RockCritics.com
 


Triumvirate of Metal Knowledge
Chück Eddy, Martin Popoff, and Deena Weinstein
Face Off and Talk Loud Guitars and Stuff

Convened, Refereed, and Transcribed (poor fellow...) by Brian O'Neill

To preview Ozzfest 2001 for Columbus Alive, a local alternative newsweekly serving Central Ohio, I wanted to do something different than just interview some bands. After convincing my editor of the validity of my idea and managing to get the logistical nightmares sorted out, I got Chuck Eddy, Martin Popoff and Deena Weinstein, three of the world's pre-eminent critics of metal with several books on the subject between them (all on my bookshelf, I hasten to add), together on the phone for a conference call. The interview lasted about an hour, meaning 15 pages of transcription had to be pared down to 1,500 words for the resulting article, published last August, and which you can find right here.

After publishing it, it occurred to me that I put a lot of work into the transcription itself. I didn't want it to go to waste, and of course in cyberspace, no one can hear an editor scream, "It's too long!" I tried to get Amazon and Barnes & Noble online to see if they wanted to run it, but that was a nightmare. I couldn't even give it away, which was sad. They could have tied it in nicely with all the related music books and CDs they sold, but heaven forbid someone try and think outside the box at those places.

After sitting on it and kind of forgetting about it, I came across rockcritics.com, my new favorite Web site. The unabridged and complete transcription seemed perfect for this format for obvious reasons, and after my literary agent and the Web site's lawyers hammered out the appropriate compensation, we were set. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

-  -  -  -  - -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - -

Dance to the Thud of a Different Drum: Defining Metal

Brian:   I brought you all together because I consider you three of the leading voices of metal music and the people who love metal. I would like the expert definition of "metal" from each of you. I'm willing to bet it might differ slightly.

Martin:    The most basic definition of metal, at the very core, is a guitar with a fuzz pedal. I guess after that, it splits into various kinds of metal. Let's see: 4/4 beat, everybody electric...

Chuck:   What about that Tesla acoustic album? There's lots of weird progressive rock bands that don't have 4/4.

Deena:   That's the nastiest question you could lead with.

Chuck:   It's anything with really loud guitars, basically.

Deena:   Couldn't we go another way and say "Metal is anything that the media calls metal?"

Chuck:   No, not just the media. Anything that a 14-year-old calls metal, or anything that sounds like what a 14-year-old would call metal. Anything that sounds like what any 14-year-old in the last 30 years would have called metal. Which means that there are going to be disagreements right there. There is music that metal people will say is not metal but non-metal people will say is metal.

Martin:   But those are all the argumentative fringes. The main point is, like you say, really loud guitars.

Deena:   The point is the core, and the core has a sound to it, but we can also define it by key bands, or albums or songs.

Martin:   Well, there's many, many sub-genres. Some would almost be too specific.

Chuck:   There are some bands where some of their songs are metal and some of their songs are not metal.

Martin:   Yeah, but that doesn't matter, really.

Chuck:    I mean, Neil Young has some metal songs.

Martin:   But we're saying "What is the sound?" He isn't metal because of that.

Chuck:   Yeah, right. But what makes those songs metal, what makes certain bands metal--it's loud guitars. It's guitar that can hurt your ears.

Deena:   Then how is that different from hard rock?

Chuck:   I think heavy metal is a category of hard rock. For example, the Rolling Stones were not a metal band. They were a hard rock band.

Deena:   So tell me how your essential definition…

Chuck:   I used to think that hard rock was more R&B oriented in the rhythm, that heavy metal was more European-oriented...

Martin:   But Chuck, nowadays, metalheads consider hard rock the [AOR?] fluffy hair bands...

Chuck:   At this point, there's no difference. The difference maybe made sense...I don't know, twenty-five years ago? Thirty years ago? Right now, it's like, if something is heavy metal, it can't be heavy metal without being hard rock, and right now...I don't know. I guess you can say that Green Day or Blink 182, in a certain way, play hard rock and nobody would call them heavy metal.

Deena:   So then what's the difference there?

Martin:   The core thing has to be the power chords and the loud guitars. Of course, there's punk, and stuff like that. You might want to bring in a few other little things, like guitar solos, long hair...

Chuck:   I think most punk rock was metal.

Martin:   Yeah, me too.

Chuck:   Punk rock wasn't that big a difference.

Brian:   I remember in Martin's book he made a comment about how punk rock was just metal without the solos.

Chuck:   Yeah, but a lot of metal was metal without the solos. I mean, AC/DC and Motorhead were metal without the solos.

Martin:   Of course, Motorhead doesn't see itself as metal. Of course, no metal bands…[garbled bunch of interruptions for about 3 seconds here]

Chuck:   I think AC/DC or Led Zeppelin or Def Leppard never considered themselves metal.

