OAKMONT, Pa. – Pennsylvania native, Edward Banchs, 35, has incorporated his three passions into a project he has been working on since 2010: Africa, heavy metal music, and writing.
Banchs has been writing his first novel, “Heavy Metal Africa,” since 2010 after the idea came to him while he was attending graduate school. He first graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Anthropology. He then obtained his Master’s degree in African Studies from University of London at the School of Oriental African Studies.
Banchs’ first love for music is what inspired him on his journey. Right out of high school, Banchs went to Penn State Altoona in his hometown to study art, but was soon unsatisfied. After three semesters, he dropped out of college to join a touring heavy metal band, Negative Theory, as a guitarist.
After taking several years off from college to play music, Banchs decided to leave the band, and with the support of his mother, moved to Florida, where she lived. There, he told his mother that he was going to go back to college, but that he was going to study Africa.
“When I was in school as a Political Science major, all of my professors were really cool with me reworking all of the assignments I was given to cater towards Africa,” Banchs explained.
“While I was in graduate school, I had this idea with my friend there who was studying metal culture. One of the things I said to him was that I wanted to bridge Africa and metal together because I knew that there was metal in Africa, but there’s nothing going on in terms of promotion there.”
Throughout Banchs’ college career, he immersed himself in the metal and African culture. Although Banchs was drawn to Africa, for an indescribable reason, he was able to learn more about the culture, music scene, and people by living in Florida. Banchs started ransacking the bookstore he worked at to learn as much as he could. Florida had a large migrant community from around the United States, but also from other countries and continents around the world, Banchs explained.
“I was meeting a lot of Africans while I was living in Florida,” Banchs said. “The way I would talk to them they would say that I spoke like an African because when I talked about Africa my face would get lit up.”
After graduating with his Master’s degree in Africa Studies, Banchs moved back to the United States from London and worked as a substitute teacher. He had begun his writing and research on the heavy metal music scene within Africa, conducting interviews through emails. He wrote the first two chapters of “Heavy Metal Africa” and hated it.
“All I was doing was interviewing people through emails, but I couldn’t write about the place,” Banchs explained. “I couldn’t write about the people and the way their voices sounded, I couldn’t write about the sounds or the air blowing in through the window. I had a ‘what the hell’ moment and I said let’s go. I sold my guitar amps and a lot of my guitars and I bought an airline ticket to go on a six-week trip to Africa. I used all that money to fund my trip.”
Each time Banchs has gone on a trip to Africa in the last several years, he has kept his experiences as genuine as possible. Banchs stayed with friends and people who live there rather than staying in a hotel because he did not want to compromise his experience with fancy hotel rooms, he wanted to live like an African.
“Heavy Metal Africa” is going to include eight chapters and Banchs’ introduction to the content. He explained that this book isn’t just about the music or Africa; it’s his personal story about the places he’s been, the people he’s met, and the journey that has brought him to where he is today.
When Banchs initially began his journey to write a book that was going to bridge Africa and heavy metal music, he did not realize that he would also be connecting the “metal heads” throughout the world. Banchs has spent years of hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears into turning his dream into a reality. Through “Heavy Metal Africa,” Banchs has given the metal community in Africa a voice.
Banchs is planning his final trip to Africa in Oct. 2015, which will turn into the eighth chapter of his book. He hopes that when he returns from his trip, he will have “Heavy Metal Africa” finished and ready for publication by spring 2016.