So Ed, how did you discover music and hard rock/heavy metal music particular? What did you find so exciting in this music?
I first discovered music as a young boy listening to the radio and tv. I have early memories of being drawn to music and that I liked how it made me feel. Whether the radio was on, or through televison theme songs and musicals, I always remember growing up with music. My mother listened to 50's Do Wop and Rock and Roll, and my father liked country and the contempories like Sinatra, Streisand and Bennett, so I heard a diverse range of music early on. Then once I started scanning the radio dial myself I discovered the rock stations and I was immediately hooked. I loved the energy and excitement that I felt listening to the radio and was it an introduction to a whole new world.
What were the first records/tapes, that you bought or got from your parents, friends etc.? What kind of influence did it have on you?
My parents always supported my love of music and would buy me 45"s as a young child to play on my little record player. The earliest ones would have been stuff like Bee Gees, Village People, Debbie Boone etc and then by 1977/78 I was heavily into the big rock bands of the day like Cheap Trick, Foreigner and Styx, so they started buying me albums and 8-Tracks of my favorite bands. I also had an older cousin that turned me onto bands like ELP and Yes. As I grew older my tastes grew and of course got heavier. It was a natural progression going from the 70's rock bands to the early metal bands like AC/DC, Sabbath, Priest and Scorpions. At this time my dad would take me record shopping in the city periodically and that's when I discovered a plethora of early metal bands like Maiden, Accept, Krokus, Saxon, Mama's Boys, Axe, Icon and countless others.
Were there any record stores in your area, where you could get or buy magazines, vinyls, tapes etc.?
I was fortunate to grow up in Flushing, NY which is right outside NYC so we had numerous killer record stores to go to in Manhattan like Bleecker Bob's, It's Only Rock and Roll, Venus Records, Butterfly, Generation Records (the ONLY one still left!!) and a few others. Every week or so me and my friends would take the subway to the village to go record shopping, and we could always be assured of finding something good.
At which point and how did you turn into the underground world? How did you discover fast, brutal music?
I first discovered the undeground by reading about bands like Slayer, Motorhead, Metallica and Venom in magazines like Hit Parader and Circus with small write-ups. The bands sounded intriguing to say the least and I wanted to hear them. One afternoon my mom drove me to Rock and Roll Heaven record store in NJ (home of Megaforce Records). I picked up 'Welcome to Hell', 'Show No Mercy', 'Kill em All', 'Fistful of Metal' and 'Heavy Metal Maniac' and the seed was forever sewn. I then started writing demo bands and the first demos I ever bought were Overkill, Nasty Savage, Hirax and Attacker! Not a bad start!
What did/does mean to you underground respectively to be underground?
The underground has always been a worldwide family with it's foundation based on heavy metal. It has grown immensely since it's inception, but the ideals are the same. It's about supporting any true genre of Metal and the people involved.
Did you also get involved in the tapetrading scene very soon? How did it happen?
Absolutely. After buying my first demos tapes I then started writing other tape traders. I got addresses from Metal Forces' Penbangers section and started buying tapes until I had enough tapes to start trading on my own. By late 1984 I was already tape trading. I did that heavily until about 1989. I also got into video trading early as well and amassed quite a collection.
At which point did the fanzines enter in your life? Do you still remember which fanzines did you get in your hands for the first time?
I was regularly reading magazines like Metal Forces, Kerrang, Aardshok and the US metal mags and then started picking up fanzines at those NYC record stores. Some of the early ones were Kick Ass Monthly, World Metal Report, Blackthorn, Slayer, and Metal Warriors.
How did you like them? Was this a brand new world for you?
I loved them. It was all new at the time. The pro mags were cool for the pics and articles of major bands, but fanzines gave real insight to the emerging underground and was a way to discover new bands from around the world. Plus you could now contact these bands directly instead of just getting a dubbed demo tape trading.
How and when did you end up starting The Book of Armageddon fanzine? Did you come up the name of the fanzine with?
Mark really had the idea first and had started doing interviews without really formulating a plan to get them out there. We both wanted to get more involved in the underground and have real contact with our favorite bands. We joined forces in early 1986 and started putting issue #1 together. Mark had already the interviews by then so most of the work was done. We stole the name from Venom. It was on the spine of the '82 Live Video EP, and sounded like the perfect name. We just photo copied the back cover of the video cassette to get our logo. (Hope any trademark laws are now obsolete).