Deena:   Let me play mediator...

Chuck:   Maybe even Metallica didn't consider themselves metal!

Deena:   Chuck's definition is hyper-inclusive. It's very generous. In some sense Martin, especially given the books that you're doing as kind of the bibliographical references of metal, you've got to have a much narrower definition than Chuck can have.

Martin:   Okay. Another way of looking at it is there are all these clusters through history. You can say metal started in 1970, and I believe that. Except for a few stragglers before that were accidents...

Chuck:   There was hard rock before 1970. There's no reason that [?], or Iron Butterfly, or Cream--they had the musical attributes of what gets called metal in 1970.

Deena:   I want to argue that it's not metal until somebody says it's metal.

Chuck:    Vanilla Fudge or the Stooges, or MC5...

Martin:   It's all accidents. It's a gradual thing. They're loud psychedelia.

Chuck:   Something's called metal if it says at the beginning, "Well, we just set out to be metal." That's ridiculous! Something's metal because of how it sounds, not because of what its intentions are.

Martin:   In a way. You can bring in the Rolling Stones, you can go back to Eddie Cochran and Link Wray. You can go back forever. You can go back and say that Mozart was metal and Bach wasn't.

Brian:    I think an easy way to solve this is...

Chuck:   You think us three are going to agree? No two kids are going to agree. It's the same for any other musical genre. No two fans are going to agree on what's country. No two house music fans are going to agree what's house music. It's the nature of musical genres, and it's one of the fun things about them, is that they inspire arguments. They're not different in that way. All musical genres are like that.

Deena:   I agree, but there is a core and the periphery. I think that we'd agree that there are a number of bands that are in metal's core. That is an easy way to go. There wouldn't be any argument to call these core bands metal, while Teena Marie...

Chuck:   Nobody's going to say that Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or Black Sabbath or Metallica are not metal.

Martin:   And there's an age thing to this too, because a whole lot of people who are 25 are going to see everything before 1980 as wimpy hard rock, or blues rock, or psychedelia. Which is surprising to someone my age, but…

Deena:   That's definitely right. Don't you remember back in '83 when Slayer and Metallica were coming in, and all of the so-called metal fans were going, "What the fuck is this? That's punk."

Chuck:   And three years later, they were "real" metal. It's a keepin'-it-real thing, just like hip-hop. You can decide, "I am really part of this genre, and you're fake." Which is silly, and goofy, and one of the things that makes it fun, but it's also kind of ridiculous.

Martin:   It's also a straight age thing. As time goes on, the older bands have to drop off because they sound too dated…

Chuck:   I don't know if they sound dated. A lot of them sound better.

Martin:   The definition becomes more intensified, and angry, and crazy…

Chuck:   Right now, not anything but the metal [?] could conceivably be metal.

Martin:    That happens with a lot of fans.

Deena:   Look at how in the '80s, when MTV defined metal, how bands that had been known as hard rock in the '70s, like Kiss and Aerosmith, became metal.

Chuck:   Those were known as metal in the '70s!

Brian:   I have an old issue of Creem magazine from, like, 1979 with Aerosmith on the cover and "Is Metal Dead?" in big letters.

Chuck:   In the '70s, the two terms were kind of interchangeable, so the idea to blame MTV because these hard rock bands suddenly became metal bands is just false. They were called metal bands before then.

Deena:   I was talking about when Aerosmith first came out. In 74-75 they weren't called metal.

Martin:   The term wasn't used much.

Chuck:   Another nature of musical genres is that they start out as adjectives. They start out as descriptions. And only later--and with metal, it probably didn't happen until the early '80s--does it become this dividing line. In the '70s, it was a way to describe music. Somebody may very well have used the words "heavy metal" to describe Ted Nugent or Aerosmith or something. And then somebody along the line, I guess, decided that you had to put borders or perimeters around what we decide is metal. But like any other musical genre, it doesn't start out as a genre. It starts out like an adjective, like a description.

Martin:   When you add so many sub-genres on it, you have to start dropping them off. As you look at a 20-year-old fan-there are black metal and death metal fans who will just laugh at you if you call Guns N' Roses metal, and walk away if you even suggest Kiss.

Chuck:   If you're smart, you'd laugh back, right?

Martin:   What?

Chuck:   If you're smart, you'd laugh back at them. "What do you know? You're only 20 years old. You're stupid."

Martin:   Also, there are people five years older than me who will go back to these '70s bands like Cream and Hendrix-

Deena:   What I'm thinking here is that metal now is no longer a genre. At best, it's a meta-genre.

Chuck:   Well, it was never a genre.

