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John G

Doug recently spoke with local artist John G, who does a lot of the covers for “Scene” magazine and has a new Cleveland-based comic book called “The Lake Erie Monster” out now!

Doug Esper: John, before I start shooting questions at you, I want you to know you need to raise the ad prices in The Lake Erie Monster. I stopped in a comic shop out in Sheffield and the guy working said he already had several people stop in after seeing their ad.

John G: (Chuckles) Well, we set out to break even with this issue. Jake Kelly and I sat down and mapped out the first year and a half to two years of issues and hopefully by the end of the first year we can be financially stable. We don’t expect to be making a living from this comic or other comics, but, who knows, maybe we’ll fucking sell the rights to it and make a movie.

 

Doug: In The Lake Erie Monster we see a 70’s era Cleveland. How did you choose the time period?

John G: Well, it was mostly Jake (Kelly), actually. The idea came from 10 fake movie posters he did for an art show he and I did. The posters were homages or tributes to the schlocky horror movies from that time period. Cleveland had hit its peak in the 60’s and is definitely on a downward spiral during the events of these stories. Economically, environmentally, and culturally it’s an interesting time in Cleveland to set any story, but it’s perfect for a horror story that is a borderline parable about pollution and big business.

 

Doug: How did you and Jake Kelly hook-up and decide to do this project?

John G: I’ve known Jake since high school, so over the last 16 or 17 years we’ve been on this weird parallel career trajectory that came together a couple years ago. We do a lot of the same things like posters for shows, fliers, comics of our own, or oddly enough, he does the murals for Melt and I do the monthly posters for them.

 

Doug: Recently you and your artwork appeared on some posters for Invacare. How did that come about?

John G: I was at a party and a woman asked me about my wheelchair. It was an old, beat up A4 and I was pretty disparaging. It turns out the woman worked at Invacare. Through her, I met a guy who was in development over at Top End, which is Invacare’s line geared more toward athletic, light chairs. He was looking for a different way to market the Top End brand. He asked me to come up with a pamphlet of art to go along with this medical jargon he had come up with called, I think, Rollability. Through that, they used one of my drawings for a poster. Then, they started a campaign where they photographed people in their wheelchairs that are quote/unquote successful people. They asked me to do one and, I did it. That’s how that all came about. I hope I can do more work for them in the future.

 

Doug: I can say that you are the first artist I have a poster of on my wall that isn’t a poster of their art. So, did you guys design all the ads as well in The Lake Erie Monster?

John G: Yeah, we tried to give the ads a look that represented the ads in comics at the same time in the 70’s.

 

Doug: What, the Sea Monkeys ad wasn’t available? I remember those ads in every comic I read as a kid.

John G: Actually, you can look for a Sea-monkeys-type ad in issue two. They will definitely make an appearance. For the next issue we’re going to switch off some of the ads we each worked on. I’m excited to dig into a lot of those old ads and to come up with ads of our own.

 

Doug: Who are some of the artists that influenced you and helped develop your style?

John G: I’m way into comics. Especially those coming out during the time that Jake and I are trying to appropriate. I love classic horror comics. My favorites were, Creepy and Eerie. A lot of people that worked on them are influences.

 

Doug: Like Bernie Wrightson?

John G: Yeah, like Bernie Wrightson, and Richard Corben, who is one of my all-time favorites. I don’t think my work is as illustrative as Wrightson, but the influence can be felt in my work. Recently, (Mike) Mignola with his Hellboy stuff is some of my favorite stuff. There is a lot of influence in my stuff from Jake and other local artists as well. Not as much in how things look, but in concepts and ideas. I feel like I’m always in this game of one-upsmanship with my friends. When I see their work, I’ll think “I can blow that out of the water” or “man, I wish I would’ve thought of that”.

 

Doug: What’s your favorite thing about Jake’s art?

John G: Jake has a very natural style. I’ve seen his art in every stage, from doodles to the final immaculate pieces of art, and it always feels natural. It has an old craftsman feel to it. Too many artists rely on Photoshop and digital production. He doesn’t even know how to use Photoshop. I do, so I know how to cheat. (Chuckles)

 

Doug: (Chuckles) What do you want to accomplish with your art? Where is one place you’d love to see your art hanging?

John G: Well…

Doug: I hope your answer is on my wall.

John G: At the end of the day, it’s cool to make a living and to be able to contribute to the visual dynamic of my environment here in Cleveland. But, I think my theme or the driving force behind my art is to be as honest and as thoughtful as possible in each poster or piece or whatever I’m working on. That’s what keeps me interested, but, yeah, it would be cool to be on your wall. (Chuckles) It would be the ultimate honor. In addition to that, part of the reason we’re doing this comic book is, just like every other artist, I have these secret dreams or lifelong dreams I’d like to fulfill. There are two comic books I’d love to contribute to the canon of. I mentioned Hellboy earlier, and whatever work I could get contributing to that is a lifelong dream of mine. I don’t know how realistic that is. In addition, and probably even less-probable career goal, would be to work on Hellblazer, or some deviation of the Hellblazer canon. Both those books have had a profound influence on my life, not just my work.

