Saturday, 3 March 2018

A Fan's Perspective - An Interview With GIZMO

After doing my first “Fan's Perspective” interview the other week and receiving some cool praise for it. I've decided to do another interview with a genuine fan of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.

Today's interviewee likes his music in the more extreme side of Heavy Metal. Though he still loves some of the music that we promote here.

I'm talking to a very cool dude by the name of Gizmo. I've known Gizmo through Social Media over the last 4 years or so and he's supported me since the start. What makes this more interesting is that Gizmo is a regular reviewer on the fantastic website – Ave Noctum.

Gizmo is brutally honest in certain parts of this interview and that's why I'm a huge fan of his work and consider him a true friend

So sit back and read Gizmo's thoughts of the current Hard Rock/Heavy Metal scene.

Hi Gizmo. Thanks for doing this interview. Hope things are OK with you today.

Hi Steve. No problem. It's an absolute pleasure. Not to mention an honour. You know how much I admire your selfless dedication to the scene.

You’re probably wondering why I decided to interview you. I wanted to try doing something different from the usual round of interviews. I want to talk to a real fan from the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal community. Get their thoughts on the scene in general. Though your love of the genre is rooted within Thrash/Death/Black Metal bands.

That sounds like a great idea. I really look forward to them all.

I would probably add traditional heavy metal and true doom in there to my roots. I also like a fair bit of dark ambient and weird shit. Or as a mate one said "infuriatingly eclectic"...! But we'll ignore the non rock/metal stuff here. I'm a metalhead. It's how I define myself.

How did you become a fan of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.

That one is easy. The Sweet. For your younger readers (ie. Everyone!) they were the greatest of the glam rock bands of the 70s with a pop edge to their hits. However their albums and live shows stripped out the pop keyboards and dialled up the heavy rock to astounding levels for the time. Hugely underrated band. As a little kid I was mesmerised by the sound and the sight. 

I was under 10 when Blockbuster was released. But it primed me for 1976 when aged 11 I first heard Blue Oyster Cult and ' (Don't Fear) The Reaper. I also discovered the legendary Tommy Vance on BBC Radio 1s Friday Night Rock Show. It was also just on the cusp of the bombshell that was the NWOBHM. Perfect timing. That was it; I was in it for life.

Which bands did you start supporting or following first.

Blue Oyster Cult as above was the first rock/metal single I bought. Then I heard UFO's 'Shoot Shoot` and was blown away and Strangers In The Night was the first album I bought. Then came Rush, Rainbow (Dio and Graham Bonnet period), Motorhead and Iron Maiden.

I also need to mention probably my favourite band of all time Celtic Frost (who I was lucky enough to see live on the Into The Pandemonium tour with Kreator and Virus supporting.) They were a second awakening for me and with Emperor, Opeth and (briefly) Cradle Of Filth later my gateway into the underground.

Do you still love these bands to the current day.

BOC absolutely. Saw them live for the umpteenth time last year and they still kill it. Motorhead too; They were still at the top of their game when Lemmy died, bless him. Rush and me parted company around Signals; I'm not a prog fan on the whole. I still listen to old UFO but not new stuff. Iron Maiden I guess I'm a fan, but not a huge one. Book Of Souls was amazing but who ever has the time to listen to it all? Haha.

Still a huge Celtic Frost fan, early Emperor. Opeth got way too prog for me. COF not so much a fan now haha.

Who are your favourite bands/artists to listen to this day.

Loads as you can imagine but active bands? Solstice of course. Atlantean Kodex who I've been following since their demo days. Procession. Skepticism. The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, A Forest Of Stars. Rotting Christ, Sargeist, Winterfylleth, Wolves In The Throne Room, Eastern Front, Forteresse, Chthonic, Destroyer 666. Brilliant Edinburgh sludge/doom band Of Spire & Throne. Conan. Monster Magnet. Extreme death metal act Portal, Solstafir, Godflesh. And a few synthwave bands at the moment too!

So what is your verdict on the new Solstice album. As I know you’ve been waiting for this album for such a long time. Does it live up to the hype.

Ah well, there will be a review up on Ave Noctum in due course (quick plug or Thee Editor would kill me). But suffice to say even after a 20 year wait (bear in mind they were only inactive for five years of that) it does not disappoint. Anyone into epic metal needs it. You know I can get a bit... metaphysical about music but it is earthy, gutsy as hell, so rooted in the land that I was wandering around fields in Yorkshire and you could almost feel the long dead bones beneath stirring.

In your own words what’s it like being a fan in today’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal community.

Away from the Internet self appointed scene police; there is nothing to compare. Sure we get ignored or when noticed by the mainstream just mocked and belittled but we want it that way, right? I've taken that for over 40 years. We were the kids in the corner, alone at school. About 5 of us. Water off a duck's back now.

This music is still done for the love and the joy, no one apart from a tiny minority really make a living at it. It is the last refuge of true artists. Go and talk to a local band near you, like the superb death metal vikings Valafar from Keighley who work their bollocks off gigging, writing, organising festivals, the whole nine yards. Down to earth, funny guys but so into what they do.

