Monthly Archives: November 2013

Promotion 101 – bios and interviews

A friend of mine from a metal magazine wrote the following on facebook today:

If you write “next big thing”, “best kept secret”, “Australia’s best/biggest/brightest/loudest/heaviest/hottest”, “upcoming” or “leading” on your band’s bio, you’re probably not. Just ‘coz.

This was pitched at Australian metal bands, so naturally everyone began falling all over themselves in an effort to miss the point. Although it was a discussion I was involved in at the start, some of the issues covered required many words, and I HATE being one of those facebook people taking themselves super-seriously and writing massive long heartfelt semi-intellectual passages. So I thought I’d save it for the blog instead, and make some constructive suggestions instead of just calling everyone a thicko.

The point my friend made was that by using one of those clichéd phrases, you create a bad impression for your band before people responsible for publicizing it even get to listen to it. For people who work with words, getting slugged with these phrases is like getting bukkaked in the eyeballs with sticky liquid stupid and they will HATE you for it. They will HATE you for it because they see these phrases used regularly by dumb semi-literate bands and labels, and 99 times out of 100 they are bullshit. By using those special combinations of words, you prime the recipient of your press to expect their ears to be rammed full of withering averageness when listening to your crud.

I must also note that there are a billion sensible articles out there about how to write bios or do interviews, and how to submit press. This is not one of them. This is addressing a few of the big fundamentals that I think a lot of today’s metal bands are lacking, and if this stops one more band from treating their press like a school writing project then hooray. And just in case you think this article whiffs of self-aggrandizement ….you’re goddamn right. I’m going to illustrate all my points with my own bands.

The purpose of your bio, press, and interviews is to get people interested in you – not bore them to death.

Is your music imaginative? Colorful? Psychedelic? Psychopathic? Or all of the above? THEN WHY ISN’T YOUR BIO?!

Seriously, people write their fricken bios these days like they’re worried that their teacher is looking over their shoulder. For god’s sake, let rip. Yes, you do have to let people know who you are and what you’ve done. But you’re not writing a goddamn Wikipedia entry with footnotes. The purpose of the bio is not just to inform people but to make them WANT to listen to you and WANT to like you. You don’t do that merely by listing dry statistics.

Use colorful phrases, use anecdotes. Don’t say you toured the east coast of Australia with Band A and Band B….you smashed the balls off the east coast, with Band A and B riding your coattails (“…we’re all really good friends though!”). You didn’t play Wankfest, you made a Special Appearance at Wankfest! Your guitarist hung from the scaffolding by his knees. Your vocalist punched someone. The bassist disappeared after the show and reappeared three days later. Press queued at your feet and kissed your ring.

You don’t have to make it a laughfest, but just make it interesting.

strict-teacher-wearing-eye-glasses-17075900

“‘Kataklysm’ is spelled with a ‘C’, Jenkins”

Ditto with interviews. My dear sweet Jesus, bands can take the whole interview thing so bloody seriously. Yes, you are being asked questions. Yes, it’s fun to get all self-indulgent and talk about yourself and your opinions. But your answers have a dual purpose: to inform but also to ENTERTAIN. You are an entertainer goddamit. You don’t stop entertaining people just because you’re not on stage at the time. Think I’m being harsh? Pick up a metal magazine these days and try and read all the interviews in it from cover to cover. I promise you that you’ll fall asleep halfway through.

Got a tour on the way and want to promote it? Don’t just say the dates. Say something like, it’ll be a bloodbath and anyone who isn’t bleeding by the second song will be dragged onstage and pummeled (we actually said that for a Berzerker interview). If you’re a bunch of boring-ass prog musican wanker-types, then tell people you have been studying ways of combining your unique scales with Fibonacci fractal progressions, special frequencies, and a custom PA that is guaranteed to get people high. If you do that flared jean stoner rock shit, tell everyone that your set drips with so much sex that people shag in the moshpit and you average three pregnancies for every show. Tell people something interesting. But be aware that saying you’re “the next big thing”/”Australia’s best kept secret” etc is not interesting. It is boring, because media (and a bollockload of the public) have seen those phrases a million times already. Oh, and anyone – in the band or in the media – who use the phrase “saviors of metal”? I will track you down and murder you with my bare hands.

Admittedly, it can be hard to give interesting answers in some interviews. It’s almost like the interviewer is trying to ask the most boring Interview 101 questions that have been covered a million times before and appear in your bio. “How did your band start”, “What music do you like”, “Do you play live”….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz BOR-ING.  I remember Blood Duster had a great technique they’d use, which we adopted: ignore the question completely and write whatever answer you want. Almost always, the interviewer is happy just to have an interesting answer to work into whatever narrative they’re constructing.

A band is responsible for their press even if they’re not the ones writing it.

