Today's spotlight on Ray Van Horn Jr, journalist and photographer for the esteemed Metal Minute and Blabbermouth.
Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of writing about music?
My official introduction into music journalism came in 2003 when I saw that heavy metal was making a slow rebound in the late nineties with that short-lived “nu-metal” run that’s now looked upon by purists as a scourge. I’m glad nu-metal happened, because it prompted me to take a stab at writing a book on heavy metal music. Out of sheer insanity, I began cold-contacting artists from back in the day with a proposal of conversing for my project. I’d never conducted a musician interview at the time, but I was already building some writing credentials with my superhero fiction and having done game analysis for the NHL, plus local beat reporting. I was very lucky so many people were receptive to me.
Within weeks, I’d found myself on the phone with Leslie West, Joe Lynn Turner, Dee Snider, Michael Schenker, Geoff Tate, Jeff Pilson, Phil Soussan, Girlschool, Flotsam and Jetsam, Lips from Anvil and others, including the late Kevin Dubrow. Schenker and I talked four-and-a-half hours straight one night; funny when you consider the guy used to be a notorious mute with the press. Joe Lynn and I carried our conversation over the course of three nights. Despite the recent Queensryche division, I’ll always be grateful to Geoff Tate for being kind enough to invite me out to dinner when the ‘ryche was playing in town. He gave me a hell of an interview in which he insisted I dig deeper into the industry, particularly on the business side.
While I was corralling guests for this project, a few record labels got wind of me and came knocking with offers of having their clients get involved. In exchange, they wanted me to review their bands’ albums and to pick up professional interviews for music outlets. They even pointed me in the direction of a genre website, Pitriff, to get started at and the rest is history. In no time, I found myself on the horn with Jack Russell of Great White shortly after the Rhode Island tragedy, and I think the delicate way I handled that interview opened the gates for me. I was offered so many guests in a quick span of time as more websites and magazines saw my work and invited me to come aboard. At one point, I wrote for seven magazines and three websites and was the host of my own columns at AMP and Pit magazines.
It was a restless time for me where I’d be up half the night every night interviewing bands, then transcribing the tapes and turning in my assignments well ahead of deadline. I wanted to build my reputation in a hurry and I managed to do that. Along the way, I was covering 15-20 concerts a month and photographing most of them. I felt so alive, man, what a rush. I remember traveling up to Manhattan one Saturday to cover Skinny Puppy in Times Square, then driving home in the middle of the night, getting a few hours’ sleep, then jetting down to meet Doro Pesch and Chris Caffery for one of the most memorable VIP nights of my career. I fell asleep on the road driving back from that and could’ve seen my death, but hey, I’m still here to testify to it. Doro, I’ve interviewed her so many times and she is the sweetest person on the planet, bank on that.
I’m beyond grateful to everyone who took time with me in 2003 and 2004. Even though there’s been a hundred books written on heavy metal now, I have in my archives some amazing footage that I hope to bring to light sometime, if for no other reason, to thank these people for their contributions and for inadvertently getting me in the door.
We're all the product of our musical past. What's your musical history? First album you ever bought? First musical epiphany moment? First album that terrified the hell out of you?
Welp, those who know me know music’s always been a major part of my life. During my childhood, I was surrounded by Motown, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, sixties psychedelia and seventies pop, rock and folk from my mom. Throughout the seventies, I grew up as most Gen X kids did, obsessed with Kiss. Fortunately, I had parents who made it a mission to expose me to all sorts of music where Kiss was just one piece of the pie, if you get me.
My stepfather drowned me in fifties music and he had a crate of vintage 45s he’d kept from his youth. In my tween years, we would have “Fifties Fridays” where he’d bring out that crate and sling those 45s all the way until Dallas came on at 9:00 pm. After enough of these sessions, my Pop would start quizzing me on the artists. He would stick a 45 on the turntable and point at me for an answer. “Danny and the Juniors!” I’d shout out and I’d relish his smile of approval. If I’d get one wrong, he would jokingly slap his forehead in mock frustration, but a part of me took that seriously. I had to get better. I had to know the answer every time. It became a fixation for me since MTV had just launched and I was severely addicted to that. Call this the official birth of the rock journalist lying within me.
