Friday 3 August 2012

Interview with MARI

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing legendary blogger Mari. Who used to be part of legendary blog – Sludge Swamp and is now part of ace website DOOMMANTIA amongst others..

She also does her own brilliant Internet Radio Show on Core Of Destruction Radio.

We all know who Mari is. She is involved in almost every scene of the Doom/Stoner/Sludge Metal scene. She has put me onto so many great bands that I have lost count.

She has kindly agreed to do an interview with me which I am very honoured to do. As I am a big fan of Mari's work (Trying not to sound like a deranged stalker here - LOL)

So here is the interview. This interview goes out to the King/Mayor/Head Honcho of The Doom/Stoner/Sludge Website and Blogville - Ed of DoomMantia. Get better soon Brother. Love and Respect from all of us at Sludgelord.

Q1 – Hi Mari. Thanks for doing this. Can you give ourselves a brief history on how you became involved with blogging with Sludge Swamp up to your recent work with Doommantia and your brilliant radio show.

First of all, thanks for inviting me to this interview, for your kind words and your interest in the nasty old witch!

Well, my involvement in blogging with Sludgeswamp has been a totally casual deed, although, I guess, a natural one. I mean, I had been following the blog for a while in a silent, almost shy way while trying to get a grip of the idioms used in the comment boxes and especially in the very heart of the blog, the legendary "chatbox" out at the Swamp.

English is not my mothertongue, and although I use it daily for my work, there's a colourful language to be known via lively blogs as the Swamp was. After finding some courage I started interacting with Cheeto and the bunch, and then the adventure started! I'll never thank Cheeto enough for drawing me into this amazing experience which has been and still is awesome fun. And my fellow blog mates and friends were awesome too. 

Two years of intensive active blogging at the Swamp brought to interaction with doom guru Ed Barnard in Doommantia first and then with the awesome folks out at Core of Destruction Radio.

As we mention Doommantia, I take the occasion of expressing my hope that Ed will recover soon from the heart attack that struck him a few days ago.

Next October will mark my second year of collaboration with Doommantia. And at the end of last May it had been one year of interaction with Core of Destruction Radio! Last but not least, recently I had the honour of being involved in a new Italian webzine, The New Noise, run by Michele Giorgi and Fabrizio Garau from the now extinct, legendary Audiodrome webzine.

I’m still pinching at my skin, because all this is incredible to me: I’ve never been or even dreamt of being seriously asked about music and/or becoming a dj ever, hahaha ...

Q2 – Obviously this is your hobby of sorts. How does it interact with your personal life, job etc …. - It must take a lot of time to do what you do.

Well, you're right, this activity has nothing to do with my real job apart from the fact that in my job (geology) I happen to work on and study "rocks" and "metallic" minerals, eh eh ... So, yeah, this music-related activity is totally "hobby" like for most active bloggers and radio people, and most of the musicians as well, I guess. This side activity has been growing steadily to dangerous levels too, hahaha ... It takes quite a lot of time, although it turned out to be so mentally healthy that I think my personal and social life got better! Starting from the fact that free time is limited and you have to choose and devote time only to people and issues you really care ...

Not many people I know understood and understand this passion of mine for heavy music and extreme metal. I guess it is like that for many many metallers. For many years in the past I felt a bit, let’s say, intimidated by other people's reactions, and so metal was a private passion shared with almost nobody. But after a while I started not caring any more.

As to the time issue, yes, this activity stales a lot of time. I am lucky, though, as I don’t need too many hours sleep, hahaha … 

Q3 – How did you get into Doom, Stoner and Sludge Metal.

I guess that being an early teenager keen on music in the mid Seventies helped a lot. In spite of the objective difficulties in the diffusion of underground "heavy" music, rock and proto-metal, back in time compared to now, the incredible cultural/music revolution of those years was able to spread around like a virus and even reach small Italian mountain villages like the one where I was living. The very first private radios and tape exchange have to be thanked first, as LP were costing a lot of money. I heard Black Sabbath for the first time when I was twelve in 1975. 

