Last weekend, I finally managed to pull Lord Randall over from his very busy work schedule for a very interesting interview. Really, there isn’t much I can say about him that wasn’t revealed in the interview since I had the honor of getting some very in-depth and personal answers from him. Be sure to check out his reviews and interviews on the sites that he listed below. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t. This is part of my series on music journalists/writers, of course!
Some people don't separate their passions. The two tend to walk hand-in-hand. Has writing always been entwined with your passion for music?
I would say so. I really don't see how it couldn't have been, as I began both discovering my musical preferences and writing about music within 6 months of each other (the latter unprofessionally, of course). At the risk of sounding like the Neanderthal I am, before the internet there was virtually no way to find out about new bands other than word of mouth or the few - and let's be honest, mostly disastrous - nationwide print outlets for extreme music. Spending my early teens in a small Alabama town, that doesn't deserve to be named here, both aided in my isolation from any "scene" and gave me the impetus to investigate things on my own. As I was beginning to write at this time, it was only natural I'd try writing about music I enjoyed/disliked.
It required a bit of tenacity on your part then. When you first started out writing, were there any particular writers that inspired you the most? Did your desire to write extend to anything outside of music during that time?
I'm not sure how much was actual tenacity and how much sheer teenage bravado, actually thinking someone else would give a right rolling crap about something I said. Come to think of it, maybe a lot of my writing grew from the feeling that no one wanted to hear what I said. I could have either crawled into a corner or written my thoughts anyway and shoved them in their face. Thankfully, I chose the latter. Yes, a couple writers both stood out from the pack, namely Katherine Ludwig and Borivoj Krgin, both of which happened to write for a magazine of which I ended up becoming a contributing editor. And yes, I was writing poetry during study hall around that time. I had a teacher who I bribed into letting me into the typing lab at school during study hall and I would write there.
Seems to me like it was a bit of both. What was it about music that grabbed your attention during that time? How did you end up getting into the more extreme stuff?
I knew I'd be musically retarded at a young age. I grew up on twangy country gospel and my mother's collection of 45s from when she was young herself. The first album I bought for myself at age 12 was Aerosmith - “Toys In The Attic.” The same trip, she bought me an orchestral recording of Western Film Themes. This was shortly after the dawn of MTV, so I was also hearing Rush for the first time, Ratt, Judas Priest, Dokken and Def Leppard and Twisted Sister. Tell me, can you listen to “I Am (I'm Me)” to this day and not feel a sense of empowerment? I ended up getting into the more extreme stuff courtesy of a skater named Michael Volentine who was 2 years my senior and lived behind me. He opened my ears to the likes of Bad Brains, TSOL, Slayer, Iron Maiden and Husker Du. In those days, skaters were where you went for what was "out of the norm."
That's one fact I didn't know. You mentioned becoming a contributor for a magazine that you used to like quite a bit. Which one was it and how did you end up landing that position?
The magazine was Metal Maniacs and it was truly my only reliable window to the music I loved during those ever-important formative years. When I started reading it, Katherine Ludwig was the editor. She took a lot of flak, deserved and undeserved, for being a woman in a position of "power" (whatever that means) in the industry and as someone who stood by their beliefs. I needed someone like that as an inspiration for my music-related writing. Years later, after I'd moved to Detroit, I was doing a website and a radio show on a local college station (radio, yet another passion). By virtue of these two, I came into contact with one of my closest friends in the business, Dave Brenner. He did PR for many labels, still does, and was writing for Maniacs himself. He pitched my name to the current editress, Liz Ciavarella, and it was on from there. To this day, that's the accomplishment I'm most honored and humbled by. Ihat I ended up as a contributing editor of a magazine that quite literally got me through adolescence was, and is, something I'll wear close to my heart always.
Seems like things just fell in place once you stumbled in. You mentioned having a passion for radio. Did you end up becoming more entrenched in that aside from the college radio spotlight?
When I was 15 or so, I won a chance to DJ for a night on a local radio guy's show. This basically translated into me suggesting and handing him records (yes - records!), and talking a bit on the air. I must have not sucked as he said I could come by anytime after that. It was a Southern Gospel radio station and he did the Contemporary Christian music show, which the owner hated because it was "putting the Devil's music into the ears of God's people.” In an interesting turn of events later on, my neighbor was the program director of the same station and got me on there. After I was umm, asked to leave by a very red-faced station owner who was halfway to a coronary due to something I'd said on the air, I went to work years after for a 100,000 watt Classic Rock radio station in the NW Alabama town I spoke of before. I guess radio's in my blood. It's always been about promoting good music and calling bullshit on the bad I guess.
You've been into this business for awhile now and I'm sure you've noted quite a bit of changes in music journalism and promotion. What would say are the negatives and positives of the current state of affairs as far as those two topics are concerned?
As far as promotion, the only direct experience I've had with the promotion of music is putting a fest and a few shows at local watering holes. As regards to being a journalist (if you can call us that - seems a bit stuffed-shirt for what we do) dealing with promotions people and companies, it's changed a ton. Rarely do physical promos come in the mail anymore, which I feel is a total rip, but I can see both sides of the issue as well. Whereas, sometimes full physical copies of new releases are the only thanks he/she gets for the blood, sweat and tears they put into supporting the music they love, now more than ever, the independent label (and even the majors in metal) have to watch their bottom line. As regards to the journalism aspect, one problem I see that I've taken steps to avoid of late is the tendency of writers when sent a pitch list to choose only those bands/albums they anticipate enjoying for review. I notice that rarely do writers instinctively choose something at random, myself included. I've had to break myself of that habit awhile back and returned to the joy I felt when all you had to go by was how grim and evil the cover art and song titles were.
