During my random surfing on Facebook looking for new music, I cam across this pretty cool review site called Blackened Slugs. They mainly caught my eye because of the crazy amount of New Jersey bands they were covering and, after some deliberation, I finally decided to ask for a partnership between our zines. Though that didn’t work out too well due to lack of content on my part, Nick and I have become friends. This interview was the most fun I’ve had in awhile and I hope you enjoy getting better acquainted with the founder of an awesome webzine.
Your magazine, Blackened Slugs, seems fresh on the webzine scene as compared to other sites so to provide some background for the readers: when was the site founded and what made you decide to start this journey?
The site was founded on July 1st, 2011. At the time I was living above a guy who is as big of a metalhead as I am and we were always sharing bands with each other. Towards the end of June I had an emergency appendectomy so I was out of work for awhile, sitting around bored out of my mind and just listening to a ton of music.
Joe (my neighbor) and I had been on a huge Ensorcelor kick and it really got me into the combination of black metal and doom or sludge, hence the name, Blackened Slugs. I've always loved writing and music, and I've had sites before for reviews. I figured what the hell, I'm sitting here half crippled anyway, may as well do something productive...and Blackened Slugs was born.
That's a good way to start and I love the concept that the site revolves around. Being genre specific. Have you encountered any form of resistance from writers or fans due to the exclusive nature of the site?
Actually, people have been pretty receptive of the narrowed genre idea. I'd say the harshest critic was myself. I wanted to strictly stick to blackened doom/sludge, but after really delving into the scene I thought, "How the hell can I write something interesting about each band when they're all the same format?" From there, I opened it up in the three basic parts of the genre blend, allowing black metal, doom metal (in a non-traditional form), and sludge.
And certainly keeping non-traditional doom out of the mix keeps things more interesting. You mentioned having sites for review before. What kind of sites were those and how did you get started with the whole reviewing scene?
It was in 2004-2005. I made a feeble attempt to start a band with a buddy of mine I met through an ad I posted, realized I got a bit in over my head with that idea but didn't want to lose contact with my friend and really wanted to express my passion of music somehow if I wasn't exactly 'talented' musically.
We'd thrown around the idea of starting of a website and one day I just said fuck it and did it. Thus, The Grinder Times was born. We tried to stay focused on grind but my passion for grind wavered and we were constantly berated by elitist grind nuts. Couple that with some personal issues, I handed the site over to my friend and disappeared from reviewing until last year.
I've always been decent at writing but kind of lacked the focus/patience for writing stories or anything of great length. Reviews seemed right up my alley and it was a great way to meet all these bands that I really looked up to.
You've explained your passion for music pretty well. I am curious about your passion for writing. When did that start up and what angle do you tend to see review writing from?
Writing has just been natural for me I suppose. I remember in 4th grade a teacher of mine telling me I should pursue a writing career, that's obviously stuck with me. Through the rest of school I had a different set of priorities but I still wrote a lot of what I'd call shitty lyrics or poems. I have notebooks full of stuff I'd probably never show anyone. It lost its appeal after a period of time and confusing periods of life but about 2-3 years ago upon entering college and being praised by teachers on my writing once more that I really looked into writing again.
As far as my 'angle' for review writing, I'm really not up on hearing every nook and cranny of music and being able to decipher things. I love music, but my ears/brain/whatever don't work in that way so I write based on how I feel or what image is drawn in my mind while listening.
Your stance on review writing tends to be one that I encourage writers on Blood or Love to take. Speaking of writers, was it hard finding writers that would stay committed to a free project like a webzine?
It was kind of strange how I recruited my two writers, Mark and Todd. I'd known Todd from getting in touch with and reviewing Battle Path. After talking to him for a bit and realizing he was someone I could trust and someone who is a huge music fan of a ton of different genres I just asked him if he'd be interested. It turned out well because what I lack is what he's strongest at.
Mark I met and became friends with through the Thou forum on Facebook. He took some badgering to get going but now that he's on board, he's a beast at writing. He's got a knack for putting together really excellent catch phrases with the bands he reviews and has a good sense of humor that works nicely into the mix.
I was up front with them from the beginning, told them it was an unpaid gig but that I would split the physical copies we receive between all of us so it wasn't a total loss of their time.