We all feel like outsiders, mavericks. And we are. It's not music, it's a life choice. I feel so proud when I chat to younger people and see they get it. I don't care about gender, race, sexual orientation or background - you're metal in any guise, you're in.

Any advantages or disadvantages supporting the music we love and know.

Honestly? Rant ahoy! Frankly the Internet for both.

It makes it easy to get music out there and for us to find it as fans. As an artist you can interact directly with fans across the globe, get funding and sell merchandise direct and talk to like minded bands and organise events that would be impossible otherwise. That is wonderful. Truly beyond anything I dreamt of as a teenager during tape-trading NWOBHM and having only one radio show only for metal fans of all genres. It should make you wide eyed with wonder and joy.

On the downside - basically I have come to the sad conclusion that humanity on the whole is not mature enough to use the Internet to speak to one another yet, certainly not to discuss things like music let alone politics and who betide when the two come together. It is one place where a tiny number of idiots can indeed bully and drown out the silent majority and convince others that their garbage has validity somehow. Too many people do not talk via keyboards the same way they would talk face to face which results in too much behaviour towards to others that is at best wilfully ill-informed and at worst downright vile.

People end up being too quick to bare fangs online thinking "no-one really gets hurt". Newsflash - They do. Badly. You can wreck someone's life acting like a shit online even with just a couple of comments as you never know who you are actually speaking to. I know, I am one of those people who has been damaged. And it can come back on the bullies and trolls too. Basically, me, I have long standing mental health issues and am too weak to cope with the vile and aggressive nature of it and now stay well away from it. I'd rather chat to my mates in a pub, or bands at gigs (if I don't get too fan-boy ish).

It's not an age thing as you might think - many of my equally old friends are way more robust than me.

But what frustrates me beyond all reason is that people are becoming pathologically lazy in their thought processes when it comes to verifying information and fact. They willingly allow themselves to regurgitate garbage laid down by people with political or mischief agendas without examining what they are saying, they don't investigate things themselves as they either can't be arsed or have already made their mind up based on someone else's post or some perceived mantra that might make them look cool or edgy.

That behaviour is so easy for small cliques to manipulate towards their own ends - just look at the US election, or a weird example visit a Flat Earth forum (they exist) and see how some answers and phrases are just used to cut off questions that expose uncomfortable truths. Then take that behaviour down to music scene level and it becomes clear how easy it it to manipulate 'opinion'.

I absolutely loathe and despise it. I used to watch threads with fans tearing themselves apart online and almost wept with frustration.We're fans of metal in all its forms; doom, stoner, sludge, thrash, black, death whatever. We are supposed to be the outsiders together, free thinkers not herd-like repeaters of stupid memes, not ripping ourselves into smaller and smaller pieces. /Rant

You play a prominent role in reviewing albums on the excellent website – Ave Noctum. How did you get involved with reviewing albums and for that website.

Prominent? Dunno about that haha. They have some well known names on their roster.
The first reviews I ever did were for my university paper. A mate had started doing it so I pestered him for a go. I thought about trying for it full time after uni but in the end I I'm glad I didn't. I know music journalists now. I'd be dead haha. But I really enjoyed it and a decade ago or so ago a friend who I had met through a metal record shop where I used to hang out (remember them?) started going out with a lad I got to be great mates with and he was writing for a site called MTUK and suggested I had a go.

I looked at it and liked the ethos which is basically no pop, no emo, no racist agenda but that was about it which suited me perfectly and thought, fuck it, and sent a couple of reviews in. Pete Woods the editor and long time journalist at every damn magazine you can think of liked it.

One was was the Conan demo Battles In The Swamp. MTUK changed to Ave Noctum and the rest is history. Incidentally the guy who owned that record store? He writes for Ave Noctum too now - he's the undisputed king of power metal and melodic folk, his knowledge is extraordinary and he's a top bloke is Andy Barker.

Are you the resident expert on Ave Noctum for reviewing certain genres and bands.

Some bands yes but genres? Not really. I think originally I was intended to plug a little gap in the true doom area as that was definitely my thing (apologies but as you know I'm a hardliner on being distinct about the various doom factions - we're talking old Solstice, Reverend Bizarre, Gates Of Slumber, Wall Of Sleep etc) and they already had a better, brilliant expert on NWOBHM and traditional metal but there is so little going on true doom wise now I kind of graduated towards being a sweeper up! Not in a detrimental meaning, but with a few exceptions (I can't get on with all the 70s retread bands for example) I'll try anything now. 

I guess though my comfort zones are heavy metal, black metal, particularly atmospheric stuff, and old school death metal and unless Pete wants it I think I'm probably the go to guy for the difficult weird shit. Put it this way I loved The Axis Of Perdition's Urfe album and gave a great review to an album that was basically recordings of the number radio stations set to minimalist ambient music!

I've also recently branched out into book reviews for them and I came into contact with Dayal Patterson at Cult Never Dies who is doing some astounding work. They put out some amazing books including the brilliant Doom Metal Lexicanum which I reviewed, written by one of your contributors Aleksey Evdokimov of course.

