Friday, April 3, 2015

Interview with Dave Wolff for Printed Fanzine Legenda Arising

Lady Kat Chaos of Obscure Chaos zine and Printed Fanzine Legends Arising zine sent me these interview questions and granted permission to post the article here. -DW

Metal Hails Brother! For the readers who don't know you or your zine Cerebral Agony Zine please introduce yourself.
I’m Dave Wolff, editor and publisher of Cerebral Agony, a zine featuring art, poetry, fiction, articles and photography. As many of you know, I also publish Autoeroticasphyxium featuring extreme/underground music, performance art and horror cinema. Both of these are former print zines which became blog zines.

When did you start to check out fanzines and what were some of the first ones you read? What fanzines recently caught your attention?
I first started reading fanzines in the 80s when I picked up issues of Nightmare and Metal Core in a local Long Island mom-and-pop record outlet, Slipped Disc Records (it closed in 2007 but the owner still makes show appearances; visit slippeddiscrecords.com for info). Before that, a high school friend showed me a copy of Kick Ass Monthly; as I recall it had Raven on the cover and reviews of Corrosion Of Conformity, Hellhammer and Sodom. Those were the first zines I read dedicated to metal. As for punk/hardcore zines, I obtained my first copy of Bullshit Monthly at a CBGB hardcore matinee, from editor/publisher Mike Bullshit who was the vocalist for S.F.A. BSM was the first DIY publication I read; it usually went for 50 cents. It featured lots of news about the hardcore scene and I was a regular reader from 1986 to 1990. BSM is still active; back issues can be read at mikeslobs.blogspot.com. Another punk zine that is still active is Maximum Rock N Roll, the largest I ever read with interviews, reviews, news and scene reports from the world over. In the early to late 90s there was the punk/metal zine Under The Volcano and the metal/occult zine Endemoniada. Webzines and fanzines that have my attention of late include Brutalism, Arte Mortifica Reviews, Reborn From Ashes and Soulgrinder.

What was it that got you interested in writing for zines in the first place? Who were some of the zines you were a writer for? What fanzines are you still contributing to these days?
My first paper job was as staff writer for The Angle, a local paper based in Flushing. After it folded in 1994 I hooked up with the local Long Island paper Good Times, and wrote for them from 1994 to 2009. As I was the only staff member covering underground music, I was given a regular column (The Dungeon) exclusively featuring metal, punk and hardcore. As far as fanzines, I was inspired to publish one of my own by reading a NYC zine known as Endemoniada. This zine is no longer in print but it can be viewed online at angelfire.com/ny3/ENDEMONIADA. I corresponded with Lucifera one of the editors. I liked this zine immensely because she and the other editors made no secret of their enthusiasm for cutting edge bands and the left hand path. While I’m not a full-on practicing Satanist that integrity inspired me to support the underground with a similar kind of unapologetic dedication. I have written reviews for Endemoniada, Jen’s Metal Page, Brutalism, Transylvanian Forest, Taste Of Khaos, Reborn From Ashes and Obscure Chaos.

You are also the editor and publisher of Autoeroticasphyxium Zine, which used to have an art, fiction, photography and poetry section, what made you decide to take these sections out and make it a new fanzine, Cerebral Agony Zine which is strictly an art, fiction, photography and poetry zine?
It just felt like the time had come to expand into two publications. I was receiving a great deal of material and it seemed like a logical progression. I thought it would be a good idea to have a zine entirely dedicated to art, fiction and written verse. The two issues I released in print received a favorable response, admittedly more so than the art/poetry issue of AEA (issue #24). I still cover horror and performance art in AEA along with coverage of extreme bands. Another reason I started online zines was I was being ripped off too much. I sent promos to contributors who agreed to review them and never got the reviews. I traded zines out and didn’t receive any trade material. And some people walked out on email interviews with no explanation. This happened with several writers for months. Sometimes there was good reason, other times not. It was draining putting thought and preparation into interviewing and networking and getting nothing back. I was rightly annoyed by those delays and for a time I considered retiring the zine altogether. But in the end I thought I should continue. Since starting online I have been reaching more readers in less time.

