.com and our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/MetalMaidensZine