Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Looking Back And Ahead At The Same Time

Couple things to get to, both in due time. One - why the Zune is a distant competitor to the iPod (and Apple in general) and how bad it (and the monkeys that handle Microsoft's customer support on that end) sucks - will be a little later on. The second...well, the time is due. And it may ramble a little, just so you know.

In fact, it may ramble a lot. When I started on this one, it was gonna be just a quick review of stuff I’ve done. But then I thought, it’s not often that I get to put myself over like this, so what the hell? May as well go whole-hog on it. And it starts with the idea we have that goes hand-in-hand with leaving this hellhole of a state...

My wife and I are looking at starting a PR Firm proper. I've been doing this sort of thing off-and-on for years already and have come to realize the “new” company we’re looking at putting together has been around for about 6 years now without me realizing it.

I’d taken one band as a client a few years ago – the late, lamented Demophobe out of Jacksonville. (Huh – Just found out, looking at that profile link, that their old guitarist Justin now plays with a band called Circle Of Strife...and they sound pretty damn good...file away for future reference...ANYway...) I got them some bookings here and there, and then decided to take that end one step further by helping put together a show or two. The biggest one of those was FuelFest, an all-day metal festival at the – why does this sound familiar? – late, lamented Fuel nightclub in Daytona. Several dozen bands were on the bill (such as Demophobe, natch), with the headliner being then-Roadrunner signee GoneBlind (and judging by their profile, they may be history as well). Other than that, I’ve done some odds and ends as far as the promotion end of media goes.

And, of course, there's the writing end of it. The whole things started at DBCC when I wrote for their newspaper, “In Motion”. I wound up securing the first interview they’d ever done with a national recording artist when I talked to Vinnie Paul from Pantera. (That resulted in my getting to meet Vinnie’s brother, Dimebag Darrell, before his untimely passing. What a damn shame that was.) The apex of my time there came when I talked to Sir Mix-A-Lot in his hotel room in West Palm Beach, FL, for three hours in what is easily the best interview I’ve ever done to this day.

Took a few years off of writing altogether before I went back to it – this time for Daytona's BackStage Pass Magazine for about 4 years. First assignment for them was a piece on how the 9/11 attack affected local businesses. Light reading. Also did quite a few interviews for them until I was stuck doing just fluff pieces and decided to finally bow out. (Some time soon, I have to scan all of those and host them online so I have access to them for personal and business reasons without having to keep a ginormous box full of all the old issues to send samples once in a blue moon.)

And, of course, there’s my involvement with writing for 411Mania for the better part of the past 5 years now (off and on). Spent a notable stint heading up their Music Zone as its Editor (from ’03 to early ’05 or somewhere around there) after their previous one departed and I took the helm. That was when we really upped our profile as a whole, but especially in the Music Zone. Did quite a few interviews for them--

You know what? To hell with it. This might take a minute to do here, but I may as well have another list of those interviews compiled. My MySpace page has these listed, but it’s not full and I don’t know how up-to-date it is. Besides, this list features running commentary like a DVD! Toldja I was gonna go whole-hog with this...

Anyway, did quite a few interviews for them, including:

