Interview with Michel Renaud (webmaster)
Interview conducted by Skyclad (The Metal Gospel)
Date online: September 21, 2009
Following up on the "10 Years and Counting..." editorial about the 10 years of the web site... The editorial mentioned an interview done by The Metal Gospel in early 2003. I asked Skyclad (pen name, not the band) if I could publish the interview here and she gracefully accepted. So here it is... Originally published sometime in February 2003 (keep that in mind while reading - some of this stuff can sound a bit dated. ;))
Hi Michel, thanks for taking some time to answer our questions. First I want to start with asking you to tell a bit about yourself and how your journey into Metal began ?
Hi there Skyklad... Hmmm... Tell about myself, not sure what there is to tell, really. :) I'm 33 and I'm a programmer/analyst for the Canadian government - it'll be 15 years soon since I started working there. My journey into metal began a bit late, since we didn't have anything but a radio and a TV at home, there wasn't much music being played. We did have an 8-track player, though. :) I had a friend living on my street who was (still is) an absolute music maniac, back then he was the Elvis expert, actually. He has just about every type of music. I'd often go to his house and we'd listen to music (loud - his parents were surprisingly cool about the walls of his room literally shaking because the music was so damn loud.) Nothing we listened to ever caught much of my attention until he started playing hard rock stuff like Bon Jovi and Cinderella (in the Slippery When Wet/Night Songs days). While I liked the stuff, it didn't take long before he started showing me stuff like Iron Maiden, Voivod, Helloween, Judas Priest, early Def Leppard (up to Pyromania - Hysteria wasn't out yet), and some other metal bands that I can't recall at the moment. He did have some Slayer LPs he got when he subscribed to a music magazine, but he wouldn't play it because he said it was satanic and he was scared of that or something - ah the memories! Anyway, that was around 1986, so I was 16. I got a double-deck tape player and he taped me some stuff to check out, and I started buying albums by Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy, Kreator, etc... So in short I started with hard rock and quickly migrated to metal. What followed in later years is addressed in the next question...
There was a brief time where you had sort of laid down following Metal and explored other music styles. How come you could not have done both (continued with Metal while exploring other styles) and what was it that renewed your interest in Metal ?
OK this comes from the "About" section on my web site... I really need to rewrite it because it's not worded correctly and lacks some clarification. Maybe I should just trash the section altogether - hehehe. To continue from question 1, during my elementary and high school years, I was living in a very small town in northern Quebec and information sources were somewhat limited. I subscribed to a music magazine made in Quebec (which covered metal since it was big back then), and then when I moved near Ottawa, there was The Power Hour on MuchMusic and Solidrok on Musique Plus (the French-Canadian version of MuchMusic) which showed metal videos (I couldn't watch these channels when I was living at home because our ancestral TV only went up to channel 13!!!) Therefore I was pretty much exposed to the bigger bands, and I wasn't aware of the whole mailorder, tape trading, underground scene, etc.. In the early 90's, almost in a matter of days, grunge started replacing metal in the aforementioned media. Needless to say I couldn't stand that junk. I had a good number of metal albums and kept listening to them, of course, but the couple of record stores that were close-by started carrying a lot less metal, and there wasn't much to buy. Boy do I wish the Internet had been widespread back then.
In 1993 I decided to go back to university to get a B.Sc. in Computer Science, and then I started buying more "pop rock" stuff, mostly due to peer-pressure I guess (you know the infamous "you should listen to other things than metal blablabla". Well, not all pop rock is crap so I actually had some good albums. That still didn't beat cranking some Motörhead at 4am while doing my Algorithmic assignments, however. :) Metal was still my primary music, but I just wasn't buying much new stuff for a few years, say from 1993 to 1999 (Load/Re-Load in 96/97 were heartbreakers, really, as I had heard the follow-up to the Black Album would be more like Ride The Lightning - AH! Talk about getting screwed!) Kind of shitty when you think of it. Anyway, I'll skip some more details, as it all comes down to one thing: peer-pressure. Then in May 1999, as I was visiting the friend who turned me to metal in the first place, we were listening to a 200-CD player loaded with metal - it was playing songs from all 200 discs at random. Something clicked there, sort of the realization that something had been missing for a long time (I won't overdo this part, otherwise this could get almost as cheesy as Manowar :)). I need to add that my stereo had been unplugged (literally) for some 6 months at that time (it hasn't stopped much since then, however.) When I got back home, I went out and bought some more recent metal albums, then started hunting down information on the Internet. Lots of mp3 downloads led to LOTS of new purchases (kinda freaked out my friend with the amount of CDs purchased back then... I had a lot of catching up to do.) I sold the crap I had in my collection and bought new stuff with the money. Other than metal, you won't find much else than some classic rock and some classical music in my collection nowadays. In fact, I don't have time to listen to anything else but metal, and I like it that way. As for those who like to give me the "grow out of metal" talk, I can pretty much say "been there, done that, beat it".
