INTERVIEW WITH DAVE WOLFF OF AUTOEROTICASPHXIUM ZINE
Interview conducted by: Dark Princess
At what age did you discover your own music choices? Who were some of the early bands you listened to? Who are some of your current favorites?
The first bands I listened to as a kid were the Beatles and Kiss. In fact the animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine was my earliest exposure to hard rock/counter-cultural music. Soon after seeing that movie I was given the soundtrack album. I was taken in by the storyline described in the liner notes and the classical score on side two as much as the songs the band included on the soundtrack. The Blue Meanies were interesting villains because they reflect those who want to censor music and free expression of any kind. The idea is as timely now as it was in the 60s. At this time I also saw The Man Who Fell To Earth with David Bowie in the role of the E.T. This was my first exposure to science fiction movies, a few years before Star Wars came out. I think Kiss had the most profound impact on me of all the bands I listened to in the beginning. Today I don't think they're the same without Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, but their impact on music is undeniable. That a bunch of working class kids from New York could change the face of music forever the way they have, you have to give them props for what they have accomplished on their own terms. As far as hard rock and metal. after the Beatles and Kiss came the Stones, the Doors, AC/DC, Rush, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. At fourteen I heard Venom for the first time. Their Black Metal album ushered in an all-new era for metal in general. Their impact on me was the biggest since Kiss and resonates with me to this day. I call still listen to that album from beginning to end and never get tired of it. Venom opened the doors for me to get into Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Sodom, et cetera.
When did you get the idea to create the zine? How did you come up with the name for the zine?
In the mid 90s I met the staff of a local zine from NYC called Endemoniada. This was a zine dedicated to extreme metal and the left hand path. The zine was typewritten with photos added liberally, like a typical zine from the 80s, but had information about black and death metal bands I'd just heard of as well as lesser known artists. The staff was knowledgable of what they were writing about, and it was meant to inform, not to offend which I appreciated. Endemoniada was among the first of the new school of underground zines I was reading during the era of death metal and the new wave of Scandinavian black metal (NWOSBM as I sometimes call it) and I made some contacts througn them with Abazagorath, Divine Silence, Insatanity and Jill Girardi who was involved in Miortal Coil Records during that time (latter Razorback Records from Long Island). The Endemoniada staff hosted local shows like the Black Mass of 1997 and had a fierce dedication to the scene, which I admired greatly. They inspired me to start a zine; I also decided to start when a friend of mine at the time was talking about doing a zine. The name of the zine came from a song title I had in mind when I was playing in a local death/black metal band called Retribution from 1989-91. We played a total of three shows around that time.
Did you start writing for other zines before you wanted to do your own? What was it that got you interested in writing for zines in the first place? Who were some of the zines you write for in your past and today?
Autoeroticasphyxium was my first zine. Before I started it I was writing for a couple of local music papers, The Angle from Queens and Good Times from Long Island. I wrote for The Angle from 1993 to 1994. I covered then-current releases by Sodom and Anthrax (Tapping The Vein and Sound Of White Noise respectively), several local metal and hardcore shows and a few demos including Darkside NYC. I wrote for Good Times from 1994 to 2009 and I covered far too many bands to remember completely. Around 1997 I got my own column (The Dungeon: Hardcore & Metal) since I was the only staff member to review underground music consistently. The first album I ever reviewed for Good Times was My Dying Bride's Turn Loose The Swans; since then I've reviewed Darkthrone, Deicide, Mayhem, Emperor, Immortal, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angell, Bathory, Nile, Burzum, Necromantia, Marduk. Satyricon, Tsathoggua, Elend, Abruptum, Vondur, Sigh, Deceased, October 31, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Anthrax, Whiplash, Cradle Of Filth, Type O Negative, GG Allin, Agnostic Front, Warzone, Bad Brains, Kill Your Idols, Cause For Alarm, Prong, Amon Amarth, God Dethroned, Mortician, Incantation, Immolation, Dimmu Borgir, Exit 13, et cetera. I reviewed unsigned bands like Insatanity, Blood Storm, Abazagorath, Curse, Divine Silence, The Forgotten, Death Kids, Sewage, Deviant Behavior, Spiders N Pigs, Voodoo Storm and Murder Junkies besides releases from independent labels like Mortal Coil Records (co-owned by Jill Girardi who was later involved with Razorback Records). I did several interviews and movie reviews for the paper. I quit in 2009 for several reasons. I have always liked supporting cutting edge/extreme music and after being inspired by the staff of Endemoniada I decided I wanted to do so more.
