Monday, August 5, 2013
The Folks Behind the Music - Spotlight on Ken McIntyre - Sleazegrinder
A new column featuring on the folks who make it their life to spread the word on good music. Today, Ken McIntyre, the infamous Sleazegrinder, of Sleazegrinder.com, Classic Rock Magazine, Metal Hammer, Advanced Demonology Podcasts, and Movies About Girls . Check him out at Advanced Demonology Podcasts, http://www.moviesaboutgirls.com/ and http://www.sleazegrinder.net
Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of writing about music?
I was living in a furnished room in a basement. A concrete box, basically, with a sink on the wall, bathroom down the hall, no windows. I had just gotten sober after seven years of drinking and craziness. Honestly, I think I started writing because I couldn’t get any TV reception in there and had nothing else to do. I was going to local rock shows and then sending in my reviews unsolicited to the local music mags and weekly papers. And they started printing them. That’s how it all started, although I did publish my own zines in high school.
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?
I started really young. I’d save my allowance to buy records at the record store when I was eight years old. Seems crazy now. Imagine going to the record store and there’s a fuckin’ 8 year old there, buying a Runaways record? But music was a bigger part of everybody’s life in the 70’s. My parents had a big record collection and that’s what we’d do a lot of nights, just sit there and listen to records. The first record I remember buying was Kiss’s Calling Dr Love single. I’m not sure of the first album, but I remember the first few I owned: Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Killer by Alice Cooper, Waiting for the Night by the Runaways, Never Mind the Bollocks, Night at the Opera, and Keep The Dogs Away by Thor. This was all around 1977-78. I also had all the Kiss records, but everybody did. The epiphany came in 1979 when I heard Highway to Hell for the first time. The rawness and immediacy of that record smacked me right in the guts. I’ll never forget it. Kiss seemed ridiculous after hearing that. I sorta became known as a “sleaze rock” journalist years later, and that probably all stems from Highway to Hell. For sure, the record that terrified me as a kid was Killer. From the ’72 calendar of hanged Alice to ‘Dead Babies’, that record was way too much for my 8 year old mind to deal with.
What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?
Blood Ceremony’s new one. Holy fuck, occult acid doom-folk with a hot chick up front wailing away on a flute? It’s like an underground comic book from 1974 screaming to life. Awesome.
What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?
I think music is the best it’s been since the early 70’s right now. The money’s gone, so everybody’s in it for the art. Everyday, seems like, I hear an amazing new band. I don’t really see any downsides. There’s still a mainstream out there and the bands are all pretty weak and awful, but it’s not in your face like it used to be, so you can ignore the zillion sons of Mumford and Sons out there and concentrate on the stuff you really dig.
For ten years I ran Sleazegrinder.com, which was a repository for everything that was happening in underground rock n’ roll at the time. I let that one go a few years ago, although there’s an archival blog (Sleazegrinder.net) that’s got about 20% of the old Sleazegrinder stuff on there. Someday I hope to get the rest of up, if only for posterity. That was mostly trash rock, glitter punk, stoner rock, all the down n’ dirty stuff that was happening in the last decade. I had been concentrating on the Movies About Girls site/podcast for a few years and relegated all of my music writing to the magazines – mostly Classic Rock and Metal Hammer these days – but a couple years back I met Swilson, and we decided to start Advanced Demonology, the podcast and the blog. Initially it was going to be all about “proto” music – proto-metal and proto-punk, but then we decided to just open it up to whatever we were into. That’s where we’re at now. Our motto is “Welcome to the darkest corners of rock n’ roll”, and that what we try to do, shed some light on forgotten or overlooked bands and performers and genres. Disco and black metal are championed with equal enthusiasm on Advanced Demonology.
Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?
We don’t have any on our site, just because we don’t wanna get shut down. But that’s not to say we don’t love blogs that share music, because we do. Our bulging hard drives would certainly attest to that. What these blogs did was open up everybody’s minds to the possibilities of music. You don’t have to be into one thing anymore, because that’s all you can afford to buy. Now you can sample everything that’s out there. It’s amazing.
What's been your all time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?