When was the idea for MetalCrypt.com formed and how did it come to materialize ? In other words tell us about the beginnings of your website...
September 11, 1999. No terrorist attacks that day (unless you consider Quebec City drivers to be "terrorists", which isn't too far off...) I was in Quebec City for a Hanker show and was meeting there with Pierre Bégin (Hanker's webmaster) and we talked metal and about his web site quite a bit. At the end of the evening, I came to the conclusion that maybe my opinion didn't suck so much after all (some will disagree with this last statement, but their opinion sucks - hehe), and on my way back to Ottawa the next day, I was already thinking about trying to start a small web site with reviews of metal-related stuff. The first incarnation of the site went online the following weekend, on September 18. Back then it was called "Michel's Metal Page", renamed "Michel's Metal Crypt" in late December '99 (when I registered my domain name), and then again more recently renamed simply "The Metal Crypt". The site sucked beyond belief at the beginning, but then again it was my first attempt at building a web site. Updates back then were rare and few, sometimes going 2-3 weeks without any update. I was on a free web host with very bad performance, I only moved to a paying host when I registered the domain name, so there were 3 really shitty months at the beginning. With time, traffic started to build up. Nowadays the site receives on average between 150 and 200 visitors a day, somehow I'm having a tough time breaking the 200+ barrier for good. :) I can still remember the days when there were no visitors, or just two or three! :)
Has the idea ever crossed your mind to make a printed version of your zine ?
If it did, it must have been at warp speed and I just caught a glimpse of it as it passed by. I *really* suck at laying out things on paper, I don't think the result would be very good. And I wouldn't have the room to keep all the issues when they would arrive from the printer. :) But never say never...
What do you think about when printed zine people complain that online zines are "worthless", "not true" and that "they´re not a lot of work" ? Do you think a time will come when printed zines go the way of the 8track ?
Well, everyone can say retarded things, even printed zine people. I've often seen such comments and have yet to find a worthy argument. Not a lot of work? I just spent over 2 hours this morning setting up a "featured artist page" for Enthroned, and I'm not even the one who wrote the biography. Some of these critics would go hide under their mom's skirt if they saw the number of hours I spend working on the site, especially on weekends. That said, I'm a big fan of printed zines, in fact I prefer to read off paper than off a screen (often I'll print long interviews from webzines and read them on paper..) Just like for webzines, there's a lot of crap in the printed zine world, but also some excellent ones such as SnakePit, Slayer Magazine and Canadian Assault, just to name a few. I've reviewed a good number of zines on my site, if you're looking for some to buy, only zines worth buying have been reviewed. Anyway, I don't think the printed zines will go away anytime soon, that would be tragic. I strongly urge everyone to check out the quality printed zines out there - the underground variety, of course. You'll be surprised how much you're going to learn from these.
What are the things you enjoy most about your website and what are the things you aren´t happy with and would like to change ?
I guess by "enjoy" you mean what I'm happy with. ;) The reviews section is by far the most "populated" area of the site, I just wish I had time to throw more "classic reviews" in there. The interviews section is starting to grow again, thanks to a new contributor who is very productive in that area. The "featured artist" pages are *finally* bound to grow quickly in the next few weeks, as I've finally redesigned them to extract the data from the site's database and completely changed the layout. Just the programming part took about 20 hours, that's without having any content - when I say programming, I *do* mean programming, not coding some HTML pages. The site is built mostly using the PHP programming language, there are very little HTML files, I got rid of those about a year ago, probably the best move ever since I started the site.
