Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
I used to trade fanzines with Al Quint who did a zine called “Suburban Voice” way back when I recently googled his name and imagine my surprise that he was still doing his zine like mine, on the internet. Well I asked if he would be interested in doing and interview he said yes and I sent him a ton of questions and sit back and read this great interview about the old days and what he is up to nowadays….
MC: It is a pleasure to be doing this interview with you. I think between, me, you and Jim Testa of Jersey Beat, we are the only farts left from the 80’s still doing this ha ha.
AL: My pleasure... and that's not totally true. Jack Rabid still does Big Takeover and some of the Maximum Rocknroll columnists date back to the 80s--Mykel Board and George Tabb.
MC: Now have you lived in the MA area all your life? Did you come from a big or small family and what sort of kid were you growing up? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
AL: I've lived my entire life in the same area, the North Shore of Massachusetts. I grew up in Swampscott, lived in Lynn for 14 years and now I've been in Peabody for 15 years. The only time I was away was when I went to Boston University and lived at school. I had one younger sister, Susie, who I've never had anything resembling a close relationship with. What sort of kid? Pretty studious. I did OK in school but I was a social misfit/outcast my entire childhood/adolescence. Although I was basically a good kid and didn't get into trouble, things weren't always that happy at home. It seemed like I was being made to feel inadequate in one way or another, and I had a tough time making friends. I remember my mother would always say, "scholastically bright but not a friend in this world." There was an element of truth in that as I did have only a handful of real friends. I didn't really have any career aspirations. I thought about being a teacher, at one point, but there wasn't any set plan.
MC: What were some of the things you liked to do when growing up? Did you do a lot of things outside and what were some of the TV shows or movies that you liked?
AL: I loved listening to records, collecting sports cards, playing games like table hockey or Skittle Bowl or Monopoly, baseball simulation games and the like. I'd make up leagues, keep standings, etc. I'd play outside a lot--we had a basketball hoop and I'd also play pickup games with the neighborhood kids of baseball, football, street hockey and the like. I pIayed Little League (badly), youth basketball (slightly better), went to the Boys Club camp where we'd play softball and swim. I liked going to the pool, whether at the Boys Club or near our cottage in New Hampshire. I wasn't a jock but everyone seemed to like sports and I followed them. I was a huge sports fan, as you probably gathered, but just as much, if not more, of a music fan. I'd devour music magazines like Circus and Creem and find out about all these cool bands I'd never heard of before. And I did watch a lot of TV. Sitcoms, mostly ("Gomer Pyle," "All In The Family," "Get Smart" and tons more), cartoons like "The Flintstones," other Hanna-Barbera cartoons, sports. I'd go to the movies and watch them on TV. Some of my favorites when I was a kid/teenager were "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World," "Tommy," "Dog Day Afternoon," "2001," "What's Up Doc?" and "Network." Most of those are still among my all-time favorites.
MC: At what age did you come to discoverer the wonderful world of music? What were some of the first bands that you heard and who was the one that introduced you into music?
AL: Believe it or not, when I was around 4. I just got into it by myself. I had a little red transistor radio and I'd listen to the AM stations. I remember hearing the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Beach Boys, Blues Magoos and Electric Prunes. I'd ask my parents to get me records that I liked, mostly 45s and I somehow ended up with other early rock 'n roll records as well. I'd play them on my mom's RCA record player, with the spindle where you could stack the 45s or albums.
MC: What were some of the early bands that you became a fan of? Did you listen to the radio a lot or were you more into buying records and stuff? Some of the first bands that you liked, are you still a fan of them even today?
Al: I mentioned them in the last question. I liked the top 40 rock 'n roll of the time. My parents would get me the records but I started buying them myself when I was 9 or 10. By then, I loved bands like CCR, Guess Who, Chicago (my favorites), The Who, Three Dog Night, Led Zeppelin. I was a singles buyer, mainly. I didn't really start getting that many albums until I was 11 or 12. "Who's Next" was the first album I remember totally blowing me away. The only reason I got the album was because the song "Baba O'Riley" wasn't out as a single. I'd heard it on the radio a bunch of times and could never figure out the title or artist until once when the DJ announced it. I actually thought it was "Bubba O'Reilly." And, yes, I still love/listen to a fair amount of that stuff now.
MC: Do you remember the 1st concert that you went to and the band that you went to see?
AL: I sure do. It was the Clash/Bo Diddley/The Rentals on 2/16/79 at the Harvard Square Theatre. I didn't go to any concerts while I was growing up. By the time I was a teenager, I was definitely gravitating towards harder rock like Aerosmith (my favorite throughout my teenage years and I still love their first five albums), Sweet, Blue Oyster Cult, Starz, Foghat, Bad Company, Thin Lizzy, Captain Beyond, AC/DC, Kiss, BTO, Queen, Ted Nugent, Deep Purple, etc., although I still liked the occasional pop/Top 40 song. But I didn't go to concerts/shows until I got to college, except when I'd see a covers band at a park or something.
