Situated bang in the middle of the south Pacific lies French Polynesia, which is an island archipelago and overseas collectivity of France. With strong historical links between the English, French, Spanish and indigenous Polynesian peoples. The question you're most probably asking right now is how on earth (deliberate pun) did heavy metal reach the middle of nowhere?
GMA decided to investigate and by interviewing one Joachim Kahlert, who alongside Michael Brossard developed a whole initative for metal bands to tour over the island group. The "Tahiti Metalhead Tour" refers to the major island Tahiti from which the capital Papeetē is situated on.
So Joachim, when did heavy metal music first make it's appearance in French Polynesia?
Well Metal music arrived in French Polynesia at the end of the 1980's. Since then we have observed 3 waves of metal influence here at 3 different periods. The first wave of heavy metal saw the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, King Diamond, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath have an impact on us, but also Hard Rock bands like Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Scorpions, Def Leppard, etc.
The second wave came in the middle of the 1990's, this is when Thrash Metal bands like Metallica (maybe the most famous band here), Pantera, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Sepultura, etc, Punk Rock bands like Nofx, Blink 182, Green Day, Offspring and grunge bands like Nirvana, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilot, etc. all became known by our fellow music fans.
Finally the third wave at the end of the 1990's came with an enormous array of metal including: Death Metal, Grindcore, Doom Metal, Black metal, etc and naturally bands like Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, Carcass, Unleashed, Brutal Truth, etc and it was during that third wave that some local Rock and Metal bands appeared, with the first metal band being “Varua Ino” (which means “bad spirit” in Tahitian) with their debut album 'scum'. This was followed by other bands like Machetazo (Death Metal) and Maruapo (Death Metal). Because of f**king political ideas and religious influences some bands were forbidden to play in public because of the satanic ideas relayed by the Christians and protestant associations about how metal badly influences youth.
Nowadays the mentality has changed. We are now influenced by different styled of metal because of the internet. Metal bands can now play in public with still a lot of restriction because we play metal, but anyway we can now play in public.
So with that in mind French Polynesian metal is fairly young even though the influences have been around for decades, so how did the bands start and how did they tend to meet?
I think each band started with a lot of difficulties because of the bad ideas surrounding the ideology of being in a metal band. The first problems encountered was to find a place to record here, other problems include the prices of the instruments here (importing is expensive too), also the problems of finding a place to play in public is one that was commonly encountered. Metal bands and metal fans have been badly rejected and by society not understanding what metal means here, a lot of bands split up due to the lack of motivation, thus it is not easy to keep the flame alight. Of course due to our geographical position on the globe we have not had any major metal bands play here.
Of course it's a big dream for us and I hope to see one before I die, even though I think I'm still dreaming because why would a major band come and visit a small island group like us? Although we would cry our hearts out if they did, any bands from the likes of Metallica, System Of A Down, Linkin Park, Slayer, Megadeth, Gojira, Iron Maiden, Meshuggah, Hacride etc, they all have a chance at bringing out the small group of fans here, after all we are a small group of fans maybe around a thousand but we are a very responsive one to metal events here.
So owing to the lack of outside communication with other metal bands, you developed your own metal tour, so what was it like and how did you prepare it?
Simple, from the idea developed by Michael Brossard involving creating a metal fan group on Facebook 'Tahiti metalhead' (click link) who welcomed the entire group of Polynesian metal fans. Thereby enabling speaking and discovering of different metal bands who have known a little success. Then from that point the idea to bring those people to a metal event is born with the first small metal festival 'Tahiti Metalhead Festival'.
I’m the vocalist of the NewSwell band (click to watch the live video of "Bleeding Suicide" here) and know the others bands so we decided together to play on the same night. It was a real and unexpected success because it was as if the entire group of fans were waiting for something like this for a very long time.
So it seems as if the scene is rumbling quite well, now that 2013 is nearly done and dusted, what plans do you have for the scene in 2014?
Well we have created our own association called 'Tahiti Metalhead' and are planning the first tour with 11 live shows around the island starting from November 2013 and finishing around November 2014, the tour will feature 11 bands as we have 5 bands per live show.
Is the scene 'that' separated from the world?
Well we think so, it would seem that way to be honest as we do not know of any other metal bands existing in the Pacific, except of course the obvious metal scenes of New Zealand, Australia and the western coasts of North, Central and South America. Other than that we have heard about some metal bands existing in Samoa and Hawaii. Hopefully one day we hope to create a Pacific Metal festival featuring bands from across the entire Pacific Ocean, in specific the Maori triangle (New Zealand - Hawaii - Tahiti)
Finally do you wish to hand out any hello's, thank you's, greetings, etc to friends, fans, etc?
Well ideally I just want to say hello to all of the metal fans around the world and show them that in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, here in French Polynesia on Tahiti Island a metal scene exists and thrives. Although we are small island group, we try to preserve our passion and keep the burning flame alight and prevent it from going out.
You can listen to Varua Ino's album "Scum" in full here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbwp3rmPgbA
Check out another band Opsis here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deDLdr-ztkM
Watch a TV programme about Tahitian metal here: http://www.tntvreplay.com/Concert-Prive-du-Vendredi-29-Novembre-2013_v8144.html
Tahitian metal on Facebook:
All you need to know about the Oceanian Metal scenes