THIS IS MY METAL LIFE – WITH RAYMOND WESTLAND
(Founder/Chief Editor of Alternative Matter, Music Critic, Writer and Metalhead)
As a fan and major collector of all things metal, I always turn to the music critics to know what is going on, which bands are good and which need more work or when things are being released. These music critics often sell their souls and pour their hearts into blogs, webzines and magazines to give us the latest news, reviews and interviews of our beloved artists.
One such fine example of a music critic would be Raymond Westland of Alternative Matter. Air Guitar Blog has been fortunate to have a chat with Ray about his views on the music industry at the current time, running Alternative Matter and exactly how did he get into heavy metal.
You are the Founder/Chief Editor of Alternative Matter (fantastic magazine by the way). Do tell our readers, how and where did the concept come about?
Thank you very much for your kind words! The concept stems from a project/blog I had called Home Nucleonics (yes, named after the famous Strapping Young Lad song), which was all about forward thinking and experimental metal bands. After a year or so I had the feeling Home Nucleonics had ran its course and HN merged together with UK-based webzine ThisIsNotAScene. Together with Tony Burgio, I founded Alternative Matter (AM) in April 2011. We basically used the same concept behind Home Nucleonics, but we expended by adding different music genres, like Dark/Doom Jazz, Post rock/metal/core, Ambient, Industrial, Electro and Dark wave. Mind you, experimental, progressive and atmospheric rock and metal is still our “core business”, but we don’t mind expending in other musical directions as well. AM started out as a 2 man enterprise, but nowadays there 25 people from all over the world involved with our webzine, thus proving that metal is a truly global phenomenon
Running a web magazine is not easy and there is constant need to update the magazine on a daily basis. What would you say are the biggest challenges to work with such a medium and how do you as Chief Editor overcome this?
Running a webzine like Alternative Matter is very much a balancing act. On one side you need to keep the labels and PR people happy by honouring the agreements you have with them and making sure that reviews and interviews are published on time. On the other hand you need to keep your writers happy and focussed by making sure they receive the kind of promos they like for instance. They all have their own personalities and character traits, so you have to take that into account as well. The biggest obstacle is the sheer amount of time running a zine consumes, but luckily I have some very capable senior editors who help share the load. Running a zine is a lot of fun, but it’s takes a lot of dedication and hard work.
|Alternative Matter Webzine|
You have been fortunate to interview and review many Artists. Would you like to mention any possible favourites or moments that stick out the most to you in regards to a good interview or review?
That’s a very hard question to answer, because I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. Recently I did an interview with Micheal Berberian from Season Of Mist which was quite a memorable undertaking. Last June I did an interview with Devin Townsend in Groningen, which turned into a very candid conversation. Several years ago I did an interview with Al Jourgensen from Ministry for a Dutch zine called Zwaremetalen in Amsterdam. The most memorable moment of that particular interview was the copious amounts of red wine Al drunk during the interview, without getting intoxicated whatsoever…
Working at Alternative Matter offers great insight into what is going on in the music industry especially the metal and alternative niche. Do you have any predictions on “break-through bands in 2012”?
Very hard to say. In all honesty I’m not really interested in so-called break-through bands or artists. I’m only interested in high quality music and whether that comes from a young and upcoming band or a band with 20 years experience under their belt, it’s all good to me.
Recently, Alternative Matter has been digging behind-the-scenes for information from Label owners such as Michael Berberian (Season Of Mist) and Brian Slagel (Metal Blade). What are your insights of the industry at the moment in regards to downloading and the rise of social media causing conflict with Record Labels?
I’ve heard many different answers and opinions from bands, artists and people from the industry alike. Some are complaining about the loss of revenue, while others see it as a golden opportunity to sell their music directly to any potential clients, without the interference of a music label. Fact of the matter is that since the rise of Napster back in the late nineties the proverbial floodgate has opened as far as (illegal) downloading is concerned and I think has become such a commodity that’s it’s here to stay, regardless of any attempts to curtail this phenomenon through legislation. I think that music labels should embrace the possibilities the current developments offer and use it to their advantage.
Apart from reviewing and interviewing the big bands, can smaller and unsigned bands turn to Alternative Matter for some exposure? If so, how can they contact the webzine?
Well, Alternative Matter is actually more committed to support smaller and unsigned bands, than to supporting big names like a Metallica or Iron Maiden for instance. When bands want to get featured they only need to fill in the contact form at our website and we’ll get in touch with them
For a bit of personal interest, how did you get into Heavy Metal?
I always had an interest in guitar music. When I was still living at my parents my father played a lot of records by Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Toto and Camel. In my early teens One by Metallica received a lot of airplay on the radio, so after hearing that song I was forever hooked on everything metal. Over the years my taste developed from the more traditional styles of metal to the more experimental subgenres. Lately I’m listening a lot to Killing Joke, King Crimson, Ministry, Will Haven, Amebix. Deftones, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Devin Townsend and Obake
So, if I may interject, would you say that the music taste began with parental influence?
Well, my father’s record collection certainly laid the foundation for my little obsession with metal. However, exploring the metal genre was something I did entirely on my own. Writing for several different webzines and hosting a metal program also unlocked a host of great bands. The internet is also a great source when you’re looking for new and exciting bands.
I agree! Going back to Alternative Matter, do you have any future plans that you would like to share with our readers? Will there be any possible plans for expansion?
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, but a lot is still in its infant stages, so it’s still too early to say anything about it.
Fair enough. So, we have come to the end of the interview. Ray, would you like to add any final words?
Thank you very much for having me and I hope that your readers will visit Alternative Matter!
A very warm thank you to Raymond Westland for taking some time out to chat to Air Guitar and to inform the readers of what goes on behind the scenes of a great webzine like Alternative Matter.
“Alternative Matter is not your average metal weblog or webzine. We focus on the experimental, progressive, technical and atmospheric bands and artists within the rock and metal realm. They are the unsung heroes that take our beloved genre to new creative heights and explore uncharted waters.”