(Rev. Will’s interview series focusing on metal bloggers and metal print journalists continues today with Chris Gonda, the founder of PureGrainAudio.)
So after cruising through a bunch of American subjects, I’m finally back on Canadian territory with the founder of multi-genre music website, PureGrainAudio. While not a physically-published metal journalist like his fellow countryman Adrien Begrand, Chris Gonda spends his day toiling away for BlackBerry and working his ass off on PureGrainAudio logistical and miscellaneous matters at night—all in a passionate bid to keep the already 7-year old project running so as to promote both Canadian and international music. Talk about keeping yourself busy.
Like Islander and Erik Thomas (of Hails And Horns, Teeth Of The Divine), I’m a cyborg survivor of the Artificial Intelligence Holocaust of 93,1349 Mars years ago back when Earth was dominated by T2’s sent back in time by Skynet and humans were learning how to make Coca Cola. Hence, it was mindless of me to have wanted to interview Chris in person initially, since I don’t have a head (and haven’t had one since the conclusion of the holocaust). Oh, I didn’t get the tattoos though. They didn’t have the Immortal cat design!
After my efforts to force Chris to reply over cyberspace while, ahem, persuading him with an animated .GIF file of Burger King blowing McDonald’s head off, the humorous Canadian gave in to my tyrannous request and shed light on the origins and workings of PureGrainAudio (and more, when I proceeded to show him the .GIF file of Burger King w-a-t-c-h-i-n-g ALL OF US!!!!!!). For example, the dude needs alcoholic rehabilitation.
Rev. Will: What is PureGrainAudio all about?
Chris Gonda: It’s a place made by and for fans of all things rock! Started 7 years ago, the site has slowly grown to become one of Canada’s top rock websites. We try to remain unbiased and refuse to criticise music or genres for no reason. Rock is rock. Whether you’re into Dimmu Borgir, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Every Time I Die or Nirvana, you’re listening to what is considered to be part of the rock family. Hopefully you’ll find what news and coverage you need with us… and even more so, something new and different.
Rev. Will: You’ve been running PureGrainAudio for close to 7 years now. How were metal blogs/websites of the day like when the website first started out in 2005? Were you trying to achieve the same objective as your peers back then, or had you something else in mind to offer?
Chris Gonda: To be honest, when I first started out, I idolized sites like Blistering.com. They were so cool and updated their content daily. While I don’t follow them as much anymore, there are MANY similar sites. The only constant is change, and that’s why we always try to reinvent ourselves and add new features and functionality.
Rev. Will: How did you come up with the name “PureGrainAudio”?
Chris Gonda: Like many bands, sites and companies before us, we had a massive list of names/possibilities. PureGrainAudio (190 Proof Music) is a tweak on pure grain alcohol (190-proof alcohol aka Everclear). Of all the options, this one just seemed to stick.
Rev. Will: Is there a market for metal music journalism in Canada?
Chris Gonda: There sure is. Scenes and bands are popping up in small towns and cities all over Canada. Take Montreal for example, with their explosive growth over the past 5-10 years, or the Maritimes with tens of bands and Diminished Fifth Records. As the music becomes more popular and widespread, there is a growing need for local coverage.
Rev. Will: Many founders of major metal-related websites, such as yourself, have to juggle both the commitments to their day jobs and the many hours of thankless maintenance required by their websites. Can you give us an idea of how tiring this can be?
Chris Gonda: HA! It’s near impossible to quantify because what’s tiring to me might be a piece of cake to someone else and vice versa. I work during the day from at least 0830-1700 (though I’m technically always on call); then have to hit the gym, clean house, spend time with my wife, family and friends and somewhere in between all of that, I have to run the site. My priorities lie with taking my site and life as far as it can go; so instead of doing “nothing” on your average night (after work), I’m in front of my monitor working away.
Rev. Will: Do you do any reviews or interviews yourself for PureGrainAudio?
