Andy Secher, Hit Parader
By Steven Ward
Steven: How long have you been working at Hit Parader and what was your job title when you were first hired?
Andy: As amazing as it may sound, I've been working at Hit Parader for nearly 25 years...which is truly incredible when you consider that I'm 32 years old. Uhh--first part right, second part, not quite. When I was hired, I guess I was an Assistant Editor. The staff was basically two people back then, so I could assume just about any title I wanted. I was hoping for "washroom attendant" but that was already taken.
Steven: Let's go back and talk about how you landed your job at Hit Parader. Where were your first pieces of rock journalism published?
Andy: I landed my job at Hit Parader thanks to an interview I had done with AC/DC appearing in the New York Daily News. When I was just out of college, I decided to start my own national newspaper syndication. I was too dumb to know that you weren't supposed to do something like that on your own. Well, within a few months, I managed to get my column into a dozen major papers around the country, including the Sacramento Bee, the San Antonio Express and the New York Daily News. I was focusing on hard rock/metal bands at the time (the late '70s) because it was my primary interest...and nobody else was doing it.
Steven: Was Hit Parader an important rock magazine to you when you were growing up?
Andy: Actually, I tended to read Circus more because Hit Parader tended to cover too much punk, pop and new wave. In fact, I briefly worked for Circus before moving on to Hit Parader.
Steven: What was the mission of the magazine when you started there, and do you think it is the same today? How would you describe the current mission of the magazine?
Andy: Our mission remains to survive one more month. Actually, when I came aboard in 1979, my immediate goal was to take the magazine from covering new wave to covering hard rock. My first cover was Van Halen, and we were the first magazine in the world to focus exclusively on hard rock/heavy metal. We were a bit lucky in that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (with Priest and Maiden) was just kicking in, and the West Coast Metal Explosion (Motley Crue, etc.) was about to launch. Our timing was very good. We've stayed loyal to hard rock throughout the years because that's where my interest remains. Trends, bands and fans have come and gone, but hard rock has stayed strong.
Steven: Former Circus editor Philip Bashe recently told me a story about you being at one of those rock symposiums back in the '80s and how you criticized some of the people on that symposium for being elitist about heavy metal. Bashe said Robert Christgau said something to you about a mag like Hit Parader "pimping" for heavy metal. Bashe said that may be true but how it's no different than the folks at the Village Voice pimping for people like Lou Reed. Do you agree with that, do you remember the incident, and do you think that some in the rock press today still look at heavy metal magazines that way?
Andy: I do remember the incident because it was probably the first and LAST of those things I ever did. I knew I was stepping into a mine field and I didn't like the feeling. I always sensed that people like Christgau had to justify their existence by promoting the artistic aesthetics of the rock form. I've never taken any of this that seriously. Hit Parader isn't the New York Times...it's a frikkin' fanzine, and proud to be exactly that. Our target demographic is some 17 year old kid in Iowa, not a socialite in Manhattan. Sure the "mainstream" rock press is elitist... but I think it's less elitist today than it used to be. Is that a good thing?
Steven: What rock writers and rock magazines meant something to you when you were growing up and what rock writers do you think had some kind of influence on you?
Andy: I hate to say this, but I really didn't read that many rock magazines when I was growing up. There was the occasional Circus or Creem, but that was about it. They tended not to write much about the bands that interested me.
Steven: I think magazines like Hit Parader, Circus, and Metal Edge serve a purpose in the rock journalism world--they cater to the younger fans--mostly teenage boys--like nobody else. Do you agree with that and could you elaborate?
Andy: You hit it right on the head. We are geared for a young, male demographic. That audience may not want to read detailed critiques or lengthy analysis. They want short, pithy interviews and features--along with BIG color photos. The formula is fairly basic.
Steven: When you look back at your career at Hit Parader, what stories or interviews stand out for you--whether it be for news value or just good rock journalism.
Andy: It's been an amazing ride, both figuratively and literally. I've been able to travel around the world following the form's biggest stars; Ozzy in Brazil, Dio in Japan, Bon Jovi in Canada, the Scorpions in Sweden...it goes on and on. There's no question that the times (and the stars) were bigger and brighter in the '70s and '80s. Once Nirvana hit, things took a definite dive in that regard. I remember the first time I interviewed Van Halen in a New York hotel and encountering a chain-smoking, Pastrami-eating Diamond Dave. The stories are too many, and in some cases too wild, to be printed here.
Steven: As Hit Parader's Editor, what advice would you give to journalists who love heavy metal and would like to see their byline in Hit Parader?
Andy: Get a good story...and push it. Don't wait for us to assign you something. I know it's kinda like the old chicken and the egg. How do you get the cool story without a magazine affiliation? Well, it can be done! And when you have that story pick up the phone and let the right people know. Also, keep in mind that magazines like Hit Parader have three month lead times. Don't offer me something that's old news today, when it's gonna be positively stale in three months. Try to anticipate what might be happening in a few months.
Steven: What is the biggest misconception about Hit Parader?
Andy: That I actually know what I'm doing.
Steven: Again looking back at your career at HP, what editors and writers at the mag stand out for you as friends, freelancers or colleagues?
Andy: I think more of the many people within the industry who've been a major help. Hit Parader has functioned with an amazingly small staff throughout the years.
Steven: Hit Parader has been publishing for so long now. Do you see it as a continuing thing that will go on in future years?
Andy: I'd like to think so. I don't know how much longer I'll keep doing this because I do find my interest flagging a bit. But the field seems relatively strong and just when people are beginning to write off metal as a viable commercial or artistic form, that's when it tends to once again rear its ugly head.
Steven: And finally, why do you think the mainstream rock mags like to ignore heavy metal and do you think that is changing now or will change?
Andy: That's not as true as it used to be because I think those mainstream magazines have begun to realize that if you want to grasp the lingering pulse of rock and roll, heavy metal bands still do it better than anyone! Also, the cross-over success of performers like Ozzy have opened a lot of eyes to the long-term accessibility of metal stars.