Did the staff consist of you and Mark Sokoll right from the start? How did you get to know each other at all?
Yeah it was me and Mark's zine from the beginning. He had done all of the interviews before we teamed up so I did a bunch of album and live reviews and helped colate it. We had our friend Mike also contribute a couple reviews. Me and Mark had already been friends thru our mutual love for metal so we hung out all the time.
What was your motivation, goal with the fanzine? What did inspire you founding a fanzine?
My goal was always to help promote the underground and the bands that I loved. I wanted to get more involved with these bands and help spread their music in any way I could. I enjoyed writing and found the fanzine to be the perfect outlet to express myself while promoting the music I love so much.
Did you have contributors/helping hands as well?
Sure, every issue had contributions from various friends. After issue #1 I took over since Mark was getting more involved in his band Terminal Confusion and the growing Hardcore scene. He continued making contributions and I had a couple friends an interview or reviews each issue. I handled all other aspects of the content and layout but always encouraged others input.
Was it a kind of metal family? Did you, I mean the fanzines, help and support each other or was it rather a competition among you? Did you also trade with each other?
It was most cetainly a family. We all supported one another 100% across the globe. We all exchanged each other's flyers in the mail, as well as printing ads for zines in our zines, and even trading 5-10 copies of each other's zine to help spread locally. There was never any reason for competion since we all supported the same music and people and helped one another get started. I have many life long friends that I met as zine editors.
How did you get in touch with bands, that were interviewing/featuring in each issues? How did you choose the bands, that you wanted to interview/to feature at all? Did it depend on your personal musical taste or…?
Most of the early interviews were done through the mail. We'd send off questions to a band overseas and (hopefully) get the answers within a month or two, Some were done over the phone, and for the later issues I did some in person. But most were done thru the mail. I featured bands that I liked and wanted to support. I wouldn't waste time and space interviewing someone I did not like. Reviews of course are a different subject and there would be good and bad ones. I also did smaller arlicles on bands for record companies and bands that attracted my interest, those too could be postive or negative depending on my opinion, but again, I tried not to take up valuable space writing about bands I didn't like.
Was it easy to get in touch with the outfits?
For the most part yes it was. Most bands were very welcoming to any kind of promotion and were very friendly. Even the bigger bands were down to earth and would write you back.
Did you always use own material or did you perhaps borrow articles from other fanzines? Did you often get material from other fanzines too?
I only used my own material for The Book of Armageddon. I would print other band/zine/label's ads but any content was written for the zine. Even the pictures would be original or promotional. We'd get from the bands or labels, plus I took many of the live ones myself.
I would ask you to give us every details about the issues of TBOA! I mean, how were they done, what about the content of each issues, how in depth were the interviews, how were the reviews, how many issues were released, how much time did pass between each issues etc. I’m interested in everything what come to your mind!
I only put out 4 issues of The Book of Armageddon. I averaged about one a year from 1986 -1989. The first three issues were printed at xerox stores or at my dad's office on weekends. Not sure how many I went thru. I know by the 3rd issue I must have gone through about 500 copies. Issue #4 I had professionally screened and printed and made 1000 copies. Most of the interviews were in depth and the articles and reviews were honest and informative. I made a point of doing very long and in depth interviews with Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel in every issue since they were and are my favorite thrash band. #1 also had interviews with Celtic Frost, Death, Bathory, Gargoyle and Possessed. #2 had Kreator, Slayer, Razor, Death, Darkness and Cryptic Slaughter. #3 had Voivod, Deathrow, Aggression, Napalm Death, Necrodeath, Papsmear, Thanatos and Exile. #4 Voivod, Prime Evil, Sepultura, Armoros, Num Skull, and P.M.S. Every issue had numerous album/demo/live show reviews and articles on bands.
Did the fanzine satisfy the demands of the underground fans?
I think it did. I hope it did. It was always very well received and complimented so I must of done something right?
How were they sold and distributed/promoted? Were all of the issues sold out? Did you receive letters perhaps from other continents too?
