(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 late last year.)
It’s the New Wave of American Heavy Metal Blogs!
Just one or two years ago, a slew of new metal blogs burst onto America’s metal blogosphere and joined the eponymous MetalSucks on their largely unoccupied bandwagon. Though not exactly giving MetalSucks a run for their money since most of these blogs don’t have anything superbly special to offer that would help them poach all of MetalSucks’ fans, and not to mention that they don’t even earn as much money (or none at all) as Axl and Vince who are having a blast blogging and hauling in heaps of moolah, these NWoAHMB’s have been instrumental in giving bored metal nerds a wider variety of online reading options to choose from, as they do compensate for their late foray into the fray by specializing in certain areas.
Enter Heavy Blog Is Heavy, the blogchild of college student Jimmy Rowe, which already has a decent readership base and is even earning him some money only two years after it was started up. Although not as insanely successful as MetalSucks, a website Jimmy obviously looks up to, Heavy Blog Is Heavy can be said to be the MetalSucks of the Second Wave of American Heavy Metal Blogs.
Rev. Will: A good and heavy day to you, Jimmy. What madness compelled you to conceive Heavy Blog Is Heavy even though there is already a tonne of metal blogs out there on the Internet?
Jimmy Rowe: And a heavy day to you too, squire! Back in 2009 when I started Heavy Blog, my knowledge of metal blogs was limited to MetalSucks and those blogspot sites that linked to pirated material, so I didn’t think I was doing something that had been done as much as it was, naïve as it sounds. To be honest, it didn’t cross my mind in that aspect. It definitely started blowing up around the time I got into it though, with The Number Of The Blog, Hook In Mouth, and No Clean Singing popping up shortly after/around the same time. It’s just a good time for heavier music!
I started Heavy Blog with a good e-friend of mine, Mitch “Dethcaek” West, who no longer writes for us because he’s busy with school and listening to electronic music. You see, I live in a sort of rural area where next to no one was listening to the music I was listening to. I couldn’t see shows at the time due to my location and inability to drive and I had no one to talk to about the more extreme and underground music genres that I was taking an interest in. I created Heavy Blog as a means to be more involved and communicate with anyone who cared enough. Obviously, I wasn’t getting the discourse I wanted in real life, so I took it to the Internet!
Rev. Will: Do you aim for Heavy Blog Is Heavy to be the next MetalSucks? Or do you think that Heavy Blog Is Heavy has something else to offer which MetalSucks does not have?
Jimmy Rowe: I don’t think I’ll ever be able to reach that level! I think Heavy Blog’s focus is just a tad more specific than MetalSucks. I see MetalSucks as a sort of broad and all-encompassing site, whereas Heavy Blog definitely caters to the sort of crowd that enjoys progressive metal, djent, and ‘whatever’-core. Obviously, there are some exceptions, but it ended up that way over time as my tastes developed. When it came to the point where I opened Heavy Blog up to more writers, the people who took me up on the offer were readers of the site because we happened to have similar taste. We’re definitely much broader than ever, but we’ve got our niche!
Rev. Will: Okay, I honestly think that the name “Heavy Blog Is Heavy” is playing along with the current trend of Internet memes and viral catch phrases. Was that how you came up with the name? Or is there actually some kind of deeper significance behind this seemingly literal name?
Jimmy Rowe: I spend most of my day in front of my laptop, so I’m all about the Internet, man. Yes, the name came about because of the meme. It was back in 2009 and I spent a lot of time on 4Chan so that’s where the inspiration for the name came from. I wish I had spent a little longer on coming up with the name, as I had no idea the site would end up as big as it is now. While Heavy Blog Is Heavy is kind of catchy and memorable, I hate having to say it out loud to people who don’t “get it”.
Rev. Will: You are still studying in college if I’m not wrong. How do you strike a balance between your studies and blogging time while not screwing up either one of both sides too badly? Also, are you actually studying something in college that might be of some practical use to your running of Heavy Blog Is Heavy in the future?
