Sunday, May 16, 2010

Erebus FAQ (old)

FAQ compiled and answered by U. Amtey, last revision 03 July 2004. Endlessly renovated.

Are We Living In The End Times?

1. What is Erebus at this point?

Erebus Magazine returned to full operation in February of 2004. Erebus is, for the most part, a "traditional" fanzine or webzine, but I try to at least make each section (essays/articles, reviews, and interviews) stand out from the common run of most music publications by letting them express my own curiosity, not what I think other people want to read. Erebus is also a sort of collection of notes on music, a sketchpad where I leave ideas for other people (hopefully) to find and improve upon. Erebus does not publish "issues", it is added to constantly...in that sense it is more of an archive or database (a collection of my own opinions) than anything else. I would like to add that I am greatly indebted to Yury Arkadin for his sponsorship and contributions during the first few years of this magazine. Please seek out his new creation: Convivial Hermit.

1b. What does "erebus" mean?

OED: The proper name of ‘a place of darkness, between Earth and Hades’

2. When did the Erebus Magazine first begin?

In November of 1999. We started out as a small tribute site to certain bands and/or a repository of reviews called "Far From the Sun" on a faulty and constantly crumbling Tripod server, which was adding more and more concessions to its members' design/coding freedom as it matured. Why was the name changed? Perhaps to differentiate it from the first magazine? I can't remember. We spent a few months bouncing from one free server to another before finally landing on the Eccentrix system and solidifying the design and/or our first individual "principles" of criticism. After a few years the material, growing steadily, was moved to a Doteasy pay server and officially given the www.erebusmagazine.com domain. Then it disappeared, reappeared under the Erebus Archive aegis when I was too busy to work on it, and disappeared again. It is now at the erebusmagazine.org address, has returned to full operation, and will remain here as long as it is on the internet.

3. Who contributes to Erebus?

In 2003 Erebus became the sole property and personal writing archive of its editor, Umesh Amtey.

4. What is the purpose of Erebus?

To entertain, express, elucidate, educate, and explain. To widen the popular appreciation of dark music. To dissolve misunderstandings of dark art. To catalog, index and store a collection of critical opinion. To hold, elicit, sponsor, inspire, and support forays of investigation and exploration into music. To pay tribute to the artists who generate what we consider to be fitting memorials to their own creative desires. To display that dark music, like a mirror, reflects back to the surveyor the understanding and powers of critique that he/she approaches it with.

Mostly, though, Erebus is just a diversion for its author. I often write just to record my own thoughts.

4b. How can I contact Erebus? Where do I send my material for review?

If I am interested in what you are releasing, you either have my address already or you will be emailed by me. I don't accept unsolicited material.

5. I sent my material to Erebus some time ago, but it was never reviewed. Why?

Either I didn't like it, I didn't appreciate its relative significance, it had no merit whatsoever [in my opinion], it is still waiting to be reviewed [this process can take months], it wasn't poor enough to sponsor some kind of criticism, or I just didn't feel like writing about it. There are other reasons besides this - many more - but it really isn't worthwhile to list them here. This archive is a completely subjective construction, it is important to understand that. I don't feel any pressure at all to write about music that does not move me in some way.

6. What is the purpose of the criticism at Erebus?

To create and keep a record of a subjective response or aesthetic reaction to a work of art. How this criticism is then "used", interpreted, understood or applied to art is a completely different matter and ultimately depends on how it is read and who is reading it.

"To bring the poet back to life - the great, the perennial, task of criticism - is in this case to squeeze the drops of the essence of two or three poems; even confining ourselves to these, we may find some precious liquor unknown to the present age. Not to determine rank, but to isolate this quality, is the critical labour."

-T.S. Eliot, in his essay "Andrew Marvell"

7. Can I write for Erebus?

No.

8. Why is the image of a mirror used so often in U. Amtey's writing?

Solipsism and nihilism? It is a symbol or expression of the author's personal philosophy. It is also, many times, a cynical or sarcastic reflection of the same. It is both a symbol of Erebus, taken as a whole, and a demonstration of the concepts behind the name of this site [and what that title directly refers to], the conceptual maze that it represents, and many of the major viewpoints behind the criticism and writing found here. It is also much more than any of this. A mirror is a type of abyss.

9. Are you strictly a black metal magazine or review archive?

Not at all. While the early black metal movement provided the energy and inspiration for our start on the internet, I have always been involved in and have appreciated different types of music. If I don't write about other forms of music it's usually because I respect them too much or I just don't have the experience necessary to comment on them.

10. Do you review recordings in mp3 form?

It depends. If you can point me to an entire work somewhere on the internet that is stored in mp3 form, complete with artwork, promotional material, etc. there is a chance I will review it. I will not reject it just because it is not in CD or cassette form.

11. I am starting a website, review site, or magazine. Can I quote your material or take material from here and publish it?

Unless I give you specific permission to do so, absolutely not. You can request this from me, I'll take a look at your website or whatever you have and then decide. There have been people in the past who have tried to reproduce this entire website as their own content or as "contributions" from me. I protect my work. All the writing on this site is copyrighted.

