Girls Don’t Like Metal Interviews Guro Juul Andersen 3


Guro Juul Andersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Metal Hammer Norway. Incredibly ambitious and deeply devoted to heavy metal, Guro has built her career from scratch. She learned all that she knows about the industry by diving in head first and learning on the job, and over the years has become a creative force to be reckoned with. Now at the helm of Metal Hammer Norway, she devotes her time and energy to inspiring and educating the next generation of critics and creative luminaries.

Guro Juul Andersen

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 In your Twitter bio, you specify: “Yes, I’m a she.” What led you to clearly state your gender? Are you often mistaken for the opposite sex or are people regularly surprised to find out that you are a woman?

I would say about 99.9% of the time, people from other countries just assume I’m a man. I don’t know how many times I’m called “Sir” every single day. Then, of course, I open my mouth and my gender becomes quite obvious.

Often when I pick up the phone to talk to someone, the person on the other end will assume I am the secretary. When someone asks to speak to Guro, and I answer, “this is she,” there is often a moment of silence and then: “No, I must speak to Guro, the editor.”

It can be harder when it comes to email, as my first name, Guro, is uncommon outside of Norway and doesn’t signal the fact that I am a woman. You can’t read gender from it like you can with, say, Louise or Paul. And because they can’t hear my voice, it can take a lot longer for them to realize I am actually a woman. Sometimes when I meet people that I have corresponded online with for some time, and they see me face to face for the first time, they can be shocked, to the point where I think, “enough already! Get over it.” I don’t feel the need to make a big deal out of it, but I do have it as part of the bio on my Twitter account to help combat the problem.

I do get the attitude or vibe sometimes that, “hmm, a girl — does she really know what she is talking about?” This can last even though I’ve worked with them for weeks. Men don’t have to prove themselves to other men in the way men tend to question women in the same position.

I remember reading an article when a woman got the host job for Norway´s leading music show, Lydverket, on national television. In a newspaper interview, she got a surprise pop quiz about music and she refused to do it. Why the hell should she have to prove her knowledge about music in a national newspaper after getting a job? I personally don’t think the journalist interviewing her would ever have put a man on the spot like that, and I got really upset about it. I think this is something faced by all women in jobs dominated by men: we have to always work a little bit harder to be considered equal to, or as competent as, men at the same level.

But I am the first female Editor-in-Chief of any Metal Hammer ever, so I can understand it, in a way. In Metal Hammer’s almost 30-year history, there’s never been a woman in my position. I am unique too in that in addition to my editorial position, I also own the Norwegian edition together with my partner.

Within Norway, I find I am judged more on my specific looks even more than just my gender or name. When the press release announcing the start of Metal Hammer Norway was released, I was invited to a big radio show on national radio. I think the reporter expected some black-haired, pale, black make-up-wearing person — you know, a true Norwegian black metal chick. And here pops lil´Andersen into the studio, blond and happy as can be. I have no wannabe, evil-and-dark bones in my body. The face of that reporter was, well, pretty hilarious actually. She had based her entire interview on church burnings 20 years ago and how scary and evil metalheads are. I proved her wrong — victory! On the other hand, coming into the studio and seeing the reporter, I assumed she had no knowledge about metal and it turned out I had assumed correctly.

You live and write in a hotbed of heavy metal activity in Norway. How do you think the Norwegian scene differs from the larger European metal scene or the North American heavy metal community?

After the rise of the Internet, I think some of the typical genre divisions, especially along geographical lines, that we used to have were wiped away, and kids are not afraid to experiment with different styles. I really love that, because from it comes amazing, ruthless new music. But when it comes to true black metal, you can’t really mess about too much with it. True black metal is more than music; it’s a spirit and it has a living, breathing, powerful force of its own. If you don’t have that force in you, I don’t think you can do that truthfully, and that will shine through.

I think Norwegians might have a somewhat darker mentality than other people, even though there are some amazing black metal bands from the U.S., and I think France is now home to some amazing bands too. Almost six months of the year, it’s pitch black up here and I believe that does something with the spirit and soul. We are nature’s folk, so paying respect to the true force of nature is also very important for many metal musicians up here in the North. They live what they write; it is dark up here, it is ice cold, we have heavy blizzards and that truth comes out in much of our music.

Does the Norwegian metal scene, and Norwegian metalheads, treat women differently than you believe female metalheads are regarded in other parts of the world?

One of the many things I love about metal is that we’re a family. We might be a dysfunctional family, but goddammit we’re a family all the same! It’s not a matter of gender when it comes to having fun at gigs; we’re all metalheads together! As long as you’re having fun with your friends, I don’t think we care if you’re a boy or a girl.

How did you first begin to work in the heavy metal industry? What was the path you took to getting to the position you are in today: the Editor-in-Chief of Metal Hammer Norway?

I started listening to KISS and Iron Maiden when I was quite young, so I’ve always had metal with me no matter what I’ve done. I went to University at the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts in the UK, as a theater major, so I’m actually a trained actress. After graduating, I found out that I didn’t want to be on stage anymore. I moved back to Norway and thought about what I really wanted to do with my life. I discovered quickly that I really wanted to do PR for a record label. I took a shot, contacted BMG Norway, which is now Sony Music Norway, and got my first job as a PR and marketing assistant there.