Was their any particular state in the US that had an amazing scene that stuck out? What about world-wide metal scene was their any countries you felt had the strongest metal scene?
New York, Pennsylvania and Florida for example had underground scenes I was interested in around the time I started the zine, And as far as overseas countries there was England, Germany, Norway, Mexico and Sweden to name a handful. Today I have been hearing a lot about underground metal scenes in Tennessee (Knoxville to be exact) and Russia among other places. But the fanzine has always featured interviewees across the US and from the world over, since the first issue came out.
Did you start out doing it by yourself or did you have a group of friends doing it with you when you first started out?
For the most part, the first six issues were done by me. A couple of friends submitted reviews, interviews and artwork for the second and third issues. Winston Blakely (who does the Little Miss Strange comic series featuring alien sorceress Scorpia) became the regular cover artist on issue #5; the artwork for issue #6 was by local artist, Mercy Van Vlack of Nuff Said! Radio (Miranda The Tease, Green Ghost And Lotus). I used to see her Ken Gale often at science fiction and comic conventions, but it has been a while. Robert Quill and P.J. Scoggins have done prospective covers for the zine which can be viewed at AEA's Facebook profile. There was an artist from Kansas City contributing artwork and reviews for several issues, but we had a falling out due to some stupid shit I was not responsible for. Suffice it to say he was an immature child and AEA could continue without him. Winston Blakely's art is at www.facebook.com/winston.blakely.7, you can read about Mercy Van Vlack at www.comicbookradioshow.com, Robert Quill's art is at http://www.robertquill.com and P.J. Scoggins and Necrotic Records can be found at https://www.facebook.com/NecroticRecords. Since then the zine has had several new contributors who I'll be discussing shortly.
When you first started out how many pages did you start out with and has it reminded the same or has it increased? Have you keep the same formatting and structure of the zine since you first started? Did you use a typewriter and handwritten interviews back in the days?
The first issue of AEA consisted of fifty-odd pages; the text was all typewritten. Issue #6 was significantly longer than that. Issues #7 to #9 were shorter as they only had reviews and poetry published in them. Issue #10 began the "third phase" of the zine with each issue increasing in the number of pages up to the current issue (#20) which has somewhere around eighty pages.
You're an old schooler from when zines were printed and popular. What were the struggles back in the days and what are the struggles of today? When did you decide to start promoting it on the internet? Many zines have now become webzines or blogs or have different types of sits, what made you continue to keep it in "print"? Why do you think you still exist today and so many aren't around anymore? Were there more support for printed zines back then? Do you feel the internet today has helped or hurt the overall scenes for zines and bands?
Mostly the struggle has been to break even financially. Any money made basically goes back into the zine. I began to promote AEA online around 1998. Having to compete with internet zines has never been a problem because as quite a few have pointed out readers still get something out of opening a print zine that you can't get from going online to see what bands are doing on net zines. Don't get me wrong; the net has been more than valuable for spreading information of scenes in overseas countries. And it has certainly been a help as far as making contacts to correspond with who I might not have met otherwise. But it's the same as holding a vinyl album opening the gatefold, reading the lyrics, et cetera. CDs and iPods haven't replaced vinyl completely. There will always be those who get more out of owning albums, and the same goes for people who want something they can hold in their hands. A brief aside: I had one or two people suggest printing in newsprint but I wasn't really interested in doing so. But I haven't ruled out the possibility of running a format using Mac programs in future issues. Back to the subject, there are in fact still printed zines around in the U.S and overseas countries; you just have to know where to look. Of course back then, print zines were the primary means for new bands to get their name around. Today the internet can reach a greater number of people in less time. There are good and bad points to both sides of the matter.