To learn more about copyright procedures and laws, visit: [HERE]

12. Erebus is unlike other critical archives in that you do not often go back and review the "classics" of the genre. Why is this?

Attempts have been made at this, and at certain times when feeling particularly moved by an album I have felt obligated to write and describe feelings, impressions, moods, etc. I almost always regret doing so later. For the most part I can not write about albums that are very close to me, in the same way that I can not interview bands that I really care about. There is something in the critical process [and this forms one of its major components, at least in the common approach to it] that destroys my emotional relation to a band while it opens up my aesthetic appreciation of their methods. There are certain bands that are important to me based on the fact that they retain a sense of mystery, even at this late date. That mystery enables me to connect to their music through my imagination. I care enough about that relationship to not threaten it through critical dissection. Some may see this as hypocritical, and I apologize if it seems that way, but I have learned over the years to protect my imagination from overt analysis/rationalization. I do not write in order to kill music through categorization, but only to express my enthusiasm and appreciation for it while trying to widen my own comprehension of its varying effects and faculties.

Erebus is also a "forward looking" entity. I do not ever want to stifle the ability of new music to impress because I am overly concerned with what has come before.

13. I was interested in a recording that you reviewed but could not find it anywhere. Can you help me with this?

No. I am not in the business of copying music for people who are too lazy to find it for themselves. I already think for you when I write reviews, am I supposed to be your personal assistant as well and track down every available copy of an album you want? An important part of the underground experience [excuse me for describing it that way] is making connections with other people all over the world and spreading the grassroots community of music appreciation that much further. This means, in most instances, supporting bands directly by purchasing their merchandise. Subvert labels, distros, and tape trading fascists by contacting the band you want to hear and expressing your interest. Go straight to the source. You have a wonderful tool at your fingertips for searching for recordings: the internet. Use it.

14. The twin/mirror positions and attributes of subjectivity and objectivity are discussed frequently in this archive. What do you mean by this?

From my dictionary [Webster's Ninth New Collegiate]:

Subjectivism - 1 a: a theory that limits knowledge to subjective experience b: a theory that stresses the subjective elements in experience 2 a: a doctrine that the supreme good is the realization of a subjective experience or feeling (as pleasure) b: a doctrine that individual feeling or apprehension is the ultimate criterion of the good and the right.

Subjective - 3 a: relating or determined by the mind as the subject of experience b: characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind [PHENOMENAL] c: relating to or being experience or knowledge as conditioned by personal mental characteristics or states 4 a: peculiar to a particular individual [PERSONAL] b: arising from conditions within the brain or sense organs and not directly caused by external stimuli c: arising out of or identified by means of one's perceptions of one's own states and processes.

Objectivism - 1: any of various theories asserting the validity of objective phenomena over subjective experience 2: an ethical theory that moral good is objectively real and that moral precepts are objectively valid.

Objective - 3 a: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.

15. Does Erebus have any political affiliations, or a political agenda?

Absolutely not. A few random, stray messages or tones may filter through articles or other writing from the personal biases of the writers, but these are purposely kept to a minimum. The truth is that, for the most part, politics do not interest me. If you interpret my writing in any political way you should realize that this is a meaning that you are imposing on it. It probably doesn't exist in me.

16. You have featured, in the past, either the music or the thoughts of people who are known to be racist. What does this say about your magazine?

I have no idea. What does it say to you? If a racist's words are caught on a cassette tape, does it make the cassette tape racist? If a racist's visions and messages are filmed and broadcast, does it make the television set they appear on racist? The television signals that carry the message - are they racist?

I have problems with any political terms, any political labels. What is a "racist"? Why the label? This is a method of converting a living, breathing human being into an object for your own derision or glorification. I do not believe in labeling people or grouping them together and segregating them based on things they say or supposedly believe. I do not classify people. I do not believe that what people say determines, in any way, what they "are" - I do not think that speech, opinion, and belief determine identity, and I especially do not think that people should be "judged" based on these identities. These are methods of generalization, shortcuts in thinking. They are errors.

I do not believe that censorship is an option. I also do not believe that censorship solves anything, if it is applied. It is a tool of people who prefer silence and the murmur of their own thoughts to the cacophony of life - other views, other opinions, other worlds. The political/racial views of other people, especially musicians, do not concern me at all. They can be interesting or they can be boring, clichéd or original, profound or shallow, or anything in between. You decide.

I know I don't want to live in a world where everyone thinks the same way. Personally, I consider racism to be an anachronism, and I have never understood why it seemed so vital to other people. That is just my view, however, and I am perfectly willing to consider the views of others. I am not so conceited that I think that the opinions I have can be applied to all societies or all people, regardless of how they live, how they have evolved as individuals, and what they have experienced in their lives.

