NCS is planning some boffo coverage of the inaugural Metal Suckfest sponsored by MetalSucks, which is set to begin at New York’s Gramercy Theater on November 4. Our roving reporter BadWolf will be on site along with talented photographer Nick Vechery, and we’re expecting cutting-edge show reports, band interviews, scene commentary, and pics of back-stage carnal activity unmatched by any other organ of responsible metal journalism. Whether BadWolf and Nick survive for their return trip home to Ohio remains to be seen. As a prelude to all the carnage, BadWolf managed to snag some quality time with MetalSucks’ co-creator Axl Rosenberg.
-Could you give me a narrative of MetalSucks’ origin story — it’s often alluded to but seldom divulged.
Sure. It all started when my mom met my dad, and discovered the hard way those discount birth control pills she’d been buying from the “doctor” who lived in the van down the block, were, in fact, Tic Tacs. Then —
Oh, you probably want me to skip ahead a bunch. Okay. So basically Vince and I have been friends since we were five years old. And one night we got really stoned — hard to believe, I know — and went to this Children of Bodom/Amon Amarth show in Times Square. And I can’t for the life of me remember what inspired this conversation, but at some point in-between sets, Vince turned to me and was like, “Hey, you know those music blogs like Pitchfork and Idolator?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And he was like, “Why isn’t there one for metal?” And I was like, “I dunno.” And he was like, “Wanna start one?” And I was like, “Okay.” (more after the jump . . .)
The internet tells me that that concert was on December 17, 2006; on December 26 of that same year, we did our first post on MetalSucks. It happened that quickly. Of course, it was another three years before we were able to start doing MS full-time, but, honestly, that wasn’t even an aspiration when we started the site. We were just hoping to get advanced copies of albums by bands we loved and maybe even interview some of those bands.
-To what do you attribute your internet-success?
The same things to which I attribute the success of almost anything — it was a mixture of talent, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but we have a unique viewpoint, and when we started MetalSucks, there really weren’t any other metal sites doing what we do… there was Metal Sludge, I guess, but that was focused almost exclusively on hair metal, and had gone through some major staff and tonal changes by the time we started MetalSucks.
That being said, it wouldn’t have mattered if we hadn’t worked our tuchuses off. We both had other jobs (like I said, at first, we had no real aspirations of ever doing MS professionally), and girlfriends, and families, and who knows how many other “distractions” (for lack of a better term — no disrespect to said GFs and families intended), but we loved doing MS so we always made sure to actually do the things we said we were gonna do (see: coming up with the idea for the site and launching the site less than ten days later). That meant using a lot of our oh-so-precious free time to work, which was kind of a bummer at the time, but certainly paid off in the long run.
-What are your favorite bands which you’ve discovered through MS’s readership.
Well, I guess the way things worked out, Nuclear Blast’s press department would have alerted me to their existence eventually, but the readers were the first ones to bring Fleshgod Apocalypse to our attention, and I think they’ve turned out to be pretty special. There’s a Danish band called Kellermensch that isn’t strictly a metal band (although they have some metallic elements) whose existence I was first made aware of via a reader tip, and I’m totally in love in with that band now. And as much as I hate to give Ziltoid credit, I would not have known about Cormorant if not for the day he took over MS as a contest winner, so, yeah. Thanks, Zilty.
-One of my favorite things about your blog is its guest writers, how do you find these writers and keep them onboard?
Thanks! We’re always stoked to have guest writers because a) we like to have as many different viewpoints as possible on the site, and b) if it’s a musician, he or she obviously sees thing from a way different vantage point than a bunch of bloggers.
We find them in a number of ways. Sometimes they approach us, sometimes we approach them, and sometimes, we have a topic in mind but have no idea who the writer should be, so we just cast a wide net. We basically e-mail everyone we know and say, “Hey we wanna start a weekly column about football” or whatever the topic is, and hopefully we get some responses, and then we pick the person who we think will write the most entertaining blogs.
We keep them onboard by kidnapping one of their loved ones and threatening to make said loved one listen to Hollywood Undead on repeat for years on end if they don’t turn in the desired number of columns.
Likewise, why do certain writers stop? My favorites–Paul Masvidal, Arthur von Nagel and even Bobbi Starr–have all left pretty quickly.
