Interview with creep of HELLS ENVOY MAGAZINE
Hells Envoy Magazine features heavy metal-oriented stories collected from fans. What gave you the idea for this kind of zine and how has publishing gone?
The idea came from a culmination of ideas, really. Being a heavy metal fan and just noticing that everyone into metal, including mates and myself, has stories that are about first getting into heavy metal, how good heavy metal is and random stories somehow involving metal. Also watching a couple of Australian metal documentaries and hearing bands telling stories. Also my cousin who encouraged me to write. Family and friends were a big part in support, help, encouragement and process. Everything just clicked into place early on in terms of ideas, and within a year we had our first volume in print which was released in January of this year. It is still in his early days yet but there are a few issues kicking around, mainly in Australia but some overseas as well. Hopefully it will be well received and hopefully some stories will come from people reading it and we can continue on with further volumes.
Are there a lot of magazines dedicated to real life stories related to metal, or would you say Hells Envoy is among the first of its kind?
I’m not sure what else is there regarding zines with real life-related stories. I’m hoping Hells Envoy is original and one of a kind. We never had other projects in mind when we conceived of Hells Envoy; we just thought it would be good to get a broad representation of the metal community and present experiences anonymously through a zine, in essence giving heavy metal culture a voice.
Why is the zine named Hells Envoy? How does the name relate to the subject matter?
An envoy is a messenger, usually a religious messenger, and Hells Envoy just seemed appropriate. You could interpret it as being a heavy metal messenger I suppose, passing on heavy metal messages/stories. It seemed to fit the idea quite well and we ran with it
Do you read underground magazines dedicated to fiction or perhaps to horror?
I’m more of a nonfiction reader. Not a real horror fan either, though I’m a long time reader of Stephen King novels. I read a lot of books and nonfiction about serial killers, law enforcement, mafia, bikers, military, history, autobiographies and biographies especially music related, classic poetry and literary criticism (not a fan of modern poetry). I have a fair to good collection of books on these subjects plus more. Fiction includes Stephen King, Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, John O’Brien, Tolkien, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk and various others, but mainly nonfiction provides my reading material.
In what ways do the authors you cited speak to you as a fiction reader?
Fiction for me is escapism and the ability to go where the author’s imagination takes you. So it is usually the story itself that speaks to me, but sometimes it could be a particular author’s writing that intrigues me. And the way in which they express their ideas holds my attention.
Do you think about publishing a fiction zine or a traditional zine with interviews and reviews etc? Is this something you would pursue at some point?
I don’t think about other publishing projects. Publishing a zine is hard work and I think I will be fully committed to Hells Envoy in the foreseeable future.
In which of the documentaries you watched have you heard memorable stories? How many of the submissions for your magazine do you find accurate and exaggerated?
The documentaries are Metal Down Under and Tasmanian Metal. There wasn’t any particular story in either; I just noticed they all had stories, some even similar to my own. Hopefully all the stories we receive are truthful accounts. I have no doubts about any of them. They are usually personal experiences and memories so we take them at their word. A lot of people think when we ask for a heavy metal story that we are after some way-out story involving the devil, sex and drugs (which of course we do want) but one of my favourites is a simple story of an American dude who, as a teenager, had a group of friends. One of his mate’s younger brothers got leukemia and died, and they buried him with his favourite Iron Maiden record. They all got Iron Maiden patches and put his details on the back of the patch before sewing onto their battle jackets. He still has the jacket over thirty years later.
How much information does Metal Down Under and Tasmanian Metal offer about their respective scenes?
The documentaries are great for anyone unfamiliar with the Australian metal scene. Metal Down Under gives a broad overall look at the Aussie scene, the bands and people, past and present. Tasmanian Metal is also a killer documentary about the Tassie scene and all that is happening with it. Tasmania has a great little scene happening.
What Australian and Tasmanian bands were interviewed for Metal Down Under and Tasmanian Metal?
