Sunday, September 30, 2012

Soul Sold: An interview with Chris Forbes of Metal Core 'Zine

At what point in your life did metal come around and rear its ugly head?
CF: Well went I was about 10 or 12 years old, I was born in 1965, I was listening to stuff like The Sweet, The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, etc and don't laugh too much. Well when I was 13, this would be 1978 I discovered rock n roll. Bands like Van Halen, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple and bands of that nature. Well soon after that I discovered a band called Black Sabbath. The riffs, the sound, the vocals and just mood they created completely blew me away. It was beyond anything I had ever heard before. Now at the time I had never heard the term “heavy metal”, but Sabbath was at the time for me the heaviest thing I ever heard. I went and brought all their older albums so I would say Black Sabbath was the band that started me on my metal journey.    
Who was the band that was responsible for turning you into a "lifer"?
 CF: Well this is a band that I am sure for some of you older folks will be no surprise. Now if your talking about a “lifer” as far as underground metal bands, Metallica is that band and the bands debut release, “Kill Em All”. Just hearing “Hit The Lights”, “Whiplash” and “Metal Militia” to name a few was something I had never, ever heard before. I mean here was a band that just as heavy as Sabbath, even the Dio Sabbath era, and the speed was something I had never heard before in my life. I was instantly hooked by the power, speed, the intensity and the vocals as well. Let’s not forget the cover as well. “Whiplash” and “Metal Militia” lyric wise, pretty much sum it up for me. Now after Metallica, I found bands like Motorhead, Venom, Slayer, etc. It just started with them and I was like a kid tasting candy for the 1st time as I wanted more, more, and more. 
What was the scene in New Jersey like back in the 80's/early 90's? I'm wagering that it must have been a veritable "sea" of feathered mullets and hairspray!
CF: It was indeed a mix of both. I mean you had all the “hair metal” bands and the funny thing a lot of the local “hair metal” bands thought they were gonna be the next Poison or Motley Crue. Heck the only band that ever did anything out of that area (now keep in mind I lived in south jersey, not north jersey, near phila, pa) was Cinderella, who had some success. The rest of the garbage, bands like Teeze, Scarlet Fever, Dead End Kids, Britney Fox, etc never went anywhere. They looked like a bunch of fools up there with all that hairspray and make-up and I still chuckle when I see pics of them on Facebook every now and then. There were 3 clubs in the area that had metal shows. The Galaxy, which had “hair bands” play every weekend and I wouldn’t be caught dead there. The other club was The Empire and they had all age shows every Sunday. That was where Cinderella and Teeze played a lot. I went there a few times and then one night I saw a band that blew we away because they were a local band playing speed metal and that band would be Black Task. They had only release a demo at this point, but holy fuck it total blew me mind that we had a band in my backyard playing the metal I craved. They would play the Empire around every 2 months or so and I’d be at every show and it was great to be hanging in the parking lot before they would go on hanging with local metalheads talking about Exodus, Slayer, Metallica, Motorhead, Venom, etc. After Black Task came Anvil Bitch who was another local thrash band that is still around today and they actually put an album out in 1986 called “Rise To Offend” on New Renaissance Records and they about 2 years ago got back together with 4 of the original members, which is ultra cool. Around 1988 or so another club opened up in South Jersey called “Bonnie’s” and the female that booked the club was into all that “hair metal” crap and she booked all that local crap, heck she probably sleep with all of them back in the day too. About a year into that, a guy named Mike Minnick took over the booking and he managed Deadly Blessing at the time and they also had an album called ‘Ascend From The Calderon” on New Renaissance Records as well. He, for one, didn’t like the “hair metal” stuff so after a bit he brought in bands like Hades, Nuclear Assault, Autopsy, etc. Then we also had G’Wilker’s, which a lady named Ann booked and omg she brought in underground bands from all over. Nuclear Death, Paineater, Carcass, Prime Evil, Morbid Angel, Incantation, Mortician, immolation, Suffocation, Gorephobia, Exmortis, Death, and a million more. That lasted several years.
Now we will hit the North Jersey and NY club scene. By the mid 80’s “metal” was a booming business. You had all the “fake metal” and the “real metal” bands. Headbangers Ball on MTV was in full swing and all some of the “hair metal” bands were selling millions of records. Clubs popped up all over North Jersey. Clubs such as Dingbat’s, Club Bene, Studio 1, and I know a bunch more, but their names escape me.  Now I started going to some of these clubs in the 90’s, but the one club that changed my life forever is Lamour’s in Brooklyn, NY, which is sadly closed. I will never forget hanging out one night in the Empire Parking Lot with a couple of the guys from Anvil Bitch and I think it was drummer Chuck who said hey why don’t we go up to Brooklyn to see Overkill (fell the fire had just come out) and we hoped in a car or maybe 2 and went to the show. Now my memory isn’t great, but I just remember walking into this huge club that probably could fit over 2000 people and it was packed for Overkill. I am not sure who were the opening bands, but Overkill totally blew me away and also due to the fact that here was a club full of over 2000 true metal heads. Headbanging away to all their tunes. I saw some classic shows there from say 85 till 95. Bands like Savage Thrust, Biohazard, Blessed Death, Carnivore, Slayer (85 and 86), Exodus, when Baloff was sick and the band played and the entire crowd sang all the words, Dark Angel, Death, DRI, Possessed, and many more. The best venue I have been to due to the atmosphere and era of the bands I saw.