Those are people whose loved ones we either couldn’t track down to kidnap, or whose loved ones have really, really good security.
In all seriousness… we still consider Paul, Arthur, and Bobbi part of the MS family, and we would welcome their return any time. But people get busy, they’re on tour or they’re recording or they’re making movies or they have families or day jobs or whatever… We get it. It takes time to write and people just don’t always have that time. We’ve never had a relationship with a guest writer sour.
-I think among the online metal community, MS has taken on a place that Headbanger’s Ball abandoned and, now that you’re curating a festival, Pitchfork occupies for the independent rock minded. Do you feel that pressure, and if so, how do you negotiate that?
Actually I don’t feel a lot of pressure. With all due respect to them and what they do, Pitchfork was really never my thing, and Headbanger’s Ball was started ’cause Axl Rose walked his pal Riki Rachtman into MTV and said “Give my friend a job!”, and they did. Poor guy didn’t even get to choose which videos they played. No one tells me what to do other than the voices in my head, and those voices are usually far more concerned with where to hide the body of the lady who was in line in front of me at the post office and was speaking too loudly on her cell phone than they are with whatever crap I said about some band this week, so whatever. Mostly I’m just concerned with whether or not Vince thinks I’m doing a good job. If he does, I’m satisfied. When we started the site, we had an audience of two, and it got us this far, so why worry about what other people think now?
-Now that we’re up to date, give me a narrative of how Suckfest came to be? What was the biggest hurdle and how did you overcome it?
Basically, Vince was at a concert without me… I don’t know who was playing, but if he was there and I wasn’t, it was probably some power-prog band. ANYWAY, he was, again, stoned, and he tells me the idea just came to him. Like ten years ago, he used to work with this really awesome dude named Christian McKnight, who is also a total metal freak and who works at Live Nation now, and Christian just so happened to be at that same concert. Vince pitched the idea to Christian on the spot, and Christian was into it. And that was pretty much that.
I don’t think there’s been one single hurdle to overcome. We had our first meeting with Live Nation about the fest in January or maybe early February, so that should clue you into how much work it has taken to put this thing together. Issues range from the availability of the bands to budgetary considerations to bringing on other sponsors to promotional considerations to figuring out various ins and outs of the venue itself to a whole mess of stuff I’m not even gonna get into. When you run into an obstacle, you just figure out the best possible way around it, same as you would anything else. The trick is not to get discouraged or bogged down in BS. There have definitely been times when things haven’t been working out the way we wanted them to, and we could have said “Fuck this” and walked away, but we had this dream we wanted to realize, so we just stuck with it despite any hardships we encountered. We always ask ourselves, WWJJD? (What would Jamey Jasta do?), and the answer, inevitably, is “Perseverance.”
-When the Suckfest lineup was released, your commentors had a split reaction–they seemed to love Day 2, but had stern words for Day 1. This sort of underlines a caricature of your fanbase as people preoccupied with technical and progressive music. Do you think that’s a true stereotype? And, if so, why is that?
I know this is gonna sound kinda weird and glib, but the truth about comments on the internet is that they’re not indicative of anything other than the opinions of people who were predisposed to leave comments on the internet. Or, put more succinctly: Traffic that comes to the site when we write about, interview, or debut a track or video by a less technical band demonstrates an equal interest with that of tech-y groups, and advanced ticket sales for Suckfest do not indicate that Day 2 is especially more popular than Day 1.
Of course we love progressive and technically-minded metal, but we also love stuff that is, for lack of a better term, more straightforward, and we’ve been really lucky and haven’t had to compromise and book a single band for the shows that we don’t think are great. And it’s worth mentioning that just because a band doesn’t play a million notes a second or whatever doesn’t mean they’re not great musicians. ALL of these bands are full of great musicians. Who in their right mind would ever insinuate that Dave Witte from Municipal Waste isn’t one of the best drummers in the history of metal, or that you don’t need to know your way around your instrument to be in God Forbid or Today is the Day? There are dudes who have been in TITD that have also played in Mastodon and Hate Eternal! That shit is no joke, man!
-Are there already any ambitions for the [assumed] second fest?
Yeah, of course! We’re not calling it “The Inaugural Metal Suckfest” because we don’t know what the word “inaugural” means. If the fest is a success, knock on wood, we definitely wanna make it an annual event. We’d also love to see it grow in size from year to year. Wouldn’t it be awesome if America finally had its own festival on the scale of something like Wacken?
