Interview with author & publisher Albert Mudrian
Before we discuss your recent publication, tell us a bit about the creation of Decibel.
Decibel launched 11 years ago this month. I started it with the blessing of Red Flag Media owner Alex Mulcahy as the company’s first newsstand publication. RFM had been publishing free music magazines distributed in regional U.S. record chains since 1993 and I had been an editor for them since 1997—basically the guy who would sneak a Neurosis feature into a magazine with Radiohead on the cover. Anyway, RFM always wanted to launch a publication that we had 100% editorial control over (that was not the case with the in-store magazines), and I’d long been dissatisfied with all of the metal magazines in America. Nothing really connected with my vision of what a metal magazine (leaning the extreme side of genre) should be. To Alex’s eternal credit, he gave me a shot to execute that crazy vision, and here we are with Decibel 11 years later.
What is an average day in the life of a magazine mogul like yourself?
I work from home and have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, the former of which is home all day with a sitter. So, it can be a little chaotic here, and difficult to focus at times. But even without the unpredictability of small children, no two days are really alike. I’m the editor in chief of the magazine; I sell all of the advertising; I curate and production-manage our flexi series; I oversee and execute the overwhelming majority of the magazine’s online marketing and promotion; I’m a co-curator/co-organizer of the Decibel Magazine Tour, and I bang out a Choosing Death-related interview fairly often these days. So, yeah, it’s always an adventure.
Turning to CHOOSING DEATH why did you decide that now (2014-2015) was the time to update the book?
Well, after I saw the reunion tours of both Carcass and At the Gates back in 2008 I determined that I needed to write an updated version of the book. Around that time, Decibel really started taking off and I found any free time to be at a premium. Then in 2011, my wife and I had our first child and that REALLY put the book on the back burner. When she learned that she was pregnant with our son in the fall of 2013, I realized that it was now or never—or now or another five years from now—before I’d have ANY chance of sustained work on revised and expanded Choosing Death. It kind of worked out perfectly, as I had an entire decades’ worth of development to cover in the book, which I think makes for a much more engaging read rather than banging out a new version after only a few years.
Can you elaborate on the title?
Well, I think the title itself is kind of cute, and far as references go for ending one’s own life. The subtitle should be self-explanatory in that it’s a history of death metal and grindcore’s evolution, and that story has taken some strange paths (major labels, commercial failures, stunning rebirths, ect) that no one could have really imagined. Least of all me when I first got in to this music back in 1991.
How long did it take you to work out the revisions?
I started the interview process for the revisions in November of 2013 and completed the majority of the writing/revising in September 2014. The truth is that I was still tweaking things here and there the day before I sent the book to the printers. I can vividly recall my son sleep in my map as I included a story about Mike Browning getting in a physical altercation with Trey Azagthoth, directly leading to the former’s dismissal in Morbid Angel.
Tell us about the involvement of Dan Seagrave?
Well, I interviewed Dan for the original version of the about 12 or 13 years ago, and it went really well. We didn’t really keep in touch or anything like that, but in the spring of 2014 he dropped me a line asking if I’d be interested in having him display some of his prints at a couple Canadian dates of that year’s Decibel Tour. Of course I said, “sure, no problem.” A few weeks later, I finally met him in person at an academic conference we were both attending in Montreal and we got along really well. He has a dry sense of humor that I appreciate. Anyway, I mentioned to him that I was in the middle of the revision, and he seemed intrigued by that. I knew from that’s start that I wanted the revised edition to have a complete redesign and that included the cover. With that in mind, who better to handle the latter than Dan Fucking Seagrave?! So, I emailed him and asked if he’d be into it and, to my astonishment, he was. We bounced a few ideas back and forth and before long I just said, “go nuts with this—I know it will be great.” When he was sending me progress shots and I could barely keep it together. I’d just forward them to all of my old death metal pals and be like, “Can you believe this is fucking happening?!” I mean, I used to stare at his album covers endlessly as a kid, so this experience was truly surreal for me.
Why did you decide to publish in house rather than go to Feral again or even Bazillion Points?
It was a long-term business decision. Feral House did a great job getting the original version of the book in stores a decade ago, but the landscape of publishing has changed so dramatically since then, that I didn’t make a lot of sense to have them publish this version. Essentially, their greatest strength (at least for me) had been neutralized since there are so few book stores these days. The other part of the equation is that Decibel has a global, built-in audience, and A LOT of them are fans of this particular style. So, in that sense, I already had the most powerful marketing tool for the book available to me. So, with the help of Red Flag owner Alex Mulcahy, we purchased the rights to Choosing Death from Feral House. I am extremely happy we did this.
What features of the new version are you most proud of?
Well, that Seagrave original art is hard to top, but I think that whole presentation of this version is what really sticks with. Decibel’s art director Bruno Guerreiro worked his ass off redesigning the guts and it mow makes so much more sense compared to the original. The new chapters; the expanded content in the original ten chapters, the hardcover finish; the hand-numbering—it just all adds up to one coherent piece that I’m extremely proud of and grateful for the opportunity to release.
Is the original still in print? Do you have to compete with yourself?
The original is officially out of print, so there’s no competition. In the event someone still wants the original can still acquire a copy on Amazon or eBay.
If not, is my mint condition copy of the original worth anything and should I put it in E-bay? (Just kidding…)
Ha, maybe in a few years! I think it sold around 20,000 copies in the U.S., so it’s not exactly the rarest of birds, unlike the new hardcover version, which is limited to 3,000 hand-numbered copies.
As a writer what is your routine like…evenings, weekends, anytime you can grab a free moment?
I’ve not written a long-form piece in Decibel since our 100th issue, and that was nearly three years ago, and I don’t think I wrote anything prior to that dating all the way back to 2006. I barely have time to barf out the 350 words that are my Decibel editor’s notes every month! Seriously, I do not consider myself a music writer at the point. I know that may sound ridiculous to some, but I consider people like J. Bennett, Kevin Stewart-Panko and Decibel managing editor Andrew Bonazelli writers. Those guys work tirelessly at the craft—so much so that you’d never guess because their writing seems totally effortless. I can assure you, that ain’t me.
When do you feel most focused and inspired as a writer?
Uh… see answer above.
Were there any critical albums in heavy rotation while you worked on CHOOSING DEATH? Did you listen to any Hair Metal?
Oh, man, I’ll back the first four Def Leppard albums (yes, even Hysteria) to my grave, as they were my first-ever favorite band. Cinderella’s Night Songs also rules hard. I can’t say I was really listening to any of these. But I did listen to A LOT of death and grind as I worked on this version. I mean, you need some kind of inspiration late at night when you’re slogging the through this less-than-glamorous process, right? What better than records like Cause of Death, Gothic, Necroticism and Altars of Madness to soundtrack what’s essentially a love letter to my misspent youth? Beyond that, there were a lot nights spent with the most recent Pallbearer and Agalloch records. They were extremely comforting during the grueling transcription process.
Lastly, what advice do you have for young (or old) aspiring writers…for people who want to contribute to Decibel or work on their own projects?
Just keep writing, and write for pleasure as much as possible (that’s something I really do miss). And for the love of all that is unholy, please just email me—don’t Facebook message me. That’s just like making me check another email address, and I already have like four of those. All of which are REALLY easy to find.