Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thanks for the crazy year: Looking back

If you had told me 13-14 months ago I'd be in the position I am now I would have snickered and said "Yeah. OK. Whatever." I mean, who was I? I was just some 33 year old guy with this little blog that nobody read, on which I'd throw a few words together about what I had been listening too. I'd give a rundown of my favourite albums of the year. Talk about shows I'd been to. I never thought it would amount to anything. (And it likely never will.) I mainly started it as a way to generate discussion about the music I love so much. It was 2008, 7 years after moving home from university and life was getting in the way of the connections I'd made with my friends who share my passion for metal. (Spencer, Todd, Kopko; man hugs bros.) Kids, jobs, distance. You know the drill. Kingdom of Noise (taken from the C.S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters) started as a way for me to let those friends, and anyone else who cared to listen, know what was turning my crank. I don't think that plan ever really worked but I kept going anyway.
Fast forward to 2012. Readership was up a bit. (Some reviews were getting like 20 hits!!) But I still felt like it was just for my own personal enjoyment. Athough, I had started making connections with like minded individuals all over the world (*tips hat to Twitter and all my tweeps* You know who you are.). When Gigantour was in town, I had coffee with a certain Adam Sewell. He of Monster Voodoo Machine/Damn 13/Bastard Child Deathcult etc fame. Adam was VERY encouraging. I felt really good to be receiving praise from someone who has totally been there and done that. However, I was still very naive to how the whole music journalism thing worked but I felt like people were starting to take notice. In particular my good friend and amazing writer, Mr. Craig Hayes. Craig had a confidence in me that I hever had in myself. Through reading his work, and that of the Canadian writers at, in particular Kyle Harcott, Laura Weibe, Gruesome Greg, Natalie Zed, Adrien Begrand and Rob Hughes, I strove to become a better writer. Through their example and encouragement, especially from Craig and Kyle, I was taking my work more seriously.
Then Craig started showing me the ropes. Took me under his wing so to speak. I had no idea how things worked. PR people? Album promos? Servicing lists? I had no idea. I don't know how I thought things worked but clearly I was more naive than I thought. Craig explained things to me and pointed me in the right direction. Apparently I'd been offered a spot on one of the biggest metal-based servicing lists in North America months prior and didn't even realize it. Again, terribly naive. Mr. Hayes' next move was to encourage me to contact Hellbound editor Sean Palmerston about contributing to the site. At this point my confidence level still needed some work but I straightened my back and sent him a couple samples. Sean said he was familiar with my work and offered me a spot with the team! I'm sure partly based on my review of Titan's Burn. The first promo I received! Thanks Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle!! It took a good few days to wipe the shit-eatin' grin off my face. It was about this time I was approached by Jon Asher of Asher Music PR about covering a band called Titan's Eve. He'd obviously found me through my blog as he called me Marcus. (My email is shogunnamedmarcus@... in reference to the Clutch song of the same name. A forgivable mistake that's been made a few times since.) This was to be my first review for Hellbound. It was published on July 16, 2012 and so everything began in earnest. I've written a good number of pieces for Hellbound in the last year. Reviews, interviews, show recaps. Hellbound is where I got my start. Hellbound is my home.
It was also about this time that Craig chose to interview ME (shoulda been the other way 'round, mate!) for his blog And, the lovely Lav Nandlall asked me to write a special piece about how metal has affected my life for her Air Guitar Blog. To quote one of my favourite films, Almost Famous, "It's all happening." Those two articles gave my words a face. (Seriously, they both had a picture of me. Both taken by my wonderful, beautiful, and talented photographer of a wife, Becky. shameless plug!) The ball was rolling.
After I had a few reviews for Hellbound under my belt I was approached by former Hellbound (among others) writer Raymond Westland about writing for his start up online magazine called Ghost Cult. An exciting prospect indeed so I jumped onboard. I believe he said he was given my name by Craig and that my involvement with Hellbound was a major factor in contacting me. Thanks again Craig and Sean! Getting in on the ground floor of a publication that sees around 20,000 reads every month is pretty cool if you ask me. Thanks Raymond! Especially for when you said I was one of your most reliable and solid writers. There's some great people to be in company with so that really means a lot.
For the remainder of 2012 I contributed regularly to both Hellbound and Ghost Cult. I reviewed some great bands that I might never have covered were it not for being assigned them. I also interview a slew of bands both over email and over the phone. The interview list includes, but is not limited to, Titan, Vilipend, Amenra, Planks and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity. (This year I've done Andrew Fiddler of Black Tusk, JP Gaster of Clutch (!!!), Norska, Demon Lung and The Monolith Deathcult) Perhaps the highlight of the year though was being included in Hellbound's year end lists. I had completed my Canadian list in advance of the submission call, then contributed the blurb for Vilipend's Inamorata. For the overall list, I pretty much used the same list I had submitted for Ghost Cult, then was given the honour of writing the blurb for Album of the Year: Pallbearer - Sorrow & Extinction. Awesome. And to see my name on the same post as writers like Sean Palmerston himself, Craig and Kyle, Natalie, Raymond, Adrien, Laina Dawes and Kevin Stewart-Panko was pretty darn cool. Yes, I'm a nerd. 
The new year brought a new opportunity. Craig, (yet again) tipped me off to a new opening at a very respected site. Heavy Metal was making some changes and needed to recruit writers. Guide Chad Bowar's aim was to cover as many releases as possible with 100 word write ups in addition to a few full length reviews. To do that he needed people. I had sent Chad some of my work previously but at the time he wasn't looking. This time I got the job. A few other notables from across the globe joined the team as well, including Leticia Mooney and my pal Dean Brown. Both writers I looked up too. Joining a team like this was pretty great too as Natalie and Dan Marsicano were already there as well as Craig to some degree. Not only did this allow me to cover more and more material but I could do it in a short amount of time. Win-win. Plus, I met some great people such as Tom Campagna, Edward Banchs and Jason Statts! I kept up with Hellbound and Ghost Cult, and even wrote some full reviews for including Batillus, VHOL and most recently Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals and Jucifer. Thanks Chad! It's been a blast.
OK, so I'm trying to keep content on my own blog, sending reviews to Sean at Hellbound, and taking assignments from Raymond and Chad. All while working up to 50 hours a week and raising 3 kids. How do I have the time? Sadly, it's come at the expense of my reading time. But I enjoy writing just as much. If only I could tear myself away from the tv/couch. I'm just so tired though! What else do expect from a shift working parent?
Since I'm seemingly a sucker for punishment, I recently accepted ANOTHER writing spot. This time it was David Teixeira of Scratch the Surface webzine that came knocking at the door. I'm pretty sure it was my Adoran review for that really sent him in my direction. I'd worked with David at Ghost Cult too so I'm sure that helped. Anyway, I'm stoked to join the StS team and write alongside Dean and Cheryl Carter, among others. I've already reviewed the latest Armed for Apocalypse album and a couple days ago my Mouth of the Architect review went up. And my next assignment has me feeling all funny down there. I like where this is heading. 
So, one year down and I've gone from pissing around on blogspot to writing with amazing people on four websites, in four countries on both sides of the Atlantic. It's been wicked fun so far and I can't see it going south any time soon. Although, I think this is just about all I can handle. I'm writing at a consistent pace that I never attempted when I was all on my own. So any other zines out there who may be looking for new writers, keep moving. HAHAHA! 
For as much writing as I do I still don't consider myself a writer. And I certainly wouldn't dare to call myself a journalist. As I've said before, I'm not a writer, I write. But I've had people tell me I'm good at it. I didn't enjoy English class in high school and despised essays. So what do I do with all my spare time now? Basically write essays. If you see spelling mistakes, grammar snafus and facepalm worthy misuse of punctuation, that's because I just don't know. That's the editor's job. Just kidding fellas. 
If you've made it this far, you must have been really bored. But I thank you. I'm gonna keep going at this writing thing until I'm just plain out of hyperbole and nonsense metaphors. You've been warned.
Thanks to all those people who have made this guy who felt isolated feel like part of a community. It's truly been one of the best years of my life and it feels so good!
Listen to me. Up with people! I feel so alive! Wooo!!