Jimmy Rowe: It’s hard, man. I’m terrible when it comes to doing my school work, and I procrastinate like no one’s business. In fact, I should be finishing up a technical essay for a Psychology class on the Greek god/goddess archetypes and how they apply to my own persona, but this is more fun. That paper was due last week. I’m a terrible student and my priorities are not in order at all. However, since it’s the end of the semester and I’ve got all these papers to complete and exams to study for, the site’s content has slowed considerably. I need to better manage my time!
I’m currently working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in both Psychology and Social Work, so it’s not exactly something particularly relevant to Heavy Blog. I was going to write up my thoughts on the recent controversy regarding metalheads being depressed, but I didn’t have the time or energy to tackle it. Plenty of other folks were already tearing that study a new one, so I avoided it like the plague. It felt too much like homework!
Rev. Will: Do you aim to blog about metal for a living like what Axl and Vince of MetalSucks are doing at the moment?
Jimmy Rowe: That would be amazing, but I’d imagine that their environment and timing helped make it a possible career choice. Being from NYC, they’re a decent walk or a subway ride away from meeting bands and seeing shows. I’m at least four hours away from every show, so it’s hard. As it stands now, Heavy Blog does pull money, but only small supplemental income. Perhaps over a few years as readership grows, but I’m not keeping my hopes up too high.
Rev. Will: So tell us, do you actually have any metal writing experience prior to the founding of Heavy Blog Is Heavy in the summer of 2009? Have you ever thought of moving from being a mere metal blogger to a metal journalist who writes for printed metal magazines?
Jimmy Rowe: I had absolutely no experience in writing about metal prior to founding Heavy Blog. Other than the “Distinguished” that I managed to pull out of my ass when putting together my high school English portfolio, I had very little experience in writing at all. I guess I have some sort of natural “talent” at it since I’m able to do it without really trying very hard.
I would love to parlay this whole blogging thing into a more “legit” job as a metal journalist. It’s certainly helping me build my knowledge, writing chops, and my portfolio. As much as I doubt I’ll ever be seen writing for Decibel, I would be stoked on the opportunity.
Rev. Will: It’s only been 2 years since the inception of Heavy Blog Is Heavy as at the time of this interview, and yet Heavy Blog Is Heavy has already shot to Internet fame as one of the more prominent metal blogs there is at the moment. How did you achieve this level of readership within such a short span of time even with the titanic MetalSucks being alive and well on the Internet?
Jimmy Rowe: MetalSucks were a MASSIVE help for that, for sure. They’re consistently one of the highest non-social networking sites that are sending us traffic, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Vince and Axl really inspired me to do this whole blogging thing and they’ve always been helpful, with Vince giving us advice several times.
It’s also due to the help of bands who link to us on their Facebook pages. We’ve had the likes of All Shall Perish, Animals As Leaders, Last Chance To Reason, White Arms Of Athena, and most recently, Betraying The Martyrs link to us and give us spikes in traffic, which is nice. The thought of musicians I admire even knowing of my existence and reading my words has got to be the best feeling ever.
Rev. Will: Being another one of those metal blogs that try not to take itself too seriously, Heavy Blog Is Heavy probably has received tonnes of hate mail to date. Which are the most humorous and memorable pieces of hate mail you have ever received so far? Do you try to get anything positive out of hate mail apart from having a few laughs?
Jimmy Rowe: Oh man, this is a story I love telling. This was either late 2009 or early 2010 (I have terrible memory when it relates to time) and my pal Mitch ran a post regarding that blackened death metal band Enfold Darkness and how they dropped their bassist AJ Lewandowski. Mitch had some not-so-nice things to say about the band and this decision, but what else is new in the blogosphere? Eventually, the band’s guitarist Matt Brown found the post and started a flame war with Mitch. Eventually Matt says (I shit you not) “Keep suckin that P P, buddy.” We lost it and we used the tagline “Suckin that P P since 2009” for the better part of a year. Mind you, I actually like that band and own one of their shirts!
Other than that, it’s basic stuff. Everyone who lets their opinions fly on the Internet on a regular basis is bound to capture the attention of folks who disagree and take it personally. Even though we’re a pro-good-deathcore website, people are constantly giving us shit for being too hard on the genre. Sure, we hate generic brocore, but we adore tons of bands that can be considered deathcore. It’s mostly anonymous scene kids flaming us for not enjoying Asking Alexandria or for disliking the production on that new Structures album. It comes with the territory.