What is it about the underground metal-scene that has kept you motivated to keep Autoeroticasphyxium Zine going for all of these years?
I have always had the opinion that underground culture has more to offer than the mainstream music industry. I thought this was so during the hair metal trend of 1986 to '89. I hold to that more than ever today considering all the rehashed pop crap the industry has been forcing down the general public's throats for the last decade. It's unfortunate that pop divas are considered musical icons while genuine talent from the underground is overlooked and ignored (aside from a female singer currently in vogue who many are saying has stolen ideas from other artists and alternative models). Still, the majority of those pop divas are the flavor of the month and fall by the wayside after a few years or so. The Spice Girls were the kind of group everyone danced to but now no one remembers them or even gives a shit. Even alternative music, which had a lot of potential when Nirvana and Pearl Jam broke through, far too quickly became something generic and paint-by-numbers; this is probably the reason it died by the end of the 90s. Bands were copycatting and trying to write "inane" lyrics, which just turned out to be pretentious and annoying. The worst of this was The Offspring whose song Come Out And Play (Keep 'Em Separated) sounded to me like a glaring ripoff of Murphy's Law's song Panty Raid. Conversely, Venom, Slayer, Deicide and Emperor have sustained cult followings for decades and you can still listen to their albums without ever getting bored. They still have that freshness you experience every time because their music was honest and they did not kowtow to what was "popular." Bands like Manowar can pack outdoor arenas with five-figure seating capacities even though they never broke into the mainstream. Metallica irrevocably redefined heavy metal, and their impact is still felt today... the list goes on. Underground bands have survived time and changing mainstream trends, which speaks volumes about their validity as musicians and artists. Play what you feel, but as Kaya Chaos of the NYC punk band Deviant Behavior said, don't do it because it's "cool." FUCK COOL! Be yourself, because no one else can be you.
I have always admired your ability to write in-depth interviews keeping them informative and interesting. When you begin on a interview how long does it usually take you to complete one? Do you have a certain limit of questions you ask or do you just work until you feel it is finished?
The times vary from interview to interview, and I usually don't limit the amount of questions I ask in interviews. If an interview really gets moving it can end up filling five complete pages or more, and this with small print! I prefer doing longer and more informative interviews because they provide the readers with a real sense of where the interviewee is coming from. The inspiration of this came from magazines such as Terrorizer from the UK and local fanzines like Under The Volcano from Long Island which always dug deep into where bands were at with the release or then-current material. Those publications, to me, are most worth reading.
Who have been some favorite bands, labels or people to interview? Is there any person you have not had the chance to interview you would love to get the chance to? What was one of the most challenging interviews you have done?
Actress/model Sybelle Silverphoenix who appeared in issue 15 was a memorable and informative interview, in more ways than one. She had much to say about the projects she was involved in, including Final Level and Bill Zebub Productions' remake of Dirtbags: Evil Never Felt So Good. Will Lovelaw, editor and publisher of Metal, Magick & Mythos and Southern Fried Hoodoo magazines, who appeared in the zine twice (issues 17 and 19), presented a great deal of information about his background in the occult and voodoo. The "challenge" is to get an interview that leaves an impression of knowing where the interviewee is coming from inside and out. An interview with King Diamond would be perfect. More honorable mentions: Strings Of Distorted Doom, Prison Break Radio (WCWP Long Island), The StarShip, SPECTRA*paris, Steel Dragon Entertainment, Wallypalooza metal fest... the list goes on.
When did you start to branch out interviewing artists, authors, zine owners, radio stations, besides
bands? Did you always have sections for poetry, and artwork from others in your zine?
