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

By Steven Ward

Decibel's Managing Editor Andrew Bonazelli, Publisher Alex Mulcahy, and Editor in Chief Albert Mudrian.
(Photographed by Jamie Leary.)

Who came up with the idea for Decibel and how did it get off the ground?

Nick Terry: Albert pitched the idea to his bosses circa 2003. I was already writing for Red Flag's in-store publications, as Albert had coaxed me out of semi-retirement in 2002 by asking me to write the foreword for his book on death metal. So I got to hear quite a bit about the plans, and helped brainstorm some of the ideas, including the name for the magazine. Originally we were thinking of calling it Powertrip (after the Monster Magnet song). I pushed for Sabotage, a Beastie Boys and Black Sabbath song, but post-9/11 that might not have been such a good idea. Sabotage was the name for a magazine that Catherine Yates and I dreamed up when we were inches away from quitting Terrorizer in the summer of 2000, because of an asshole boss.

J. Bennett: As far as I know, Decibel was and is Albert's baby. He was the editor at Red Flag's in-store publications--Gallery Of Sound, Stereotype, Volume X , etc.--which are pretty much all the same magazine but with different names and covers for each region of the country. I'm not sure exactly how Decibel got off the ground, but I imagine Albert pitched the idea to Red Flag's publisher, Alex Mulcahy, and somehow conned him into it. There might even have been sexual favors involved, but one can never be sure.

Albert Mudrian: It's hard to say when the idea first germinated, but I guess it was sometime in the fall of 2003 when I was finishing up my book, Choosing Death. Red Flag Media's president and publisher, Alex Mulcahy, had really wanted to develop a newsstand publication for several years prior. At the time, we were only producing in-store music magazines for several mid-sized indie music retailers, which catered to a general audience of rock and pop music buyers. Anyway, I really felt that there was a market in the United States for a metal magazine that covered extreme music the way that magazines like Spin used to cover pop music and culture. I was confident that we could fill that glaring void, but I knew we'd pretty much have to kill ourselves just to get the magazine off the ground. Our experience was in custom publishing and we knew there would be a serious learning curve with a newsstand publication. Alex knew little about national distribution and I didn't know the first thing about selling ads, but to launch Decibel those were the respective duties we needed to take on in addition to the regular publisher and editor roles. Thankfully, we both improved enough at our jobs in first few months to expose a decent amount of people to Decibel and create some really organic momentum with it.

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  • Introduction

  • Origins of Decibel

  • Joining the Decibel team

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  • The Decibel Hall of Fame

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  • The joy of Decibel

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