(In this post, Dane Prokofiev [formerly known as Rev. Will around these parts] returns to NCS with another installment in his Keyboard Warriors series, in which he interviews metal writers. I swear this one was his own idea.)
I know what you’re thinking. But no, featuring an interview about you on your own blog is not an egotistical thing to do at all! It’s just like mailing a Valentine’s Day card addressed to you on Valentine’s Day; it serves to expedite one’s noble quest for attaining self-actualization. C’mon, everyone does that… right?
Nearly 3½ years into metal blogging, the laborious machine behind NO CLEAN SINGING has built a name for itself. Surely, achieving this feat is something that it could not have foreseen back when it took to the human World Wide Web and registered the NCS web domain just to have an online outlet to type about the type of music it loves.
Mysteriously named The Great And Glorious Supreme Leader of the Eternal Heavens (otherwise known more succinctly as “Islander”), the father of all decapitated T-800s entertains Yours Truly by answering a second round of questions.
Dane: Your fucking day job sounds like a monster that has grown bigger and tougher to manage over time. How do you tame this beast?
Islander: It’s a beast that won’t be tamed. When it wants to take me from behind, all I can do is hope that it doesn’t decide to go in dry.
It could be a lot worse. It’s not a typical, punch-the-clock, 9-to-5, same-bullshit-every-day kind of thing. I work with great people, much of what I do is really interesting, and it pays well.
The work flow is also variable. Much of the time I have a lot of freedom to do things like mess with NCS. But when crunch time comes, it comes hard, and the hours get really long.
In your previous interview, you stated that you work as a coke mule. Is this your day job or side job?
I’ve said all I’m going to say about that.
After 3 years and 4 months of NCS, you still haven’t found your head. What are your excuses for not doing so?
Laugh it up. See what happens to your memory when you lose your head.
You have, however, spent much time responding to many credible emails prompting you to claim unclaimed riches overseas. Why does financial gain take precedence over reclaiming your head?
Why should I be any different than everyone else in my country?
What? Are you saying that the USA is full of headless cyborgs?
No, here we call them “citizens”.
Do you think label owners should only work with music writers who have written positive reviews about their bands? Why?
You do realize I’m going to come off egotistical enough by publishing an interview of me on my own site. Pontificating about what others should and shouldn’t do won’t exactly change that impression. But what the hell, my answer is No.
I guess I can understand the kind of attitude that would lead a label to think, why should I help out writers who crap on my releases by continuing to give them the benefit of advance promos? That sounds like trying to train the unruly with a carrot-and-stick approach. But I doubt it really helps sell albums when the only reviews you’re getting are from people who’ve been house-broken. Seems short-sighted to me.
You operate NCS with the philosophy of not posting negative album reviews. Is this due to a desire to have friendly relations with as many metal bands and labels as possible?
No. That’s been my philosophy since the beginning, long before I ever thought any label or most bands would pay the slightest attention to what we were doing here. I really just wanted to support the scene and focus exclusively on music I thought was worth recommending. It’s as simple as that. Fortunately, the other writers who’ve joined me are okay with that philosophy, too. Or maybe they’re whispering behind my back.
As things have turned out, I guess it does distinguish us from most sites, but we’d probably get more readers if we posted negative reviews along with the positive.
French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “When we say that man chooses his own self, we mean that every one of us does likewise; but we also mean by that that in making this choice he also chooses all men. In fact, in creating the man that we want to be, there is not a single one of our acts which does not at the same time create an image of man as we think he ought to be.”
So according to him, if you write about certain bands in an enthusiastic way, you are by implication suggesting that all other metal bloggers should be writing about the same bands enthusiastically. Since not every metal blogger praise the same bands as you, they clearly fail at being “metal bloggers”; and you are the only authentic one. What do you think?
I think, “Holy shit! This dude worked Jean-Paul Sartre into a metal interview question!?!”
Nah, I’m definitely not setting myself up as a paragon of what other metal bloggers should think or write. I try to be discriminating in what I choose to write about, but I’m still driven by my own highly personal tastes and criteria of quality. To greater or lesser degrees, I think that’s true of all “critics”. It would be weird if every thoughtful listener reacted the same way to the same music.
Much of today’s metal music reviewing seems to be overly-generous with bombastic adjectives and superlatives. Do you think the line between music reviewing and promotional writing has been blurred?
Interesting question. There is a kind of symbiotic relationship between metal writers and the labels, PR people, and bands they interact with. And for some writers, that relationship may get too cozy, to the point where they just willingly become an extension of someone else’s marketing machine.
But I don’t think you can draw that conclusion just because a writer indulges in bombastic adjectives and superlatives. I mean, I enjoy reading people who are really enthusiastic about a band’s music and who let that enthusiasm show in a genuine way. Hell, I do that myself. I don’t assume someone has sold out just because they may seem to go overboard in their praise.
How do you balance personal integrity in reviewing with the love for bands you dig?
I’m not sure I see any conflict there. If I honestly love the music, then I’m being honest when I write a positive review. And if I like a band but I’m not bowled over by their latest release, I generally just don’t write anything about it at all.
You post about music from lots of bands on a daily basis. Don’t you ever feel burned out?
