Interview with Emily Harris – "If there were gender equality in the metal scene, then I wouldn’t have decided to make this film."


While growing up, Atlanta-based artist Emily Harris always was the typical ‘outsider’. From the age of 15, she simply fell in love with photography after taking a photography class. Soon, she decided to study photography and got her Master’s Degree in 2015. After graduating she attended a Modern Heavy Metal Academic conference in Helsinki, where she watched two documentaries, of which she befriended a Finnish director, Janne Tamminen. Turns out that this was a friendship for life, as the two are now working on a film together about women in the modern metal scene.

Emily Harris: Self Portrait 

The film was named “I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation” and represents an ironic look at what it is to be female in the metal scene. Later on Emily Harris realized is just as much about her making the films as it was about the women and men that she met along the way. She decided to add a little bit of her own story and her own perspective as part of the film. The film discusses many issues she thinks are important, such as inequality, groupies, sex, global issues, power plays etc. Her only real aim with the film is to provide people with a proper look into what being a female in the modern metal scene really means and hopefully raise some awareness to the issues discussed. The film will be ready around February 2018.
We had a chance to have a conversation with Emily Harris about her upcoming documentary.
Hi Emily! Thank you so much for making time for us to chat a little bit more about your very inspiring documentary “I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation”. Let’s start off with talking a bit more about you. You come from an artistic background. How do you define yourself as an artist and more importantly what has inspired you in your artistic career?
Emily Harris I believe we are all products of a little bit nature and a little but nurture. So I would say everything is what inspires me. I have spent most of my life focused on the
arts from doing ballet, listening to music, studying drawing, painting, poetry, fine
art, etc. You could say I am little obsessed with the arts.
Also, travel is inspiring. Getting to see different cultures, landscapes, smells, sounds, etc. is what really gets my engines revving. I’ve always used my art or art forms as a means to express emotion whether it comes from a place of pain or from a place of joy. Mostly, my work is dark and edgy and that comes along with my personality and how I deal with the World. All art forms are just an extension of yourself and I try to express who I am through my art whether it’s through my dancing, my photography, my writing, or my films, etc. My work can be too weird at times for some people.

Emily Harris with Doro Pesch during an interview

Now, “I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation” is talking a lot about gender related issues in the modern metal scene. How do you see gender equality in the metal scene?
Emily Harris I always love this question. If there were gender equality in the metal scene then I wouldn’t have decided to make this film. Period. Let’s just say the film will go into great depths to discover more on this topic.
I can totally agree on that, having grown up as a woman in the metal scene myself! And with the current society, I think the topic is sometimes even more relevant than back in the days. How did you get the idea to make a documentary about these issues?
Emily Harris It was something that I had thought about after I made my first film, so when my assistant director, Janne asked me about doing a film together on that fateful bus ride to the beach in Los Angeles I kind of already had a passion for diving into the
topic. I feel that it is a very controversial topic at the moment and I wanted to shed
some light on it.
In the European scene more and more festivals have reported rapes and sexual assaults. An example of that is Bråvalla Festival in Sweden. They even cancelled the next edition after many reported rapes and sexual assaults. What are your thoughts about that?
Emily Harris It makes me truly sad. It makes me sad that women can’t go to a concert and enjoy it and feel completely safe when attending. I have heard and read so many
of these stories. I’ve interviewed women, and I have been a victim myself of
sexual misconduct at shows.
I applaud anyone who protests against violence to women in any form. So good for them for standing up for what is right. It’s unfortunate that the acts of a few bad apples has to ruin it for the rest of us who just want to see live music, men and women alike.
Do you think there should be more safety measurements to protect women from experiencing this during festivals or concerts?
Emily Harris Although, that would be awesome I don’t know how one would make this happen? Maybe more undercover cops walking around?
Let’s talk a bit more in general about women in the modern metal scene. Has the amount of women who listen to metal grown over the years? Did you notice any trend, eg. a genre that women are more drawn to? 
Emily Harris The number of women has grown rapidly since the mid 90s when I first started going to metal shows. More and more I see women covering and working in the
metal scene. Even in Atlanta sometimes there are more of us women in the photo pit taking photos than there are men!
I think it varies for women, because some women are really attracted to the more extreme metal sub genres like myself and some stick with the light and airy symphonic female vocal type stuff.
You say that women are interested in quite a variety of sub genres. But what about the men in these genres? Do you think that gender equality depends on the genre as well?
Emily Harris I think it’s probably the same across the board because all genres of metal are still heavily male dominated. Plus it also depends on what culture, and what city, state, or country you are in.