I suppose you could say I "branched out" since I have contacted people from areas of counter-cultural entertainment besides music. It wasn't something that was forced; I didn't reason "now I'm going to branch out" or make a superficial effort to appear more "open-minded" or whatever. It was something that progressed naturally. As early as the first issue I interviewed someone who was running a weekly transgender party at the Pyramid. As far as I know it was practically unheard of to run such an interview in a metal zine. Art the time it was a genuinely open-minded thing, because in 1996-97 transgender parties were on the fringes of entertainment even in the underground and for the most part looked down upon by the mainstream. Also I may have been among the first zine editors to state that women into punk and metal could be considered beautiful even if they did not look like Pamela Anderson. This was another unpopular idea and would likely piss some people off but I said it anyway. This idea was reiterated when I featured fiction-based zines The Gatekeeper and Vampire's Minion in issues #3 and #4, respectively. One of the first poetry contributors from issue #7 on was Lucifera of Endemoniada zine. The first interview of an internet radio host was done with Twan Sibon of Brutalism Radio (Netherlands) in the aforementioned issue #5; that issue also featured an interview with Winston Blakely.
If any labels and bands are reading this and are interested, what styles of music do you cover?
Almost all styles of underground music. from every subgenre of metal to punk and hardcore to goth and psychobilly to everything in between. There is nothing too left field for AEA; the more original, creative, inventive and unlimiting the better. I am accomodating as to who wants to be featured in an interview or have their promos reviewed. For example I recently interviewed the staff of an aggro - industrial label from California, Van Richter Records. The interview turned out well and you can read about some of their bands.
I know you have been a part of the underground metal/hardcore/punk scene for years. How do you feel the scene has changed over the years? Some people say the New York scene is dying or dead. Would you agree or disagree?
I didn't start going to shows until the summer of 1986, so unfortunately I missed the earliest years of the New York scene. Still, I was there early enough to witness many changes taking place from the mid 80s to the present. The most significant changes have been the closing of clubs that existed in the city and Long Island a long time, such as Sundance, Right Track Inn, Wetlands, Coney Island High and of course CBGB which was evicted from 315 Bowery in lower Manhattan after a long legal battle. I still think the eviction of CBGB was the hardest loss to metal in New York and underground music in general as almost all bands could be booked there and there was no discrimination as to which genre a band played. I also think it's a shame that toward the end of the club's era it started to become fashionable to be seen there and the media attention surrounding the eviction was overshadowing the music. I heard that a movie is being made in Hollywood about the early days of the club. I most likely won't be seeing it considering how the punk scene has been shown in a negative light by the movie industry (with the exception of SLC Punk! and a couple other movies). I'd say if you want a truer picture of the punk lifestyle watch a documentary or a band's live DVD featuring their show at the club, That there are fewer places to play has taken a toll on the scene, besides that there are fewer record stores (Lethal CDs and Slipped Disc closed down as well, and I hear that Bleecker Bob's is next to close). But is the scene dying as a result? People had similar suspicions with the thrash scene fading away at the end of the 80s, but death and black metal carried the torch for it in the 90s and thrash has made a comeback. There is a handful of clubs still around with some newer clubs, so the coming years will tell. It sounds clichéd, but it's true: it's for the bands, the zine editors and their supporters to keep the scene alive in the U.S and abroad.
You also have some great writers adding to the zine. Are you currently looking for more new writers or are you happy with how it is now? if you are looking for new writers what should a interested person do to be considered? I often see you do more promoting for other bands, zines, artists and so forth more than your own zine, is there any reason for that? When did you get into morbid cabaret, vampire literature, and paranormal and how has this enhanced your readers?