17. U. Amtey writes, for the most part, only "positive" reviews. Why is that?

If I listen to an album and I consider it to be worth writing about, then I write about it. I can't say it any simpler than that. I enjoy writing about music that moves me in some way. It has to inspire me, and for the most part only music that I consider to be "good" [i.e., something I have a particular emotional response to] will inspire me. There aren't any "rules" or "guidelines" for these responses. If I am surprised that I am reacting in a certain way to a work of art then I consider that surprise worth noting, and something to learn from. Occasionally there are works sent to us that are so self-defeating, so vain, so pretentious, or so ridiculously absent of any compositional merit that they call to be deflated through rhetoric. These are still subjective responses. However, my usual approach is to just ignore these items. I already wasted a certain amount of time listening to them, I am not going to waste any more writing about them. I do not review items to educate people about the "values" of composition or the "principles of songwriting". Who am I to judge these things? I do not write just to hear my own voice in print. I do not write because I think I know what it is that makes "good music". I certainly do not write because I consider myself to have any kind of social responsibility towards my readers to do so. If I recommend an album it is because that is a sort of accepted connotation or symbol that I consider it to be interesting. I might change my mind five minutes later, that's my prerogative as a human being. I am not an object, and my ideas or opinions should not be seen as objective, or set in stone. They should surely not be seen as judgements.

I write because it is pleasurable to convert the emotions I have when listening to music into words. It is rewarding for me, this verbal transition between the world of music and language. I like to describe things, I like to track down subtle emotions and capture them in language, if only for a few seconds. I enjoy listening to music while trying to describe it, it is a sensual experience for me - like dreaming, or travelling, like experiencing new things in life. I do not write for my readers, who may or may not exist at any one time. A reader, in my opinion, is not a privileged being, he or she is only a witness. I write in order to paint a portrait of myself. Is it necessary to add that this portrait is always changing?

18. How can Erebus be considered a "magazine" when it isn't printed on paper, and isn't sent out in installments?

magazine - 1: a place where goods or supplies are stored : WAREHOUSE 2: a room in which powder and other explosives are kept in a fort or a ship 3: the contents of a magazine: as a: an accumulation of munitions of war b: a stock of provisions or goods 5: a supply chamber as a: a holder in or on a gun for cartridges to be fed into the gun chamber.

I hope that clears things up a bit.

19. I run a label/band/magazine site. Will you link to it?

Maybe.

20. Reading through the articles on this site I was curious about your particular influences and/or favorite authors. Can you list them for me?

No. I tried this in the past and gave up because I realized, ultimately, that I don't have any favorite authors. I also don't like setting up some kind of remote "pantheon" of classic works. All "classics" must be constantly torn apart and seen from different angles under the "methodology"/lifestyle of iconoclasm. That is the only way we learn from them. I believe that. Anything listed as a "classic" has, underpinning it as a foundation, an entire system of thought that is interpreting and judging it, that is maintaining it as a "classic". Having said that, consulting our Links section should show you whose work I have considered, at different times in the past, to be worth reading. It is at best an incomplete listing, not a guide.

A better question is: who are your favorite authors? Why do you need to know mine - if I had any? What will that really tell you? How do you think that will affect the way you interpret my writing?

21. At this point you must have listened to an enormous range of bands and musical groups. Who are your favorites? What are your favorite albums?

That's impossible to say. As soon as I list a couple I will think of a dozen reasons why they shouldn't be listed.

22. What do you think of this band or that album? How do you really feel about ____?

If there's a review of it, consult that. That's what I thought at the time I wrote the review. Of course these thoughts change, but is it really worth talking about? Why do you care what I think? What do you think? How does the work make you feel? Why should you care what I think? Why are you looking for symbols of authority? They don't exist.

If there isn't a review of it, either I didn't like it, I didn't appreciate it, or I didn't hear it. Maybe I didn't feel like writing about it. Take your pick.

23. Are you really a misanthrope? Do you hate humanity? Do you hate "the world"?

That's just an impertinent question. You don't even know what you're asking, let alone why you are asking it.

24. Has Erebus ever been "at war" with other web sites, other "critics", other review sites and/or methodologies?

Never. Show me a website worth attacking or a "critic" who has the smallest idea of what he is talking about and I might consider it. The internet is simply a wasteland when it comes to looking for interesting writing on the kinds of music Erebus features. In the years that I have been reading internet criticism I have never come across a single writer - not even once - who had the capability, integrity, or experience to adequately express the full range of emotions these types of music inspire. I have never come across a single writer who really understood the music he/she was writing about. It's sad, isn't it? I have witnessed a number of attacks on Erebus in the past, mainly for my bizarre writing styles or some of the things I have said in reviews or elsewhere on the internet, but these attacks never amounted to much. They seemed to be anemic and ill-prepared from the start, and I believe in order for criticism (whether malicious or benign/constructive) to be applicable the critic must at least start from a basic point of understanding (at least minimally) the material in front of him. It's sad to say, but even after being around for a number of years most people just don't "get" Erebus. I gave up trying to explain it a long time ago. I prefer being "on the outside of things", though. I think that is a good position for someone who enjoys surveying mass movements and human behavior instead of being submerged within them.

25. Does Erebus have any kind of religious or spiritual affiliation?

No.