The Aussie documentary was released in 2014, the Tassie doc in 2016. Some of the bands interviewed in Metal Down Under include Abramelin, Mortal Sin, Hobbs’ Angel of Death, Sadistik Exekution, Allegiance, Blood Duster, Damaged, Psycroptic, Destroyer 666, Frankenbok and King Parrot. More quality Australian metal bands everyone should get into include Misery, Armoured Angel, Bestial Warlust, Grenade, Hellbringer, Goatblood, As Flesh Decays, Beyond Mortal Dreams, Laceration Mantra, Cryptivore, The Plague, Face Grinder, Sedulous Rouse, Intercranial Tremors and King.
I’ve interviewed fans from Australia, and I am somewhat familiar with the underground there. But I haven’t heard as much about the Tasmanian underground.
Tasmanian Metal includes interviews with M.S.I., Psycroptic, Intense Hammer Rage, Striborg, Mephistopheles, Dreadnaught, Tyrant, Taberah and others. Tasmania is isolated somewhat, in that it’s an island. This makes it harder for bands to tour, especially overseas bands. But some bands to tour there recently include Venom Inc, Napalm Death, D.R.I. and Mayhem. A lot of metal bands from mainland Australia try to tour too, but having to cross the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania (a 12 hour ferry ride or plane ride) can be daunting in terms of costs. Besides the bands mentioned before, there is a thriving local scene with GAPE, Ruins, Pure, Permafog, Vrag, Lacerta, Lab A, Mountains Of Madness, Ironhawk, Ultra Martian and more around capital Hobart. Other bands further north in Launceston are Atra Vetosus, Plague Of Sickness and Zero Degrees Freedom. There are a couple of annual festivals running with the Summer and Winter solstices that have attracted overseas bands. The two festivals, Mofo (Summer) and Dark Mofo (Winter), have so much happening, not just metal. People have to look them up to understand how good they are. Alternative is all I will divulge, and not to be missed. Southern Extremeties Productions has been monumental getting bands to tour Tasmania. All in all Tassie has more tours happening with international and national bands, and more local bands recording and touring. It is only getting better.
Why do you think the Australian and Tasmanian scenes aren’t noticed as much as the scenes in other countries?
At a guess, isolation. It’s not lack of talent, that’s for sure! Aussie metal can mix it up with the best of anyone from anywhere and has been able to for a long time. But yeah, it’s probably something to do with not being to be able to easily tour overseas with costs and such. Touring gets your name out there. Hopefully more Australian bands will get overseas recognition. With music so easily accessible on the net nowadays (Bandcamp, Big Cartel selling band merch, Spotify or YouTube) and bands being accessible via social networks (most bands have a Facebook page; just look them up, message them and ask about buying their stuff) all one needs do is find bands and buy their CDs. Hopefully that will change it up but touring will always be a factor, so we’ll have to wait and see. ,
Where can Metal Down Under and Tasmanian Metal be purchased online?
eBay has Metal Down Under available to purchase and it is on YouTube to watch. I am not sure about Tasmanian Metal. I think the physical copies may be sold out. Dawnlessstudios.com may have a digital copy to view.
When compiling the first issue, did you advertise for submissions on social media? How many submissions did you receive? Did you go through a process of choosing stories for publication?
It was Facebook on social media and T-Shirt Slayer on the internet. The users on both those sites provided massive story contributions, especially overseas. We can’t thank these people enough for their support. We are always looking at new avenues to pursue in gathering stories. We have 64 pages at well over 100 stories in the first volume. We used pretty much all the stories we chased down or were sent. We tried to just not double up on stories like those about one’s Dad/brother/mate/next door neighbour, or one of the same variant of what got a reader into metal/ I hope the readers appreciate all the stories shared.
What is T-Shirt Slayer and how can you advertise zines and merchandise there?