I still remember the day I found that tape because as soon as I started listening to it I was struck. Suddenly I realized that beloved Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, early Genesis, and other bluesy hard rock and prog-psych bands I was finding variably heavy were not quite if compared with that bunch from Birmingham! Or better, Black Sabbath introduced another idea of heaviness, definitely, so much darker, and so much haunting. Then I variably approached/enjoyed various other genres as well, like punk, heavy metal, grindcore, grunge, death and black metal, etc..

Eventually I re-discovered doom via Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Candlemass, whereas I got into Cathedral later. I got into sludge via Acid Bath and Eyehategod and got into psych and desert/stoner via the most classic way, I guess: Jimi Hendrix's imprint, grunge plus Kyuss.

Q4 – Your based in Italy – Is there a big scene for Doom/Stoner/Sludge Metal Bands (though Italy has some killer bands like Zu, Uformammut, ZIPPO, Morkobot to name but a few).

Italy has got a big scene indeed for doom/stoner/sludge metal. I guess most of us are still astonished for the size of the scene in spite of the total lack of the support by the media. Sometimes I am surprised when I see that alternative, independent radios give infos about gigs by millionnaire Italian or international alternative or neo-melodic pop singers together with news about reggae or indie festivals or gigs, while totally ignoring events like Roadburn bands in our towns or supporting cool local doom-stoner-sludge metal bands.

In spite of life being not so easy, the community is big, is growing and quite a number of people and (young) musicians are into different shades and hybrids of doom, sludge and stoner, as well as prog-psychedelia, experimental metal and other genres of heavy and extreme music.

The big Perkele portal / forum is an outstanding reference for many bands and fans especially of the doom-psych-stoner scene. However the scene is even wider and is employing all possible web opportunities, including forums and a growing number of webzines.

So the web is precious and helpful in spreading the news, keeping the scene alive and making it grow.

My opinion is that eventually the most important thing is the presence of a lively and multifaceted underground scene or culture, no matter if it is not too “popular”. If it is there and you are keen on it, you can have access to it and support it.

Q5 – You were involved with possibly the most legendary of Sludge Metal Blogs – Sludge Swamp. That must have been a blast to be involved with. Did you get into trouble with bands and labels for posting the stuff online. Or was the reception quite positive.

Opinions might be different, but I think that Sludgeswamp and the other coeval awesome blogs like [*mercenario*], Stonerrobix etc., devoted to various shades of underground heavy music, had an essential role in building up and supporting the doom/sludge/stoner scene to the size it has reached now. I should say the same thing for other legendary blogs exploring other sides of extreme metal. The extent to which the bands’ outputs were exposed to people everywhere and the effectiveness in making big amounts of metal and rock fans aware of underground bands via blogs were, and still are, amazing. 

At the Swamp there was piracy to some extent, for sure, and some complaints duly came, obviously and reasonably. But at least blogs like the Swamp were coupling much info and links to bands’ sites to stuff that was already and invariably spread around in the net often anonymously, and therefore basically “wasted” from the promotional viewpoint. Moreover a big amount of posts dealt with stuff provided by the very bands that were sharing their outputs via the blog as an effective way for auto-promotion. So, yes, I think that the reception was rather positive.

Q6 – Are you involved with the local scene at all in your home-town or is just an online participation.

Oh, I am not a musician, unfortunately, I am just a fan, and I am trying to attend as many gigs as possible in my hometown (and nearby areas) compatibly with life/work needs. I know several guys from our local bands, some promoters and several local Swamp friends personally. But when I go to gigs here nobody says “ah, that’s Mari from the Swamp”. I have a particularly anonymous look, so maybe someone may notice me just because I am not a youngster or I look less “nasty” than others. I’m “nasty” inside, hahaha …

Q7 – You have featured some great bands over the years. Have you had positive and negative feedback from bands because of your work.

