Metalcore manager Derek Brewer talks touring and finance

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Finance and accounting skills are useful life skills for everyone, not just Derek Brewer.

In response to the “popular” deathcore act Thy Art Is Murder losing their vocalist over finance, an employee of Outerloop Management, a company that handles the finance of several modern popular metal bands, wrote up a budget analysis of a metal band’s touring budget for our competitors over at MetalSucks. Derek Brewer claims that with sound budgeting techniques and by avoiding expensive luxuries like cocaine, a “mid-level” band can make enough money through touring and merchandise to survive and maintain an okayish standard of living while arguably contributing more to society than a retail drone.

There are a few holes you can poke in Brewer’s assumptions, but overall his numbers give me the impression that a band that gets big enough to receive regular coverage on heavily trafficked news sites can reach some degree of financial security. My real emphasis here is on the idea that getting to the point where your band is even moderately successful to the point of even potentially being fiscally self-sustaining is going to be the difficult part. Barring enormous luck (or a potentially lucrative if musically dubious gimmick like adding a flautist to your grindcore band), building up a fanbase for any sort of creative content requires an immense and persistent amount of work over time. Society in general knows that by now, and by traveling this path you’ll also be in competition with an enormous amount of other bands who think they’re going to be the next big thing and are also working long hours to get noticed. The competition isn’t necessarily going to improve the quality of metal works released (at least by our standards, since most bands aren’t writing specifically for our tastes), but it is something to note if you look at Brewer or similars’ figures and think that someday, you could make it as a metal rockstar.

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Personal Device – En Puerto (2015)

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Like the band with whom it shares members, Cóndor, the hardcore/thrash band Personal Device — the name refers to “antipersonnel devices,” not Fleshlights — makes music with a lot of promise that sells itself short by demonstrating theory instead of creating experiences.

Art contains ideas as much as any essay, and those who deny that are morons, but it is encoded through the sensual, emotional and intellectual experience of appreciating something of great beauty and power. This is how metal makes beauty out of ugliness and reveals to us the forgotten ideas of ancient history in a form we can now recognize. It is also why Christian, Nazi and SJW music falls short, because it is preaching and illustrating theory more than it is taking us on a magic ride through the world of its ideas in application.

Personal Device thrives when the band members get in touch with their inner rebellious but sensible youth. They bash out hardcore-based tunes with metal riff framing, sounding like Emperor covering Iggy Pop or G.G. Allin sometimes, and put these in songs with some breathing room a lot like early Suicidal Tendencies. Riff quality is very good. So is their ability to know when to bring on the power and when to let a rhythm ride to its natural conclusion. Moments on this album, like on Cóndor’s works, are so good they burst with potential and make you think you have discovered a new classic.

It is interrupted however by a tendency to demonstrate. Either they show how they can fit in a blues part, use an unnecessary spoken word piece, or expand song structures to include the non-relevant for the point of making a point, but it breaks the flow of the album and adulterates the good stuff. This also blighted Cóndor Duin: theory is only good when put into practice, in a way that converts the cerebral into the existential and experiential. At the risk of ruining this review by doing the same, I will step off that soap box and summarize.

This is a great album within another album. Many good ideas ooze from the fabric of En Puerto. Their first album however had more of a feeling of a garage project designed just to be music that the musicians — enlightened as they are by theory, and their theoretical background is known to me and quite substantial — found themselves liking, not just in “body” (how it feels and sounds) but in “mind” (what it delivers) and possibly in “soul” (how it makes poetic the condition of life). The best albums do all three, and their first was closer because it was less obsessively engineered in the front-brain and more unleashed from within. Moments of En Puerto do the same, and if they cut the rest out, they’d have an album on par with DRI’s Four of a Kind or Cryptic Slaughter Money Talks. Here’s hoping for album three.

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Cryptic Slaughter tour diary from 1988

From the waves of time:

The Axiom was a pretty cool club, kinda dark and run down with a good rock n’ roll vibe, kinda reminded me of a club here in Portland called Satyricon. Cool thing that happened during Angkor Wat’s soundcheck was when Rob got up and sang Black Flag’s “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie”. I was able to record both bands sets from the soundboard that night. Before the first band went on, I was selling merch for both bands and these two super fans approached me who were heavily into anything death metal/grindcore and kept telling me that Cryptic Slaughter had to to play T.D.M.! (To Death Metal) First song (if you can call it that) on side 2 of Money Talks. At first I thought they were joking, but they were dead serious. At the end of each sentence they would give me a complementary Tom G Warrior death grunt, straight off of Morbid Tales. After giving them a few stickers to hopefully shut em’ up, they gave me a demo by NY’s Baphomet and an original copy of England’s Sore Throat demo. You can hear these guys yelling at the band in-between songs on the live songs that are on the “Convicted” and ” Money Talks” reissues on Relapse Records. Check out the cool live footage from this show on YouTube. I don’t remember anything about the opening band Afterbirth, who I assume were from Houston. Once again Angkor Wat put on an amazing energetic live set. Cryptic Slaughter took the stage and ripped into song after song from Convicted and Money Talks before playing a few new songs from Stream Of Consciousness (which went over great with the crowd, even the Death Metal duo liked em’.) After an encore or two the show was finally over. Never thought I would be so happy for a show to be over and to pack up our gear and leave. All of us were ecstatic that no one from Austin ever showed up. Time to catch up on some sleep before we head off for Memphis tomorrow.

Read the rest here.

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Interview: Les Evans (Cryptic Slaughter)

Cryptic Slaughter, the quintessential 1980s thrash band, where thrash means crossover music of a simple and effective nature. their music, of short bursts of song with explosive drumming and ragged punkish speedcore riffs, projected a forerunner archetype of what grindcore would soon be. Albums like “convicted” and “money talks” displayed the formative techniques of death metal. But even independent of its historical role, this music crushes with its efficiency and organic texture. Les Evans, guitarist of Cryptic Slaughter, was kind enough to answer some questions for us via email. working on this interview has been one of the high points of the experience of writing about metal, and it is a privilege to interact with a founding mind of a band such as Cryptic Slaughter.

Do you think a generational difference exists between bands, in terms of how the thinking that inspires them to make their music changes?

