(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 subject is some long-winded asshole who won’t show his face. It was originally published late last year.)
With a name like “Islander”, the first impression you’d have of this relatively new blogger-cum-boss at No Clean Singing is that he probably loves clouds; since the stereotypical depiction of an island is that of a remote piece of offshore land that is smack right in the middle of nowhere with lots of fluffy, tasty, and boob-shaped clouds overhead.
Well, we’re not wrong. Apart from being obsessed with the “f” word and clouds, this dude comes across as a pleasant guy who even has no qualms about featuring guest posts by first-time metal writers. How many up-and-coming metal blogs actually do this?
Rev. Will: Welcome back from your secret vacation on an island somewhere! Did you and Mrs Islander get to creaking any beds at all in the end?
Islander: Are you stalking me?
Rev. Will: You took a hell lot of cloud photos. Were you literally on cloud nine during that vacation? Did you encounter any fluff monkeys? I bet you tried to capture one and bring it home to Seattle didn’t you? Seeing as how they are so damned rare and highly priced on the black market today.
Islander: Are you stalking me?
Rev. Will: What gave you the idea to bestow upon your metal blog the deep name, “No Clean Singing”?
Islander: Before starting NCS, I was an avid fan of metal blogs (still am). I began fantasizing about launching one of my own and had some ideas about style and focus. The tipping point was when a metal/hardcore band I liked a lot, Bury Your Dead, lost its vocalist, Mat Bruso. He left to become a full-time school teacher and was replaced by Myke Terry. I don’t have anything against Myke Terry as a person. Seems like a decent dude. But his clean singing and the changes in musical style that went along with it wrecked what I liked about BYD. Pissed me off.
So that gave me the idea for the blog name. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the absence of clean singing was a marker for the kind of extremity I liked in my metal, so I went with it.
I also believe that starting NCS is what eventually led Mat Bruso to re-join BYD. Couldn’t be any other reason. Mat uses the NCS URL as his twitter tag, so I think that proves it.
Rev. Will: Not much is known about you apart from the fact that you love people with too much time on their hands, clouds, commenting a lot on NCS posts, possibly own two tattoos on both arms, and metal blogging. Do you mind letting us know a little bit more about who you are and what you do for a real living?
Islander: The tattoos are real, and I have a lot more of them than the ones on my arms (no dick or ass tattoos yet). They’re all Polynesian designs.
I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers. I make my living as a coke mule.
Rev. Will: You openly state that MetalSucks and Reign In Blonde are both sources of inspiration for what you aim to accomplish at No Clean Singing. What’s so special about those two blogs and why should people care to read them at all? Do the owners of both blogs know about how you hold them in such high regard?
Islander: Before starting NCS, I read lots of metal blogs, and those two were the ones I followed most consistently, mainly because they were funny. Humor is one of the things I wanted in NCS, too. When I started NCS, I wrote both of those blogs and thanked them for inspiring me, and they both answered and wished us good luck, so yeah, they know. I was a fan of Invisible Oranges in its early days, too, but I figured I didn’t have the IQ points or the knowledge to pull off anything like what Cosmo Lee was doing.
Sadly, RiB has become inactive, and of course MS has gotten BIG. I still check out MS on most days. Their style is quite different from what NCS has become, but I still enjoy a lot of their shit.
There are lots of other metal blogs I also try to follow now, though I spend so much time on NCS that my reading time has gotten squeezed. The ones I still check out regularly either weren’t around when I started NCS or were in their infancy (e.g., TNOTB, Heavy Blog Is Heavy, Death Metal Baboon, Steff Metal, The Living Doorway, From the Dust Returned, Angry Metal Guy).
Rev. Will: Even though you state both MetalSucks and Reign In Blonde as sources of inspiration, I’d imagine that you must have a unique feature in mind, just something really special which you think hasn’t been overdone or even done before, for No Clean Singing to set itself apart from the plethora of metal blogs out there on the Internet. What is this unique trait that bored metal nerds can expect from No Clean Singing which will possibly make them a returning reader or even a fan?
Islander: You know how you feel better about yourself when you’re around someone who’s dumber and less fortunate than you are? That’s what we offer our readers.
