“Rock ‘n’ roll is an attitude, it’s not a musical form of a strict sort. It’s a way of doing things, of approaching things. Writing can be rock ‘n’ roll, or a movie can be rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a way of living your life.”
— Lester Bangs
There’s a moment in every music lover’s life where they splinter off into one of many destinations. There are those who’s music collections start to collect dust after about age 25- the radio listening white picket fence crowd who’s hairstyles often mimic what was popular in the half decade where they turned that landmark age. There are those who continue a music obsession with near academic discipline, perusing the dying record store or the likeness online like they are pre-teens collecting baseball cards. There are those that never gave up playing; whether it’s in a bedroom or in a garage or in a bar band or maybe if they’re lucky in a real deal band. There are those that support the music- the managers, publicists, stylists, producers, venue owners, techs, photographers. And then there are those of us who write.
When I was asked to read Neil Daniels’ All Pens Blazing books I jumped at the opportunity. I’m in need of a little insight; there’s rarely a day that passes where I don’t spend a few minutes asking myself ‘what the fuck am I doing’ as my site consumes larger and larger percentages of my day (but hasn’t grown in readership in two years…huh?!). When I first started writing my site- most people, including me, didn’t even understood what a blog is. Now everyone has a blog. What is a hard rock and metal loving girl with a laptop and a domain name who likes to write about bands in a manner influenced by Chuck Klosterman, Lester Bangs, Pamela Des Barres, and Hunter S. Thompson to do in a world where Rolling Stone has Justin Bieber on the cover and the blogosphere is dominated by hipsterism and snark artists? Does anyone care?
The APB books are collections of interviews spanning journalists from the late ’60s to those who started their careers in the late ’90s. Altogether there are 136 journalist interviews- nine of whom are women. Nine. The subjects span the biggest of the big in metal pubs- editors of Creem and Kerrang- to writers of smaller cult fanzines. It was really interesting to pull out the common threads.
Led Zeppelin’s Hammer of the Gods and Motley Crue’s The Dirt are the bibles of rock journalism. Lemmy, Dio, and Halford are the godly interview subjects; Gene Simmons, Yngwie Malsteem and Dave Navarro were the devils. Most of the writers admit to not reading the work of many others to avoid influence and/or due to lack of time. They are undecided as to whether online journalism is good or bad. And their best gigs were often decades in the past.
As I’m reading these often insane stories of going on the road with bands, seeing legends in their prime, getting drunk and/or high with interview subjects, and, you know, getting paid to write about it all…I can’t help but be envious. I got screwed in every direction; music magazines are dying (not that my style of writing would be something any of them would pay for); as a female, I could never ‘hit the road’ with a band like the boys did…if that even happens anymore; drinking and doing drugs isn’t cool anymore- even for rock stars- and especially is not something you openly do in the age of Twitter and cell phone pics; and, the worst one that bugs me all the time, I will never ever have bragging rights to saying I saw a superstar band before they got big. When I was at the prime age to do that- 16-22- you know what dominated the touring circuits? Nu-metal and boy bands. FML.
Rock journalism provides context and insight into the music over the course of time. It documents eras, cultural shifts, sub-cultures, uprisings, the next big thing. The people included in these interviews are music mavens; filters by which things are purchased and memories are set in stone. And this leads me to the one thing that us bloggers have on these old school journalists- time.
As a kid I consumed a lot of these collections of gig reviews, often written months, years, even decades after the fact. Mine- and most other bloggers- are written about 24 hours after. This provides a different level of detail to what it was like to be there…the level of documentation nowadays is uncanny. I guess that after reading this, the number one thing I took away besides reignited jealousy for the golden age of rock journalism was that in 10 years, perhaps what I’m doing now will actually have some significance.
So here is my pretend interview for Daniels’ future book, Keys on Fire, Volume 20:
Jamie Harvey has written about rock and metal for 15 years on her site called HardRockChick.com. In addition to thousands of show reviews written in the diary style format shunned by mass publications as well as hundreds of interviews, she has been the Rock Blogger for the GRAMMYs and has contributed to various metal sites and fan magazines for the likes of Led Zeppelin. She has self-published one memoir with another in the works. Jamie lives in Austin, TX alone with her cat.
Can you give me a brief history of your career in music journalism?