Chris Gonda: When the site first started, I was doing the majority of them alongside Aaron Willschick (other founder). It was just the two of us in the beginning and we literally did everything between the two of us. At this point in time, I don’t have time to write. My time and energy goes towards site operations, site development, management, accounting, organizing content and staff, editing, and so much more.
Rev. Will: Which interviewees have totally blown you away with unexpectedly chillout personalities or completely humbled you with star power?
Chris Gonda: While I’ve personally conducted at least a couple hundred interviews, the one man that left a lasting impression on me had to have been Dez Fafara (Coal Chamber, DevilDriver). This guy is tattooed all over, fronts absolutely brutal bands and has an air of being intimidating. That said, as soon as I got on his tour bus, he was well-spoken, totally accommodating and even invited me back to chill later that night. Wine, stories, music and assorted party favours aside; the nicest thing in the world was when Dez politely excused himself prior to their set only to call his wife, tell her he loves her, and basically just check in. It was really touching.
Rev. Will: Have you had any writing experience prior to starting PureGrainAudio?
Chris Gonda: I sure did. I was a Sociology major and minored in Philosophy. Most of the academic portion of my university career was spent writing. Aaron and I even ran a socio-political website for about a year before starting PureGrainAudio. That said, I went to an international school in Prague for high school and already then were they grilling us with writing.
Rev. Will: One unique aspect of PureGrainAudio is that it promotes the music of many unknown bands despite its relative seniority in the circle of metal-related websites (which typically gives rise to musical snobbishness). Why is this so?
Chris Gonda: Maybe we’re humble, maybe we’re not conceited? Not sure what the reasoning really is, but at the end of the day, we set out to make people aware of cool music. Whether it’s a signed or unsigned band, old or new one or even one that’s no longer around, it comes down to the music. If someone likes it and wants to share it with other people, we absolutely encourage it. Moreover, we love to help any up and coming band just like certain people and companies helped (and still help) us when we started out.
Rev. Will: Also, apart from metal, PureGrainAudio deals with the various –core genres, indie rock, and even pop rock! Why do you see the need to make PureGrainAudio’s coverage so diverse?
Chris Gonda: This is unfortunately the one misconception with the site that we’re having a hard time shaking. Maybe you can set everyone straight for us Rev. Will! The bottom line is that we’re NOT a metal site, we’re a rock site. Rock n’ roll is the large umbrella of music that encompasses all of these genres, including metal. So being a rock site, we cover everything from hardcore to indie rock, and alternative to death metal. There are SO many great artistes in each of these genres and you never know what you might like unless you actually step outside your comfort zone.
What really piss me off are all the people who hate on a genre of music for no reason at all. Music is music. If you’re totally into black metal and nothing else, that is fine. But (a) You’re sheltering yourself from SO much great music and (b) That gives you no reason to rip on other bands or genres. The same can be said for people who just like “rock”. I’ll be the first to admit that my go-to music is hard rock/metal, but at the end of the day I not only love Jazz, Blues and certain genres of Electronica, but I can also appreciate Classical, Pop and even Country for what they are.
Rev. Will: Would you say that metal is still PureGrainAudio’s main focus though?
Chris Gonda: No. As per above, our focus is on all things rock. Sure, metal is a large part of this category, but we try to remain open and fair by covering a diverse portion of all rock genres.
Rev. Will: Chee Kam is one helluva news-posting machine. How does he do it?!
Chris Gonda: HA! You’ll have to ask him about that. I used to do it all myself, then had someone else take over as my day job became increasingly demanding. Now Chee is our main news guru and he does a damn fine job. Maybe it’s all the daily speed metal and Red Bull he consumes?
Rev. Will: How did PureGrainTV come about? Since its inception, has response to it been good?
Chris Gonda: Well, we’re predominantly a text-and-audio focused site. That said, there’s a growing demand for all things video and since we’ve begun receiving music videos and conducting our own video interviews, the need to branch out came up. We thought PureGrainTV was better than PureGrainVideo.