Deena:   If we look at say, death metal, it's much more of a genre…

Chuck:    But even now, wouldn't there be a lot of death metal fans who would say that maybe Tiamat or Moonspell or the Gathering--that that's not real death metal?

Deena:   They never were--they were supposed to be black metal.

Chuck:   All of these are vague. The sub-genres are just as vague as the big genre. And funk metal is vague, and speed metal is vague…

Martin:   They're not that vague, Chuck. There is the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of them everybody doesn't dispute it, and there's 20 percent you can argue forever. Every genre--it's not that vague.

Want a Whole Umlaut of Love: Nü-metal and Other Useless Hyphenations

Brian:   Let's talk about a specific genre then, as it relates to what I want to try to write. Most of the bands playing Ozzfest are under the umlauted Nü-metal terminology.

Chuck:   That is the stupidest sub-genre name ever. The only band I have ever seen put under Nü-metal that would make sense is Rammstein. They're from Germany so they deserve the umlaut. A genre name should say something descriptive about the genre. All that says it's that it's new. Who came up with that, Spin? It's the dumbest sub-genre name in the history of rock music.

Brian:   I think that a good metal genre name would have an umlaut in it, though.

Martin:   I actually don't use the umlaut. I just say Nu-metal.

Chuck:   Why would you even accept that one?

Martin:   It's just so descriptive of what it is.

Chuck:   How is that descriptive? It just says it's new. Why isn't Buckcherry Nü-metal? They're new.

Martin:   I'm not saying the word is descriptive. I'm saying that if you say that, it has very pronounced boundaries. You can rattle off 15 bands like that, and they all sound exactly the same.

Deena:   It's a destructive term, in the sense that it's also a put down. Referring to it with "nleatherü," like nü-leather or something like that, it's a sense not of recentness but of artificiality.

Chuck:   Why don't they just call it bad metal? That would be more descriptive. I don't understand--is it descriptive because there's an umlaut in there?

Martin:   Rap-metal is very descriptive.

Deena:   Yes it is.

Chuck:   And that would be a better name than Nü-metal.

Brian:    In a way, though, Chuck, you have to look at it like this: Is it better to not be descriptive or to be erroneously descriptive? For years, industrial music--to use another description--came out of music that was called industrial because they were playing it on pots and pans and what-not.

Chuck:   I like my names like nerf-metal and nuke-metal more than almost any of the names. I mean, black metal and death metal aren't all that descriptive. Well, death metal might be, but…

Deena:   It's a marketing device so kids can recognize their kind of music.

Chuck:   I mean, you're a writer. Come up with your own. Don't accept what the industry decides to call it.

Martin:   They actually mean something. Even though it's a stupid couple of words stuck together, they actually mean something now.

Brian:   You gotta have the audience understand what you're talking about, I would assume.

Deena:   Exactly.

Martin:   Yeah.

Chuck:   People understood what I was talking about when I said nerf-metal or nuke-metal.

Martin:   Coming from you, yes.

Chuck:   I don't know, maybe I just give the audience more credit than you do.

Brian:   I was pretty pissed off because people were calling it 'alternative metal' a few years ago, and I was calling it 'metalternative'--because metal ended in "al" and alternative began in "al"--and it seemed perfectly natural to me but nobody gave a fuck.

Deena:   I like the alternative metal or the metal alternative because what I heard in it was something distinctive. You know, all four of us can go to a concert and hear very different things. What impressed me about…

Chuck:   I hear it, like, the Cookie Monster throwing up.

Deena:   Good. What I heard in it was the poor, poor, pitiful me kind of thing…

Chuck:   Like Korn's vocalist, and stuff like that…

Deena:   …that was like alternative music in the sense that it was talking about, "I'm in pain, I hurt." Classical metal never did that kind of stuff. Classical metal said, "I'm hurt, so I'm gonna either kill myself, or I'm gonna break the law"…

Chuck:   That's what Iggy and the Stooges songs were about…I don't consider classic metal…alternative metal…

Deena:   Do I consider Iggy metal? NO! Of course not.

Chuck:   But that's always been in there.

Deena:   That's not what I would consider classic metal.

Chuck:   You don't think that's in Black Sabbath songs?

Deena:   No!

Martin:   Not that much.

Deena:   I also hear the same alternative Pixies loud-soft kind of stuff that Nirvana…

Chuck:   I thought the main thing that Nirvana invented was a new haircut. To me, all those bands seemed like hard rock bands. The Seattle music was some of the most unoriginal music ever. I remember The Melvins, and Malfunction and Skinyard in like, 1987, and I thought, "Wow, this is really funny. These bands from Seattle who want to sound like The Stooges and Black Sabbath and The Birthday Party." And I was calling it Sasquatch Rock. And like, four years later, you're like "God, every band from Seattle sounds exactly the same."