Sure, and every generation thinks that theirs is the most relevant! Your immediate surroundings, differing time frames included, will always impact your creative output. But music crosses generational, race, and class divisions. So even bands from different eras maintain a common thread. I’m just happy that there are still “thinking” bands out there.

How was music composed in Cryptic Slaughter?

Generally, we wrote songs individually, after which we would present the rough sketches to the rest of the band. We would then tweak arrangements and embellish. Lyrics usually weren’t written until the music was finished. A rare exception was Lowlife. Scott came up with that opening drum riff out of the blue, and I wrote the accompanying guitar part right on the spot. I can’t remember if the rest of the song had already been written or not.

Do you conceive of songs as rhythms, or riff patterns, or abstract ideas or melodies? What has been for you normally the genesis of songwriting?

This will be difficult to put into words. I can’t say that I really have a conscious formula. Usually it’s the melody first, then the rythym. Sometimes I’ll hear music in my head and then try to translate it into something tangible. Or I’ll just play around loosely with the guitar. If something promising comes up, I immediately record it and then attempt all manner of variations on the pattern or riff to see which sounds the best to me. After I come up with something I’m happy with, I’ll put it aside for a few days and then listen to it again. If I still like it upon the second listen, it’s a keeper. When Jimi Hendrix was asked a question similar to yours, he replied that he was like an antenna, or an open channel through which ideas were allowed to flow. In other words, his songs came from somewhere else. And while I would never, ever, try to compare myself to Hendrix, I do understand what he meant. Occasionally, I’ll write music and suddenly, it’s like it’s not me playing. Almost as if I’m outside of myself as an oserver. There’s a great mystery behind art.

Rap (and the synth music that inspired it) seems to be digital-technology-dependent, where other forms of music are less so. How does this affect the viewpoints of the artists?

I embrace the technological advances, but I do believe that any artist that relies too heavily on technology runs the risk of having his music sound like it was written and performed by a computer. But then again, that’s exactly what some bands are after. They want it to sound as cold and inorganic as possible because it evokes a very sinister feel. Whatever yanks your crank.

Of all the thrash guitarists, your work was seemingly the most unabashedly punk in raw dynamics while having a metallish sense of arrangement. In what ways did each genre influence your songwriting?

When I was a kid, I was metal to the core. I turned on to hardcore right when Cryptic was first coming together. Back then, those styles of music were so underground that I automatically gravitated towards anything new I could get my hands on. And I was influenced by everything that was fast and raw. We wanted to do something different to stand out from the crowd. The ultra-speed stuff kind of just evolved without any direct intent. But as we got faster and faster, it definitely necessitated a change in the way I was playing. So what eventually developed as my style was never pre-meditated.

What bands inspired you when you were starting out, pre- and post-Convicted?

Before Cryptic formed, the most important bands to me were Slayer, Metallica, Venom, and Motörhead. Then I started listening to GBH, RKL, Suicidal Tendencies, Discharge, and Minor Threat. I had friends in high school who were into punk, so we would borrow each others records. I think they really wanted to convert me, and I guess it worked. Before Convicted was even recorded, we had taken a definite turn towards hardcore. The earlier songs on that record, Rest in Pain, War to the Knife, & Rage to Kill, were more metal. Whereas M.A.D., State Control, & Nation of Hate reflected our new direction, lyrically as well as musically.

Do you think the metal genre has been obsoleted?

I don’t think any musical genre can be considered obsolete if there is still an active fan base. It’s almost impossible to be original anymore because it seems like everything has been done to death. So hats off to the modern pioneers like Strapping Young Lad, who have brought something new and distinct to the scene.

I could find no reference to Cryptic Slaughter demos anywhere on the web (the net is often useless). Were there any and if so, can you give a brief demography?

There was only one, recorded in May, 1985 entitled “Life in Grave”. Five songs, two of which (R.I.P & War) we re-recorded for Convicted. It was much more metal influenced.

Before us there is certainly left only nothing; but that which struggles against this flowing away into nothing, namely our nature, is indeed just the will-to-live which we ourselves are, just as it is our world. That we abhor nothingness so much is simply another way of saying that we will life so much, and that we are nothing but this will and know nothing but it alone. But we now turn our glance from our own needy and perplexed nature to those who have over-come the world, in whom the will, having reached complete self-knowledge, has found itself again in everything, and then freely denied itself, and who then merely wait to see the last trace of the will vanish with the body that is animated by that trace. Then, instead of the restless pressure and effort; instead of the constant transition from desire to apprehension and from joy to sorrow; instead of the never-satisfied and never-dying hope that constitutes the life-dream of the man who wills, we see that peace that is higher than all reason, that ocean-like calmness of the spirit, that deep tranquility, that unshakable confidence and serenity, whose mere selection in the countenance, as depicted by Raphael and Correggio, is a complete and certain gospel. Only knowledge remains; the will has vanished.

– A. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

How have your own musical tastes change through the years?

Mainly they’ve broadened. I still like heavy music, but my CD collection is pretty eclectic. Around 1987, we realized that there was a revolution happening in music that was being led by bands like Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone, Faith No More, the Chili Peppers, Mr. Bungle, Soundgarden, etc. Together with Wehrmacht on tour, we would get everybody from both bands on stage and play “Fight for your right” by Beastie Boys. People tripped on that because it was the last thing they expected.

Do you think the underground exists, still?

I do. It’s just that the underground has much more exposure now than it ever did before the advent of the internet. There is some real irony here. In 1985, it was hard to get any information on new bands outside of the mainstream. Now, there’s so much goddamn information available on every band imaginable, good and bad, that you couldn’t process it all in three lifetimes.

Some would say, as Wagner did, that music is a form of paint one uses to create art (narrative, descriptive or poetic works, normally in structure); others would say that music provides art within itself and has no correspondence to a more generalized “artisticness.”

Both points of view are correct. It all depends on how you define and perceive “art”. And that, of course, is a very personal distinction. Wagner and his contemporaries came from a much more rigid time in music history, which required a very strict adherence to form and theory. Imagine what those guys could have come up with had they been given complete musical freedom.

Do you see Cryptic Slaughter’s lyrics as having more of an aspect of the political, or as being social commentary?

Whenever we addressed a political figure or situation, I think that inherently, it becomes social commentary. For instance, when we bitched about Reagan, it was because he was making decisions that were affecting our lives. Political agendas, no matter how convoluted, eventually have a direct effect on the population. Of course, we were great about complaining, but offered very little in the way of solutions. But what do you expect from four young punks?