I think I partly replied to this question above. The many bands that sent their stuff over at the Swamp for posting were finding the thing effective. And, I think, they were finding a very friendly environment with much interaction.

I must say we were bitching a lot about visitors to leave comments etc.. Maybe we exaggerated, but, well, at the end we had a great response, I guess. Not a frequent case, I guess. The only case I personally know of webzine having a big interaction with readers is Invisible Oranges. So without being a somehow intimidating thing like a forum, we became like a huge, world-wide circle of friends and music lovers, and bands’ folks were directly involved. There has been a huge mass of information conveyed to fans from fans (bloggers and visitors signalling bands and events) and from the very bands in a friendly way and trying to convince fans that the scene needs to be supported.

So in general yes, feedbacks have been positive.

It is as if generous bands were remembered by fans. I got often messages from bands’ guys telling that they had had many people coming to their gigs after being exposed out at the Swamp, and buying most of the merch, albums etc. Similar comments had come from guys managing labels and even distros. In so many cases we saw bands that had been featured out at the Swamp at their very first utters, via for example a demo, becoming popular. An example? Red Fang.

Personally, as a fan, I have never in my life spent so much money on music and CDs/albums since there is this massive spread of music in the net: more bands to be known, more cool music found, an exponentially bigger amount of gigs to attend, more albums I try / want to physically own. Because “solid” music is what a true music fan eventually aims to, I guess.

When Cheeto, the owner of the blog, decided to close it, many worried comments came from fans and also from emerging bands. Obviously soon they realized that the web was burstling with other cool opportunities via other valuable blogs, like Sludgelord, A Distant Rumble, Trippy Jams, etc., as well as webzines.

What is left from the Swamp is its Facebook page, which is still visited by fans and used by bands to post their announcements, as well as the personal contacts.

Q8 – Do bands contact you to feature their music on Doommantia and Mari's Cauldron.

Well, in my early days at Doommantia I was choosing the albums to write about. Then of course Ed

was overwhelmed with requests so it was normal for us in the team to share some of his burden sometimes. Soon I started getting requests from bands and from labels. I guess it is the normal evolution for someone involved in a webzine. In the last year the requests have been increasing a lot and cover various genres.

I must say I hate to bash about music I don’t appreciate, especially if the reason is my ignorance about it. A writing team with different minds may help in this respect. But I am lucky, though, as most of the requests I got and I am getting are from bands (and labels) that have probably perceived my tastes, and also what the webzine is about. So it is more pleasant to write critically about something one is able to understand and, eventually, appreciate.

Another nice thing that happens is when a band contacts you for the first time and says “our previous output was shit for us, but we did the new one at our best”, and the second claim is true!

As to my radio show Mari’s Cauldron out at Core of Destruction Radio, I am still enjoying much freedom of choice and it is great fun. However my idea of that show is promotion as well. So in my playlists/podcasts devoted to doom, sludge, dark and blackened metal, and retro psych and desert rock, I am often featuring emerging bands that I like, whereas I tend to limit tracks by the “same old” big names. I share the same philosophy with my regular guest at the radio, blogger Vonfrost, who has been and is one of my main references for the darkest and “nasty” metal genres I like.

Q9 – Do you spend a lot of time researching bands on the web or do you stick with the bands you know and love.

Yes, I spend a lot of time going through blogs and webzines looking for bands. I mean, I don't do it on purpose, it just comes as natural as I like to explore. Obviously I have a (fat) list of bands I appreciate, or almost worship, but I have a great time in approaching bands that I don’t know. There are often cool surprises to be found! 

Q10 – What is your fave bands of all time. And upcoming bands appearing at the moment.

Oh, I have a long list of top fave bands because I am fond of several different genres.