 

Doug: So, what our telling me is that as long as the comic has “Hell” in the title, you want to work on it, right?

John G: Heh, yeah why not do both books. We can do a crossover.

 

Doug: So, I have to ask, what is your favorite sandwich at Melt?

John G: If you eat meat, The Big Popper with the bacon add-on is an awesome sandwich. I recently stopped eating meat and dairy, but The Big Popper is the jam.

 

Doug: This was a bad question because I’m stuck on 480 in traffic and now I’m getting hungry.

John G: Yeah, I might have to get some Melt take-out.

 

Doug: Where is the best place for people to view your work, and what do you have coming up?

John G: You can check out www.ninepanelgrid.blogspot.com. There is also a link to that site at our comic book page, thelakeeriemonster.com. As far as shows, the only one I have scheduled right now is at a tattoo/art gallery in Cleveland Heights called, “Kollective Gallery”. I’m not sure exactly what I am going to do for that one. I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure which I’m going to run with, yet, but it should be fun because they are very cool there. We will also have a release party for the second issue of The Lake Erie Monster at Blue Arrow Records in late July.

Jonathan Hodges

Recently, Douglas met up with Jonathan Hodges – the founder, publisher, and editor in chief of Cleveland Heights-based Bad Place Productions for an interview and took a walk through the crowds at this year’s Motor City Comic Con, which is a yearly comic book convention held just outside Detroit, Michigan. This year Jon is showcasing several books published under his Bad Place moniker including one that he writes himself called “The Invisible World”, which is a tale about twp pioneer brothers in the 1840’s who happen to own a very interesting book. One brother is a scientist and the other is a priest, and they may need both of their very different minds to unlock the powers in the book. While walking past lines of fans awaiting autographs from Eric Estrada, Billy Dee Williams, and even Cleveland-based Movie Director Ted Sikora, Douglas had the chance to ask Jon a few questions about his life as a writer, editor, salesman, founder, boss, and this is what he had to say:

Douglas: Tell us your name and what you do?

Jonathan Hodges: My name is Jonathan Hodges and I am the founder, publisher, and editor in chief of Bad Place Productions. I am also the writer of one of our books, The Invisible World.

D.E.: How and why did you start Bad Place Productions?

J.H.: Well we originally started with Invisible World. I started to write it and a couple of folks said they thought it would make a cool comic book. So we thought “what the hell, let’s give it a shot”. We went out to a couple of shows and we found Dave Watt, and he came on board to do the artwork. Once we had him on board we decided to do an anthology book called SAFEWORDS. The main goal of that was to spread the word on the folks that helped us get The Invisible World out, help them get some of their work out and things have kind of snow balled from there. The piece that Dave Watt did for it about “WOODBOY” has turned into it’s own series, and Paul Schultz who we had met at a lot of shows was developing his own idea for “SERIAL SQUAD”, and we decided to publish that which we were really glad to do.

D.E.: What are some of the comics you grew up with and what are some of the comics you still read today?

J.H.: Growing up I was a big fan of the Harvey comics, Casper The Ghost, Hot Stuff, Spooky, and I still have all of them. Most don’t have covers anymore but, you know, I still got them. The first “hero” books I got into were the team books like The New Teen Titans, X-MEN, and I had a subscription to those back when they actually sent them to you in the mail with the plain brown wrapper. Really though I would read just about anything, I had a fairly sizable collection even when I was young. The stuff I read today is updated versions of what I was reading then. I still am reading the Teen Titans book. I also have a lot of historical books set in World War II and of course several indie books like the Misadventures of Clark and Jefferson.

D.E.: You mentioned Dave Watt earlier and that you met him out at a few comic book shows and of course now you work with him on The Invisible World and published his WOODBOY comic. What is the best part about working with Dave Watt?

J.H.: Dave and I seem to be on the same wavelength. We really have been since day one. I saw his portfolio at the Pittsburgh show, he is actually from Monroeville, and I flipped through his portfolio and he already had WOODBOY in it. I really liked the way he told a story, and enjoyed his panel layout. When we first sat down with The Invisible World it was just written out narrative style and we said take it, read it, and work with it a bit and when we saw how he had broken the pages down we pretty much cut him loose. I’d shoot him the narratives and he would work on the panels, and we had to tweak it very little. We seem to tell stories very similarly, he is really easy to work with and with all he brings to the table he really has had a lot to do with telling the story. Not just in his individual panels, but also in the way he flows the story and fleshes out the characters.

D.E.: In the first issue of The Invisible World we are shown a brief glimpse into a very large world and are told the start to a very big tale. The story takes place in the 1840’s and we meet two brothers in possession of an ancient book who also seem tied in with a mysterious murderous monster. Where did the story come from and where do you see it headed in the future?