Later after high school, a couple buddies of mine came to me with the rowdy idea that we try our hand at putting together a punk band. I had no lick of actual musical acumen, though I’ve always been notorious for tapping out beats everywhere, on countertops, on my legs, steering wheels, you get the picture. So my friends showed up in my driveway one day with a five piece Gretsch drum kit and stunned as I was by the whole thing, I was also invigorated to learn. My one buddy Bob gave me a crash course in drumming by teaching me how to play The Damned’s “New Rose” on the kit. I still love that song since it broke my drumming cherry. Unfortunately, our little band, which was called World Without End, based on the Star Trek episode of the same name, was a short-lived enterprise, no pun intended. To this day, I’m the only one of us who actually regrets we never made anything out of it. I wanted that band to really come to life and at least play a few live gigs, so I’d say that augmented my passion for music and my thirst to belong in the scene.
You could call that an epiphany if you like, since that seems to make the most sense outside of spending countless hours in my bedroom devouring heavy metal and punk rock albums and horror movies along with Stephen King and Conan the Barbarian paperbacks. I think another epiphany cementing my passion for music came when I saw the cover of Robert Palmer’s Pressure Drop at a record booth in a farmer’s market when I was age nine. Need I say more? I believe my first wet dream had that naked model in it.
The first album I bought? Hmm… I’d say officially it was a 45 of Blondie’s “Call Me” since I’d saved my allowance for it. Most of my albums during ages 7 through 12 were given to me as presents or pass-alongs, including AC/DC’s Back in Black, which came on the heels of my official introduction to heavy metal from a cousin-in-law who’d played me Iron Maiden’s Killers and Number of the Beast along with Dio’s Holy Diver and Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman. Of course, the first LP I bought on my own following my metal indoctrination happened to be the J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame. Strange cosmos, I know.
The album that scared the snot out of me as a kid was Queen’s News of the World. Seriously, who wasn’t scared of that killer robot? I’d gone to sleep every night to “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” when it was the number one track on a local rock station for an entire summer. I had to have that album since that couplet served as my lullaby in a twisted sense. When another cousin of mine said he had News of the World and then showed it to me, I was freaked the hell out and stayed clear of it.
What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?
Without a doubt, The Alabama Shakes’ Boys and Girls. I’d heard the “I Found You” single on a local public radio station in my area and was suckered instantly by the retro honky tonk feel of it. I feel like there’s no honest soul in today’s soul and R&B music, so The Alabama Shakes did exactly that to me, shook me until I had a whiplash of rapture. Boys and Girls is an album conveying the agony and ecstasy of love better than anything I’ve heard in more than a decade. I’ve written more than a few love scenes for some of my fiction projects with that album playing. That record just wrenches, man. Brittany Howard is the funkiest white singer I’ve heard in ages. I have mad respect for Joss Stone and Adele, sure, but Brittany could smoke them like blunts, sorry. I am madly in love and lust with this album.
What’s good in music today is there are so many bands. What’s bad in music today is there are so many bands. While the talent out there is so immense, there’s still a lack of quality control with everyone trying to break in. DIY used to be something to take pride in during the seventies and eighties run of punk rock and hardcore, from which the term is derived.
Now you have countless bands home-brewing their work on Pro Tools and shoving it into cyberspace, thus we have overpopulated market conditions. A lot of the product is worthwhile, yet so much of it is not and that just takes more time for someone like myself to slog through and get to the core of what’s real and what’s not in music today.
Competition is fiercer and let’s face the facts; people aren’t making the money they used to because the cost of living is atrocious throughout much of the world. It’s no wonder people are swiping music and expect freebies as if by entitlement. In the eighties, I used to have a set budget as a teen where “x” amount of money went towards my car insurance, gas and maintenance. Another bit of money went towards food, another towards dates. The rest, I admittedly pissed away on music and I’m not ashamed of it, though I’d be a richer man if I hadn’t. The point is, that threshold in a personal budget for the average person to spend on music has dwindled greatly over the years. We’re expected to pay more for the basics and the basics have now expanded to include cell phones, widescreen televisions, high definition and computers, none of which were a part of the norm during my youth.
