Friday, September 6, 2013

The Folks Behind the Music - Broken Beard - Sleazegrinder and Broken Beard

 Today's spotlight is on the stoner doom maestro, Broken Beard, former scribe for Sleazegrinder and now head honcho at Broken Beard.

Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of broadcasting about music?

Although my first rock writing gig began in 1998 for my University rag, the definitive moment happened in 2001 when I was handed Hardcore Superstar’s Bad Sneakers and a Pina Colada and told to prep for an interview with the band for that paper. While doing my research I discovered a note left on a message board on the band’s web site from some dude who called himself Sleazegrinder. He was selling some kind of Super Rock Revolution and I knew the moment I read it that I wanted to buy in. I checked out his site – the first music blog/site I had ever seen – and I knew I had stumbled upon a world completely foreign to me, but one that completely captivated me. I contacted him and he immediately welcomed me into the fold. I served as a member of his Jive Cotillion for about eight or nine years.

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?

Well, I just told you about the moment that set my writing down its left hand path, and that also happened to be when I started making some amazing musical discoveries as well. That Hardcore Superstar album led me to discover bands like The Hellacopters and the Backyard Babies, two of my all-time favourites to this day, and it just rolled on from there. I would have to say, though, going back to my childhood, hearing Metallica’s “One” for the first time made a big impression on me. A friend of mine ran into my house one day with the …And Justice For All tape and said, ‘You have to hear this!’ We played “One” for hours. Appetite For Destruction was also influential in that it was the first album I heard that had the full potential to get me in trouble, what with all the swearing and that picture on the inside of the fold-out of the girl with the panties ‘round her ankles. I had finally discovered that rock n’ roll was dangerous, man. Oddly enough, before all that, the first vinyl records I ever owned were Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. No idea where they came from, but there they were and I played the hell out of them on my Fisher Price record player. Maybe Dee Snider in make-up and spandex, munching on a fucking animal bone, terrified me? I’m sure my 8-year-old self had issues processing that scene. As for the first cassettes I can remember owning, that would be Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Def Leppard’s Hysteria.

What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?

Well, the new Jucifer is pretty damn insistent. And the self-titled Obliterations EP isn’t gentle either.

What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?

My answer to both is: the overwhelming number of bands.

With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do? What's your unique take on the music and writing?

Well, when I started my current site, Broken Beard, in late 2009, I wanted to continue doing on my own what I had been doing for others for years, mainly music reviews and interviews. I had spent many years writing for magazines, newspapers, and web sites about cock rock and sleaze metal, burnt out porn stars and degenerate rock stars, but along the way I had come to discover and love stoner and doom metal, so I wanted to focus on that scene where Broken Beard was concerned. I have also never been a big fan of long-winded album reviews with song-by-song synopses, so I prefer to keep my reviews as brief as possible. I don’t know if that makes me unique, but I hope it’s appreciated. And since the beginning of this year, I decided that I would kind of stop doing traditional reviews all together, and instead use my Facebook page as a bulletin board where I post FYIs or PSAs about new albums or videos, etc. with a little reviewing tossed into the mix. I think the album review is quickly becoming a dinosaur because bands now have direct access to their fans, and those fans have the capabilities to stream that band’s music. I don’t really need to review something you can hear for yourself or have already heard. So, my aim instead is to promote and inform. As for my site, I decided that posting conversations with a friend of mine, Nick McKeon, about albums we were listening to would be an interesting change of pace. Of course, we’re busy fellows, and haven’t been as productive as we’d hoped, but so it goes.

Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?

No. With Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, Youtube, and all the rest, what’s the point?

What's been your all time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?

Oh, I’m sure someone else somewhere on the internet has written about a band before I have, but I’d like to think I introduced a lot of Canadian bands to Sleazegrinder’s huge global audience during my tenure with that site. Bands like Priestess, C’mon, The Illuminati, Pride Tiger, Damn 13, Kill Cheerleader, Romeo Liquor Store, Robin Black, CJ Sleez, Die Mannequin, Saigon Hookers, The Sheepdogs, etc. I did review Priestess’ Hello Master a year before its major label release on RCA, went to a lot of their early shows before they were selling out, and would tell anyone who would listen how great they were going to be, so, sure, I’ll take credit for that one, ha ha. I’ve tried to continue this trend with Broken Beard as well. I was a very early champion of Black Wizard, and they are starting to get a lot of much-deserved recognition. Also bands like Baptists, Burning Love, Black Thunder, Three Wolf Moon, Monster Truck, Trigger Effect, Quest For Fire, Black Mountain, Barn Burner, UBT, Black Mastiff, and others. By no means have I discovered any of them, but hopefully I brought them to a few people’s attention and helped promote the Canadian scene.

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?

“Horatio” by The Genders because it contains the lyric, “Look out mama, my name is Horatio/I perform cunnilingus in return for fellatio”. Its simplicity is mind blowing. Its complexity is a thing of beauty.

Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.

Any with beards, obviously. Those are the nicest to look at.

Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?

I prefer vinyl because it’s the antithesis of all the CDs and mp3s I’ve been receiving for free for years. I’m glad it made a comeback as a format. It’s nice to be able to collect an art form that satisfies me personally. And because I’m buying it, I feel like I appreciate it more. I listen to my digital files the most, though, and they make up the bulk of my collection. I do have a lot of CDs, but I rarely play them. They’ve all been converted to mp3s and that’s how I listen to them now. I do consider some of them my prized possessions, however, because I have CDs from bands who aren’t around anymore and only ever put out one album, like The Aphrodisiax, The Cringe, Mongrels, The Golden Gods, The Binges, The Divine Brown, and many more. That stuff is special to me because it’s great and rare, and proves that I was there when it all went down. 

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

I’m sure everyone you’ve interviewed before me has said this, but here it is again: the people. I’ve made many personal and online relationships that I cherish; I found a community of like-minded outlaws in which to immerse myself. And, really, just being able push the hard, rotten, loud, degenerate agenda – and have even one person dig what I do – is pretty fucking boss.

How would your life be different if you weren't involved in music?

I might not have a beard, and that is a scary fucking thing to think about, man.

Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?

About a year after I started Broken Beard I received some hate mail from some dude who had been fed up with my writing for some time and finally decided to tell me. While this guy found the majority of my reviews loathsome, he focused on one in particular…The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream, I think…and picked it apart line by line. It was funny. I enthusiastically thanked him for setting me straight, admitted that I was, in fact, a terrible writer, and invited him to dissect all my reviews in the hopes that I may become better at my craft. He contacted me under a pseudonym, of course, but soon revealed that he was part of “the scene,” that he had been a rock writer for years, and just couldn’t stand seeing me desecrate the sacred art of rock journalism. We exchanged quite a few e-mails, and while he never did tell me his real name, I’m sure he no longer reads my stuff and has left me alone to suck at what I do. 

In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?

I want everyone to remember the bands and the music. If they do, I’ve accomplished more than I could have hoped.

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?

There is, and has been, many, many day jobs. And now there’s a family. So, being able to take in the freak show for an hour or two a night when everyone else is asleep is the balance for me.

What's next? Any new projects?

More music, more words. And maybe a new project.

Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?

Beards, craft beer, and the Montreal Canadiens.

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