Most recently I have had a wide and diverse range of writers and artists contribute to the zine. After I interviewed them, Jillanna Babb of the morbid cabaret dance troupe Corpsewax Dollies and G.L. Giles who authored the Vampire Vignettes novels have had poems and fiction run in the zine. Through them I met others who have been likewise published, such as Frank Garcia, Dena Arnote of the alternative clothing line Evil Lily Originals and Donna Smith of the paranormal webzine Psychic Times International. I met poet Rich Orth through shock rocker Demon Boy and he has contributed several poems to the zine. In turn Orth has introduced me to several talents including Levi Lionel Leland, Alexander Kautz, Berenice Wakefield, Jerry Langdon, Steven Michael Pape and Skitz J. Fitch. More noteworthy contributors are Peter Hall and Lush Montana from the U.K. and Rosemary Ward, cosplayer, toy collector and site owner of Screamers Retro Flashbacks (http://screamersretroflashbacks.wordpress.com) which links to her Youtube video blog. As for CD and zine reviews, Liam Guy of The Fallout Magazine, Tony Juarez of Reborn From Ashes zine, Twan Sibon of Brutalisn, Kevin Hansen of Brainscab zine, Victor Varas of Zombie Ritual zine and Dropkick Chris formerly of Deviants Underground Radio among others have contributed. I should add that Deviants Underground Radio has been supportive of AEA and introduced me to several bands from the metal scene in Knoxville, Tennessee in addition to bands from around the world.
I've noticed that you also live by the old school way of word of mouth. How has this changed over the years?
In addition to how the internet has helped bands make a name for themselves on a wider scale, it has also expanded word of mouth reach for fans who want to let friends in neighboring countries know about new bands they just heard of, and so on.
Besides reviews/interviews do you enjoy writing short stories, poetry, etc outside of your zine?
I've written a handful of stuff outside the zine, time and inspiration allowing, I wouldn't mind making time to write some more. I do have a short story published in volume two of the Blood From The Underground anthology series, compiled by the staff of Infernal Dreams webzine who I have reviewed for. G.L. Giles has been published in this anthology with Lucas McPherson, Kristin Theckston and many other writers. Information about Blood From The Underground is at the Infernal Dreams site, infernaldreams.net.
When you are not working on zine business what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I watch classic science fiction movies from the 70s (pre-Star Wars era: Logan's Run, Planet Of The Apes, Rollerball, THX 1138, etc) and classic science fiction TV (Star Trek, Space 1999, Doctor Who, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits). I am a huge fan of horror from the 70s and 80s, especially Italian underground classics and movies produced by Troma Entertainment in the U.S. (likewise featured in AEA). Favorite horror movies include Black Sabbath, The Devil's Rain, Rosemary's Baby, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, The Omen, Carrie, Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, Day Of The Dead, Halloween, Friday The 13th, Return Of The Living Dead, Make Them Die Slowly, Pieces, Mother's Day, Silent Night Deadly Night, The Toxic Avenger, Buio Omega, Three On A Meathook, Alien Prey, Bloodsucking Freaks, I Spit On Your Grave, Suspiria, Cannibal Holiocaust, Zombie, Gates Of Hell, City Of The Walking Dead, Hellraiser, Blair Witch Project and The Devil's Rejects. There are more I can mention but it would take up too much space as I would not want to omit anything. If you like politically incorrect horror-comedies I would recommend the movies of Bill Zebub of The Grimoire Of Exalted Deeds zine and Bill Zebub Productions (www.billzebub.com). Two more movies I would also recommend are At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse by the Brazilian director José Mojica Marins aka Coffin Joe. Those two movies are the most bizarre and avant garde horror movies I've ever seen.
If we were to throw you a party in 2017 what would you prefer metal belly dancing, metal ballet dancing, fire dancing, or a good metal concert?
The party would most likely combine all of the above, together with blood wrestling featuring sexy goth vampiresses and alien space vampiresses. If such an event ever becomes a reality or not remains to be seen, but you never know.
If anyone reading this is thinking of starting up their own metal zine do you have any advice to share with them? Speaking from experience, it pays to stick to your guns in the long haul. People will judge you and try to change you if I will benefit them, but you should remember that underground scenes everywhere have much to offer and there is much potential to generate positive change in the music industry. You can make it on your own terms and set new standards by being yourself, the true key to longevity.
Do you have new releases coming out soon the readers should watch out for?
Issues #22 and #23 are now available (check my Facebook profile for more information), and there is an art and poetry issue available with many long time contributors and a few new talents. I also plan to review for Obscure Chaos in the near future.