T Shirt Slayer is a website dedicated to heavy metal merchandise; mainly shirts, battle jackets and patches. There is a sale and trade option available. I created a chat forum there telling of my idea and asking for stories. T Shirt Slayer members rule! T Shirt Slayer rules! A few sales came from this site and quite a few stories were contributed via the heavy metal stories forum I created. If you’re into metal, you no doubt already know of this site and how excellent it is.
How many copies of issue 1 of Hells Envoy are available? Is it available through mail order, or do you also distribute it at local shows?
There are 1000 hand numbered copies available. Hells Envoy is available through eBay, the Hells Envoy Facebook page, email email@example.com, mail order through Nuke The Moon Productions at P.O Box 458 Glenorchy Tasmania 7010 Australia and distributed also by Black Bird Yellow Eye, NGM Records and Screen Printing and Tommy Gun Records. Wholesale rates available also. I’m always looking for overseas distribution too.
How did you handle the cost of printing the first issue? Did its limited run help you break even? If finances allowed would you release more copies of the next issues?
The costs came from art, logos, graphic design and some incidental costs, as well as getting it printed. But it was feasible and I was determined to get it done. Luckily I had good people around me that could do the jobs, and more, I asked of them. Feanors Scribe (firstname.lastname@example.org) designed the Hells Envoy logo, submitted art and was the graphic designer. Hannah Noel, an unknown young talented artist submitted art. These two, as well as fellow story consultants Ursa, Carnage and Gravedigger helped make it all possible. So overall costs weren’t too excessive and we have tried to limit costs for the zine as much as possible ($5 Aus/P&H).
We went with 1000 copies as I read in Slayer Mag Diaries that Metalion had that many print figures for Slayer Mag. No more rhyme or reason than that really. Metalion is a legend. Slayer Mag Diaries is my bible.
Being only three months since publication we have had only limited sales and are still in the process of trying to get eyes on our product, so we are far from even at the tick. A fair few copies have been sent out to promote to favourite bands, labels, shops and various people nationally and internationally. So postage is a bit of a killer in regards towards costs. But Hells Envoy isn’t about making money. I of course like to break even and would love to make anything. For me it is a creative outlet and I want to keep it going if possible. We have Volume 1 At The Altar Of Metal available now and we are currently trying to gather enough stories to release a second volume, From The Serpents Tongue. So stories, not money, are the life blood of Hells Envoy. If we don’t have stories we don’t have anything. As soon as we get enough stories, 100-200, we hope to release more volumes.
Were you in contact with Feanors Scribe and Hannah Noel before you founded Hells Envoy? Have they worked for local bands besides the magazine?
I met Feanors Scribe a couple of months before Hells Envoy’s conception through trading with him on the Facebook local buy and sell page. I had some two inch spikes to trade and he had some metal shirts to trade.
After trading, chatting and running into each other at gigs I learned about his artistic background and such. Feanors Scribe has been amongst the metal scene since the early to mid-90s whether he was in bands such as Portal, Carbon and Permafog, designing tour posters for local events or for international headlining acts such as Cannibal Corpse, Carcass and others, designing logos for bands such as Ruins, having his hand in putting out an Australian extreme metal zine in the early 2000’s called Sentinel, or being just a massive fan of metal in general. He designed our Hells Envoy logo, submitted art (Borders, Bones and Baphomet) and designed the layout getting it set for print. Being able to work with Feanors Scribe, and the experience he provided, on our Hells Envoy project I feel truly lucky and very grateful I was able to work with him one on one with my ideas. Not only was he good at his job; I couldn’t have asked for better; he knew exactly where I was coming from with different things being a fellow metal head and all, even coming up with a couple of ideas which were incorporated. Good dude.
Hannah Noel I knew through a friend a little while before conceiving of Hells Envoy. Young, not long finished schooling, she is just naturally gifted with drawing and supplied art for our back cover and at the start of each eight chapters. We gave her our ideas written, and somewhat drawn out, on eight different bits of paper and some pictures to look at and she came back with our chapter art. Same with the back cover. This was, as far as I know, Hannah’s first public appearance as an artist. Hannah also has a dance background and is musically gifted. Unfortunately she is also not into metal nor in the metal scene. I am unsure of her artistic pursuits at the moment but we are very grateful to have been able to work with her. It was also great to be able to release a new artist with our project and that is something we could continue if possible.
