So Mark, how did you discover music and hard rock/heavy metal music particular? What did you find so exciting in this music?
Hi David, I grew up in the 1970’s and during most of that decade KISS was a huge phenomenon! Most of my neighbors were into them and if they were listening; then, so was I. One of my brothers is four years my senior and his friends were into Rock and Roll. My bedroom was next to his, so I heard the music very clearly. Haha.
Music is very impressionable to the young. I’ve seen my young nephews going berserk to Death Metal songs and they had no idea what they were hearing. I believe that they just felt the raw emotion emanating from the stereo. Another thing about growing up during the 1970’s is that the stereos were huge. They were more like furniture with built-in speakers! WNEW FM (broadcasting out of NYC) played the popular Rock and Roll bands of the time and earlier. They even played full album sides! I was exposed to music from a young age with fully being conscious of it. The energy is what I found exciting and still do.
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?
I had access to KISS records from a young age. I still remember KISS Alive! And Destroyer being in my house. The first album that I can recall buying is KISS’ ’Dynasty’ from a store in my neighborhood which is still in business. It came with a poster and it was a magical experience. My mother insisted on inspecting it first and didn’t like the song title `Dirty Living’. I recall worrying about whether she’d hand it back to me! She did. I guess she’d already been through the same thing with my older brother, so it passed muster. I had no aspirations of becoming a musician at the time. The influence it had on me that I could listen to records with others or by myself and also be entertained. My oldest friend would have me over to his basement to play with his electric trainset and we’d be listening to AC/DC’s `Let There Be Rock”. I thought that it was normal! I also borrowed cassettes from the library. I had Love Gun andDouble Platinum from KISS and The Beatles greatest hits on loan.
At which point and how did you turn into the underground world? How did you discover fast, brutal music?
Growing up on KISS, AC/DC and all that heavy stuff just made me crave heavier and heavier music by the time that I was nearing my teen years. The release of`Show No Mercy’ from Slayer coincided with the start of my pubescence. On my thirteenth birthday, Slayer played in Valley Stream, NY at the Rio Theater. (10/31/83 -Just think, they had a very limited catalogue of music then!) Also, somehow, I discovered something called Hellhole which is a radio show played on WNYU (89.1). My buddy Mike would tape it and we’d listen the next day to see what was new.
It is an hour and a half of Extreme Metal and I rarely missed it back then. In fact, I still listen every Friday night! You can even listen to it online nowadays.
There were other stations like WRTN andWSOU among others that helped expose me to a wider range of heavy music.
What did/does mean to you underground respectively to be underground?
Anything that is not in the mainstream but is also not trying to be `Underground’ on purpose, if you take my meaning.
Did you also get involved in the tapetrading scene very soon? How did it happen?
I remember that some guys in high school had lists of tapes that I was given that had all of these bootleg concert audio tapes on them that I wanted. You would just call the number on the bottom and arrange to go meet the guy to buy tapes. I was forbidden to go by my mother, however, I still went! I’d usually buy KISS bootlegs, eventually I branched out. Once you possess a few tapes you can build up your collection to trade with others. Right, Ed? hahahaha
You are from New York, that had a big, influential scene in the ’80s, what were the first record stores, places where you could buy heavy metal/hard rock tapes, vinyls, fanzines etc.? Were a lot of metal stores in New York at this time?
We would normally go to Slipped Disc in Valley Stream (directly across the from the Rio Theater, incidentally), sometimes by bus! Other times, my pal Mike’s dad would drive us. I also went to (Leper) Colony Records in NYC for their imports. Bleeker Bob’s was amazing, too! There were plenty of great places all over NYC.
How about the club scene? What were the clubs, that started opening their doors for metal fans?
L’Amour, Brooklyn was consistently great. There was Streets in New Rochelle, The Sundance in Bayshore, L.I. We would go anywhere that a show was being held.
I can’t avoid to ask you, in your opinion, was the New York scene divided into two parts , into metal and into hardcore (like in L. A. thrash metal vs. glam/hair metal)? Were there often conflicts, fights between the metal and hardcore crowd? Can you speak us detailed about the ’80s New York scene?
I certainly recall there being a lot of animosity towards posers from Thrashers. There were certainly a lot of fights! Some places were far worse than others. I also think that it depended on which bands were playing. Some Metal bands like Motorhead, Venom and Death drew plenty of Skinheads. I played bass in a NYHC band called Terminal Confusion for many years with very long hair and only had a problem once. I was at a Slayer show and was not performing at the time. I definitely witnessed a lot of schism between fans. There were some amazing bills back then! It was so hot at L’Amour that the bathroom mirrors would fog up from condensation. It was easier to crowdsurf your way out of the front just to get to the bathroom! Hahaha It was amazing to see the bands pull up in their vans at like 1:00 p.m. and the show didn’t start until much later. They would invariably ask „What the Hell are you guys doing here so early?” We’d answer, `We want front row spots`. We would literally run to the front of the stage. It was worth it!