You said “Around 1987, we realized that there was a revolution happening in music that was being led by bands like Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone, Faith No More, the Chili Peppers, Mr. Bungle, Soundgarden, etc.” – after some research, I am guessing this means a funk/rap revolution in music. Do you think this revolution is still ongoing?

Actually, I was referring more to the punk ethics employed by those bands. They all have roots in the underground and, against all odds, managed to break into the mainstream with varying degrees of success. Let’s not forget, popular music in the early to mid 80’s was abysmal. It was all about Richard Marx, Kaja Goo Goo, and an endless array of butt rock bands. Jane’s, FNM, etc. were innovators and the driving force behind turning the tide. There was an enormous amount of creativity and risk taking in this respect from 1987-1992. And at the time, it was truly inspiring because it felt like the rest of the world finally got hip, and that meant that anything was possible for the rest of us. I should probably broaden my list by adding some more very influential bands; Ministry, Voi Vod, Primus, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, The Pixies, and it goes on and on. It’s also important to note that these bands made their impact on their own terms. They didn’t change for the masses, the masses came to them.

How do you describe the music of Cryptic Slaughter, and do you assign it to any subgenres (thrash, crossover, metalcore)?

I still like the original tag line I came up with in 1985, “Hardcore Thrash”. Pretty good marketing for an eighteen year old. It’s simple, yet it tells the story.

How has this revolution changed our perceptions and expectations of music as a whole?

It effected me greatly, and certainly had an impact on music as a whole, because it was really more than just a fusion of metal/funk/rap/punk and whatever else. A new musical paradigm was created, one in which bands were no longer confined to specific categories. This, in turn, forced a shift in general perception that allowed for much more artistic freedom. The audience came to expect bands to be more multi-faceted and eclectic. It changed music forever.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your discography?

Well, I’d like to re-record the first three records. I was never happy with how any of them sounded, especially “Stream of Consciousness.” And there are certain songs that I absolutely can’t listen to, like Hypocrite. I realize that it’s probably sacrilege for me to think these thoughts out loud. We really didn’t know anything about recording or production, so we basically just plugged in and played. Maybe that was part of the charm.

Two rumors: that your albums were to be re-released by a Pennsylvania label, and that the new album will approximate “speedcore” or crustcore – can you tell me anything about these and their degrees of veracity?

The plan at this time is to re-issue the first two individually, both with the original artwork. For bonus tracks, we will include the demo, along with a substantial amount of live and rehearsal material, most of which has never been heard outside of our circle of friends. Regarding the new material, I’m really happy with what we’ve written, but I have no idea which category it will fall into. We were always a band that people could never agree on anyway, in terms of genre, and I don’t expect that to change now. It’s fast, brutal, and angry.

How did the members of Cryptic Slaughter meet and come together?

We all played soccer, and had all been playing for years. That’s the truth. If not for the the American Youth Soccer Association, there would not have been a Cryptic Slaughter. Bill and I went on to both play for the same high school team, although not at the same time. I met Scott and Bill through a guy named Adam Scott who was actually one of the original members of the band. I used to give Adam guitar lessons and he was younger than me by a couple of years. He told me he knew a drummer through soccer. So when we first started jamming in the summer of 84′, I had just turned 17, Adam was 15, and Scott was 14 & 1/2. We stank on ice, but just finding other pepole into the same music back then was so rare that we bonded pretty quickly. Bill, another one of Adam’s soccer buddies, joined up after school started that Fall. We steadily got better, and played a lot of covers. I remeber that we did Ace of Spades, Aggresive Perfector, Welcome to Hell, and City Baby Attacked by Rats fairly well. Adam’s parents, who were both teachers, began to put a lot of pressure on him to quit. They were just looking out for him. but he started to miss rehearsals so we kicked him out and became a three piece. Rob (who was not a soccer player) came into the fold about a year later, two months or so before we recorded Convicted. We didn’t even know him, but it worked out better than any of us could have imagined. Rob’s playing and songwriting had a huge impact on improving our sound.

Do revolutions in music like the one you describe exist until they get mainstreamed, and then somehow get consumed? Or are they ongoing?

Everything gets ruined when too many people find out about it. But you enjoy it while it lasts. Once there’s a “new sound”, every major label tries to jump on the bandwagon. That kind of over-saturation and dumbing down of the music is what kills originality. And what’s worse, you’ve got these copy cat bands that emerge in an attempt to cash in. Remember how many Nirvana wanna-be’s there were? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having influences, but when you’re gearing your music towards what you think will be the next big thing, you’ve lost sight of what’s important. Take Faith No More’s example. They had a huge hit with The Real Thing, and then proceeded to turn their backs on commercialism in favor of following their instincts.

Was Stream of Consciousness a live or studio live album, or did it acquire its deliciously noisy production another way?

It was recorded in an abandoned beer vat, previously owned by Pabst Blue Ribbon. No shit. It was basically a wherehouse. That record actually sounded a lot better before it was mastered. My buddy Jason, Cryptic’s only real roadie, recently foud a test pressing for Sream that Rob had given him fourteen years ago. As is typical, it had a blank label with a section for comments. And what Rob had written summed it up with two words; “IT SUCKS”. Don’t get me wrong, I think the songs on that record are by far the best we ever wrote as a band, but none of us were happy with the production. And for all intents and purposes, by the time that record was released, we were already broken up. An interesting footnote, also thanks to Jason; we have a rehearsal tape of those songs that sounds better than the record, including a tune that was never released. We want to have it released with the re-issues.

On the metal history page (http://www.anus.com/metal/about/history.html) metal is grouped into several waves, based on what worldview they had because of historical events current to the time of each wave. Do you see a difference in the musical approach between bands of members born in approx. 1968, 1974, 1982 and 1986?

Oh yeah, people from different eras grew up in different worlds. I came up in the laid back 70’s when pot was decriminalized (thank you, Jimmy Carter) and sex couldn’t kill you. Then, just as I was ready to start having some of that fun, along comes the “Just Say No” Reagan years and AIDS. And this was also when the Cold War got really ugly and the threat of nuclear war loomed large. I was confused as fuck. And pissed. Someone born in 74′ would probably tell you about their fear of being drafted into the Persian Gulf War. But I think another reason for the difference in approach is simply the desire to do something unique. the same thing over and over again gets old, so music has to grow and evolve.