What types of artwork interest you the most? What is your philosophy about the art world in general? What dark artistic passions or obsessions do you see in some of your contributors’ work? What are your limits in your expression of the dark side?
I like most of the art that’s related to sci fi, superheroes and vampires. When I was young I read Marvel and DC comics (Spiderman, Batman), and was a huge fan of Planet Of The Apes, Star Trek, Space 1999 Logan’s Run and Star Wars. I had a certain affinity for such comics as Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for the supernatural tales. In one I remember an old woman’s ghost returns to haunt the young woman who accidentally killed her. The character of Vampirella held a certain interest for me, she was creepy yet fascinating. I was taken with the tales of Dracula and Frankenstein; I remember two graphic novels published in the early 80s that I read from beginning to end inside the bookstore; I liked those for the storyline and the atmosphere captured in the panels. The material being published in Cerebral Agony entails dark romance, insanity, paganism, the left hand path, alternative modeling, remembrance of pre-gentrification era New York City and the like. The creation of art from these sources and where the inspiration comes from. I’m open to publish almost anything in the zine, as long as there is something to say beneath the surface.

Do you feel the artists were inspired by the music of metal, or by the album covers and other imagery we associate with the genre? What album covers have inspired you over the years? Do you draw or paint but keep that side of you hidden?
I think it depends on the contributing artist. From what I gather many of them have been inspired by the same horror movies but they are inspired by them in different ways and have different interpretations of what they see. Album covers that spoke to me or inspired me through the years include Mercyful Fate’s “Melissa” and Celtic Frost’s “Emperor’s Return” for their haunting imagery. The covers of Bathory’s “Blood Fire Death” and “Hammerheart” were majestic in scope and did well to interpret the ideas Quorthon had in mind for the material within. The back cover and inner sleeve of Carnivore’s debut album tied the songs into a post-apocalyptic concept that could have easily been made into a movie. Personally I have drawn a few pieces and written some fiction but nothing full time.

How did you choose which artists and artwork to include? Did all of these artists already have work ready that fit in with your theme? Or did you ask some of them to produce work specifically for Cerebral Agony Zine?
Before I started Cerebral Agony, I published an issue of Autoeroticasphyxium dedicated to art, fiction, verse and photography. Some who contributed to it contributed said material to previous issues; others were interviewed. From then on I became acquainted with new contributors who lent their work. For the most part I gave them free reign to submit anything they thought would fit the special issue of AEA and both issues of CA. Each submission provided something individual and unique in its own way.

Have you written fiction stories in the past and are you currently working on any fiction pieces?
I wrote several fictional pieces and a few poems for a fiction zine from Mississippi called Gatekeeper from 1998 to 2000. One of the latest fiction pieces I wrote, entitled Touen, was published in the Infernal Dreams anthology Blood From The Underground which has been available for several years. This piece was loosely based on The Blair Witch Project, ran in Gatekeeper and was posted at an online fiction site, Ross’ Blair Witch Page. I don’t that site still exists online but the anthology can be purchased at Amazon.com.

If any artists, photographers or poets might be interested, are you looking to work with anyone new? What styles of art photos, fiction and poetry are you looking for within Cerebral Agony Zine? If one is interested how can they contact you?
I am always looking for new talents to contribute their work to Cerebral Agony, and be interviewed for CA and Autoeroticasphyxium. Interested parties can drop me a line at my email address or Facebook profiles linked below.

Many printed fanzines have stopped due to a rapidly declining interest and rising printing costs. It’s hard to come up with money to do it properly besides adding envelope and postage costs. Cerebral Agony had two "print" issues before going to the net. Do you still have printed issues left? What gave you the idea to go from a print zine to a web-zine? Are you happy with how things have progressed so far? What can people expect when they check out Cerebral Agony Zine’s blog?
There are presently still copies of Cerebral Agony #1 and #2, and the art and poetry issue of AEA. A few other back issues of AEA are also still available for trade or purchase (readers can contact me to see which ones). As much as I wanted to continue releasing both zines in print, the financial issue was beginning to get in the way and I eventually decided it would be less costly to do the zines online. Since starting the blogs I’ve reached more readers in less time which is a plus. I’m currently posting fiction and poems from longtime contributors including Rich Orth. Steven Michael Pape, Heather Dawson, Abyss Forgottentomb, Alexander Kautz, Lioness De Winter and M Teresa Clayton. I am also posting new interviews with Troy Acree, Kaya Chaos, Johnny Hellion, Christina Bergling (for her recently released novel Savages) and Joe Zuchowski and Roger Letizia (about their stage production/independent film Cabaret Diabloque). You can read this material and more at the Cerebral Agony blog which I’m including the address to below.

You miss the old days. I am sure we can utilize and enjoy certain aspects of the internet such as email to our advantage to conduct interviews. But the camaraderie, brotherhood’/sisterhood, and feeling you are part of this special thing together seems to be lacking these days. The scene to me feels less of wanting to help each other succeed whether you’re doing a fanzine, a band or a venue. Now it is more like ‘what can you do for me and how fast can you do it’ instead of ‘how can I help you out and how can I return the support’. You are like me and have been part of the scene for thirty plus years, I am curious of your opinion. How do you feel the printed fanzine scene has changed over the years? Do you think it has gotten better with all the progression and technology or worse?
In the 90s I would hear a lot about bands stabbing each other in the back in relation to shows and whatnot, here in Long Island, New York and other areas. Also if you were from Long Island and into death metal, you were almost obligated to hate black metal and not even give it a chance. I was one of the first Long Islanders to support black metal (along with a local band The Forgotten), but aside from that I have always made an effort to avoid drama and work with people who were for real about mutual support in the scene. I am still one of those who think print zines are important; there are still many of them circulating. They might be a little harder to find but if you look you can come across them. Again, webzines and social media sites are beneficial to the scene as they help fans from different countries connect more readily and there are more opportunities to exchange information about scenes across the seas.

I have said many times over the years but I’ll say it again, your interviews and reviews are some of the most well-written, in-depth I've read. When you start work on an interview or review how long does it usually take you to complete it?
It depends on the feedback I get from interviewees. I interview by a round of questions at a time, basing each subsequent round on answers from the previous round. This process began by accident but developed on its own and results in a thorough article giving the reader a complete impression on where the interviewee is coming from. Examples include interviews I have conducted with Alan Lisanti of Dying Eyes Of Sloth, Haniel of Markradonn, Damien LaVey of Three Sixes, Erik Martin of Critical Dismemnermet, Baron’s Crypt reviewer Baron and many others. Reviewing takes less time since I’ve been in practice for so long (twenty-plus years).

Is there any artist, poet or fiction author interview that sticks out as a favorite of yours? Who are some legendary artists, poets or fiction authors you have yet to interview that you would like to get the chance to?
Poets I have interviewed for AEA whose work is worth checking out include Rich Orth, Abyss Forgottentomb and Jillanna Babb who have always been supportive of the zine. Rich Orth is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, something we have in common since Poe’s writings likewise speak to me. Alexander Kautz is an active author and artist whose work has appeared in AEA more than once. I wouldn’t mind intervewing Stephen King at some point in the future though I’m aware t’s a long shot at this point.

How do you market and what has worked for you in your marketing efforts?
Advertising the zine on a grassroots level and by word of mouth has always worked best for me. And agai, doing both zines online is helping me to reach more readers in a briefer amount of time.

You are clearly passionate about your fanzines. What is it that you believe to be the motivation for you to continue pursuing your passion? What is the root cause? Do you have any advice for anyone who is reading this is who is thinking of starting their own zine blog or printed fanzine? In your eyes what makes a good zine?
Before I indicate what motivates me, I’d mention my distaste for hypocrisy. I learned people who preach the most about being open-minded are the least tolerant of differing viewpoints. Some try to change you and badmouth you when it doesn’t work. Others look down on punk and goth models dancing at fetish themed events as “sluts” but rave about how hot a blonde at a strip club is. That being said, originality and creativity are most inspirational, especially where extreme music is concerned. Bands like Emperor and Nile have pushed those boundaries taking metal in new directions. That, to me, is far more open-minded than writing something off because it’s not “popular” or rehashing formulaic pop for more money or recognition (because someone is not in this for money, and only for money, does not mean they prefer being broke, but the actual work is as important as making a living from it). I don’t make a big deal out of being “open-minded”; I just listen to what I like; whether it’s metal, goth, Celtic, ska and reggae, what have you. What makes a zine worthwhile to me is information, especially information you wouldn’t find anywhere else. My advice to aspiring publishers is to avoid writing fluff articles, and instead of summing up bands with a few words explain the reasons a band speaks to you, whether reviewing or interviewing them.

Can you also give some advice to people that have a hard time dealing with their time and responsibilities?
My advice there would be to focus on one thing at a time instead of multitasking and not to be concerned with the competition that exists between bands and zine editors since that can be draining and your energy is better spent into being creative with your work.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to fill this interview out, for all the help you have offered many throughout the years. Keep up your blasphemous work! Continued good luck to you and Cerebral Agony Zine! Do you have any final comments for the readers?
Check out the zines online at aeafanzine.blogspot.com and cerebralagonyzine.blogspot.com, and thanks for your support! Contact me at AEAzinedw@aol.com.