Wednesday 23 August 2017

An Interview With Steve Woodier From THE SHRIEKS FROM BELOW

Today's guest is not an artist, musician or part of any band. He's been a very good friend of mine over the last few years and he does a brilliant job promoting the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene via his excellent website and numerous weekly podcasts via Core Of Destruction Radio.

Today's guest also promotes the heavier side of the underground musical spectrum to an avid fan-base. I wanted to interview the one and only Steve Woodier for quite a while now and he kindly agreed to this interview.

If you don't know who Steve Woodier is – Steve runs The Shrieks From Below.

In this interview Steve spills the beans on how he got involved with the entire blogging scene, where his musical journey began (Before I was even born. Sorry Steve, Couldn't resist that one) and the pitfalls of participating within the Metal Underground Community.

Hi Steve. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Frustrated. Suffering with connectivity issues with the Wi-Fi, so I can’t upload my show onto Mixcloud as the connection keeps dropping. Unfortunately, my computer knowledge is on a par with Paul Rote (Paul writes for Doomed & Stoned) which doesn’t bode well.

How did you get started with the entire blogging scene. Can you give a brief overview how you started and where you're currently writing today.

The reason I put my foot in the door of the blogging scene can be attributed to two things really. Firstly, and mainly, because of my involvement in a forum called Hard Rock Revolution. It was the first time I actively discussed music with like minded individuals. You have to realise, at home, there was no one to talk to about it. I was a complete failure at converting various siblings, Nieces and Nephews to anything remotely heavy, and my son, just shakes his head in pity when I play him something.

It became apparent that my knowledge of the underground music scene was at least the equal of most of the frequent contributors, so it gave me more confidence to express my opinions about it.

Secondly, with the inception of Bandcamp, of which I was a part of from the very early days, it was exciting to post details of new, unknown bands, and receive a really positive reaction on the Forum, so I guess that fuelled the fire.

You're now writing for The Shrieks From Below. How did the blog came about and why did you choose that name for your blog. Though it wasn't the original name for the blog.

I started posting bands on Facebook, I was quite a late started there, and someone must have sensed my enthusiasm because I was approached by Grip of Delusion Radio to play a selection of tracks via a podcast show. The trouble is, because you upload an entire show as one mp3, the Radio Tuna (The bit you click on to play the show) can’t differentiate between the band playlist, so you can’t tell who’s playing at the time. That was then, the entire reason for the blog.

It started as a vehicle to post the running order of bands on the show! My Niece, who was 14 years old at the time, set it up for me. When it was done, I asked her what she thought of it. She told me that the blog looked fine, but the music was shit!

It was originally called ‘Pull The Legs Off The Spider, Tear The Wings Off The Fly.’ I liked it, but as you can see, it is way too long a name, so I picked a something that suited the music I mainly concentrate on, ‘The Shrieks From Below.’I then set up a new blog because I couldn't embed Bandcamp links on the old one, and here I am. The name comes from a track called ‘ It Shrieks From Below’ from one of my favourite doom/death bands, Decrepitaph

You also produce regular podcasts for Core Of Destruction Radio. How did that came about.

I originally started with Grip of Delusion Radio. As I mentioned, Vania contacted me about starting a show. It was difficult at first because of my ineptitude with anything that has a keyboard, but with guidance I gradually managed to set something up. I was literally sweating with nerves before the first show in case it didn’t play, or sounded really crap or something, goodness knows what I’d be like if I played a live one, which, incidentally will be the next step. Hopefully I can find someone who can show me how to do it. Things didn’t quite work out for one reason or another, no ones fault really, so I eventually found my way onto Core of Destruction Radio after contacting Jerry Wood.

Is that a time consuming process to create a regular/weekly podcast for Core Of Destruction Radio.

It’s a royal pain in the arse, particularly if you’re a perfectionist like me. You choose the tracks, then load them onto something called Audacity. Sometimes, the bit-rate of the track is poor, so you have to individually nurse it to a better sound. Then you record your voice which I hate doing. My son reckons I sound like Michael Owen’s football commentary on the telly.

The beauty of recording everything first is that I can edit out most of the erms and uhms before it goes on air. Then you have to meld the tracks together so it sounds as seamless as possible with no discernible gaps between them, before converting it to an mp3 version. I then listen to it myself to make sure I haven’t fucked up anywhere, before its uploaded into Dropbox for one of the guys to load onto the server.

I always sweat a little that its been loaded on time, mainly because If I promote it and mention the bands that are featured, It would be embarrassing to say the least if it didn’t actually play. I don’t help myself though because I’m always last minute. It usually takes me six hours to prepare a one hour show.

How do you decide on which bands to feature and the theme for your podcasts.