Also, I think we spend more time than most US-based blogs covering bands from outside the US (and outside Canada and Western Europe, for that matter), we write about a wide variety of metal, we write almost as much about new and unsigned bands as we do about well-known acts, and we try to keep things positive, unpretentious, and light-hearted. But mainly, we make our readers feel smarter than they are. [Rev. Will: Don’t you love this dude’s empathy?]
Rev. Will: So even though your metal blog is named as such, I actually wrote three album reviews for it so far which touched on bands that only utilize clean vocals. I have desecrated your blog’s name! What do you think of that? >:D
Islander: Well, here’s a hint: There’s a cadre of ninja rape sloths headed your way as we speak. Fortunately for you, they’re slow, so your butt cherry should remain intact for a few more years.
Actually, from the beginning, we’ve made room for “exceptions to the rule” – metal that’s good despite the use of clean singing, or even because it includes clean singing. As the blog has grown and we’ve added writers whose tastes aren’t exactly the same as mine, we’ve included more clean-singing metal than we used to do. The blog name now seems to confuse some people, including bands we’ve written about. Like, “Why is a blog named ‘NO CLEAN SINGING’ paying attention to us?” To remedy that problem, people have suggested we change the name to something like “NO WHINY, BREATHY CLEAN SINGING”, or “NO! CLEAN SINGING!”, or “NO SPRING CLEANING”. I’m still thinking about it. Maybe I should just fire all the other writers.
Rev. Will: Why do you strive to keep No Clean Singing ad-free? Haven’t you thought about making a living out of No Clean Singing someday just like how Axl and Vince are doing so with MetalSucks now?
Islander: I’m not sitting in judgment on MS or any other sites that run ads. At least for Axl and Vince, I’m sure it’s helped them turn MS into a career, and if I needed the extra cash to help pay NCS’ expenses, I’d probably be running ads, too. I’m just in the fortunate position of not needing the money. Being a coke mule pays well. So, I can afford to indulge my aesthetics and not clutter the pages with ads. I also worry that I might have trouble being as honest as I want to be if I were taking money from labels whose albums come our way for review purposes.
Rev. Will: Do you have any writing experience prior to conceiving No Clean Singing? What qualities do you look out for in your writers?
Islander: When I’m not moving around the country with coke-filled balloons up my ass [Rev. Will: Even if he were really a coke mule, I doubt any of us would believe him.], writing is a big part of what I do for a living, but it’s very different from the kind of writing I do for NCS. Not as free-form, not as much fun.
What do I look for in people who write for NCS? Mainly unswerving obedience and sycophancy. I’m not having much luck with that, which is why I don’t pay our writers anything. I also look for a distinctive “voice”, good grammar and punctuation, clarity of expression, the ability to entertain, and in-depth knowledge of metal. Unfortunately, this requires me to edit the work of our writers quite heavily.
Rev. Will: What do you think is the main difference between a metal journalist and a metal blogger?
Islander: As a gross generalization, pretension vs. lack of pretension?
Rev. Will: Since you advocate a very informal writing style on No Clean Singing, have you received any hate mail to date? Do you take it as motivation to improve yourself further or just something to laugh at?
Islander: I’ve actually never received a single piece of hate mail about NCS. And in the two years we’ve been up and running, I’ve seen only a small handful of shitty comments about our posts. That’s one of the things I really like about our site – for some reason, it doesn’t attract trolls or other forms of douchebaggery, and the comments we get are funny, intelligent, and good-humored. In my admittedly biased opinion, we’ve got a great community of readers.
Rev. Will: Speaking of something to laugh at, I saw your recent post about that hilarious piece of spam mail you received. Did you receive any more of such positive or totally laughable and troll-worthy e-mails?
Islander: It’s weird. The ONLY spam mail I get is the kind that offers transfers of enormous wealth, usually from Africa, in exchange for my personal details. I would like to receive spam about dick-enlargement, but no luck there. Every now and then, I’ll answer one of those wealth-transfer messages and put the answers up on NCS. I’ve gotten discouraged because no one has yet sent me the wire transfers, the pre-funded ATM cards, or the bags of gold dust I’ve been promised. But I’m not a quitter. One of these days it could happen, and then it’s hookers and blow for everyone!