One of the points that came up in the facebook discussion from today was someone saying hey, my label writes the bio and sends the press out, so there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s in their hands. Nothing to do with us. None of us can write for shit anyway.

BULLSHIT.

A band may hand responsibility for the more boring activities over to a willing label or PR agent. But ultimately, YOU are responsible for the impression you create and it is in your interest to pay attention to how you are being represented.

What would you do if the press photographer wanted to put you all in clown suits and pose you at the local ice rink? Say hey, they’re the photographer, I guess they’re the expert on this? Nothing to do with us, none of us can take photos?

What would you do if the guy making your filmclip wants to dress you up in lingerie and put you in a kindergarten chasing greased pigs? Say hey, they’re the filmmaker, we don’t understand this stuff, we’ll go along with this?

What do you do when the bio that the label writes for you is so incredibly fucking boring that you, a metal fan who loves your own band, falls into a coma while reading it? Say oh well, none of us can write anyway? They know what they’re doing?

FUCK THAT.

A band knows the impression they are trying to create better than anyone. That is what your music does, when you drill down to it….it creates an emotional and aesthetic impression. Everyone that you work with is a tool to assist you in creating that impression. A band is the CEO and everyone who works for them does so at their implicit instruction. When CEOs are unaware of what their employees are doing on their behalf, that’s when companies fail. Bands don’t fare much better.

If someone is trying to make you look like a dick in a photo shoot or video, try and advise them as to what a better alternative would be. If they persist, tell them to fuck off. If a label writes an elementary school standard bio, you have three choices: make them do it again until it’s acceptable, engage PR who will do it for you, or write it yourself. Seeing as though labels usually rely upon unpaid fresh-out-of-school interns to write bios you can usually do a better job yourself. It was also pointed out in the Facebook chat that labels are quite often delighted to have a proactive band relieve them of some of their workload, the work-shy bastards. Bands who refuse to confront people offering shoddy work on their behalf are lazy. If your label is misrepresenting you, speak to them. If they don’t get it, yell at them.

We have hours of footage from the Berzerker days of yelling at Earache on the phone. We told them with the first album not to use the masks in the artwork, and made huge efforts to supply them with the album cover artwork. The masks were to be a huge surprise when we played live and between the strobe lighting and smoke we were supposed to be barely seen when onstage. Earache went behind our backs and plastered the US release with pictures of the masks. We confronted them, and they actually said something like hey, Slipknot is popular at the moment in the States so we’re putting the masks front and center on everything. Cue a big forehead slap from us and Luke screaming at them so loudly they could have probably heard him in England without the phone. Even we knew that portraying us as a Masked Metal Band Just Like Slipknot would turn away the super-extreme people who stood the most chance of enjoying our music. It took years to undo that mistake and for a lot of our dedicated audience to find us.

If the people you employ – and when you are signed to a record label, ultimately they are employed by you – misrepresent you, or make you look boring, then it’s your responsibility to fix it. Not unless you’re happy to be called ‘the hot new best new top secret saviors of metal’ and have everyone with half a brain laughing at you, and looking through other demo and bio submissions for something not so stultifying and brainless.

*****

Want to see how this shit is done right?

How to do an interview
How to write a bio

Better yet, check out the 5 Best Metal Interviews of All Time and see the masters at work!

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The 5 Best Metal Interviews of All Time

It has been a while between articles, I admit. I’ve got a few more tour stories, recent achievements, and some educational blurb on the way. Thought I’d limber up first with a good old list of stuff. Interviews!

1. George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher of Cannibal Corpse

George maintains fairly well during this interview, and talks as sanely as one might expect of a man who sings songs such as ‘I Cum Blood’ with the vocal stylings of a wounded satanic water buffalo. He discusses matters sensibly, talking about touring, his wife….

Then the topic of World of Warcraft comes up, and he goes off his nut.

You see, George is a passionate gamer. I met him in person while he was in the grip of a Grand Theft Auto gaming bender and he talked excitedly about how if he was driving a car in the game and ‘Angel of Death’ came onto the radio, he was compelled to abandon mission and just run down as many pedestrians as he could.  By the evidence of this video however, his passion for GTA has been utterly and completely obviated by his ‘thing’ for World of Warcraft. He rages. He rants. He goes completely off his head, and every time it seems as though he has calmed down enough to continue the interview, his hatred at ‘The Alliance’ resurfaces and he begins compulsively blurting disgust. He has no time for people playing as ‘good guys’. He’s a bad-guy Horde-dude to the core, seven gaming accounts-worth, son. There is so much raw passion evidenced in this interview that if Tony Robbins saw it he’d be like, “Steady on there, George”.

And the most amazing thing about this interview? Apparently he was 100% sober for it.

