1) In your own words, The Impaler, how would you describe your website, www.TheImpalerSpeaks.com? Independent. I like to think that I provide a unique perspective on music and film and other forms of art. The Impaler Speaks is essentially a one-man fanzine. It’s just me. There are no ads, nothing to generate revenue. There is no revenue! I cover things that I like, and that’s it. I chose to host the site on Tumblr because it is free and has a built-in social network of its own, but I see The Impaler Speaks as more of a website than a blog.
I suppose I may be alienating a percentage of the Tumblr user base because I don’t reblog others’ posts – but that’s not the point of The Impaler Speaks. It’s my voice. It’s all about support. I don’t like everything. Some things I hear or watch or read are not going to get good reviews from me, but there are two key points I’d like to mention about that.
- When I review something, my goal is to be informative first and foremost. If I am going to give a ‘bad’ review, it is going to be based in constructive criticism – unless it is blatantly hateful (racist, sexist, homophobic, and so on). Who am I to tell a band, for example, that they suck just because I don’t ‘get’ what they’re doing? That may be my opinion, sure, but I don’t need to share that opinion with them or their moms.
- I have other outlets for ‘bad’ reviews, which I’ll discuss momentarily. Again, The Impaler Speaks is about support for local artists – no matter where ‘local’ is for you.
2) What are your own origins, and what path did you take to get to where you are today? Ah, the origin story! My origin story is not exciting enough to find a place in the Marvel Universe, but here goes. I’m a child of the Cold War. I grew up in an Army family, traveling around the world and always being the new kid. I was exposed to a lot of music and other forms of art, and learned at a young age that there was more to life than what was being covered on mainstream radio, television, and print media – which is all that we had in those pre-internet times.
My earliest exposure to music came from my dad’s record collection. Buck Owens was my first hero. To this day, his song (It’s A) Monsters’ Holiday remains a favorite. My dad had lots of cool 7-inch records too: Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, The Royal Guardsmen, Jan & Dean. I discovered KISS when I was 6, and even though this was as mainstream as you could get, my life was changed. KISS was mainstream, but got no respect from the mainstream. I was defending my love for KISS from all sides from a very young age. My eclecticism was cemented by the time I was 10 years old, when my own record collection expanded to include Funkadelic, The Gap Band, Donna Summer, Cheap Trick, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk Railroad – I was browsing the stacks at record stores like a pro and picking up whatever looked interesting to me. By the time I was 13 I had to make a choice: comics or music. I sold my comic book collection even though I still love the heroes and stories, and still read comics when I can and watch the films.
I was 15 when my family moved back to Germany and this is when I was ‘bitten by a radioactive spider’ so to speak. The local kids I met, the local record shops, everything… totally different. No one cared about the radio, and German radio was different anyway. It was all about the underground: Metallica, Slayer, Hallows Eve, Possessed, Anthrax, Legacy, Running Wild, Destruction, Kreator, Celtic Frost, et al on the metal side; Toy Dolls, Die Toten Hosen, Spermbirds, MDC, DRI, JFA, Big Boys, The Boneless Ones, Black Flag, Misfits, et al on the punk side; Husker Du, The Replacements, Divinyls, Killing Joke, Wall Of Voodoo, et al on the ‘what the hell is this?!’ side.
This was the early 1980s, by the way. No one knew who any of these bands were outside of their local scenes. I got involved in tape trading. Through the mail! With hand-written letters, cassettes with hand-written labels, lots of masking tape and postage stamps! If I had been living back in the US, my earliest concerts would likely have been, I don’t know, John Cougar or Bryan Adams or Quiet Riot. Fair enough, but I was fortunate enough to be in a place – both physically and mentally – where my earliest live experiences as a teenager were of bands like Malice, Flotsam & Jetsam, Sanctuary, King Diamond, Destruction, Motorhead, Running Wild, Helloween, Michael Schenker, Slayer (Reign In Blood tour), even Public Enemy (Yo! Bum Rush The Show tour) and an early-early incarnation of Napalm Death. How could I ever care about what the mainstream media was telling me to listen to again?