MC: At what age did you discover the wonderful world of underground music? Was it through a friend, an ad in the newspaper or something that you heard on the radio? What did you think of the music the 1st time that you heard it?
AL: When I was 17 (it was a very good year!--sorry). As I said, I read a lot of music magazines and started finding out about this music called punk rock through them. I'd already picked up Iggy & The Stooges's "Raw Power" when I was 16 but didn't know what punk was, yet. I just thought it was a good hard rock album and checked it out after reading about them in one of those books or magazines. I was starting to listen to college radio like WMWM, the Salem State College station. I remember that summer (1977), I heard local bands like DMZ and The Real Kids for the first time, alongside hard rock songs. But the "conversion moment" was hearing "God Save The Queen" just before school started. The DJ was a kid in my class named Paul Greenberg and he's the guy I credit for getting me into punk. I was taping stuff of the radio and would fill tapes up with the likes of The Clash, Damned, Ramones, Boys, The Jam and lots of others. There was no looking back after that.
MC: I know you were more into the punk/hardcore scene more than the metal scene. What some of the 1st punk bands that you heard and did you start buying vinyl and 7” and stuff like that? Were you like a kid in a candy store than wanted more and more when you started to get into these bands?
AL: Once again, not really true, if you look at the list of bands above and I delved even more into metal at the same time I was listening to punk--I got into Judas Priest, Black Sabbath (rather late), Iron Maiden, Scorpions (pre-pop metal) and that continued with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Celtic Frost and the like. I didn't discriminate--I liked hard rocking music no matter the label. I started buying punk vinyl in the fall of '77 but it really started the following summer when I was making trips into Boston to stores that carried the import singles and then when I got to college in the fall of '78. I still wasn't buying crazy amounts of records. I'd still listen to a lot of the music I'd tape off the radio--at this point, I was using my dad's stereo, which was better than mine. I still have all of those tapes, too.
MC: Obviously back then it was a lot harder to obtain music that it is today. Were there any good record stores that you could go to back then to get this music and are any of those stores open today?
AL: It wasn't that tough. The first indy record store I started going to was the Record Exchange in Salem. I got my first Cheap Trick and Dead Boys records there. There were a lot of good stores in Boston and Cambridge like Discount Records, New England Music City, The Harvard Coop, Nuggets, the original Newbury Comics store and, in the early 80s, there was a cool store called Rockit, in Saugus, which I actually ended up working at from '85 to '93. Most of those stores are long gone. The Record Exchange is still around but doesn't seem to have anything I want or it's overpriced. Nuggets is still around but it's a ghost of its former self and Newbury is a 30 store chain but nothing like the original store, with a box of records on the counter.
MC: What were some of the early underground shows that you saw and does anything stick out in your mind about any of these shows and what was your reaction or opinion the first time that you saw “slam dancing”? Did you ever do any of that when you were to shows?
AL: My first punk show was The Plasmatics and the Molls at the Rat in Boston in early 1979. It was like entering a dark demimonde and I was intrigued and perhaps a bit frightened. I saw tons of punk and other shows at clubs during the years I was in college and after, of course. The first real hardcore shows I saw were at a club called Streets--in the fall of '81, I saw TSOL, Anti-Pasti and Black Flag on separate nights. I think the first time I saw slam dancing was at a show with a local band, The Outlets, sometime in the summer of '81 and, at the Streets shows, that's where I really saw aggressive dancing. I pretty much stayed away from the pit at first but would jump in a bit, later. Depended on the show. The ones I went to in Western Mass. from '83 to '85 had a much "friendlier" vibe and I felt more comfortable dancing there.
MC: Were you ever into any sort of heavy metal bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, etc?
AL: As I said above, I grew up listening to hard rock and metal so I always had an affection for it and still do. One of the greatest show I ever saw was Judas Priest/Scorpions/Def Leppard on the "British Steel" tour. A year later, I saw Priest with Iron Maiden, when they were touring behind "Killers." Seeing AC/DC on the "Back In Black" tour was sweet, as well. And I was a Motorhead fan from the first time I saw a video of "The Chase Is Better Then The Catch" and got the "Ace of Spades" album.
MC: What led you starting up your own fanzine? Did you do any writing for any prior to starting your own? Did you read zines like Maximum Rock N Roll and Flipside back then?