Stuff I'm not happy with... The "Editorials" section is stagnant, there's been maybe one addition in the past year or so. Sometimes I think about removing it, but that's unlikely. I guess I need to write down my rants in there rather than on message boards - lol. The message board in itself looks good, but it suffers from a serious lack of traffic... :( The only advantage to that is that there are no morons (or very little), unlike what you'll find on the more popular boards - hehe.
Have you had good response to the recent call outs for additional staff members ? I think I have a pretty good idea why you decided to have more people on board since you work an ungodly amount of hours in your job but is that the only reason for this decision ?
Well, the hours at work are somewhat under control for now, but that could change again in a little while as the deadline for the project gets closer (let's just say that if we screw up on this project, the shit could come from as high as the ministerial level... not good for career advancement.) But I still don't have as much time as I used to to come up with reviews, interviews, etc... The response wasn't bad at all, I got a number of good contributors from it. Of course, the more the merrier, so anyone interested in having their reviews/interviews/articles/features published should not hesitate to e-mail me. Another reason for asking for more happy helpers is that I wanted to vary the writing style on the site, and I think that is mission accomplished. I actually picked up a couple of albums that have been reviewed by the newcomers and I must say their reviews were right on. Anyway, I wouldn't mind adding yet a few more contributors, if only to ensure a steady flow of fresh material.
What has been some of the most amusing or shocking feedback you´ve gotten because of running the site ?
You know, thinking about this question, I realize I never had THAT much feedback - at least not sent by e-mail. More positive than negative, so that's cool. I've had a couple of amusing comments by e-mail, such as that guy who, after reading my anti-mallcore rant (aka nu-metal, but that's not metal) wrote me to defend himself wearing baggy pants.. He went on to explain how comfortable and practical they were with the big pockets and all. Oh my... Go e-mail The Gap for fuck sake! I'm not sure, but I think that same guy e-mailed EvilG (the guy who runs the Metal-Rules.com site, for those who don't know him) with the same type of crap just a few weeks before that. Another one... I can't help but smile and shake my head thinking about this one. He was whining because I had trashed a couple of albums by Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. He went on to say that maybe I didn't know anything about Black Metal and that HE really knew his Black Metal "because he is from Yugoslavia." Er... What? What the hell does that have to do with anything? I don't recall what I replied to him (I usually don't reply to these people), but he never wrote back. Maybe he stepped on a landmine while running in the woods wearing some fag-gothic attire. Of course I got the usual bullshit from mallcore lovers and a few Metallisheep who didn't like my "Lawyerallica" article. Bleh. :)
The guestbook has also had its share of idiots - you won't find many because I remove the ones who are too cowardly to leave a valid e-mail address. I've been accused of running a shitty website just to get free CDs (since I don't suck up labels for promos, I don't get THAT many to begin with - just bands and small labels who e-mail me to get my address), so that was kind of dumb. More recently, some Jesus freak posted a long "Jesus is coming" rant in my guestbook and he e-mailed me the same thing. Weirdo. Anyway, some people should really get a life. One thing that pisses me off is when a band doesn't like something I said about their album, and ask "do you play any instrument?" haaaaahahaha. Like most people, no, I don't.
What do you do when you aren´t slaving for the Crypt (besides slaving for your job of course) ?
Not much... I've always been a quiet guy, so my life is usually uneventful. Sometimes I go on a roadtrip to see shows as far as Quebec City or Toronto (I'm stuck right in the middle, both cities are 450Km away - east and west), or even in the U.S. if I feel like it. But the average work week, I'll usually watch TV and/or read metal magazines or fiction novels, or stuff on military aviation. I hate bars so I don't go to those unless there's some metal show that night (and around here, that's VERY few.) And, of course, gotta play with the cat from time to time. :) I've always been kind of a loner, and I'm not too crazy about big crowds.
Would you say that the internet has increased your knowledge of Metal and allowed you to meet a lot more people who have similar tastes as you or has it made no difference ?
It's like day and night... As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, before 1999 I was relying on magazines and TV and was not in contact with the "scene" *at all*. The Internet is a great source of information (talk about stating the obvious... D'OH!) and one has to be pretty lazy to be ignorant of what's going on in the metal world nowadays. I've met a lot of people into metal through the Internet - by that I mean "met in person" and have become good friends with many of them. Many I haven't met yet, but hope to eventually. Without the Internet I would never have been in contact with all these people. And it's not just other metal fans, but a lot of bands as well - it's always surprising to see how down to earth most of the metal musicians are.