Brian:   I want to talk about what Deena was bringing up, because she mentioned something I do see in the music. Whatever you want to term it, it seems that the male-oriented music that's being released has a vulnerability to it. Guys in rock are showing vulnerability like Deena brought out…

Chuck:   As opposed to power ballads, which showed no vulnerability at all?

Deena:   Yeah, the power ballads were about love, as opposed to, "Life is too much for me, and I've been hurt."

Martin:   They were generally pretty happy and conquering and stuff . . . I don't know.

Chuck:   Honestly, and I'm not just saying this to be argumentative, I can't think of a good hard rock band ever that didn't have sad, depressing songs. There's a direct line from Black Sabbath to stuff like Joy Division.

Martin:   Well, this stuff is very depressing.

Chuck:   What else were Black Sabbath songs?

Martin:   It wasn't personal, really, they were just about other stuff out there.

Brian:   Ultimately, it's not just about depressing songs. Pantera has depressing songs, but you're not gonna see Philip Anselmo, who is definitely not about showing his vulnerable side, expressing a lot of the stuff lyrically in his depressing songs than a lot of the other bands are, who show a lot more vulnerability. I think that's the key word here, and it's a sign of our times.

Chuck:   Again, I don't really understand that at all. I don't see how "Love Hurts" by Nazareth back in 1976 wasn't showing vulnerability. It's about being hurt by love. How much more vulnerable can you get? There's vulnerability all through those Stooges songs.

Deena:   They just didn't sing that, "I am so upset, I am so hurt"…

Chuck:   They didn't turn themselves into a cartoon. They did better! It's like you believe that vulnerability only exists if somebody like, puts neon signs around themselves and says, "Look at me, I'm vulnerable, aren't you impressed?" It's not like somebody decides that "my genre is all about vulnerability." Nirvana didn't invent vulnerability. It's always been there.

Martin:    Chuck, statistically, they just did it more often than the other ones. That's all anybody's saying. There are no absolutes here. And these new bands are the same way. It's like sitting on the psychiatrist's couch for 10 out of 13 songs. And most of those other old hard rock bands, it wasn't like that. But the lyrics is only one thing.

Chuck:   The vocals are awful, don't you think? They have the stupid whining industrial mode, and the stupid Cookie-Monster-throwing-up death metal mode, and that's all they do.

Martin:   Hardcore is a big part of this music too.

Chuck:   It goes back to hardcore, which means they take punk rock and they take the music out of punk rock. They take the singing out of Johnny Rotten, or the rhythm section out. Let's whack off really fast and pretend it's something musical. This genre is the least interesting stuff out there.

Deena:   It has elements of what became hardcore punk, it has elements of what was called alternative or grunge, it has hard rock elements too, and so my question was, "Why call it metal," because it has so many other elements…

Chuck:   Punk and grunge and hard rock were metal in the first place.

Martin:   And it's very aggressively done. There's a lot of hardcore vocals, there's a lot of energy on stage. Down-tuning, Deena, is a lot of this, there's a lot of low bass and low guitars. You add all this up and it's a statistical thing. You pile on all this evidence, and it's metal. It is a type of metal.

Chuck:   Neither of you guys would think that hair metal is metal, I assume.

Martin:   Of course it is. It's one little fiefdom of metal. Of about fourteen fiefdoms.

Deena:   Exactly.

Chuck:   It doesn't seem to fit into almost any of your definitions you're saying.

Deena:   It's further away from some of the others. We can take Martin's 14 fiefdoms and put them in a geographic area, and some of them hang closer together, and some of them are further apart.

It Takes a Roundtable of Critics to Hold Them Back: The Fans

Brian:   Let's change gears here. Since metal is something we can argue about for hours--about what it is and what it isn't, and we can take some of the bands, songs, and even the chords--let's talk about--and I want to direct this toward Deena, the metal fan. Her books have talked more about the fans of the music. Your book was published years ago and it was revised very recently. I want to know: has the metal fan changed? You have the Ozzfest guy who's maybe a little bit older and going there to see Black Sabbath this year, as opposed to the young guy who's going to see the new bands on the second stage, how different are these people, aside from just age?

Deena:   They're really different. One of the big differences in the '80s, the metal fans, you had to go back and buy your Black Sabbath. They were archivists, and constantly testing one another on their knowledge of the genre. Mainstream metal fans' knowledge is less than that of fans of classic metal or underground metal. The Mudvayne, Papa Roach, Linkin Park, and Spineshank fans are the suburban mooks who are mainstream rock fans, as opposed to sub-cultural fans.

Chuck:   You could say the same thing, especially 10-15 years ago at least.