I received orders from all corners of the world, especially by issues #3 and 4. I sold copies to all the NYC record stores and through the mail. I also traded with other zines. I would sell their zine in NYC and they sold mine locally. In those days every piece of mail was stuffed with ads for zines and bands and we would all spread each other's ads. All the issues are long sold out. I have one or two copies of each issue for myself and that's it.
Were you also in touch with record labels? Did you get respectively how often did you get promo packages?
I was in touch with a few labels and would get new releases and press releases regularly. Fanzines were important to the labels as well back then. As long as you sent them a copy of your zine they were happy to shower you with promos and information.
On which format did you get the releases?
LP whenever possible, or on cassette. Then when they started pressing cds I would get cds, but vinyl will always be my preferrence.
With which label(s) did you get on well?
I had the best relationship with Roadrunner and Combat. Also Metal Blade would send me some stuff.
During the ’80s a lot of compilations were released by several labels, such as the famous „Metal Massacre”, „Speed Metal Hell”, „Thrash Metal Atack”, „Beyond Metal Zone”, „Stars On Thrash” to name a few, did it help a lot for the bands to make a name for themselves? Were these samplers good things to introduce newer bands for the fans?
Hell yeah! I loved getting the Metal Massacres and others like Speed Metal Hell, Speed Kills, Thrash Metal Attack, Satan's Revenge and others. They were a great way to check out a handful of bands.
Which year was the best for metal and why?
That's impossible for me to say. For the history books maybe 1969 with Black Sabbath's first record, or 1980 when the gates let loose a swarm of killer metal, or 1983 or 1985 when the thrash giants took hold, or 1987 or 1990. There have been a lot of great years.
What do you recall of the fanzine world of the ’80s? There were millions of fanzines coming from worldwide, such as Blackthorn, Phoenix Militia, Brain Damage, Violent Noize, Metal Meltdown, Battlefield, the list goes on…
It was an incredible time. From the earliest zines to the late 80's explosion. Everyone had a voice and was given a chance to express their opinions and help build the underground.
Was it a kind of impenetrable scene? I mean, there were a very big amount of fanzines, every day or week popped up a new one…
It was not impenetrable, in fact quite the opposite. By 1990 fanzines were everywhere, but with the amount of bands growing as well, there were always new bands to write about so everyone could steer their fanzine towards the genres they liked the best.
Which fanzines did you like personally? With which fanzine editors did you have friendship, good connection/relation etc.?
There were so many great zines through the years and I became good friends with many of the editors, and still am to this day. Some of the more special ones for me are: Bloodshed, Chainletter, Chainsaw Abortions, Chapel of Ghouls, Codcore, Curious Goods, Death Vomit, Disposable Underground, Eternal Darkness, F.E.T.U., Invincible Force, Metal Meltdown, Metal Core, Metal Curse, Metal Frontline, Mutilador, No Glam Fags, Out of the Underground, Peardrop, Rage of Violence, Ripping Headaches, Screams from the Underground, Sick Thrash, Slayer, Ultimatum and Violent Noize.
Because of the big amount of fanzines, was it hard to pick up fanzines for the fans/collectors?
It was easy to get zines. Local record stores always had some fanzines for sale, and mailorder was big. You would read the ads and if the zine seemed to have the bands you liked you would order a copy.
What is/was the importance of the fanzines in your opinion?
Fanzines were the life blood and voice of the underground. The bands of course were the heart of the scene and created the music but the fanzines helped get young bands exposed and introduced people around the world to these new bands. Zines gave us information and opinions about music many people would have never discovered had they not read about it in a fanzines. Long before the internet or even cable tv, we had to seek out new music and fanzines gave the underground the opportunity to reach people from all walks of life.
Did it sometimes appear/happen, that the materials, that you’ve got from bands or labels, weren’t featured in the certain issues?
Sure, I would recieve a lot of promos from record labels and not all of them got reviewed. I would review the most important and current releases each issue from the labels, mixing both positive and negative reviews keeping it honest. I tried to review the majority of demos I received unless I just did not like it at all.
During the existence of TBOA did the staff remain constant or were there guys that got out of the fanzine and others joined instead of them?
Even though Mark wasn't too involved after issue #1 he kept giving me contributions that I gladly included. I had a couple other friends that did reviews or an occassional interview for certain issues. After issue #1 I did all the typing, layout and editing.