What is the scene like in your area of the world ? If you could move anywhere else, would you and where would it be ?
What scene? Pretty much dead here in Ottawa, unfortunately. The only good local bands that come to mind are Deämon (killer death metal), Nihility (sort of death/thrash), Ivory Knight (melodic metal) and Exciter (speed/thrash, maybe you've heard of them? :)) These bands don't play much due to lineup problems and/or lack of an interested promoter I guess. Most shows advertised as "metal" are actually hardcore bands and I can't stand that crap. I usually have to go to Montreal or Toronto to catch metal shows. I prefer to go to Toronto because I know more people there and can meet up with them before the show starts, like the mandatory vinyl hunting spree with Adrian from Unrestrained! Magazine. :) In Montreal I usually end up being alone at the show, and I have one hell of a hatred for that city and the holier-than-thou attitude of most people who live there (with exceptions, of course.) I won't go into details here, some things are better left unsaid. Now where would I like to move, that's a tricky one. Europe? I'm not sure I'd like to live there... I've only been to France (and one day in Brussels, Belgium) so it's hard to say... There seems to be a lot of shows in the NYC area, maybe that could be a good place. Would I move? The job better be worth it. And stable. I like not having to worry about that. :)
Which part of the world produces the most amount of your favourite bands / Metal styles ? Do you think Europe is better than North America in that aspect ?
Hard to say... I guess I'd have to say Europe, but I'd be curious to do the actual count. I guess with all the NWOBHM and German thrash bands bands I like, North America is left in the dust. North America has a very large death metal scene, but I'm very picky when it comes to DM. Quebec for instance produces a lot of bands, but the majority are death metal, and really not the death metal I like personally. If you look at the Canadian scene, I like Hanker (Quebec) and most of the others are from Ontario (Exciter, Anvil, Sacrifice (R.I.P.), Razor, Deämon...) As you can see, I'm more into "traditional" heavy metal and speed/thrash. But in the end, it's the music that counts, not the country that produces it. :)
What have been some of the greatest experiences revolving around being into Metal for you ?
Well, other than enjoying the greatest music of all (ahem... high cheese factor here - bring me my sword!), I'd say it's meeting a lot of great people - whether it's other fans of the music, or the musicians themselves. It was kind of weird last summer in Cleveland at the Classic Metal Fest, when I ran into Bob Mitchell (ex-Attacker vocalist, now with Vyndykator), and having my jaw drop because I was essentially in front of a heavy metal legend, only to see that he's about the friendliest and most down to earth guy you can meet. I think Classic Metal Fest 2 was THE single, best metal experience I've had. I met a lot of people I had been in contact with through the Internet, and the band members I met were all great - Iron Cross, Penance, King Fowley from Deceased/October 31, Mark from Overlorde, and I'm probably forgetting a couple of people here. That was a great weekend, no matter what one washed-up "metal journalist" said. hehehe.
As has become customary I have a set of questions that are the same for everyone. Despite the redundency factor the different answers can often be interesting so... what are your thoughts on:
Underground bands vs. mainstream bands ?
By mainstream I assume you mean bands such as Maiden and Priest? As much as I like these two (and a few others), I'd have to say the underground is a gold mine of great talented bands. It's not because a band doesn't make the cover of a glossy mag that it's not any good - I wish more people would realize that. The best sources for finding out about these bands are the printed fanzines and the webzines. The only glossy mag that has decent coverage of unknown band is Unrestrained! Magazine out of Toronto, so add that to your shopping list. :)
Should Halford rejoin PRIEST ?
Sure. Ripper doesn't fit, sorry for those who love him. He's a good singer but he should stick to that nu-puke project he's been "singing" for, especially since he seems much closer to that "scene" than to metal (at least that's the impression I got from reading his interviews.) I'm not sure if a new Priest album with Halford would be any good, I think Tipton and Downing have run out of steam, judging by the two abortions known as "Jugulator" and "Demolition". The new Halford is not that good, and the first one had something like the first 7 songs that were good and the rest was filler. Who knows. Worst case scenario, Priest live with Halford as frontman would be a great thing to see.
