Niall teaches across a wide range of subjects on the BA in Philosophy as well as on the MA for Religion Culture and Society. His main research interest is on philosophy of popular culture, cultural theory and theology, focussing on heavy metal music. He also has an interest in bioethics and on the philosophy of film.
Niall has and continues to publish widely on popular culture, cultural theory, heavy metal studies, and bioethics. He has spoken on heavy metal music at conferences and metal festivals worldwide. He is editor of the journal Metal Music Studies (intellect) and is a co-founder of the International Society for Metal Music Studies, being its chair from 2010 to 2016. His teaching, incorporating his research, includes philosophy and popular culture, philosophy of religion and applied ethics.
Niall joined the philosophy team at UCLan in 2003, when the philosophy department was part of the Centre for Professional Ethics. His initial research interest in bioethics developed from his work on altruism, which formed part of a book, co-authored by the political theorist Jonathan Seglow. During his PhD studies at Lancaster, where he blended his fascination for Kantian ethics and evolutionary ethics, he also started to ponder the possible relationship between heavy metal music, philosophy and cultural theory. Having successfully published two pieces on heavy metal and Kantian thought, he explored the possibility of further research in heavy metal music and its culture. He partnered with Dr Rob Fisher at ID.net and established the first English speaking global conference on heavy metal music, held in Salzburg in 2008. It was through this event that Niall was at the centre of the of founding the current global movement in metal studies. Niall continued to work with Dr Rob Fisher on a range of conference projects run by interdisciplinary.net . In 2006-7 he was a co-worker in the Mongol ethics project, which concerned the exploration of the concepts and issues surrounding ethics in science and technology in Mongolia. This led to his involvement as an ethics co-leader for the Europe- China FP7 funded (FP7) Bilat/Silk project holding workshops and activities in Beijing and Shanghai with the aim of fostering new collaborations between the EU and China regarding the dissemination of the EU’s research policies amongst Chinese scientists and research institutes. In 2008 he was organiser of a workshop and conference on the AHRC funded project ‘Religion, Justice and Wellbeing. Niall’s further research and work on metal music and culture led him to be part of the ongoing academic and art movement known as black metal theory, which was featured in the New York times article “That was Putrid, Professor”. In 2011 Niall worked with the University of Wolverhampton and the Capusle.org Home of Metal project to organise an international conference on heavy metal and place alongside a range of events held in the Black Country, celebrating the legacy of Black Sabbath and the origins of heavy metal music. Metal Hammer magazine recognised Niall in December 2010 with the accolade as one of the 50 influential people on the metal scene as one of the “new metal revolutionaries” and as one of the ‘defenders of the faith’ alongside other metal artists, musicians and industry people. He has been interviewed on BBC world service, Latin world service, Austrian and Swedish national radio and was invited together with his colleague Prof Karl Spracklen to discuss his research at the House of Commons. Bringing together his continued interest in bioethics with music, he was part of the rock opera ‘ Playing God, the Rock Opera’ composed by Corky Laing, Prof. Matti Häyry and Dr Tuija Takala, as assistant producer, performing in Basel, Helsinki, Yale medical school and the off Broadway theatre the Kaye playhouse. He is currently the principal editor of the Intellect journal Metal Music Studies, working closely with co editor Prof Nelson Varas-Diaz. In March 2019, together with Alexander Milas, founder of Twin V creative solutions, Lina Khatib, artist and director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House and Josh Retallick, music promoter at Old Empire, Niall was principal investigator for an Arts Council England funded project called the ‘World Metal Congress’ . The event saw performance, debate, industry networking, premieres of documentary screenings and artwork from around the world focusing on the theme of metal and marginalisation.
- PhD, Philosophy, Lancaster University, 2003
- PGdipcertLTHE , Education, University of Central Lancashire, 2008
- CertLTHE education Lancaster University 2001
- MA Philosophy Queen’s University Belfast 1996
- DipTh. Theology, Belfast Bible College, 1994
- BSc(hons) Biology, University of Ulster, 1991
- Heavy Metal Music
- Popular Culture
- Cultural Theory
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy / Principal Editor Metal Music Studies (Intellect)