J.H.: It is actually the back story to a piece I was working on which takes place at a college campus in present times and I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to tell the back story and give the right clues and information and finally I just said I would write out that story because it started to take on a life of it’s own. So that’s really where it started. I am planning on this part of the story being 4 issues, but may end up being a couple more if needed. And when that’s done it will jump to present times and all that happens will be affected by the story from the 1840’s.

D.E.: You try and keep busy and hit up as many comic book conventions as you can. How do you not only get a complete stranger’s attention at a show but also, in just a few brief seconds, sell them on your books as opposed to all the rest of the comics out there?

J.H.: Well I don’t see it as a tough sell because I am confident that our stuff is good, and I think that people get a lot for their money from us. We put not only a lot of effort in the quality of writing and the art, but also in the production quality of the books. We don’t want people feeling cheated when they pick up our books. The other thing is at a comic book convention the people are their ’cause they want to be exposed to new things, of course you may be there to find a few things, but you know that you’re going to see books that you won’t find at your local comic book store. So when someone comes up to the booth I already know they are looking for something new I just need to show them this is what they are looking for.

D.E.: What’s one thing you love about the comic book industry? What is one thing you hate about it?

J.H.: Well I love how easy it is to get involved in the industry at least on an independent level, but I’m not too crazy at how difficult it is to be successful at it. There seem to be several roadblocks along the way. One of which is it is very difficult to get distribution and get your product out to a wider audience. The Internet has come along and made some things easier and some things a lot harder. There’s so many people out there that it is tough to be heard, and to stand out from all these books coming out. And I guess that’s kind of the same struggle that independents have always been going through.

D.E.: What are your goals for Bad Place Productions in 2008?

J.H.: We are hoping to get our books onto more shelves and in more stores. We have a few stores in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and we even just added a store in Texas to carry our books. We are doing a lot of shows, as we have always done a lot of shows, but we want to get our books onto some more shelves and retail shops.

D.E.: We are introduced to a very unique character in Woodboy issue one. Is this a one-shot or might this be an ongoing series?

J.H.: I am hoping it will be an ongoing title. Dave is pretty busy with his band (www.myspace.com/girlfightband) plus the workload I am putting on him for The Invisible World 2 and work for SAFEWORDS 2 so, though I know he has an idea for WOODBOY 2, I also know he is busy. His band was recently signed and will be going into the studio so it’s a struggle for his time.

D.E.: Well I want to read it so tell him to take his blank pages with him to the studio!

J.H.: Well yeah and he does that; Dave is constantly drawing whether in the studio or even at restaurants he is always doodling. Anywhere he is, he is drawing something.

D.E.: What is one comic you think everyone should be required to read?

J.H.: Hmm, that is a tough one. For older comics I would say go out and pick up an issue of a Curt Swan Superman from the late 70’s. That’s what really got me into superhero comics. Of course the early George Perez Teen Titans was a great showcase on how to do a team book – the book had a lot of characterization, but also had a lot of action. Those books had a lot of things that I think get lost in comics today. The newer books are expected to be so flashy and action driven, and I look at a lot of comics today and I don’t see much story going on. It takes 4 or 5 issues to feel like you have read any kind of story line.

D.E.: What’s next from Bad Place Productions?

J.H.: Well Paul is working on the second 48 page issue for The Serial Squad, though it may turn into two 48 page issues because he keeps expanding it and it just may turn into a serial. We are working on The Invisible World 2 and on Safe Words 2 for 2008 I am hoping – although we are working on a few cool things that if it means we have to wait until 2009 we will. We have a horror writer who has given us the rights to adapt one of his short stories into a comic. I will just hint at that, but I won’t say anymore right now. We have heard that the same short story has been optioned for adaptation as a movie so we are hoping to release our book around the same time as that is released. We also have a fairly well known guy who has done some mainstream and bigger indie books that may do the cover, which will be fun. Paul is also working on another secret project with another writer that we hope will see the light of day later this year so we do have a lot happening right now.

D.E.: What’s the best way to reach you guys at Bad Place Productions?

J.H.: The website is the easiest way it’s www.badplaceproductions.com – we try and update about every two weeks with any news, if we will be at any shows, reviews, and what we have coming out. All of our merch is available on our site through Paypal, or if you want to pay another way just shoot me an email and we can work it out.

D.E.: Finally, how do you think the Browns will do next year?

J.H.: I’m hoping they will do well. I will guardedly say that they might make it to the playoffs.

D.E.: I think it comes with the territory of living in Cleveland that you always want to be guarded when talking about sports.

J.H.: Yeah, stay positive, but always guarded. We have enough jinxes; Cleveland definitely doesn’t need any more jinxes. So quietly we will say that they should do well and hope that it all works out.

Lonn Friend

lonnfriend01

Douglas had the chance to talk with Lonn Friend, formerly editor of ‘RIP Magazine’ and reminisced about his last three decades in the music biz as well as his new book, ‘Life on Planet Rock’.

Doug: Hello Mr. friend it’s Doug from Cleveland. How are you?
Lonn Friend: Very well thank you and yourself?