Reunions of old bands that have long been broken up ?
I don't have a problem with that. If they want to do it, why not? If the resulting album sucks, I just won't buy it. Many of the reunifications in the past 3-4 years have resulted in some pretty good stuff. One of the things that annoy me the most is when I see some morons saying that any bands with members over 40 are "washed up" and should just give it up, or some crap like that. Hell, I've seen such "old-timers" as Iron Maiden, Destruction, Dio and Motörhead kick some major ass on stage, more so than bands half their age. The only one who should give it up is Ozzy, in fact he should have given up some 10 years ago. I'm pretty sure he'll be running around on stage with an IV unit if he tours again.
Corpse Paint ?
I don't care much one way or the other, really. However I think a lot of Black Metal bands have kind of missed the point of corpse paint, they look more like Kiss than an actual "corpse" - lol. Compare the corpse paint Dead (Mayhem) was wearing with what some bands, say Immortal, are wearing to see my point.
Christian Metal ? (There are people who claim there is no such thing as christian Metal...)
I may have heard a track or two... Hmmm.. Wait, I think you could say that Torman Maxt album I reviewed a few months back is Christian metal. I don't care much for the monicker, be it Christian Metal or Christian Rock, I find it a bit idiotic to feel the need to add "Christian"... Metal is first and foremost the music, the lyrical content is more like an additive (well, to some extent.) If the bands sound like, say, Maiden or Razor, but the lyrics are "Christian", I don't see how that cannot be metal? I remember some people saying metal is inherently anti-Christian, I think that's narrow-minded. What about all those metal bands that were more about partying, or simply about heavy metal? What about instrumentals? Bottom line, if I like the sound, I'll listen to it, whether it says "Christian" or not. Unlike some people, I'm secure enough in my own beliefs that it doesn't matter what's the "message" in something I listen to, I'm not afraid that stuff would change me in the least.
Releases limited to a certain number ?
I don't mind, although I find limiting something to, say, 50 copies, is overdoing it a little. How "true" can you get? lol. What sucks is when some idiot buys a bunch of copies and then sells them on eBay for big $$$.
Reissues with a few bonus tracks ?
I don't like that. Most of the time, the bonus tracks break the mood of the album, and in the worst cases the sound level will vary (how fucking annoying is that..) I've run into reissues where the bonus tracks fit in pretty well, but they're a minority. Most of the time, I only buy a reissue if I don't have the original. Also in the past year or so, some labels have started reissuing albums with bonus tracks just 3-4 months after the initial release. That's beyond lame.
Vinyl vs CD ?
Both. Analog recording still beats the crap out of digital recording (even companies that build equipment for digital studios will tell you that), but CDs are a lot more convenient (I haven't figured out how to hook up a turntable to my car yet...) What makes me laugh are bands that record an album in an all-digital studio, then release it on vinyl. What's the point? The sound is rotten at the source, there's no advantage to putting it on vinyl. Idiots. An analog recording will sound better on vinyl - and better overall. Digital recording is essentially an approximation of the sound, and there CAN be some loss - anyone who has taken some advance computer science courses (and was listening... :)) can attest to that. And no, it has nothing to do with having super-hearing or whatever.
Tribute albums ?
Waste of money. Good exposure for the bands, I guess. I don't mind cover albums released by a single band. Deceased's "Zombie Hymns" are Iced Earth's "Tribute to the Gods" are two that I really like.
Live albums ?
Live after Death! :) I like live albums, but I don't like when they release too many. I almost went postal when I heard Maiden was releasing ANOTHER live album after Brave New World. I didn't buy the album, just the DVD (it's cool to SEE the band perform, but I don't see why I'd need another live Maiden CD.) Some bands should abstain from releasing live material, aka N*FLAMEZ.Compilations ?
I usually avoid them. Again, good exposure for the bands, better than tribute albums since they get to showcase their own material, but with all the full albums I have to listen to, there isn't much time left - not at all in fact - for compilations.
People who only listen to one style of Metal and hate all others ?
Whatever floats their boat. It doesn't change anything for me, but those who like to voice their dislike of everything else (eg. on message boards) can get annoying quick. I think the worst offenders I've run into are power metal and black metal fanatics.