Anthrax - John Bush and Scott Ian, separately. The John Bush interview was, obviously, before he was dismissed – which I still think that was a dumb move. Still the best vocalist Anthrax had – and a great guy to sit and talk to. Ian one of a short list I’d ALWAYS wanted to do. Went about as well as I thought it would; decent guy to talk to, so long as you’re not a knuckle-dragging, mouth-agape idiot.
Judas Priest – Not quite on the short list, but I can’t argue with talking to a legend. And let’s face it, if you anything about metal or music in general, then they certainly qualify for that title. Almost pissed Tipton off by bringing up Rob Halford’s sexual orientation, but managed to work my way out of that one.
Queensryche – That one was with drummer Scott Rockenfeld; another, with singer Geoff Tate (~!), was done for the aforementioned BackStage Pass Magazine. Tried my damndest to get some spoiler info about Operation Mindcrime II out of Rockenfeld, but nothing doing. Geoff was around the time Tribe came out – and Chris DeGarmo re-joined the outfit for a minute. Tate is a damned intelligent fellow, I have to say. That was a great time.
Himsa and Bleeding Through – Yes, a two-fer – though not done at the same time. Both interviewed separately for that year’s Headbanger’s Ball Tour. John Pettibone from Himsa was a nice guy, while Bleeding Through’s Brandan Schieppati was cool enough, but would turn out to be...not so much. That was apparently a bad time for ego, as another two interviews were supposed to follow to head up the rest of the acts on that tour – Arch Enemy and Cradle of Filth. The latter couldn’t schedule around several other appearances; fair enough. The former just kept blowing us off because I guess they thought a site that does in upwards of a few million hits a month was too small for their attention. I’d later receive an apology after I railed against their asses in the weekly column I was doing for 411 Music at the time.
GWAR – Holy CRAP, that was fun. Funniest – and, as it would turn out, the most real – interview I’d done up to that point. Dave Brockie/Oderus Urungus was a blast, pure and simple. We’d get to do it again for a feature on the Sounds Of The Underground tour (the counter-counter-culture answer to OzzFest) and it was no less fun the second time around.
All That Remains – Didn’t know that much about the band or Phil Labonte going in, but still a good interview. Went from knowing nothing about him to liking the man quite a bit.
Lamb Of God – This was around the time they were banned from playing the LA Sports Arena because their name used to be Burn The Priest. Randy Blythe was a good enough sport about it, though, looking at the “any publicity is good publicity” side of it and not letting it affect him as much as it should have.
Lisa Marie Presley – This was the first “big” (i.e. mainstream) interview I’d done, and I was a little nervous. This was during Michael Jackson’s trial for child molestation, and I was told ahead of time that she would not discuss Jackson at all – which was fine with me because I had no desire to talk about him, anyway. She was understandably guarded (understandably so...wait, did I mention that her behavior was understandable?), but once she realized that I didn’t want to talk about her ex-husband(s) or her dad, she was a good conversation.
Rob Thomas – Another “big” interview, and this one went well because Thomas got his start in nearby Orlando and I’d known all about it. Being on familiar ground (so to speak), he was affable as all hell. Great guy.
Lifehouse – Despite the success they’d go on to have, Jason Wade seemed more nervous about the interview than I was! All went well in the end.
Strapping Young Lad – One of the only times I well and truly marked out and probably made an ass of myself because I identify quite a bit with his music and couldn’t believe I was talking to him. At least Devin Townsend was cool about it...
Jim Brickman – Despite being another “big” interview, not much to write home about here. Just...sorta there.
World Leader Pretend – See above, only without the “big” part. I’d regret that, though, as I’d heard their music after the interview and was surprised by how good it was.
Dope – His music may be nasty, dirty, and more angry than not, but Edsel Dope was one of the coolest dudes to chat with. Classier than you could imagine.
Soulfly’s Marc Rizzo – yes, listing his name there is done for a reason that’ll be clear later on. Another genial, laid-back chap; a guy who has every right to be a little arrogant because of how good of a player he is, but chooses not to be.
Taproot – Maybe it was some unwritten rule among some bands about distrusting the media, but getting Mike DeWolf to talk was like pulling teeth. Not one of my better ones.
30 Seconds To Mars – Obviously, I wanted Jared Leto. He wasn’t available. So I got Matt Wachter instead, who was great to talk to despite all that. He’s since left the band, so maybe I should try for Mr. Leto again...
Our Lady Peace – There was s a cause that Duncan Coutts was anxious to talk about and I gave him that forum. We hit it off pretty well, AND I got to ask him about one of my favorite shows ever, Live 8.