Downloads, file sharing, iPods and all of the tech advances have their benefits in this industry, more so from the label’s marketing point-of-view. It reduces overhead from sending out physical promos to writers, radio stations and other insiders, albeit kudos to you gents at Ripple for continuing to send out physical promos! Downloads are a more cost effective way to do business, I get it. For the bands, they can reach a broader audience than ever before, albeit the key is to dog social media outlets and build a home scene to take off from. The digital revolution lets them reach more corners of the world than ever before, which is a positive. My complaint is that downloads are creating a disposable frame of mind where artists’ work often get trashed within one round of consumption. Our society has sadly become so acquisitive in nature that music files are sheer commodity.
I think the industry is growing soulless by the day, partially because of tech, partially because of there’s little tangibility to music product anymore, but largely because having so many bands out there at once makes the overall perspective of the scene seem like minutiae. It’s no wonder, then, the average person is driven towards a singles-minded mentality and album-based music consumers are becoming a rarer breed.
With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do? What's your unique take on the music and writing?
This is where I try to avoid coming off like a rock snob, but the lame fact is that having so many blogs and sites out there has really hurt those who’ve busted their balls working this scene like I and many of my peers have. I’m discouraged when I receive news from other writers I know are talented and have as thick a resume as myself scrounging for work in the industry.
Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Revolver and Spin are already difficult enough to break into since they’re already condensed with staffers and freelancers. Where does a would-be rock journalist go, then? Most sites and even some rags don’t pay their writers, which frankly, reeks, but that’s today’s economics for you. I’m embarrassed to see so many blog and site editors trolling for writers who don’t pay but try to spit-shine the allure of gaining affiliations and credentials. Sure, that’s true for brand new writers who need to do freebies to work their way up and pay their dues. That’s how I did it, but only for close friends in this racket can I rationally give my work out for free now. Still, it seems like bait-and-switch to my eyes when non-paying editors lure newcomers by dangling the proverbial carrot over their heads of breaking into the great fantastic, which is the seemingly elusive rock life.
That being said, I can see why there are so many younger writers out there trying to start their own ventures. I mean, I too have a blog, The Metal Minute, that’s been very successful over the years, but that’s been the product of my labors and having grown over the years writing for magazines, sites and now Blabbermouth. Do I receive any pay for what I do at The Metal Minute? Of course not, but I’ve kept it up out of love of the music and also to create a hub where I can market myself as a writer to other places. It’s just something you have to do nowadays if you want to be taken seriously. The flipside, however, is blogs are only now just becoming accepted as actual journalism, yet like having so many bands, there’s the issue of quality control.
I think what I do well as a writer is to be myself. I write like I read music magazines in the eighties. That’s not always fashionable with today’s assimilation-minded generation, who value brevity more than depth. Nonetheless, I stick to my guns and I have a very large audience and a valuable industry network because of it.
Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?
Absolutely not. If an artist or label rep expressly tells me he or she wants me to post a download with the understanding it’s for free consumption, that’s one thing. Otherwise, it’s is a form of stealing, albeit I always keep in mind the gray area that my generation used to swap cassette tapes of recorded albums all the time. The difference, though, is we went and bought the actual product later because it was important to us to support our favorite groups and also to have a physical product in our hands to scan the artwork and read the lyrics. That’s the thing about downloads and I’m sorry to keep using the word “soulless,” but downloads are like the underworld in the silent sci-fi classic Metropolis…soulless.
What's been your all-time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?
I remember catching the metal band Trivium when they opened for Iced Earth many years back. Those dudes were still teenagers then, but I saw undeniable hunger and talent in their set. They nearly kicked the crap out of the headliners, so I approached Corey Beaulieu and Matt Heafy while they were stripping their gear off the stage and they invited me to meet up with them in the parking lot after the gig. Later, we hung out awhile and though Matt seemed a little nervous by my gushing over their set, Corey hung in there and we talked for quite a while. I predicted to his face they were going to be huge one day. He looked like a shy little kid, but I also saw it in his eyes that he believed it as well. I wrote all I could about Trivium and set up formal interviews many times with those guys. The second time I interviewed Corey backstage at another gig when Trivium had been signed to Roadrunner Records and were headlining their showcase, I told him “See, I told you so.” I was happy he remembered me and that prophecy I’d made.