26. What do you consider to be the most important part of Erebus?

For me it has always been the essays or articles. I try to keep a certain standard of "quality", though, no matter what I write. People read the writing here for different reasons, and find different things to investigate. Lately I have become more interested in doing interviews, although none of the bands I talk with ever really answer the questions I write for them.

27. Why is the writing so pretentious, what are you trying to prove?

This magazine is obviously not for everyone, especially people who do not understand what the word "pretentious" actually means.

28. How can this site be serious? Metal and these other forms of music are related to rock and roll, they're about having fun, enjoying yourself. How can you see all these different things in the music? I don't see them at all.

People enjoy themselves in different ways. How can you justify trying to dictate the "legitimate" way? Take what you can from the music, take what you need, but don't try to force your views on other people. If you feel you have to force your views on the people around you, be prepared for the consequences.

Also...it should be understood that there is a lot of black/corrosive humor on this site. It is not my fault if people completely misinterpret it or take everything I say seriously. It is very difficult to convey sarcasm or certain shades of tongue-in-cheek irony over the internet and that seems to be the basis for most misinterpretations. It's also caused by the fact that a lot of people who read this site take themselves too seriously and can not see beyond that blindness. Then again, that sort of ego disease seems to have always been rampant among musicians and would-be journalists [the people who usually read this site] and it really shouldn't surprise anyone. I don't think I can legitimately be blamed for the misinterpretations and/or emotional reactions of shallow people.

29. If you feel so strongly about your aesthetic/artistic convictions, why are you not out spreading propaganda and trying to influence others like people from other websites often do? Why do you never advertise?

I prefer it when people find their way here on their own.

This website isn't about forcing people to see things in a certain way, although there are many arguments here, many attempts at seduction. I honestly do not want other people to think the same way I do. It nauseates me when they do. I do not want the "respect" or "appreciation" of our readers, I just want them to read. I do not write in order to feel like I am "above" or "better" than anyone else. I am not an "elitist". I have different opinions about things and I want my voice to be heard, that is all. If Erebus is "about" anything in particular it is about letting other people see that the stereotypes that surround the forms of music I write about simply do not exist in reality. Or rather: they only exist as shallow judgements, or because people impose them on themselves in their bizarre search for an identity.

Why not create your own identity, instead of looking for one in the world outside yourself? In groups? In psychological "packages" that are sold like any other kind of commodity?

Erebus is "about" putting shallow judgements and criticism aside, for a while, and trying to think for yourself. There are too many "rules" and "regulations" in life as it is, if Erebus can not be about certain forms of freedom for me then it is just not worth doing. Art, for me, is about being free. Music is freedom itself. Take your rules, your laws, your "critical" ideas, your petty judgements, and your ridiculous objective views of the "worth" of art somewhere else.

For all the people in the "scene" who are intent on "saving" different forms of music: who are you to dictate what can or will be the most valid form of art? Your will to objectivity is just a compensation for your weakness, lack of confidence, and/or an almost total lack of real conviction. If you are so deeply convinced that your forms of music are the superior ones, let them stand in an unsupported relation to everything else that exists. If you are an aesthetic Darwinist, let your creations and convictions measure themselves in a free system against whatever else will challenge them. Your attempt to "protect" them and hold them "above" other forms of music is nothing other than a display of your own insecurities. Your "ideology" is a sham, a crutch, a prop to hold up your powerless, silent "art", and your pretensions as to an imaginary "superiority" are nothing other than a collective wish for a world that recognizes in you the beings that you desire to be. You do not recognize each other by the superiority you share, but rather by the weaknesses that force you to desire superiority so strongly.

What use do the truly strong, courageous, and vital artists have for buttressing manifestos and vapid, illusionary declarations of value? They simply exist and the world adjusts itself to them. Arguments, rhetoric, and propaganda are for the weak who wish they were strong.

It also must surely be seen that truly strong, creative, vital artists are almost always in a state of change. They are reflections of the world they inhabit and that world never stays motionless long enough to form meaningless manifestos.

30. Aren't you concerned about the metal "scene"? Why don't you "support" it?

What scene? Which scene are you talking about? If there ever was at any point in time a cohesive metal scene, or an underground of enthusiasts, it surely does not exist anymore. There are now in its place a million different "scenes", all of which have boundaries based on their creator's own biases. Of course all of these scene creators claim that their scene is the only scene. They determine these scenes to flatter their own beliefs and/or their [usually erroneous] views of themselves. Instead of asking whether or not we support a "scene" [that does not exist] you should be asking these scene creators why they feel they have to create imaginary audiences for their own pretensions, their own egos. Why do they need followers, or others to agree with them?

31. Do you think black metal is dead?

I certainly do. I am waiting for a band to convince me that it isn't.

32. Is death metal dead?

For a while there I thought it was. It doesn't seem to be anymore. That might just be an illusion, though.

33. Do you think there will ever be a time when metal fans will be able to look past subgenres and categorizations?

No.