AL: It was almost an accident. I'd put out small newsletters and the like when I was a kid, just about silly stuff. I first wrote about music when I was in high school, for the paper. I didn't do any writing during my years at BU but, once I graduated in '82, that's when I started to embrace hardcore. I briefly wrote for a zine called Concentration X. but it was someone else's zine and I wanted to do my own. One night in late August 1982, I sat down at my typewriter and banged out some live and record reviews. I did four pages. I left a blank space at the top of the first page for the zine's name and decided it'd be Suburban Punk. My dad had access to a xerox machine where he worked and he ran me off 50 copies, which I sold at a few shows for 25 cents each and I think I did another print run of 40. MRR started around when my zine did and I've been reading it since issue #2 and I have every one of them, plus a copied printout of #1. I read Flipside before that. I also read Trouser Press, which had a bit more of an elitist attitude towards underground punk but it had a lot of cool articles and record reviews. It really turned to shit the last few years it published. Boston Rock was a newspaper zine that covered a lot of what was going on in the late 70s/early-to-mid 80s. So was Take-It, which only lasted a short time but had flexi-discs included. One had the Dead Kennedys, Angry Samoans and Flipper.
MC: Now when you decided to start your own zine, did you have any idea what you were doing since there wasn’t a lot of zines back then? Did you ask anybody for advice? If so, what advice did they give you?
AL: I still don't know what I'm doing. Seriously, though, when I started typing that first issue, I didn't know what direction/shape it would ultimately take. I started to follow the format of MRR to an extent and gradually built up the page count and print run. I started interviewing some bands, took scene reports from other places, started trading with other zines. I would check out the classified ads in the back of Flipside and MRR and got contacts that way. Ah, the pre-internet era! I don't remember getting any advice. I just followed my own instincts, I guess.
MC: How did you come up with the name of Suburban Punk? What were the contents of your first issue like?
How long did it take you from when the first reviews and interviews were done to actually get the issue out? Where did you get the issue printed at and how many copies did you print up and what was it like finally having a printed copy in your hands?
AL: I think I covered most of that above. There wasn't any "eureka" moment to come up with the name. I lived in the suburbs and I liked punk. There 'ya go. It took me a few nights to type out four pages and my dad copied it soon after. Probably a week or two to do everything. There was definitely a feeling of accomplishment. For issue #2, I used a ditto machine at a grade school where my mom subbed. 9 pages, single sided, maybe 90-100 copies? The cover was of Cal from Discharge, stolen from a UK punk mag. That was the first issue with a cover I did. Issue #3 was the first to be done offset. While the photos didn't come out too great, it felt like a real zine at that point. I think I did 200 of that one.
MC: Now this first issue came out in 1982. How did you go about to promote it? Did you sell it at shows and stuff and how much were you charging for an issue? What did your parents think of you doing a zine and did you lose money, break even on this first issue and did it contain any ads?
AL: I took them to shows and sold them outside and was able to unload them pretty easily. Since it was a quarter, I imagine it wasn't a major investment for people. I might have just broken even on #3. That was the first issue where I had ads. I don't think I ever lost money doing it. I gradually started getting more ads, first from a couple of local record stores and a few labels started to advertise. I started to sell them or consign them to some of the stores in the area. I think Subterranean Records might have been the first to advertise. They were also one of the first to send me records for review. My parents didn't really dissuade me from doing it. In fact, my mom sold some of them to her students when she was subbing. Imagine that! And there was a guy who I later worked with and was in a band with who bought an issue from my mom.
MC: Which bands did you interview for the first issue and the reviews, was that stuff you just brought and reviewed that stuff? Was the first issue on newsprint or a Xerox white style?
AL: The first interview I did was Rick from Jerry's Kids, over the phone, and the tape didn't come out well so I had to synopsize what Rick had said. I did mail interviews with Fang and Negative Approach. I think the first real in-person band interview I did was with Kraut, for issue #5. But it was mainly live and record reviews for awhile. At the outset, I bought most of the records I reviewed but eventually labels and bands started sending me stuff. I'd sometimes send out a zine and ask if I could get review material and some did reply.
MC: How regularly would you put out an issue? About how many hours in a given week would be spent doing zine related stuff? Did you start to get mail for the zine at this point?
AL: It was every other month for a long time. I managed to do 10 issues of Suburban Punk between Sept. of '82 and around June of '84 so do the math. I started getting mail in late 82/early 83 and, as I said, I would read MRR and find pen pals and people to send the zine to for trades, free stuff, etc. In early '83, I got my first apartment and a full-time job at a bank so I'd do it when I had some spare time at night. Not every night--it wasn't all-consuming yet--but I remember sitting at my table in that one room apartment, writing out reviews on yellow-lined paper and then typing them up after I was done.
MC: Did you have a regular job while doing these early issues and did any of your co-workers know you were doing a zine?
AL: As I said, it was in a bank. I was a teller and also worked in the loan department. The latter didn't last too long but what was cool is I'd open the mail in the morning and get uncanceled stamps and use that for my correspondence. And I'd copy flyers to trade with people on the copy machine there. My co-workers knew about the punk thing and my writing. I wasn't treated as a pariah although the president of the bank wasn't too thrilled when I grew out my hair a bit and started wearing an earring. I generally got along fine with my co-workers and a few of my bosses.