Martin:   These people know a lot more about hip-hop, that's the difference. And they dress it too. They also dabble in dance quite often. It's a look, it is a trend, and they will look like this for a while, and then they'll change that look. A new type of metal will come in. But this stuff for now is the heavy, aggressive thing, that fits 8 out of 13 characteristics of what metal is.

Brian:   You talk about how the fans today are dressing the hip-hop part. Chuck would probably argue that rap metal has been done before, and it's called Parliament Funkadelic.

Chuck:   I don't know that they were rapping.

Brian:   If we're going to talk culturally, we'd have to say that Parliament-Funkadelic was a precursor to rap. You can't listen to a rap record without hearing some Parliament Funkadelic, it seems.

Chuck:   They weren't rapping on the same songs they were metaling. This rap-metal stuff is probably like Run-DMC in 1983.

Brian:   Dare I say funk-metal. Regardless of getting into the terminology, Chuck and others would say that rap metal has, in theory…

Chuck:   It's always been around.

Brian:   Aesthetically and sonically, it's always been around. But like Martin says, the kids are dressing up in the baggy jeans.

Chuck:   Absolutely. They'll listen to the louder rap stuff, the rap stuff where they try really hard to be mean, and the metal stuff that tries really hard to be mean. That's been going on for…

Deena:    In looking at what's playing at Ozzfest, if you look at the history of these kids' tastes and their older brother's tastes, it comes out of what was popular in 1993, '94, '95, and that's gangsta rap and grunge. And it's those elements that the Ozzfest bands contain, as Martin was saying, in the way they look as well as they way they hear the bands too.

Chuck:   I never really understood what grunge was, but I don't hear much of what was called grunge…

Martin:   Not a lot. Hardcore is there. These bands are really hardcore. I hear a lot of the original L.A. or New York hardcore. I think that's a big thing.

Chuck:   I think Static-X sounds just like Killing Joke.

Martin:   Part of Nü-metal is the industrial element, and there's about five bands there that that can run up that little flag.

Brian:   You know who I think has been a major element on the new bands? Faith No More.

Chuck:   It's not just Faith No More, it's FNM, Jane's Addiction, King's X…

Brian:   It seems like you have two schools of thought here. It seems like you've got the Faith No More camp and the Alice in Chains camp.

Martin:   Yep. Half of them are not rapping anymore. Like Godsmack, is sort of a template for a bunch of the bands, or Creed. They're not rapping anymore, but they're big and smeary and heavy still.

Brian:   And that's kinda the Alice in Chains school of thought.

Chuck:   And Staind. Staind sounded like Creed, who sounded like Pearl Jam, who sounded like Three Dog Night. Three Dog Night without the hooks.

Brian:   What do you guys think of the fact that there are a lot of young kids who are going to see Black Sabbath, who is of course, a rock critic's poster child at this point, as far as a band who, at the time, not many people championed them, but now if you're compared to them, it's considered cool.

Martin:   Well, a lot of those will just go home. They'll say, "Man, these are a bunch of old farts, I'm not even staying."

Deena:   When Ozzy was doing his solo tours in the mid-90s, I went to one of his shows. I'd found a whole bunch of girls in the restroom and I'd never found girls in the restroom at non-mainstream metal shows. So I started asking them, "What kind of Black Sabbath stuff do you like?" I began interviewing them. Many didn't know that Ozzy was in Black Sabbath. They weren't into Black Sabbath. They only know the hits. But Ozzfest is the most brilliant piece of marketing that anyone has ever done. Black Sabbath in recent years is the neatest cover band I've ever heard. Their new stuff doesn't even exist. It's a great piece of marketing.

Brian:   Are we comparing Black Sabbath to one of those Motown revues that goes out?

Deena:   Yeah! Yeah!

Chuck:   But the choreography's not as good!

Deena:   Oh, I think Ozzy's frog walk is wonderful. If you look at the lineup, Black Sabbath stands there alone.

Martin:   I agree. I was gonna say that. This Ozzfest lineup is not a continuum like the last ones. The past ones mixed metal that was very new with stuff that was half and half, and then into the Sabbath. This lineup is all a bunch of new bands, and then Black Sabbath is the end of it. Besides an anomaly like Marilyn Manson in there as well. Everybody else is just a straight, young, hip, trendy, Nü-metal band, and then there's Sabbath. This is the weirdest gulf in a lineup, and I think a lot of these people will go home. They won't stay for Sabbath.

Brian:   When I used to go into punk chat rooms online, and being the old geezer I am, started talking about The Germs and Minor Threat, and the Dead Kennedys, the punk kids would say, "Oh, that's so cool, you saw that band live?" When I went into the metal rooms, people with monikers like DeathSlaughter666 would tell me I was an old fart and I should fuck off when I talked about Motorhead.