Rev. Will: Why is the video interview format better or worse than the text interview format?
Chris Gonda: I wouldn’t say one is better or worse than the other, however with the seemingly continually shrinking attention span of the modern person (especially today’s youth), video appears to be the best way to get an artist the audience’s full attention and ultimately the most promotion [Rev. Will’s intrusion: Islander needs to start NoCleanTV!].
Rev. Will: Many music reviewers are frustrated with the ‘No Download, Just Streaming’ policy of certain metal labels recently (A-cough-go-sneeze-nia). How do you feel about this issue?
Chris Gonda: HA! Well I don’t work for a label, nor do I have label experience, so it’s tough for me to say. That said, as a writer and manager of writers, I know that getting a stream only can be a pain in the ass. Most people don’t want to sit at their desk for an hour to listen to an album. They want to take that music into their everyday lives and from there provide a detailed analysis of the album/music. That said, if you provide the downloads to every site out there, I guess the labels run the risk of having more music being leaked etc.
Rev. Will: Do you think doing this will actually help curb the problem of albums being leaked way before their release dates?
Chris Gonda: Not much more than already happens. Maybe the labels could start out slowly and work with more trusted sites/sources before expanding. Lord knows we take it seriously and if one of our writers leaked music they’d have to deal with an onslaught of metal madness from yours truly!
Rev. Will: What do you think about the idea of metal blogs starting their own festivals (e.g. MetalSucks)? Will you consider coming up with PureGrainAudio’s very own metal festival in future?
Chris Gonda: PureGrainAudio is ALWAYS looking for new ways to expand, promote our brand and help the artists. If the time, cost and other details in putting together a show are feasible, then sure, we’d love to do one.
Rev. Will: Do you find it absurd that metal websites and blogs are coming up with their own line of merch? Ever thought of coming up with PureGrainAudio car stickers?
Chris Gonda: Wasn’t really aware that “Rolling Stone” had their own merch line!? At the end of the day, it’s not a bad thing per se. Just another way to promote the site and build brand awareness.
Rev. Will: How do you feel about bands and musicians who bitch about the bad reviews they receive?
Chris Gonda: I guess those bands/musicians just aren’t very self-confident, self-aware or are making music for the wrong reasons. If someone tells me they hate PureGrainAudio and love MetalUnderground, should I bitch? No! I should ask him or her why and to see if there is something I can do to improve our site. By doing that, maybe I’ll find out if that person is saying it for any “real” reason at all.
Rev. Will: Interview articles typically follow a standard Q&A format (like this one) or a narrative one with quotes from the interviewee being injected in between the interviewer’s own passages. Do you have any good ideas on how to spruce up the interview format and make it less rigid?
Chris Gonda: Yes. Don’t make them SO long (*hint hint*). Also, we like to inject high-res album art and audio and/or videos into the interviews; or the audio recording of the interview itself, so that our readers have options or things to play with while reading.
Rev. Will: Are there any up-and-coming Canadian metal labels that you have your eyes on at the moment?
Chris Gonda: We work with so many amazing labels and people, so I know I’m missing some. But I certainly want to give a shout out to Diminished Fifth Records. They’re doing some really cool shit.
Rev. Will: Will you consider expanding PureGrainAudio into a printed music magazine someday?
Chris Gonda: In my opinion, print is dead. I consume 100% of ALL my news on PC, mobile or tablet. If any expansion occurs (which it will), it will be on mobile and tablet.
Rev. Will: Are there any big things that we can expect from PureGrainAudio this year?
Chris Gonda: As per earlier, we try to expand ALL the time, constantly bringing new updates and functionality to the site. Expect a lot more cool stuff in our Audio section, and a huge push on our YouTube and Video sections amongst other things.
Inject some variety into your musical life at: