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Sophie K, specialist rock music presenter for Kerrang Radio and Scuzz TV weighs in on women and P.O.C bands in the rock and metal industry.
There is not enough women in the metal world. How do you feel about that ?
-'I very much agree,' says Sophie K, breakfast show presenter at Kerrang! Radio, ' I feel like the fans have always been open. Yes, I sometimes have had racist comments at festivals. But I've always found that the fans only ever cared about the fact that my knowledge was up to scratch. I think the issue is raised when it comes to the gatekeepers; the people who run radio stations, magazines, TV Channels and festivals.
'What a lot of fans of metal don’t get to see is what it’s like behind the scenes and behind the scenes, it’s very much a boys’ club. '
When we think about the 14-year-old Sophie K, we imagine her as a girl dressed metal and hanging with metalheads. Was it the case ?
- 'No ! Actually, around that age, I lived in Uganda and went to an international school. There weren’t metalheads. I was quite heavily bullied at school,' Sophie tells us ' I didn’t really have friends. It wasn’t until I came back to the UK at 16 that I was kind of able to make friends.
'People found me weird because I went to an old white school in Yorkshire where I am from and I spoke to everybody. I used to speak to the popular kids because I didn’t care if they were popular. I spoke to the rock kids, went to their gigs and saw their shows. I hung out with the preppy kids and the sports kids . So I was more just doing my own thing.'
Tell us about “Now Hear This”
- ' Kerrang! Magazine approached me, few months ago to write about the new artists which I am listening to at the moment and to talk about which bands I’m getting excited about; That to me is such a strong sign in rock and metal because I think we need to hear from different people.' Sophie explains,
'different people identify with different things so if we have people who are all the same writing columns, you’re going to get the same stuff. And a lot of people in the journalist world are quite similar and are all mates so it’s really amazing that Kerrang! got me involved and it says a lot about Kerrang! Magazine.'
In your opinion, how can we push the Black Lives Matter movement forward within the rock and metal scene ?
-'It's all about representation.' says Sophie 'There's a reason that there's more women in rock and metal now. I used to go to shows and I'd be the only female in the room and now I go to places like Bloodstock festival and there's way more women. I feel that a lot of that has to do with representation of women. People like Lzzy Hale are so important ! I went to see Lzzy Hale, In This Moment and New Years Day, they were all playing together and the audience was mainly women,' Sophie tells us
When you have women up on stage, it attracts more women and when you have diversity on stage, it attracts a more diverse audience.
'The only way for us to progress that within the industry, is to be more diverse. And those decisions aren't made by fans; They are made by booking agents and labels. Labels decide who to sign, they decide who to put money behind. and once that labels decided, that's when magazines start covering them.
We've got to stop treating black bands like a one-hit wonder.
'At the moment, there's a real trend within metal where people go : 'OMG ! I found this band from Kenya and this band from Tenzania !' And they show them once and then that's it. It's like a competition to show the most underground band. I've supported the Nova Twins since 2015 and if you are a real music champion, you can't just say : 'look at this undergound band !', you have to keep supporting them and that goes for labels, personalities and whoever you are .
'I think the way to move metal forward, is to create diversity within it'
Music is supposed to be an environment for open-minded people. it is a place for artists. However, in 2020, it is also a place for misogyny and racism. How can we explain this and do you agree that it is racism?
-'Yes it is racism,' says Sophie 'It's just not the form of racism that most people think racism exists in. Most people think racism is walking around with the nazi symbol on you and wanting to publicly, hang people but racism is so much more subtle and so much more nuanced than that. Racism comes in all different forms and I think that's what people don't understand.
' One of the things that I've seen a lot is that nothing will change if we try to educate the audience because the audiences don't fully realize a lot of the time.
Most of the people don't understand what it is to be black so it's up to the people in the industry to make this change .
' I honestly believe that if the people in this industry start making a change, the audience will accept it but the fact of the matter is, what has happened within rock press and with that old school is in new metal, you had white guys rapping and they're okay with that and yet when black people come forward and do the same thing , they're told 'that's not rock, it's rap !' They're doing the same thing and the only influence is the color of their skin .
' What needs to happen is that the rock industry and all these old men who are saying : "that's not rock, that's not rock" need to be called into question. What's happening now is that people are starting to come into positions, like myself, where I am able to call people out and I'm at the table when people are having these conversations and I am able to point at people and say : that's not right .
We need more people like you, Sophie K !
-'There are people out there. I can definetely say that Merlin from Metal Hammer is the best thing to have happened to Metal Hammer in a long time. I will never forget working at Team Rock and there was an article that went out online which I would class as transphobic . I didn't agree with it . They did it because they thought that metal fans would be transphobic so they thought they woul'd be able to rally that but actually, the metal fans didn't like it.
Because metal fans don't hate everyone as much as the media thinks.
I stood up in front of the whole team and called out all the bosses. I said : "this is not okay. We cannot talk about trans people in this way" I thought I was going to lose my job and Merlin- who is now the editor of Metal Hammer- was the guy who said : "She's right" and he defended me.
'I think people like Merlin are very important for the world of metal'
Our thanks to Sophie K for taking the time to have this conversation with us. You can find Sophie on Twitter (her favorite social media platform).
Check out this powerful playlist featuring P.O.C alternative artists : Voices For The Unheard