I’ve been writing pop culture reviews for a long, long time. In high school, I published a horror zine called The End and did some horror movie reviews there. (I also worked on my high school newspaper, but I was an artist there, not a writer.) Then in 1995, four years after I graduated high school, I started publishing a zine called Ant, The Only Cool Magazine That Bites. Weird title, I know. I think I went with it because “ant” is part of the names of two of my favorite bands, Anthrax and Warrant. You see, the zine was devoted to hair metal, although nobody ever called it hair metal when it was popular. It was simply called heavy metal.
The reason I started Ant was that I was sick of grunge and was especially disgusted with magazines that were entirely about heavy metal bands for 15 years but had stopped covering them entirely to cover grunge. I understood that grunge was the new thing, but I felt like they should still be covering the hair bands, too, since they were continuing to release new music while grunge was going on and most of the bands were putting out some of their best albums. Some of their albums even had grunge influences. The only good thing about the world turning against hair bands was that the bands were desperate for coverage, so I had no trouble securing interviews with them. The very first issue had 10 or 11 interviews, if memory serves me correctly. Maybe it was 12. Definitely at least 1o,
I published Ant bi-monthly for a couple of years. And boy was it exhausting. I was doing at least a dozen interviews for every issue and very few artists did e-mail interviews back then. They were all phoners, which needed to be transcribed after they were done. And since my interviews were always between 45 minutes and an hour, it would take me an entire day just to transcribe one of them. So, 12 interviews equaled 12 days of doing nothing but transcribing every couple of months. I also wrote music reviews, concert reviews, etc. Plus, it took me time to research and write my questions. (OK, to be fair, I didn’t have to do much research, as I’d been studying these bands obsessively for years.) Meanwhile, I was working around 60 hours per week in group homes where developmentally disabled individuals lived, which is a very exhausting job. So, regrettably, I stopped publishing Ant after a year and a half. I believe there were 8 issues.
Around the time I was stopping Ant, a guy from New Jersey named Kurt Torster asked me if I wanted to do a movie e-zine. (An e-zine was an e-mail newsletter. These were popular in the mid to late ’90’s because it wasn’t very easy to start a website back then unless you were an HTML expert.) I loved movies, so I didn’t hesitate to say yes. In fact, I was and am an aspiring screenwriter. (I’ve written over 30 screenplays already, so when an agent finally signs me they’re going to hit the jackpot. At least I’d like to think so. ) Our movie e-zine was called Vidiots: The E-zine Formatted To Fit Your Screen. In addition to new movie reviews, we did reviews of old favorites, movie news and posted the weekly box office chart.
I believe it was two years after we were doing Vidiots that Chris Gore of Film Threat contacted me. He asked if we wanted to do something with Film Threat. Well, Film Threat was a movie magazine that had been around for over 10 years and it had just become a gorgeous, full color magazine, so I said yes. Besides, Gore said we wouldn’t have to change anything except the name of the e-zine. Since it had been weekly, we simply decided to call it Film Threat Weekly. That decision was easy.
Unfortunately, dealing with Gore quickly became very stressful. We’d stopped doing Vidiots already, telling people we were doing something with Film Threat, but we soon wanted to quit Film Threat Weekly. Gore constantly criticized myself and my friends I’d brought aboard to write for it, Christian Escobar, Raymond Belair and Jody Boyns. These were all great guys, very psyched to be doing something with Film Threat, but Gore started trying to steer me away from them as soon as we started. At one point he said I was the editor and they could be fired (or let go, I don’t remember exact words here). This greatly frustrated me because the only fun thing about doing Film Threat Weekly was that I was getting to do it with my friends, plus we were supposed to get paid. Then I had a huge argument with Gore because he wanted to run an article with a hugely offensive title and I wasn’t comfortable with it. So, I asked my friends about it, thinking they’d tell me not to worry about it, that it was no big deal. But they thought it was an even bigger deal than I did. They even went so far as to say they’d quit if I ran that. And I wasn’t going to keep doing it if they quit. So, I told Gore I wasn’t running it. I pointed out that the e-mail address was through my AOL account and I didn’t want to risk losing my membership by sending that out. Also, I was the editor. And when people see something they don’t like in a magazine, newspaper, etc, they often bash the editor as much as the writer. Sometimes even more, since the editor is the one who’s supposed to know better and not publish politically incorrect, inflammatory things. Well, Gore liked having his way and the argument went on for something like a week and a half and I quit and my friends did as well. All in all, I believe we did 8 or 9 weekly issues of Film Threat Weekly before we all quit.