If you could write a 1,000 word essay on one song, which one would it be, and why? What makes that song so important?
Definitely “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles. Sgt. Peppers is one of the most important rock albums in history, that’s common knowledge. That album shattered me when I first heard it from start-to-finish. The perfect concept album that’ll never be outdone. I think “A Day in the Life” is such a purposeful closer that reflects the turmoil and angst of the sixties from a British outlook that was more on the smarmy side than America’s. Still, “A Day in the Life” is visceral stuff, straight from the opening line, “I read the news today, oh boy…” I think the song is by and far one for the Boomer generation, yet if you grew up surrounded by sarcastic punk rock and anti-establishment protest music, this one’s the granddaddy of them all. Endpoint, the final crunching piano strike at the end of “A Day in the Life” is the single most poignant moment in rock.
Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.
I’m always telling anyone who’ll listen that Japanese distortion lords Boris is the band to dive into. I love that band so much. They’re consistently brilliant and I was honored to interview drummer Atsuo through a Japanese translator. A very humbling experience for me. If you can take music fast, brutal and loud, then Taiwan’s Chthonic is another band to key into. They’ve inherited Emperor’s realm of extreme dominion. Chthonic is simply majestic, and they’re considered freedom fighters. Much of their music is written in protest against human atrocities.
Palms is another one I’d recommend. That’s the band featuring Jeff Caxide, Bryant Clifford Myers and Aaron Harris from Isis and Chino Moreno of the Deftones. To me, it’s like a shoegazing, more expressive version of Isis with Chino singing overtop instead of Aaron Turner. Chino is breathtaking in this project. Magnificent.
Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?
I have about 200 pieces of vinyl and more than 4,000 CDs. I’m very blessed to have built my collection largely for free with all of the promos I’ve been sent over the years, plus I’ve been handed more than a few gift cards to help the cause. I realize full-well it takes a special person of empathy to walk into my labyrinth of music shelves and not want to slowly backpedal away. Those who stop and scan my collection do me the biggest honor.
As for my most prized music possession, it’s a live vinyl bootleg of the Ramones, May 12, 1976. My favorite band on my sixth birthday. There’s nothing cooler than that, except maybe finding a chick who “gets” it enough to make out to SSQ’s “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)” without thinking you’re a latent slasher.
What makes it all worthwhile for you?
Having an invitation to be interviewed instead of conducting the interview, like you and a handful of others have done. Also, to receive encouraging letters, emails, Facebook tags and directed Tweets from readers, colleagues, bands, publicists and friends. What we do isn’t appreciated by everyone in the world, and as I mentioned before, there are so many writers out there from experienced to novice, that it’s gratifying to be noticed, much less read on a regular basis.
I’ve wanted to hang this whole part of my life up numerous times for various reasons, but all it takes to keep me fighting is one thank you message from a band for giving them exposure, or from a reader I’ve never met who simply wanted to congratulate me on a review. Believe me, there are so many Negative Nancies out there, it’s not just refreshing but invigorating to receive praise from others. Even better is when I’ve received t-shirts, ball caps, even homemade art from my interview guests or bands I’ve reviewed over the years. You can’t put a price tag on such appreciation.
I recently had a reader who’s in college come to me about a music-themed term project and he ask for my consultation. It was my privilege to read over his work, offer a few pointers and some of my insight. I was so proud when he wrote me at the end of his semester and said he’d received an A. That is so totally worthwhile.
Of course, it also comes down to having had the opportunity to meet and chat with most of the musicians I grew up listening to over the years. I’ve had as guests three-fifths of Judas Priest and most of Anthrax. I’ve had Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, Marky Ramone, David Coverdale, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ace Frehley, Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo from Slayer, Jerry Casale of Devo, just so many cool musicians I can’t acknowledge them all in one sitting.
My extracurricular dealings in the business have been modest, but I had a blast once interviewing Bobby Blotzer from Ratt in his hotel then driving around the area with him in search of grub. I still laugh that I was made an honorary member of Testament once when I was sitting in a bar with Greg Christian and Alex Skolnick conducting business and our bartender asked if I was in the band. Greg and Alex told me to roll with it. Then I made friends with Karyn Crisis along with Jwyanza Hobson and Afzaal Nasirudeen from the Crisis band and I still relish our conversations backstage and in the parking lots at their gigs, many of the topics drifting away from music into history, the arts and civil rights.