I used to think there was an era, a long time ago, when people were just concerned with what was "metal" or not, and didn't try to pigeonhole bands into one genre. I seemed to remember it being that way back in the '80s. After researching this, though, after reading through old fanzines and magazines, I realized that there was never a time when metal fans didn't try to label and categorize the bands they were interested in. They have always done this. It seems to be necessary to label and/or create categories and "forms" of art in order to consider it from an "objective" view. Whether or not these types of music actually correspond to the offered forms seems to be beside the point. The arguments are often only about abstract classifications, not the music that fits into them, and surely not about the messages in that music. What matters is the form of the forms. Whether or not it is even possible to talk about music and say something worthwhile has not been proven, in my opinion. I'm sure you've heard the the phrase "dancing about architecture" and recognize what that means, even though it's a cliché at this point.

Music criticism and conversation have always concentrated on the forms in which we try to capture the "essence" of music. It is rarely about the speaker's own reaction to the music, and what it means in their life. Metal fans will often argue about whether or not a band belongs to a certain genre until they are blue in the face. In fact most of their conversations center around these categorizing efforts. It is a very strange phenomenon.

However, these types of categorizing and labeling efforts happen in every type of art.

34. I sent you an email a long time ago and you never replied. Why?

I might not have received it. Try sending it again.

- or -

You may have asked me something that could have been answered by this FAQ. If so, I'm not going to reply to it. The purpose of this FAQ is to decrease the number of emails I receive.

35. Do you like to talk to your readers? Why isn't there a forum or message board here anymore?

I honestly enjoy talking to our readers. It's entertaining and [can be] educational to get feedback on our writing. We don't live in a vacuum, we're not ivory tower purists. I don't enjoy stupid people asking me stupid questions. I have tried on a few occasions to get a forum up and running but there never seemed to be that much interest in it. I also realized that we might develop some kind of following or a local cadre of yes-men and sycophants, and the thought of that sickens me. The last thing I need is a fan club. Instead of spending your time on message boards please form your own webzine or magazine and start writing on your own. Or better yet: kill yourself.

36. Why don't you write a manifesto, or a list of aesthetic/critical guidelines that would explain your approach to reviewing?

I will never do this because a) my ideas on what constitutes "good" music are completely subjective and are constantly changing and b) if I write out a list like that [if I could manage it somehow] I might start feeling like I had to follow those rules. That would be terrible. There's also the possibility that people will take those "rules" and then criticize our reviews or writing, saying we don't really stay within the boundaries of our own guidelines. That would be so absurd that it would just upset me needlessly. If you require a list of rules or a manifesto go to another website, or make up your own. Tattoo them on your forehead while you're at it, so that you can wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and know your place in the world.

37. Your website is so original, your writing and the way in which you approach metal music is so refreshing - how can I make my webzine or my magazine more original? How can I make it better?

Try suicide.

38. How is a webzine or website better than a print magazine? Why should I put my writing on the web?

A. Ease of access - anyone with a computer and an internet connection can read it. The audience is not limited.

B. No cost to the user - free webzines do not limit their audience with a purchasing price. No commerce takes place other than in the realm of ideas.

C. Minimal cost to the editor - attractive to those who waste thousands of dollars putting out magazines that no one appreciates anyway. Imagine investing that money in something really important - or at least something you will see a return from eventually. Imagine if one could save money, still write what one wanted, and have a return for one's time other than just the hollow inflation of the ego that almost all critics suffer from? This website's URL and server space costs, as of September 2003, exactly $35.00 a year.

D. No waste - no paper waste, no chemical waste, no pollution, no litter, no harming of the environment. Yeah, remember the environment? I don't care if your magazine is printed on recycled paper. The question is: who is recycling your magazine? Or better yet: how can you justify killing trees in order to spread your worthless opinions? How are you not a parasite on this planet?

E. Immediate exit - if one gets tired of maintenance or the editing world, cancel the URL and delete the files. Voila, instant escape from the world of the magazines. No left over issues lying around, no costs, no litter, no bad memories left in print. Never come across an old issue of your magazine being used in an indecent manner, and feeling the inevitable depression that accompanies that discovery. I use old fanzines to prop up a leg on my writing table. Need I say more? They don't even do that job well.

F. Speed of updates - websites can be updated and changed immediately. One does not have to wait until the next print issue to proclaim corrections. One does not have to feel like an idiot for three or four months because one incorrectly typed out contact addresses.

G. Faster response to music - music [especially the avant-garde] is constantly changing and growing. It is also moving faster and faster every day. How about putting up that new interview with the flavor of the month now instead of waiting three months to print it, when it will already be obsolete? Imagine actually feeling like you were part of the underground, and not tagging behind? Imagine not paying thousands of dollars to print out information that has already been absorbed by the underground, and then having to stubbornly defend your idiocy?

H. Flexibility - websites can allow the editors to change, alter, correct, and manipulate reviews and other data, removing the obstacle of "permanent" writing that often affixes shallow judgements and incorrent views in print forever. This also allows experimentation after the fact, further freedom in the writing process.

