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Interview with Doug Van Pelt of HM Magazine.
This week I interviewed Doug Van Pelt of HM Magazine. This is a special one, humans! Mr Van Pelt has been running HM Magazine for more than two decades. For those not in the know, HM is one of the last great music magazines in existence, and, in my opinion, has always been the best. They often cover some of the bands I've interviewed on this site, including Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, and many others. I can't emphasize enough how much I've enjoyed reading HM over the years.
Lately, as with all print media these days, the business side of the magazine has been struggling. It's something Doug has been very open and honest about. I highly recommend subscribing to HM magazine, or, for those of you who can't be bothered with physical copies any more, try out an online subscription. The info you need can be found at the HM homepage. Believe me, they'll appreciate your support, and you'll be a part of saving a music journalism masterpiece. Enjoy the interview with Doug, and don't forget to visit Doug and HM Magazine at the links below.
Brax: Can you give our readers a brief history of how you started Heaven's Metal, and how it became the HM Magazine of today?
Doug Van Pelt: During my junior year at the University of Texas in Austin (which was 1984/1985) I was reading a zine called ACME, which stood for Alternative Christian Music Enthusiast. It said in passing, "...with the advent of Christian heavy metal, someone should start a Christian metal zine...you'll have a lot of fun along the way!" I thought to myself, "I can do this!" And, for the next six months or so, I tossed the vision and idea in my head and made plans for it. Then, in June, my friend (Carey Womack, who went on to form One Bad Pig later) told me, "Why don't you print your first issue and I'll hand 'em out at the Cornerstone Festival as a promotion?" That was the shove out the front door that got me started. From there it grew as I could afford to grow. It had no investment capital to start up and had a low budget for years. After our ten-year anniversary in 1995, we changed the name to HM Magazine, because the word "metal" had become a weight that wasn't helpful at the time. Record labels were sacking their metal divisions, radio stopped playing metal. People like abbreviations, so the shortened HM was a perfect fit.
Brax: You've been in a couple of bands over the years. What's the story behind The Cookies?
Doug Van Pelt: The Cookies is just a joke. Usually the interns and I make some music for fun. Just punk rock, off-the-cuff, out-of-tune, spontaneous drivel. One of our interns was a top-notch photographer, so we took the extra step and took photos and posted the tunes and photos on a MySpace page.
Brax: What are your top five bands of all time?
Doug Van Pelt: Crap! I don't know! Galactic Cowboys, King's X, Led Zeppelin, Type O Negative, MUTEMATH...how's that?
Brax: That's fine. How do you feel about extraterrestrials?
Doug Van Pelt: I feel all squishy and lime green, kinda like their blood. If they exist, that'd be fascinating and a total trip to communicate with them. Traveling to other countries around the world is fun. It's great to meet "foreigners" and get another perspective on life and culture, etc. It's eye-opening.
Brax: Glad to hear it. So, a lot of older bands are re-forming lately (Everdown, Upside Down Room, etc.). If you could ask any disbanded group of the past to reform, who would you choose?
Doug Van Pelt: Led Zeppelin, because their music, especially mid-period, Physical Graffiti, music is so good. Seeing Blackfoot again would be wonderful. Seeing Living Sacrifice and The Crucified get back together in the last year or two has been amazing.
Brax: What challenges are you facing as a magazine in today's internet driven world? What steps are you taking to keep HM on the cutting edge?
Doug Van Pelt: Oh, I'm working on getting an iPhone app for HM and we're posting news on our website every single day as it comes in. We make official content, like articles and reviews password-protected, so (only) subscribers get access to that.
Brax: iPod, CD, Vinyl, or other? Why?
Doug Van Pelt: CD, 'cause I can multi-task while listening to it and not be bogged down with streaming content, especially in terms of my job, which involves listening to and evaluating music. I can always rip a CD to my iPod later. I'd love to see my old band, Lust Control, on vinyl. I almost made 25 copies of a special vinyl release myself, but the overseas place who did these low-run test pressings stopped doing cover printing, and that killed the deal for me.
Brax: Tell me about the best live show you've ever experienced.
Doug Van Pelt: Oh crap! That's so hard. Do I choose the worship during "Holy Holy Holy" by Sacred Warrior at their first Cornerstone Festival show? Or do I choose one of the many Darrell Mansfield Band shows in So-Cal? Or do I pick the "Break The Same" moment by MUTEMATH on their last several years of touring? Or one of the "Over My Head" segments by King's X where Doug Pinnick would basically preach and give you chills, especially in the early days when it wasn't all profanity-laced...ha-ha. Or do I choose seeing Scorpions play "We'll Burn The Sky" at one of their concerts a few years ago? That was one of my favorite all-time songs. The opening notes of "Immigrant Song" that segued into "The Wanton Song" on the first Page/Plant tour was awesome. I felt like I was about two feet off the ground, I was so happy. Seeing Stavesacre at Tom Fest back in the late '90s was pretty special, especially when the audience shouted along in worship to the tune "At The Moment." Maybe after seeing Leviticus and Larry Norman play in Lincoln, Nebraska and having to go in the woods, fall on my knees and just weep in thanksgiving for that moment. Not sure why, but I just cried and cried. One of my friends was with me and she said, "It was just a concert, come on!" Ha-ha...so hard to choose. Just flip a coin and pick one of those and I'll be happy.
Brax: Anti-matter or anti-gravity?
Doug Van Pelt: Anti-Gravity. Having a past in skateboarding and vertical pool riding and sensing weightlessness is so exciting. I'd like to feel that again.
Brax: Have you ever had a comic in your magazine? How was the reader response?
Doug Van Pelt: Yes. It was by the same artist that did the illustrations (above) and done by Monty Colvin, who was in Galactic Cowboys. The strip was called "Gasfist" and ran for a couple years. I loved it. People loved it, but Monty wanted to take a break. That's been the last. I did bring the "Pit Moves" guys to the magazine, one move per issue for one year. That was tons of fun.
Brax: Any advice for those trying to “make it” in music?
Doug Van Pelt: Do what you do and do it with all your heart. Your skill and hard work will make a way for you. If it doesn't, well, hopefully you are enjoying it while you do it, so isn't that enough? If you have something "special" it will likely "catch on" and other people will connect with it.
Brax: Anything else you’d like to add?
Doug Van Pelt: Thanks for the honor of doing this interview. If there's anything I can ever do for you, let me know. HM Magazine is really struggling to stay alive in this poor magazine and poor music economy, so if people reading this could spread the word, buy copies in stores and/or subscribe and tell others about it, that would be great! Oh, also please check out our commercial spots. Search YouTube with "HM Gwar" and, for fun, "HM Hitler" Enjoy.
Visit Doug Van Pelt and HM Magazine:
www.twitter.com/dooglar (Doug Van Pelt on Twitter)
Tell him Brax sent you!
Thanks to Doug Van Pelt.
Check back next Wednesday for another exciting band interview.