(Shortly before The Number of the Blog met its sad demise, TNOTB began publishing an interview series called “Keyboard Warriors” written by a relatively new TNOTB staffer who called himself Rev. Will. Because the archive of TNOTB posts seems to have exploded in a spatter of bits, never to be seen again, we agreed to give these interviews a home here at NCS. We started on Sunday and will be posting one per day this week. Today’s interview was originally published on Nov. 22, 2011.)
In 2006, a music blog burst onto the then-humorless and lightly-populated extreme metal blogosphere, boldly calling itself: MetalSucks. Two to three years after that, its popularity and authority on all things metal and troll-worthy soared exponentially. Before we know it, MetalSucks have even inspired their first batch of younger peers: The Number Of The Blog (R.I.F.P.), No Clean Singing, and Heavy Blog Is Heavy.
Honestly, when I first came across MetalSucks, I was trolled. My first impression was seriously that of a blog that was dedicated to bashing metal music in general… until I noticed how their blog logo copied the font for Pantera’s logo. Yes, laugh at me all you want, but I bet many of you out there probably went through the same trollololol-zy episode too before y’all realized that MetalSucks is really a metal blog by metal-lovin’ people for metal-lovin’ people.
Well, enough prattle already. Time to start feasting your undeserving eyes on what ½ of MetalSucks’ founding duo has to say to my siege of questions. From the elusive MetalSucks headquarters in NYC, the alter-ego of Mötley Crüe’s frontman talks about the two albums released by the blog so far, the inaugural Metal Suckfest from 2011, and other industry-related topics (VN – “Christ, this was a marathon.”).
Rev. Will: Hello Vince. Let’s see, did MetalSucks come about because of a…
“Axl/Vince: Hey, let’s start a metal blog. Vince/Axl: Okay!”
… kind of conversation?
Vince Neilstein: Yeah, pretty much, that’s exactly how it happened! At the time there weren’t really any metal blogs offering actual opinion, or at least any that were well-known or easy to find. The above conversation happened in between sets at an Amon Amarth / Children of Bodom show, and within a week we were off to the races with a bare-bones WordPress blog and rinky-dink header.
Rev. Will: MetalSucks is probably the most frequented metal blog on the Internet at the moment. What factors helped you guys get to this level of readership in just a mere 5 years?
Vince Neilstein: As I said above, when we started out no one was doing this kind of thing, writing about metal in an honest (and sometimes, we like to think, intellectual) way without all the fluff. I think we filled a niche and provided something that a lot of folks in the metal community really wanted. Indie rock had Pitchfork, more mainstream music had Idolator, but there was nothing for metal. There was Metal Sludge, which was a huge influence to us, but they’d largely stopped consistently updating the site by the time we got started and only covered ‘80s / early ‘90s hair metal anyway.
Rev. Will: You probably get this a hell lot. What insanity compelled you and Axl to give the blog such an offensive-at-first-look name?
Vince Neilstein: It was a moment of pot-inspired inspiration that took place within seconds of deciding to start a blog. The name perfectly encapsulates what we’re all about. In the very early days we’d hand out stickers outside of shows, and a lot of people would look at the stickers and go, “Huh? But metal rules!” Right… and our site’s obviously not for you, buddy.
Rev. Will: Did the name give you guys any trouble while forming connections with the major extreme metal labels and bands back in the early years?
Vince Neilstein: I don’t really recall. Any new publication, especially a website, is going to face problems being taken seriously… but I don’t really remember the name as being an obstacle, because the second someone checked us out they understand what we were all about.
Rev. Will: I understand that you are blogging full-time at MetalSucks for a living! How does it feel to be able to do what you love best and still be able to make a living out of it?
Vince Neilstein: It feels fucking awesome! Completely ridiculous. That said, there is a TON of work that goes on behind the scenes that is, in the end, work. We have to be up every morning in time to get a coherent post up by 10am and have enough energy and motivation to publish 14 more posts that day. And then there’s all the administrative minutiae that goes into dealing with publicists, setting up premieres, doing interviews, and all the stuff that comes along with running the advertising side of things (invoicing, accounting, bill payments, etc). But in the end, still, it fucking rules!
Rev. Will: Have you ever contributed to any metal-related print publications or websites/fanzines/blogs in the past before MetalSucks was born? Will you ever consider doing it in the future?
Vince Neilstein: I never contributed to any publication of any kind before MetalSucks. Nope wait, I lied… I think my college newspaper included like one line of something I said in an interview about a presidential election one time. In the future, who knows; I just wrote two weekly columns in a row about the NFL for MetalSucks, and lord knows I never saw THAT coming.
Rev. Will: Even though you conduct interviews and do album reviews and such, you are putting all of them up on a blog at the end of the day. Would you consider yourself to be a music journalist then? I mean, there are people out there who do not consider bloggers to be “real” music journalists.
Vince Neilstein: I suppose it depends how you define “journalist.” I don’t really care one way or the other, to be honest… I’m being honest to myself in what I write for MetalSucks and people (including me) appreciate that for what it is, warts and all. I think the definition of journalism is ever-changing anyway, especially with the acceleration the Internet offers.
Rev. Will: Due to the informal and light-hearted style of MetalSucks, it would be no surprise if you have received tonnes of hate mail to date. How do you take it in your stride? Which is the most memorable and/or humorous piece of hate mail you have ever received?
Vince Neilstein: If I tell you, he might come after me and kill me.
Rev. Will: Vice-versa, have you received any positive feedback for the light-heartedness of MetalSucks?