I won’t ever forget sitting with a fired-up Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die at The Black Cat in Washington, DC when George W. Bush won re-election in 2004. Dave Brockie, aka Oderus from Gwar offered to sodomize me on tape, then invited me to hang out for barbecue the minute I shut the recorder off. In Flames were some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever been the guest of, particularly on a boiling afternoon at the Sounds of the Underground festival. Just recently, I was treated like an honored guest by Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke, who insisted I hang out after the interview and he showed me his personal writings. What a gift, man. As I said earlier, I’m blessed.
I’ve had the chance to talk with some of my favorite figures in horror films such as Betsy Palmer, Bruce Campbell, Mick Garris, Don Coscarelli, Adam Green, Stuart Gordon and others. You know what is perhaps the single most worthwhile moment of my entire journalism career? Having Betsy Palmer call me back after my article ran and her telling me I was the only writer who’d quoted her with one hundred percent accuracy and that she wanted me to come up to Manhattan and have lunch with her sometime. Dude, Jason Voorhees’ mom, can you dig it? I still need to take Betsy up on that offer.
How would your life be different if you weren't writing about music?
I’ve been born and bred to write, so I would be focused on something else if not music. I had a good year-plus writing about the NHL, I’ve done on-the-street beat reporting, I’ve created my own stable of superhero characters and wrote serial stories that were collected in a trade paperback anthology. I am avid about knowing as much that I can about the world around me to stoke my pen into action.
There will come a day when I’ll have to hang up music journalism because I have so many other interests and ideas to explore, but I’ve lurked inside the music realm because it defines me, at this point in my life, anyway. Ideally, I see myself shifting my writing focus strictly towards fiction and scripts. Mick Garris started out as a music journalist, and then he became a film interview host on a cable access channel. Later he turned into an author and world-renowned horror director. Honestly, I see myself following the same path.
Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?
I can’t say I’ve had any threats outside of the mutant commenters at Blabbermouth who believe I should be eviscerated since they didn’t dig my reviews (laughing), but I’ve long since stopped reading their petty heckling, no worries. Those few who’ve had the balls to come at me directly with something they disagreed with, at least they brought substance to the table and I addressed them directly as we hashed out our differences with mutual respect and intelligence. In the end, those people are actually now friends of mine and amongst my valued readership.
I will tell you a funny story from the trenches and I’ll keep the identities of the parties anonymous since we’ve been friends for a long time ever since this occurred. I was up in Philadelphia one night to interview a band that had a female vocalist. I’d made my way over to the band’s merch table since the band’s rep forgot to give me a direct contact number. So I hung out awhile and sure enough, the singer in question made her way to the table and recognized me. She told me to hang out a few minutes while she gathered the rest of the band who were all going to sit in on the interview. So far, so good, though I could she was a little perturbed. That’s when I suddenly found the band’s guitarist in my face, screaming, slobbering and shoving at me because he thought I’d grabbed the ass of the singer as they were getting off the stage. It took everything I had not to swing at him since I’m a professional above everything else. Yet my fists were balled and I was ready to duke if it came to that. I began matching him tone for tone, until the singer came and defused the situation by telling her guitarist he had the wrong guy. Though it was awkward during the interview, we later tossed down a round together and we’ve been laughing about the incident ever since. Good times.
In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?
As far as my accomplishments, I am very grateful for what I’ve achieved to this point. I’ve conducted more than 300 interviews and written well past a thousand reviews. I have a damned fine live photo portfolio and my network of friends in the music business is so valuable to me. All that being said, it’s never enough. I’ve busted my tail in this business and still want Rolling Stone or Revolver to give me an assignment. I’m confident enough to say I’ve rolled with the best and my resume speaks for itself. Gimme the ball and you’ll see me spiking it with a guaranteed touchdown.
People tend to forget you in the grand scheme, I’ve learned that pragmatically, in my day work and in journalism. You can bleed for those you work for and sometimes you’ll get your accolades but more often than not, you’re another brick in the wall, to keep in the key of rock. I’ve done many solids galore and I’ve had solids done for me in return. I never forget those who’ve helped me along my path and those who are willing to help me down the road will make an ally they can depend on.