Some musical thinkers claim to be able to visualize music as shapes or patterns, and from there conceptualize the song as an aesthetic object. How do you conceptualize sound, or is it a conscious process at all?

I tend to experience music more in terms of colors, but then again, I’ve eaten more acid than most people! For me, writing music is about intuition. There are no rules or perameters or formulas. It’s either good or it’s not, and you have to be objective enough to tell the difference. Because even the greats have written crap, but were smart enough to recognize it as such.

What do you think of the overall prospects for humanity given the state of our current treatment of our environment and selves?

Well, humanity will be going away, possibly within the next couple of hundred years. I believe that we’re too far gone now to change our ways enough to make a signifigant difference. Some of us will probably take off for another planet so we can begin the cycle all over again. But after we leave, the Earth will eventually heal itself. Throughout the millenia, it’s been through a lot worse than humanity.

What was the best part about being in Cryptic Slaughter during the innovative days of 1980s thrash?

The high point was the many many friends we made. I got to know people from all over the world, and I was lucky enough to experience a lot of great music.

What future directions do you see opening for people wanting to create loud, heavy, violent music? Do you think the ideals that make one wish to make such music have changed, or do you see the impetus as emotional?

Music is accessable in way now that we couldn’t have imagined in 1986. Back then, before the internet and MP3’s, kids in Nebraska had a hell of a time even finding Cryptic records. Even in L.A., I couldn’t find our records half the time. With the software available for home recording, there really are no limits. You just have to be motivated and creative in the art of self promotion. I’m sure the reasons vary depending on the person, but at the core it’s always driven by emotion. That goes for all forms of music.

Was it difficult to start a band and make it successful at such a young age? I believe you were 17 when Money Talks came out.

I had actually just turned twenty when Money Talks was released in July, 87′. Scott, if I recall correctly, was seventeen and a half. It wasn’t difficult at all because we had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t have anyone telling us what to do or what not to do, which is both good and bad. At the time, I don’t know that we necessarily considered ourselves successful. We saw bands like Suicidal Tendencies as being successful. we were just happy to have a an outlet to create.

Do young people today face a different world than young people of previous generations? How will this affect their music and the ideas they associate with the sounds they are making?

Young people most assuredly face a different world, and the world at present seems to be changing more rapidly than ever before. As a result, any feeling of stability that existed previously is now deteriorating. I don’t think anyone can accurately predict how this will affect how music is written and played. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if it turns out to be pretty fuckin’ grim.

How did you learn to play guitar?

I took guitar lessons for years from the same guy, a studio musician. He was mainly concerned with teaching me advanced rythyms and chord structures that are most closely identified with jazz and music theory.I took music theory in high school and college as well. It’s funny how I put so much energy into learning “the rules” of music, just to turn around and break them all.

From who/where did the idea for the cover of Money Talks originate?

It came primarily from the artist, Jeff Harp, who also played guitar for Final Conflict. We gave him a lot of freedom, and he created quite a statement of the time. That cover got us on Tipper Gore’s list, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the F.B.I. opened a file on us around the same time. They’ve always kept a close eye on politically-minded musicians.

Santa Monica has always seemed to me to be a hyper-accelerated version of America in transition. Did it influence the topics of early Cryptic Slaughter songs?

I’m sure it did, although indirectly. Santa Monica was a pretty ideal setting in which to grow up. I spent a lot of my youth on the beach as well as the soccer field. Much of S.M. is very rich, but I come from a middle class background. No place is perfect, but we had it better than many kids. By the time we started doing Cryptic, we had begun to realize that the world around us left a lot to be desired.

Do you work on music full time? Family?

I wish I could do music full time, but alas, I work 40 hours a week like most people. I’m married and have a son who will be four years old soon. So I can’t afford to be an irresponsible slacker musician anymore. But I guarantee you that I rode that train for as long as I possibly could.

Do people ever beg you for re-releases of the Cryptic Slaughter albums?

Not really, but I guess the fact that people were paying between $100-$200 on Ebay for our early CD’s could be constued as a form of begging.

Now that the band has reformed, what do you aim to create in a different musical scene and perhaps style?

What we’re doing now is pretty over the top in terms of speed and heaviness. I don’t know that we’re breaking any new ground, but we are attempting to improve on what we helped to create way back when. And we’re setting the bar very high for all aspects from song writing to production.

Do you watch television?

I do, but not a whole lot. Through the influence of my son. our TV is usually set on the Cartoon Network. I’m absolutely addicted to the Sopranos and I usually still watch Letterman and Conan. One of my all time favs was Mystery Science Theater 3000, which finally ended it’s run after twelve years.

What do you think will be the effect of mp3 files and file sharing in a music industry controlled by a few titans, but with many smaller labels and distros?

I think that Napster and the like was a good thing for music. But it was especially crucial to the relatively unknown bands because it helped to get their music out there. Back in 1985, what held the underground together was a network of hardcore tape traders. They circulated hundreds of live shows and demos and helped bands like Cryptic get on the map. No record stores would carry a demo, even if you could somehow get it distributed. Many fans obtained our tapes by trading through the mail, and of course didn’t pay us for them. But the free publicity was well worth whatever we lost in short term profits. It got a buzz going, and pretty soon we were getting contacted from bands, labels, and fans who otherwise never would have heard of us. As far as major labels go, they’ve been bending over their bands and the fans for decades now so I’ve got no sympathy whatsoever. And besides, when I was a kid, I always bought the records I really liked and borrowed the rest from my friends and taped them. It’s the same principal. If you want it but don’t want to pay for it, you can always get it somehow.

You said, “What we’re doing now is pretty over the top in terms of speed and heaviness” – how can these things be increased in music? If you could describe more of your new music, that would be great.

I didn’t mean to imply that we’re going to come along and redefine fast and heavy music. I just wanted to get the point across that this is not going to be “Speak Your Peace, Part ll”. Don’t get me wrong, I love that record, but it’s not where we’re at now. Our new stuff combines blast beats with good rythymic structure and it’s not too complicated. It’s paced well with a definite emphasis on speed.

Catch-all “did I miss anything?” and “anything you’d like to add?” question – if there is any information in those categories you would like to see published in this interview, please fill in now.