I. Growth - the flexibility to alter text and instantaneously update means that websites grow and change with their creators. They live, they breathe, they eat and grow. The body of text, if updated and maintained on a schedule, reflects the editor's opinions NOW, in the present, not in the past, and grows along with his/her understanding. A magazine is supposed to be a reflection of you and your opinion, not a blurry image, already misunderstood, of who you were in the past. And if you aren't growing, if you aren't learning from music and applying that to your own understanding, your own interpretations, why are you writing a magazine? Why are you even alive?

J. No advertisements - because server fees and bandwidth are relatively inexpensive, magazines, review sites, and other entities can be maintained without pandering to commercial interests. Now this doesn't apply to larger websites who try to attract thousands upon thousands of viewers from the start, but those websites are already commercial entities in the first place, and exist only as advertisements in themselves. Their reviews are just an excuse to get you to stare at a record label-bought opinion. Hype machines, nothing more. Die?

K. Autonomy - a capable website can be maintained and built by a single person. One person is free to express his or her views without conflicts caused by dealing with other writers. One person, detailing his or her own views of the music world, without complications, compromises, or commercialism.

L. Unlimited resources - at this point one can make a webzine pretty much look and act like what one wants. One is not limited by paper costs, art costs, printing costs, etc. One's website can be as fancy and decorative or as plain and functional as one wants. It depends on the creator, his/her level of energy and enthusiasm, and how much time he/she is willing to invest in the magazine. It's called DIY. Remember that?

There are many other reasons. I'm sure you can think of a few.

Do you know why print magazine editors still refuse to acknowledge the superiority and precedence of internet magazines?

They're stupid.

They are shallow, recidivist, reactionary, atavistic, and irrationally biased. They're usually afraid that if they switch to the web they'll lose their "street" credibility, which is ridiculous. They're afraid the labels that send them promos won't take them seriously, which is also ridiculous and reflects another immature, reactionary, stubborn view on the part of label owners who are stuck in the past and who will be run right over by the advance of technology. How many promos are even worth having? How many albums can you not just download in MP3 form at this point? These print editors are also just conservative, terribly afraid of change. They would rather bury their heads in the sand and use an obsolete, costly, painful technology to produce an inferior product. What fun! You know, when Gutenberg invented moveable type there were probably large groups of monks in monasteries who proclaimed the "death of the illuminated manuscript" and warned that the end of civilization was near.

Do you think History remembers the names of any of those monks?

39. What are these "promos" you are talking about?

Record labels send out promos, or promotional CDs, to other record labels [to advertise, or interest in distribution, purchases, or trades], to record stores [to advertise for purchases], to radio stations [advertisement], or to magazines in order to advertise and gain reviews. In most magazines reviews are just another form of advertisement, as the record labels usually only send promos to magazines which they are sure will give them a "good" review - this is cheaper, for example, than taking out an advertisement in the same magazine. For the cost of a promo [a few dollars, if that] + postage, record labels get out of the burden of taking out expensive print ads. Promos are shipped to magazines with a "one sheet" [like in movie advertising] which details "selling points" and what the labels sees as the most salient items/events in/of the band's personal history, for example: the ties band members might have to other bands that have sold a lot of records. They also usually come with a band bio, or biography [although that just might be a short paragraph on the one sheet, as it is relatively unimportant to the label] and a catalog of other releases from the company. The one sheet also usually includes a short review or "hype" segment that delineates the album's "strong points" again - often this hype segment is copied verbatim into a magazine's review. And you wondered why so many magazine reviews sound similar/familiar!

Now there are many writers in the underground who start magazines only in order to get these free CDs, because all of them are music fans and the thought of free music [this is a holdover from the era before MP3s] is very attractive. At first. Once the process gets started and the labels start manipulating magazines by threatening, implicitly or "subtly" [record labels never do anything in a subtle manner] to withhold promos to control reviews, the entire thing gets incredibly tedious. There is also the fact that magazines get absolutely flooded beneath a storm of promos from small labels all across the world, and as everyone knows there is only so much music worth listening to in the underground. It is my opinion that 90% or more of these promos are just garbage, a waste of plastic, paper, and the resources that went into their manufacture. I even consider the electricity that went into the recording of these albums as being wasted. It could have been used for much more important things!

Free music sounds like a great idea until one has one's mailbox absolutely stuffed with this waste, this refuse, these horrible, terrible, shameless attempts at "music". And all of these promos call out to be reviewed! Behind each one is a record label seeking to manipulate the reviewer. The magazine writer, if he/she has even a single cell of integrity in his/her body, soon becomes jaded, irrationally negative, and lashes out in frustration at this music in print, etc. It doesn't take long, and I have seen this process enacted time and time again in the underground. Most of the "big" fanzine/magazine writers are incurably, pathetically jaded and cynical, to the point of being "icons" of negativity. Their perceptions are completely warped, their critical apparatus inoperable. Record labels - and of this I am convinced, and you will see many other experienced magazine editors sharing this opinion - just throw away resources when they send out promos. It's a tremendous waste of money. How many magazines are actually read in the underground? How many music fans decide which albums to buy based on reviews? How many record stores ever really follow through and order CDs after getting promo packages? A very small percentage, and those stores sell very few CDs. At this point the real source of income for record labels is online sales, and those are guaranteed by sample MP3s. How effective is radio in the underground? How many music fans even have access to radio programs in their area that play music they are interested in buying?