Shortly after quitting Film Threat Weekly, my friends and I decided to continue doing what we were doing, just not in conjunction with Film Threat. We quickly put out an issue under the title Hollywood Underground. We couldn’t come up with a name and I suggested that and nobody else could think of anything better, so we just went with that. But we were trying to come up with something better. And I thought of the word the French use to describe movie magazines: cinezine. And so we became Cinezine. And we did Cinezine weekly for around 5 years. That was a lot of hard work. We all had to see two movies per week and review them. That was big commitment but we did it. But around the five year mark I got terribly burned out and decided that I wanted to quit. I had been the editor and the one who sent it out, so I was doing a little more than the other guys and I just got too exhausted to continue doing it. Fortunately, they understood and continued doing it without me for about a year then they got burned out on it, too, and that was the end of Cinezine.
By the time Cinezine was in its second year a friend, Anne Leighton of Hit Parader magazine, got me a gig writing for LiveWire magazine, which was an international music magazine distributed all over the U.S., Canada and the UK. Best of all, they were letting me have my own column, which I called Movies, Media and Mayhem. The emphasis was obviously on movies but I could write whatever I wanted there. I might plug a new laserdisc — they were still all the rage back then — or a mini disc player or a TV show. I just couldn’t do music coverage there. That being said, they started hiring me to do interviews, concert reviews, album reviews, etc. This went on for a couple of years but then LiveWire went out of business. The publisher was nearing bankruptcy and couldn’t carry it anymore, as it wasn’t one of their most popular magazines. They decided to mostly just publish porn magazines, the biggest one being Oui, which had been around for twenty years or longer. As soon as I heard that LiveWire was history I called the editor of Oui, who I’d spoken with before when he wanted to run some of my LiveWire stuff in Oui, and asked him if he’d be interested in my column Movies, Media and Mayhem. I said it’d basically be the same thing I was doing for LiveWire except that now I’d be able to talk about music. He went for it and the gig ended up paying roughly 3x what LiveWire was paying. Unfortunately, the publisher did end up filing bankruptcy after a couple years of my writing for Oui and they’d been behind on payments at that point and I was owed over 1000 dollars so that left a bad taste in my mouth.
While I was writing for LiveWire and Oui I started e-mailing back and forth with Scott Hefflon, the publisher and editor at large of the Boston based pop culture magazine Lollipop. The next thing I knew, I was writing for them. And I was able to get my own column again. This time it was called Import Zone and it was devoted to music imports. About half of them were foreign language releases and about half of them were just regular albums that weren’t released in the U.S. I had a lot of fun doing that one. And I also did a lot of interviews and music reviews, too.
Another thing I did was conduct a series of Interviews Askew for Kevin Smith’s website, interviewing lots of people who’d been in his movies up until then. I didn’t get to interview Ben Affleck for Interviews Askew, but I had already interviewed him for Cinezine and it was an in person interview when he was promoting Chasing Amy. Other people I’ve interviewed over the years include Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars. Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler. Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach. Author Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape; he wrote the book and the screenplay for the movie). Chip Z’Nuff of Enuff Z’Nuff. Scott Ian of Anthrax. Pretty much any metal guy I wanted to talk to, I could get on the phone. It was like six degrees of separation. I always knew somebody who knew somebody else that could put me in touch with whoever I wanted to interview.
Eventually Lollipop magazine went out of business and I was left feeling mighty discouraged about writing for magazines. I’d like to do so again but I haven’t had a contact at any magazines in years. If you know of any who are looking for writers, please let me know.
After Lollipop was gone, I focused on my screenwriting for a while and steered clear of entertainment journalism. But then a friend asked me to review Asian music for his site, OtakuDX, and I started doing that. I always loved reviewing music in foreign languages even though I don’t know any except for some French. I just look at the voice as an instrument and can appreciate it as such even when I don’t understand the lyrics. But after doing the Asian music reviews for a couple of years, I started feeling like I wanted to write about other types of music, too. So, the friend who owns OtakuDX got me set up with Love is Pop, which I am the owner of. I’ve been doing Love is Pop now for at least a couple of years. Maybe it’s only 2 but it feels a lot longer because I’ve done so many reviews during that time.
And during all of this time I have been doing entertainment journalism, I’ve managed to write 30 screenplays, 2 novels and one memoir. So, yes, I really need an agent. If you could recommend one, please do!
During the coming months, I want to shift the focus of Love is Pop from reviews to interviews. I have much more fun doing interviews than writing reviews. And I’m feeling a little burned out on writing reviews right now. So, expect a lot more interviews. And I’m not just looking to interview musicians. I want to widen the scope of Love is Pop and include actors, filmmakers, etc. So, stay tuned! And if you know any actors or screenwriters and such who’d like to be featured here, definitely point them in my direction. They don’t even need to be famous so long as they’ve made something that my readers can check out.