Dressel, Nate-Leather Knights (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: March, 2022
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

I don’t like using the term ‘hero’ in everyday conversation. The word is so overused that it has lost it’s meaning and it is applied so rapidly and readily to people who are, to be blunt, not heroes. However, it has crept into modern language and now phrases like ‘unsung heroes’ are used frequently in society. Having said that, there are many hard working, talented people in the Metal underground who deserve recognition for their efforts and Nate Dressel is one of those guys.

LEATHER KNIGHTS was a short-lived America fanzine that ran for four issues between 1996 and 2002. Dressel did it all layout, design, content, printing, everything except some of the cover art. It was a labour of love and he threw himself in with enthusiasm. The fanzine spun off into a radio show for a few years and eventually a web-site. Here we are at the 25th anniversary of the founding of Leather Knights and Dressel has decided to self-publish about his fanzine. It is a standard paperback, black and white and runs about 227 pages long.

As we can guess from the title, A RECOLLECTION OF RARE HEAVY METAL INTERVIEWS tells us what we need to know. However, it is more than just a re-print. Dressel takes us back through time and shares his experiences and memories of running a fanzine when, to be frank, Metal in the USA was just not popular. After a brief history of the ‘zine with lots pf photos, Dressel presents 29 interviews, some never before published and many are restored to their original form.

As an interviewer Dressel perhaps needed refinement at times but for the most part his questions were sincere and friendly. He had an odd habit of asking the people he interviewed a question about who they would like to see die or be killed! The response to this question ran from shock and disbelief to humorous banter.

As with most things in life, your affinity for a project is directly related to your appreciation of the subject matter. I happen to be keenly interested in the bands that Dressell interviewed. I am by no means unique but back in the early to mid-90’s I categorically rejected the concept that ‘Metal was dead’ and instead I turned my attention, loyalty and buying power to the underground. This is where this book lives. We get interviews with (back then) new bands like Twisted Tower Dire, Seasons Of The Wolf and Gothic Knights. This was my world. True Metal bands that wanted to rock (not pose). No rap, no grunge just the purity of Metal loyalists. In addition to some bigger name bands like Iced Earth and Manowar we get deep underground stuff like Cain’s Alibi. I have never read an interview with this band despite owning their debut album for decades. These are bands that Dressel helped support; Jag Panzer, Powers Court and Legend Maker and titans of the scene such as Lance King and Denis Gulby of Sentinel Steel magazine/label and mail-order. These guys kept it alive, one album at a time, one gig at a time.

Each interview has many pictures and often Dressel will provide updates on the band their current activities, if any. Sadly, a good number of these Metal warriors from various bands are no longer with us. I also like Dressel’s style, he is staunchly pro-Metal and never hesitates to take a chance to slam the garbage that was polluting the airwaves at the time. In his introduction he looks back at the sentiment of the times and says, “The bottom line of this piece is to not take the righteous fury in some of these interviews too personally. It was just a reaction to the very real injustices at the time.” (p. 14) When reading these interviews, I liked the righteous fury! Dressel was not afraid to say what he felt and it really captures the mod of the time nicely. The story of John Tsantakis (Gothic Knights) inuring himself when ‘over-celebrating’ the death of Kurt Cobain was hilarious!

I can’t think of too many other books like this. Back in 2007, Darryl Keck from Arizona wrote a book called METAL GENERATION about his fanzine, Amplified Assault but aside from that not too many books like this exist. Martin Popoff printed some old interviews he had in the vaults in book form but that was never based around a fanzine. There have been a few underground Black Metal fanzines that are getting reprinted, THE SLAYER MAG DIARIES being the most famous. I hope this is the start of a trend where these old fanzines can become more widely available. I think A RECOLLECTION is an important book because it helps capture some Metallic history, before the internet was widely available.

Maybe Dressel is one of the unsung heroes, keeping Metal alive during the dark times. His dedication to supporting USPM is admirable. Is making a fanzine heroic? Not really but his efforts deserve to be recognized and this book will go a long way to preserving his legacy and contributions to the Metal cause.