I learned the music industry from the bottom up and worked ridiculous hours to suck in every little bit of knowledge. Then I moved on and became head of PR for some other labels before I started my own PR company, focusing on hard rock and metal. Then I did some freelance work for Indie Recordings, a big Norwegian record label, with bands like Enslaved, Borknagar, Satyricon, Audrey Horne, God Seed, Wardruna, 1349 and more. They ended up hiring me and I stayed with them for a few years as a publicist.

As well as Indie Recordings, I worked for labels like Nuclear Blast, Metal Blade, SPV Steamhammer, Fat Wreck, AFM and many more, but it was through Indie Recordings that I got to know the Metal Hammer UK, Metal Hammer Germany and the Terrorizergang, and they got me hooked on starting the magazine. Metal Hammer has different designs depending on the country a section is based in, but I wanted to have the UK design base for my magazine. So after working together with Future Publishing, which owns the Metal Hammer UK brand name, working really bloody hard for over a year, I finally got the licence to start Metal Hammer Norway. Then I started to search for a perfect partner and found him in Espen Mosbakk, who also has a label background. We started a publishing house and Metal Hammer Norway was our first magazine. It hasn’t been the easiest route, so I don’t recommend this to anyone unless you have balls of steel and no fear. And no common sense [laughs].

Metal Hammer Norway

 

What is your relationship like with your writers? What do you look for when new writers come to you pitching a feature or hoping to join the Metal Hammer team?

My writers, photographers and designers are my everything. Without them, there would be 100 blank pages in the magazine. Well, almost — there would be 99 blank pages and a “Letter from the Editor!”

I have the best writers and photographers, and I trust them 100%. I know any story they give me will be a killer and I know I’ll get some great shots. That makes my life so much easier. I have kissed a lot of frogs to find my perfect crew and I continue to do that. To find great people, I have had to take risks. Everyday I get emails from people that want to be a part of this and I love trying out new people.

To become a part of the Metal Hammer Norway crew, you have to have excellent writing skills and be able to ask questions that not everyone has asked a particular band before. You will always get some new knowledge about a band when you read Metal Hammer Norway. That is the basic requirement.

We have an amazing design crew as well and they are as important as the writers and reviewers. When we were starting this mag, I wanted every page to trigger a new thing in the reader’s brain. Every new page should give the reader a new experience visually. How boring is it to read a magazine that’s just white pages, black writing and a press photo of the band here and there? I think we’ve created an amazing magazine that we can all be proud of.

The music journalism industry is changing dramatically and content strategies have had to adapt a great deal in the last few years. What advice do you have for new writers hoping to break into the industry, especially regarding where they should focus their energy?

Do what I do: don’t give a flying fuck about content strategies or buying a band into a magazine. Metal Hammer Norway is as true as our metal, and I publish only what I think our readers want to read. I try to have a very broad vision when it comes to genres, and try to have something for everyone in each magazine. Whether you love AOR or djent, you’ll find something here. I decide what goes into my magazine, not labels, and if that means we’ll lose money, I’ll proudly go down with the ship, arms in the air, screaming, “We never sold out!”

My advice for new writers is be true to yourself and be true to the bands you love. Respect the music, even though you sometimes have to interview a band you don’t particularly like. You’re working with the heart and soul of human beings, and words can kill. A journalist, especially one working at this level, is in a very special position, so never abuse your power in any way, shape or form. Always be humble and remember that artists are just metalheads like us in the end.

What is your favourite genre of metal? What do you tend to listen to the most? What is it about this type of metal that you most connect to or identify with?

That’s a terrible question! It’s like bloody Sophie’s Choice! I listen to everything, and my tastes are more band- and mood-related than genre-related. My all time favourite band is Iron Maiden, but outside of office hours I listen to everything from KISS to Skeletonwitch, Aura Noir, Audrey Horne, Journey, Whitesnake, Dimmu Borgir, Autopsy, Soundgarden, 1349, Van Halen, David Bowie, AC/DC, Mötley Crue, Motörhead — the list goes on an on. Heck, sometimes I can even go all metalcore on my arse!

During this interview, I’ve listened to Municipal Waste, Mötley and now Rammstein. That might say it all.

What is the legacy that you hope to leave, both at Metal Hammer Norway and in the world of heavy metal in general? What do you most want to accomplish?

I want Metal Hammer Norway to have a part in getting our readers to be open to new genres and to listen to more music! I want to have people say, “I want to do that! I can do that! I want to be active, be creative and get involved!”

If I can inspire one kid to explore the awesomeness that is music, my work is done. Music changes lives.


3 thoughts on “Girls Don’t Like Metal Interviews Guro Juul Andersen

  • Tanja

    Great interview here, Natalie and Guro! Really enjoyed reading this one.

    I’d just like to add one thing regarding Norwegian BM vs BM from other places: there is something that comes with territory that makes Norwegian BM stand out, not that it’s better or worse, it’s just a thing of its own. It’s more than Norwegian mentality, because when you come to Norway, you can feel black metal literally seeping through your skin with every breath you take, regardless whether you’re a fan or not. So there must be something in Norwegian air or water that makes their black metal especially… vitriolic, I guess :)

    Just my 2 cents.

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