How many submissions did Ursa, Carnage and Gravedigger examine as story consultants? How often were you on the same page as far as the stories you approved?
Mainly I and Ursa were the two to go through all the stories working out what’s what. Carnage and Gravedigger were more in a supply of stories capacity, but equally invaluable. In terms of final say I had a clear, concise conception of what Hells Envoy was going to be from early on. Not that I wasn’t open to suggestions or an exchange of ideas, just that I knew what I wanted Hells Envoy to be. An anonymous heavy metal stories zine in which the stories are not about the people telling them but the stories themselves, and inclusive of everyone in the scene from the band to the fan and everyone in between. Everyone in the metal scene has stories and the idea of the story consultant is that we are actively trying to get people’s stories. This could be people we may know, at gigs or asking bands or just noticing someone in the street with a metal shirt on and asking them if they have any stories. We now have I (Creep) and Carnage covering Hobart and Gravedigger over Melbourne and Orphan up in New South Wales trying to chase stories (Ursa and Hells Envoy have now parted ways and we wish her all the best). This was the idea behind the story consultants and the examination, approval and final output is down to me.
Are you looking to expand your staff as you receive more submissions, or are you satisfied with the people you work with at present?
Staff expansion would always be considered and more international reach would be ideal. Hells Envoy is no more than what each person brings to it, so if nobody gets any stories there is no more Hells Envoy. The idea of the story consultant, story chasers, the Hells Envoy Facebook page and even the Hells Envoy zine itself is all geared towards trying to get stories. The people I work with, both presently and in the past, have been and continue to be vital components. But new members are always going to be considered if what they bring makes Hells Envoy better.
How many Facebook surfers are on your community page? Do any of them order Hells Envoy there?
There are almost a couple hundred Hells Envoy followers on Facebook at the moment, but we have only been active for under a year, so it’s going slowly. Patience and perseverance. The idea was to release stories and hopefully people would read them and think ‘I have a story like that’ and share their stories, which has happened. Now the page has a product to sell as well as still trying to get stories for further volumes. Most of our sales, at this stage, have probably come through the Hells Envoy Facebook page.
How did you hook up with the companies you mentioned? Do those companies also help with advertising?
NGM Records and Screen Printing came through Facebook, Tommy Gun Records is the local shop to get metal in Hobart, I met Black Bird Yellow Eye through a mate; it is advertised as a Grotesquery of Unpleasant & Blasphemic Art Prints. They sell locally at various select events and online blackbirdyelloweye.com.au. Nuke The Moon Productions is a mail order company and the publisher of Hells Envoy. It’s advertised as showcasing select dark, subversive and misanthropic art and artists. Each has Facebook pages and has Hells Envoy for sale, but I am not exactly sure what advertising is happening. I’m happy to have a few more copies out there available for people to get is my thinking.
Describe some the stories published in the first issue and explain how they resonate with you.
I really liked that American dude’s story I mentioned about his mate’s brother dying and the Iron Maiden patches. I thought it was a very personal story to share and meaningful to the person telling it. I also like asking people how they first got into metal (Chapter 1: Initiations), hearing their stories and being able to easily relate to a lot of them. They may have initially liked a certain band or something and I will be like ‘yeah I get that’. There is a story about a dude, after seeing the Deicide show, seeing Glen Benton outside the gig, chatting with him and finding him to be just a normal musician, happy to hang out and sign stuff and not the confrontational, evil person he was hyped up to be. I find most metal musicians are happy to chat and are usually good dudes. There is another story of a fella going to a Black Sabbath concert, seeing some video cameras recording in the car park, going off and getting himself on the Black Sabbath DVD. Not that I have gotten on any bands’ DVDs (nor want to); I can just understand his excitement. Also a lot of the bands mentioned in the stories; Morbid Angel, Venom, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Kreator, Bathory, Motörhead, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Darkthrone, Mayhem and others; are some of my favourites, so I always like stories that somehow involve them. Not that all stories are extreme metal, we try to cover as many metal genres and time periods as possible, but generally speaking most stories involve bands of that era. So when I ask someone if they have a story and they start reeling off bands like those mentioned I am much happier than if their stories started off with Limp Biskit or Poison.