D.E.: Cold as usual, want to trade weather? Ok, it’s 1967 and you walk into a room with a table sitting in the center of the room. At the table sits four men. You sit down and say hello Paul, George, John and Ringo. They say hello and you are allowed to ask one question, what would it be?
L.F.: (laughs) Are you guy’s human? Or were you dropped off by the mothership. (Laughs) It’s funny because I was playing golf onetime with Alice Cooper and he said he had a theory that all of the guys, the Dylan’s, the Beatles, Elvis aren’t human, they were left here by aliens. And so I said “well then that would make you an alien, right?” And he said “well yeah”. Hehe he said it very humbly.

D.E.: Speaking of Alice Cooper, you mention him very fondly in your book. Tell us about Alice Cooper as a friend to Lonn Friend, and as a performer that you’ve been a fan of for many years.
L.F.: Yeah, one reason I think that the chapter in my book “Wonder In Aliceland” may be my favorite in the book is because it’s a story about one day getting to meet your hero and then having something to do with the artist’s career. We have a significant relationship especially when his Trash album was coming out and he and his people were looking for someone to step up in the media and believe in his comeback. He had been out of the loop for sometime, I mean he had toured but he hadn’t been on the charts in ten years. So, we met on a golf course on a drizzly day and he gave me a rough mix of the Trash record. I said “hey I’ll put you on the cover of RIP” (hard rock magazine of which Lon Friend was editor). RIP Magazine was just starting to hit its stride at the time we had done exclusive features with Guns N Roses and Metallica and the whole hard rock thing was beginning to crest.

I saw this as a great opportunity to live a dream cause I got to pay him back. And I got to be a fan that befriended his hero. He has always been there for me. When I left the media and joined the record business and then left the label he was still there. In fact just last week we did an hour interview on his syndicated radio show Nights with Alice Cooper. He was so complimentary and he knew selling this book is no easy thing. He told me “hey you stepped up when Trash was coming out and that was big”. Alice said “hey we’re opening for the Stones November 8th in Phoenix why you don’t you come in a day early and we can play golf”. And I was booking the ticket before I hung up the phone.

I have never questioned Alice Cooper’s friendship and I think that I get pretty personal in the book. There are others however that I do question from time to time. There are artists that I have traveled many miles with to many countries and sometimes you sit back and wonder if it’s because you have the title, the magazine, the radio show, and the TV spot and that’s why they’re so close to you. Or perhaps they really liked you and appreciated your honesty and your trust was built on something more then your position or your influence.

D.E.: Speaking along those same lines: the book is published and has been released to the public now so has Gene Simmons gone out and bought a copy?
L.F.: Hey good question hehe. I know that Snake from Skid Row has told Kiss that the book was out. Snake works with Doc Magee on their management team.
You know what’s funny man? You don’t know if anybody is reading your stuff. Just like when you’re in a band and you don’t know if anyone is listening to your record.
I recently met John Mayer at an Aerosmith show. We were introduced to each other by Chad from the Chili Peppers. Chad said, “Hey do you know Lonn Friend? He used to run RIP Magazine.” And John Mayer’s eyes lit up and he said “dude I had your posters all over my wall!” and I told him I really liked the song he wrote about “daughters”. And that’s odd, I never thought I would have an impact on John Mayer, ya know.

It’s cool ‘cause you never know if people are out there or how you’re influencing people, but now I’m on Myspace and I get these long emails from people from all over telling me about being a teenager. You know this guy from a small town in the Midwest is telling me that he is in his 30’s now but when he was 16 he would run to the post office to make sure he got his new RIP Magazine. It’s really cool to hear from people because when I was doing it, all I was doing was riding the wave. I sat with my staff and they told me what new records were coming out, I sat down with bands to do articles and try and do the best we can. And it was really fun.

D.E.: So what do you think set RIP apart from the other magazines of the day?
L.F.: I think it was our editorials. It wasn’t enough to do a one-page article on a band with basically a rewritten press release and a stale PR photo. If we were going to focus on a band we were going to get 6-8 pages of material and have an exclusive photo shoot just for RIP. It wasn’t arrogance but I thought RIP could be the Rolling Stone of hard rock. Like an American version of Kerrang and that’s why I used a lot of British writers too, because I loved their attitude. I had several British writers that are still active and writing great stuff today for Mojo and Q and others.

Over there the art comes before sensationalism. And even today in America sex sells the pop culture magazines. I mean Blender Magazine is supposed to be a music magazine but there’s always some random chick on the cover, is it really a music magazine?

D.E.: Ok, so you are given a club for one night with an awesome sound system and the ability to pick any three bands from any era to play. Who do you choose?
L.F.: So basically you’re saying that I am throwing another RIP party but this one is in heaven and I can choose anyone? Hmm, I’d obviously like to see the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Zeppelin. But then again I’d also like to see Peter Gabriel era Genesis. What they did with Sound And Vision was unprecedented. This is tough. I did see Pink Floyd in ’75 during the Wish You Were Here period and that was stunning. Then again I didn’t get to see the Stones until the 80’s so I can only imagine seeing them in the 70’s or earlier.