MC: Now as you began putting out more and more issues did the circulation start going up and up and did you pretty much sell out of every issue? Were you now starting to get mail and bands sending you stuff to review and labels taking out ads?
AL: My circulation gradually increased. I think I hit 500 copies around Issue #10 and that was the number for a while. It might have gone up to 1000 with issue #16, when I went to offset. I eventually sold out of every issue, except for a few of them. I only have a few back issues at this point. The most I printed of one issue was 3500 and I managed to get rid of them all, over time. And the zine started getting more mail, stuff for review, etc.
MC: Did you do what the metal underground was doing and that was putting little flyers or ads for other bands that they would stuff in letters we would write back to each other and with zine orders?
AL: Occasionally. I traded flyers with people in my personal correspondence but not so much with the regular zine.
MC: At any time you have been doing the zine both print and on-line have you ever thought it was a job or has it always been a labor of love so to speak? Did you do most or all the zine yourself or did you have people helping you and if you did how many did you have and how long did they last?
AL: It was a labor of love but it did turn into something of a job since I put a lot into each issue and also handled the "business" side of it, soliciting ads, dealing with distributors and the shipping/mailing. It became overwhelming at times and that's why it took so long between issues, sometimes. I had people helping with the writing. I had columnists, reviewers and photographers (although I took over that end of things starting around the mid-90s). I had a lot of long-standing columnists. One of them, Larry Boyd, was with me for over 10 years. He passed away in 2003. It's sad--he had a rough time for the last several years of his life. We'd had a falling out in the late 90s (long story) and I was going to try to reconcile with him but found out he'd died.
MC: At what issue did you decide to go to newsprint and why did you decide to go that route?
AL: A few reasons. I was having my zine printed at a company, Larkin Publications that mainly did fashion magazines. I did my zine through one of the sons involved in the business. He basically did it 'after hours' on the side (or, more accurately, had his print department do it). Eventually, he couldn't do it anymore. I'd actually found out about this printer from my pal Mike Gitter from xXx zine. When we both had to move on, he found a print place, Saltus Press, that did the zines on newsprint. The cost was a lot lower than it would have been to use heavier paper, especially since the zine's page count was increasing. Another local zine, The Noise, printed there as well. I should mention that Larkin kept doing the photo halftones for a while after I'd switched to newsprint and I'd paste them up into the layout before taking them to the printer.
MC: Now when issue # 11 came out, you did a name change and the zine began to be called Suburban Voice. Why made you decide to change the name of the zine and was any other names considered and looking back was the name change a good or bad thing?
AL: I didn't want to get pigeonholed as just being a punk zine, because I was starting to write about political issues and perhaps expanding the musical scope a bit (although it's always been diverse). I didn't really consider any other names. Of course, SV has pretty much always remained a punk zine. There were some weird years in there, from the late 80s to mid-90s where I was covering more mainstream type bands (alt-rock, grunge and the like) until reconnecting with punk and hardcore in the mid-90s. I never stopped listening to punk, though.
MC: Around issue 10 what was the circulation of the zine? What year was it when you did the name change? What sort of music was being covered in every issue? Was it mostly punk and hardcore music?
AL: As I said, I'm pretty sure it was 500 copies at that point. I changed it in mid-84 and continued to cover punk and hardcore but I'd also cover other bands who didn't necessarily fit a strict categorical description. The commonality was I mainly covered loud, energetic music but not exclusively.
MC: Did you ever review or interview many metal bands throughout the zines existence? Were you a fan of any metal stuff?
AL: Definitely. As I said, I always liked metal, from the time I was a teenager and embraced some of the aggressive 80s bands like Metallica, Venom, Slayer, Exodus, Celtic Frost, locals like Wargasm and tons more. Metal labels started sending me records to review--Metal Blade, Combat, Noise, New Renaissance and the like. I had a metal section called The Bludgeoned Ear that I eventually spun off into its own zine for three issues in the late 80s. My friend Andy helped me with that. I'd met him through the hardcore scene and he's still one of my closest friends, although he hasn't been involved in any music scene for years. He did some writing for me. We decided to do a spin off. I'd interviewed some metal bands in SV. It became tough doing two zines and, also, the interviews we did were mainly phone ones that weren't all that interesting. They seemed cookie cutter. Part of it was I wasn't particularly skilled at interviewing bands, although I imagine that improved over time. Also, getting photos was a pain in the ass since not too many of my regular photographers shot metal bands. Anyway, I eventually folded it and decided to just include metal as part of the overall SV coverage. I'd occasionally interview metal bands and I continued to review their shows and records. I don't listen to many newer metal bands or go to see that many of them, anymore.