Rev. Will: What about fan mail? Does it feel great to know that even though you are just a blogger, there are actually people out there who enjoy reading your online rambles and rants?
Jimmy Rowe: Just the fact that people know we exist is extremely flattering to me! People email us every now and then telling us they’re fans and how we helped them find new bands and everything like that. It’s a nice feeling!
Rev. Will: Who came up with the design of Crunchy, Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s mascot? Were you guys thinking of critters like In Flames’s Jesterhead and Iron Maiden’s Eddie The Head when this idea lit up the floating light bulb?
Jimmy Rowe: Not many people pay enough attention around the site to know the name of our mascot, so I have to commend you on your top notch research! I had nothing specific in mind when I came up with Crunchy. I didn’t even set out to create him as our mascot; it just sort of happened as I was playing around with Photoshop! He was my happiest accident.
Rev. Will: So whose mouth is that on Crunchy?
Jimmy Rowe: Hahaha. I have no idea. I picked up that mouth on some stock photos website.
Rev. Will: Does Crunchy contribute reviews and interview articles?
Jimmy Rowe: It’s inside me, I’m inside it.
Rev. Will: How was Crunchy like as a cocoon and caterpillar before his/her eventual metamorphosis into a butterfly? Which reminds me, is he/she a male or female?
Jimmy Rowe: He was kind of cute. He was quiet and kept to himself, but ever since his evolution, he won’t shut the hell up. He’s also manlier than I’ll ever aspire to be. I should have given him a beard.
Rev. Will: Have new contributors to Heavy Blog Is Heavy ever been freaked out by Crunchy? Oh yeah, where do you find your contributors from?
Jimmy Rowe: No one has ever brought him up, as if nothing was out of the ordinary! I usually advertise on the site when we are open for contributors. One time I advertised on Reddit for new writers! Even though we’ve been closed for a while, we’ve added two writers in the past 6 months or so whom have been excellent!
I must say though, opening up Heavy Blog to new blood was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve made some excellent friends and found a co-editor in Chris “Disinformasiya” Grenville, and that has kept me on my toes and helped further develop Heavy Blog into what it is today.
Rev. Will: MetalSucks has started the blogs-can-have-their-own-festivals!!! ball rolling with their inaugural Metal Suckfest in early November. What do you think of such an idea? Will you consider coming up with Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s very own metal festival in future?
Jimmy Rowe: We’ve sponsored a tour once before that featured Aliases, Chimp Spanner, and Cyclamen, which was amazing. There was actually an obscure grindcore festival that happened in the UK earlier this year that I was sort of connected to, but as far as actually starting one like MetalSucks, that’s kind of a long shot. Those guys have inside connections that I currently do not, so I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point. I may be mistaken, but shit like that takes time and money that I can’t imagine having available any time soon!
Rev. Will: Do you think that it is absurd for metal blogs to have their very own merch, like shirts and stickers et cetera? Which metal blog would you definitely want to see coming out with its own shirt (which you will definitely buy and wear proudly, for me, it is Invisible Oranges) and will Heavy Blog Is Heavy ever come up with its own line of merch someday?
Jimmy Rowe: I love the idea. The only reason I don’t own a MetalSucks shirt is because I just keep forgetting! I was going to run a limited number of Heavy Blog shirts done by our writer Dan “Dormition” Arena (who is also a graphic designer who has done work for Towering Filth and Big Chocolate), but some other stuff came up and that had to be put on hold.
Rev. Will: This will be one of my staple questions for all interviewees in this column. 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)?
Jimmy Rowe: The metal community is definitely important. This is our culture and we’re in this sort of symbiotic relationship where the community and the industry are just feeding off of each other. The community are the people who are buying merch (and sometimes music), going out to shows, and promoting the artists. Sure, there are tons of people pirating out there now, but it’s so widespread that if you’re going to paint the whole fanbase as a bunch of morally bankrupt pirate scum, then you’re simply doing it wrong.