D.E.: I didn’t get to see them until the 90’s so you’ve got me beat.
L.F.: Heh, and I saw Nirvana four different times but the best time was at The Palace with only about 700 other people right after Nevermind came out. It’s a tough question cause I instantly think of Kiss in the 70’s playing in South America in front of 150,000 people, but then with my eclectic tastes I think of one of my favorite shows ever. It was Tori Amos quietly sitting in front of her piano playing for two hours in front of 6,000 people and you could hear a pin drop. It’s a good question but too tough to answer quickly heh.

D.E.: If I told you that there was a musician who wanted to meet you for dinner and his name was Chuck Berry what would you say yes or no?
L.F.: (laughs) Oh man haha first off I don’t think I could ever look Chuck Berry in the eyes without laughing.

D.E.: I was reading the book at like 3 in the morning and I got to that part in the book and I woke up my wife laughing and told her she had to read those pages cause I couldn’t even explain it to her.
L.F.: Yeah, I’ve been asked to retell that anecdote several times even on live radio. And what makes it so bizarre is not that it’s Chuck Berry doing that stuff on video, but who I told it to.

D.E.: Jimmy f’in Page!
L.F.: Yeah! Jimmy f’in Page! Consider the environment. It’s my ultimate fly on the wall bus ride. It’s four hours with Jimmy Page, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry! It was unreal. I can’t remember all the things that were said but when they turned to me and said “Lonn tell us a story” that was the first thing that popped into my head. I mean I didn’t really know my audience and I’m telling this story in a cathedral to these prophets. And I was like a kid living the Almost Famous life. I was in the moment and I decided to do my stand up thing and tell the story.

D.E.: So why did you write this book?
L.F.: Well I had to leave L.A. for a number of reasons, but a big reason was to shake up my life, which had gotten pretty static. I was out in the desert and I had to do something. One thing I realized is I had lived a pretty interesting life and I had become a pretty good writer. So I thought someone might want to read my memoirs and I had several people telling me that I should write a book.
What’s interesting is originally I thought I was just putting together a bunch of anecdotes. You know I could say “here’s what happened to Lonn at RIP or after RIP” or whatever. However it turned into a memoir during the editing process. My publisher Amy Hurt insisted that I go deeper into where I came from and what I had done, and that it wasn’t an accident what I did. I literally was born with the Beatles. When I was seven and I saw them on the Ed Sullivan show and then bought my first record.

When I wrote “That 70’s Chapter” which is about where I came from musically I realized in high school I was a prog rocker, then at UCLA I was at the forefront of the punk/new wave movement hanging out with The Talking Heads and I started to think how did this all happen?

How did I end up being in these positions I found myself in? I went from writing and editing porn reviews at Hustler for the Flynts and then comes along this band Guns N Roses. They light up a fire with this culturally decadent loud metal from the glam infused scene on Sunset Blvd. that stretches all the way across the world with bands like The Scorpions and Def Leppard selling mega records and there I was in the middle. I had a rock magazine fall into my lap and instantly these guys are digging me cause I have all this free porn! I knew the culture of decadence cause I had worked for Larry Flynt so it really was a seamless transition. Those bands took me under their wing cause they trusted me.

The oddest thing about the book is not the dirt because I definitely saw that, but I didn’t live that lifestyle with the bands. I observed it and I reported on it and from it, but I tried to take away only what was musical about that scene more than what was prurient about the scene. Maybe I had been numbed to that stuff at Hustler but I just thought “why do we have to write scandalous stuff?” I just wanted to write about the rock and roll. Of course there were moments, like with the article I wrote on Motley Crue. I mean, it was decadent, but it was nowhere near what Neil wrote himself in The Dirt.

I get emails and messages from people all over applauding me for taking the path I did in this book. A lot of people who were teenagers at that time have grown up a bit and matured and appreciate me taking the high road and not writing about how sick some of those tour buses were. Instead I looked for the soul in the music and the soul in the artists. That’s what I was trying to do with this book. I hope in some small way I succeeded, but it’s not a complete thing. It’s a very non-linear book, it’s weird, but then again I’m weird so why should the book not be?

D.E.: Heh, yeah I was telling my brother about the unique feel of the book. It skips around within each chapter as well as from chapter to chapter, but each chapter itself all comes together by the end. It’s refreshing that each chapter has a specific focus rather than a normal biography that just goes chronologically.
L.F.: And believe me this is a lot more structured than before the editing. I think of this book’s structure like a camel. It goes up the first hump then comes back and down for a flashback then returns up to finish off the point. And that’s why the book ends with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, it returns to two of the longest relationships I have had.
Some critics have applauded the ability the book has to put you right there through my eyes but some people have taken shots at the non-linear feel. And yes it’s not normal but what art is? There is a new book by Chuck Klosterman who is a great rock journalist, and his book is all over the map!

