METAL – A symposium to celebrate and explore the West Midlands musical heritage.

Probably the most maligned musical genre of all time. The term itself
seems to have developed as a critical putdown of the sound and the
players making it. Loud, brash, unapologetic, energetic and
unconcerned with subtlety, taste and gentility. Yet a genre which over
its forty-year history has steadily crept its way into the mainstream,
securing worldwide domination and branching off into myriad
labyrinthine offshoots along its merry way.

It is no coincidence that many of these subgenres, and indeed, most
would argue the actual genesis itself, developed here in the Black
Country of the Midlands. It is not a unique phenomenon that youth
culture springs forth from working class industrial areas (the birth
of everything from the Blues and Country to Hip Hop came from the
fields, factories and streets), but the particular character cited by
the pioneers of Metal in the Midlands seems to run parallel to the
conditions and heritage of this distinct area – its talk of grimness
and social depravation an echo of the images painted by Dickens et al
in the nineteenth century. The history and environment providing the
backbone for not only the mood of the music, but the impetus to play
it in the first place.

In this symposium we hope to bring you a little of this rich local
history with speakers who were actually hands-on involved in its birth
and development. We also hope to put these developments into a wider
context, showing how the symbols, mood and substance of Metal have
filtered out and spread their influence over a much wider area, taking
root in everything from modern art through to commercial enterprise,
marketing and advertising. With such a vast topic at hand, we will not
be presenting a definitive series of lectures, but will try to cover
as much ground as possible with all the speakers before opening up the
debate to the audience to participate.

As far as we know, this is the first event of its kind, dedicated to
this particularly rich vein of local history and culture. And we
sincerely hope it won’t be the last…

Tony Sylvester




Jim Simpson
Birmingham-based Big Bear, so called after the nickname given to Simpson by legendary DJ, John Peel, runs one of the oldest independent labels in the UK, specialising in jazz, blues and swing artists, although it has also been successfulin other music genres. Jim is the unsung hero of Heavy Metal, he ran the progressive club Henry’s Blueshouse where he inspired Robert Plant, Jon Bonham, Judas Priest and a plethora of others all of whom came see the legendary American Blues artists that Simpson programmed back in the day. He managed Sabbath for their first three albums, including the seminal ‘Black Sabbath’ album, then Paranoid and Master of Reality.
In 1984 Big Bear launched Birmingham’s jazz festival.  Now one of the largest standing arts events in Birmingham.

Edwin Pouncey
aka Savage Pencil
Born in Leeds, England 1951. left after 20 years to move to Colchester,
Essex, where he studied graphic design etc at Colchester School Of Art. Four years later he moved to London to attend the Royal College Of Art. Whilst there he started drawing the Rock ‘N’ Roll Zoo strip for Sounds magazine. After graduating from Royal College Edwin spent 7 months in Pennsylvania, USA teaching graphic design at Penn State University.

Returning to London he worked full time for Sounds magazine as designer, sub editor and illustrator for six years and is now a freelance writer/illustrator. Freelance work has included NME, Kerrang, Loaded, Top, Men’s World, Frieze, Juxtapoz, Mojo, Bizarre and is a regular contributor to The Wire.
Edwin continues to live in South London. Activities include: Drawing, etching, writing, playing “Noise” guitar, collecting records, reading lists and watching TV.

Mark Titchner
Turner Prize nominee in 2006, Titchners art explores the tensions between the different belief systems that inform society, be they religious, scientific or political. He sites the music of Napalm Death as distinctly influential in his work. Titchner will talk about the appeal of ‘abrasive music’ and describe his interest in how bands, such as Napalm Death, are able to use the voice as an instrument and push the boundaries of language. He sees a vivid resemblance between the style of Napalm Death’s music and what he depicts within his art.

Nicholas Bullen
 (b/1968) is a musician and sound artist whose work explores approaches at the extremes of sound. In his twenty-five year history as a musician (as a founder member of Napalm Death – creators of the ‘Grindcore’ genre – and Scorn), he has appeared on numerous recordings and performed extensively across the globe.

He maintains a number of ongoing musical projects including the electronic group Black Galaxy and the Monium label. His work in the field of sound art has included installations, sound design for artists radio, writing on the use of the voice in music and art, a tour of cinemas producing improvised
sound responses to key pieces of ‘experimental’ cinema, and lectures at art galleries including Tate Britain.

Tony Sylvester
A human encyclopaedia of musical fact and anecdote, currently employed by Southern Records as label manger and head of press. He also co-owns the record label Aurora Borealis, who have been pushing the envelope with challenging sounds from the frayed edges of the underground.

Extended panel of Special guests:
Karl Willets  – Bolt Thrower
Dave Cochrane – Head Of David, Ice, Courtesy Group
John Pickering – Doom (Kerrang radio presenter)
Barney Greenway – Napalm Death