2. Mayhem

…Unlike these guys.

Mayhem came from that era of black metal where, to quote a friend of mine, “everyone tried to murder each other and unfortunately a few survived”. Their third vocalist killed himself, the first guitarist was stabbed to death by the bassist, the fifth vocalist was kicked out of the band via a flight of stairs, and the most recent vocalist sounds like he is channelling the other guys.

This probably explains why in this interview in ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’ bandmembers Necrobutcher and Blasphemer drunkenly invite the entire metal metal scene to go fuck itself while sitting in the middle of Wacken Air.  If I survived years of playing in a band like Mayhem, I’d probably feel invincible too.

3. Gaahl of Gorgoroth

Words cannot describe the many ways this interview is awesome but damned if I’m not going to try.

Supremely evil Norwegian singer Gaahl from Gorgoroth was at the height of his black-metal cred when this interview was done. He had done a few stints in jail for torturing guys on a few separate occasions, collecting his last victim’s blood in a cup. He lived in the middle of fog-enshrouded black-metal nowhere in Norway. When the interviewers came to meet him, he made them walk to all sorts of frostbitten and snowbound landmarks despite them not being dressed for the weather. He also showed a penchant for unexpected surprises when he revealed a number of paintings he’d done, which showed a decent level of taste and artistic skill. This wouldn’t be the last time Gaahl sprung an unexpected surprise on everyone.

The highlight of this interview came down to one word. The interviewers were hanging with Gaahl somewhere dark and grim and everyone was drinking goblets of red wine. One of the questions posed was “What is Gorgoroth’s music about?”

To this, Gaahl remained silent for seemingly ages. Finally he replied in a deep voice with one word: “………………..Satan”. Then he took a theatrical sip of his wine and let the long silence set sail for Awkwardville.

It made a lovely change from the earlier death metal bands who would dance around their flirtation with satanism in interviews (Glen Benton excepted, of course). There was none of this “hey, you know, the lyrics are about our personal beliefs, we don’t really discuss this” nonsense. What’s your music about, Gaahl? “SATAN”. BOOM! He wasn’t leaving anyone guessing.

I saw this interview near the start of a Berzerker tour and we thought it was the funniest thing we’d seen. We took to using Gaahl’s response for absolutely everything.

Promoter’s grabbing food guys, what would you like?”
“……………………..Satan”
I’ve turned the snare up in the foldback, need anything else in there?”
“……………………..Satan”

And so on.

The best part of this interview was the epilogue. Gaahl made the Terrorizer front cover and became a world-famous black-metal identity. His band was under investigation for a gig in Poland which featured a row of pigs heads up the front of the stage, and naked mock-crucified models up the back of the stage. He was as trve and kvlt as they come. Black metal as a scene is comprised of a large number of homophobic bigoted little boys, and Gaahl was their figurehead.  I really can’t express what a dodgy scene black metal can be in terms of ideology. It seems like every hate group has found a little nesting space somewhere in there at some point.

In 2008, Gaahl came out of the closet identifying himself as homosexual and revealed he was doing a clothing line for women with his boyfriend.

4. Pete Sandoval of Morbid Angel

David Vincent was traditionally the spokesman for Morbid Angel, and was a convincing and powerful messenger for their music. The other band members benefited from remaining in the background, appearing to be mysterious characters with a sorcerous command of their chosen instruments. When David left the band, guitarist Trey Azagthoth was thrust to the forefront as band’s spokesman and there was an awkward moment when everyone realised that this musical genius vampiric-Steve Vai looking dude was actually a nerdy sounding online gaming geek.

Nobody was prepared for when Pete Sandoval started appearing in interviews though. Trey’s geeky shtick was Captain Awesome Smooth compared to the mess that Pete appeared to be. All it takes in the above video is for Pete to introduce himself and you KNOW that you are in for an entertaining ten minutes. With pornstar Jasmin St Claire handling the interview duties, it was never going to be a normal interview….but jesus. I was expecting mild flirtation and a bit of dick swinging, not this Blues Brothers car-chase finale pileup of a human car-wreck. The returned Dave Vincent does his best to shepherd the dialogue along, but it keeps getting crashed by the crazy force of nature that is Pete. One of my favourite bits is where each band member names his favourite track to play, and Pete….lists almost half their set. After that both interviewer and cameraman successfully endeavor to exclude Pete from the rest of the interview.

Lovely guy and an awesome drummer though.

5. Oderus Ungerus of GWAR

Nothing I say about this can possibly do this justice.

Just. Listen.

**********

A big credit to ‘A Headbangers Journey’ for so much golden footage. An honorable mention must be made for any interview with Deicide’s Glen Benton. For written interviews, I must refer people to every interview done ever by US zine Grimoire.

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