MC: With you being around with what seems forever, I am gonna throw out some music styles and bands within them and I’d like your opinion on them:
Ground-breaking, especially Greg Ginn's guitar style. "Damaged" is an all-time favorite album of mine. Their early recordings, up through that album, are flawless. Seeing them on the "Damaged" tour was absolutely mind-blowing. After that, they were very hit and miss. The 1982 demos they did with the five piece lineup (Rollins, Ginn, Dukowski, Dez, Chuck Biscuits) NEED to be released.
They were killer in the 80s. "The Age Of Quarrel" is a classic album. The "breakdown" in "World Peace"? That's a perfect musical moment. But I think that's the only record you need by them. Well, besides the demo version of "Age Of Quarrel." I didn’t like the Krishna element, though. I feel the same about the Bad Brains, with the Rasta stuff. But there’s no denying both were monster bands.
Youth of Today
They're a band I actually like more now than back then. There was some personal baggage, I suppose. I wasn't into their militant straight-edge thing (even though I wasn't drinking in the late 80s and still don't drink that much, now) plus there was always such a cliquishness about certain NY bands. I did an interview with them in '87 or so and it was a bit prickly. But I've revisited their records in recent years and the first EP and "We're Not In This Alone" are so raw and pissed off. One reason I started listening to "WNITA" again was because a great Chicago band, The Repos, covered it in its entirety for their last 12", "Ending On A Positive Note." They nailed it, by the way. But I dug out the original and thought, hmm, this is a damned good hardcore album.
In all honesty, I think they're kind of overrated. Not a bad band but and, don't get me wrong, I like them. But I don't rank them among the all-time greats. I can still hang with their first album and "Dealing With It." I imagine you could say they were one of those bands who bridged the gap between hardcore and metal and they were really, really tight.
Their first album is an all-time great and, once again, I think I might like it even more now, even though there are a few weak tracks. "I Want More" is an anthem. That's the only album of theirs I still listen to. I remember feeling a little bit intimidated before interviewing Mike but he was soft-spoken and friendly.
I love "United Blood" and especially "Victim In Pain" and bits and pieces of what came after, but those are the only records I still listen to regularly. "Public Assistance" is still a dumb song, lyrically--I remembered that when listening to the recent reissue of "Live At CBGB's". It sounds like it's from the Republican/Tea Party platform, with all the stereotyping of welfare recipients.
"Reign In Blood" is my all-time favorite metal album. Few records have ever approached its sheer ferocity. I'm still a fan although I haven't seen them since the late 90s (but I still want to see them again, at some point). I don't listen to much they did after "South of Heaven," though.
MC: Were you a fan of the so called “crossover” scene at all and what did you think of metal and hardcore mixing together?
AL: I didn't have an issue with it. If you consider bands like early COC, The Accused or Dr. Know “crossover,” well I was already listening to it. The one problem is it seemed to attract more knuckleheads and, also, certain elements of that audience weren't always the most progressive-minded people. Not that hardcore is/was any utopia but one of the things that appealed to me back then was the social message certain bands expressed. The crossover audience was cooler than the more mainstream metal audience. There seemed to be a shared affinity for underground music.
MC; What were some of the craziest shows you ever saw and what venues did you mostly go see shows at?
Al: All kinds of venues, from DIY spaces to clubs. It seemed like most shows I saw back then were in clubs but some of the greatest shows I ever saw back then was at a small art space, Gallery East. Minor Threat played there the first time they came through. In the 90s, I started going to more DIY shows, in basements and the like and that's still the case today. Spaces come and go around here but there are some steady ones--the Democracy Center, in Cambridge, which is sort of a community center near Harvard, is a steady space and there's a loft in Allston called What We Talk About. It’s always changing.
Craziest? Anytime I saw 9 Shocks Terror, hell would ensue. The Cleveland bands (9 Shocks, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Inmates, etc) have a reputation for mayhem at their shows. I was told that when GSMF played their last show in Cleveland, half the crowd ended up having to go to the hospital. In 2001, 9 Shocks played a show in a small tavern/snack bar at Hampshire College with Last In Line. The place got DESTROYED. Smoke bombs, firecrackers, ceiling panels torn down, a bicycle in the pit. A piano almost got pushed into there, as well, but that was stopped. What was incredible was 9 Shocks didn't miss a note. And much to my astonishment, they allowed another show to happen there, with Last In Line headlining and some guy was running around the pit with a lit torch. He tied two pieces of wood together and lit it on fire. It's a miracle the place didn't burn down. I think that might have been the show where Mikey from LIL got a pie in the face and put down his bass and went after the perpetrator while they were still playing. He also got in a fight with the vocalist during another show, during their set. At another show both of those bands played, a Halloween show at a club in Springfield, someone brought six foot inflatable penis, "Captain Pecker The Party Wrecker," and was bopping Tony from 9 Shocks on the head with it and then ran it around the pit.