That's the hardest part. Maintaining loyal staff. I noticed that on the site, you don't tend to have a "written by" section per post. It's just all under the blog name. Was that a consciousness decision or was it due to software/design restrictions?
With Blogspot, it has a little tiny "written by x person" at the bottom. I kind of assumed it would be seen by the readers, but it is after all the junk at the bottom of the post so I guess a lot of people would overlook it.
I should mention, I did purchase a domain name for the site, but due to a lack of funding and knowledge of designing a site, it's been taking a really long time to get going.
Ah, seems like I was one of those people. That kind of brings me to the next question which involves design. What are your plans for the future of Blackened Slugs? What kind of vision do you have for it?
I've got a million ideas in mind for the future of the "Blackened Slugs Empire" as I've dubbed it. In the grand scheme of things, I'd love to have it be a fully functional music site with news, reviews, interviews, even a distro and a few other things I have in mind that I'm not at liberty to mention currently. I don't want to branch off into other genres, I want to keep it our three genre focus which can be troublesome in branching off into something bigger, but the positive feedback we've received leads us to believe it's possible. We've also discussed a possible physical version, but that takes funding that we just don't have access to currently.
Physical magazines can be fun but costly. It's definitely something worth doing and distributing locally. Looks like you're heading in the right direction with the project. I want to take a step back and maybe travel back in time. What first kicked off your passion for music and more specifically, metal in particular?
I have had a horrible, yet diverse musical past [laughter]. I listened to a ton of terrible music and I'm sure some of my current interests would still be considered terrible by some. I listened to a lot of nu-metal through high school, it was what was available readily via our somewhat local radio station and I didn't even know the more extreme forms of metal existed until my first stint at college in Madison, Wisconsin. There I met a guy who introduced me to The Dillinger Escape Plan and Pig Destroyer. It was all over from there. I was constantly searching for something more extreme, more ferocious, something that would terrify both my ears and my friends/family. From there it just stuck with me, it became a part of who I was and ingrained in my life. I've always been a big fan of horror movies and to me, the extreme metal genres just correlated well into a soundtrack I could take with me.
Which eventually led to you trying to form a band of your own. What kind of band were you going for and what instrument did you fall in love with but failed to master (for now)?
Meth Tooth is the band, they're fully functional now. My friend and I never did decide on a name but after I left the deal, he ended up starting Meth Tooth which was a band name I had made up. We were looking to do something similar to Cephalic Carnage, just intense grind with some outer-genre breaks blended in. I was actually going for vocals but being a highly introverted person, I failed to achieve to confidence in order to do vocals in front of people. I then went to bass or guitar, depending on my idea for the week but realized I lack the patience needed to learn an instrument.
Hands need to stretch!! Actually, some of my favorite musicians don't tend to have much confidence in their vocals either. Maybe someday you'll find a way to work past that. As far as writing is concerned, do you have any writers or writing style that you look up to a lot?
I read stuff from the "Bizzaro" genre a lot. Some of my favorite authors in that vein are D. Harlan Wilson, Jordan Krall, Andersen Prunty and Cameron Pierce. I've also been pretty heavily influenced by Neil Gaiman, William S Burroughs, and R. Frederick Hamilton.
I'm a big fan of "fragmented" writing. Bold, incomplete sentences that really smack you with an idea but allow you to develop your own idea as well.
Awesome! Minimalistic writing can be pretty powerful, I think. Do you have any other interesting hobbies aside from music and writing?
I've recently taken up wood burning which has been hugely stress relieving, but even that revolves around music. I also go out with a friend of mine and collect bones we find, had some pretty interesting days of trial and error to remove flesh from bones. Other than that, all my other various projects revolve around music and writing.
While collecting bones and de-fleshing them certainly is a unique hobby, how does wood burning revolve around music?
The pieces I've attempted have been band logos. I can't draw actual people/objects or shade anything worth a damn so I figured band logos were a safe bet to get some practice in on. Not to mention blaring music the whole time I'm working on it.
That's pretty damn cool. What piece would say is your best so far?
Well, my best thus far, and even this one I screwed up on (failed to measure the piece of wood prior to starting, don't have enough room to finish it), wasn't a band per se, but rather a good friend of mine's blog name, Svn Okklt.
