Tuesday 23 September 2014

Interview with Billy Goate and Melissa from DOOMED & STONED

Today's guests have been responsible for one of the best blogs over the last 12 months or so. They have won fans across their globe with their heavy mix of reviews, previews, daily news, radio shows, daily video requests, live concert footage, and interviews with the best Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal bands and artists have to offer.

Bit like ourselves, of course. We are huge fans of them here at Sludgelord HQ. We consider them friends and family within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community.

I am talking about the awesome webzine – Doomed & Stoned – which is led by the charismatic Billy Goate – with help from his cool partner in crime – Melissa. They are joined by a handful of contributors from around the world who give their time to connect you with their local scenes each week through Doomed & Stoned.

So let’s get to talking with these Stoned-Out Doomsters!!!

Q1 – Hi all. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today?

Melissa: Great. Thanks so much for this, I'm pretty flattered!

Billy: Just to clarify, she’s pretty and I’m flattered. In all seriousness, we’re so busy doing this thing, our heads are spinning!

Q2 – Honour to interview the fine folks at Doomed & Stoned. So where shall we begin. What were the main reasons for starting Doomed & Stoned and how did it all come about?

Melissa: It was all Billy’s idea, really. He made a Facebook post announcing he was gonna create it and I just messaged him offering to help. I didn't really expect him to respond, but he did right away. Moments later, Doomed & Stoned was created.

Billy: Doomed & Stoned really started in response to a personal desire on my part to connect with fans of the doom-stoner genre. I just wasn’t finding a lot of people who shared my passion and interest in my personal circle of friends. Even the online metal forums I was active in didn’t seem to know what to think about a band like Electric Wizard or Windhand. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Saint Vitus (opening for Down in 2010), it did something to me. I call it my soul food. Surely there were more people out there who adored the pulsating, heavy sounds of doom! I was intent on finding out and the best way I knew how was to put the music out there, like a radio station, only with the capacity for social networking. Facebook seemed like the best place to start. From July 2013 on, it’s been a natural evolution from posting the music, to meeting the fans, to interviewing the bands, and that cycle continues and the circle widens, and now I’m thrilled to say I’ve met that original goal. I have made (and am continuing to make) incredible friends involved in the scene from around the world.

Q3 – How did you two meet – did you know each other before you started Doomed & Stoned?

Melissa: Kinda. We met in a Facebook group for heavy metal. Everyday had its theme, and Wednesday was death and doom day, so we became casual friends because of the forum.

Billy: Yeah, we developed an affinity right away for the same kind of music. It was great to have at least one person I could go to and say, “Have you heard this band?” who experienced the same kind of excitement as I for the music. We discovered a lot of bands together during this time.

Q4 – What is your main focus/reason in running Doomed & Stoned?

Melissa: Our goal is to help promote the underground. Of course, we’ll highlight the big dogs but our focus is on the unsigned and independent bands that we see so much potential in.

Billy: Yes, we want to really put a face on the various scenes around the world. There are so many bands right now that I think the average fan is overwhelmed by it all. In the process, they’re missing out on a lot of really good music. While I’d like to think that everyone listens to everything we post, it’s unrealistic to think so. That’s why we want to not only post a song or album, but also build interest in the band, its members, its history, and the scene that it comes from. While a lot of the more popular music webzines and blogs attempt this, I think Doomed & Stoned is always striving to make the experience more personal to the reader.

Q5 – Stupid question – Why the name Doomed & Stoned—any particular reasons behind it? (though I can take a wild weedian guess. HA HA)

Melissa: HAHA, I’m quite an avid marijuana enthusiast, so of course I love the name. Billy had come up with the name. I think it’s a pretty name clever and it just stuck.

Billy: You’ll notice my strategy of letting Melissa answer all the incriminating questions first! I came up with Doomed & Stoned quite simply—by putting together the two “bookends” of the Sabbath sound: doom metal and stoner rock. You’ll find Black Sabbath playing both ends of the spectrum and that’s the sound that’s inspired a revival in traditional heavy music.

Q6– 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.

Billy: Since both Melissa and I have full-time jobs, we don’t get to spend quite as much time in this area as we’d like, so it’s been baby steps. It took us a little while to figure out if we wanted to write about the music, or just post it. We kind of moved from interviewing to doing music reviews, mainly because we were getting so many requests from people.

Melissa: Doomed & Stoned is really my first experience writing. As a kid, I'd write a lot of poems and songs, and in high school I was pretty interested in rock journalism, but it just happened. So, this is my first real experience writing. I love it....it challenges me and helps me to be more in tune with what I'm hearing and feeling.