I first became interested in writing about music in about 2001 after taking a class in college called ’20th Century Popular Music’, when I realized there weren’t many female rock journalists. When blogs were invented, it allowed those of us with pipe dreams of rock journalism to actually have a voice online. I started my first blog on the advice of an ex-boyfriend in 2005 called Jamie’s Brain, and that morphed into HardRockChick in 2007. After writing it for a couple years, I was able to start getting press passes to shows and doing interviews, and I’ve kept it up ever since!
How did you get into rock and metal?
I’ve always listened to all kinds of music, but the core of it has always been rock and metal. When I was 10 years old, the airwaves were actually dominated by GNR, Metallica, and then, soon after, the grunge bands. Imagine that! When I first started writing, I actually covered more dance, hip hop, and indie rock, because those were the easiest shows to get press passes to, and the guy I was dating at the time was more into that stuff. But people seemed to like my female perspective in my rock and metal writing the best, so that became the focus over time.
How did you become the Rock Blogger for the GRAMMYs?
I have no idea.
What are your favorite rock books?
Hammer of the Gods, I’m With the Band, and Please Kill Me.
What is your music collection like?
All my music is digital, but I have boxes of tickets and passes and a huge collection of gig posters.
What are your favorite pieces you’ve written?
Dethklok Canceled Due to Fire
Throbbing Gristle Was Tough to Swallow
Rain When I Die
The Day NIN Went Away
Acid Trip, Velvet Tongue
Fade to Black
Accessory to Murder
18 and Life
You Come In Burned
Stairway to Heaven
What are the best gigs you’ve been to?
Best gigs tend to fall into four categories: 1) it’s already a favorite band, 2) something just magically jives in the evening, 3) it’s a culturally significant, one-off show, 4) the band broke up or a member died. My standouts are:
Bush/The Toadies/Hum @ Sunken Gardens in 1995
White Zombie/Pantera/EyeHateGod @ Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio in 1996
Ozzy Osbourne/Type O Negative/Sepultura @ Southpark Meadows in Austin in 1996
Rage Against the Machine/The Roots @ Southpark Meadows in 1997
Outkast/Ludacris @ Austin Music Hall in 2000
Willie Nelson @ The Backyard in 2004
David Bowie @ The Backyard in 2004
Bright Eyes @ La Zona Rosa in 2004
Nine Inch Nails/Dresden Dolls @ Stubb’s in 2005
Audioslave @ Bill Graham Civic in 2005
The Faint @ DNA Lounge in 2006
GWAR @ The Warfield in 2006
Bridge School Benefit 2006
Velvet Revolver @ The Warfield in 2007
Daft Punk @ The Greek in 2007
MIA @ The Rickshaw in 2007
Marilyn Manson @ The Warfield in 2008
The Dillinger Escape Plan @ Bottom of the Hill in 2008
Mastodon @ Great American Music Hall in 2009
The Dead Weather @ Outside Lands in 2009
Alice in Chains @ The Fillmore in 2009
Rammstein/Combichrist @ Madison Square Garden in 2010
Who was your first interview?
Which artists have you enjoyed interviews with?
Chris Corner of IAMX, Carl Restivo of Street Sweeper Social Club, Jeff Friedl of Puscifer, Threat Signal, Evile, Dan And of Bison BC, Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Adam Bravin of She Wants Revenge, and Steven Adler from Guns ‘N’ Roses.
What are the highlights?
Any time I followed a band or tour: NIN, Mastodon, BRMC, The Faint, Behemoth, Deftones; one-off experiences like Bridge School, SXSW, NAMM, Golden Gods, The GRAMMYs; meeting musicians I respect like Trent Reznor and Tom Morello; seeing behind the scenes backstage or on a tour bus or in the studio; any time a musician says thank you for something I wrote, or a reader says they understand how I feel.
What other magazines or blogs do you read?
I only have time to read what my friends write and send me. I still buy Rolling Stone occasionally, but just for the pictures.
Any advice for aspiring rock and metal bloggers out there?
Loads. Do it for yourself. Never expect to make money. If you expect people to read it prepare to work in the dark for at least a year or two and plan to post at least two to three times a week. Never write something you wouldn’t want someone to read. Offer something that no one else does. Really love your computer.
Maybe the old school journalists and me aren’t so different after all….
Check out Neil Daniels’ All Pens Blazing and other books here.