I guess my list would be quite similar to many others. If I have to name (reference) bands I go back ultimately, well, I may mention early Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Opeth, Alice in Chains, Pantera, Down, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Sleep, Eyehategod, Buzzov*en, Kyuss, Oresund Space Collective, Josiah, Baby Woodrose, Nebula, Abysmal Grief, Napalm Death, Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Darkthrone, Carpathian Forest, Deathspell Omega, bands from the American and Scandinavian old-school death/black and Japanese/Scandinavian crust and thrash/crossover scenes, etc..

As to upcoming or recent bands, ach, too many again! I think there are many many great bands around. One might blend the bills for festivals like Roadburn, Maryland DeathFest and Live Evil Festival for making me happy, hahah … But this is the occasion to declare my total fondness of the Finnish band Oranssi Pazuzu, which has nothing to do with doom or sludge. Moreover, I have been, and still am, experiencing a bipolar attraction by bands devoted to extremely sick and/or occult sounds both in doom-sludge and in black-death metal (e.g., Hell, Meth Drinker, Moloch and similar bands, Diocletian, Wrathprayer, etc.) and by bands devoted to totally retro sounds (basically the whole catalogue of Transubstans, Ozium and Black Widow Records …).

Q11 – Would you consider starting your own blog or doing work on other people's blogs. Or is it a case of seen it, done it and bought the T-Shirt. Or are you happy staying with Doommantia.

Eh, my ideal thing is to be in a blog with other people collaborating and having each a reasonable degree of freedom. There are too many things to do in order to keep a music blog in a constant activity if a big amount of writing is involved and if one has a different job for living. One may start a blog with a winning idea and a lot of effort and passion, but invariably help is needed. Also I like what may come out from the interaction of many heads. So no personal blogs for me. The involvement with Doommantia, with Core of Destruction Radio, with blogger Vonfrost and with The New Noize are keeping me fairly busy.

Q12 – What is your stance on bands and websites giving music away for free. Some people are for it and some people are against it. You have been on both sides of the argument obviously with Sludge Swamp and now Doommantia. 

I think I already replied to this question, at least in part, above. Piracy exists and is bad, of course. But the forced closure of blogs does not solve the problem because the sources of piracy are not the blogs. When I see albums absurdly spread around in the net and with photos of the physical release well before the date of release, I wonder whether real pirates are actually inside the music industry.

I understand bands being crossed with this system. A way of fighting it is, I guess, to use the same weapons, like with partly legalized drugs. People can’t possibly buy all the solid copies of the (pirate) albums they like, because it is frankly impossible. Also I am convinced that if one likes an album o a band eventually he/she will like the pleasure of possessing the album.

But the parallel diffusion of the information together with the tunes may help the band’s promotion, I guess. So I think that entities or systems like Bandcamp or Jamendo etc hosting band’s authorized downloads for free, for a volunteer donation or a fixed low price, are a nice way to face the problem. Or better, I hope. Maybe I am hopelessly naȉve, but when I see “Buy – Name your price” and zero is also admitted, well, I always make a donation, and then download, if I really like what I heard. So the donation, even small, is a way of supporting the band I’m appreciating.

Several bands have another strategy: they give everything for free download, in mid-quality bitrate, and then they prepare well cured, limited edition solid releases (CD, tapes, LPs) often with fine diy craftmanship. And apparently they sell well. Because mp3s are volatile and are not that ornamental …

Q13 – Do you feel your fighting a losing battle at times in promoting the scene. I know I do at times when I feel nobody is watching or listening. Then I look at the blog hits and am still surprised I get hits each day. Gives me pride I am doing something right.

Eh, I know what you mean … At the Swamp the vivid discussion among bloggers, fans, visitors and bands’ guys was useful in getting the feeling of the effectiveness of the “message”. While writing in webzines like Doommantia etc., where there is a much more limited mutual interaction, one may be caught by pessimism and wonder whether and how many people who are not in the bands will actually spend their time in reading the avalanche of words written and posted. But apparently people do read critically, and check the bands’ websites out! Hopefully they go further and support the bands they like consistently as well.