Rev. Will: Do you think that musicians and bands who bash reviewers who write bad reviews about their albums are childish and utterly naïve for not expecting such a phenomenon when they decided to get into the whole music business?
Jimmy Rowe: I think the bands that do that are few and far between. To make it as a musician, you have to be able to take criticism well, and if you can’t, you’d better learn to hide it. That said, I get it. Music is one’s bread and butter; their heart and soul. Having someone rip it to shreds has got to suck and I understand the frustrations. Once I began to have musician friends and realized that there are real thinking and feeling musicians behind the tunes, I’ve been trying to do better at constructive criticism and less needless bashing. It’s something that many people don’t consider, myself included at times, unfortunately.
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?
Jimmy Rowe: I’ve tried doing the more narrative form of interview before, but that’s just so hard to frame right. It’s great if there’s some interesting story involved, but more often than not, the Q&A format is good enough. To do it right, I’d imagine you need to frame the questions in a logical manner so it seems more conversational.
Rev. Will: Which interviewees have totally blown you away with unexpectedly chillout personalities or completely humbled you with their star power?
Jimmy Rowe: I’m in a perpetual state of humbleness, but that’s my own fault. I’ve only ever done two in-person interviews, and both times I’ve gotten sick to my stomach. I’m quite shy and awkward in real life, but that’s neither here nor there. I don’t think there are many “stars” in metal that I’d care to interview in the sense that they’re aware they’re on another level than the rest of us plebes. Between The Buried And Me are my favorite band ever and I had the opportunity to talk with vocalist Tommy Rogers for a good 20 minutes. He was incredibly chill and humble, and it really rested my nerves. That whole band is just awesome and friendly. I also recently interviewed Valentin Hauser of Betraying The Martyrs. Incredibly nice dude!
Rev. Will: You seem to favor Basick Records a lot. Tell us why Basick Records rules and which bands on them should be looked out for over the next year?
Jimmy Rowe: We absolutely adore Basick Records for several reasons. I know this might open us up for some complaints of being biased and having some conflict of interest or whatever, but we consider Basick [Records] friends to the site. Lisa Coverdale, who is in charge of marketing and PR over at Basick, has been nothing but kind and friendly to us, and apparently she’s a fan of the site! Also, James Monteith, who also does PR, is one of the guitarists of Tesseract, one of our collective favorite bands. It also helps that there isn’t a single bad band on their roster. Go ahead and find one, I dare you.
This year, they released Aliases’ debut album, Safer Than Reality. It really fills the hole that was left when Sikth disbanded and features their guitarist Graham Pinney. Uneven Structure’s Februus is easily one of the best albums put out this year, and one of the most exciting debuts I’ve heard in a while. As for next year, they’re putting out a new Chimp Spanner EP and they’ve just announced two exciting signings in [the forms of] The Algorithm and Skyharbor, who will release albums at some point! They’re bound to have some other stellar releases as well, as I’m sure Monuments will finally put out their record.
Rev. Will: Ever had the ambitious thought of expanding Heavy Blog Is Heavy into a metal magazine someday?
Jimmy Rowe: When it comes to printed word, physical formats are practically dead. As far as I’m concerned, the metal mag starts and ends with Decibel. We might put out some limited special edition printed materials, but there’s not a chance we’ll jump into Heavy Mag. That just ties up too much time and money for me to handle.
Rev. Will: Why should people read Heavy Blog Is Heavy and when will Crunchy be mating to reproduce more copies of itself for use in Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s album review ratings?
Jimmy Rowe: Well like I said before, we have our niche in prog/post/core, so if that’s your area of music, we’re your area of web opinions! We also pride [ourselves] in trying to be as fair as possible, giving constructive criticism and finding positive things to say about Limp Bizkit and Design The Skyline.
Our reviews have been slow recently due to end-of-semester school work and a terribly slow trickle of new releases. It’s always slow around the holidays, so our little bundles of weekdaily Crunchy litters will resume in a burst the week after Thanksgiving. Hopefully, we’ll be able to give our regular reviews to you folks at the beginning of 2012.
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