Vince Neilstein: Sure. It always makes my day when guys in bands that I’ve loved for years – or even ones I’m just discovering – tell me they read MetalSucks every day. Even when it’s just a random reader I meet at a show, or someone who takes a minute out of their day to email us, it still feels good. We live in a little bubble where we sit here and blog all day and don’t really know what the outside perception is… kinda like when you read interviews with guys in bands after they’ve finished recoridng an album and they say “I’ve listened to the damn thing so many times I don’t even know what it sounds like anymore.”
Rev. Will: Do you strive to connect with your readers? Have they ever helped you out in any way (e.g.: pointing out factual errors, giving you post ideas) and recommended you excellent bands that you’d never heard of?
Vince Neilstein: Readers email us tips and turn us on to new bands on a daily basis. Without them, our jobs would be so much harder.
Rev. Will: Where do you scout writers from for MetalSucks? Do they necessarily have to be professionals who write for print publications?
Vince Neilstein: None of our writers were professional metal writers before MS, with the exception of Grim Kim (who was someone we knew from the NYC scene anyway before she started writing for Terrorizer, etc). The only qualifications we have for writers is that they’re a) good writers, and b) have their own voice.
Rev. Will: MetalSucks did digital releases of The Binary Code’s Suspension Of Disbelief and Meek Is Murder’s Algorithms in 2009 and 2011 respectively, a unique action that no metal blog had ever undertook until then. Does this hint at the possibility of starting an informal sort of “record label”, making MetalSucks a cross between a blog and a label?
Vince Neilstein: We have no interest in starting a label. The goal with both of those projects was to break even on our investment and help along the careers of relatively unknown bands that we thought were great and needed to be heard by the masses. In both cases we were successful in that. But making money as a record label in 2011 is a tough beat, and it’s not something I’d want to invest time or money in. There’s also the church/state issue; can a blog remain unbiased if they’re trying to profit on a band’s work? We know that in both cases we were fans of those two bands way before we decided to work with them, but we still need to be careful about public perception.
Rev. Will: You and Axl just saw the inaugural Metal Suckfest come to a successful end in early November this year. What gave you guys the idea to start your very own festival and do you feel thoroughly satisfied about the warm reception to it?
Vince Neilstein: The original idea was to build an open-air metal festival, a multi-day / multi-stage event the kind of which there are literally dozens in Europe every summer. We knew we had to start small to build it up, hence the way this year’s event was constructed. I won’t be satisfied until we reach that level. This is just the start.
Rev. Will: Were the bands playing at the festival supportive of the idea of a blog actually starting its own festival when you guys first contacted them about it?
Vince Neilstein: Well, for the most part the booking was done through booking agents and managers so we didn’t really get to hear how excited – or not – bands were about it initially. But from the bands I talked to at the actual event, and the ones that we did book directly, they seemed pretty stoked on it.
Rev. Will: Since it was a success, I suppose you and Axl will be making it an annual event from now on?
Vince Neilstein: We sure hope so. A LOT went into planning this year’s event; we started in January, meaning it took 10 months. We learned a lot in the process – what to do, what not to do – so hopefully we’ll be able to apply that to do it again next year, and to make next year’s fest bigger and better.
Rev. Will: Moving on to some industry taboo topics… I have always thought of the metal music industry as a food chain starting with the rockstar/cult figure at the top, followed by record labels, then the press, the gig organizers, and then the merch retailers and metal stores all over the world. Do you agree with this view that the metal community is simply not as anti-establishment and homey as many prominent figures in the industry like to frequently make it out to be (with their politically correct stances)?
Vince Neilstein: Before MetalSucks I had various jobs in the record industry (booking agency, management company, major record label). There are definitely all those players you just mentioned in the metal industry, so yeah, it’s an industry… but let me tell you, the amount of bullshit, red tape and bureaucracy in the metal industry is INFINITELY less than in the major label world. Things are just so much easier to get done. As far as “anti-establishment,” once you grow out of your teenage years you realize that no company of any kind is really all that anti-establishment… it’s just a marketing ploy.
Rev. Will: What do you think of musicians and bands who bash reviewers when they receive bad reviews from them?
Vince Neilstein: I always say, “Look, it’s just one dude’s opinion.” Someone’s art didn’t resonate with me… oh well. And, inevitably, someone will read my negative review, become curious enough to check out the record, then end up liking it. All press is good press, as they say.
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 between the interviewer’s own passages. Due to your mostly informal approach towards writing, do you have any good ideas on how to spruce up the interview format and make it less rigid?
Vince Neilstein: I appreciate the candor of the Q&A format. Also, I’m lazy, and it’s easier.
Rev. Will: Who are your most memorable interviewees so far?
Vince Neilstein: Devin Townsend, the first time I interviewed him; he’s got so much to say! Also, Paul Masvidal of Cynic; I interviewed him right around the time they were coming back on the scene, and, honestly, I didn’t know very much about Cynic. Getting to know Paul the person made me so much more interested in getting to know Cynic’s music.
Rev. Will: What are your favorite bands of all time?
Vince Neilstein: Come on, really?
Rev. Will: What albums have been hogging your ears lately?
Vince Neilstein: The Atlas Moth’s new one is a keeper. I think that band is really going places in the next year.
Rev. Will: Will you consider setting up a magazine division of MetalSucks in future? If not, are there any bigger plans in store for MetalSucks apart from the continuation of the Metal Suckfest?
Vince Neilstein: A magazine isn’t in the cards for a lot of reasons; good metal magazines already exist, massive overhead, the fact that people already read us for free, and lack of time to make it happen, just to name a few. We’ve got lots of new projects in the works; stay tuned!
Rev. Will: Any advice for young and budding metal writers/bloggers out there?
Vince Neilstein: Just keep writing, even if the audience is only yourself. It’s the only way you’ll get better.
Keep up with Vince and Axl on the most opinionated metal blog on the Internet: