Thursday, April 5, 2018

Zine Interview: METALEGION MAGAZINE

Interview with Ricardo Azevedo of METALEGION MAGAZINE

Metalegion Magazine is described as the culmination of thirty years of direct music influence, as an everyday listener, and presents opportunities for staff members as well as the editor to air their views and become more involved in the music industry. How much have you seen over the last three decades and what inspired you to start the publication?
I guess I can say that the inspiration to create something like Metalegion comes mostly from the zine scene of the 90’s. Despite the major differences between the cut and paste zine format of the late 80’s, early 90’s and the professional printed concept behind Metalegion, there is much of the drive and contribution spirit embodied within Metalegion’s pages.
Much has changed on the scene since I started listening to metal back in 1987/88. Nowadays everything is available as products for immediate consumption… back then there wasn’t the possibility to check hundreds of new bands via Youtube, suggestions were given by friends and tapes recorded as well as radio shows. Music was slowly absorbed and albums played dozens of times in a row.
I witnessed the ascension and fall of a few trends as well as digital transformation (which is still happening). Nevertheless the second wave of the black metal scene had a major impact, probably because I was older at that time (seventeen) and more interested in discovering new bands and scenes. The events in Norway were seen globally as something to fear and worship and made a huge impact in everyone back then…

How actively were you involved in tape and zine trading in the late 1980s and early 1990s? How much easier was it to absorb music in those days, before the social media age?
I guess my tape and zine trading was more reflected on my group of friends at the time who were mostly metalheads. I was not one of those guys who were in correspondence with people all around the world and trading, I was more into buying demos and zines and then spread it with friends. People back then had radio shows (like Lança Chamas ou Caminhos de Ferro, two iconic Portuguese programs) and small zines that introduced the fans to new bands and albums. It was not very easy to buy records if you were not living in a city like Lisbon for instance, the fans had to go to specific stores to buy imported vinyl or order it through mail order services. This new generation that is taking full advantage of all the social media networks and Youtube certainly has an easy task in finding new bands and share things with each other. However, I believe that the magic of playing a record hundreds of times, almost until the needle of your turntable was almost ruined, was what made bands and music so special at least for me. One of my first vinyl records was Fatal Portrait by King Diamond bought a few years after its release and I remember playing it repeatedly. I was probably around thirteen or fourteen years old and I had to save money for several weeks to buy it.

Did you correspond with fans outside your country? How many local bands from other countries did you hear of?
I remember buying and trading demos locally from bands like Germany’s Desaster, Portugal’s Firstborn Evil or the Czech Republic’s Forgotten Silence for instance but also trading video tapes from booklet gigs with a guy from Lisbon.

How many stores and mail order resources existed in your area at the time of your introduction to underground music? What stores do you know of that still deal in vinyl?
I discovered the underground in the early 90’s; until then I got to know bands through my brother, cousin and friends as well as radio shows. In my area there weren’t many stores available, most of them dealt with all sorts of music with smaller metal sections. The only one that started dealing with Metal was Carbono in Amadora, which was only a few km from my house. The mail order scene was probably in its peak with Portuguese metal labels having mail order services running as well as smaller distros appearing. I do remember asking catalogues and be amazed with the quantity of bands that existed out of my realm. Most stores that existed in the late 80’s and early 90’s are closed by now, but the good thing is that people and labels that still exist had the guts to open stores and stay open until now. Vinyl is available in most stores; it seems that nowadays everybody is into vinyl again. Still I remember a period when people were selling their collections to stores like Carbono and I could buy used stuff quite cheap. The good old days!

Name some stores that remain open to this day. How do you account for vinyl retaining popularity among metal fans?
I guess Carbono is one of the oldest still around. It existed since the late 90’s and I keep buying stuff there, mostly vinyl. I guess the fact that labels started having limited vinyl editions brought back some old vinyl fans as well as created curiosity in the younger fans since vinyl is nowadays seen as a prime product. I guess it was a response from the music business to take back some of the control in sales but I’m almost sure it will be a cyclical thing, like all trends.

Do you see people reading physical fanzines today, even when there are more webzines and ezines circulating online? Why do you think people still prefer reading zines they can hold in their hands rather than go on the internet?
There are still people that prefer reading a nice zine or magazine on the toilet, hahaha. I do not want to call the printed media a dying breed but there are obvious concerns and problems, especially because as you stated, people are often getting their information on the internet. Still, nothing can surpass the smell of a freshly printed magazine (I love the smell of napalm in the morning…), the reading, the glossy paper and above all good features. I guess both worlds can cope and complement together, although the printed media needs to bring something extra to the table in order to survive. For instance, I see the guys of Decibel Magazine having a vinyl offered with each issue, which is a tremendous idea, or Legacy magazine being released with hundreds of pages and offering two CDs. There is also a new trend starting that is old zines gathering all their issues and releasing a book with almost an historic approach, which is really cool to see all those interviews printed originally in the 80’s with bands that are now quite big.

What physical zines are the longest running and most widely read in your country? Which do you read most often?
The zine scene as we knew it in the 80’s, 90’s is dead. I don’t know any zine that lasted from that era. We have a couple of magazines like Loud (the longest running metal magazine from Portugal) and Ultraje besides zines like Horrores Nocturnos. At the moment I’m not remembering any others. We had a prolific scene in the old days with zines like Abismo, Rites Of Eleusis, Fenix, Hallucination Or Horns but none of them survived. During the 90’s zines like Slayer, Voices From The Darkside or Tales Of The Macabre from Norway and Germany probably had a major impact on me and I always wanted to create a similar project.

In what ways were Slayer, Voices From The Darkside and Tales Of The Macabre an influence on you? Was it the layout, the choice of bands or the content?
I guess it was all those elements. They all featured a great selection of bands accompanied with professional printing and a layout faithful to the whole zine scene. These were editors that back in early 90’s interviewed bands like Emperor, Kreator, Bolt Thrower, Bulldozer, Ancient Rites, Immortal, Behemoth, Marduk and so on in their early stages. The fact of witnessing their own evolution created some sort of bond with those bands. Still as I said, here in Portugal we also had a prolific zine scene in late 80s and early 90s where many of those bands were interviewed. I believe there were amazing zines all over the world and everybody simply wanted to express their own passion for metal by talking about it.

Has the internet made for more online radio programs for people to listen to?
I guess the internet led people not to be restrained solely on stuff from your area. Fans now have a bigger picture and everything is available with a single mouse click. Nowadays I hardly listen to any radio shows since I receive most stuff directly from labels and I do not feel the need to listen to a show to hear new or soon to be released stuff. When I’m not checking out a new album I usually like to pick an old vinyl and play it on my stereo, I guess I’m a nostalgic kind of guy!

What releases have you recently ordered from independent labels that are worth mentioning?
Recently I bought the double gatefold 2017 reissue version of “To Mega Therion” from Celtic Frost which includes an extensive booklet with photos and lyrics. This was something that I was looking after for some time since I only had the CD version of the album and the original vinyl edition was too expensive for me. ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’ from Primordial and ‘Warmaster’ from Bolt Thrower comes also to mind, both in double gatefold editions. As I said earlier I’m mostly in buying vinyl.

Black metal’s second wave made an impression on many people outside Scandinavia. This led to something of a rivalry between fans of the genre and death metal fans. Was this as much of a concern to you or did you not pay attention to it?
Not really. I usually don’t give a damn about what other people say or think about, still back in the 90’s everybody was into Black metal (younger and older metal fans) and bands were more enthusiastic on their interviews with bold statements and acts being made. I guess Black metal took the whole satanic phenomenon that already existed in metal and tried to push the limits sometimes to the point of being and sounding ridiculous. But there were some amazing records being released, like “In the Nightside Eclipse”, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” or “Hvis Lyset tar Oss” and that was for me the most important thing rather than paying attention to bullshit between fans or bands. Still these sort of rumours are nothing else.

People today still claim that heavy metal is a phase and eventually grown out of. However many of us grew with the bands of their youth as they progressed and matured musically.
If you change your music focus, I guess you were never really into it. This is probably the only thing I can say about that. Sure, you can stop listening to it, wives usually have something to say concerning that, hahaha. But once you’re a metal head you will never cease to be one, even if you have a nine to five job, kids or whatever. I have listened to metal for thirty years and it’s kind of cool to see all those bands I discovered on the 80’s like Kreator, Sodom, Slayer, Manowar, Iron Maiden are still going strong. On the other hand, I have already witnessed the fall of many idols and good bands.

How is your determination to grow with the bands you listened to in your youth reflected in Metalegion Magazine?
Despite being an effort of all contributors and open to suggestions, I guess my musical taste is fully reflected in Metalegion. I grew up listening mostly to death, thrash and black metal, so it will be primarily those styles featured on the magazine. But I also like less common music, that’s why if you check our first issue you will see Lamia Vox featured, which is a Russian dark ambient music project that completely overwhelmed me with their 2013 album “Sigillum Diaboli”.

Who is on the staff of Metalegion Magazine? How long did it take to put a staff together in the beginning?
We have staff from all corners of the world; USA, Germany and Canada to Eslovenia and Chile to name a few. The staff are mostly are into reviews, interviews, articles, live reports and that kind of stuff. It has been a growing and developing process, and we are all doing this just for the passion of giving opinions about metal. We all have full or part time jobs, some even attend universities. I guess it’s a constant struggle to find the time to spend on Metalegion and in the end I’m truly grateful to all of them.

Name some of the staff from different countries and describe their responsibilities. How do you balance producing the magazine with your personal lives?
Let’s see, I’m going to stand out just a few. We have contributors from Germany, like Estelle and Felix. Estelle is an enthusiastic metalhead, she currently produces entertaining interviews and some reviews, Felix is mostly into reviewing releases and has a long metal background. We have Rodrigo from Chile who also contributed in the past to a Chilean magazine, and handles reviews. From the USA we have a couple of fundamental writers, like Jeff who interviewed Immolation and Mortem in a past issue. Arjun mainly reviews, Cult is literally a Swiss knife always willing to help. Currently working on China, but originally from the UK we have Edmund, also full of ideas and besides doing interviews and reviews just started the crucial role of reviewing the texts. Nenad from Eslovenia who always meets deadlines no matter how big his task is. We all have problems; we are regular people with full or part-time jobs, kids, wives or taking degrees in university or whatever. I guess what drives us all is our passion for metal, nevertheless our personal lives should always be a priority. It’s not easy to balance everything when you have a full time job and kids to raise like some of us have, this means many hours per week with just a few hours of sleep.

Did distribution of the magazine grow from its first issue to its latest issue?
I haven’t been running Metalegion for that long, just a couple of years. It started around 2015 and things have slowly progressed from there. We are currently working on our third issue and focused on delivering three issues per year. Let’s see what 2018 brings to us. We are still building a strong and reliable distribution network and using social media also to grab the fans attention.

Are you looking for labels or distros to help distribute Metalegion outside your country?
I see Metalegion as an international magazine that can and should be read by fans from all corners of the world. The decision to write in English is based on that concept, English is a global language and nowadays everybody speaks at least a little, it’s a bit like music, universal.

Have you made contact with anyone who would be interested in helping distribute the magazine?
The magazine is being spread in countries like Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, France and USA to state just a few. Nevertheless, the metal scene is so extensive I feel we need all the help we can get. The more the better. We are always looking for either small distros or exclusive distribution deals. The problem with distributors is, when buying small quantities they will face expensive shipping rates because we are talking about a magazine that has more than 90 pages with a sampler CD. Even so, we are having so much support from the fans and a large chunk of sales are direct sales to fans across the globe.

How do you advertise for staff writers? Do you print announcements or contact people through email and social media?
We have a constant post on our website where people can apply. When I sometimes find really talented people that might be suitable for the job I got in touch directly. The internet is full of hardworking fans with the passion we all have. But it’s not an easy task I must state, because in the end it’s all about hard work and to spend your time writing. We all have jobs, universities, kids or whatever, and finding the right people with free time and willing to contribute isn’t always easy.

What is your approach to interviewing? How do you decide on bands to interview?
Interviews are usually based on the latest release of a band. The selection of bands to be featured on the magazine depends solely on the impact a specific release had on me. Usually when making interviews I try to focus the conversation around their latest release, for obvious reasons, as well as exploring some interesting aspects that the musician might reveal during or chat. Sometimes we must “read between the lines”… if you want to have some exclusive statements but it’s not always an easy task I must confess.

Do you approach bands for interviews or are you approached by bands? How often do you find something particularly interesting interviewing?
I usually approach bands I like after hearing their releases but I’m also approached, not only for interviews, but also reviews or some sort of feature on the magazine. Of course it’s impossible to feature everything I like, or believe deserves to be highlighted. With reviews now, everything is supplied digitally and I guess I can speak for everybody in the media world. Magazines are flooded with those submissions. Nowadays bands or labels can simply upload their work on the internet and spread it to magazines at a smaller cost or none whatsoever. I can’t imagine the 80’s when vinyl promos had to be shipped worldwide by labels, the massive cost that an operation of that kind would be.
People with a connection with Metal usually like to talk about it, whether it’s a band, zine editor or a cover artist for instance. I always try to take something from each interview, of course there are people that like to expand their answers and bring precious curiosities to an interview while others simply stick with basic replies. When you have to answer questions all day; and this happens to more known bands, you will most likely end up not being stimulated by journalists when the same questions are asked over and over.

Do you make an effort to write questions unique to your interviewees, that other zine editors don’t usually think of?
I always try to do homework before an interview. Interviews with established bands are probably easier because there usually are more topics or curiosities to talk about. Even though we are talking about music and it’s impossible to not go around the same topics, you can have a different approach to the same themes. But in the end if the interview is centered on a new release you will have similar answers.

What bands provided the magazine with the most engaging interviews? What were their most interesting aspects?
That’s a hard one… In our latest issue we had for instance Rolf from Running Wild expanding the topic about how the band started, his passion for pirates and the topics of some songs. Immolation was a great feature, having Ross Dolan unveiling their latest album “Atonement” and showing some of their social and political concerns. John from Devourer gave also a very honest and down to earth interview where we talked about his drug addiction and how he was compelled by the Swedish authorities to get clean… There are too many to mention…

What sort of information do you think is important for your readers to be exposed to?
I guess everybody is seeking different things. Some want to discover new bands; the sampler CD and the review section might be the best place. Others love to discover all types of detail about a specific band, things that they didn’t know about or just information about their upcoming or latest album. I don’t think there is a pattern.

Do you interview zine editors as much as you interview bands? How many zines have you supported through Metalegion?
I’m actually thinking about it for an upcoming issue of the magazine. There are several possibilities but at the moment I’m not going to reveal anything. I’m trying to broaden the focus on the magazine and not solely feature band interviews, but have other features and interviews with all sorts of people connected to the scene. This is truly a possibility for the future.

Do graphic artists contribute their work to the magazine? Or are you seeking any?
We currently don’t have anyone assigned for that task as until now it has not been necessary. But I feel some opportunities may appear, especially because we always want to develop and insert different content and that might do the job. Do you know anyone that might want to contribute? (laughs).

What bands have you included on sampler CDs? Have any been discovered through the magazine?
We have just done one sampler CD so far. Nevertheless, this was one of the developments we wanted to introduce for the magazine. It was only accomplished in the previous issue, which is still an enormous deed considering we have released two issues. I guess it is still too soon for this to happen. Most bands featured on the CD already had record deals, so most of them were already “discovered”. Our first sampler featured songs from Devourer, Desert Near The End, Stormzone, Septik Onslaught, Wacht, The Hole, Cranial Carnage, Bloodphemy and Cauterization to name a few.

Who are you planning to feature in the next issue of Metalegion? How soon do you expect it to be released?
We are actually working on it and it’s scheduled to be released in late April or early May. I don’t want to divulge any names yet, but I can say that it’s an issue packed with both mainstream and underground bands, mostly of more extreme metal styles.

Would you like Portuguese extreme metal to become more well known across the world? Would you ever consider an exclusive feature on the scene in Portugal?
I guess it’s the desire of everyone involved in the Portuguese scene. We are a small country so I’m not sure how big things can turn out. Perhaps if we had other well-known bands on the same level as Moonspell for instance things would grow faster/ Still we have quite a few bigger names signed with cult labels like Osmose Productions or Folter Records: Corpus Christii, Filii Nigrantium Infernalium or The Ominous Circle for instance. We also have Decayed, Sacred Sin, Ramp, Tarantula and Grog to state a few who have been around for quite some time. Thanks to the effort of a few individuals, we have good bands visiting our country quite often nowadays, and gigs spread all around our country not to mention bigger and better festivals, like SWR Barroselas Metalfest, Moita metal fest, Santa Maria Summer Fest, XXXapada na Tromba or Vagos Metal fest. Probably things would become bigger if the Portuguese had a stronger economy similar to other European countries where people would get fair wages, giving them the possibility to spend money on records, gigs, magazines or whatever. And exclusive feature on the Portuguese scene is also on the table for coming issues, we will see what the future unveils.

Would you also like Metalegion to be more directly involved in Portuguese metal fests?
For now, I’m focused solely on the magazine and trying to push things further, content wise. Nevertheless, I see Metalegion as an international magazine available to worldwide fans. That’s probably why our focus is not on a specific scene or country. Still I try to support and be involved even if sometimes it’s just like any metal fan, by buying tickets and spreading word.

If Metalegion became a major publication like Terrorizer and Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, would you feel fulfilled as an editor?
Sure why not?! Even if we are trying to carve our own path. I’ve been following Terrorizer since probably their first issues from 1994-1995. Despite not buying it very frequently nowadays, it’s one of those magazines I witnessed the development and perseverance of since I had a subscription back then. Their selection of bands nowadays might not appeal to everyone but the truth is, they are one of the longest running printed magazines that are still active, and that should mean something. I have a few old issues of BW&BK; those magazines contributed to the development of the scene. But I still believe BW&BK is nowadays only an online magazine, right? I definitely have many references from the mainstream and underground sides of media and Metalegion might be se blending both worlds. Let’s see what the future reserves for us…


-Dave Wolff

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