In 1982, someone brought a dead pigeon to a Freeze show in a paper bag and you can only imagine what happened when that got taken out. Around the same time, I saw DOA play a show that got shut down after two songs because the club was on the verge of getting ripped apart--people literally tearing the down the ceiling at that one. I've been to basement shows in recent years where things got quite out of control. I was outside of one of them last year and I heard a loud noise inside. Turns out someone had thrown a cinderblock down the stairs. They might have thrown a chair, too. I can't remember. Thankfully, I wasn't inside.
MC: Has any band ever threatened you in all time you have been doing the zine or some label really slag on you due to giving one of their bands a band review?
AL: Not too much. I've never been physically threatened or anything, at least about a review. There was one guy who had what seemed to be a pathological grudge against me because of something I allegedly said about his friend's band in the 80s. He was still holding onto it when I last corresponded with him 6 or 7 years ago. I hope he's let it go by now--especially because I don't think it was true. There was another band he was friendly with who wrote a song that slammed me. I only found out about this a year or two ago. The song was called "Mr. Quint" and the middle part was to the tune of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch." I don't think I'll bother mentioning the band's name. But I'm honored they'd take the time to sit down and pen a 40 second thrash metal song about yours truly.
When SSD's "How We Rock" album came out, I gave it a bad review and a woman called me and basically chewed my ear off about it for 20 minutes. She didn't say who she was but I was able to later figure out it was Al from SSD's wife Nancy. And I stand by my review. When I first started doing my zine, one of the other writers panned the local band Stranglehold. They called me COLLECT to complain and I foolishly took the call. I still correspond with their vocalist Jimmy and we've joked about it. He said they were probably drunk.
I got slagged in Commodity zine by Lifetime. I'd just done an interview with them that didn't go too well. Partially my fault because I wasn't really prepared but they did the Commodity interview right after mine. When I got the issue awhile later, a couple of them slammed me pretty hard about it. I can pretty much laugh it off now because, well, I find most of Lifetime's music laughable these days.
MC: What are some of your favorite interviews you have done and some not so favorite ones and is there any band or person that you have never interviewed, but would love to one day?
AL: Favorites? The Big Boys. Just great guys, really personable and friendly. That's a band I'm very glad I got to see. I enjoyed the interview I did with Articles of Faith, which was the cover of the first issue of Suburban Voice. Dillinger Four were a lot of fun to interview. We sat on the front porch of a friend of theirs and talked for a long time. It seemed more like a conversation than a standard interview and those are the ones that usually come out the best. The guys in the Minutemen were cool to talk to. I interviewed them just a few months before D. Boon got killed. Sheer Terror is an all-time classic. Funny as hell--I was almost pissing myself laughing while we were doing it. Paul's not exactly the most "PC" guy in the world. He'll tell you EXACTLY what he thinks and, even if I don't agree with everything, he's an absolute riot. And he's a good guy--don't let that cantankerous personality fool you.
Least favorite? Living Colour! I can't explain why I ever thought that band was any good. I interviewed two of them (not Vernon Reid, who is supposed to be a good guy) at their record label's office and they couldn't have been any more condescending. Phone interviews usually sucked and that's why I stopped doing them (I don't do interviews that much anymore, as it is, but that's another topic). Tad Doyle from Tad was terrible. He seemed completely uninterested in my questions. Once again, maybe the questions sucked but he seemed rude. I just want people to know that even though I now realize Tad's music was mostly crap, it has nothing to do with his rudeness.
I'll tell you another little story. I mentioned the testy Youth of Today interview above. I was never into the whole Krishna thing that came into the hardcore scene in the late 80s/early 90s. Ray Cappo was doing Shelter by then and I wanted to do an interview with him but as a roundtable so I could basically get other people to nail him down on certain issues. Yeah, it was a wimpy way out. It turned out to be him and Dan O'Mahony from 411/No For An Answer. It was fairly interesting but it wasn't the friendliest encounter. Anyway, a few years after that, Bill from Blackout Records asked me if I wanted to do another joint interview with Ray and Paul from Sheer Terror. I got the feeling that Ray might be ticked over the one with Dan. Bill said no, it's cool, Ray doesn't have a problem doing it. I show up at the venue and approach Ray and ask him if he wants to do it now. Ray looks at me and says "I'm not doing an interview with you. You have an agenda!" Which was true, of course--I admit it, and I'd never try to pull any shit like that now. But I talked to him, he said OK, he'll do it after the show. Since it was going to be a long show and I didn't feel like being there anyway, I just decided to bail. Probably just as well.
MC: When you got up to say issue 20, what was your circulation like and around how many pages was in each issue? Did there every come to a point where you were getting too much stuff to review?
