Interview w/ Matt Longo of Mind Over Metal
July 22, 2011
The picture you see above is a very young Matt Longo. From a young age he had hopes, dreams and inspirations to do marvelous things with the life he was blessed with. It turns out that things have worked out pretty nicely for the guy and if you ask me, he’s doing what most wish; living out his dreams and loving every moment of it. I caught up with Matt recently and this is how our conversation went.
Matt Longo’s Facebook. Mind Over Metal Site. Mind Over Metal Facebook. Mind Over Metal Twitter. Mind Over Metal Myspace. Mind Over Metal Youtube.
You've been in and out of all the ropes when it comes to heavy metal, what inspired you to becoming a writer and at what age did you find out it was a passion?
I've always loved words. Spelling and grammar are important to me, regardless of what I write, so I try to make everything count—from transcriptions to text messages. I don't know exactly what inspires me to write. Regardless of style or content, it all boils down to me trying to understand how I feel about something.
I never wrote about music much, until I became Metal Director at WRUV in 2005. I then needed to review music constantly, and I honed my writing for years. But it was back in 2009, when MindOverMetal.org started getting more press links, that I realized this shit was getting serious. So in the last few years I've become a better writer, between all that, editing the work of our contributing authors, and spending my life with a girl about to get her Master's degree in English.
So in a way, do you feel like it's your "destiny" to be a writer for music or have you always wanted to do something more "big city and bright lights" type of stuff?
It's hard to say. I never thought that deejaying live would appeal to me, but Mind over Metal Mondays has been at Nectar's since April of this year, we're doing our 16th week in a row tonight. Plus, now I'm six years deep in the radio gig, which is where I have the most experience. Writing simply came from the territory. I will likely always be involved with music in some way. Journalism became my most logical path. But if the big cities come calling, I might answer the right offer.
Interesting. With that being said and journalism being the most logical path, who inspired you to write and what writers influenced the style you write in?
As far as folks who do what we do, I like Cosmo Lee (Invisible Oranges), autothrall (From the Dust Returned), John Haun (That's How Kids Die) and Angry Metal Guy. I often read the MetalSucks perspective, and appreciate the brevity of AllMusic and About.com (sometimes). Decibel is the only printed music magazine I subscribe to, and I would love to write for them.
I've recently read a couple of books that have helped me immensely: "The Elements of Style" by Strunk & White and "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser. I also really like "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss.
I've actually heard about "On Writing Well" before so thumbs up on that one. Earlier you mentioned press links, at what point did you realize that Mind Over Metal was taking off or is it still sinking in?
I'm not really sure how to measure "takingoffness" (wish I did!), I've always just wanted to be good. But measuring year after year, readership has certainly increased—sometimes double, sometimes fivefold—but the change is always positive. Hardly anyone makes a living doing this, though. But it's a labor of love, ya know? I would like more money to roll in, at least enough to be sustainable.
I can agree, we do it for the love of the game. Moving a couple steps left or right, what's Matt Longo actually listening to these days and is there anything I should stay away from?
Whatever's new, mainly. There is that perk: the free music. We're only able to formally cover half of what's sent, in one way or another (airplay, review, photos, interview), but all this boils down to some 90% of listening time dedicated to recent releases. Preference weighs heavily, though—it depends on what you're looking for. I really like where Gigan has gone on their latest; I'm really ambivalent to Morbid Angel's direction. It's been great to reacquaint with the Ozzy and Death reissues. HeadCat is lots of fun; Decapitated WILL take your head OFF (in the best way possible); if you need a mind-fuck, Anaal Nathrakh's "Passion"; and for a great live album, check out "Warriors of Ice" from Voivod.
You had me at Anaal Nathrakh, buddy. It's been 6 years that Mind Over Metal has been going strong and wrecking shop of other webzines, do you have any future plans for the site thus far in the playbook?
Technically, it's been six years of radio domination; MindOverMetal.org wasn't online until 2008, and only really got good about two years back. Some of my older stuff from 2005 has made it online, so that may be where your math comes from.
But future plans, yes, there are many! We made acquisitions that I can't yet disclose, have potential new contributors, and now collaborate more deeply and broadly with artists, labels, promo companies, distributors. It's intense, and wading through the chaos is hard. More to your point (I think), all kinds of crazy shit comes up in the right setting with the right people: having my own radio station, putting all my past WRUV shows online, covering European metal festivals, possibly going to print. Timing is key. I hope these things happen someday, but none currently feel right, so I don't force the issues.
Sounds like all of those things are major and we can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve. Is there any advice you would give an "up and coming" webzine or magazine in what to do and what not to do?
1) Believe in your product.
2) Surround yourself with talented people who share your vision.
3) Focus on your core strengths, branch out when necessary.
Nice tips. In recent months, myself and others have heard some whispers of people saying the album review is irrelevant and doesn't get much attention, do you agree, disagree and why or why not?
Meh, who's really in a position to claim accurate knowledge of something like that? All I know is that I've always been interested in opinion pieces—especially about music, which is a subjective experience projected from another perspective, condensing emotion and experience from vibrations to words. Fuck sakes! How do you even contain something like that? This has been quoted to death, but it's from one of my heroes—Frank Zappa—so I'm gonna say it again: "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.". All I wanted to do when I started MindOverMetal.org was communicate and make available everything I encountered from this ridiculous, awesome Metalverse. I never thought about whether it made sense, or if people would care—it just felt like the right thing to do at the time. Nobody has any real clue about the totality of existence, remember; we all guess about right and wrong, constantly.
As much as I hate to admit it, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. With you saying that, does writing or the site every feel boring or somewhat of a chore to you? Also, how do you keep everything so fresh so that it doesn't get boring or a problem?
My reviews have mutated from sparse descriptions to personal reflections, which are usually the kinds of reviews I like to read, too—as long as they're still informative. I battle with writer's block, and procrastination in general. True, I get overwhelmed at times, but it's so integral to my life that it never feels like a chore. My biggest challenge is getting stuff reviewed expediently, with music I review personally, and also from my contributing writers. But it's difficult to enforce, since this is largely volunteer-based, with relatively few fringe benefits and sparse accountability. I've been toying with the idea of an incentive program for faster turnaround and/or better quality, but that's still up in the air.
Other than writing and deejaying, do you have any other hobbies/talents or whatnot? Film buff at all? If so, what do you like the most?
Yeah, film is high on my list of favorite things, for a number of reasons. I don't know what else to say about that, except my friend and I are making an iRiff. It's mostly for fun, but we may get it on RiffTrax. I can't disclose which movie yet.
Pretty exciting stuff, keep us posted. What film rank in your favorites and are you open to any genre of film?
"Clerks" is a longstanding favorite. I really enjoy the "Evil Dead" trilogy.. I've seen every MST3K/Film Crew/RiffTrax/Cinematic Titanic. "The Big Lebowski" hits a very comfortable spot for me. And Darren Aronofsky always impresses. I tend toward horror and comedy, but it really depends on my mood. Then animation is a whole other avenue to drive down… maybe another time.
We'll definitely have to sit down again and talk about some anime because that's indeed a long road. Alright, one last question and then I'll let ya get out of here. What are you expectation for the metal community in the coming years and do you expect it'll surpass what's done thus far? Also, is there anyone you would like to thank or shout out?
Again, speaking only for my peers in blog, it seems like we need to be both insightful and informative, entertaining and earnest. Circumstances call for different levels of each.
As far as thanks go… well, you, for one. This is my first formal interview about MindOverMetal.org, so I appreciate the recognition! And of course, deepest gratitude to our great team of writers and loyal readers. This is where my life is pointed, and I'm glad we're all in for the ride.