Of course, before we can even discussed Suckfest Deux, we’re gonna need to take a nap for, like, a month. This shit has been seriously exhausting. Not that I’m complaining, but, for real, expect us to be at home asleep from November 6 until January 1.
-MS has released an album with Meek is Murder. Do you have any future plans as a label?
Meek is Murder’s Algorithms is actually the second release we’ve ever done, after The Binary Code’s Suspension of Disbelief — or the fourth, if you count the two volumes of NYC Sucks that we gave away as free downloads earlier this year. But we don’t consider ourselves a label… labels have all kinds of considerations that we really do not. We haven’t explicitly discussed releasing anything else, but I think we’d both be game to, assuming the circumstances were right. I personally e-mail Lake Bukkake at least once a week just to let them know that if they ever complete Chinese Bukkakcy, we’d love to be involved in some way…
-As arbiters of our community, let me run an observation by you–I think in 2008 we had a little burst of incredibly creative music–Gojira, Burst, Cynic, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Deathspell Omega… they all released titanic work that pushed boundaries. Since then retrospective music, along with Djent, has sort of dominated the scene in a very tangible way and evolution’s been stalled. Do you think that’s true? If not, where are we going?
First of all, it’s very flattering to hear you call us arbiters of anything other than the best time to pick our noses and observe the results. I can’t speak for Vince, but I personally do not consider myself anything other than one schmuck expressing his opinion.
Now, to answer your question…
That’s a really complicated issue and I think we’d need to have a way, way longer chat for me to understand what you really mean by a “burst of incredibly creative music,” but just based on that one blanket statement above, I don’t really know if you’re making a fair assessment of the situation. The scene is constantly reinventing itself and revitalizing itself, and new bands are emerging every day, and you never know what’s gonna come from where. There’s no shortage of awesome metal being made at any given time, and every four or five years, there seems to just be a downpour of incredible incredibleness. In 2001, you had Opeth’s Blackwater Park, Tool’s Lateralus, Converge’s Jane Doe, Pig Destroyer’s Prowler in the Yard, Decapitated’s Winds of Creation, and who knows what else I’m forgetting — all of those albums were fucking masterpieces that pushed the envelope. Then in 2003/2004, the NWOAHM exploded. Even if you think way back, to ’86… Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, and Peace Sells all came out right around the same time! Some years are definitely stronger than others, but metal is cyclical like everything else. Even if you believe that “evolution has been stalled” — and I don’t believe that, but I’m saying if you do — it will inevitably un-stall any second now.
-What would you like to see out of the metal community?
Fewer bands that sound like crapcore. I know “crapcore” is a very vague term, but if you really don’t know what I’m talking about, you are probably a crapcore fan, and please allow me to be the first to compliment you on your sweet, sweet Skip the Foreplay shirt, brah.
Also, more women that wanna sleep with me.
-If you could change one decision you made in the past related to MS, it would be ________
I wouldn’t change a thing. You make the best decision possible based on the information you have at the moment, and then you live with that decision. Trite though it may seem, everything is a learning experience, and everything that has happened to us has led us to where we are today. And since I’m so happy with where we are today, why would I go back and change anything that led us here?
-What are your goals for the future?
See above re: taking a two month nap after Suckfest. You may think I’m kidding, but I just ordered a massive container of HiberNol.
Also, at some point I think it would be fun to start a MetalSucks podcast. If we do, will you listen to it? Pretty please?
EDITOR’S NOTE: TODAY, and TODAY ONLY (Nov. 3), ALL TICKETS TO THE METAL SUCKFEST ARE JUST $25 EACH with no added fees, regardless of whether you buy tickets online, or just walk up to the box office at the Gramercy Theatre.
I am telling you this because for every ticket sold today, I will receive $20.
Actually, that was just wishful thinking. I will instead receive . . . not a farthing. So, the real reason I’m telling you this is because I’m still kind of stupified by the quality of the line-up at this show and by the fact that the festival was the brainchild of metal bloggers, and because if I could be at this thing I would, and because (therefore) if you can be at this thing, I think you most definitely should. You will be witnessing a shit-ton of superb metal, and a bit of history-in-the-making at the same time.