AL: I think I printed 1000 copies from #16-21 and I’d hit 40 pages by then. When I started with newsprint, I probably increased the print run but I forget how much or when. By the early 90s, I started doing over 2000. 3500 might have been the biggest print run, sometime in the mid-90s. And my last several issues were all over 100 pages. I started getting overwhelmed with review material by the late 80s. I started having more people help with some of the reviews. It reached a point where I'd fall behind and knew that there was no way everything could get reviewed. So I just did the best I could. That's still the case. I don't get nearly as much to review as I used to but there's still something of a backlog.
MC: Prior to stopping the print version of the zine, was there any thoughts before that of stopping the zine?
AL: At times. And I didn't intentionally stop doing the print version, it just ended up happening. I kept doing reviews and interviews and saved them in computer files but didn't seem to be making any progress with things. Partially my own inertia, not feeling inspired and there have also been some rough patches in my personal life over the past ten years so that also caused things to get put off. I wanted SV to continue on in some format so I started doing it as a blog on MySpace in 2005 and switched it to Blogger in August of 2006, with Blog #16. I just hit 100 installments this summer. I haven't even been doing the blog as often as I did when it first started.
MC: How many print issues did you end up doing and the last issue you put out, did you know at the time it was gonna be your last print issue? Do you think with the way the internet was going that, that contributed a lot of the folding of a bunch of print zines, mine included?
AL: I did 45 total, plus three issues of The Bludgeoned Ear. No doubt the internet has had a lot to do with the disappearance of print zines, although there are still ones out there and I still write for a monthly print publication, Maximum Rocknroll. It's much easier to get things out on a timely basis although, as I said above, I still seem to have trouble even publishing the blog. I’ve also mentioned that I didn't think it was going to be the last print issue, it just turned out that way and I STILL haven't completely given up hope of doing at least one more print issue. But it'd probably be a smaller print run because I don’t know easy it'd be to get advertising or distribution plus I'm sure printing and shipping costs would be astronomical.
MC: Now after the print zine was done, did you go right into doing an internet site?
AL: It was a couple of years after, as I said above. The last print issue was in 2003, the first blog was in 2005.
MC: For those who don’t know, explain to them exactly what a fanzine is and do you have copies of every one of your issues? Is there any back issues lying around for sale? Have you ever gone on sites like Ebay and saw your zine up there for sale?
AL: The key word is "fan." It's a publication done by someone who is a fan of something, be it music or film or comics or anything. To me, that's the key element. To be passionate about something, to have a desire to share your thoughts and opinions about it. Fanzines have been around a long time. Science fiction aficionados were some of the first fanzine publishers. As for my zine, I own one at least one copy of every issue I did but don't have tons of duplicates. I only have a few of the most recent issues still available. I also have some 7"s left over, without the zines, that I sell as a bundle. I've seen a few of my old issues show up on eBay but I haven't done it myself. Something else I've procrastinated on, although I don't have that many older, "collectible" issues left to sell.
MC: Where do you see the music scene headed and what are your thoughts on punk and hardcore these days and do you still like it? Do you still have copies of a lot of the stuff you have reviewed over the years?
AL: I still have a good record collection. I've hung onto my most-prized records. I'm running out of space--and we have a house! I still listen to all kinds of music. I've grown a bit tired of newer hardcore lately but still find bands that are doing interesting things and most of that could be loosely considered punk. I have a pretty wide definition of it. I think if you dig around a bit, you'll find good stuff. The internet obviously makes that a lot easier. Maybe too easy... but if I read about a band that intrigues me, I can usually hear their music in seconds, after a few keystrokes.
It's obvious the internet has become the primary way for disseminating music these days and there's good and bad in that. Perhaps bands make music available before they should--perhaps they should perfect their songs a bit before throwing it up on the internet. Still, I don't think records will ever completely disappear nor will people stop experiencing music in the live setting.
MC: Have you ever managed any bands over the years or ever gone on a tour with a band? Any thoughts of ever starting up a record label? Were you ever asked by any record companies to do publicity for them?
I've never managed any bands. I had a label, of course. I did 7"s and CD comps with the zine up through issue #45 and did a handful of separate 7" releases in the early to mid-90s. I'm done with that. I looked into getting a 'music biz' job in the late 80s/early 90s. I interviewed for a label manager job for what eventually became In-Effect Records. But I didn't feel like I had the stomach for it nor did I want to promote bands that I wasn't necessarily into and I definitely didn't want to move to New York. And I started to distance myself from the more mainstream music business and re-embrace DIY by the mid-90s.
I'll tell you an incident, if that's the word, where I decided I wanted to divorce myself from the major label thing a bit. In the mid-90s, I asked the Pist to be on one of my 7"s that came with the zine. They were all gung-ho to do it but then found out I was being distributed by Caroline, which was connected to a major, and they backed out. I was disappointed but it got me to thinking that maybe I should get back to the DIY roots. So I did that and only got distributed by independent companies after that (although my zine was in Tower Records). Eventually, the Pist did give me a song for one of my CD comps. I have to thank them for getting me to think about how I was running my "business."
