Currently in its second season, Discovery Channel reality show The Colony (airing Tuesdays at 10pm EST) has a pretty intense premise: A natural disaster is simulated, and nine “colonists” must survive for 50 days with nothing more than their wits. This year’s was filmed on 10 acres of abandoned property devastated by Hurricane Katrina. What viewers don’t know, is that colonist Amber Williams, a logger from Montana, is an avid metalhead that was pretty tight with Metal Insider well before she made it to The Colony. In addition to running a chainsaw for her day job, she has also hosted the metal show at Montana State University radio station KGLT/Bozeman. Needless to say, she rules. We caught up with her about the show, as well as her taste in metal and her radio show.
How did you get involved with The Colony?
A friend of mine sent me a Craigslist ad. She lives in L.A., and found a listing that The Discovery Channel had done and said that they were looking for a female carpenter with mad skills. She thought of me, sent it to my Facebook profile and was like “Hey, ha ha, maybe you could be a reality TV star.” I wasn’t very familiar with Craigslist before this, so I didn’t really take it seriously, but I kind of thought about it and was like “What’s it going to hurt? It could be pretty cool to try out.” At that point, I didn’t even know what show it was. I just knew that The Discovery Channel was looking for a carpenter. So I wrote them and I said “Hey, my name’s Amber. I live in Montana. I run a chainsaw, I ride dirt bikes and I listen to heavy metal. If this interests you, hit me back.” And so they called me eight hours later and said “Yeah, we’re definitely interested.” So I began the interview/selection process after that.
Do you have any idea how many people were up for the position?
There were thousands and thousands of people! It was a cross-country search, and they had three different levels of how they were looking for people. They had just wide spectrum selections where they were advertising on the radio, news papers and any kind of outlet like that. Then they actually searched out different types of people. Like the woman who is the mechanic from Boston, she was actually on The Today Show because it’s so rare that there’s a mechanic shop that’s owned and run by a female. So they saw her through that, contacted her, and asked if she wanted to do it. So she was selected that way.
So your job -did you just take off for…how long was it taping? 50 days right?
Yeah, but two months basically because there’s a little bit of pre and post. So I pretty much had to wipe out all of April and May.
And you couldn’t tell anyone about it?
No, you couldn’t talk about it at all. I mean, in the beginning I didn’t really realize how hush hush it was. So I told all my friends. I was like ‘Hey, I’m trying out for this show and I might get it, and I got picked for finals.’ Then once I was actually selected, they’re like “Ok, it’s top secret! You can’t talk about it!” I was like ‘I already told everybody man!’ I mean, I live in a town of 7,000, people are going to know if I’m gone. (laughing) You can’t really keep a secret in a small town. So they were like “Well, just tell them that you’ll get fined a million dollars if they tell anybody.”
Obviously you love metal. Were you able to bring your love for metal into the show at all?
I think my love for music was one of the few things I was able to reach across and find a common ground with a couple of the other volunteers just because we were so different. I didn’t necessarily jibe with a lot of them. We couldn’t talk about real life in front of the cameras, but when we had some down time here and there we’d talk about music and going to shows and stuff like that. Low and behold, like Reno, him and I like a lot of the same bands, and even Sally the Mechanic likes some of that stuff to. So that kind of provided my first little in, like ‘Oh, you like Hed P.E.! Wow I didn’t know. Oh yeah, Incubus is from Wyoming…’ and stuff like that.
What’s next? Do you think that something else might come of this?
Honestly, my whole purpose for doing this was just to see if I could. I mean, I’m an anarchist from Montana. (laughing) So it’s not like I had to do a lot of training to do this or anything. I just wanted to see what it would really be like to not have food, water, power or government because up in Montana most people are under the assumption that something like that will happen eventually. So being able to have that opportunity to just test myself is an opportunity I don’t think that many people actually follow through on.
I don’t even know if you could necessarily talk about this, but how real was the show?
It was real! Honestly, everything that you see was actual. There was only a few imitations in which, I mean you got to remember that it is television. So when we’re in fight scenes, these people were getting paid to come kick our ass and what happened would directly affect our situation. If they took our food, then we went hungry. If they took our medical supplies, then we were left vulnerable. So we would protect everything that we had with all that we could. But that said, there were rules. You couldn’t punch anybody in the face, which I was incredibly disappointed about because if you’re defending your life, then you’re going to be punching people in the face! But they wanted to keep somewhat of a level, they didn’t want to be sending people to the ER. So you could be aggressive, you could tackle, you could wrestle and could thrust around, but they didn’t want any broken noses or stitches or anything like that. Things did get out of hand a couple of times and people did get sent to the medics. We really did get sprayed with pepper spray, and there were cattle prods. It was for TV, but it was real! (laughing)
Last week, or a couple of weeks ago, you were back on KGLT doing a show. Can you still do that whenever you want?
Yeah, I totally have the ability to step in and do a metal show whenever I feel like it. That’s been the great thing about stepping back, is that I didn’t close any opportunities off. I just put my priorities into other areas, and so I’m always welcome to go back to KGLT. In fact, they tried to get me to come back and do a full time show again, but the time slot that they wanted to give me was the same one as when I left, and I just have no desire to have a night time metal show. I was on during the day for years and that’s where my listening audience was and I had built this huge circle of construction workers (laughing) that followed wherever I’d go, and nobody listens at night. The slot that I had was Friday night from 6-9, and you’re doing dinner or you’re getting ready to go out. In my own personal life, I’ve just got too much shit going on.
What kind of metal do you like? What do you listen to?
My all time favorite, I always got to go back to Bad Brains and Slayer. They’re they originators that started all that shit. I like Killswitch Engage. I hate to say it, but right now, like what I’ve been playing this morning, is a band called Reveille, I don’t think that many people know them though. And then I’m a sucker for any foreign metal, like have you heard of Animal? They’re from Mexico, all Spanish speaking. There’s no English words whatsoever. I like those, and I really really like 36 Crazyfists! It’s probably partly because I got to meet Brock.
Basically, you’re still on every now and then.
Yes. I like to call it pirate radio because nobody knows when it’s going to happen. I just jump in and take over.
How do you keep up with what’s going on now that you’re not actually at the station anymore?
I totally suck and I’ve been missing out on a lot of shit (laughing), like I purposefully made the responsible decision to not go two hours away and see Otep when they were playing in Montana because it was a work night. The show started at 6, so I would have had to leave work early and then wouldn’t get home until 1 in the morning. So I’m definitely still into metal, but it doesn’t control every aspect of my life, like it used to a couple of years ago.
Would you do anymore reality TV stuff? Are you kind of open for more things, or do you just kind of want to get back to doing what the fuck you do?
(laughing) I don’t know. When I first got out of The Colony, I was ‘I’m never doing anything again! I just want to crawl under a rock,’ but now that I’ve been away from it, I wouldn’t mind getting sponsored by some chainsaw manufacturing company. If Makita or Husqvarna wants to put me in a bikini and have me holding a chainsaw, I’d be into that. (lauhing)
Have you been in touch with any of the other people?
Yeah, actually. George, he’s the artist/inventor, is actually on his way to visit me this weekend.
Oh that’s awesome!
Yeah, and I talk to Deville quite a bit and Michael down in Denver, and every now and then Sally. We weren’t great friends, but I think going through this experience, there is definitely a bond that we all have that you can’t really take away.
The Colony airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on The Discovery Channel. You can follow Amber on her Facebook Fan Page here.