Frank Godla has dedicated his life to heavy-metal music.
Not only is Godla the drummer for the heavy-metal band Meek is Murder, but he is also the co-founder of MetalInjection.net -- one of the world's premier heavy-metal music websites.
And while Metal Injection started out as a heavy-metal video show that Godla and his friends created for fun, Metal Injection has grown into a viable career for Godla, featuring all things metal -- from news to reviews to videos of your favorite heavy-metal bands.
And in telling his story, it is clear that Godla's approach to his music and career embodies the innovative and creative spirit of heavy metal: Anything is possible.
Godla's love of metal began in the '80s, where as a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he listened to his father's cassette tapes of rock/metal legends, such as Kiss and Led Zeppelin. But Godla's world really changed when he attended his first concert at age 9 in 1991. "My first show ever was Guns N' Roses ... And that show at Madison Square Garden on their Use Your Illusion tour -- was when I really felt the grasp that music has on people.
"It made me want to be part of it."
Godla was hooked. He needed to immerse himself in metal music and culture. "So from there, I was just completely into it and all about it -- obsessed with it, really. I wanted to know everything about it," he explained. "So I subscribed to every magazine that I could think of. Every band that I fell in love with, I became part of their fan club. That's how I got a lot of news as well."
But while music fans now generally have easy access to their favorite music through the internet, in the early '90s when Godla was learning about metal, finding your favorite band's albums required a great deal of patience and determination.
Photo via Dean Chooch Landry
"Being a metalhead back then -- a lot of bigger stores wouldn't carry the albums I was looking for. Especially because I got really into European bands like Amorphis, Paradise Lost, Samael and At The Gates," Godla explained. "You had to visit special stores in New York City, and if they didn't have it in stock, then you had to special order it . You had to wait months sometimes for an album to come in.
"You had to make a bigger commitment to be a metalhead, for sure, back in the day."
As time went on, Godla found that he didn't have to rely on waiting months to hear music from his favorite bands. New York City was itself a hotbed of up-and-coming heavy-metal bands. Not only did New York City have several well-known venues, such as L'Amours, Wetlands and Coney Island High, that attracted top national and international heavy-metal bands, but it was also where several prominent metal bands got their starts.
"Going back to Brooklyn in the '90s, you had bands like Life of Agony and Type O Negative that had this unique thing to them, it really paved the way for a lot of other bands. And then you had bands like Candiria which spawned genres," he said. "Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that it's a huge melting pot of cultures, and it bleeds into art and music. And that makes a statement in and of itself.
"It's a place where anything can happen."
Soon, rather than being satisfied as being a passive participant in metal culture, Godla became an active contributor. Heavy-metal music has a long history of "tape-trading," in which fans would share audio recordings of their favorite bands with other fans across the globe. But Godla's participation in tape-trading was unique because he made and traded videos.
"The whole visual aesthetic of music really appealed to me. I was really into the VHS-tape trading scene. So, any kind of videos -- live videos, music videos of bands that I loved -- I would have my own collection out there and would trade with somebody else who had something that I wanted," he recalled.
And yet while Godla loved heavy metal his whole life, he was much less satisfied with his professional career as a young adult. "At the time, I really hated what I was doing with my life. I was managing a telecommunications company. Which was as boring as it sounds," Godla said. "And I couldn't take it anymore, and felt like I needed to do something."
That something was the birth of Metal Injection - which started as a video program that Godla & Robert Pasbani put on cable-access television. "At first, it was meant to be a silly TV-show thing. We never meant it as a business. We started it as a fun thing to do, where we would make a 30-minute episode for cable-access TV," he explained.
In approaching Metal Injection, Godla has always embraced a do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic. And this includes not only doing everything yourself, but paying for everything yourself.
"I don't ever ask for handouts or anything like that. I've always been the kind of person to jump in, two feet first into something and figure it out along the way. And that's how the experience came -- teaching myself how to write, produce, direct, film and edit anything I can dream up," he said.
"We didn't have any startup capital -- strictly just bare-bones DIY. So I really went out and bought everything that I needed, including cameras and equipment," he said. "When we started Metal Injection, we promoted it the only way we knew how. And that's through standing outside of shows and handing out fliers for it.
"Everything about my life is DIY."
As Metal Injection grew, so did the internet, and Metal Injection quickly turned to a web-based platform. "We became a website in January 2004. And even when we went to the web, we still meant it to be a silly TV-show thing," he said. "We started getting attention for what we were doing -- especially at the time when web was new with video, and YouTube hadn't taken off yet -- the fact that we had video was a big deal.
"The fact that we catered to metalheads allowed us to try and corner a market before it really existed."
As Godla developed both Metal Injection and Meek is Murder, he found it very natural to be in both the "business" and "art" side of metal.
"I think one makes me better at the other. Having a band allows me to come up with a lot of interesting questions for Metal Injection. Or create ideas for some of the series or exclusive content that I put together. Many of these ideas come from conversations I have in the tour van," he explained. "And thinking about those things in terms of the artists that we are revealing, representing and working with. On the other side of the fence, because I'm part of the music industry, it really affords me to be a better DIY band. I kind of know what to look for, what to avoid and be smart about the band."
To be sure, Godla experienced some barriers along the way. While Godla loves the DIY ethic, it can certainly be challenging to do everything on your own.