Mostly random. (there’s a surprise) If a label or band is kind enough to provide me with a promotional copy of an album, out of courtesy at the very least, I’ll play something from it. A track may come up on shuffle on my ITUNES library that makes me want to play it on the show. I also make a point to always play some older songs.

My reasoning is that there are always people who have just started listening to this kind of music, so why not play them some of classics? I played ‘Jim Beam and Good Green’ by The Glasspack as a case in point last month, I also love that song which also helped. I try and mix it up a little with different genres. I rarely bother with themes, although after some light hearted banter with Billy Goate (Doomed & Stoned Head Editor) and Leanne Ridgeway (Riff Relevant Co-Editor), I did an animal cruelty episode featuring bands such as Owlcrusher and Chimpgrinder

Do you ever think about doing interviews, news and features with bands and include them on your podcasts. Something similar to what Billy Goate does at Doomed & Stoned. Or would you rather just focus on the music.

To be honest I just don’t have the time, but that may be a weak excuse for not having the confidence either. My main goal is promoting the bands, mainly unsigned ones. There’s nothing like receiving a message from someone thanking you for playing a song of theirs that they’ve put an inordinate amount of time and trouble into, ans saying that they’ve received a couple of extra sales, or ‘likes’ off the back of it

What has been the overall reaction to your podcasts from fans, labels and bands in general.

Its all been positive. I have bands and labels contact me regularly. As you know yourself Steve, you can develop pretty close ties with some of them. People like Maurice from Blues Funeral, The Doomstress, Alexis Hollada and B!X of Psython regularly comment on posts and put themselves about amongst the relevant groups on Facebook and that's commendable and you can imagine the likes of those guys being really approachable at gigs. The blog is getting more hits each month, and my shows on Mixcloud usually climb pretty high in the Metal Charts, so its all good.

You have a wide range of musical tastes across different genres. Though I know you focus more on the extreme side of music. What are your favourite genres of music and why do they appeal to you.

I know that I have a reputation for liking the more extreme side of underground music, but personally I think that’s something of a misconception. My musical tastes have never been as diverse as they are now, I think its just that I will stretch the boundaries further than some. In saying that, doom/sludge and doom/death are probably my first choice, but something by, say, Earthless, will run those pretty close.

At the moment I’m having a crossover thrash revival. I have always liked the underbelly of the scene. I dunno, I just love the dense guitar sound and the dynamics and, OK I’ll admit it, it does appeal to me to not be part of the herd that listens to more mainstream music. I lead an average life, have an average job, so this kind of music helps me to be a little different

Which band, artist, album or genre did you first become a fan of. How did your love-affair with music began.

My love affair with music started in 72/73. A mate of mine had a brother who was into Wishbone Ash, Steely Dan, that kind of thing. He took us to see Hawkwind at the Liverpool Stadium. Part of the gig ended up on the Space Ritual live album. I loved the experience, but the band didn’t move me too much. It wasn’t until the same brother bought me Black Sabbath’s Sabotage for my birthday,that I turned to the dark side. In those days you were either into Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull and bands of that ilk, or you took the left hand path with Black Sabbath, and that's the path I took.

Then along came Sad Wings of Destiny by Judas Priest and that firmly cemented my love of heavier music. At that time, the advertising blurbs described Priest as the heaviest band in the world, so that was good enough for me. Actually, I think this path was inevitable. I listened to Slade and The Sweet before Sabbath took a hold. If you listen to some of the b sides of some of The Sweet singles, tracks like ‘Burn On The Flame’ and ‘Cockroach’ then you’ll realise that behind the facade, some of these bands actually rocked like fuck.

I thought Bucky Brown from The Ripple Effect and Bandcamp Download Hoarder had an extensive BandCamp collection. Until I saw your profile. Fuck. Over 3310 purchases and counting. How have you managed to build such a huge collection. (No wonder your wife bans you from buying stuff).

I’m obsessed with Bandcamp, aren’t we all hahaha! I started on Bandcamp from the early days and it just bloomed from there. Most of the music I play, I’ve bought myself which I’m quite proud of. Quite often I’ll get a download code from a band , but I’ve already bought the damn thing. Ben from She Beast always sends one a week after I’ve bought it, I’m sure he does it on purpose.

You have to realise that in the 70’s and 80’s you found out about bands by word of mouth, or tape trading. I used to trade stuff of the up and coming NWOAHM bands like Vio-lence and Dark Angel. I was an avid reader of the ‘Sounds’ music paper. When the latest copy came out, it was the highlight of my week. So now something as awesome as Bandcamp is available I’m like a bull in a china shop. In saying that, for every gem on there, there are 100 absolute shiters.

Which physical media do you prefer – Cassette, CD or Vinyl.