Chuck:   You know what's even worse? Drum 'n' bass people. Anything that's not within the last 3 months is ancient history. Metal people are nothing compared to dance people.

Deena:   They use music to get their identity. And if their identity is being at the cutting edge of things, then obviously knowing old stuff is not a good thing. Metal in the '80s and underground metal somewhat today, still has this notion that we come from some sort of tradition. Especially in Europe and in Latin America. So it changes from how they're using the music for themselves. Definitely the electronica people, given what the genre is itself, feel like they must be on the cutting edge.

Chuck:   And country people are just the opposite. If you're going to change it, then you're the bad guy. That's why people like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain are looked down on, because the progressives are the ones that are not keeping it real in country.

Deena:   But look at the inherent features of country. It was nostalgic from the very beginning.

Chuck:   It's assumed you're going to pledge allegiance to Hank Williams and Merle Haggard and George Jones, and if you work parts of Def Leppard into your music, then you're evil. I guess it's a continuum, and metal is closer to techno than to country on that continuum.

Martin:   Part of the problem is the fact that there are so many albums coming out all the time. A human being can only process so much information. If you can only understand 1000 albums in 1982, that meant you could look at 15 years of history and figure it out, now, you're only going to look at two and a half years of history. You have to go in and either master or not master certain kinds of sub-genres. But now, there's so much culture being thrown out at you, you actually have to discard entire sub-genres. If you're gonna sit there and learn something--you can't know everything anymore.

Chuck:   I get pretty much everything in the mail, and I listen to those beautiful Scandinavian gothic black metal bands, and I listen to the stoner rock stuff on Man's Ruin. This other new stuff, I don't pay attention to it at all. I almost assume I won't like it.

Martin:   Well, Chuck, you know what's going to happen. You can't write about that stuff intelligently anymore.

Chuck:   Sure I can.

Martin:   No, you can't. You'll say three things in a review that someone will say, "He obviously has no clue, because he's comparing it to the wrong thing" or whatever. You can be wrong. You can't go into a genre you know nothing about and write a 400-word review intelligently. I was editing black metal reviews by a black metal writer today, and he was comparing something to Gorgoroth rhythms. I have five Gorgoroth albums, do you think I know them? Do you think I can compare anything to Gorgoroth? Forget it.

Chuck:   That makes him right and you wrong?

Martin:   That makes him more intelligent about that sub-genre.

Chuck:   He's writing about it from his perspective, you're writing it from your perspective.

Deena:   You're writing for a literate general audience who likes rock music. Martin has to…

Chuck:   Most of the best writing about any genre is written about people outside of the genre, not inside of the genre. The best hip-hop writing is not done in rap magazines. The best country writing is not done in Nashville magazines. The best metal writing is not done in metal magazines. It's not some kind of secret language.

Deena:   Can I just say one thing about Ozzfest? I think it's really shitty of them to confine it only to the hot new stuff. They've could have had the whole variety of metal, including all sorts of underground metal, there. Their only nod wasn't to metal as such but to the same ooze--hard psychedelia, now called stoner rock--that Black Sabbath first emerged from. And even then, they selected one of the worst of the current crop of stoner metal.

Martin:    It's very unimaginative there now.

Deena:   Given that they've got all this power and drawing power…

Brian:   Here's something that's ironic. Back in the '70s, when metal bands were just being called that, metal was not liked by the critics. How ironic that my three critics here don't think much of the current metal. Because all the kids would say the same things that all the kids listening to Black Sabbath back in 1971 would tell the critics. Fuck you. I like it.

Deena:    It's not that we're all old farts.

Chuck:    What about Air Supply? There are certain things that are just bad.

Deena:   But it's not just bad too, it's also…

Chuck:   Celine Dion fans could say that critics are just so stupid because they don't like Celine Dion.

Deena:   If there was only one of these bands instead of hundreds of them, I think we'd hear…

Chuck:   There are hundreds of adult contemporary schlock bands, and all of them think that critics are wrong. What is the difference? Just because you have a lot of bad bands out there does not mean their fans are right.

Brian:   The difference is that now, 20 years later, critics are flocking to Black Sabbath as this amazing thing. When Aerosmith first came out, critics dismissed them as Rolling Stones wannabes. Years later, the critics came around.

Deena:   Brian, you're perfectly right. I've been keeping track of how the critics have changed their views on various things. The critic lunchroom, of which Chuck is not a member, but he's intimately involved with them. Chuck, you know what that lunchroom is like, and how it changes on a dime. They have to have the things they champion, and it changes depending on what they need.

Martin:   It's our age. We're way older than these bands and their fans, and we can't relate.

Deena:   I don't think so. I still am listening every day to the newest black metal stuff.