Chris and Bill Zebub (left)
What was it like for you first hearing "death metal" after years of thinking that thrash was as heavy as it got?
CF: Possessed smoked me when “Seven Churches” came out as did Celtic Frost. The music was even more heavier than thrash and the vocals more demonic . Seeing Possessed in 1986 at Lamour’s was insane and they just blew me to pieces. Oh let’s not forget the 1st 2 Death albums, ‘Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy” which are true classics. The vocals are easily what separated it from thrash and well as having a more demonic sound. Singers nowadays still recreate that style back then. A lot of death metal singer don’t have that “it” factor that say Jeff from Possessed had that’s for sure.  Too many sound the same nowadays. Now if you want to lump “Bathory” and “Venom” in there with this question they were also both heavy and as brutal as it got, at least for that time. Of course after Possessed, Death and bands of that nature, you had a huge wave of death metal bands come out via demo tapes.
How did the formation of Metal Core come about?
 CF: Well on our way up to the Overkill  show at Lamour’s, we stopped off at a store called “Rock N Roll Heaven”,which was run by Johnny Zazula, who had formed Megaforce Records with his wife and had brought Metallica out to the East Coast in 1983 to play some shows (wish I saw those). This store was very small, but it sold all underground stuff, including imports. I always like to read and in the pas had read Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, etc, which usually had “hair metal” crap, but sometimes had Dio, Ozzy and some actual “metal bands” within the pages. That night I went and picked up a mag called “Kick Ass Monthly” which featured ‘Venom’ on the cover. I am sure a few days after the show I must have read through it and the discovered more band that I had never heard of as this mag had reviews from bands from all over the world and from labels I had never heard of. These labels were from overseas and wow lo and behold there were tape traders and demos from other bands. Keep in mind the only demos I had were from Black Task and Anvil Bitch. Tape trading had seeing reviews of other demo demos from across the US was another world for me. So I started doing a little tape trading and buying a demo here and there from Rock N Roll Heaven as whenever we went to Lamour’s that store was our pit stop ha ha. I also was buying punks zines such as Maximum Rock N Roll and Flipside as well as Metal Mania which was put out by Ron Quintana, who I recently interviewed. Now to get to me starting up the zine, it would have been either at G Wilker’s or the Empire Rock Club that a brought a zine called ‘Total Thrash” which was put out by Scott Helig, who was from Phila, PA. I thought that was ultra cool that we had a zine and it was in my backyard so to speak. I would see him at shows and stuff and I saw he had posted in one of his issues that he was looking for contributors to help with his zine. I offered he accepted and I sent him some reviews to print in his zine. I must have been sending him too much stuff cause at one point, I assume he said this cause he could see how enthused I was, he suggested I should start up my own zine. I took that up as a challenge and decided to go for it. So in December of 1985 I began the task of putting together my 1st issue, which came out in Jan or Feb of 1986. It was half size, no photos, and I made 150 of them and the issue was typed out on my father’s typewriter ha ha. I sold a few, but mostly just gave them away. Actually I just went and printed about 5 extra copies of it. I have a copy of ever one of my issues and I know you didn’t ask, but the name came from I was thinking names up and SOD and Overkill were doing a 7 date mini-tour of the East Coast and they dubbed it the “Metal Core” tour. I thought that was a cool name and since I was into metal and hardcore I thought it was the perfect name.
Nowadays, obtaining an interview is just a couple of keyboard clicks away, not to mention "test driving" a band's material out over on Youtube or Myspace, etc. Could you tell me a bit about the creative process of putting together a fanzine back in those days?
 CF: Well back in 1986 we had no computers, no internet and basically my 1st issue was interviews with local bands like Faith of Fear, Black Task, Anvil Bitch, Machine Dog, Nuclear Assault and Lethal Aggression. The reviews were stuff that I recently brought like, AOD, Nuclear Assault, Muphy’s Law, Metal Church, At War, Cryptic Slaughter, etc. Demo reviews were some that I brought and some that actually got to sent me like: Fantom Warrior, Dirge, Mad Butcher, Savage Death, Social Decay, Machine Dog, Wreckage, Gore, Voice of Doom, Hauntz, ROT and Dream Death, I also threw in some shows reviews as well.  I made a ton of flyers and passed them out in mail I did and wrote to every band I saw a demo review of in other zines. It obviously got easier as more issues came out. Bands started sending me stuff without me even asking and my flyers were everywhere as I made copies at work of them ha ha so I had thousand’s out there. Around issue 5 I started getting promos from labels like Combat and Roadracer and also bands from overseas sending me stuff. By issue 10 I was pretty established, but I always still made up flyers and stuff and actually labels and bands started taking out ads. It was a lot of hard work personally writing letters back in the day, but you had to do what you had to do to get your name out there so to speak.