I only buy mp3’s now, mainly for my iTUNES library and to play on the show. I might find the odd CD in a charity shop, one of the older classics maybe. I don’t own a cassette player, and I don’t own a turntable. Also, imagine the grief I’d get if I bought Vinyl?

Do you have particular favourite album on vinyl you like to listen to all the time.

As mentioned before, I don’t play vinyl, haven't for years, although I really miss the days when I would hop on the bus to Penny Lane Records in Liverpool and browse through the wax there. Some of the covers were works of art.

Like myself, you're heavily involved with The Doom Charts. Do you like doing the monthly doom charts or does it take it's toll on you.

I have to hold my hands up. I haven’t contributed for a while, mainly because of the time factor. Also, most of my votes never ended up on there hahahaha!

That’s not a gripe by the way because I still follow what goes on and I know that the actual voting is regularly discussed and the guys are always looking for ways to improve it.

Has is it surprised you how well liked the Doom Charts have become and well respected by the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community in general.

No, not really surprised, there are some pretty big hitters who contribute. Plus, its a handy way of seeing what you’ve missed. The biggest problem, for me is that it doesn’t, or can’t, truly reflect what’s going on in the doom scene. It doesn’t represent the real underbelly of the scene and as such remains populist. Its difficult to amend that, and again it is acknowledged by the contributors, because the majority of the guys are into similar sounds.

Lucas Klaukein asked me to contribute for that very reason, but, unfortunately there needs to be more people who are into the more extreme part of it. However, as I’ve said, the guys are aware of that, and it’s good to see that all of the hard work they put in is rewarded.

You're highly respected within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community. What things do you like being involved with the community. Are there certain aspects you don't like when promoting bands across the entire scenes.

The best thing is when a Banda acknowledges that you’ve actually made a difference to their sales or standing within the scene. I concentrate on the little guys, the ones without labels, or have a demo that they have spent a lot of time on and are really proud of. They ask you what you think of it and occasionally you have to say wow! Cave Suns was an example.

Another one was a band called Black Thyria. I played a track of theirs on the show last month and they couldn’t believe that someone was actually playing one of their songs. It makes the effort and the expense worth while.

On the downside, all too often you can promote a show and the bands can’t even be bothered to share the post. Some of their, ahem, public relations leave a lot to be desired. Another downside is receiving a promo, but then you can’t do anything until such a blog, or radio station has streamed it or previewed it first. I’m well aware that there are many, many, blogs and shows with more clout than mine, but my time is precious and I refuse to tread on eggshells.

I had to pull a show at the last minute once when a label got all shirty about a track I was going to play, saying that it was going to be part of a press release and under no circumstances was it to be played. That’s after I asked, and received permission to play it, I always check as a matter of courtesy first. Band who are just starting out just want their music played and don’t care where and when, and are usually humble with it.

What have been your favourite albums of 2017 so far.

I was dreading this question. Another vintage year so far, and I don’t keep lists. The Grim Ravine’s ‘The Light is From Below’ is a favourite, as is ‘Rotten Sabbat’ by Regress. Recent favourite is So Much For The Sun’s self titled. I’m also looking forward to ‘Veneration Rites’ by Longbarrow

How do you relax away from the crazy world of blogging. As we all need time away to chill out.

Music takes up a HUGE amount of my time, so there isn’t much time for anything else. I live right alongside a canal, so I love walking the dog, then breakfast at the local pub. I did go fishing, but just don’t get the time. I love football, both watching and playing. Liverpool FC is my team. Otherwise its music, music, music.

Well Steve. Thanks for doing this interview. Great catching up. Do you have any final words of wisdom you would like to share with us all.

Thanks Steve. Being asked to do this was a great surprise, and a huge honour. Words of wisdom, hmmm. I’ve noticed a lot if squabbling between various factions of the scene recently, whether it be bloggers or YouTubers. Its making the bands choose who to align themselves with, which, in the long run isn’t a good thing. We all need a united front.

For example, if you receive a death metal album to review, but you never touch that particular genre normally, then rather ignore it, send it to a blog that will be keen to promote it. Share the albums around with each other, get the music out there. Obviously get the permission of the band, label or PR Rep in question before doing this.

As for the bands and labels, if you see that a blog has reviewed an album or gig of yours, then at the very least show interest by sharing it, the guy who wrote it has not done it for financial reward, but for the sheer love of your music, same with the radio shows.

kiddies, always wear ear plugs at makes sense in the long run, take it from one who knows.

Finally, ffs, don’t forget the enjoyment you once had listening to music and discovering new bands, keep the flame burning inside, things have never been so good with this amazing scene.

Words by Steve Howe and Steve Woodier

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