Thanks to everyone for the continued support and interest after so many years. Please contact us if you want to be on our e-mail list. And thanks to SRP for probably the most comprehensive interview I’ve ever done.

[This] goes for writers and thinkers: if they resist the predominant use of time today, they are not only predestined to disappear, but they must also contribute to the making of a ‘sanitary cordon’ isolating themselves. In the shelter of this cordon, their destruction is supposed to be able to be put off for a while. But they ‘buy’ this brief and vain delay by modifying their way of thinking and writing in such a way that their works become more or less communicable, exchangeable; in a word, commercializable. But the exchange, the buying and selling of ideas and words, does not fail to contribute, contradictorily to the ‘final solution’ of the problem: how to write, how to think? I mean that they contribute to making even more hegemonic the great rule of controlled time. It follows that public space, Öffentlichkeit, in these conditions, stops being the space for experiencing, testing and affirming the state of mind open to the event, and in which the mind seeks to elaborate an idea of that state itself, especially under the sign of the ‘new.’ Public space today is transformed into a market of cultural commodities, in which ‘the new’ has become an additional source of surplus-value.

– J.-F. Lyotard, The Inhuman

Cryptic Slaughter at the Dark Legions Archive.
Interview with Scott Peterson.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature – Cauldron – In Ruin (2016)

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This is, without any subtlety, an exceedingly middle of the road work of traditional heavy metal. It’s not particularly ‘heavy’, containing little more than a set of rudimentary melodic rock riffs played at a middling pace overlaid with an exceedingly generic frontman. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the ‘glam’ metal (read: harder radio rock) of the ’80s, although Cauldron’s visual aesthetic is closer to a generic metalhead look. Nothing is particularly offensive here – the vocals are a bit lamer than average for reasons that are hard to quantify, but otherwise this is a vaguely competent albeit unremarkable recording that I am already forgetting as I write this album. You, on the other hand, are probably wondering why I would choose to cover something that’s so devoid of positive or negative qualities. It turns out that listening to this sort of recording places a few important ideas in my head.

By now, our readers should be familiar with how quickly our species as a whole forgets about the… lower tier of media works that are quickly forgotten once something more novel comes along. A sufficient amount of effort and/or financial wizardry can distort this phenomenon, occasionally resulting in an artist who refuses to leave the public eye due to radio payola, or personal misconduct, or whatever reason. Cauldron, to my understanding, is not thusly blessed, although they and associates presumably have enough business resources to create some buzz for a while. Maybe they’ll become one of those “moderately successful” metal bands I talked about earlier that can live comfortably, if not glamorously off their money. I highly doubt, however, that a band this generic is going to make any serious impact on most listeners, though and will probably fade quickly whenever they call it quits. There are two important corollaries here – the metal fanbase Cauldron has to fight for will turn over with time, and similarly so will the metal bands competing for mindshare. There’s definitely a lesson to be learned here about the state of the metal world, although you can also make a case that it’s better studied through either a more notorious band, an objectively worse one, or some combination of the two.

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What does it take to destroy metal?

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People think like they eat, so when someone talks about heavy metal being destroyed, they envision it being completely consumed like a donut before coffee. In reality, destruction is more like tainting, namely that if I spill a thousandth of a drop of nerve gas on your donut, you won’t want to eat it, ever.

Heavy metal can be destroyed if enough of it becomes hogwash that the smart people flee. Someone would say that has already happened, but I go for the more cheerful “in progress” designation. When a certain amount — say, 20% — of people surrounding metal are the same idiots that one finds everywhere else, or worse highly specialized types of idiots like hipsters, then the good people abandon the genre and it becomes swallowed up by people who do not understand it. They quickly convert it into the Same Old Thing the way they do to every genre and soon it sounds a lot like regular rock music with some heavy distortion and a metal riff now and again. It “lives on” in a different form, but for practical purposes, it is dead.

With revelations emerging that SJWs in punk bands who banned Disma from the Netherlands Deathfest wanted to go after another band first, but when they couldn’t find an excuse for a beatdown there had to attack Disma instead, it has become clear to metalheads that they are under attack. Because of the way SJWs behave, you can no longer not take a side; you are either with the SJWs, or their enemy, in their view. This is driving many metalheads to the anti-censorship side because, independent of political view, we realize that allowing bully gangs to form lynch mobs to witch hunt “bad” thought will result in the destruction of metal.

These incursions are part of a larger pattern. When Mastodon gets shamed and forced to apologize for having scantily-clad women in their hard rock videos, and then Metalgate was launched when SJWs tried to censor non-SJWs on metal mailing lists, it seemed that it was a cluster of events. Then we saw SJWs faking the news and a series of new attacks on actual metal bands by these pretenders. There’s a list of articles published since AD 2000 in which journalists and their lackeys in certain hipster bands and labels push for guilt that leads to censorship. In their view, there is one good way to be, and everyone else is pure bad. Like a light switch: it’s either set to “Full SJW” or it is off, and you should feel bad.

What is frightening about this is how easily SJWs can succeed. Different groups have been trying to take over heavy metal for years because heavy metal is a media signal for rebellion that cannot be bought out with ready cash money like every other “movement” in our time. We’re used to politicians pretending to regulate a group when they are in fact working for that group, or journalists representing entrenched political interests while pretending to be objective. When the FBI talks about corruption threatening the soul and fabric of the US, this — in part — is what they mean. It is relatively easy to take over a genre, turn it into a megaphone for political views, and then discard it when the trend is over. Christians, the far-right, the far-left, and other groups have tried to assimilate metal in this way.

Industry is backing the SJW incursion because it will allow them to make a lot of money in the short term and then transition into selling rock music, which is what they do best because it is easy to make a lot of it and if no stronger option, like metal, exists, to sell a lot of it to an audience bored with pop. Like the Republicans, rock and especially heavy rock are the controlled opposition to sugar-pop but if the industry has its way, will not be really all that different. Media supports industry. Apparently, so do the metalfests. We are seeing a situation where once again metal stands alone, hated by all, but this time our enemies are using passive-aggression to try to take over metal, instead of trying to outright ban it.