Record reviewers or magazine writers consider promos as a form of payment - literally and figuratively. Payment in the sense that the promos are a sort of "reward" for their reviews, even though promotional CDs are usually just a sample CD enclosed in a cardboard envelope and not the full package, and payment in a very real sense as these excess promos are later sold off to desperate music fans at a discount. Promos are readily traded for cash, an eagerly grasped form of income for the reviewer as there are hardly ever any other sources of remuneration for their efforts. Record stores also sell off these promos at a discount to people who only want the CD itself and who do not care about the full packaging. While this practice is frowned upon by the labels [why? I've never understood their reasons - would they rather just have the promos sitting useless in a box somewhere instead of being enjoyed by someone?] it can not be controlled [they try by blocking out the UPC codes on the full CDs they send, but that's meaningless] and the truth is that most reviewers that I know engage in this practice.

All of the promos I do not enjoy for my own use immediately or which I can not review I send to other people - either other reviewers or music fans. I forward the music, I send it on its way. As of this date [14/11/2003], right now, after four years of running a magazine and receiving literally hundreds of promos, I do not own a single one. I would rather have other people enjoy these albums than have them rotting away somewhere in a closet or under my bed. Record labels do not understand this, but I don't care what record labels think - they are outmoded, conservative, obsolete institutions. Music is meant to be enjoyed, not hoarded and kept in the dark! Music is meant to be free. Now the other reviewers I send them to may do whatever they want with them, at that point it is out of my hands. A promo is like any other "perishable" item, once it has passed its initial date of promotion its value [meaning its importance or vitality, unless it is a particularly good work] tends to degrade rapidly. Its level of "importance" as an object, a commodity, falls as its novelty declines and more people hear it.

I'm pretty sure that the people I send these items to sell them at some point. That's their business.

40. I came to this website the other day, read an article or review, and then when I came back later it was gone. Why?

Sometimes I put up reviews and/or articles or special features for a limited time, just for the people who read this site everyday, as a sort of bonus. I also like playing tricks on people...

41. There are discrepancies in the numbering system of your articles - where are the missing ones?

These are either works in progress, works set aside to be finished at a much later date, or articles that had to be removed because their content was no longer necessary.

42. I liked x article or y review, but when I came back after a little while and read it the piece had been completely changed. What happened? Can I get a copy of the older work?

I try to keep this site updated and "current" in that it matches my view[s] in the present. I usually fail at that task. However, when something is seen to be embarrassingly obsolete when I walk around through this maze then I change it. No, there are no records kept of obsolete material. There are people out there who archive this website and if you can find them you might be able to get an older copy.

43. You seem to have turned away from supporting the black metal movement or black metal bands. Is there a reason why? An explanation?

Well, there two main reasons for this. Number one, I think the black metal scene is creatively dead now. The bands that are left are either delusional, convincing themselves there's still something to say within the genre, or are stubbornly sticking to old methods of writing and investigating music because they're either afraid of change (for many reasons) or they're afraid of losing some imaginary position they have in the equally imaginary "scene hierarchy". The second reason is tied in with the first: I simply can not stand the level of rampant hypocrisy, pretentiousness, and vanity in the black metal scene anymore. I turned a blind eye to it at first because the music was so compelling and interesting, but now that the level of music writing has slipped to such a pitiful low point the histrionics, bloated egos, pompous rhetoric, and hysterical posturing of these bands has become ridiculous to an unavoidable degree. What are these painted clowns other than cartoonishly "evil" eternal adolescents mired in phallic fantasy? Weekend warriors trying to compensate for the lack of excitement and success in their real lives? No thanks. If they can not play music (and most of them can't) then what are they other than "performance artists" with nothing at all to say? Mannequins? Professional wrestlers? Halloween costume models? The circus has left town, I'm afraid.

44. Why not write an article or essay that deflates the black metal scene?

First of all, because for the people who would attracted to such a thing the truths I would present in this essay would already be widely evident and thus my writing would be redundant. Why write it then? Secondly, for the black metal "musicians" (laugh), they are so lost in their own fantasy world that they would completely misinterpret, misrepresent, and misunderstand my writing. It would fall on deaf ears. They have a vested interest in not understanding anything I would write, so they will never admit the validity of the arguments. Once again it would be a pointless task. It's just not worth doing.

45. What does the new death metal movement offer that the black metal movement lacks?

Intensity, real emotion, a willingness to be creative, musical skill, and far, far less posturing and idiotic theatricality. I can not say whether the new death metal bands will revive and give new momentum to the death metal scene as a whole, but if they manage to kill off the black metal movement they will have my thanks.