Through my tape-trading network I discovered fanzines and, since I was most interested in writing and reading in school anyway, I started submitting reviews of shows and records. By the time I was 20 I had contributed to dozens of fanzines, then started my own with a friend I met when I moved to Georgia in the early 1990s.
I contributed to MaximumRockNRoll for many years under various nom de plumes, was ‘on the staff’ of Nothing Left, wrote some pieces for HeartAttack!, contributed reviews and columns to at least a dozen others. I also started taking photos at shows.
By the late 90s, I was living in England, where two things happened.
- I was getting traction with my photos on websites for bands that I love and support, such as King’s X, DeCeMBeR, Stampin’ Ground, and Zoinks!, and for labels that I support, such as Metal Blade, Earache, and Blackfish. I also provided photos for record sleeves by bands like Fall Silent, provided (without pay) photos of bands like DeCeMBeR to mainstream magazines like Alternative Press and a few other biggies, and was writing band bios for press kits at a rapid pace.
- I met an Englishman living in South Wales who had just completed the first issue of a one-man fanzine that he called Mass Movement. It was, I think, 8 sheets of A1 paper folded in half to make a 16-page zine – all written and drawn by hand and with true cut-n-paste technology… scissors and a glue stick! It was awesome. I had to be a part of that. For issue 2, I was able to contact Brian Brannon from JFA for an interview. That was our cover story. That interview is archived at The Impaler Speaks and a follow-up conducted in 2012 is in Mass Movement 33, our current issue. We moved from photocopies to professionally printed magazines that were sold in Tower Records and Borders stores along with all kinds of indie places to an all-digital format with totally free PDF downloads, which is where Mass Movement is today. We’re a collective. We have guys who are legends in the underground – George Tabb, Ian Glasper, Mark Freebase, Martijn Welzen – and each of us has our own opinions, our own voices. It works.
I love being part of an independent collective with a shared vision, and continue to be heavily involved, but I also wanted to get my own voice out there. Mass Movement doesn’t have the server space – it’s a fanzine… where would the money come from?! – to archive things, so my first thought about The Impaler Speaks was to archive the reviews and interviews and other pieces that I’d written over the years.
I started the site in January 2012, so it is still in its infancy. It grows and adapts and changes every day. I began adding photos from past shows, then began adding reviews and photos of current shows. So I’ll post reviews and interviews that have been or will be featured in Mass Movement, reviews that are exclusive to The Impaler Speaks, photos, whatever. It’s all about support. There are so many artists out there that are not going to get mainstream coverage. They deserve the coverage, though. Damn, I really rambled on there, didn’t I?!
4) What piece of music, movie, or object would you say your website was like, and why? I’ll pick one of each, all favorites. Music: Frank Zappa’s Zappa In New York. Movie: Donnie Darko. Object (of a sort): a thunderstorm. None of these can be simply defined. All are different with every experience, and each experience has the potential to be more magical than the last. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get – and you may not like it every time – but you’ve got to come back for more. And it’ll pay off when you do. It’s eclectic, but also simple. It’s defined… but not really. It is what it is.
5) If you could assign a smell to your site, what odor would that be, and again, why? That’s easy: an independent record store, like my beloved Encore Records in Austin, Criminal Records in Atlanta, or Amoeba Records in San Francisco. All the vinyl and sun-faded posters and stagnant plastic. All the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the artists whose music is contained within the grooves and digital imprints of the product (I hate that word, ‘product’, by the way)… it’s got a smell, a mixture of desperation and exhilaration and fear and commitment and desire and aggression and love. It’s beautiful.
6) Certain directors started their careers in the independent film world – such as Kevin Smith, for example, or Sam Raimi. In your own opinion, what would you say they’ve lost since going mainstream? It’s funny that you've chosen two filmmakers with whom I have a long history of supporting. I jumped on the Kevin Smith train in the early-early days. Clerks and Mallrats are two of the films that I’ve watched so many times I can pretty much quote all of the dialogue word for word while sitting in a quiet room without either film even playing.