MC: What was your favorite part of the zine and least favorite part or thing about doing one?
AL: Favorite? The free records and being on the guest list. I'm joking, somewhat--I'll admit I liked the "fringe benefits," especially since I couldn't afford to buy all those records or go to all those shows. These days, I pay for most shows and buy more records but I'll still write about them. Seriously, though, I guess it's having a forum to express my viewpoints and also the fact that it got me more involved in the punk and hardcore scene. I'm a lot more cynical about things, these days, but I still enjoy meeting bands and people I've corresponded with. And when I'd pick up a new issue, there was a feeling of accomplishment, seeing my hard work in a tangible form. Least favorite? Just the overwhelming amount of work involved and keeping up with everything. And that's why I decided to cut back and not let it consume my life.
MC: When you started up a zine, did it become more work than you ever thought it would?
AL: Definitely... and, as I said, it got overwhelming and exhausting and there were times it took a back seat to real life and I stopped.
MC: Now for those who have never been on your site/blog, what is the url of it and what will people find when they log onto it and do you review bands on it?
AL: The site is http://subvox.blogspot.com. It's mainly record reviews these days, plus the occasional book, zine and video review. I might start doing interviews again at some point. I review records and CDs. I'm sorry to say I've pretty much stopped reviewing cassette demos and I absolutely refuse to review "digital promos" or digital-only releases. Some labels and publicists are starting to only send review material in a digital format and, to me, that's an incomplete package. I have an iPod, I have an on-line only radio show (Sonic Overload) and I'll play MP3s on that. But, when it comes to a review, I only want to review physical media.
MC: Are you into a lot of today’s band or are you more of a fan of the old stuff?
AL: Both... I'm always looking for new bands to listen to but, yes, I definitely gravitate towards the music I grew up listening to. It's a mix. I also like checking out older bands I might have missed the first time around.
MC: What did you think of the whole Seattle grunge scene and also the “hair metal” ha ha scene?
AL: I embraced it at the time but now I wonder how I could ever have gotten into such terrible music. I can still hang with some of Nirvana's records, but even that's overplayed. Hair metal? I never liked that crap at all. I like some early Twisted Sister and Motley Crue but that's about it. I’d rather listen to the glam and hard rock bands that inspired them—Slade, Sweet, Aerosmith, etc.
MC: I know you have a Facebook page. Have you re-connected with many people from back in the day?
AL: I've reconnected with people from all areas of my life--childhood friends, people from college and work but mainly from the music scene. I've sought people out and people have sought me out. Or they'll send a request because they like my work. It's another tool for what I've always done--share music (and other ideas) that I like. I post a lot of videos on my page. One thing I wish people would do is watch the newer bands I post in addition to the ones they already know. Expand their horizons! I also have a Facebook page for Suburban Voice, with photos and some archival material, although I haven't done all that much with it lately.
MC: Plug any websites that you might have besides the main one.
AL: I've been doing a radio show, Sonic Overload, since 2000 and it's on the web at www.sonicoverload.net. I do a new show every Monday and also have an archive (http://sonicoverload.blogspot.com) that has every show I've done since the beginning of 2000. I'd consider the radio show my main project these days.
I take photos at just about every show I go to--it's another creative outlet and bands/zines have used my photos (with my permission), and I’m flattered by that. I have a Flickr page that has those photos plus live reviews accompanying them: www.flickr.com/photos/MrAlQ.
As I said above, Suburban Voice is on Facebook. Do a search for it--you'll find it.
MC: Did you in your wildest dreams that you would still be doing this 30 plus years later?
AL: Never really thought about it. It just happened. I kept going and here I am in my early 50s still doing it. I don't get out to as many shows, I've slowed the pace a bit but I haven't quit yet. Some might think I should but I'll decide when that happens.
MC: Besides the zine, what are you up to these days? Are you married? Do you have kids and what do you do for a living?
AL: I've been married to my wonderful wife Ellen for 24 years. She’s a social worker and what she does is a hell of a lot more important than any of my work. She’s the most caring, compassionate person I’ve ever known. We don’t have any kids (we have two nephews, though) and I just take care of the house. I'm "retired" from music retail, which I did for a number of years. We have a pretty conventional suburban existence. I love grilling on the back deck.
MC: Is there anything you would love to have come out on CD one day?
AL: I'm more interested in music being reissued on vinyl. I wouldn't mind some of the hard-to-get early 80s US punk and hardcore records getting reissued. Fortunately, that's starting to happen more in recent years.
MC: Al thanks for doing this long, long interview and it was great to re-connect with you after all these years. Any last words to wrap this up?
AL: I'll be sending you a bill when I go to the doctor to take care of my aggravated carpal tunnel. Seriously, though, thanks for the interview and the interest. If anyone wants to get in touch with me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.