“It’s great isn’t it! A massive bull named Ozzy, right in the middle of the station!”
On the day that Kerrang! speaks to Lisa Meyer, city official types her adopted home of Birmingham are busy unveiling a huge mechanical bull on the concourse of New Street railway station. Saved from the scrapyard following last year’s Commonwealth Games, at which the Double-O performed during the closing ceremony, a recent vote to name the enormous beast (the bull, not Ozzy) once it was put in its permanent home, predictably, turned up the only reasonable answer. A fine tribute to Brum's heavy heritage if ever there was one…
“I've been championing Black Sabbath in Birmingham for such a long time,” she says. “So it's good that it's starting to seep into the mainstream now. People went absolutely ballistic when Ozzy got up and performed. It's great that it's slowly but surely getting recognised by the city council.”
Lisa has been banging the drum for music in Birmingham, both historical and current, for over 20 years. Home Of Metal, the project in which she’s heavily involved, works hard to (brilliantly) celebrate the music that’s come from the city. Even if the powers that be don’t necessarily share her enthusiasm. “In Manchester or Liverpool, they would absolutely celebrate innovators like Sabbath or Napalm Death or Godflesh," she says. "But somehow, because metal’s never been in fashion, and it's esoteric and on the outskirts, it’s not really valued, and it’s hard to get arts funding."
Nevertheless, in 2011 they hosted an enormous exhibition looking at Birmingham's musical legacy, looking at Sabbath, Judas Priest and Napalm Death among the ordinary fans who lived here, and in 2019, they put together a huge gallery of photos of metal fans, alongside an exhibition on the music.
More recently, this year they’ve documented much-missed pub The Mermaid, where the likes of Napalm, Carcass, Amebix, Bolt Thrower and other hugely important underground luminaries of the ’80s would play, unaware that what they would doing would go on to shape heavy music for a generation and more to come.
The other very big thing Lisa does in Birmingham is Supersonic Festival. The work of promotions collective Capsule, the DIY punk and peculiar music and art promoters she and a friend started to bring bands to Birmingham in the ’90s, in September this unique, unconventional, ear-to-the-ground celebration of stuff you can’t find anywhere else marks its 20th birthday.
At its inaugural edition, it was headlined by a then-underground LCD Soundsystem, while over the years it's hosted a vast array of artists including Sunn O))), Isis, OM, Gazelle Twin, AJA (pictured above), Anna Von Hausswolf, Modified Toy Orchestra and countless other sonic explorers. This time, they’ve got Birmingham industrial heroes Godflesh, Irish folk outfit Lankum, rising hip-hop genre-smasher Backxwash and many more.
That such a festival exists at all is brilliant. That it has thrived for so long while being the sort of mainstream-swerving idea that would give a business manager a cold sweat is testament to a pure vision and the enthusiasm of truly passionate individuals. We caught up with Lisa to chat about the history of Supersonic, keeping Birmingham on the musical map, and why having a pond in your venue might not be such a great idea…