We do try to do things differently here at Sludgelord HQ and one way of doing things differently is the interviews that we always carry out. Bands, Musicians, Label Owners. PR People and Blog/Webzine Owners.
If those people are doing a great job in the Metal community then we will try and get an interview with them. And today's guest is no different as it's my pleasure to be interviewing Pete Woods – Editor and Chief from one of my fave Metal webzines – AVE NOCTUM – Your No 1 Source for Extreme and Atmospheric Film and Music.
If you haven't checked out this great website then you’re really missing out as they cover whole truckload of genres in the medium of music and films. They have an awesome review team who always write superb reviews. If you're into the more extreme of Metal Music and Films then this website is for you.
Take a read at their ABOUT US Page. One of the funniest and honest things about their taste in Metal Music and Films.
So let’s get started with Pete Woods who has kindly agreed to talk to us here at Sludgelord HQ.
1 – Hi Pete, How are things with you today. Thanks for doing this. Been a fan of Ave Noctum for the last 18 months or so.
No problems at all and it is really nice to be asked. Thank you for the kind words about the site, it’s nice to get feedback of any sort but especially when it is so positive.
2 – Can you tell our readers of how a brief history or overview of how you became involved with music writing and where you are today.
Well having been a lifelong fan of both listening to all sorts of music and seeing bands live I wanted to put something back into it all but have no talent myself musically. Over ten years ago when there were nowhere near as many armchair critics on the Internet a friend and I were talking about being fed up with some of the reviews in the mainstream press and we decided to give things a shot and do something ourselves. With his website building skills (something I never had) we launched a site called Live4Metal (yep I agree the name sucked) and we started writing ourselves and from there drew other interested writers in to contribute too.
Before long we had what I would consider one of the best UK metal reviews resources out there. Naturally it was a learning curve and one that eventually ran its course due to (and to quote many a band) ‘personal differences.’ From there myself and many of the writers joined a fledgling site called Metal Team UK (yep sucky name too) until that outgrew itself and I ended up expanding it into the site today Ave Noctum, one I have at last faith in the name even if I did not choose it myself.
3 – You have written for some well known UK Music Publications such as Terrorizer and Dominion. What was that experience like writing for famous magazines. Must of been intense pressure writing for them.
It is a completely different style of writing, I like to waffle in case you did not guess and there is no room for that in the printed press. Everything does have to be concise and honed down and yes deadlines can be tight, so that pressure is there. In a way that is good though as it adds variety. I also now write for Iron Fist which is the fairly new magazine set up by ex Terrorizer editor Louise Brown and it has been great watching this title grow on the marketplace and fill more of a much needed niche gap concentrating on real metal, which the other press have neglected for too long. With Dominion no longer running I miss the chance to write a bit more about Gothic, industrial and punk music but it so happens that Iron Fist’s sister publication Vive Le Rock does this, so I could be contributing there too in the future
4 – What sort of articles did you write for them. Reviews, Interviews etc...
Yes a mixture really, more album and live reviews and the occasional feature. I tend to like going quite in depth feature wise and am not up for asking five standard questions so I tend not to like doing any smaller pieces.
5 – Now you're currently involved with Ave Noctum which I am a huge fan of. Why did you decide to start Ave Noctum. What were the main reasons behind it?
As mentioned I was co-running Metal Team UK with Luci Herbert who had set that site up but it was an old and convoluted web site that was frankly antiquated and difficult to add to. We had decided to look at rebranding things with a brand new site and heard about the likes of Wordpress which is idiot proof to update and looked into this. Unfortunately having no personal skill or finances to achieve a site like we wanted this took forever and by the time it got up and running Luci had pretty much lost interest and moved on to other things. In a way though it did mean that I was no longer relying on others to update the site all the time and could embark on running it myself in a way that I hope is working well. It’s good to be able to add content every week day and keep the site current review wise and hopefully there are people who come back and read the reviews and articles on a daily basis.
6 – Ave Noctum features a great range of genres within music and film. Something very different compared to the usual websites and webzines. Was that an easy decision to include films into the mix.
Well I love genre films as much as I love music and have been into watching horror and exploitation films in particularly as soon as I discovered the thrill of somewhat contentious titles when they were forbidden fruit in the video nasty era. I tend to like films that are challenging to watch in much the same way as I like music which to many is difficult to listen to. I think that there is a very good parallel between extreme music and extreme films and many people (although admittedly not all) like both. I totally enjoy writing about films too and it is a different subject matter again adding much needed variety to things. I do need to boost this side of things as I have not found it as easy to get promo material sent in as it is for the music side of things and as that is so demanding there is little time to write as much as I would like feature wise and in depth on films.
It also does not help that today the sort of films I would like to feature are not made like they were in the heydays of the 70’s and 80’s and there is a huge proliferation of remakes, and a big dumbing down generally of these sort of films. Having said that gems do crop up and I have no problems revisiting great titles from the past that companies such as Arrow, Shameless and Salvation in the UK have done a great job in resurrecting.