D.E.: So why is the music business run by people in three piece suits that don’t even enjoy music, know nothing about it and yet feel compelled to control what makes it to the radio and our ears?
L.F.: Yeah, there is another chapter in the book, which I wrote in the revision stages. I feel like I sold my soul to the Devil and failed to bring rock to the big institution of the record label which had previously based it’s success on pop and R&B. I went into the whole thing very cocky that I could bring rock inside with me, but everything happens for a reason and I did learn a lot about the inner workings of the music business.

Remember, my whole career up to that point I was on the outside looking in and getting my ass-kissed by everyone because they all wanted to be in RIP, they wanted their bands on MTV, they wanted help getting on the radio, and they wanted me to write about what they were doing so they could be hip. So when I got the record label gig that was like getting the keys to the kingdom, to be able to step inside and see it from the other side. That right there is the great crossroads of my career, and really of my life.
Because here it is 1998 and my contract is up and since then it’s been 8 years of just floating from one thing to the next without a whole lot of prosperity. And to return to the question of why did I write the book I thought hey maybe I lived through this shit for a reason. Maybe the reason was to write this book, and maybe by doing that I can find my way back to a sense of prosperity.

D.E.: Well I was chuckling while reading when you mentioned working with the band Nerfherder because I was an intern at a radio station back in the early 90’s and I remember pushing to get them played, mostly do to the fact the band name is a Star Wars reference, and here you were back then on the other side pushing to help the band as well. Although I did notice in the book you attributed the quote to Han Solo when actually it was Princess Leia talking to Han, but I’ll let you slide.
L.F.: Ha good catch!

D.E.: So what advice could you give young writers, aspiring rock stars, and future A&R slaves?
L.F.: Ha well let’s take this one at a time: for the writer’s it is very easy. Write what you love, express what you’re feeling, and don’t let anyone dictate to you how to observe or process what you are experiencing whether it’s music, or film, or art or whatever. Write from within; write your truth. Sometimes we have to write to a certain structure for a certain gig and that’s fine, but you don’t have to bend over for anyone to write your truth. When I was at RIP I only wrote about bands that were making an impact and would let me in to see what was the truth. It wasn’t just lip service there was substance and depth.

For an A&R rep, which is now almost an ancient and extinct race, if you listen to something and it moves you, the guitar player has chops, the lyrics speak to you, the songwriting has appeal then you’ll hear it as a fan. You have to be a fan of the music to make it. The problem with the music industry is it has been controlled by suits instead of fans for a longtime. And it was such an institution based on profit and greed, and if you’re a fan you’re not worried about those things. You’re going to shows and buying records because that music moves you, it is a vehicle for escape, it is a starship taking you someplace else. That’s why you love rock to have that moment, when you’re at a show and you go outside of your body.

For rock stars it’s similar to being a young writer. Make music for you and make the music you love, not what’s going to sell records. Write about what you observe around you or to express what’s happening inside yourself. There should not be a list of rules for you on your wall to tell you how to write your music. You should just plug in your guitar to your Marshall and let flow what goes through you. Make the music for you and be your biggest fan.

D.E.: So what are the first two lines of the poem “I Scream With Nuts”?
L.F.: Haha I actually remember them. “I tore out my guts, for I scream with nuts”. Dude, that’s an amazing question hehe. So you want to hear something crazy?

Two weeks ago I went back to that college ‘cause my daughter had a varsity tennis match with her team. I went to the math and science department to look up Bob Barlow and Dick…the two professors that I hailed in that chapter. They were two guys that meant a lot to me. They taught me; they were my tutors in life. I found out that both still teach there. Unfortunately they weren’t on campus so I just left them each an autographed copy of the book with an intern.

I walked around the campus with the intern and was like “there’s the planetarium where I did my “germ” project in 74’ or in 1975 when I messed up the planetarium”, and I realized that they haven’t put a penny into that campus it looks exactly the same. Which it was kind of cool cause the memories came flooding back as I walked through the halls.

D.E.: Tell us about the line “sometimes its not the color of the chameleon’s skin that makes the difference it’s what he throws on top of it.” Also tell us the circumstances around what made you believe that to be true.
L.F.: Well the chameleon theme is something that came out throughout the writing process, and it wasn’t until writing the book that I realized how much like a shape-shifting chameleon I was. I just really like people around people and feeling like one of the gang. One the one hand I was never the big metal head when I took over RIP Magazine that the fans out there wearing Iron Maiden and Slipknot shirts are, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t understand what a sacred trust it was bringing their heroes into this book or onto the radio was.

So if I was doing MTV Headbangers Ball I grew my hair as long as I could and I threw on the rock shirt of the day. I wanted to be a part of that hard rock community and to fulfill that obligation and to carry that torch, and in that way I could be criticized for not being as authentic as others. You know what though, man? A lot of us have multiple personalities. I have an awful lot of respect for people who know exactly what they want. They are very clear about it and they never waiver.