In the end, I would like to think my personal integrity, old school as it may be, is my defining characteristic. I’m true to who I am, even if that doesn’t jive with everyone. I am a keeper of secrets from people as far back as high school and I have been dished more than my fair share of dirt from my music guests, all kept off-the-record. I believe I’m trusted when I’m put in front of a musician. I get some of the best interviews out there because of my creative approach to questioning. I despise ham-fisted, generic Q&A, and can’t imagine interviewees care for them much, either. I treat my guests like they’re ordinary people instead of celebrities and because I handle my due diligence plus throw out off-the-cuff but respectful questions, my interviews rock, plain and simple.
Many people may not realize the hours you devote to what you do for little or no pay. Is there a day job? If so, how do you find the balance?
You’re spot-on there. The music life appears glamorous from those looking in from the outside, but all it takes for reality to set in is to have a piss ant tour manager try to blow you off after traveling four hours for a scheduled interview. Then there’s the reek of trash and whiz in the alley you inhale sometimes while interviewing a young band in their slate road van who’s trying their damnedest like yourself to make their mark.
Getting on to your question, though, I do work a day job and I’ve spent 18 years in the mortgage title industry. I have a family to feed and as you say, there’s little pay to rake in from the music world, albeit I’m nicely compensated at Blabbermouth, thank you, Borivoj! I’ve had to stomach layoffs in both of my careers, when business had slid in the mortgage industry and when print magazines have been killed by the internet. I could yak for another hour about how saddened I’ve been over the years as a repeat downsizing casualty.
Nonetheless, the need to eat and to pay my bills as best I can keeps me slugging through the ruts. Over the years, I’ve sacrificed a ton of sleep to chase after the rock life. When I was covering tons of shows, I’d frequently do them on work nights. I have too much dedication to do what most people do and call out sick when they’ve been to a show in the middle of the week. Thus I learned to coast on 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night. That allowed me to take more interviews, both on-site and on the phone, while transcribing my tapes and getting the articles slung in.
Most people would never be able to relate to (much less care) the amount of dedication it takes to be a rock journalist when honestly, rock journalists are tools. It’s brutal honesty but it is honesty. We get fed a steady diet of new media releases every single day with expectations for attention. Then a slew of undiscovered bands are chasing after us with demos and MP3 singles in the hopes someone shows them review love. Keeping up with it all takes immense time, then you have to keep up with social media so your readers know you’re still alive and doing what they’re supporting you to do. It creates inevitable burnout and I’ve been forced to push myself to get at least 6 hours of sleep now in order to be effective in my day job and for my reviews.
What's next? Any new projects?
At the moment, I’m placing more emphasis on my fiction works and a graphic novel project I’ve just completed. I’ve done quite a bit in journalism, from entertainment to sports to business to regional government and local interest. I am more than ready to take on bigger game in journalism, but keeping my ego fed in the meantime aside from my gig at Blabbermouth, I’m going all-out with fiction.
I just had a satirical short story about the music journalism life entitled “An Off Night” published at New Noise magazine. Check it out online. I also had flash fiction piece accepted by Akashic Books for their “Mondays are Murder” series. Keep an eye out in September for my story, “Off the Record.” Then I have another accepted short story out there I’ll promote when it’s officially published. I’m fine-tuning yet another short story, this time an edgy romance piece.
I spent five years writing a novel that I ended up having to give up the ghost with and cannibalize it for other projects, but out of those ashes, my new novel-in-progress, “Lucky Burns,” has evolved. I also just wrote a 64-page graphic novel script I’m getting to ready to pitch to a literary agent friend of mine called “Drowning Man.”
So I’m all over the board. My time to fly has come. Let the believers get on board. Everyone else, get out of my way.
Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?
My burning passion is to travel, to do, to see, to hike and move about through the world, finding everything that can stimulate my mind. If I could drop out and live life like a National Geographic magazine, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I am always photographing my surroundings, capturing life, showing everything I see, often from angles most people are not taking the time to savor. I want to meet people around the world and learn their cultures and to simply experience. Experience is fundamental to good writing, so there you have it.