Chuck:   I've probably heard 60 metal CDs I really like this year. To say I can't relate to it, or I'm not in touch and can't make value judgments about it is ridiculous.

Martin:   You can't write five black metal reviews and compare everything to Slayer. You have to know your references. There are so many places where you can make errors in talking about one of these sub-genres, and you don't even know it until someone points it out to you.

Brian:   Chuck, I do want to take something you said that was off the beaten path. One thing you say that I disagree with is that most people who write about something are not intimately involved with it.

Chuck:   I didn't say that. I said that in general, it seems like the best writing I see is from people outside of the genre. What genre are you in? If you're a hip-hop person, you don't want to see a non hip-hop person writing about this stuff. If you're a drum 'n' bass person, you don't want to read a non-drum 'n' bass person writing about this stuff. And my attitude has always been, "So what? I'm gonna write about it anyway! And I'm going to, from my perspective, as someone who is open to a lot more sounds than your average death metal or drum 'n' bass fan is." And to suggest that just because somebody knows it on some micro-level, it doesn't make the writing better, it doesn't make it more interesting, and it definitely doesn't make it more right.

Martin:   Well, it's one thing. With you wandering in with a sense of wonder at this foreign sound. But the little fan who knows everything will give you a different review. They're just different reviews.

Chuck:   They're gonna be different, sure. But to say that one is right and one is wrong, I don't know about that.

Martin:   You're going to make errors, Chuck. It's just going to happen.

Chuck:   I've heard a much broader variety of sounds in my life than the average Mudvayne fan. And to say that that means that he is a better judge of it, is just absurd. It's like looking at it through a tiny little tunnel.

Deena:   Deena:The person who is obsessed with, or is totally into, one tiny little area hears things that people who listen to lots of things won't particularly attend to.

Brian:   To me, you can see things with a microscope or a telescope, and both of them will show you things that you can't see with the naked eye.

Chuck:   That's a good analogy.

Brian:    Thank you. That's why they pay me the little bucks.

O Brother, Where Art Thy Kingdom Come?

Brian:   I really want to talk about how metal has always been this bastard genre. Some people will say that metal was best when it was marginalized.

Deena:    I always argue that anything that hits the mainstream has got to be blanded out and imitated…

Chuck:   That's like one of the biggest clichés in the planet, to believe that. If stuff hits the mainstream, it's probably more progressive, because it's incorporated influences that the non-mainstream stuff is scared to let in.

Deena:   I agree with that also, but is inclusiveness as opposed to exclusiveness--those are two different value judgments, and I don't think you can make a value judgment about which is better.

Chuck:   If you honestly think that music is better when it's more narrow, then I guess you're right--you can't argue that value judgment. I think that music is better when it's open to the rest of the world.

Martin:   There are lots of bands that hit the mainstream who didn't compromise. They're the first ones in. They are the Korns, the Panteras, the Metallicas. When they broke in, they were very uncompromising.

Chuck:   I don't think that compromising is bad anyway.

Martin:   I'm just saying that the first ones in have not been compromised in any way, and all the other copies--this is probably why the critics get on these things. They do get belligerent about copies--they don't like clone bands.

Chuck:   I like clone bands of bands I like, and I don't like clone bands of bands I don't like.

Martin:   You just allow a few more in before you get upset about the whole thing. And me too. Stoner rock for me, it lasted for about 3 years, and then the door closed. I have 200 of these bands now. I can't take it.

Chuck:   That is true. You get saturated with them.

Brian:   The reason I brought up that it was the bastard son, is that you guys are not the only ones that are complaining about a lack of quality in the new artists.

Chuck:   There are a lot of new artists that I think are great.

Brian:    But no one appearing on Ozzfest.

Chuck:   I'm not sure…Deena, Martin, are there bands appearing on Ozzfest that you guys actually like?

Deena:   There are bands that are pretty good. I don't have to say that I like things to recognize that they're good.

Martin:   I'm almost in that camp exactly.

Deena:   I mean, Slipknot is a pretty good band.

Martin:   Papa Roach is good too.

Chuck:   You like Papa Roach?

Martin:   I do quite like Papa Roach. I've seen them live, I've interviewed them twice. They're very progressive, complicated, great production, they love their music, and I think some of this stuff is the new progressive rock. I think Mudvayne is very complicated. I think they can play, people think they can't play. I think they can sing--they do many different vocal styles in there. I think these bands are on the frontiers of things, but I actually don't like a lot of them. It could be because I know nothing about the rap they've been pulling in, that I don't know about the rhythmic end pouring in. All I know these bands from is funk rock, and Korn, and the few that came along. I am desperately trying to keep a grip on these bands.