Those who love metal will be standing up to protect it. Unlike SJWs, the anti-censorship side does not demand that you adopt a political orthodoxy. It simply says that we need to stop pre-filtering music by whether it has the “correct” political outlook, and need to start being more open-minded. Mention any group and you have immediately assumed they are all the same; not all Democrats or all Republicans are identical. Among there, some interpretations of those belief systems are in fact more advanced than others. Having free speech allows, much like natural selection, better ideas to rise to the top, and this means that we all benefit from clearer information. It’s questionable why anyone would want to stop that — well, unless they want to control your minds through music, of course.

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#metalgate goes mainstream as Machine Head flails on

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The SJWs keep up a simple strategy for dealing with #metalgate: pretend it never happened and, if it did happen, it died an early death.

Instead, #metalgate is ramping up as the collision between Political Correctness and heavy metal intensifies. Recently metalcore band All That Remains’ vocalist Phil Labonte made some comments that riled a few basement neckbeards:

In 2005, on the ‘Sounds Of The Underground’ DVD I said, ‘PC is for f–gots.’ That was the first time people went, ‘Whoa, what did he say?’ I have nothing against gay people. It’s just a word. Honestly, I think the only people that have a legit grievance when it comes to any racial slurs is the black community. I know the homosexual community has problems with it and I understand their hurt feelings.

But homosexuals were never property. They’ve had a rough time and I’m not trying to minimize that, but I think the black community has a whole lot more room to be upset about a word than the LGBT community.

Apparently this outraged and upset Rob Flynn of alternative-metal band Machine Head, who seems to spend a lot of time on Facebook. He carefully assembles a series of clichés and strung them together into a post which raged against Labonte:

Where are the god damn protest songs? Where are the “War, What Is It Good For’s”? Where are the “Fight The Power’s”? Where are the white metal bands protesting about Ferguson and Staten Island? Why don’t metal bands stand for anything anymore? When did we reach this point in society where it’s unpatriotic to question our military or our police? Why are so goddamned proud to just fall in line?

Here we see the underlying issue that propelled #metalgate rising to the top: the PC people recognize only certain issues, but metal is in fact fighting back against the actual problem, which is a religious approach to reality denial through secular (but unrealistic) politics. In the PC view, if we just change our thinking, we have changed reality. This is why for SJWs it is essential that everyone think the same way, speak the same way and act the same way regarding political issues. We will be in lock-step like good Nazis/Communists/Christians and since we will all be uniform, no deviation can occur. Problem solved! …right?

The metal point of view takes an entirely different approach. In the metal view, problems do not go away until you find the root and fix it. People do not “just get along.” In fact, the more you push people to publicly affirm an idea, the more they resist it in private. In the metal view, there are no magic bullets like laws, rules, and speech codes that fix problems that have persisted since the dawn of humankind. In the metal view, it seems reckless to — knowing that these problems exist — bring them into our communities by demanding that we “tolerate” the endless clashes that result.

Flynn’s rant is stupid because he refuses to acknowledge that metal has for years endorsed sensible responses, but they are not ones that are politically correct because they do not affirm the public paradigms that everyone else is affirming. Every major corporation, police department, court, Congressperson, media outlet, and metal magazine agrees with Rob Flynn and will enthusiastically say so. They do this because people act as a herd, and while the herd is always wrong, the herd rewards its own. His opinion is not radical, it’s the norm. Metal has resisted the norm and this is why it upsets him. He even admonishes us to be more like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, two hypocrtical Baby Boomer communists who quietly enriched themselves while talking up the working classes.

Let’s face it: in the highly politicized decade in which we live, songs about social justice are the equivalent of love songs in the 1950s. They offend no one. They shock no social norms. They give people something to bond over, which is how terrible gays, lesbians, women, minorities and other groups who should be pitied are treated by the bad white people. Because, see, SJWs are the good white people — and the vast majority of SJWs are college-educated whites who didn’t quite hit the jackpot, the same audience that creates all the hipsters. Being into social justice is their way of showing you that they are “good” (and thus concealing all that is bad about them behind that symbol of goodness) like politicians kissing babies or celebrities giving money to the homeless. SJW metal is like Justin Bieber except instead of using candy pop to sell records, it uses candy opinions and recycled hippie cons to make you think the people behind it are “good” even though you know only one thing they think or do and the rest is concealed.

Metal says that society is illegitimate because it denies reality. Whether that is through its approach to religion, politics or social activity, it is all lies: it would not be popular if it were not a lie. That is not the same as saying “because it is popular, it must be a lie,” because some things are popular for simply being catchy and vapid, and sometimes society is even correct. But it says that only lies or other things which do not threaten the human pretense at the root of our rotting society become popular. Thus, if you see that all the dunces are in confederacy in favor of something, be suspicious.

SJWs have a simple plan. They will censor through guilt. This allows them to avoid using Nazi-style government tactics to enforce speech codes when they can simply make Soviet-style speech codes mandatory by attacking anyone who does not agree. Rob Flynn is the witch-hunter here, the same sort of person who 200 years ago would have burned witches when the crops went bad, hung black people without a trial when a rape happened, or even a generation ago would have banned kids from school for wearing all black. He is the totalitarian. He and the SJWs are using “social justice” as a means to seize power and subjugate the rest of you. Metal — nearly alone, but with a few brave others in #gamergate — is resisting this authoritarian takeover.

The same thing gets tried every generation. Charlie Hebdo was attacked so that all cartoonists and writers would think twice about criticizing Islam. Despite all the protests by people who were at absolutely zero risk, and all the warm fuzzies from media about how free speech will save us, the result of the attacks is more crackdown on people who criticize Islam, both from governments and their insurance companies who do not want to pay out for preventable deaths. The PMRC’s campaign to have record warning labels made law failed, but the legal campaign won because it intimidated record labels into putting the warnings on those records or they could not get them into stores. SJWs will do the same thing by labeling some metal as “verboten” because it did not join their politically correct view of the world, and then it will be unable to be sold openly. That is their goal: censorship. Their method is a 2.0 to book burnings, public executions and other censorship 1.0 techniques, but it aims at the same thing and is more effective.

You can see how Bieber-like it is when you look at this comment on Mr. Flynn’s comments:

You just GAINED one more fan. I don’t even know what you sound like yet.