Q14 – Is there any style of music around at the moment that you wish would just go away. (Yes I have my own pet hates – Mainly Emo and Hair Gel Metalcore bands)

Oh yes! I can’t stand neo-melodic pop, most of indie, emo, metalcore, symphonic gothic metal with soprano singers, most of power metal and I get bored to glam rock/metal after 2-3 songs. The same happens to me with rap and hip-hop, unless I understand the words and they make sense. I’m not too keen on reggae apart from some basic Bob Marley.

Q15 – If someone was starting their own Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal site or radio show what advice would you give them to help them succeed.

Ah, difficult question! Well, it depends on the aim of the site, of course. I would probably start saying: “Be prepared to work hard because many bands are seeking visibility and do need help”, and “be kind but sincere as well to the bands’ people”.

As to the radio show, actually I don’t know how successful mine is! I mean, apart from my regular fans that cheer me up, I just have some figures from the downloads of the podcast files, which are really wavy (sometimes by hundreds sometimes by tens) depending on how much I advertized the podcast or bands shared it, etc. The folks at Core of Destruction Radio should have a better stats of the connections, and also some better advices about radio shows. They didn’t fired me yet, so I guess I am doing at least decently, hahaha …

By the way, they are looking for more DJs, eh!

Q16 – So any exciting future plans you are involved with. Or is your schedule quite full at the moment.

Well, the schedule is pretty full but I would like to mention another activity that is somehow connected with the rest.

I am taking the occasion of this and the previous questions of yours about promotion to outline another issue that involves bands as well as bloggers collaborating with webzines and, therefore, variably involved in the scene. The issue is what underground bands have to do for an effective auto-promotion and also to manage their efforts for planning one o the most important activities, i.e., gigs.

On several forums one can see very interesting threads lead by musicians/artists/promoters (sometimes all in one person) and dedicated to this problem.

Underground bands have to rely on diy activity and mutual collaboration, even if they are enrolled by a label, because labels, even big labels, do not support the organization of the live activity any more. So bands either organize their live activity independently or rely on the help of local promoters and/or underground bands (and may exchange favours in a future).

The task for organizing all this may be really big.

It often happens to me that bands’ guys write and ask for suggestions about venues and or promoters from local to anywhere. They say “you have been in blog/webzine long time, you maybe have an idea of whom is doing what, etc.”.

Similar enquiries also came for labels where to send promos, artists and recently also webzines.

A further common request is for suggestions about bands belonging to the same genre playing in certain countries and as possible local contacts (this means that sometimes bands are not informed about their scene in nations different from their own).

So about one year ago I decided to start a group in Facebook where to collect all the information, found by myself and contributed by other people and bands as well, about promotion for underground bands.

All this info is available on the web but apparently it is difficult to get hold of it. So it is useful to gather any bit of info as soon as it is found or provided.

The group is called “Directory of Booking/Promoting Agencies for Underground Bands” and is open, so I guess everybody in Facebook can see the posts there.

With the precious help primarily of Vania Yosifova (a promoter from Sofia), metal artist and previous gig organizer Cindy from Sibilla Graphics, my “colleagues” in webzine The New Noise and several guys from bands, we have been building up a growing database which can be a good starting point for the bands, and also useful for promoters and artists and sound technicians as well.

The database is accessible via “documents” or “files” linked to the page of the group and devoted to Venues, Promoting/booking Agencies, Rock/Metal Artists for graphics and video, Labels and Recording Studios, and Webzines.

This is the link for the group:

Several concerts were and are being organized via the connections established through the group. But obviously additional infos about several topics are needed and are welcome in order to make the database bigger.

Well, I think wrote more than enough! Sorry for the flood of words … Steve, thanks for your interest and for the interview to the old witch! All the best for your great blog!


Well Mari Thanks for your time. Epic and brilliant interview by the first lady of Doom. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Check out Mari's work from the links below.