What about the prime cost of the certains issues?
I really don't remember. Issues 1-3 were printed at a xerox store and at my dad's office, so I have no idea what I paid for them over time. Issue #4 was professionally done but I forget how much it cost. Plus all the postage expenses shipping them around the world.
Were all of you satisfied with every TBOA issues?
Absolutely. Of course there are typeos, and some of the printing wasn't great, but for the times each issue came out I was very happy and am still very proud of each issue.
Why and when did you stop doing/going on TBOA?
I was working on issue #5 and had a supersized issue in the works but due to job/school/life I had less and less time to work on it and after awhile the material started getting dated and then I start interning at Roadrunner Records and just did not have the time to update it and put it out, so I put the zine to rest.
Did you go on writing for other fanzines/magazines? If so, in which magazines/fanzines did you take part later on?
Not really. Once I started working at Roadrunner I found myself writing many bios and press releases so I got my writing out that way. I did a couple interviews or artilces for other zines but nothing special.
Talking about the thrash metal scene, METALLICA, SLAYER, ANTHRAX, MEGADETH, EXODUS, DARK ANGEL played an important role in the evolving of thrash metal and had an important influence on other bands, do you agree with this?
No doubt about it. They are all iconic and influencial to bands for generations to come. Every band back then had their own style and carved a niche for themselves by relentlessly playing live and writing some of the best music ever!
ANTHRAX, MEGADETH, METALLICA and SLAYER are mentioned as The Big Four, how do you view it? What’s the reason of it?
They are the first four bands to break out of the underground and garner major success. They all put out killer releases early and built their followings to a massive level.
Do you like their present records or only the old, classic ones?
I am not personally not a fan of most Metallica, Anthrax or Megadeth recorded after 1986, but I certainly respect what they've done for the world of Metal. Slayer I still like, for the most part. I can't even really consider Metallica a metal band anymore.
What are the most underrated thrash metal bands in your opinion? Why did it fail them to be bigger?
Dark Angel, Voivod, Razor, Artillery, Deceased, Prime Evil, Ripping Corpse, Revenant. Real Thrash Metal isn't gonna appeal to the masses like Metallica or even Slayer. In the case of Prime Evil, Ripping Corpse and Revenant they were all overlooked in their prime because they weren't generic, but had more originality and integrity than most bands at the time.
In your opinion, did the scene become oversaturated at the late ’80s/early ’90s? How did you view/like the grunge, pop/punk and nu metal scene later on?
The scene became drasticalliy oversaturated by the early 90's with way too many bands and so many sounding the same. There was too much of everything and Metal had even became a joke in the mainstream. I did not care for grundge or any of the 90's bands or new genres, but I agree Metal had gotten worn out and needed to recharge. The old Heavy Metal bands had mostly all wimped out or took a hiatus and the underground was over crowded with 3rd and 4th rate bands. And I can't stand Nu Metal!!
Did all of these type of music kill the traditional metal? Did these movements force a lot of bands to change their style/music drastically and turn their backs on metal and their fans?
Yes, at the time Metal was spliting into two worlds. One was progessing to a faster, heavier style,while the other fed the growing hair metal genre, so the tradional metal bands found themselves between those two worlds. Most of the old guard took the commercial road in the mid-late 80's to varying and limited success, only to return to a heavier approach in the 90's.
By the way, what do you think about the reformation of cult, classic bands, such as ARTILLERY, AGENT STEEL, NASTY SAVAGE, ONSLAUGHT, METAL CHURCH, DEATH ANGEL, HEATHEN etc., that happened in the last 10-15 years?
I am all for it!!! Many of these bands did not get their fair chance back in the day and are now doing it again because they want to and have gotten another chance. Plus they do it better than a lot of newer bands in my opinion. Bands like Artillery, Razor, Blood Feast, Onslaught, Hobbs Angel of Death, Ruthless, Demolition Hammer, Omen and so many more are better live than ever and many have been releasing killer new material as well.
Are you still proud of TBOA these days? Who are/were your best friends from the scene? Are you still in touch with them?