The SJW outlook is not new. It is not revolutionary. It is what governments of the USA and EU endorse. It is in fact conformity. They however want to convince you that their ideas are “revolutionary” so they sound unique, different and exciting. They want to look like brave outsiders denying the will of shadowy oppressive forces and liberating us all. In fact, they are attempting to enslave us all — wonder who our Al Sharpton will be — and they are every bit as mainstream, ordinary and socially accepted as Justin Bieber. They appeal to the herd by telling it what it already accepts, just like Bieber offers music with absolutely no surprises that resembles every big pop act that went before it. But if you listen to them, they are heroic Christ-like bearers of enlightenment and the rest of us are just idiots in comparison and should be silenced as a result.

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Heaviness, the epic and masculinity

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In conversation with Martin Jacobsen, the topic of “heaviness” came up. What is heavy? Why is the term applied to metal? This question in many ways defines why it’s so hard to understand what metal is, much less describe it.

From my experience, metal is a spirit that leads to an approach. It’s not dissimilar to classical, where a certain attitude toward life, spirituality and culture leads to a form of music complete with its complexity and techniques. Nor is it all that different from martial arts, where a specific outlook leads to some near-universal shared characteristics.

Coming at metal from a literary/philosophy background, this isn’t surprising. Artistic movements tend to share traits they develop independently. They do this because they approach their art with a similar feeling, sentiment or belief system, and as a result no matter where they start, they end up in similar places. This is analogous to how just about every culture on earth has invented something like a chair, with most designs being very similar.

Jack Fischl over at PolyMic has another take on metal with his article ‘”That’s So Metal” Might As Well Mean “That’s So Masculine”‘ — it’s a bastion of alternative masculine thought:

According to the book Running with the Devil by Robert Walser, heavy metal imagery, music, style, and lyrics offer the illusion of power to a group (young men) that simultaneously lacks traditional forms of power (money, social standing) and is constantly barraged with cultural messages that inforce the importance of those forms of power. Listening to the music, especially by going to a concert, allows low-power young men to escape and live vicariously through metal’s imagery, the way one might live through books, movies, or TV shows.

Whereas pop music tends to portray (or at least address) your classical “manly” man, metal more often ties into elements of fantasy and science fiction — two other bastions of alternative masculine escape. Any given metal song likely depicts a man or male entity (spirit, creature) struggling with something — his place in the world, a woman, his own emotions. In other words, a typical song involves guys dealing with normal guy issues from a guy’s perspective.

He does have a point. The modern world does not exactly relish the hyper-masculine, but it gives it voice in rock music through the intense sexuality of the sound. However, metal takes this a degree higher. Where rock is about individual sexual power, metal is about power itself, and transcends the sexual per se in favor of an overall masculine intensity. This is the epic nature of metal; it is not based in the individual, but all that the individual cannot control.

Some might say this world, by being so obsessed with the safety of each and every person and ensuring that we all get along, is against the kind of conflict-driven Nietzschean masculinity that metal seems to espouse with its lyrics on war, death, violence and destruction.

For many of us however metal is more than masculinity. It is a worship of power itself. When you wield death and conquest, you are the power that society denies. This unites metal’s outsider status with its realistic ideals and returns us to a definition of “heavy.” In a time of stoned flower children worrying about nothing more than their next hook-up, “heavy” encompassed all the thoughts that this worldview could not tolerate. It was all that we fear and want to suppress, including mortality and fear of loss.

What made Black Sabbath “heavy” was not a specific technique but a tendency to gravitate toward these dark thoughts and the reality that society denies. This neatly coupled metal with hardcore punk, which saw a society out of control and in denial of basic facts of life. Together these ideas brought metal to its underground state where it is completely alienated from the values and behaviors of most of civilization.

What is “heavy”? It is that which we cannot define because it is beyond the instruments of our culture — such as it is — to discuss. It is the thoughts that grip us at four in the morning and shock us awake. It is what stalks us in dreams. And it is our primal past, reaching past our modern technology and enforced civility, awakening the beast within.

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Interview with Andrés Padilla, author of Underground Never Dies

andrés padilla-underground_never_diesRecently the word got out about a new book that’s going to explain the metal underground. This book, called Underground Never Dies, is edited by Andrés Padilla, the longstanding publisher and chief writer of Grinder Magazine.

Like several underground books before it, Underground Never Dies does not attempt to summarize the underground from a single point of view. Rather, it lets many different voices speak and, like harmonization in song, a truth emerges.

Cover art by Mark Riddick graces the entrance to this all-star production of underground metal analysis and opinion. In these pages, you will find people that you know of, or will want to know of, who helped build the underground into what it is.

We were lucky to get a chat in with Andrés as he prepares to launch this challenging work. Thanks to Andrés Padilla, Grinder Magazine and Doomentia Records for helping us secure this interview.
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The most difficult question first (sorry!): what is the “underground”?

From a Thrasher’s point of view, it’s a very particular phenomenon developed in the early eighties when the roar and corrosion of Metal began to sprout all over the world. Ignoring rules, norms and standards, this trend and way of thinking opened up its way in a pure, honest and caring manner. Personally, the underground has been the path I have followed all my life, not only musically (I also listen to other music styles) but also in the type of life and philosophy to follow. Since the metal stench entered my blood it has never left. On the contrary, it has grown and strengthened my vision for this movement that in spite of any dogma, represents a way of life not only for me, but for many other devoted followers of this sound, which becomes my daily sustenance.

Underground is devotion and commitment; it is to follow your own path, not accepting the mainstream as your food, rejecting the rules of the religion – Christianity , impose your own voice, make your mark, teach others that way which means to believe in yourself. It’s a “fuck you” to the system.
Musically it is the opposite to the establishment. This is where the mind has a space to open freely and go with the corrosive and distressing death metal sound, which in my case is my favorite style.

It may have been born in the eighties, but not everyone who was there at the beginning has continued its traditions. I feel lucky to have never given up this way of life and even to this day, have supported its development and growth, either by editing a fanzine for 25 years as well editing and distributing discs and demo tapes. Although the rise of the Internet has dramatically changed the way it’s distributed and spread out, the underground has mutated over time, trying to keep his old philosophy and aesthetics. Long life to Death Metal!

How did the idea of this book come to you, and how did you embark on the course to write it and publish it?

Before finishing school I started to make my own fanzine. Up to this day I continue, sending letters, talking with underground bands, exchanging demos/CDs/LPs/videos etc. has been my way of life. I never wanted to look for a job in an office. Metal has been my best ally and daily food since I started listening to it in the mid eighties.

