EXPLORING THE INTIMACY OF HEAVY METAL
“Metal is intimacy” he said.
I had been trying for so long to find the words to express what heavy metal meant to me, and here he was, saying it so effortlessly. Intimacy. Yes! He was so damn right.
The problem is, we tend to confuse what that means. Sometimes we think its sex. Others think its love. But it is neither of those things. Sex and love can happen around intimacy, but they are not mutually exclusive, nor are they the same thing.
To a layman, a metalhead is bizarre. ‘Normal’ people see us as drug toking rowdies, deriving pleasure out of heavy music that makes little to no sense to the outside world. It’s easy to misinterpret what you don’t understand and certainly don’t relate to. When we say heavy, we mean loaded with layer upon layer of sound that works together in a way that completes us.
Vimukthi (Mookie) and I met at a gig over a decade ago, discovered ourselves groupies of the same local bands and mostly, even to date – we talk about music. Have you heard this band? Isn’t that album awesome? The drum solo blew my mind. I can’t get over that riff.
If you know a metalhead you might find these behaviours familiar: we will talk too much or may not talk to you at all. We are at once, sullen and sociable. Mostly, we talk about music and dark shit. But sometimes we are hopeless romantics. And the only way we know to tell you how we really feel is with a song.
Sharing my music with someone is my deepest form of intimacy. If I have ever shared a song with you, sent you a link on WhatsApp, posted on your wall or made you a playlist – know that you mean something.
Even in my most private of moments, my darkest days and brightest nights, I get intimate with my music. It is an altogether different kind of intimacy, a deeply personal one; possibly what Mookie was trying to say too. Fuck those dark days and ugly people we have to encounter sometimes. Fuck it all, we are metalheads.
Mookie is authentic. He has been to just about every rock and metal gig in Sri Lanka since he was a teenager. In that time, he collected every ticket stub, poster, band t shirt and CD release he could get his hands on. For me, this too is intimacy. Saving tokens of metal concerts is like holding onto old love letters after the love is long gone. Only in this case, the passion remains and stays with you long after the last echoes of a distortion pedal have faded into the night. We have learned to let go of the bad stuff, by holding on to heavy metal.
I wanted to explore these thoughts and our conversations, and bring all his intimate memorabilia into a series of photos that would pay tribute to our extended family of metalheads everywhere. Shooting this series was then an act of intimacy for both of us, a shedding of fears and an intimate expression of the thing we both love the most. Mookie has been in bed with heavy metal all his life. And so have I.
Natalie Soysa (June 2019, Colombo)