Lisa Christiansen is another brilliant woman who has dedicated her career to celebrating the music she loves. She serves as the host of the CBC Radio 3 show Appetite for Distraction, where she combines exciting independent music with plenty of chat, often veering into one of her favourite topics: heavy metal. She’s also the host of two innovative CBC Radio 3 podcasts: Extended Play, featuring in-depth discussions and interviews with Canadian musicians, and Full Metal Podcast, which focuses on independent Canadian metal. Lisa is an incredibly knowledgeable and positive radio host, and she constantly strives to give heavy metal more airtime.
How did your love affair with heavy metal begin? What was your first exposure to the genre and what was your journey to becoming a full-fledged metalhead?
My love affair with metal began where most of them begin: in the suburbs. I was pretty into KISS when I was 12 and used to dress up like Ace Frehley. But then somebody in high school told me about Black Sabbath and that was pretty much it. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that this was a man’s world or anything like that; I just knew it was music that really spoke to me.
I am a music fan into many genres and my favourite band of all time is the Smiths, but I think even there you can see that I have a preference for the darkness and fine guitar work. Metal takes it all to the next level; I like it there.
You have chosen a career that’s quite different from anyone I have interviewed for Girls Don’t Like Metal so far: radio show host. How did you choose that carer path and what was the process getting to where you are now?
I started in journalism as a Vancouver reporter and then went into music writing, only to come to the CBC and go into current affairs. I began working at CBC Radio 3 in 2001 as a producer on their award-winning magazine and then shifted to radio hosting in 2005. At some point, my diverse talents came together and resulted in a job as a radio host.
You are the host of independent heavy metal show Full Metal Podcast. What has the experience of working on that project been like? Is there a particular interview or conversation that stands out in your mind as a favourite?
We play a lot of good hard rock at Radio 3, just not much metal. I understand the decision: it’s not everyone’s taste. That said, I knew there were so many amazing metal bands on our site that weren’t getting heard. I made a case for a separate podcast and was given the go ahead to try it out. I was so pleased with the results and the response. My producer, Marie Bartlett, wasn’t a huge fan at the beginning, but has become a pretty good judge of the music now.
We are up to number six and each one has been such fun to make and all the bands are so very appreciative. As amazing as he is, Devin Townsend said my interview was the first time he had ever spoken to the CBC. I was glad to fix that.
One of my favourite interviews for the metal podcast was Jeff Waters of Annihilator. He is such a talented and generous guy; we had a great chat and then went out to see Lamb of God and Metallica, who were playing that night. I got to meet everyone in both bands; it pays to have good connections! It was a pretty great evening.
Have you ever had a conversation, on the air in particular, where someone took your opinion of heavy metal and music in general less seriously because you were a woman?
I have never had any response except surprise at the fact that I like metal; I don’t look the part at all. That said, I feel I can be a good ambassador for the inclusiveness of the genre. I have never felt I am taken less seriously as a woman and have only ever felt great mutual respect from the artists.
How receptive do you find CBC Radio 3 and the CBC in general to playing heavy metal on the radio? Do you think the radio is doing a good job supporting heavy metal artists in Canada?
Our new music site, CBCMusic.ca, is streaming a lot of metal on the Hard Rock stream, everything from Venom to Kataklysm and Slayer to Megadeth. I try and get a few metal songs on my show as much as possible, and listeners always say they love a little 3 Inches of Blood and Bison B.C. The metal podcasts are also popular with non-metal fans from Radio 3, who like to be exposed to all kinds of music. I find that extremely gratifying.
The Junos have recently reintroduced its awards category honouring heavy metal musicians in Canada. How important do you think this move is when it comes to acknowledging the contributions of Canadian metal artists? What do you think of this year’s nominees?
I was so pleased when I saw the Junos added a metal category. I truly think it is one of the most creative genres of music, which can so easily be overlooked since it doesn’t get a lot of mainstream radio play or exposure. I was quite happy with the nominees too. It’s so nice to see such a huge range of metal, from the more traditional hard rock style of Anvil to the intense and creative KEN Mode.
What do you think is the relationship between live music and radio play? How often do you attend live shows?
Bands don’t need to be part of traditional radio to become successful these days. The Internet has so many more niche options for listening and people discover on their own what and who they want to listen to. It amazes me to get out to a show and see how many people have heard of the bands we play. Bands have a real opportunity now to grow their audiences and they are doing it all extremely well. I attend lots of live shows, but never as many as I would like to. It’s never been a better time to be a music fan.
What advice would you have for a metal-minded woman interested in pursuing a similar career path?
In the words of Henry Rollins: “Don’t think about it, do it!” If you truly love this music, find a way to be part of it: write a blog, start a podcast. You can pretty much do anything now to get your music and message out. And remember, being a woman is your advantage: it makes you rare and exceptional. But then, you knew that already.