Reflections on Metal Journalism Part I. : A Metal Blast retrospective

Let me tell you a story about how this magazine came to be.

Almost two years ago Korpiklaani was playing a concert in Amsterdam and, since I had recently missed an opportunity to meet the band in person, I thought that maybe I should try to meet them this time. Of course, there was no reason why they should meet me, since I was just a fan looking for an autograph and some pictures (and not even a dedicated fan, since I didn’t even know the names of the band members (I still don’t) or knew many of their songs). Hell, it wasn’t even that I really liked Korpiklaani, but rather that I was pissed about having missed that previous chance. I know, I know: it doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me here.

I thought that the only way to do it would be to get a press pass (back then I really believed that such mythical things actually existed) so I just e-mailed their management and asked for an interview for a fictitious magazine, making up a bullshit reason to justify it. To my surprise, they accepted.

I’m pretty sure that Rock the Nation will send someone to kick my ass now.

It’s weird to think about it, but if it wasn’t for Korpiklaani (and their management’s naivete) Metal Blast would have never come to be, since a rejection on my first attempt would have probably convinced me that such a scheme was doomed to fail anyway.

Since I didn’t own a video camera, and nobody I knew had one (or was willing to lend me one) I was forced to show up with nothing but my crappy point-and-shoot camera, making up some bullshit excuse as to what had happened with my real video camera (I used to believe that you would only get an interview if you brought the equivalent of TV cameras and make up artists) and which forced me to use this “absolutely inappropriate equipment”. Of course, back then I didn’t know that basically nobody cares how you do this, and that a lot of the people who work in this field put zero effort in what they do 1) I’m not trying to be elitist here but, really, some things are just embarrassing. I’ve seen smartphones used as cameras in photo pits and iPhones used to record interviews… not to mention the interview themselves

My interview with Korpiklaani was not as awful as I thought it would be, although the aftermath was awkward. Not being a fan of the band, I asked Jaakko Lemmetty, their violin player, to take my picture with Jarkko and Jonne, not realizing that he was also in the band. As I was leaving the dressing room I thanked Dominik, their tour manager, for all of his help. He asked me if there was anything else he could do for me. and I, stupidly, told him that it would be nice to also interview Eluveitie, since they were the ones opening for Korpiklaani. He looked at me weirdly and pointed to two people who were standing right in front of me  saying “well… there they are”. Pretending I simply hadn’t seen them (as opposed to the more accurate “I don’t have a fucking clue as to who these people are”) I thanked him and went to shake hands with them. One of them, a tiny bearded man (who I’d later find out is Merlin Sutter, the band’s drummer) walked me into a room and sat down for the interview.

While I at least had prepared questions for Korpiklaani, in the case of Eluveitie I was completely unprepared, since my only knowledge of the band was that they were the authors of the song “Inis Mona”. As I sat down in front of this person, whose identity I ignored, I kept cursing at myself for this incredibly stupid turn of events. I made up some absolutely general and unimportant questions, and wrapped up the interview in less than 10 minutes. Thinking that this would be the last time I’d get a chance, I did the very unprofessional thing of asking Merlin if he could give me a drumstick (to his credit, he did, despite having to go through several boxes of gear until he found one). Almost two years later he’d still remember me (probably as a massive idiot).

After that, things just took off on their own. I put up the videos on Youtube and, little by little, people started watching them. This, in turn, made me start a website, which I  used as “proof” of the magazine’s existence. Suddenly, labels and bands were contacting me, asking me to interview them or cover their concerts; with every new interview, more people showed their approval of my work, which opened more and more doors; it was incredible.

This (very modest) success made me decide to continue. I traveled all over (first, while getting my LL.M., and then (and to this day) while practicing law and getting my PhD) trying to interview as many bands as possible, even if it meant borrowing video cameras from my University (I still do this) sleeping in an airport or risking being anally raped while couchsurfing in the farm of some random guy in the middle of nowhere. Being my own boss (and also my only subordinate) meant that I could pick exactly what I wanted to do… and, boy, I aimed high. Children of Bodom, Helloween & Apocalyptica are just some of the bands that, for reasons that I fail to understand, accepted to be interviewed by me, and which in turn gave me the legitimacy that I would have otherwise lacked.

My father used to say (or so my mother tells me) “Big goals, big results; small goals, small results”; in other words, the only way to succeed was to aim high… and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Knowing that a lack of massive breasts meant that our interviews would not get many views anyway, I had to offer something different. I researched before each and every interview, trying to give some new insight on some of the people behind the music we all love. True, some of the time this approach is disappointing, since it makes you realize that you’re dealing with an absolute moron, but when it does work (and I think that we’ve gotten some decent material) it is just great. To some extent, this has paid off, since the response from metal fans (the only people who matter here) has been rather positive.

This little thing, which started as little bit more than a scam to meet a band,has allowed me to not only meet some of the musicians I admire and bring the fans closer to the bands, but also to work with a great team, without whom none of this would be possible, and who I’m fortunate enough to call friends. Thankfully, none of them has realized that, most of the time, I have no idea as to what the fuck I’m doing.

True, we’re not nearly as big as I want us to be, and the road ahead is tougher than ever before… but I’m sure we’ll make it.

NEXT PART: Actual reflections on metal journalism.

References   [ + ]

1. I’m not trying to be elitist here but, really, some things are just embarrassing. I’ve seen smartphones used as cameras in photo pits and iPhones used to record interviews… not to mention the interview themselves


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