I have always been a guy who asked a lot of questions, never really knew where I was headed or what I wanted. It’s like that Groucho Marx line “I would never join a club that would have me as a member”.
As a writer, an artist, or a musician you’re getting messages from someplace else that other people aren’t getting. You will fail at the 9 to 5 gig because you’re supposed to be doing something else. And the chameleon in me, whether it was punk rock, prog rock, metal, Tori Amos, Sarah Mclachlan, Aimee Mann, Katie Bush, or whatever I was listening to, if I was in the moment I would get it. I’m not being typecast I’m just putting on that skin, that different skin for the moment. Now, if that made any sense, good luck editing it.

D.E.: I follow you for sure. As a musician or a writer I deal with all types of people who are into all types of music and sometimes I see myself melting into various scenes at times and being a fly on all the walls rather than just rock, or punk, or metal. I enjoy a little of everything and I’ve never committed myself to be stuck on one wall. I am a little too young to have seen Zeppelin or Guns N Roses but that didn’t stop me in 1998 from driving 8 hours to Indianapolis to see Page and Plant perform and totally loving it.
L.F.: You know what man, when people write to me and say, “Oh my God you were there with Guns N Roses!” And yes I was there, I was deep into the scene, but you know what? You don’t miss the scene because if the music is good that’s what survives. These artists are just human – they eat, shit, piss, make love, and get depressed. Some do more than others. I often tell fans who put me on a pedestal because I’ve hung out with whomever “don’t put me on a pedestal because those guys or gals I am hanging out with are just like you and me”. It’s almost like a Christian proverb “you are as great as anyone else.” I try to empower people and tell them “don’t put anyone on that pedestal because you are the same”. It’s just that some of these Avatars of art got a chance to express and market themselves. The brave ones seized the opportunity or sometimes society embraced them for that moment of time.

Guns N Roses were like that. They lit, they burned and as a band they were too hot to stay together in that lineup. Not to say there is anything wrong with Axl out there playing with a bunch of random musicians and calling it Guns N Roses, it’s not Guns N Roses, but it’s Axl out there having the courage to reinvent himself while playing those old songs again. Whatever the reason, ego, personality, or business, that has kept the band from reuniting that’s just the way it is.

You should have seen Pink Floyd after Live Aid, but ego and business and bullshit got in the way. The table was set for the greatest tour with the greatest reunion, but hey man some artists don’t need the headache. I know for a fact that Snake and Sebastian from Skid Row will never play together in a band no matter how much they love each other. Well I guess I should never say never…

Doug: Later today I am meeting Chuck Mosley for lunch and there is always talk about Faith No More reunions and if Chuck would sing or if Mike Patton would ever come back, and it seems to be less about the people getting along and more to do with the headaches that come with it. It’s business getting in the way with art and music once again.
L.F.: Yeah, actually I just saw an interview with Mike Patton recently he looked good. I actually took him to his first photo session with the band. He had never had a picture taken with the other guys so I picked him up and took him over to the studio and they took pictures with Puffy and Jim Martin and the guys. He was only like 19.

D.E.: Yeah a little young to be thrown into the meat grinder like that. So what’s next for Lonn Friend?
L.F.: Well there is a line from one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, “Until I Die”, and it says “I’m a leaf on a windy day, pretty soon I’m going to blow away” and really that’s me – I’m slowly drifting along. I am deep into the promotion of this book and I’m sitting back waiting for a few deals with the radio show or whatever. I can’t tell you where I’ll be in a month seriously. I’m like the Dylan song: I am a rolling stone. I feel really good about communicating with fans, and that’s where the next manifestation will be. It’s a very mysterious yet freeing time so I’m just going to see what the universe brings next.

Mark Gromen of Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles

June 13th and 14th Cleveland played host to Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles 6 Pack Weekend featuring some of the great metal acts of the 80s from around the world, including Candlemass, Trouble and Jag Panzer as well as some of today’s strong up-and-comers like Evergrey and Force of Evil (featuring members of Mercyful Fate).

What goes into something this huge, how does Cleveland get a show like this and is this the start of something even bigger? LarryMac talked to Senior U.S. Writer Mark Gromen to see what he had to say about the show, the response and how Cleveland fared in the eyes of the veterans of the great European festivals.

LarryMac: First off, thank you for an incredible weekend. I’ve seen a lot of shows in this area for a lot of years – even the occasional festival – but nothing comes close. Thanks also for taking the time to talk to us. Anyway, I know you’re a busy guy so let’s get to work:

The word is already out that the 6-Pack Weekend is going to be an annual event. How long ago did the planning for something this big start?

Mark: The genesis was about 10 months. I started securing bands in the Fall of 2002 and had about 4 or 5 confirmed by Nov/Dec last year. It took a while, longer than I’d hoped, to get the final pieces together. That said, we were really finished with band logistics (flights, hotels, catering, transportation, etc) WELL ahead of the actual show dates.

LarryMac: Since BW&BK is headquartered in Toronto, and the show headliner was from Sweden, what made you guys pick Cleveland to bestow this show upon?

Mark: My connections in Cleveland made it financially more feasible than somewhere like NYC or LA. The Canadians WANTED a US based city, as all too often they are piegon-holed as a “Canadian magazine,” which belies the fact we are in twenty some countries around the world and the bulk of our sales are in the States.