7 – I love your ABOUT US Page which tells people, promoters and bands what you will accept to publish on the website. Very straight to the point as well. Do people still send you stuff that you told them not to send.
Well I can’t take full responsibility for that as Luci wrote the first draft which has now been added to. Yes we get sent requests via digital download for a huge amount of material that we have specifically asked not to be sent. It is totally annoying wading through 20 requests or so a day to pick out what we want to cover and what our readers want to see featured. Don’t even get me onto the huge amount of emails notifying from everything that happens in the commercial world from the latest Britpop band launching a new brand of cheese to some old crooner giving himself a hernia on stage and having to cancel his latest dates. In fact just in, a press release informing Lauryn Hill has confirmed for some festival in Serbia. Highly relevant that one!
8 – You have quite a varied team on your website. All of them being excellent writers. How do people join your team. And who decides in what albums or films they will be reviewing.
Thank you for saying so. The lifeblood of the site and without their knowledge, writing skills, style and dedication it would all be pointless. Many of the writers have written for previous sites and I have known them for a long amount of time. Others have simply contacted us and asked about writing for the site or responded when I have asked for new writers on social media. We are always looking for new blood to join the site and contribute and all they have to do is drop a line and be prepared to either show some previous reviews they have done elsewhere or if they are new to things do a couple of test reviews so I can check out whether their style is what we are looking for. They can do this by dropping me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
As for choosing what goes where, well each writer has given me a list of likes and dislikes so I try and fit in with that. Quite often a big list is sent out too with what is available and everyone pitches in and gives me their choices which I try and dish out so they all get stuff they like. It’s a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle at times but eventually all the pieces fit together. Naturally I occasionally get asked for certain albums in advance which I try and make sure people get to cover themselves.
9 – I do respect the fact that you guys feature both negative and positive reviews on your website. As some of the blogs only publish the good stuff. What is your verdict on only featuring positive bands and articles.
You know I have never understood this I’m afraid. I have seen people saying that this is the way they work and have bitten my tongue as I think it goes completely against the grain of what an honest reviews site / reviewer should be doing. As you have asked me though I won’t hold back My opinion is that if a band is putting itself out there to be given a review it should be done so good or bad. You are meant to be a critic and if that means you end up criticising as long as it is constructively done so be it! You are doing a disservice if anything by not doing so.
I have received quite a few emails from bands appreciating their reviews even if they have not been all glowing with praise, thanking us for doing so and saying that they will certainly consider some of the points raised. It’s great being really positive about an album in fact we do so all the time as we are passionate and love a lot of what we get. On the other hand this is something we take seriously and to do that you have to take things in context and provide a genuine opinion. It would not be fair on us, the bands or our readers not to do so.
10 – Have you had any hate mail or death threats from bands and pr people who didn't take too kindly to an article you published.
PR people never, an occasional cry of indignation but nope everyone working that we deal with is highly professional as are 99.9% of the bands who should well be able to take criticism if they want to get anywhere with the music they play. Yes there is however that .1% and although nothing has really happened of note as far as Ave Noctum is concerned we have had death threats and insults and even a few packages of poo in the post with previous sites. As far as that was concerned the first time was most amusing as they had not paid the right amount on the package and I had to travel to the sorting office, pay the excess and then open it to find the nice surprise inside. Most of the problems have been more with live reviews and they are normally from the sort of bands that nobody wants to see, should not be on the bill and have (groan) paid to play. We do occasionally get upset fans make the odd comments on reviews and we have made a point of having a comment box enabling them to do so. Most are polite although we occasionally get called idiots, which we can quite happily take on the head. As I say any feedback is nice.
11 – OK, We all have a musical history or journey to the bands we love and respect now. What was your musical journey. Which bands got you involved with your love of music.
As friends have said in the past “but you don’t really like \\\heavy metal///” and to an extent that is true. I grew up with classical music being played a lot by my dad and I would say that a lot of the atmosphere and style from this has spilled over into my main love black metal. I pretty much grew up listening to the radio and discovered music in the pre-internet days through the likes of Janice Long, Anne Nightingale and John Peel. I guess I was heavily first into a lot of the more commercial synth pop, futurist bands and punk from Gary Numan, to The Human league, Japan, Adam And The Ants and Soft Cell and this grew into discovering gothic music. Early loves that have stayed with me are bands such as Killing Joke, Hawkwind, New Model Army, Alien Sex Fiend, Bauhaus etc.
I accidentally saw my first band at a GLC free festival where I had gone to see Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark specifically and that was The Poison Girls which opened up a whole new world for me taking things far beyond the likes of The Sex Pistols and introducing me to a lot of anarchist punk bands like Crass and the Subhumans. This got me into the more extreme side of things which progressed into metal, hardcore, industrial, thrash, death and black metal as well as crust and punk. Some things as an aside that I also have a lot of time for are soundtracks and I even like a bit of trance now and again and bands such as Future Sounds Of London, Eat Static, Orbital etc
12 – Which genres of music can you not stand. I am happy to say mine is the whole Bullet For My Valentine/Bring Me The Horizon/Alter Bridge style of Rock/Metal.