I am still very proud of The Book of Armageddon and all it started for me. To still be talking about it 30 years later is mind blowing and a real honor. Mark is one of my oldest friends and we still see other fairly regularly and hang out. I still have many friends amongst those I met back in the early days. It's a family and we're all growing older together, but so many of us are still around, many still involved in some way. So we see other at shows or on Facebook and keep in touch.
Do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground? How do you view the scene these days?
Most definitely. I have been promoting metal and rock concerts in NYC for over 6 years so I am always checking out new bands. I always love to hear good new music. Not everything I hear I like, but there are certainly a lot of good bands coming out and lots of killer releases from established bands. The scene is much different nowadays with the internet, but the ideals of the underground remain the same. It's all about support
What do you think about the Internet and the downloading/mp3 files as a whole?
I like the internet cause you can keep in contact with people much easier and find anything you want whether it be information or music. But that's also why I don't like it. It's become far too easy for people to just stay home and listen to or watch anything they want. No one buys records of goes to concerts cause everything's on YouTube by the next day.
How do you view the webzines? Do you often read them?
I like them cause they're the fanzines of this generation. I would still rather have a physical fanzine to read, but I like and respect webzines for their contributions to the underground.
My last question: please list us your first ten all time favourite records and songs (and why?), gigs and album cover artworks!
Ah boy, let me think...
Thanks a lot Ed for wasting your time to do this feature, anything to ad, that I didn’t cover?
I think you covered just about everything. It was a absolute pleasure digging back in my memory to go back to those glorious days and rehash lots of great memories. Thank you and your readers for caring and the continued support.
Talking about the New York scene, how about tiny, obscure bands, such as WARHEAD, DEATHCORPS, SAVAGE DEATH, NYC MAYHEM, that had a name, released cool demos, but didn’t get anywhere?
I knew many local bands that never really got anywhere. Some were amazing like Caligula or Meanstreak and they just never really broke out of the local scene for various reasons. Savage Death actually became Nokturnel and NYC Mayhem are considered one of the first NYC Hardcore bands.
In the mid ’80s there was also PMRC, how much harm did it cause for the metal scene? Was the goal of PMRC to annihilate/destroy the metal scene?
The PMRC wanted to outlaw Metal and Rap basically. The warnings they got put on albums just made them more popular cause now a kid knew what record would be offensive. I'm sure a lot of record labels and bands had to pay out a lot of money at the time cause of the PMRC but otherwise I don't think they had much affect on mainstream life after their initial shock.
Ed, in 1986, Roadrunner opened its US headquarters in New York City, how did you get in the picture exactly? Did you know the staff of the label earlier?
I first starte dealing with Roadrunner because of my fanzine in the late 80's and built relationships with several employees. I even helped them out with Sepultura for a couple weeks before their first US tour and brought Malevolent Creation to the office to sign their contracts. When an opening arose for an intern they offered it to me. After a few months of interning I was hired full time. I worked with fanzines first, then handled most press and eventually was moved to retail. I wrote a lot of the bios and press releases while there. I was there for about 2 years, all during the glorious 'death metal days'. It was an absolutely incredible experience working with all the bands I loved, and many I was already friends with.
Would you say, that Roadrunner specialized on releasing brutal death/thrash materials in the first place or did the label try rather riding the always actual trends?
It was a little of both. Monte Conner, loved heavy music so he always looked for brutal and original bands. Roadrunner would certainly try to follow new trends and capitalize on them. In 1990 they hit gold with the death metal rush and they signed many of the best bands like Obituary, Immolation, Malevolent Creation, Suffocation, Sepultura, Sadus, Sorrow, Exhorder and more. By 1992 the death metal esplosion had fizzled out at Roadrunner and most of the bands, and myself were let go as they searched for the new big thing.
How much support did the bands get from the label? How supportive was Roadrunner with their bands?
I didn't really know much about that side of it. But I know they had the bands by the balls. Roadrunner put money and support into every release and depending on how it did the band would get more or less. Bands like Sepultura, Obituary and Deicide all did well so they got numerous tours and more support.
Which is/was the most successful record in the history of Roadrunner?
No idea. When I was there it would have to be Sepultura's Arise, but by the late 90's they had some major bands on their roster.
My last question: please list us your first ten all time favourite records and songs (and why?), gigs and album cover artworks!