No, for me it’s really the opposite of burn-out. I want to write about many more bands than I have the time to write about. Maybe I’m too easily impressed, but I find so much music every day that gets me pumped up.
How do you maintain creativity in your writing when you write about so many bands so frequently?
I’m not sure I do. My biggest challenge is finding ways to express what I feel about a song or an album without using the same words over and over again, trying to be accurate in capturing what I hear and how it affects me without being dull or clichéd. That’s a tough thing to do, and the metal writers I admire the most are the ones who pull that off. For me, it’s definitely a work in progress.
Do you ever resort to the thesaurus when you feel like you’ve exhausted your vocabulary?
That would probably be a good idea, but the times I’ve done that have been rare. I don’t labor over most of the posts I write. Between my day job, my life with family and friends, and the time I spend listening to music and searching for metal news that matters to me, the time available for writing is pretty constricted, like a hamster being swallowed by a boa So other than reviews, I tend to write fast and impulsively. In trying to describe music, I usually go with the first thing that pops into my head. Which is usually a jelly donut.
Are you annoyed with labels that send promos for albums that are released in either a week’s or three days’ time? Why?
Not really. I know some labels have a schedule for the release of promos, with the biggest and most visible outlets getting the promos way before the smaller fish. We’ve gotten to the point where we get most of our promos pretty far in advance of release, though not as early as outlets like Decibel, for example. And on those less frequent occasions when we get something a week before the release, I don’t mind (much). We can’t review everything we get anyway, and there are also some advantages to publishing a review coincident with a release date rather than weeks earlier.
How do you feel about those labels that only send you album streams for their upcoming album releases?
It annoys me, because I’m selfish. I understand why some labels do this – because dickwads they’ve trusted in the past have burned them with leaks. But I rarely have time to camp in front of a computer for all my review listening. I like to put albums on my iPod and listen to them on my ferry commute to work or while feeding the loris horde. I can’t listen to every album I receive for review purposes anyway, and when all I get is an album stream, I tend to just skip it.
Also, I am not a dickwad.
Do you think that metal blogging should have a certain code of ethics that all participants ought to abide by?
Aw shit, another question that’s hard to answer without coming off like something more than I am, which is basically a fan with a blog. I don’t know about a “code of ethics”, but I can think of a couple of basic principles I hope all metal bloggers follow.
What would you suggest?
No. 1: Be honest about the music. People shouldn’t shape their opinions to please someone else, either by giving praise when they don’t really mean it or by savaging some band because they think readers will find it funny, or because they want to come off as more kvlt than thou.
No. 2: Be honest about your own prejudices. Everyone’s got ‘em, whether it’s a strong like or dislike of a certain style/genre of music, or a relationship with a band, a label, or a PR rep, or maybe even some kind of undisclosed financial interest that could affect what you write. A writer’s personal tastes will eventually become evident, but other kinds of biases may need to be disclosed.
Some of the most memorable NCS guest contributors aren’t as active these days as they were in 2011-2012. How would you try to bribe Trollfiend, Steff, Dan Grover and Phro to contribute more?
If I could think of an effective way to bribe them I definitely would. I really do miss their contributions. Apart from the fact that they’re all great writers, they all have distinct personalities that really came through in what they wrote for us, in addition to different tastes in music that broadened the site’s musical scope.
Steff had her own blog going even when she guested over here (Steff Metal), and she still does. Trollfiend and Phro eventually started their own blogs later (Also, Wolves and Phro Metal), and Grover had his own new one for a while (Oculus Infernus) and did some work for The Monolith before going on blog hiatus. And of course, they’ve all got lots of other things going on in their lives, including raising families, in the case of Grover and Trollfiend.
I’ve thought about mounting denial-of-service attacks on their sites and freezing their bank accounts. Extortion might work better than bribery.
I think they might film themselves burning their NCS shirts in protest. In Phro’s case, possibly even using it to wipe his rear end after taking a poop.
He promised me he wouldn’t do that as long as I keep shipping toilet paper to him in Tokyo. I hope he keeps his word, because the local DHL guy is starting to look at me like I’ve got a dick growing out of my forehead.
Speaking of which, NCS has released a shirt and a grindcore mix tape to date. Could NCS bikini or underwear be up next?
No man, outerwear only. I want people to rub our stuff on their junk and their asses because they really want to, not just because everything else is in the wash.
How about NCS condoms (like what Slayer did)?
That’s a non-starter too. We’re so half-assed about most things we do that the condoms would probably fail, and then I’d have a bunch of unwanted bastards on my conscience (I mean, other than our writers).
Holy shit, I think one of your lorises is right outside my window now. WHAT IS IT DOING HERE?!?!
Hard to know for sure, but I’m guessing inter-species sex. Or maybe you’re sitting on a stash of Fig Newtons? It’s usually one or the other.
It’s staring at me with glowing, red eyes. Have they turned into cyborgs too?
No, probably just thoroughly baked, as usual.
IT’S BREAKING THE GLASS. OH SHIT, IT HAS GOTTEN IN. IT HAS GOTTEN IN! IT’S GRABBING MY—
No Fig Newtons, huh?