46. How can you stop supporting a scene or artistic movement that you were aligned so closely with before?

If an artistic movement claims my allegiance when I no longer believe in its tenets or its professed beliefs, I consider it an oppressor and an enemy. I am not loyal to any artistic movement based on who else is involved with it or their own personal ambitions, but rather because of the inspiration it affords me, personally. If it is no longer seems to be relevant, viable, instructive, creative, or emotionally resonant by me then of course I will abandon it. To stay within a movement because you are afraid of moving outside of it, your own conservatism, your own unwillingness to face change, etc. is tantamount to creative suicide. Artistic ideals and movements come and go, they have to be discarded when their powers of communication and expression are no longer personally relevant. In addition, any artistic movement that tries to limit the expressive range and ability of its followers, adherents, or admirers, must be discarded. Art must be free.

47. You see certain things in these forms of music (or hear them) that I just can't find, I can't discover. Are they really there or are you imagining them? Is there some sort of behind-the-scenes agenda in your writing? Are you trying to prove things that can not ever really be proven?

Well, I believe that an aesthetic opinion or judgement comes about in the space between an art object - or the music in this case - and the mind of the listener or observer. The judgement depends on two main things: the construction of the listener's critical apparatus - which includes his understanding of music, its uses, its forms, and its history - and the forms and ideas within the music. In this way different people hear different things when they listen to the same piece of music, and they "understand" it in different ways. It is penetrating different internal worlds, and will impact upon completely different realms of experience. What I personally hear in a piece of music and the ideas and emotions it will draw on to create my conception of its form and its resonating ability will not be the same as someone else's. It is simply impossible that it should be so. All music is understood subjectively, as all other forms of art are. Music, however, is the most subjective of all the arts because it relies only on abstractions in order to influence the mind and one's emotions. Free from the visible or tangible forms of other types of art, it impresses itself upon the mind with a more encompassing need for interpretation and instant, immediate evaluation.

There are those in the music underground who seek to impress upon their readers or listeners the idea that what they are engaged in is a much more profound pursuit than it appears to be. This is just another compensation or sublimation mechanism. Music is only as "profound" as the listener who investigates it is himself. It has no real intrinsic, inherent value - its value is created in the space between the listener and the music. Music without a listener is a vacuum, a void. Music without human minds, understandings, ideas, and emotions to draw upon is silence. Profundity does not appear in labyrinths of language or the baroque filling of all available space with random information. It is a simple relation of vital, deeply meaningful ideals and beliefs that have the power both of humane insight and the validation of long experience. Profundity is not a game where a writer hides himself, it is nakedness.

48. Will it always be a case of "love the music, hate the people" in the metal scene?

It's somewhat depressing to consider this, but it has just proven to be true for me for as long as I've been involved with musicians. There are exceptions, of course, but most of the "underground" musicians I've met in my life or have corresponded with have been absolutely riddled with antisocial personality disorders. I try to stay away from them! This causes a problem sometimes in one's own mind when one tries to separate the art from the artist, etc.

49. What is the "greater purpose" now of underground metal in 2004?

For so long one of the main desires of underground artists or the musicians involved in metal was just the process of being recognized, the ceremony of being made "legitimate", of being seen to be viable, important, "worthy" artists in the eyes of those outside their immediate circle. Sad but true. Aligned against this was the contrasting and completely hypocritical assumption of rebelliousness in the art, of iconoclasm. Now that the acclaim has arrived and metal has been accepted, for the most part, by the mainstream (it has been absorbed, appropriated, and assimilated), I feel that many artists no longer know exactly what to search for within the extramusical effects of their lifestyles. Rebellion? It's no longer rebellious to play metal. Anger is "in". Where do they go from here? Towards even greater extremes than what they had visited formerly? Some are trying. I feel that metal musicians in the underground have been left behind now, abandoned by a music scene that has accomplished its main desires, and which is now struggling to find new reasons for existing. This is a drastic oversimplification, but I hope what I am pointing to is clear.

50. Is it difficult to be both a musician and a writer, or are there conflicts of interest in doing both of these things?

It is not difficult if one ignores the time/energy/motivation aspects. Truth be told, if I only have an hour of free time in a day, I would rather spend it working on my own music. I enjoy writing, however, and it has always been a perfectly natural and easy method of expression for me, so I can't see stopping it anytime soon. Writing reviews allows me to think through many of my ideas concerning musical aesthetics or songwriting or the social aspects of being a musician. This is very helpful...writing articles or essays also helps me put abstract ideas in a more concrete, rational, adjustable form, and also helps (I hope) other musicians express things that they may have thought were too abstract for the conversion from music to language. All of my writing can be seen as a process of creating a vocabulary to allow me (and probably no one else, let me be honest) to communicate my ideas concerning music effectively. If I can communicate and think about these things clearly, I believe it will only make me a better musician in the end. Because I am not a normal "critic" and don't attack other bands (usually) or musicians, or write things out of petty frustration, envy, anger, etc. I can only hope that my writing doesn't insult other people or cause any ill will that would be detrimental to me as a musician. I hope!