Ok, let's see. I know I'm gonna forget some. but here you go:
TOP 10 BANDS
***Special mention to:
Pink Floyd - greatest band of all time in any genre
Cheap Trick - greatest rock band
Accept - greatest traditional metal band
Top 10 albums (make that top 16 albums)
Bonded by Blood
War and Pain
Fear of Tomorrow
Fearless Undead Machines
Scream Bloody Gore
Pleasure to Kill
Years of Decay
Top songs from my favorite bands
Pink Floyd - Dogs
Pink Floyd - Echoes
Cheap Trick - Gonna Raise Hell
Accept - Breaker
Dark Angel - Death is Certain, Life is not
Venom - At War with Satan
Artillery - Deeds of Tomorrow
Razor - City of Damnation
Death - Zombie Ritual
Mercyful Fate - Melissa
Malevolent Creation - Injected Sufferage
***special mention to In a Gadda Da Vida (cause it's so fucking incredible!!!)
TOP LIVE SHOWS - here are the 12 of my most memorable concerts in chronological order (dates to the best of my memory),and why:
Judas Priest/ Great White - Madison Square Garden, NYC 1984 - It was the second concert that my dad brought me to (Scorpions were the first) and it was a real wild metal night that blew my mind! That was the infamous night that hundreds of seats were ripped open (in celebration) and cushions thrown on stage during the final encore.
Iron Maiden/Queensryche - Radio City Music Hall 1985 - I went 3 nights and it was absolutely amazing
Overkill/Nuclear Assault/Carnivore/Blood Lust (pre-Blood Feast)/Primal Scream - L'amour, Brooklyn, NY summer 1984 - It was my first L'amour show and introduction to the real underground live scene.
Slayer - L'amour, Brooklyn, NY late 1984 - Words can not describe the intensity and brutality of that night
Exodus - L'amour, Brooklyn, NY summer 1985 (the 1st night) - Paul was so "sick" that night he couldn't sing, so the band came out and the crowd sang the whole set while the band played a mind numbing set. They returned the following week to make up for it with Paul singing, but that first show was legendary!!
Dark Angel/Cro-Mags/Motorhead - The Ritz, NYC late '85/early '86 - It was Dark Angel's first east coast show and with Don Doty. He dove out at the end of their set and me and King Fowley were among the people that caught him. Motorhead were unbelievable!
Venom/Cro-Mags/Voivod - The Ritz, NYC 1986 - This was Voivod's 1st U.S. show ever, before Roar came out, and they destroyed us all and Venom were in their glory and were just the greatest live band ever at the time/
Dark Angel/Possessed/Napalm - CBGB's, NYC Jan 1987 - Seeing these two bands at CBGB's was one of the most insane nights ever
Motorhead/Slayer/Overkill - Mid Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie NY late 1987 - What can I say, this line-up in a huge hall in 1987 was amazing.
Ultimate Revenge 2 - Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA 1988 - Dark Angel, Death, Forbidden, Faith or Fear, Raven. Combat Records filmed and released this legendary night. It was Ron Rinehart's 2nd show with Dark Angel, and my first change to really hang out with Gene and the guys.
Deceased/Prime Evil/Immolation/Ripping Corpse - Belle Vernon, PA summer/fall 1988- This was my first real weekend roadtrip for a show and the beginning of a 3 year period of constant traveling anywhere in the northeast for a show with any of those bands, as well as Revenant and Suffocation. We all had such a tight relationship and had so many great times.
Sepultura/Obituary/Sadus/Ripping Corpse - L'amour, Brooklyn, NY late 1990 - Besides being an an incredible show, I was now working at Roadrunner so I got to watch the show from the stage and I was hanging out with all the bands in great length and loving this life.
FAVORITE ALBUM COVERS - too hard to really think of cause there are a lot of really amazing covers I'm not gonna think of. But here are the first 10 that come to mind:
Iron Maiden - Killers
Dark Angel - Darkness Descends
Venom - Black Metal
Voivod - War and Pain
Kreator - Pleasure to Kill
Slayer - Hell Awaits
Exodus - Bonded by Blood
Death - Scream Bloody Gore
Obituary - The End Complete
Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
Interview by Leslie David