What is the best and worst parts reviewing albums

The best part is just hearing stuff you would never, ever stumble across by yourself. Completely of the beaten track stuff. I heard Tengger Cavalry when they were sneaking stuff out of China, A Forest Of Stars when they were hitting their stride. I got introduced to Of Spire & Throne which was a huge day for me, I really admire their DIY ethos too...too many to mention. Then there's the inspiration of writing when an album really shakes you to your core and the words just flow because you want to share it. It fills a gap in my soul: I need to write. It's the only way I can give back to the scene that has always been there for me.

The other great thing is I get to do interviews too. I'm a rather bad interviewer I think but I got a great interview from Atlantean Kodex as they are such intelligent people with an academic background that feeds their music, and I interviewed Forteresse and I hope put to bed some of the shit that has been flung at them as they willingly tackled head on those issues without any ambiguity and gave great, positive answers.

The worst thing is trying to be constructive and finding anything to say when faced with dull, cookie cutter music. I always try to be constructive - I can't sing, I can't play but I can write and I try to remember that when reviewing. I try never to ridicule. Maybe I fail sometimes. I dunno. Yeah, that's the worst.

What is your preferred choice of listening to music. CD, Digital, Cassette, Vinyl, Mini-Disc.

The best for me is vinyl which I still buy. Your brain takes in analogue music better in my opinion plus of course the big covers can show off the art better and it reconnects to my teenage years. But my life allows very little time for that so I'm mostly stuck with digital but given the chance my digital format of choice is FLAC.

Do you buy a lot of physical music or do you just buy Digital Downloads.

Sore point. I'm a hoarder. I love and feel safe surrounding myself with objects but mostly books, comics, vinyl, cds, dvds, BluRays. But I have no shelves or space left and the floor is covered in piles of stuff so I'm trying to move myself to digital more. I'm good with IT so it's not a problem, but I love the physical stuff and always crack in the end. I mean when you're at a gig and you already have the t shirt what are you gonna do?

You’ve been to a lot of great gigs over the years. What have been your favourite gigs that you’ve attended.

The best will always be difficult. There was a Blue Oyster Cult gig in Birmingham in the 80s when they walked on stage and said "You could have gone to see Anthrax tonight, so thank you for not going." and basically ripped up the set list and played, even for them, completely out of their socks. When your guitarist breaks a string mid solo, transposes without a break and at the one moment he can change, holds up his arms and a roadie rushes on, pulls the guitar off, slips the other over and the guitarist comes in perfectly on time you know the band is on fire.

There was the Celtic Frost gig mentioned earlier. Their guitar amp blew up in the middle of that set and it took so long to replace that they'd done the bass solo, the drum solo and resorted to jokes in bad English but when it was done... Just wow. They played so hard the blood was literally flying because they cut themselves on the strings. Amazing.

Solstice at Glasgow supporting Atlantean Kodex with Dark Forest opening for them was just such a celebration I was swept away. Seeing Dark Forest right at the front after their own set said everything to me.

Rotting Christ at Damnation was without a doubt the best festival set I have ever seen. They just blew the place apart by their connection with the crowd despite initial sound problems, which they overcame by sheer force of personality.

Neurosis at the first Temples was apocalyptic. The band were just not going to leave until they had drained every bit of energy from the crowd. It was just a war of attrition by the end of two hours. Exhilarating and exhausting.

Also have to add Diamanda Galas at Glasgow. Ever been in an audience of punks, metalheads, people in black tie getup and classical music fans and been deafened by a woman playing a piano and putting every bit of her soul out on stage? I have :-D

I know you attend a high amount of Heavy Metal festivals each year. Which ones do you attend regularly and which one is your favourite.

The regulars are Damnation (bit of a love/hate relationship that though as I had a bit of a mental health crisis there one year), ManorFest, Warhorns, Temples (yeah that went to shit so looking for a replacement still). Other things as they come. Honestly though Warhorns is my favourite and brilliant - run by fans and musicians who are just so cool and so sincere you just want to help them any way you can, small so my crowd issues don't kick off, so friendly it's unreal and you will see bands you will never see anywhere else in the UK at a venue run by a metalhead with staff to match. Oh and decent beer too. It's brilliant.

I know you have your normal daily life to contend with. How hard is it for you to listen to music.

Haha... Well that's kinda funny cos I commute at least 75 minutes by bus each way every weekday. Plenty of time to listen, review, enjoy, zone out. Hell you need to. Minimum of 2.5 hours a day. Excluding weekends. That's a lot of music time :-D

Well Gizmo. Thanks for doing this interview. Much appreciated. I want to thank you for your never-ending support over the last few years or so.

Thank you too Steve, this has been a great bit of fun, and a genuine honour. I'm always amazed at your resilience and devotion to the scene you support despite the crap. Keep kicking against the pricks mate. Outlaws Of The Sun is a brilliant achievement and I remain an avid reader.

Words by Steve Howe and Gizmo

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