It is a music review site as well?
You could call it that I suppose. They basically do tape-rips of out of print or hard to find material and make it available to people who want it. They include a one-line description of each band and the artwork as well as a link to purchase the albums if they're still available. They also have some really interesting art and captivating poetry.
I know of a blog like that for punk called "Punk Not Profit" and I used to write for a blog called "Digital Meltd0wn" which did the same thing just about. Though, we did write more than just one sentence for each post. You know, you mentioned liking horror and how metal matches your outlook on life. What exactly is that outlook? What's your take on this fucked up world around us?
Just that, it's fucked, and fucked up. I believe Cattle Decapitation had it right with their song, "We Are All Horrible People." The state of the news, the things I've seen, the majority of people I've met, the destruction of life and things that aren't ours to destroy, I really have no hope in humanity. That's not to say I don't love the few people I let around me or there's nothing good in life because that's not the case. I'm very close with a few people in life and I do really enjoy life but when the fuck did we become so disgusting?
For a very very long time. Even during the times when different species of humanity were evolving. I'll let slip this bit of information, Neanderthals were actually another species of human that were far more intelligent than their brethren who are our ancestors.. predominantly. Overall, we're in agreement there. I have been meaning to ask you about the state of the music scene.. or scenes. What's your thoughts on the drama that comes out of that environment?
Elitist annoy the shit out of me. You can say one thing one person doesn't like and be blacklisted in the 'scene' forever. Look at Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, he said some controversial things in "Hideous Gnosis" and people boycott Liturgy because of it.
I try to stay out of the politics of thing and just enjoy the music for what it is but you can't help but be sucked into it at times. Metal as a whole has taken on a new life with this whole deathcore epidemic and rising popularity of metal among younger people. I'm in it for what I get out of it. It gives me that substance to life I've been seeking, especially black metal. Black metal has all the things I'm curious about in life, spirituality, hate, anger, pain, interesting concepts and ideas of all sorts. I've recently talked to a black metal artist whose band name is a variation of a star's name, and can literally translate to star worshiper...that to me is more interesting than dissecting people now. I like to watch gory movies, but I lost interest in gory music. Sludge and doom just have that raw passion and energy to evoke those feelings of hate and sorrow and how I feel a lot of the time. I think I got off point here but the moral of it all is "scene drama" is as ridiculous as Anal Cunt's lyrics. I have faith enough in certain bands and labels that they'll continue to hold it all together for us while other bands and labels will continue to play for money and hop to the next trend when they're burnt out.
Yeah, trends come and go. Most are forgotten once they die off. Speaking of art, who did the artwork for Blackened Slugs? That slug is pretty cute.
[laughter] Nick Lark from Australia is responsible for the slug stamp and the "Blackened Slugs" at the bottom of the page. He'd been a fan of the page for awhile and noticed I needed some art so he came to me with the idea of the stamp as kind of a super-hero esque symbol. He worked on it for awhile and sent me the image. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was perfect. It's easily recognizable and fit the name of the page.
Definitely! Having a fitting logo really is important. Are there any zines out there that you are personal fan of and follow on a normal basis?
I've lost interest in a lot of physical zines, ie. Decibel, which used to be good, but who knows what happened there. I'll occasionally pick up a Terrorizer or Metal Maniacs but mostly for big zines I tend to stick with Zero Tolerance. I typically end up spending more on records and not having enough to spend on zines but I'm looking to change that and get into some of these underground zines like Down and Out (#19 especially, really piqued my curiosity), and I have a copy of Amarantos # 2 on the way with some tapes I ordered.
I haven't heard of the last two you mentioned. I'll have to check them out. Thank you for doing this with me, I enjoyed our talk and hopefully our readers enjoy it too. Do you have any last thoughts for our readers? Perhaps a favorite line or quote to share as well?
Thanks for taking the time out to do the interview, it's been a pleasure. Last thoughts, buy more, download less. If you enjoy the music that's being made buy it so they can make more. A quote that's stuck with me for a long time is one by Winston Churchill and it goes - " You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Keep it in mind, and share your voice whether its spoken, typed or screamed.