Would you say, that the biggest, most influential and well known metal scenes of the States were New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area and Florida?
Yes, that sounds about right. Bay Area Thrash was huge as was all of the great Floridian Death Metal. (All Hail Xecutioner/Obituary, Death, Massacre, Nasty Savage, etc.!) I personally have never minded where a band is from as long as their sound was consistently heavy, brutal and good.
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 of NYC Mayhem and had their demo. Some bands just never took off. I think it is supposed to be like that. Some bands have to stay uderground, right?
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? Was it a good thing to introduce newer bands for the fans?
I thought so since I would always listen to the whole record to see what was good.
Which year was the best for metal and why?
1984 A few months ago I may have had a different answer. But my pal Imran recently pointed out that so many great records came out that year. Such as Destruction’s Sentence of Death, Morbid Tales and very many others. I was happy to see a progression of bands that were getting heavier and heavier and would abandon clean vocals and started to sing more about horror movie topics. I used to equate Death Metal music with bringing the horror movie with you in your walkman or on your radio.
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?
It was cool to hear Dee Snider talk circles around those boneheads and their stupidity. It never affected me whatsoever. I thought it was very ironic that the woman’s last name who tried to disparage Heavy Metal is Gore. Hahaha. You can’t make this stuff up!
Did the New Jersey scene belong also to New York or was it an independent one?
It was combined. It was so close that people would travel back and forth to see shows. I was in NJ a lot since Terminal Confusion often had shows there and our guitarist had a house in Bradley Beach. Great times, man! Terminal Confusion had a show there at this club that had bleachers. We had a loyal crew who moshed upon the people who were just lamely sitting in the bleachers. It has forever been known since as the`Bleacher Raid’. No one was hurt, but they got the point alright! The Jersey guys always sounded so Southern to me and I am still geographically perplexed as to how this could be.
How and when did you get in the world of fanzines? Was it an unknown, fascinative thing for you?
Here’s a story for you: I was given my first fanzine by a guy who I though was coming to kick my ass. I may have woken him up by lighting off firecrackers outside of my friend’s house. I was only a kid and we were messing around blowing things up. I knew that I was in the wrong since it was early in the day and was prepared to take my lumps. Instead, he handed me a fanzine called `Death & Destruction’ and he said `I think you’ll appreciate this’. Haha. Not the outcome I was expecting! It was printed on yellow paper and was so underground it even had band members’ telephone numbers in it. I called Craig Setari from NYC Mayhem (at the time) and that’s how the idea of starting my own fanzine began to formulate in my brain. I still have cutouts from it hung in my house to this day! Retrospectively, I still remember that the guy who handed it to me could barely hold his head up. I didn’t understand why at the time. He was definitely hungover! Hahaha.
Were The New Heavy Metal Revue by Brian Slagel, Headbanger by Bob Nalbandian and Metal Mania by Ron Quintana the first fanzines in the States, that were pioneers and opened the doors for other ’zines, such as Kick Ass Monhtly, The Book Of Armageddon, Midwest Militia etc. later on?
Kick Ass! Kick Ass Muldowney!~Tom Araya Studio 54
I’m sorry, maybe Ed knows more about that.
How and when did you The Book Of Armageddon start? How did you get to know each other at all?
The Book of Armageddon started as something called `Death Press’. I started it with the help of a guy named Mike Caldarella and we thought we were supposed to be kind of snarky and surly in print to get the readers’ attention. If you read the first issue, you’ll know what I am talking about. You’ll see some of his artwork and reviews (I think?) in Issue #1. We met Ed through mutual friends from the neighborhood. We used to take the bus or walk to Ed’s house on a Friday or Saturday night to check out all of the great underground music! It was fantastic time to discover amazing bands who were down-to-Earth, yet totally raging!!
What was your goal and concept with the fanzine?
The name was lifted right off a Venom L.P. I always envisioned a kind of book format for the fanzine and the name was perfect considering the heaviness of the music that it covered. Armageddon seemed plasible in the 1980’s. My goal was to discover and to cover and promote unknown bands that were even MORE underground. I never charged anything for advertisement. I just wanted to spread the word of Metal.
What about the staff? Did it only consist of both of you or did you have contributors/helping hands as well?
Staff? Hahaha. I can only answer for the first two issues or so. I could have used a primer in how to use vellum paper for the photos to be clear once copied and also the typefont was sort of shaky. Maybe that added to the appeal? Haha. Our mutual friend, Imran, helped with reviews and there were other contributors and artists in later issues. Ed would have more details.
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…?
A lot of times, bands got in touch or they were easy to contact since their addresses or telephone numbers were well known to us. I remember talking to Jeff Becerra from Possessed on the telephone at Ed’s house. He told me that ever since they released `Seven Churches’ that they were receiving Satanic paraphanelia in the mail! Like butchered and headless Holy Mary figurines covered in blood!
