Saturday, November 7, 2015

Heavy Metal At The JUNOs.

Hammer had a great chat with JP Wood about the new category in the JUNOs. This opens up so many possibilities and opportunities to many artists.

1) Can you explain the new category?

Starting back at the beginning, the Juno awards were founded in 1970.  Finally in 1991, with the introduction of a category called ‘Hard Rock/Metal’, both styles were recognized as legitimate genres of music by the Juno Awards.  In 1992, after one year, the term ‘Metal’ was unfortunately dropped from the award and from 1992-1996 and various nominees included Neil Young, The Odds, I Mother Earth and Alanis Morisette.  The category of ‘Hard Rock Album of the Year’ was cancelled in 1997.

Then we entered the dark times (1997-2011) where Canada’s national awards program did not recognize Metal.  Sadly, we were one of the only nations in the civilized world without a Metal category in their national music award program.  Frankly it was embarrassing.   While Metal bands like Watain are winning their national awards in Sweden (The Grammi) or Dimmu Borgir in Norway (The Spelleman) or Slayer in America (The Grammy) or Scorpions in Germany (the Echo) Canada isn’t even running a Metal category! 

Back in 2000, I personally petitioned (unsuccessfully) to reintroduce the award but to their credit, CARAS they did entertain my proposal for which I am grateful!  Flash-forward to 2011 and current Chair of the Metal committee, my friend Sean Palmerston, successfully worked with CARAS and the Junos to reintroduce a category called ‘Metal/Hard Music’.   There was much rejoicing.   Even though Metal was still mixed with various lighter music genres it was a start.   Thanks to Sean, Metal was back in the game! 

2) How did this change come to pass, why now?

It was a combination of timing and effort by a number of hard working dedicated people from across the country.  From my own involvement I was asked to be a judge for the award for the first year and by 2012 I was invited to sit on the Metal Committee. I had always pushed for a clarification of the definition of the category, which was so broad and inclusive you might have well said,  ‘If you have an electric guitar in your band you can go in this new category’.   Between 2012 and 2015 there was some controversy and dissension in the Metal community about the type of award, quality of bands, and genres of bands participating and being nominated.  I had always been fairly vocal about giving Metal it’s own category apart from genres like punk, grunge, alternative, hard rock and rock.  You would not believe some of the bands we had submitting to the Metal/Hard Music category…even a hip-hop band!   The category was so broad that the committee really had to screen out many bands that just were not appropriate for the category. We needed to tighten it up. 

Last year the committee petitioned CARAS to redefine the category to strictly Metal. Spearheaded by myself, the committee wrote and edited a long, long letter to CARAS explaining why we felt that Metal is a unique and distinct genre and should not be mixed in with those other genres, ‘just because’ they are vaguely heavy compared to other types of music. That is like saying folk and music and country music are the same because they might both have a fiddle in the band.

CARAS read the proposal and said, ‘We need more information before we make a decision’.  We sent some more info, refined the category definition and waited…and waited.   It was nail-biting but then the good news came.  I remember it clearly. It was around lunch-time on September 29th, 2015 (a Tuesday) and I was at work.  I checked my messages and when I read the good news I nearly jumped out of my seat.  A couple of my co-workers looked at me funny when I was doing my victory ‘fist-pumps’ in the lunchroom!    For the first time in 45 years (since 1970) Canada now has a strictly and exclusively Metal category called ‘Heavy Metal Album Of The Year’.  It was the culmination of several years of work, victory was ours! 

I just want summarize all this above background by saying I do not want to paint a picture CARAS or the Juno’s as adversarial or non-co-operative.  Quite the opposite!  Everyone in Toronto was supportive and encouraging.  However, as the national music industry association they have a responsibility to ensure that the Metal Committee had good accurate information and that the award was viable and sustainable. They had to make sure that we were not ‘just’ a bunch of over-enthusiastic head-bangers with no industry experience or credibility.  We could not have done it without CARAS. It is also interesting to note that last year the US split their Hard Rock/Metal category for the Grammy Award into distinct categories as well. 

3) Who will be reviewing your music?

There is a large pool of judges, men and women of all ages from across the country.  We have radio people, people who work in record stores, journalists, promoters, agents, publicists, band members, record label owners and so on.   The Metal Committee submit a pool of names of people we feel would be good, knowledgeable judges.  Then a judge selection group invites the judges. We (the metal Committee) do not know who the voting judges are and we do not get to vote.  The judges sign a confidentiality agreement and their names are only revealed after Juno week.  A big accounting firm runs the process so it is a secret ballot audited by professionals.   So to answer your question…I am not allowed to know who the judges are but I do know that they are true Metal fans!  I can tell you past judges have been cool Metal people like author Martin Popoff (Toronto), Tim Henderson of Brave Words Magazine (Toronto), Terese Fleming of the Noctis Valkyries Festival (Calgary), Geoff Waye of (St. John’s), Adrien Begrand of Decibel Magazine (Saskatoon), and dozens more.  These people know Metal! 

4) Is this reachable for any artist?

Yes!!  Any Metal band independent to bands on a major label can submit. We strongly encourage independent bands to compete and it is important to note this category is NOT based on sales or labels it is strictly based on artistic merit. 

5) Do you think more abstract genres will gain their own award given time?

Maybe but probably not for a few technical reasons.  There are literally hundreds of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres in every form of music.    How many awards can we give out and how small can the pool of competition get?  Speaking strictly in terms of Metal we could, in theory, divide it into the dozen main sub-genres (Death Metal, Black Metal, Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal, Doom Metal, Folk Metal etc, etc, etc ) and then again into 5-10 sub-sub-genres within each of those!  At what point does it become irrelevant to say, “The Award for the best French-speaking, neo-classical, symphonic, progressive, Power Metal band’ goes to…” and the pool of contenders were about six bands?    Does everyone automatically get to make the playoffs?  I’m not convinced yet. 

In the future I could theoretically see the current category split into ‘Extreme Metal’ and ‘Mainstream Metal’, maybe split along the lines clean singing, vs. harsh vocals or something but we don’t want to open that can of worms, we want to savour this current victory and prove we can do it.

One last point, there are already over 40 categories of awards…already Juno week is (naturally) seven days AND the ceremonies Saturday (non-televised) and Sunday (televised) combined run about eight hours. Can you imagine how long it would take (not to mention logistics and money) to organize and run 80, 90 or even 100 little unique categories?  It is almost prohibitive because hypothetically in the year 2032 after Day 17 of the Juno Awards Month people would start to lose interest and the meaning and prestige of the award would loose validity.  

I am NOT speaking for the committee at this point but I think my next personal realistic goal is to create a Juno Metal live band /concert showcase perhaps consisting of nominees for each city during Juno week and after that maybe try to get the Metal award presented at the live ceremony on Sunday. 

Thanks for your support!!  The deadline to submit is Friday, November 13th, 2015 and you can go to  The more bands that submit the stronger our category becomes! 

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