Q7 – You cover the same range of genres that we cover. Are there any genres that you wouldn't cover?

Melissa: Personally speaking, no, not really. I’m as big a fan of Testament and Death as I am of High on Fire and Clutch. Of course, I want to focus on what we're doing now, but I have no problem doing something a little different that might appeal to our listeners. I recently interviewed Goatwhore and it was well received. I think we have a lot of listeners that are also into black metal.

Billy: Like Melissa, I’m a fan of other metal sub-genres. Hell, I’m a classical pianist by training, so my appreciation for all music is as deep as it is wide. Because of the sheer volume of metal and rock out there right now, we’d go insane trying to cover everything—even if we only focused on the “best-of-the-best” or, say, just bands signed to a record label. Instead, I think we’re a better service to heavy music fans by focusing on the doom-stoner niche.

Q8 – You cover a lot of different things on your webzine: podcasts, reviews, interviews, video shoots, and a kind of daily music jukebox. Do you find it difficult to do Doomed & Stoned on a daily basis, especially if it hits your personal lives?

Billy: I experience a lot of anxiety sometimes about everything I need to do in a given day or week—new interviews to schedule, old ones to transcribe for publication, events to keep track of, new albums to plug, album art to showcase, in addition to coordinating projects like the recent Doomed & Stoned in Portland compilation, which was a massive undertaking. We finally had to create a weekly calendar, because things were starting to fall through the cracks. Why do I do it if there’s stress involved? Because the end result is worth it: helping lesser known bands to gain a global audience, turning people on to their next favorite album. In short, just bringing a smile to others—that’s what makes the late nights and early mornings worth it.

Melissa: We just do what we can. Family comes first. I have a small child and nothing on this planet will be more important to me than her. With that as first priority, I find time to do my daily request show Wake’n’Bake, I conduct regular reviews, do occasional interviews, and write the weekly Pick Of The Week segment along with my request show. Billy has his weekly radio show and mid-week podcast, to make sure we always have fresh content and he probably does other things I don't even realize, haha. It can be hard sometimes, but we love it.

Q9 – How has the reception been to your webzine so far? Has the response impressed the hell out of you or scared you in anyway?

Melissa: I find it encouraging that so many people like what we do. There's been plenty of "WOW!" moments that have inspired me and made me wanna do more. I'm not scared in the least.

Billy: I still get nervous interviewing bands. It took a lot of courage for me personally just to go up and shake Mike Scheidt’s hand after the first Yob show I ever covered. Now he gives me a smile and a big ol’ hug every time we see each other at a show. We’ve come a long way from early moments like to now writing a review of Yob’s new album (something we wouldn’t have felt “qualified” to do before) and conducting personal interviews with the man behind such epic songs as “Burning The Altar” and “The Great Cessation,” but here we are! Moving forward, we can and will strive to do what we do better and better, so we’ve got to continue to be open to feedback—good and bad.

Q10 – What's the team structure at Doomed & Stoned? Is there an overall leader who gives orders to the other team members? Or is it more relaxed than that?

Melissa: I think of it like, Billy is the CEO and I'm the Vice President. Billy is the one to make the ultimate decisions, but he talks with me a lot and we can bounce ideas off each other. We have a great relationship and we've become really good friends, so it helps that we know we can be honest with each other.

Billy: I’ve picked my team very carefully, choosing folks who know their music and really catch the vision of what we’re doing through Doomed & Stoned—trying to connect people in a personal way to the underground heavy music scenes in North America, Latin America, Sweden, Poland, The Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and beyond. I am a pretty friendly, easy-going person, which is a strength when it comes to building relationships with each team member. On the other hand, it’s also a weakness, because when I need to get people to follow-through on their commitments because we’re working against the clock, they’re not used to seeing my more “urgent” manifest when I really, REALLY need them to get their deliverables in. But mostly, I try to lead with love. I know, it sounds corny, but it really is a reflection of how I want this team to operate—as a family with the utmost passion for the music and a real sense of duty to get it into the hands of the people.

Q11 – Melissa, you have recently got involved with interviews. How did Billy get you involved with that? Were you scared when doing your first interview?

Melissa: I was scared shitless for my first interview, which was with Spirit Caravan back in April. I know the promoters that booked Wino, Dave, and Henry, and I guess they are all pretty tight. I was talking them one day, completely joking, and said "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I could interview Wino?" and they said "Yeah, we can make that happen!" So I instinctively said “YES!” but was so terrified inside. Billy and I Skyped quite a bit in preparing the questions and walking through a lot of “what if” scenarios. In the ned, everything went really smooth and I even danced with Wino for a moment when Pilgrim was playing. It was such a cool experience that I decided I want to keep interviewing! This year so far, I’ve had the opportunity of interview Mike IX from Eyehategod and John Garcia of Kyuss fame.