"I think the very first challenge I faced was, honestly, not having any experience or equipment for what we wanted to do. It was simply a passion to build something that didn't exist at the time, with none of the right tools at hand," he explained. "I borrowed my mom's Hi-8 camera, made some trade deals to get a few things along the way, and slowly bought everything else needed to be a self-sufficient TV studio on the cheapest budget ever.
"We cut so many corners, it was basically a damn circle."
In addition, even though the internet allowed for Godla to share videos online, the technology was not as developed as it is today.
"In 2004, we decided to move the TV show to the web, and putting videos on the internet was such a crazy idea at the time. The porn industry might have been the only web-based video outlet then. YouTube didn't even exist yet," he explained. "So we were forced to rent server space and host our own videos to be displayed on the site, at a time when that was expensive to do so."
Metal Injection was not an immediate financial success. "Metal Injection didn't start making money until about six years in. I was working a day job and doing Metal Injection every night for six years. I basically had two jobs to do," he said. "Metal Injection wasn't just a labor of love, but an actual economic loss for several years. Then again, so is being a musician in general, it's all about the passion you have, to keep something going, even when the shitty parts are real shitty."
But eventually, the perseverance paid off. "Then one day, the switch came up. It was like 'we've made enough money where we can all afford to quit our day jobs now!'," he explained. "And fortunately, being creative and metal is my full-time job now.
"So I won my own personal lottery."
Websites such as Metal Injection have helped heavy-metal music and culture to also win a lottery of sorts. Heavy-metal music and culture continues to grow and diversify.
"I always think back to the early '90s, spending hours in a record store sifting through all the metal albums they had in stock by letter. Back then, everything was sorted into very basic categories -- rap, pop and metal. I mean, that's how most people viewed it back then in general, it was rock/metal, or it wasn't. Today, I watch people argue about 'what subgenre a band falls in' or 'whether or not subgenrification is helping or hurting the metal genre as a whole.'" Godla explained. "My personal stance on it is that the very fact we're even having this conversation is a beautiful thing for metal.
"One thing I truly love about metal is how it encompasses every other form of music, art, creed, race, location and life in general. Think of any other form of music, whether it's jazz, rap, country, classical or techno, and I can show you a metal band that implements these theories in their music. I think in all art forms, the key is to build on what came before and push boundaries to create a new way to express yourself.
"And I happily refer to metal music as a true art form in every sense of the term."
More, metal is influencing the rest of the world. "You can find metal and its influence pretty much anywhere. We have more documentaries, books, tours and festivals around the world than ever before," he said. "A few years back, metal stormed into video games like Guitar Hero, and even mainstream reality TV. Pop artists are walking around wearing metal T-shirts, and metal fashion has even become 'a thing' these days.
"The success of 70,000 Tons of Metal spawned countless other music cruises who copied the formula. Even right now, you find the voice of metal musicians weighing in on the U.S. presidential election and other political-social issues, which affect entire countries."
But ultimately, while metal has grown, the essence of metal hasn't changed much over the years. A recent study of Spotify listeners found that heavy-metal fans are the most loyal fans in the world -- being more likely than any other group of fans to come back to their "core artists." And Godla feels that regardless of popular trends - such as the "alternative" music of the '90s - metal endures.
"Your average rabid metalhead has never really changed. The reasons they love the music that they love and the experiences that they have is the same as I remember it from back in the day. I hate when people talk about how metal died in the '90s," he said. "I think that's a load of shit. Sure, there [were] alternative bands, and they were super-popular. But when has metal ever strived to be pop? It was the underground scene, and it always will be, no matter how many big metal bands we have out there today.
"Whether you are at a Slayer show in the '90s or whether you're at a Slayer show today, it's still very much alike to me."
At heart, Godla is still the same guy who just loves going to see his favorite metal bands and to spend time with other metalheads. And he is thrilled that he is still an active part of the New York City metal community.
"I was born and raised here, and I'm still here. We have such a strong metal community where we even have four full-time metal bars," Godla explained. "You go to any other city, they're lucky enough to have maybe one. But we have Duff's and Lucky 13 and Acheron and Saint Vitus. It's an amazing thing to have all of these options that are all metal, all the time.
"The first time I ever set foot in Saint Vitus, I looked at my buds who own the place and said, 'Dudes, this reminds me so much of Coney Island High!,'" he recalled. "Visiting these metal bars can be emotional, in a way. I walk in, and I might see 20, 30 people I know right away. And I'm already several conversations deep before I get to the door to see the band I went to go see.
"It's like a family, an extended family that I visit."
And Godla is looking to the future to see what comes next. Meek is Murder just released its new album Was, that New Noise magazine called "mathy and chaotic hardcore that will flatten the listener."
Most recently, Godla has produced a new cooking series for Metal Injection featuring chef Brian Tsao. "I've actually been working a lot with my friend Brian Tsao. On Metal Injection, I have this series called "Taste of Metal". We take an artist, and Brian creates this dish for them. They have 20 minutes to re-create it, and he judges them. In the first season, we had Zakk Wylde and Ben Weinman to name a few," he said.
And Godla will keep learning from that basic innovative ethos of heavy metal. "Metal is music without limits, and I'd like to think it teaches all of us that anything is possible in life. But to me, personally, it's a whole experience. It's my life," he said. "It's the greatest feeling in the world to wake up and say, 'Shit, dude. This is what I do.'
"I'm a metalhead for life."