Rev. Will: Although you are mainly the one recommending bands to the readers and your fellow writers of No Clean Singing, I’m pretty sure you must have learnt of many good bands from your own readers and fellow writers as well. Care to name some of the most memorable bands you learnt about from them?
Islander: I’ve discovered tons of good music from our readers, as well as our other writers. Really, it’s a long list. Off the top of my head, a few of the bands I’ve recently discovered this way are Impureza (France), Gromth (Norway), DIE (Denmark), Undead Creep (Italy), and Mithras (UK).
Rev. Will: Do you agree that this very personal relationship between metal bloggers and their readers is what makes the whole experience of reading and/or writing for metal blogs fun as compared to the distant relationship between metal magazine writers and their readers?
Islander: That’s 100% true for me. When I started NCS, I wasn’t sure anyone would read it and I certainly wasn’t expecting the kind of daily interaction that now happens in our “Comment” section and in the e-mails I get. But now, it’s a huge part of why I’m continuing to do this. If it stopped, I think I would stop, too.
Rev. Will: Okay, so apparently, that highly unwearable-in-public No Clean Singing shirt was made because of a joke post on Facebook a few months back. How many people have actually asked for a piece of it so far? Honestly, have you actually worn it outside yourself at all?
Islander: Yeah, I did that as a way of dealing with my own guilt over announcing an NCS-sponsored tour that was just a figment of my imagination, and then getting all these heart-felt messages of congratulation. So far, we’ve shipped a little over 100 of the shirts. This begs the question of whether any of the recipients actually wear them in public, as opposed to using them for napkins or old-school tampons. I’ve worn mine to a few metal shows, but not yet in broad daylight.
Rev. Will: So what next? Is a real No Clean Singing metal festival in the works?
Islander: The only thing in the works right now is planning my cat’s menu for the week.
Rev. Will: In late October, No Clean Singing really did co-sponsor a mini-tour involving NCS writer Andy Synn’s band Bloodguard and Christian progressive deathcore group, Becoming The Archetype, though. Did a lot of time and effort go into planning the whole thing? Also, does this hint at the possibility of a higher frequency of sponsored tours in future, and perhaps, even larger scale tours that involve huge bands like what The Metal Suckfest accomplished?
Islander: Fuck yeah, we really did co-sponsor a UK tour in October featuring Becoming the Archetype and Bloodguard. We recently posted a video diary of that tour, to prove that it really happened. On the other hand, there are videos of dudes walking on the moon, and everyone knows that never happened.
From the NCS side of things, Andy really did 100% of the actual work making that tour a reality. My help was pretty minimal, but he was nice enough to give NCS some of the credit by arranging for our name to be associated with it. I’d love to sponsor more tours or shows in the future, but my day job will make it difficult for me to do much of the actual spade work. I can’t imagine the kind of effort it took for MS to pull off the Suckfest. Major respect to those dudes for doing that.
Rev. Will: Alright, let’s talk about something that every metal industry PR person doesn’t want to hear about. 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)?
Islander: No, I really don’t agree with that, at least not in the segment of the industry whose music I care about (which means I’m excluding “The Big Four” and other commercial engines of their ilk). Metal is a business as well as an art form, but it’s not much of a business. From what I can tell, damned few metal labels and damned few bands make more than they need to cover their expenses, if that [even happens, which is rare]. I don’t know about tour promoters, but I’d be surprised if the ones who organize the tours I go to make much.
There are exceptions, but I think most people in the business do it because they love the music and the life. The fact that you need to think about making enough money from playing and selling music and merch to continue on with it doesn’t mean that you’ve “sold out” or become part of some “establishment”. It’s just fucking reality.
Rev. Will: I understand that No Clean Singing only talks about bands that you and your fellow writers think are good and worth recommending, but what do you think of bands that bash reviewers who give them bad reviews?