The book "Lords Of Chaos" ? What are your favourite Metal oriented books ?Good book overall, mostly the first half, then it turns a bit to crap. The people who trash that book haven't brought much to justify WHY it sucks, and HOW they "know better" (I'm not saying they don't, I'm saying I have yet to encounter one...) My favourite metal book has to be The NWOBHM Encyclopedia... It's unbelievable the number of bands you find in there, even the most obscure NWOBHM bands that only had a compilation appearance are in there! Excellent. Also expensive - not just the book, but I always end up ordering some of that old stuff on vinyl. hehehe. "Heavy Metal, the Music and its Culture" by Deena Weinstein is also an interesting read. For fiction, "Fire, Metal, Blood and Money" by Michael de Los Muertos is also an excellent read. I went through that novel in about a day and a half, I just couldn't put it down.
European Metal scene vs North American Metal scene ? Which area of the world has the most obscure scene that you think could use a lot more publication ?
I think it's a no brainer to say that the European scene is in much better shape than the North American one. Most obscure scene? I don't know... Is there anything out of Africa? lol. I think we're going to see more Eastern European bands come into the light in the next couple of years, they seem to have a number of good bands over there, and some fine printed zines as well. A lot have popped up, but I'm sure there's a lot more that I haven't heard of yet. I noticed that Asian countries other than Japan are also starting to produce and export some bands, so that's something to keep an eye on.
Reality lyrics vs. Fantasy lyrics ?
Both... Although overdoing the fantasy lyrics gets old very fast. :)
Major Labels vs. Underground Labels ?
Underground. Major labels - I'm thinking such as Nuclear Blast and Century Media here - have a bad tendency to force bands to change their sound (there are exceptions), while underground labels are usually run by real metal enthusiasts who pick bands they like and just want to help release/promote their stuff. I think the biggest downside is that underground labels don't have much budget to help the bands go on tour, and sometimes the distribution can be somewhat lacking - but that's why we have mail order distros. :) As for the 5 major labels, you'll pretty much just find nu-puke coming from those, so who cares.
Terrorists are losers, cowards, parasites, the lowest form - I'm being rather nice here. If you've got something to settle with a foreign government, declare war and start marching. Don't go blow up a café or crash planes into buildings filled with people who have nothing to do with whatever grudge you hold.
Human cloning ?
One of the ultimate fuckups that mankind has come up with (not far behind mallcore/nu-metal)... Same goes for animal cloning for that matter. I mean, what's the use? Last time I checked, we were still able to reproduce. This simply opens the door to more diseases, malformations, etc... I haven't seen ONE good argument coming from the pro-cloning "lobby". The one about "living eternally" (haaaaaahahahaha) is the one that comes the most often and, seriously, can anyone REALLY justify fucking with this stuff just to flatter one's ego? I don't fucking think so. But I guess this is like for nuclear weapons, once the door's been opened, you can't close it and hope it'll go away. It looks like most countries want to forbid human cloning, but are slow in legislating. And even with legislation, will that stop anyone? Murder is illegal but still happens. Let's just hope no screw ups happen.
So, thus wraps up my "standardized" questions. Now I give you the opportunity to pose a question (and answer) you would like to be asked that I didn´t ask...
Damn... This is like being asked "why should we hire you?" at a job interview - lol! Well, I've run into more than an healthy share of mallcore promoters polluting message boards lately, so here's a general shot at them: "What should we do with mallcore promoters that pollute metal board?" Answer: Ship them off to Iraq, grab a beer and tune in to CNN. There are other questions that could have been asked, but you said you wanted an answer. hehehe
That´s about all the torture I have for you Michel and thanks again for taking some time to rant about what we all hold so close: Metalllllll ! The last words are yours...
I just re-read my answers and some of my answers are very long, so I think the readers are the one getting tortured! Hopefully most people will survive to these last lines! Well, thanks for the interview Skyklad, and sorry for taking a bit of time before sending in the answers (bleh.. I'm still faster than most bands! :)) Keep up the good work on the Metal Gospel, a visit there is always interesting. And to everyone, visit www.metalcrypt.com daily or else I'll... er.. I'll... ahem... yeah!
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