Are most of the stories published in the first issue from fans in Australia and Tasmania, or are there stories from fans in other countries?
Most stories have come from people around Australia but there are a few stories from overseas. One German dude sent us a couple of stories via Facebook voice message and it took a couple of listens to decipher his story through his thick accent. With the internet having worldwide reach, this has enabled some international access that would have been seriously limited if it was unavailable. The Hells Envoy Facebook page and the T Shirt Slayer internet site have been from where the most international stories have come from. A couple of random international emails have been received too, but I am not sure where they heard of Hells Envoy from, probably one of the two aforementioned. Always looking towards more local reach, more national reach, more international reach, more stories.
Are you considering interviewing bands, club owners, or label owners for future issues?
Bands, club owners, bar staff, people on the door at events, sound technicians, roadies, label owners, promoters, shop owners and anyone else who may have some sort of direct or indirect involvement within the industry. Hell, even if they don’t like metal, have nothing to do with metal but have an opinion on metal we want to know. Chapter 7 is entitled Heavy Metal Is Just Rah Rah Rah and is about the critics and the people who aren’t metal and their opinions plus just general opinions within metal and also stories of being hassled because of heavy metal. So we’re always trying to look to new avenues. As long as heavy metal is central to the story we want it no matter who is doing the telling.
Do you think publishing online or doing a companion profile on Youtube would help Hells Envoy reach more readers?
I should look into these two ideas, and will research more into it as that is exactly what we are wanting, more reach to more people. We are slowly learning as we go along at the moment and it is all still a new process to us. Any sort of expansion towards gaining a wider audience is always being pursued and we are always trying to think of new and inventive ways to reach more people’s attention.
Internet radio is another resource for zine editors to spread word. Are there net shows in Australia or Tasmania you would consider advertising through?
I am not sure of internet radio and such, and haven’t looked at net shows. It would be something to look toward. Any sort of advertising we will be all over because for more eyes on product.
If the magazine earned more revenue would you consider improving the printing quality? Do you prefer standard print, newsprint or glossy print?
I reckon we will stay with newsprint, regardless of cost. Hells Envoy has always been envisioned as being on the 55 gsm paper, not glossy, no hard cover, no colour and no photographs of bands and such. Maybe some more advertising that fits with the concept would be considered for future volumes. I like any zine format whether glossy or not. The bands represented in each product is what draws my attention. I do prefer a zine I can hold to a web zine, much as I prefer a CD to streaming or downloading.
Do you see the print zine industry remaining consistent in the age of webzines and ezines? Will print zines retain their popularity in the future?
One would hope print zines will always be around, but who knows in this day and age. Printing is a dying trade as everything becomes more digital. For example physical newspaper readership is down as more people switch to reading online, and as iPads and such are the medium newspapers and the like will become less. But in saying that people like physical copies of things, not just on a screen, so who knows what the future holds. Hopefully there will be a resurgence.
Would you consider running stories involving other genres like punk, hardcore, goth, and other genres besides metal?
It will just be metal, metal and more metal. Not that I don’t like other genres of music; it’s just that metal is the way to go. There are enough sub genres enough in metal to hopefully give it variety.
For what do you most want Hells Envoy to be remembered?
It’s a bit corny but heavy metal has given me so much over my life. I have never picked up an instrument or anything and given back, so for me personally, if Hells Envoy could be remembered as having any impact on the metal genre and furthering it in any way, then maybe I could feel I have given back to something which has given me so much.