So if you ask me how I got this idea, well, it just came to me, I never looked for it! Everything came naturally. I like thriving, without losing its philosophy, and after 25 years doing fanzines, I wanted to do something more challenging, something that defined a little better what my life linked to music has been like, even if it’s been behind a desk. I’ve always believed that nothing is impossible, only death is unavoidable.

Then, as there is no worldwide publication that has managed to piece together an overall concept about this repulsive and dark phenomenon, I wanted to be the first madman to embrace every corner of the planet and display it in a book with a ton of posters, photos and comments that may finally tell, what, how and when all this happened. Underground Never Dies is just that, an incredible journey into the past where you can explicitly revive what was a unique time.

About the way it’s going to be published, maybe it was fate or luck that made me send a copy of my first book — Retrospectiva al Metal Chileno 1983-1993 — to Doomentia. Lukas (founder) loved my work and when I told him I was doing a new book about the worldwide Underground, and in English, he gladly accepted to publish it.

Do you think “underground” (perhaps like “outsider”) is a cultural identity more than a marketing category?

andrés_padilla-grinder_magazine-underground_never_diesAbsolutely, at least for me. I am very different from other normal people who wake up every day to go to an office or accept system standards. So this phenomenon for me has its own identity, and even though throughout its developmental years many people have left to take on another identity, I know that we are thousands who still believe that this sound must be kept in a low profile, away from the mainstream and with a unique identity.

And I’m not talking about the aesthetic aspect, because personally, even though I really like the aesthetic that surrounds it, if anyone sees me on the street probably they will not think I listen to Death Metal. For me the image is not everything. It is the thinking, actions and congruence with yourself. The rest does not matter. Now, I will not dress like a Glam Rock fan of the eighties. No way!

How important do you think “non-commercial” attitudes are to the underground?

They are important to sustain its aesthetics, spirit and coherence with the environment. However, commercial attitudes are also valid. It is impossible to make a ‘zine and give it away for free, to spend thousands of dollars on a disc and then give it away. Money is in the middle of it whether we like it or not. Always. Moreover, we grew up on the grounds that money is everything. Unfortunately we are doomed to follow that path until humanity reaches its end. I prefer to make music or a magazine and sell it than belonging to a stupid company and take orders from an asshole boss.

Do you think the underground was a product of its time, when there was no Amazon and import CDs weren’t in regular stores, or does it still have relevance today?

To me, Underground is a concept born out of many factors, like our interest in something intangible like belonging to a music scene. We, are the ones who keep this alive. The bands, zines publishers, fans attending a concert, etc. All this makes the Underground continue thriving over time and avoid death to changes in humanity, like technology. Underground will always exist, but it is not going to go towards you, it is you who has to go to it.

What defines or identifies an “underground” band? Is there a specific sound, or is it an attitude, or a social position like being on an underground label, small pressing runs, etc.?

Arguably, in Thrash, Death, Speed, Black, Doom, etc, all trends derived from this devotion. Yes, there are patterns, pre-established rules and forms which we interpret as good or bad. Underground is devotion. And when it’s honest and pure, it is recognized. Who does not recognize it, then, they are on a different path.

How long did it take you to write the book? What is your process for writing?

From the first interviews, trips and design, I think it has been three long years. The first stage was the longest, perhaps collecting the information (posters, photos, etc.) and checking my personal collection amassed over the years of editing fanzines. Much of the material had been stored and forgotten.

underground_never_dies-andres_padillaThen it was about organizing the book concept and selecting the best of the material, trying not to be like any other work which has published about it. After several years, I think I arrived at the final concept. The experience of having done something similar, only dedicated to the scene of my country, was fundamental. That book, Retrospectiva al Metal Chileno 1983-1993, edited along with a 12″ vinyl disc (made by Iron Bonehead Prod, Germany) was very well-received worldwide.

Who’s going to print the book, and where/when will we be able to buy it, and for how much?

Doomentia Czech label will be responsible for publishing and distributing the book through its network of contacts and labels within the Metal realm. We all know who they are! If you’re reading this, it’s because you know! I have to confess that thanks to the Internet, now with a few clicks anyone can have the book. Hopefully the printed copies reach the right people. I have no idea what the price will be, but if you calculate a hardcover book with over 400 pages infested with posters and photos of the eighties, plus a 12″ gatefold with bands like Slaughter Lord, Incubus, Necrovore, Mutilated, Dr Shrinker, Fatal and more, then the price is more or less imaginable. I hope that the material is ready and available for December 2013.

You mention on your flyer that the underground was a way to fight transformation into a mindless sheep. This sounds straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “They Live.” Is it really that bad?

The promotional poster you speak of, contains quotes taken from the people interviewed in the book. That phrase you mention is something you will have to interpret when you read the book and the complete response of the interview. That mystery I leave it for when you have the book in your hands. Each individual has his own version of what happened in these corrosive years, when Metal was a threat to the system. In my case, I lived through Metal in chaotic times for my country with a military dictatorship. I think that counts and left a huge mark in our youth.

Where does the underground live today?

Worldwide. It has never ceased to exist. We are the ones who should feel a natural devotion to go after it. Those who don’t feel that, simply do not belong in this cult. This will cease to exist only when there are no more humans on earth.

Can you give us a small biography of yourself and your past writing experiences?

Since 1988, I have been editing fanzines, corresponding with bands, tape traders, attending concerts and festivals worldwide. I saw the birth of Death Metal since it started wearing diapers. With 25 years of experience in this art, I think I have enough to identify which smells more rotten than the other. This is all I have done in my life.

I have never been part of a company, nor have I been employed by one, except for a radio station in Santiago for three years, but at that time it was only two days a week on the radio, so I wouldn’t call it being employed by them. The program was called “Ground Beef”, and was devoted to Metal . We played stuff like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Nihilist among many other killer bands. It was a fun experience hanging out with some international acts when they played in Chile.

Will you be covering the internet, for example pre-1995 websites like the Dark Legions Archive?

The book mainly talks about the beginnings of Metal, but at the end it has a brief chapter on these issues, the emergence of the Internet and databases such as these and many others, like Metal Archives.

Thank you for this interview. Our readers will enjoy it!

Thank you very much to you for this tremendous space and support to spread this work that has required three years of my life. I hope that when it’s published, the public can appreciate it.

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