LarryMac: In addition to the big names (Candlemass, Trouble, Jag Panzer, et al) the festival featured a lot of newer and/or less known bands – I noticed a lot of North American and even world debuts – what was the impetus to showcase the smaller bands on this “first shot” at the 6-Pack Weekend?

Mark: If these kind of shows are going to have any longevity, we must take strides to build a fertile underground for the future. We can’t only stock the show with “names,” as there are too few of those and after a couple of years, everyone will have played. Therefore, someone like Wolf gets introduced this year and down the line, they can come back, in a higher slot. The object of the BW&BK 6-Pack Weekend will always be to attract the fan from all over. This is not just another Cleveland show. We have to have bands that people in New Mexico, or Iowa will get on a plane (or endure a killer drive) to come see. You can’t have that if you only offer bands that tour every year, or are coming to the US to start a regular tour. It’s got to be something unique. That’s an aspect of this show that can NEVER change.

LarryMac: On a related note: why the focus on the older metal bands, as opposed to some of the newer stuff?

Mark: Not sure what you mean about “newer stuff.” If, in that regard you mean the latest trend, nu-metal, etc, well, that’s not what the magazine is about. As someone who got to see all the great bands of the 80s, like Candlemass, Trouble, original Mercyful Fate, early Jag Panzer, it was somewhat selfish, but at the same time, I knew it had been YEARS since some of them played here. We always want to have a mix of old and new. This year, maybe it was a little heavy on the classic angle, but that doesn’t mean it always will be. At this time of year, North America is competing with the European festivals, in terms of securing bands. As a musician, until now there’s been no reason to travel thousands of miles, for a smaller (if any) payday and get treated like dirt. Hopefully, in some small way, we’ve alerted the rest of the world that there’s a viable Spring/Summer show in North America.

LarryMac: One of our reviewers here on the website summed it up when he reviewed the warm up show on Thursday: he said that the eyes of the world were on Cleveland to see if we would represent (we Clevelanders tend to badmouth our scene a lot). How did we do?

Mark: Tim’s probably a better one to ask, as it was his first time in Cleveland. I do know that there was only one ejection from the club and that was late on Saturday. The local bands, on the other hand, are to be commended for their time and effort. I haven’t heard one complaint about their attitude or performances.

LarryMac: One thing that really struck me was how accessible the bands were to the crowd. For the most part they were hanging out in the cheap seats drinking their beers, signing whatever you happened to place in front of them and generally just acting like they were fans enjoying the show themselves. Is that the typical mindset with these European-style festivals, the lack of the “rock star” mentality?

Mark: I’d like to say that we had something to do with that aspect of the show, but that’s really down to the amazing individuals they are! In some way, I guess we built an atmosphere they felt comfortable in (especially since so many were here for the first time) and/or offered bands THEY wanted to see, as much as the next guy. In the case of Trouble, I KNOW that to be a fact, as Candlemass and the guys from Entombed voiced their desire to see Trouble play. Since they all had to share dressing rooms and catering facilities, there was unparalleled cooperation. Given the longevity and exhalted status some of those guys should probably be treated with, it was refreshing (from our side too) to see how down to Earth they are.

LarryMac: Were there any bands whose response from the crowd particularly surprised you?

Mark: Honestly, I was a little worried about how Elegy might be received, as their records aren’t particularly easy to get a hold of here, even though they were once on Noise. I’d seen them a year earlier, in Spain, at a big outdoor show. Thankfully, they came across much heavier in the confines of The Odeon. Personally, watching the response Wolf received, and all the thank yous from fans afterwards, was so gratifying. Again, a small label band (no domestic distribution), who most never heard, but they’re a tremendously fun band, especially in the festival setting.

LarryMac: Okay, there’s a gun to your head and you have to pick the one performance that stands out in your mind. Which one is it?

Mark: Well, I have to go with the majority, at least in terms of what I’ve heard from the bands & fans alike, TROUBLE. Honestly, I’d seen every other band on the bill within the last year, at least once, so I knew what they could do. I had no idea whether Trouble would come out and play only Plastic Green Head material (which to my mind is OK, but pales next to the stuff before it), a rash of new, unheard material or if they even still had it. Anticipation and sonically, I don’t think anyone could touch that show. Even the guys in Candlemass, who followed them onstage, admitted how great Trouble was. Man, that was just a great, albeit too short, set!

LarryMac: OK, the floor is yours. Any parting words?

Mark: Thanks to the fans, both there in Cleveland, and from around the country (if not the world) who attended, the response has been overwhelming! It was a pleasure to put on this show. Not sure if we’ll be able to top it, but in the future, we won’t let the quality diminish. We tried to do something different and the people responded. Thanks for your faith in the BW&BK brandname. It means a lot! Tell everyone who will listen about what you heard, saw and experienced. We’ll see you all next year!

For all the latest metal news, check out Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles on the web at www.bravewords.com and don’t forget to sign up for a subscription to the print mag while you’re there!

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