I'm sure that has led to some interesting listens on your part. Some hold the position that the internet has soured the purpose of music reviewing overall. Do you hold that belief as well?
Not at all. As much as I may despise the fact that any 14 year old Burzum fan who got ProTools for passing his math test or not shooting up his school that month can sit in his basement eating Cheetos and fondling himself to pictures of Angela Gossow while creating an entire album of "depressive black metal,” to me that just means the job of the music reviewer is more important than ever. Glorify the worthy and call bullshit what it is, as I've alluded to before.
That's a good way of looking at it. Aside from your awesome contacts via Metal Maniacs, I'm sure that you have met a few interesting individuals walking down this path. Any memorable meetings or interview experiences that you would like to share?
A few stand out and while I'm very proud of my achievements, I hate talking about them most times at the risk of sounding like some self-important prick. I assure you that every opportunity I've had in this business of music has been on the shoulders of someone else - not that we use each other, but we stick together and we build each other up, helping where we can. It's a rather hardcore style of looking at things, but having grown up on the punk of Warzone and crossover of Agnostic Front, I guess it's natural. That said, those few that stand out were pretty fuckin' rad. Meeting Warrel Dane for the first time on his last tour as a drinker; walking into the back of the bus to do the interview and stumbling out an hour later courtesy of a shared liter of Stolichnaya, only to watch Warrel turn in one of those stupendous Warrel Dane performances. Being sent to Sweden to interview Marduk and getting a cover story with Lemmy of Motorhead. You can't buy that kind of luck...
Pretty damn lucky I would say. Do you have any other passions that fuel and perhaps bleed into your writing and music tastes?
Really, no, aside from living down to my reputation. Of course, I do other things in life, but a good 80% of what I do/enjoy is related to one or the other. Good food, good music, reading and writing. Yoss in a reverence for nature bordering on the obscene and there you have me.
Speaking of your love for nature, I've noticed it shows up a lot in your poetry. Care to share some of your future plans as far as non-music related writing goes? Also, what themes and style do you tend to stick to when writing and how has that changed from when you were younger?
My first goal is to rise up off my ever-expanding ass and finally finish the handful of short story ideas I've been letting screech around in my skull for far too long. I'd also like to get a short book a friend and I worked together on published by a local press. It deserves it, not for my work or his, but for the quality of the finished piece. When it comes to style, I gravitate toward the lyrical more often than not. Theme...nothing is off limits or taboo. Nothing, else i'm neither being honest with myself or the reader. Nothing's really changed much from when I was younger. The reverence of nature is always there and always will be if i'm true to myself.
Some things about a person don't change over time and in this case I think it's for the best. Do you still write for publications, even if it be online only, and does the future seem promising to you in the field still?
Yes, I still write for Hails & Horns (print and online), AMP (occasionally print), Zero Tolerance (print and online), Metal Manaics online, Metal Army America and my newest outlet, the much-underrated Wormwood Chronicles headed up by the one and only Dr. Abner Mality. As an aside, and especially knowing the work you personally, as well as many others have put into the creative endeavor of a website, I would never use "even if it be for online only.” As much as anyone with an internet account can set up a website, there's still a lot of quality work being done within the format. Sometimes even this old caveman has to mount up his sabretooth tiger and ride on to the next horizon.
Compliment deeply appreciated. You know, I remembered you mentioning playing music despite your earlier comment about not being musically inclined at a young age. What instruments do you have an affinity for and have picked up? Any past and current projects worth noting?
Give credit where due, you know? I play bass, do battle with an acoustic guitar from time to time, abuse an electric now and again, and have been known to scream into a mic if someone's fool enough to let me. Oh, and I'd like to go on record as saying I have the rhythm of a Jewish grandmother in the grip of a grand mal seizure. Do not let me behind your drum kit.
Bass players are great, no bias here whatsoever =) There's one thing that I would like to expound on since your last mention of it. Do you feel that the role of women in this business and music in general has changed over the years? For better or worse?
I feel it's changed for the better in most respects. While only the most sexually frustrated Six Feet Under fan (i'm assuming they're all in varying stages of jr. high school) would whine because a woman is in a place where she's being seen/read/heard/listened to as to regards metal music, there's still the objectification of women everywhere we look. Sadly, the world of extreme music is no exception. I listen to Doro Pesch sing “All We Are” not because she's got a nice rack, but because her voice fits the song ideally. Of course, the beauty factor is there, but beauty without a brain and voice to back it up in this business can and should get you absolutely nowhere. Some, like the aforementioned Doro Pesch and Karyn Crisis, have both.
Well said and I couldn't agree more. I can't thank you enough for taking the time out to answer my questions and share some of yourself with our readers. Are there any last thoughts or comments that you would like to leave our readers with?
As Happy Harry Hard-on said at the end of Pump Up The Volume..."Talk hard!"