Chuck:   The rhythm comes from the Wu-Tang Clan and stuff like that. There are rhythms from some of those bands that sound like Autechre or Aphex Twin. Like the techno equivalent of progressive rock. But if you're necessarily equating complexity with being good, I don't. They're probably more rhythmically complicated, vocally, than other bands, but that doesn't make them good. Being complicated doesn't make them better.

Martin:   But it's one thing that one could construe as "there is craft here."

Chuck:   And somebody like Slipknot or Mudvayne, they do sound like something new. It's not necessarily something good. I thought that about Korn. I didn't think that Korn sounded like anybody before Korn. I think they're an awful band. I think they completely suck. But it's not because they're not original!

Martin:    Just another item to throw into the pot here--I think a band like Slipknot--I saw them live, and I think they're four of the younger kids who can process things faster. A lot of these bands, Mudvayne included, are for attention-deficit culture.

Deena:   There's so much going on in their music--that's why they've got so many people in there.

Martin:   Black metal and death metal are somewhat the same thing. You just sit there and you're watching a clinic. That's all you're seeing live. There's a sound sculpture coming from the stage. Theoretically it's great. Emotionally, it hits a lot of people, but it doesn't hit me that heavily.

Chuck:   But you like the drums in those bands?

Martin:   The drums?

Chuck:   Like Slipknot--they could get rid of everything but just keep the drums…

Deena:    I like the guitars in Slipknot. One of the guitarists is really good. He is a huge death metal fan. I wouldn't have even known that had I not met him at Macabre's concert. He'd driven from Des Moines to Chicago just to see the band.

Martin:   They love that stuff.

Chuck:   Stuff like that came from Mr. Bungle, though, too, and from the Boredoms and things like that. That goes back to real art music like John Zorn in New York.

Brian:   I saw John Zorn in New York and Mike Patton surprised everyone by coming out and singing with him.

Chuck:   Exactly.

Martin:   To clarify what I was saying there--I look at a kid, holding one of those video games and shooting away on the TV. I'm looking at him and I can't figure out what he's doing. I feel that same way at a Slipknot concert when I turned around and watched people mouthing the words. There are all these levels of activity up there. Visual, motion…

Deena:   That's a good understanding--it's a multimedia event, with lots of things going on.

Martin:   I think that's why the kids like it and we don't, because we don't think as fast as they do. They are the computer generation, they way they are.

Brian:   What direction do you guys see metal going in?

Deena:   Ozzfest is the biggest thing at the moment, and it's defining what metal is, the way in which MTV did in the '80s.

Chuck:   To me, Ozzfest makes nü-meta a really mainstream thing. And yet, you're really anti-mainstream. And it's funny to say, "This is what we should care about, because it gets the most publicity." And yet, you seem to be anti-hype.

Martin:   To clarify, this is late in the trend. Ozzfest has been doing this for a few years. What'll happen is that this stuff will go away. People are already complaining. There's the piercings, there's the one guy with the goatee, there's the one guy in the knit cap. They're starting to really make fun of this stuff. So pretty soon, this will get replaced with something else. I don't know what it'll be.

Chuck:   It's like metal boy bands.

Martin:   Bluegrass black metal. That would be cool.

Brian:    Chuck, if you had your way, what would be next?

Chuck:   I think that sounds pretty cool!

Deena:   I like that! Please put a band together immediately!

Chuck:   I want to hear a merger of the Gregorian chant, Enigma-influenced Scandinavian bands, and all these '70s revival stoner rock bands.

Brian:   How about you, Deena?

Deena:   I'm sorry but I've got what I like. I really love death metal, and I really, really love black metal. I go to Milwaukee-fest every year, and I listen to 45 or so bands there, and I'm in heaven.

Martin:   I'd like to talk to Deena for an hour about that, because I really don't get death metal.

Deena:   You gonna come down this year?

Martin:   I've been to one of them. I just sat there thinking, "Man, I'm already drained, and it's only noon."

Chuck:   I'm the same way when I go to one of those shows. But I don't consider it a weakness in myself, I consider it a weakness in the music. I guess that's where I differ from you guys. If it was good, it would hold my attention.

Brian:   Here's the last question: Are you guys going to Ozzfest?

Martin:   I am. Because I want to hook up with Sabbath again. I will probably end up with some interest seeing Slipknot, and maybe out of the corner of my eye seeing Marilyn Manson, but like everybody else, I will not arrive in time for them.

Deena:   After the nasty stuff I wrote about Ozzfest the past few years, Sharon's not giving me tickets.

Chuck:   No interest at all. I'll assign the work to somebody else. To me it seems like a really minor thing, honestly.

Martin:   I really do not want to write about these bands. I'm just not interested enough. I'll play them, I respect the hell out of them when I'm playing them, but as soon as I'm finished with them it's filed and I just don't go back to it.