The Black Metal Vegan Chef is the embodiment of two very different and sometimes militant subcultures.
Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal known for brooding, often brutal imagery, while veganism, in all of its forms, is a lifestyle that squarely rejects the commoditization of animals. Neither is generally thought of as funny, yet by fusing the strong imagery of these two extreme worlds together, Manowitz created an absurd, highly entertaining YouTube hit.
We caught up with the musician, YouTube star, chef, and now author Brian Manowitz, better known as Black Metal Vegan Chef, to chat about his new
cookbook Seitanic Spellbook (available in January on his website), and his mission to one day rid the world of meat consumption.
What is Vegan Black Metal Chef? It's a vegan cooking show but there is no talking in it. I write my own soundtrack to the episodes, and the lyrics are the recipes and instructions for what's going on—and there are subtitles in case you don't speak metal.
Are you a vegan in real life? Yes. I've been a vegan for fifteen years.
Why did you become vegan? The short answer is that I don't believe in the exploitation of animals. The more in depth story is probably the most typical "why I went vegan" story in existence. I had a girlfriend in high school that went vegetarian. And I told her, "Well, I recognize that as the right way to go but I'm not ready for that yet." So I didn't do anything. But then about a year later, in my first year of college, I kind of looked at her and said, "Well, it's been about a year and you didn't die!' and if I recognize that as the moral way to go, then what am I afraid of? I recognized this as a fear in myself but it wasn't a fear of anything real, so I faced that fear and became vegetarian for about two or three months and finally vegan.
When did you get into metal? I've been into metal since about first grade. My first tape ever was Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood. I have been in several bands but currently my only other musical project is called Forever Dawn. It is my take on Industrial Black metal.
What do you think about the presence of blood, animal sacrifice, and cannibalism in metal imagery? Do you see conflict between that and the exploitation of animals? Not really. To me, putting pig heads on spikes versus the most wholesome pop singer dancing around in a leather jacket and leather shoes or leather pants, it's the exact same thing to me, regardless of the musical genre. One is simply more conscious and the other is a little more subconscious.
Are there any commonalities between metal culture and vegan culture? Well, it might be grasping at straws a little bit. But once you starting bucking traditional cultural norms and social conditioning in general, then each time you oppose one of those norms, it sort of becomes easier to buck another. That is largely the same similarity. They are both attempts to bring consciousness to different political, religious, or social issues. A lot of metal lyrics are commentary on these themes.
Both vegans and metalheads tend to take themselves pretty seriously. Yeah, that's kind of the part of the humour aspect of the Vegan Black Metal Chef stuff. I'm a serious vegan and a serious metalhead and I take cooking very seriously. Those are three types of people that often times can't see humour in what they do—usually to the point of taking themselves too seriously. And if they take that as an identity, they will take humour as an attack on their identity instead of having fun while exploring the seriousness of all three aspects in general.
So by smashing metal, cooking, and veganism all together it sort of brings out the absurdity in all three? Exactly. That adds to the humour. It's meant to be entertaining.
Why do you think that this combo works? Well, damn. When the first video came out four years ago, it was pretty unique, and it definitely struck a nerve. I didn't do anything special to promote it, I just posted it on Facebook and it just kind of took off from there. At the heart of it, it's a vegan cooking show. So, after an episode or two, if you're not a vegan, it might not be for you but a lot of people find a lot beyond just the entertainment values.
How long does it take to make an episode? If I have nothing else to do, I can get the episodes out in a month and a half or two. But if I have other things going on, it can take up to three months. I play all of the instruments in the video; guitars, keyboard, bass, and I program the drum machine. Then I mix it and master it. I even do all of the filming.
Do you have a dayjob? Not anymore. This is my day job. It's full of ups and downs, but it's on an upswing now. I've got the cookbook coming out and the kickstarter support for that was incredible.
Why is your book called The Seitanic Spellbook? Seitan is a wheat protein. So it's a way of making vegan meat that is really good, but it's also a play on the word "satanic," of course. It's written as a spellbook and it's written in the language of metal.
What is the "language of metal"? †YOU'LL HAVE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF BECAUSE THE DARK TOME IS WRITTEN IN SUCH CYPHER THAT IT SHALL BE DEPICTED ONLY THROUGH THE LENS OF AN ORACLE!!! †
I see. So, other than its language and spellbook format, how is this cookbook different from others? Well for the videos, I just wanted to make the cooking show that I wanted to see. So here, I wanted to write the cookbook that I wanted to read. There are step-by-step photos for every recipe so you can always compare to the picture in the book. And then there is a QR code that you can scan next for everything in the book to bring up a video in everything in the book.
Are the book and videos a way of sensitizing to veganism and the plight of animals? Abso-fuckin-lutely! That's the whole goal of any of this. Hopefully at some point in the future the word "vegan" will just be redundant and I can just be the Black Metal Chef.
Thank you, Vegan Black Metal Chef! My pleasure.