Q12 – Melissa , I have to ask where did the idea come from regarding the daily video jukebox request show, as it's now taken a on life of its own? I do try to request stuff when I can. You must hear a lot of different bands and artists from people's requests.

Melissa: I call it an all-request show, Billy calls it live-blogging. The idea was to take a social media platform that most people use and treat it like you would an old-fashioned Friday night call-in request show on the radio—only do all this on Facebook. One of the big benefits is that for every request for “I’m The Mountain” by Stoned Jesus—you know, the popular stuff—there’s at least as many requests for more obscure stuff, which gives us all a chance to learn about new bands. Sometimes I get some far-out shit like some experimental noise rock band or something haha. And of course, I'll get a request for Destruction or Slayer every week, with the remark: "I get stoned while listen to destruction, so they’re stoner metal." Just gotta shake my head and laugh at that.

Q13 – Billy. You have become very involved with recording live gigs in Portland. How did that come about and is it hard to arrange, as some bands aren't keen having their gigs recorded?

Billy: Truthfully, I just started showing up and filming. Of course, my first shows were with bands that had invited me up to see them, Mothers Whiskey, Disenchanter, and Mammoth Salmon—all absolutely genuine and fantastic folks. They really made me feel at home, because I was very nervous being an outsider in the heart of hipsterdom. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered much resistance to filming. The one time I got asked to stop was in one of those “we’re too good for you” venues. The bands were ok with it, but the assistant manager of the place told me no. Ever since then, I’ve been careful to ask about the venue before I take the long drive up from Eugene to Portland (a four-hour round trip). Mostly, bands are happy for the publicity, plus my filming style has really grown since I started. Got a long ways to go (I’d love to have money for one of those uber professional lenses), but right now I just have a passion for capturing these moments in history and preserving them for others to watch—particularly those who live outside of Portland and want to experience the magic of what’s going on there right now.

Q14 - What is your verdict on blogs and webzine who don't feature negative reviews. Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Billy : I don’t necessarily have a problem if they are only reviewing quality releases to begin with (we try to avoid reviewing albums that we aren’t into, period). On the other hand, if your website is dedicated to reviewing all of the latest records (especially those represented by labels), then I think the reviewers do a service to the readership if they give an honest assessment.

Melissa: I definitely put us in that category. My top priority is to be honest in my reviews and never sugar coat things. I don't want to bring any negativity to a band, and no one wants to hear "hey your band blows" so I think it’s best for us to avoid albums that we don't really dig.

Doomed & Stoned in Portland cover art

Q15 – What has been the low and high points during your time on Doomed & Stoned.

Billy: Yeah, there have been some growing pains as we’ve tried to become a more professional operation, but I think we’re all having fun in the process and considering this a big learning experience and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So the low points have all been on the way to high points. Ying and yang. Very philosophical of me, eh?

Melissa: I can't really think of a low. I think the high point is now. We just celebrated our first year with the compilation, even got a shout out from Relapse Records. I think my favorite moment ever was hanging out with Eyehategod after I interviewed them. Those guys are CRAZY!

Q16 – 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.

Melissa: My roots in heavy metal is really Metallica, Slayer and Judas Priest. I really got in Black Sabbath a little later which lead me to classic doom.

Billy: I really wish she wasn’t so long winded. My musical journey was somewhat diverse, in that much of the music I could or could not listen to was controlled in my home. The music I remember leaving impressions on me in the home: Olivia Newton John, 50’s pop, and three records: Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Outside of the home, my earliest exposure to popular music would be the Ghostbusters soundtrack. Then I remember hearing Cinderella as a 10-year old. Boom, something heavier than normal. I was intrigued. Then a year or two later, Metallica’s “One” on MTV, which was quickly banned from the home, but not before I heard “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. OMG that changed everything. I wanted metal and slowly but surely, I delved into the world of the heavy. It would take me well over a decade, though, to discover doom metal and stoner rock (though I recalled hearing the occasional Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin song on the radio and thought, “That retro stuff was really cool”). I had no idea what was waiting for me just below the surface: High on Fire led to Down led to Saint Vitus (live!) led to DOOM!

Q17 – How do you feel about the other more established websites - Do you feel you’re in direct competition fending for viewers or do you have a healthy respect for them.