Islander: I don’t have any sympathy for that kind of attitude. If you’re going to put yourself out there on a public stage, then you’d better be fucking ready to take some bad with the good. Sure, you can get your feelings hurt or get pissed off because some reviewer doesn’t get what you’re doing, but it’s short-sighted and spoiled to vent about it publicly.
I had one personal experience where a new band hounded me for weeks to write about their album. You’d think they would have figured out why I hadn’t done it. Anyway, just to stop the pestering, I finally did it, but I wasn’t terribly complimentary of the music. I got a shitty e-mail back from the band saying that I’d been the cause of people “un-liking” them on FB and having their YouTube plays drop, etc. In the first place, it was dumb to think that I’m some kind of influential creator of public opinion. And in the second place, it was an unbelievably childish reaction.
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. 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?
Islander: The best interviews (or at least the ones I enjoy reading) are like real conversations. It’s tough to make that happen if the interview isn’t done in person, in real time. And it’s tough to make an interview entertaining and revealing unless the interviewer has done his or her homework about the band and the music in advance and has the self-confidence to be brash and creative, instead of intimidated, shy, and stilted.
Most blogger interviews I read feature the same stock questions, and as a result, I get a sense of boredom and lack of engagement from the musicians being interviewed. Stock questions result in stock answers, and that makes the interviews boring as shit to read. Doing it right requires real skill and experience—just being a fanboy is not a sufficient qualification. I really admire Joseph Schafer, who writes for us as “BadWolf” and for Invisible Oranges under his own name. His interviews capture what I’m trying to describe here. Andy Synn and TheMadIsraeli are also a lot better at interviews than I am, and I hope they continue doing them for us.
Rev. Will: Who are your most memorable interviewees so far?
Islander: I don’t consider myself a great interviewer. I do try to avoid dull, stock questions, but every interview I’ve done has been through e-mail, so they tend to lose the kind of immediacy and interaction that would be ideal. Still, I’ve gotten some entertaining and revealing answers. The two that come to mind most readily are the ones I did with Michiel Dekker (The Monolith Deathcult) and Greg Mackintosh (Vallenfyre and Paradise Lost).
Rev. Will: What albums have been hogging your ears lately?
Islander: One problem about trying to write almost every day is that I need to be constantly moving on to new music. Gone are the days when I’d get so into an album that I’d crank it over and over for weeks at a time. I just can’t afford to do that any more, unfortunately. But lately I’ve spent extra time enjoying the new albums from Vallenfyre, Esoteric, Antediluvian, Krisiun, Deivos, Entrails, Thy Catafalque and deafheaven. I’ve also recently been revisiting an album that came out earlier this year by a Ukrainian black metal band called Kroda that I can’t get enough of. And in the category of guilty pleasures (because it involves clean singing), I’m high on the new release from Iceland’s Solstafir. I’m also stoked about some of the new music I’ve heard from Abigail Williams—they’re going in a really interesting direction with their new album.
Rev. Will: So who do you love more, Trollfiend or Phro?
Islander: Fortunately, I don’t have to decide because both of them love a ménage à trois.
Rev. Will: I heard that deep-fried sperm goes well with caramel-topped Belgium chocolate ice cream.
Islander: Sperm is a sadly neglected ingredient in cooking. However, deep-frying disguises the complexity of the flavor and saps the nutrient value. Instead, I prefer a good sperm flan.
Rev. Will: I’ve been toying with a recipe idea involving buttered intestine and steamed penis.
Islander: Knock yourself out dude. If you’re not using your penis anyway, steaming it might be a good option. I hear that boiled rectum with a side of slaw is some good eating, too. So give that some thought.
Rev. Will: Can I let you taste it before I officially start selling it?
Islander: I think you’re mistaking me for Phro or Trollfiend.
Rev. Will: Sorry for wasting your time, it’s goodbye for real now.
Islander: Thank you for honoring me with your questions. And there’s no such thing as wasting my time. That would imply that my time is valuable.
Rev. Will: More after the jump… just kidding.
Islander: Don’t kid about something like that. I could do this shit all day. I can think of nothing I’d rather discuss than me.
Call the police and report this elusive coke mule who is commonly spotted at: