Andrew Bansal might be one of the hardest-working metalheads in the L.A. scene, and he’s not even in a band. The 32-year-old proudly devotes his life to promoting heavy metal and hard rock through his website, Metal Assault. He also books regular installments of metal shows at the Viper Room in West Hollywood. As a walking heavy metal encyclopedia, Bansal listens to the entire gamut of metal and is familiar with nearly every subgenre and artist, from Bon Jovi to Bathory and everything imaginable in between.
If you have been going to metal shows for the past decade in L.A., odds are you've seen Bansal, a long-haired dude usually wearing a band shirt, who always finds his way to the front row, especially for personal favorites such as Iron Maiden. “The band that got me passionate about heavy metal has to be Iron Maiden,” Bansal says. “When I heard the album Number of the Beast, that was it for me.”
Bansal moved to L.A. from his native India about 10 years ago to study computer science at USC. He admits that, when he first came to the States, he wasn’t the heavy metal fanatic he is today. “At that time, I listened to a lot of music, but I didn’t go to any shows because the master's degree is tough and you don’t have a life,” he says. “But then I saw Iron Maiden in 2008 at the Forum, and it changed my life. It was then that going to shows started taking over.”
Bansal finished his program at USC in 2009, and within a year launched his site, Metal Assault, to document his love of heavy metal through show and album reviews, interviews and more. It took years, but the site has attracted tens of thousands of fans and followers, and many of metal’s biggest names now follow and respect Metal Assault. Bansal has a team of friends who volunteer as writers and photographers but hopes to bring the site to even bigger levels as a media platform, along with his other pursuits of booking bands and sometimes hitting the road with them.
Since 2014, Bansal has toured with L.A.-based groups such as Exmortus, Warbringer, Huntress, Night Demon and many others, both as a crew member (often working the merch table) and as a blogger/journalist, documenting life on the road. “Throughout all the tours I did, being on the road with all these bands, I never got tired of any of the shows. It was some of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he says.
Along with his successful string of more than a dozen shows booked under the Metal Assault moniker at the Viper Room, Bansal is beginning to book shows at other venues around L.A. and Orange County, and he's branching out into band management as well. “I’m currently managing a duo from San Diego, Tzimani, who play a traditional style of heavy metal, which is right up my alley," he says.
But Bansal still sees his No. 1 role as that of a fan with a never-ending passion for live metal. “Over the years, I’ve easily been to thousands of shows," he says. “I don’t think this will ever change or that I will ever get tired of seeing bands.”
He credits his time on the road as being especially valuable in honing his skills as a journalist. “From being on tour with a band, you really experience and understand what they are going through. As a journalist, it’s easy to just criticize. So I think after touring I have more [insight] in my writing now.”
As if these ventures were not enough, Bansal has yet another new project: a compilation vinyl, featuring some of the best local talent in the hard rock and metal scene. He says he was contacted by vinyl company Sofa King about putting out the compilation and that it should be ready to release in early 2018.
“This will be volume one of a series,” he says. “I can’t say what bands are on it yet, but fans will be pleased, and every band will have never-before-released tracks, so people will have a reason to buy it.”
Long-term, Bansal says he plans to be permanently based in L.A. but will continue touring with bands whenever the opportunity arises. His ultimate dream would be to open up his own venue and launch his own record company.
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As he delves more into the business side of music, Bansal says he has encountered some false assumptions about metalheads and their preferred style of music. “The biggest stereotype I get is that all heavy metal is screaming vocals, and this is not true,” he says. “I actually prefer metal with clean singing, but I am open to harsh vocals, too.”
“Sometimes non-metal fans also think we all worship Satan and go to sacrifices and cults,” he adds. “That for the most part is nonsense. We are all normal people who are into music; we eat shitty fast food and drink shitty beer like everyone else.”
As someone who has turned his passion into a career, the founder of Metal Assault has some words of wisdom for anyone else looking for their niche in L.A.'s crowded music scene. “Networking is vital in the year 2017. It is so important,” he says. “In-person connections are absolutely crucial, even more so than social media. Those face-to-face meetings are everything. It isn’t enough to be just a musician, or a music writer, or band manager or promoter. You have to do everything and get out there, meet people and really work hard to promote yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you work hard at it, you will succeed in anything you do.”
Metal Assault's next event is at Union on Thursday, Nov. 16, with Haunted Garage, Yidhra, Rebel Rebel and Graveyard Shift. For all upcoming Metal Assault shows in L.A., visit metalassault.com.