Melissa: I respect those guys. I guess a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, but it seems unnecessary to me. We all have the same goal, right?

Billy: Yes, in theory. The further down the gopher hole I’ve travelled the more I’ve come to discover other blogs and then those little furry and alternately ratty looking creatures have come to discover me and either reacted with a spirit of kinship or a bit of that “Hey, what are YOU doing down here?” look. Oh, and then there are those underground hipster palaces that prefer not to admit that we DIYers exist. I love what they do and show up to their party dressed as…a friggin’ smelly goat. I have a beard, and even the glasses, but not the fedora. Damn. Oh well. I prefer to be a misfit, anyway.

Q18 – If you could change anything within the Blogging/Webzine community. What would it be and the reasons why.

Billy: I’d like everyone to know that the heavy underground world is big enough for all of us to share, so there’s no reason to bristle at each other’s presence. I know some people make their living off of this and some don’t, so I can imagine some of the more established and respected bloggers thinking, “Oh no, not another one—what’s this person’s angle?” Hopefully our main angle is promoting the bands and the music so we can all enjoy it more and introduce it to new people. I think that’s an enriching experience for all of us.

Melissa: You know, I’m not sure if I would change anything. There are a lot of different tools available, and the internet has completely revolutionized music and the ability to network. But I'm new to this whole thing, so maybe there is an issue that I haven’t come across yet.

Q19 – Do you feel that the Blogging/Webzine community should be working more closely together, such as the radio stations do – Core Of Destruction Radio and Grip Of Delusion. We could give bands that extra more publicity by putting our talents and resources together.

Melissa: I do. Billy is already doing that with Grip Of Delusion, so I think that’s great. I would like to see more partnerships happening.

Billy: I think it makes sense to realize that the internet is a big, wild space and it’s very easy for most people to miss what we’re doing completely. Finding ways to collaborate, while at the same time preserving our independence and uniqueness just makes sense. There’s already a great spirit of collaboration on Twitter and YouTube, that it’s laughable to me that Facebook pages covering the same metal subgenres should be ignoring each other like they don’t exist.

Q20 – If someone wants to join your team. Who should they contact and what rules do you have in place.

Melissa: Billy. I’m sure he'd talk to me about it, but he's the Boss. In the end, it's his call.

Billy: Drop me a line. Because our Facebook page is a big part of our success, we’d like to keep it running—just like a radio station, with daily programming (e.g. posting new and old doom-sludge-drone metal and stoner-psychedelic rock, accompanied by commentary, news, and short album reviews). Send an email to doomedandstonedofficial@gmail.com and let me know what your program idea is and when you could do it (typically our programs involve posting a variety of content for a 2-4 hour block of time, while occasionally interacting with the readers/listeners).

Q21 – What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own blog?

BillyGoat: It’s fun, but it’s also tiring, so find a good balance or you’ll stress yourself to the point of not enjoying it anymore. Every so often, I just need to take time away (because covering the doom-stoner scene right has become an everyday thing for us lately).

Melissa: Fake it until you make it. And what I mean by that is people will see what you project. And I've been that, when working with bands for interviews or whatever. So if I go in there confident and project an image, that’s what they'll see. Same thing goes with this. Just dive in, and be confident in yourself.

Q22 – Billy. I always wanted to ask this. Why the name Billy Goate.

Billy: It was a nickname that an Aussie friend gave me and it just stuck, because I have many personality traits in common with goats—I’m stubborn, tenacious, yet gregarious and fun-loving. When I registered the name on Facebook it would NOT, for the life of me, accept “Goat” as a last name. Added the “e” to the end and I was golden. Then the identity really took on a life of its own. People started posting anything and everything goat-related on my timeline. Now when I introduce myself to people I’ve talked to on Facebook, at a show or festival, I’ll say, “Hi, I’m Billy.” And they’ll give me this blank look like, “Should I know you?” I promptly follow with, “You know, Billy Goate.” Suddenly they get a big smile and follow with an “Ohhhh!” and usually a hearty handshake or hug. So, looks like I’m stuck with it.

Q23 – The last thing before you go, do you have anything else to say to your fans.

Melissa: thanks for believing in us and caring about what we do!

Billy: Stay doomed and stoned, everybody!

Well Doomed & Stoned thanks for doing this. Long may your excellent work continue.

Thanks to Billy and Melissa for taking the time out to talk to us here at Sludgelord HQ.

Check out Doomed & Stoned crew from the links below

BandCamp - Awesome Compilation that Billy put together featuring bands from Portland.

Written by Steve Howe