I called Tom Warrior collect from a gas station in Queens! He graciously accepted the charges and that became the Celtic Frost interview B.O.A Issue #1.
Was it easy to get in touch with European outfits?
Easy enough. The postage was sort of steep, though! Hence, `Send Back My Stamps’! hahaha. Quorthon sent me great pictures, Noise Records sent me cool pictures and advertisements. I miss getting those awesome, exotically-stamped packages in the mail.
I would ask you to give us every details about the issues of The Book Of Armageddon! 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!
Ed and I used to correspond with different labels and then piece together what might be good for the upcoming issue. It always ran smoothly. Ed eventually took over the BOA as I could not participate due to musical commitments and from other unfortunate events.
Did the fanzine satisfy the demands of the underground fans?
I believe that the answer is yes since we are lucky enough to still be discussing it many, many moons later! Also, the same stores and some of the same Metalheads purchased Issue #2, which was a good sign.
How were they sold and distributed/promoted? Were all of the issues sold out?
They were normally sold on consignment at record stores and in person at shows.
Eventually they were available by mail. Right, Ed? Yes, all issues are sold out!
Did you receive letters perhaps from Europe too?
Yes, from all around the globe. I used to get confused about the term `badge’. We call it a button in the USA and sometimes people wanted to trade `badges’ and I could never understand what that meant at the time.
Were you also in touch with record labels? Did you get respectively how often did you get promo packages?
Yes, we received packages but it isn’t like today where Metal is actually represented well. We did receive advance copies of records, demos, sometimes shirts and cool stickers, etc.
On which format did you get the releases?
Cassettes and vinyl only at the time. I still own it all.
With which label(s) did you get on well?
Noise Records was especially easy to work with. There weren’t many Metal labels when the first issue came out.
What do you recall of the fanzine world of the ’80s? There were millions of ’zines worldwide, such as Violent Noize, Metal Meltdown, Metalcore, Ripping Headaches, Sprashcore etc….
I have always enjoyed them and hope that they continue to flourish. I remember seeing some for sale at Barnes and Noble in NYC. Wow, that is progress! Hahaha.
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…
I never paid much heed regarding what other fanzines were doing. I used to run into Mike Bullshit on the train, Chris Wynne from In Effect is an old friend, too, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to too much else. Not for any influence, at least.
Which fanzines did you like personally? With which fanzine editors did you have riendship, good connection etc.?
Please see above.
How much were you aware of European fanzines, such as Shock Power, Blitzkrieg, Blackthorn, Phoenix Militia and the list goes on…
I corresponded with Bill Steer from Phoenix Militia way back when...He sent me a pre-Carcass rehearsal tape which I still own. They were definitely unknown at the time. Incidentally, I’m going to see them next week in NY. I am not familiar with those other names of fanzines.
Was it hard to pick up fanzines for the fans/collectors?
No, they were light. Hahaha. Do you mean back then or now?
What is/was the importance of the fanzines in your opinion?
The way I received my first fanzine was profound to me. If others are shown the way toward Metal with a fanzine, if only to provide them with information, then the publication has done its job. The dissemination of information is important since who knows who may read them and become Metalheads for life?
Why and when did you stop doing/going on The Book Of Armageddon? Were you perhaps fed up of it or….?
I had musical commitments and other problems that prevented me from continuing. I never got fed up with it and have only fond memories.
Was the scene oversaturated at this point?
No, there is never enough Metal. If you mean the fanzine scene, well, maybe?
Mark did you also remain in the heavy metal world or…? Did you remain in touch with Ed after TBOA’s end? Are you still proud of the fanzine these days?
Yes, I played bass guitar for many different NY bands over the years. It can never be extracted from my DNA. Yes, Ed and I are old, er, long-time friends. You can be certain that if there is a Metal show in the area, Ed and I (or at least one of us!) will probably be there. I’m extremely proud of the Book Of Armageddon! This interview remnded me of a fantastic `chapter’ of my youth. I’m going to see if I can call Tom G. Warrior collect again! Hahaha. He may not accept the charges this time. Hahaha.
Do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground? Tell us your opinions about the present scene compared to the ’80s?
The Metal scene is huge and I am very happy to see this. I believe that the energy and hunger is there both with the bands and the crowds. One major difference is the age of the bands. There are lots of old bastards shambling around on stage and off...including myself!!
Thanks a lot for wasting your time to do this feature, anything to ad,that I didn’t cover?
It was a hell of a lot of fun to answer your questions. I suppose the moral of the story is that if one is passionate enough about this type of music then it stays with he or she forever. I’m very happy to still be going to Metal shows and playing with one of my favorite bands, Darkside NYC. (European and Japanese promoters, get in touch!!)
Lastly, a huge thank you deservedly goes to my old pal Ed Farshtey. Whom I believe when he said that he’ll be buried with his Venom records! Hails, Ed!!
Thanks and cheers to you, David. Let me know if you are ever in NYC.
Interviews by Leslie David