Thanks Team Hellbound: Sean, Kyle, Rob, Natalie, Renee Trotier, Jason Wellwood, Greg, Laura, Adam Wills, Bill Adams, Laina, Ola Mazzuca, Adrien, Jonathan Smith, Albert Mansour, Steve Earles, Jay Gorania and anyone I may have missed. 

Thanks Ghost Cultists: Raymond, Keith Chachkes, Jon Keane, Chris Tippell and Sarah Worsley, Christine Hagar, Angela Davey, Matt Spall and the rest of the Matt's (what is there, like 6 of us?), Pete Ringmaster,  Dean, Curtis Dewar, Chris Ward, Ross Baker, Tom Saunders, Sander van den Driesche, the list goes on and on.
Thanks to the About Heavy Metal crew: Chad, Eddie, Jason, Tom, Dean, Dan Drago, Dan Marsicano, Natalie, Kevin Sirois, Leticia, Evan Mugford and the handful I can never remember.
I don't know everybody yet but thanks to David, Dean and Cheryl at Scratch the Surface!
And special thanks to all the people who put the music in my ears: Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle, Jon at Asher Media, Dave and Liz at Earsplit, Scott and Ryan at Clawhammer, Bariann at Black Birch, Jon at Freeman Promo, Nathan at Svart and Napalm, Kelly at Prosthetic, Kim at Catharsis, Bob at Relapse, Enrique at Season of Mist, Adam at Gilead Media, John at Granite House, Carl at Action!, Lisa at Hold Tight!, David at Viral Propaganda, and probably more I can't recall and I can't access Haulix from this computer to double check, and of course my editors, Sean, Raymond, Chad and David, for hooking me up with many of the lists above and music outside those avenues as well.
And thanks to my wife and daughters, and to some degree the dogs and cat, for putting up with all the screaming and screeching, loud guitars and pounding drums, droning and moaning, and general noise I subject you to on a daily basis.
So thanks to everyone I listed, all the people that read my work and everyone I forgot for making the last year one of the most exciting, fun, challenging and rewarding years of my life in every aspect. My grey hair might be accelerating but I guess getting old isn't so bad.
Thanks Craig. I owe you big time, brother.