Ha, no band I ever championed went anywhere. I have a terrible track record in that respect. A few years back I put out a Zodiac Mindwarp tribute record, and one of the bands I asked to be on was this really cool poppy fuzz-punk band from Florida called the Dollyrots. I got a hold of their first demo, loved it, and did the first print interview with them for Hitlist magazine. They were still obscure when I asked them to cover “There’s a Barbarian in the Back of My Car”, a Voice of the Beehive song that Zodiac Mindwarp wrote, for the comp. They did such a great job I sent it to Rodney Bingheimer to play on his Rodney on the ROQ show. He did, and they got sorta famous. Otherwise, all my bright hopes fizzled out. How the fuck Crystal Pistol or Crack Torch or Quitter or The Lanternjack never made it is beyond me.
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?
Urge Overkill’s “Dropout”. It’s the greatest cautionary tale ever, and probably my favorite song. It’s about making the most of your bad decisions. “Dropping out of school, guess it wasn’t so cool”. Ha, that’s for sure.
Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.
Yes Mistress, Zig Zags, Glitter Wizard!
Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?
I never really liked CDs. I’ve got tons of ‘em in boxes in my basement, but I’ll probably never listen to them again. I have a couple thousand records, and I love them. I like the fact that when you buy a used a record from say, 1975, when you play it, it still sounds exactly like it did in 1975. It’s like time traveling. I don’t really have any records that are worth all that much, but my favorite is my one-sided picture disc from a band called The Wild. It was released in 1983 on Ericka records, and it’s amazing. These guys played a primitive kinda punky, metal-y rock n’ roll, and they dressed, basically, like the Heatmiser from that Christmas special. Two twin brothers from Indiana, a gangly accountant with crooked teeth, and an Iranian dude with rubber rats glued to his boots, all of ‘em dressed up in spray-painted fright wigs and plastic chains. Rock n’ roll has never gotten weirder than these fuckers. My friend Bruce Duff from Jesters of Destiny knew them a little bit. They rehearsed across the hall from Motley Crue and according to Duff, really had no clue was going on. My greatest rock n’ roll wish is to track these guys down and talk to them about this amazing record.
So I’ve interviewed tons of people over the years, including just about every “classic rock” band you can think of, from Aerosmith to Foghat to Steve Miiller to Iron Butterfly. I like the fact that I connected with all these people, if only for a few moments. The most meaningful life lesson I ever got in an interview was from Stephen Pearcy, of all people. We were talking about what it’s like when your band has peaked and you’re relegated to the minor-markets, playing clubs for a few hundred bucks. He told me that sometimes when he’s on stage, for maybe a second or two at a time, he feels bliss. Even though it’s fleeting, he said it was worth it, to keep chasing it, just for those moments. And he’s right. If you’re lucky enough to stumble onto your personal bliss, chase it. Rock journalism, podcasting, being part of the rock n’ roll zeitgeist, that’s where my bliss is.
How would your life be different if you weren't writing about music?
I’d have more time to sit around and stare at the walls. That would be nice. I don’t think I’ve taken a day off from writing about music in some fashion for the past 13 years.
Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?
During my first few years of writing professionally, I was local. I wrote for the local music magazine, The Noise, and one of the weekly papers, Boston’s Weekly Dig. And here’s the thing: I can’t play music, I have no musical ability, but I wanted my writing to feel like rock n’ roll. I used the pen-name Sleazegrinder and wrote to an internal beat, and developed my writing “voice”. I always said that if I could play music, my band would sound like a cross between Circus of Power and a knife fight. And that’s how I tried to write. And I was pretty merciless. I set-up an “Us vs. them” dynamic with all the bands I thought were “real” rock bands and I just savagely trashed all the ones I didn’t. Holy fuck, was I mean. I kinda wince whenever I see some of that stuff now. People loved it though, and I got a few “Critic of the year” awards, but half the town wanted to kill me, for sure. Luckily Boston is a pretty passive-aggressive town, so they mostly just trashed me in message boards.
In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?
I dug up a lot of bands that had been forgotten and showed ‘em off to the world. Some of them got back together and did new stuff, some of ‘em were just happy to find out people still cared. I’m glad I had those opportunities.
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?
I do work a day job, as a mental health counselor. I also write for Classic Rock full-time. I also do the Movies About Girls podcast, the Advanced Demonology podcast, and maintain both of the blogs. So, time is always tight, but what the hell, all of it is good and interesting and worthwhile. To be honest, there’s not a lot of difference between interviewing rock stars and counseling people with psychiatric issues. It all wears me out sometimes, but I manage.
What's next? Any new projects?
The Advanced Demonology podcast is going weekly, and the Movies About Girls podcast is going back to being a live show. I’m pretty excited about both.
Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?
Weird movies, love, and laughter. And boobs.