Smith, to me, is like KISS. He’s an independent guy, doing things his way. He’s never gotten respect from the mainstream and I doubt he ever will. Smith got a bad rap from aspects of the indie world when he made Jersey Girl with a big studio budget and cast, but if I understand it correctly, the storyline predates even Dogma – which is another one for which he caught flak from some circles but I enjoy quite a bit. He’s made some missteps, mostly with the press because he speaks his mind and sometimes forgets that a filter is necessary when dealing with the mainstream. But Smith is doing is thing. Cop Out? He didn’t write it, but his direction is solid and I enjoy that movie. Have you seen Red State? Amazing. Amazing. I do lament the loss of John Hughes to the mainstream, and am saddened beyond belief not only that he died at far too young an age, but that he was never able to come back and do at least one film – at least one – to redeem his career from the evils of Hollywood. The man literally defined my generation with a handful of films, and was responsible for some of the best comedies of the 1980s too. Then he did Home Alone and never looked back. When your bank account reflects Home Alone money, do you really need more?
And Sam Raimi? True story: in 1993 I went to the cinema to see Army Of Darkness nine nights in a row. I’ve purchased three different special editions of the DVD over the years. As a producer, I don’t think Raimi’s lost a step – he just has to answer to suits who are answering to advertising dollars and actors with incredibly inflated salaries. As a director, I feel like he continues to let his voice guide his films. How many people do you know that like The Quick And The Dead? Probably not many, but I do. It’s quirky. It’s Raimi. The Spider-Man franchise? He put some crazy stuff in there – including Bruce Campbell and the greatest character actor of my generation, that fantastic 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88!
7) What do you love the most about independent productions? And why were you attracted to this ‘genre’ in the first place? I’ve touched on this concept a bit already. It’s about freedom. It’s about thinking for yourself. It’s about not worrying what the television or radio or supermarket magazines say, or what your peers say. There are so many talented artists in the world that write great songs, put on performances that will leave you in tears, write and direct and act in films that have the power to change your life. But it’s like a Zen paradox, isn’t it? If an independent film plays on a screen and no one is there, is it really playing at all?
Support these artists, who literally are forced to choose between buying enough gas to get to the next gig or eating sometimes. They survive on merch sales alone. It’s the same with films. With Hollywood you know what you’re going to get. It’s the same template over and over and over and over and over. With an independent film, you never know what you might discover. What it comes down to for me is a belief that subsisting solely on what the mainstream spoon-feeds to the masses is equivalent to giving up. It’s displaying a fear of adventure, a fear of life. I don’t want to know what the next album I’m going to hear sounds like. I don’t want a single. I don’t want to hear the same song a thousand times this summer and then never hear it again until the mainstream decides twenty years later that being ‘retro’ to this summer is suddenly cool. I want to wander into a small club and see a band from nowhere that just blows my mind. It happens all the time. You just can’t be afraid to experience it for yourself.
8) If there was one thing that you would want your readers to gauge from your site, what would that be? Support. Discover. Learn. Think. We live in a big, beautiful world full of amazing art created by artists that do not have rich and / or famous parents or other connections. On the website I am able to describe the records, the films, the concerts. I can tell you about it – and I always provide links to the artists’ websites and/or Twitter accounts so you can explore for yourself. I don’t link to iTunes or whatever, because that is too simplistic and it brings in the middlemen. If you buy the CD from the band when they play in your town, they get paid more, which allows them to continue creating more music. It’s the same thing when you buy the film directly from the filmmaker or support an artist on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Sponsume, PledgeMusic, or some other crowdfunding platform. Buy the download from the artist’s BandCamp page or donate via PayPal on their website if they are doing direct crowdfunding. All of your money goes to create art that wouldn’t exist without you.
He gets paid. But he’s an artist. His records are earth-shattering, life-changing affairs – and his concerts are phenomenal. He does it all himself. Independent. Butch has said many times that there is a huge difference between a popular song and a great song. He saves the great songs for his own records. His fans know that, and if you don’t, you can learn things like that at The Impaler Speaks.
Thanks for giving me some time here on your site, which is both independent and awesome too!
Hey, Impaler, the pleasure was all mine pal. Right, dear readers? So what are you waiting for? Visit TheImpalerSpeaks today! And don't forget about his twitter stream or the MassMovement website either.
Viva La Independent Revolution.