My Ruin – Another case of not getting who I wanted (which would have been Tairrie B), but things, again, turned out well in the end because I don’t let the disappointment stand in the way of promoting the band and Mick Murphy was another class act. Professionalism, folks.
Bif Naked – Spunky and infectious, this girl was. And talkative. Perfect pre-requisites for an excellent interview.
Bloodhound Gang – Lupus Thunder was a ball to talk to. Great guy and another band crossed off the Short List.
Shinedown – Being another “local”, Brent Smith was apparently comfortable enough (in a shopping mall, no less!) to give an excellent interview right before the band was about to break BIG.
Socialburn – Another one chalked up in the “couldn’t get him to talk to save my life” column. Sigh.
Mudvayne – Mudvayne had hit it big and I kind of expected Chad Gray to be a pecker. Turns out I was wrong (and feel bad for even typing that), as he was like an open book and a laid back fellow. Good stuff.
Coheed And Cambria – Joshua Eppard was another excellent guy to chat with – and, if you read the exchange at the end, he was as relieved about that as I was!
Nonpoint – Probably the biggest disappointment on the list. Elias Soriano seemed to not want to say much and got offended at a couple simple questions. A shame, because I wanted to dig into the political side of their music, which I actually like a lot.
Hatebreed – Jamey Jasta is a prime example of a guy that has every right to be an ass but was exactly the opposite. A great host and all-around genial guy. Oddly enough, this was done on his tour bus outside the aforementioned Fuel nightclub – one of the last shows to be done there before the place closed down, bringing its growing reputation as “Finky’s 2.0” to a sad and shocking halt.
Unearth – Another one that was sort of...there. I blame myself because I didn’t know a lot about them going in and did this one as a favor for our then-Editor, Brandon Ratliff.
Lacuna Coil – Hey, look ! I finally discovered Web 2.0! The first Video interview I’d done and the first one ever for 411 as well. Andrea Ferro was a cordial gent and we hit it off well once we hit on the fact that we had Faith No More’s Angel Dust in common as one of our favorite albums ever. Can’t go wrong with that.
Twisted Sister – This was to promote the Christmas album the band had released a couple years ago (no, you read that right. Good stuff, too.) Jay Jay French seemed a little off-putting given the success of the band over the years, but he was a nice guy to talk to. Can’t ask for more than that. Also found out a fun fact that I never knew: D’ja ever notice that the melodies for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” sound almost exactly alike? That’s no accident, kids...
Norma Jean – Another one I kinda blew because I was afraid to touch on the Christian pedigree of the band out of fear that they’d heard all that before. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much in the way of alternate subjects to cover in its place.
Placebo – I owe my pal Grimmy Acosta big for this one, as he helped me put the questions together. The result was another good time from an affable guy.
God Forbid – The second-best interview I’ve ever done. Dallas Coyle was willing to talk about anything and everything and entertained like few others before him. From politics to the music industry to their current album...this one gleefully went everywhere.
Bullet For My Valentine – Michael “Moose” Thomas bordered on being a douchebag. And that’s all the comment on that I care to give.
Max Cavalera – As one of the Godfathers of metal (and the reason I had to specify Marc Rizzo above), Cavalera was easily on the Short List. I actually got him to talk about the tragic events that surrounded the dissolution of Sepultura (not in graphic detail, though – that simply wasn’t necessary) and he turned to be an open, honest, and terrific guy.
Ministry – kinda – You HAVE to know that Al Jourgensen is on the Short List. Alas, he had both the flu and bronchitis and had to cancel all of his interviews. Foiled again. Instead, I got a video chat with Burton C Bell (~!), who was helping out on tour with Ministry, as was his partner in Ascension of The Watchers, Jon Bechdel. Inadvertently, I’d scored another two-fer – and, as the video will attest to, had a great time in the process.

Whew! Are we done yet? Almost – there were a few more interviews in other Zones, such as wrestler 2 Tuff Tony, director Barry Blaustein (for one of my favorite movies, Beyond The Mat, and Larry The Cable Guy (another “local” and a damn-fine gentleman to talk to). That’s not counting the endless stream of reviews and columns I’ve done for the place. No, I won’t get into to all those here. I don’t think either of us have time for all THAT.

So, that’s my experience. In a pretty big, self-serving nutshell. Lee Ann seems to think this is enough to go into business for ourselves and I have to agree. Once again, it’s not often that I put myself over, but this was helpful in taking this step. I have to know I can do this and after reviewing all that, I know I can. Let’s do the damn thing.

(And yes, I still plan on writing and publishing Electric Kingdom as well. Just have to figure out how...)