Yep naturally I am with you there, it’s the commercial side of things and all manufactured music that I cannot stand. Pop punk and emo type bands are a real bugbear and Iwon’t have that sort of stuff on the site at all. I will listen to anything with an open mind though and try and seek out the good points about it. Personally I really do have a dislike for power metal and would not listen to it myself out of choice but can appreciate that lots of people do like it and it has a place in the grand scheme of things.
13 – Obviously running a website such as Ave Noctum can be an expensive business. How do you cope with the daily demands of running a website such as yours.
It’s not too expensive and certainly not compared to the pleasure we get out of it. Naturally there is no money to be made from doing this and I decided not to go down the route of putting lots of adverts on the site for cash to keep it totally free from any bias. Having said that I may occasionally put ads up for festivals and special shows we support for free or for press coverage at them. The internet hosting is the only real cost apart from a bit of postage sending discs out but writers have been kind enough to chip in there and help out. I think in this age of digital press with most of us preferring physical music the biggest expense is paying for the music we have covered digitally on disc. We do have a PayPal donate button on the site but it has gone rusty through lack of use haha. Perhaps one day some rich metal head may well hit it in a fit of gratitude.
14 – Are you a fan of the whole metal webzine/blogging scene. Have you contributed any articles within the webzine/blogging scene.
I think there really needs to be some sort of quality control there as there are many voices out there talking a load of rubbish and there’s a lot of bloggers that really don’t do a good job of researching what they are writing about and let things down. That said there are many that are equally good too so it’s six and two threes really. I certainly don’t have time to contribute to anywhere else at the moment and have never really gone down that route.
15 – The UK Hard Rock/Metal Scene is currently going through a transition at the moment. Lots of great bands and albums starting to be released. Can you see this continuing or do you see things dying down a bit.
Yes I can see it continuing quite honestly as people are always going to be passionate about music. People in the industry have said that things are dying down and I do worry that in the distant future everything will only be available digitally and albums will not be listened to as they are meant to be, with people flicking and picking tracks at will. I can’t honestly see that happening with the sort of music we all love though, certainly not in the near future as the passion and dedication is simply too strong with it all. This is serious music on the whole and will always be treated as such, even if I do say that with a certain elitist attitude, it is what I believe.
16 – I know that Ave Noctum doesn't deal with BandCamp releases at the moment. Ourselves here at Sludgelord deal with BandCamp releases all the time. Why the hate for BandCamp as there are some brilliant labels doing great things via BandCamp. Even the major league labels are on BandCamp such as Relapse Records.
No hate for BandCamp at all it is just that if I said that we will review via BandCamp downloads it would mean we could get inundated with requests and at present we simply do not have time to cover everything we would like to as it is. It is a great tool for bands and I often do check things out via it.
17 – We at Sludgelord are massive Vinyl Heads. Are yourselves at Ave Noctum – Vinyl Fans. If so what are your fave ever Vinyl Records you currently own.
I know some of us have record decks but not allof the writers do. I have never been without one or a cassette deck and still have plenty of time for both forms of medium. It is lovely when occasionally a nice slab of plastic comes in to review although I don’t often buy records these days. I guess my favourite records are some of my soundtracks especially some of the ones by Goblin on Cinevox label. I have to admit I did seize the opportunity of getting most of these signed by Claudio Simonetti when I interviewed him. My copy of Asphyx ‘Death The Brutal Way’ will always be special as a photo I took got used on the back of it.
18 – If you could give someone any advice about starting a career in writing for the major music publications, what advice would you give them.
I would tell them to start out honing their skills with a reputable internet site and build up their experience that way. With so many doing so though it is not at all easy to get into writing for the major music publications. You really do have to have a good working relationship with a lot of people on the PR side of things already and it really does help to know other writers, editors of the publications already. I only got in due to this and would not have done so unless Jonathon Seltzer then editor of Terrorizer at the time had given me the opportunity. Probably being determined and passionate about what you do is the key though!
19 – If you could change anything within the Metal/Hard Rock Scene, what would it be and why.
That’s a great question but not an easy one to answer at all. I guess changing outsiders perceptions of what it all is and not looking at fans of metal and hard rock with any sort of prejudice would be good. It’s fair enough that not everyone likes this sort of music (in fact I am glad they don’t) but we certainly don’t ever want to see the likes of the death of Sophie Lancaster occurring again. That’s the serious answer, the non-serious one (or is it) is that I really wish bloody hipsters would piss off and move onto something else and stop cluttering up gig space!
20 – Well Pete, thanks for doing this. Been a real honour talking to you. Keep up the excellent work at Ave Noctum.
It’s been an absolute pleasure and thanks again for asking me. Keep up the great work with Sludgelord as well and hopefully some of our readers that don’t know of you will check the site out and vice-versa. Hope I haven’t waffled too much.
Thanks to Pete for taking the time out to talk to us and providing us with a superb interview. Check out Ave Noctum folks. A great website with loads of awesome reviews.
Written by Steve Howe and Pete Woods