The New Noise: An Oral History of Decibel Magazine (Hall of Fame)

By Steven Ward

My favorite part of the magazine, with the exception of the record reviews section, is the Decibel "Hall of Fame" where a writer interviews a band about being in the studio and creating a certain extreme classic album. I live for this stuff. Who came up with the idea for that section? Also, what part of Decibel is your favorite and why?

Albert Mudrian: I conceived the "Hall of Fame" as a nice excuse for us to talk about our favorite records. I'm a pretty nostalgic guy and I still love dozens of the albums that I worshiped in high school, so the success of the "Hall of Fame" article suggests that there are actually plenty more dorks just like me who can't really grow out of certain classic albums. I always wondered why other publications never did anything like this until I discovered what a complete bitch it is to assemble every month. Whether it's tracking down old metal bones or convincing still relevant bands to talk at length about past records considered more relevant than their most recent release, it's always a unique challenge to make each "Hall of Fame" piece a reality.

"Reviews by the Numbers," which Andrew puts together, is actually my favorite part of the magazine. It's got far and away the best comedy-per-square-inch ratio in the magazine every month.

Kevin Stewart-Panko: Honestly, every part of the magazine rules and it's one of the few I read from cover to cover. And considering that I contribute to so many magazines and can't say the same for each and every one probably means something. Or not. I mean, I'll even read the news bits because there's probably going to be something in there that's gonna make me laugh. I'll tell you though, the "Hall of Fame" thing can be such a pain in the ass to put together, especially with Albert's stipulation that every member of the band has to be interviewed (a good call, but that doesn't make it less stressful) and when you have to track down dudes who aren't in the band anymore or someone who has severed all his ties to the music scene and you're doing it on a deadline. Also, by the time you get to asking the fifth member of a band the same questions you just got four totally similar answers to, you're ready to lose it, but it is one of the most compelling parts of the magazine and being someone who's done a few of them, I'm glad you enjoy the feature.

Brent Burton: I've never written one of these, so I have no real input on the "Hall of Fame" feature except as a reader. I think it's a great section. I mean, I'm a history buff, so I always dig the Legs McNeil kinda thing. I did a couple for Laris Kreslins' Sound Collector back in the mid-to-late-'90s: No New York and This Heat.

I'd have to say my favorite section of the mag is the reviews section. My big pet peeve is consumer criticism and I love that Decibel lets the reviews be about ideas. I mean, ultimately, you want people to read a record review because it's good writing, not because you're trying to encourage or discourage a purchase.

I also love Joe Gross' comic book reviews.

I mean, the whole mag just seems aimed at the guy or gal who likes metal, comic books, video games, sci-fi--but doesn't want to be talked down to.

When I write, I always write for the 13-year-old me, the kid who would spend summers in the Roanoke Public Library reading seventies issues of Rolling Stone. That kid had never heard Fairport Convention, or The Stooges, or John Coltrane. But reading that stuff made me want to find out. It was like this key to an unknown world, and in the '80s, in SW Virginia, believe me, that was an unknown world. I just hope that there's some kid out there reading Decibel and realizing that the musical globe is larger than what is easily available in the mainstream. I mean, I owe much of my adult life--whether it's talking opera with my father-in-law, or bonding over Killing Joke records with my future wife, or getting my MLS because I was a college radio jazz DJ--to those discoveries. Shit, Joe Gross is writing a book about comic books. There's a hidden world out there and I just hope that Decibel plays some part in mapping it, and perhaps in showing that you can be a smart, functioning, cariing human being and still give a shit about this stuff.

J. Bennett: My favorite part of Decibel is John Darnielle's "South Pole Dispatch." Dude is a fucking genius, and his column is a goddamn pants-pisser. I love the "Hall of Fame" articles, too, but I'm probably not the most objective person to ask about those because I think I've written most of them. The "Hall of Fame" was 100% Albert's idea. He called me up one day and asked if I wanted to do an oral history on the making of Slayer's Reign In Blood--that was the first one, and it came out in the second issue of the magazine. Two years later, there's like 25 or 26 albums up in that piece.

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Choose a section...

  • Introduction

  • Origins of Decibel

  • Joining the Decibel team

  • Mags that inspired Decibel

  • The Decibel Hall of Fame

  • What kind of man reads Decibel?

  • The joy of Decibel

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