Emily Harris with Exmortus

So you would say that there is a difference between different countries and cultures?
Emily Harris In interviewing people from different countries, I would say yes.
Would you say there also has been an evolution during history, or are things pretty much the same as back in the old days? 
Emily Harris I think we are living in it right now. I feel hopeful that women will and are being taken more seriously in the metal scene as a whole, but there is still work to be
For the documentary you went to 70,000 tons of metal and Tuska Festival. Of course those events are very different from one another, how would you say they were different to you? 
Emily Harris Both events are a blast! Tuska Open Air is more just like any big festival like Knotfest or Hellfest, etc. But 70,000 tons of metal is the most amazing metal experience I have ever had.
You are literally trapped on a boat with thousands of people you didn’t know were your friend yet! Plus all the bands are trapped with you so it’s a great opportunity to truly mingle and just ‘be’ around metal bands. I have made so many friends from all over the World on the cruise and it’s truly addicting to go back every year and visit with your foreign friends. Also, when can you say you sat in a hot tub on a boat on the sea while watching Carcass?!

Emily Harris with Lilith of Sorrowseed

What are the main issues about being a woman who listens to metal, which is
mainly a male-dominant scene?
Emily Harris
I plead the 5th (laughter)! Really, it’s just about being treated with respect and as an equal. There is so much more to it than that, but I’ll let my film do the explaining!
Are there certain stereotypes connected to being a woman listening to metal?
Emily Harris I think in main society, of course, being a woman walking around town with a Mayhem T-shirt and black pants and boots people are automatically going to single you out as being weird, at least in certain parts of the U.S.
But any genre where you don’t look, dress, or act just like everyone else does in society this happens. I honestly love being a metal woman and walking around town as a traveling billboard to support the bands I love. My family gave up a long time ago and just accepted that I am weird, and hey I love my metal self! Being normal seems way
too boring.
Now more about the documentary. Were there any bands involved in the documentary? How are they involved?
Emily Harris Oh yes! I have interviewed many bands ranging from all female to all male and some with both sexes. They are a huge component of the film and I even did a
couple mini road trips/tours with a few to get footage.
I truly am trying to get as many perspectives as I can for the film, between men and women and also different cultures.
It seems like the whole documentary has been a very long, but yet interesting process for you. What is the most surprising or inspiring thing you have discovered while making this documentary?
Emily Harris Besides that I thoroughly enjoy challenging men in bands to arm-wrestle me (laughter)? One of the best things about making this film has been the self-discoveries I have made on this road.
And learning/seeing how strong women in metal are to have made it as far they made it. Gaining the respect of my fellow peers (men and women) through dedication, diligence, and just being a good and respectful person has really been important to me. It has opened doors for me and it’s been so amazing at times but often after having to battle through the frustrating parts.

Emily Harris arm-wrestling with Gojira

We are already looking forward for the opportunity to watch the film. Do you have any idea when and where can we watch the documentary?
Emily Harris Well after I am done with the final edit I hope to take it to a few film festivals around the globe and other metal academic conferences and possibly some other unique or different metal related events. I will for sure have it available online at
some point too.
We have covered quite much about the documentary now. Let’s talk more about your favorite female artists in the metal scene. Do you have anyone in mind? 
Emily Harris Some of them are people I have interviewed! Of course the forerunners like Doro Pesch, Lita Ford, and Joan Jett (even if she is more rock) and Angela Gossow.
Modern day women would be people that I have also interviewed like Mallika from
Abnormality, Laryiah from Khaotika, the ladies in Castrator, the ladies in Nervosa,
etc. I also really like the vocals from Alissa White-Gluz. And more.
Aside from this documentary, is there any other projects you have been working on that we should look out for?

Emily Harris
To be honest this is the first year or so that I actually have not shown much of my personal work in the public arena since the film has taken up so much of time and
with all the traveling I have been doing to film a lot of it.
I have been collaborating on some music videos with some bands, mostly of me dancing ballet esc style for them. But there is one music video I am working on right now that is going to be truly unique and beautiful that I am super excited about!

Emily Harris during an interview with Myrkur

You have briefly mentioned that you have made another film beforehand. In general you must have done so many projects during your career as an artist. What has been your favorite project so far you have been working on?
Emily Harris I am super stoked when I get to do any project. I really enjoy it when other artists use – and often abuse me – (laughter) for their projects too. For example, this year I
have done a few live performance pieces where I read Baudelaire and Shakespeare or other live performance art pieces in galleries.
I also love being both in front of and behind the camera because it’s intriguing to see how other photographers work.
The Atlanta metal thesis work that I did was a major stepping-stone for me in my life and my career so I would have to say that was the biggest game changer for me so far.
Before we wrap this up, we have one last question. What does the future bring for Emily Harris? Do you have any other projects in mind?
Emily Harris I plan to just keep working on this film, as it’s a ton of work to do mostly solo. Other than that, I hope possibly one day to come out with a metal related photo
book since I have so many moments with bands both on stage and off and metal
fans and events I have taken photographs at. Otherwise, I’ll just keep trying to
kick ass and take names.

I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation” Documentary film cover.