How did your involvement with Immolation come about?
CF: They had known me for a number of years with the fanzine and that I had helped manage Deadly Blessing so they asked me to manage them, which I did for a number of years. It ended in sort of a weird way as the guitar player Tom Wilkinson, who started a label called Soul Sold and that was me running it with him helping with the money end of things. We released a Bloodstorm CD and then things kinda fell apart with me and Tom. The internet had started booming and I had to explain to him we need a website we need to trade with other labels, we need to set up an on-line store, etc and he wasn’t to keen on the idea. He ended up leaving the band the label soon after folded. The band wanted me to move to NY and I really wasn’t keen on that idea so we never actually broke things off it was kinda just a mutual understanding between both of us. I am still on good  terms with Ross and Bob, who are still making great music these days as well.  
The two Chris'. Mr. Forbes and Mr Gamble (Goreaphobia)
What was the death metal scene up in the Northeast like in the early days in regards to bands such as Mortician, Incantation, Goreaphobia, Immolation, etc..?
 CF: I was great cause even though Mortician and Immolation were from NY and at that time Incantation was based out of North Jersey, I would get to see them live at G’Wilkers and also a bunch of time they would come to see  show cause as I said earlier Ann was booking underground bands from all over the US that you pretty much couldn’t say in many places, and it was mostly death metal bands, so those guys from those bands would come down and sometimes even spend the weekend in the area as well.
Metal Core has been going strong since 1986. What is the secret to your longevity?
 CF: The music. I still enjoy the music. Now out of all the underground genres, thrash metal is # , followed by death metal, heavy metal and then black metal. For every 10 bad bands, there will be one band that blows me away and makes me realize why I still love this music. At the time I am typing this, Havok just blew my doors off live last night as did Slayer this past summer as well as Whiplash too. I will also say this, and this is about Facebook, as much as it can be a pain in the ass at times, I have found many, many old bands and friends from back in the day on there and most when I ask about an interview are willing to do it. I just posted a 50 question interview with Deceased recently and just got back a HUGE longass interview with Whiplash and Marco who worked at Metal Blade and Century Media and also did a fanzine called Ill Literature. It is a great interview. I also got to do and post and interview with Ron Quintana, who published Metal Mania Fanzine out of CA and he was a big influence on my zine and it was one of my favorite interviews I ever did. Sadly, Bob Muldowney, who published Kick Ass Monthly, which is my favorite fanzine of all time, passed away a few yrs back, so obviously I won’t be able to interview him. His writing style was great. Also interviewing Laurent from Snakepit recently was a blast too. Just seeing bands old demos being pressed on cds now, interviewing various fanzine editors, old bands that have broken up 20 yrs ago and are willing to take a stroll down memory lane, hearing a new band that just makes me headbang or my blood boil. I guess when that stops happening it will be time to close up shop so to speak.  Of course having the zine on the internet makes it a million times easier than doing it in print and I went over that in another question. I will say it will be a sad day if I decide to close down the website, let’s hope never lol.
The metal scene has obviously changed in many ways since the 80's and 90's. What would you say are the pros and the cons?
 CF: Well I’ll do the pro’s first. Obviously there are many ways a band can promote their music now with My Space, Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation, You Tube, your own website and the  many webzines  and any other social networking sites out there in internet land. Heck you don’t ever need a record label to develop a strong fan base nowadays. Getting hold of this music has never been easier as well. Just go on-line to say Amazon, I-Tunes or a great underground site such as Hellsheadbangers and hit a few clicks, hit check-out and in a few days music is in your mailbox. Of course if you want to be a cheapskate and don’t want to pay there is file sharing, which I guess is a modern form of tape trading. I never thought of that till now actually. And this goes for import releases as well. Just go to Google type in the band’s name and release and I am sure some site will pop up where you can order their music. There is also Ebay and sites like that as well. Same thing with touring. You can post your tour dates on your website, the other sites I mentioned above and in any metal forums and groups that are on many sites. If you keep a list of webzines that have groups or post news you can send them over your tour dates and soon after they are on that website. When I was going to shows, you pretty much relied on flyers, word of mouth, etc. Even now you can sign up for a particular club’s mailing list and every other week or so you get an email telling you what shows are coming up. Now a club like Lamour’s had no mailing list, but a club like City Garden’s in Trenton would mail me out postcards once a month cause I joined their mailing list. Lamour’s had a DJ and in between songs and bands he would announce shows for like the upcoming 2 months. Back in the 80’s there used to be a local newsprint mag called ‘East Coast Rocker”, which is still around today it is now called The Aquarian” and it comes out weekly and has a ton of ads in for clubs all over the NJ/NY area. Back in the 80’s clubs were everywhere up in North Jersey so I would pick that up to find out what bands were playing where and there was always an ad for Lamour’s in there as well. 
Name Three albums that you cannot live without:
I’ll divide this into 2 sections
Rock N Roll/Straight Up Metal
AC/DC “If You Want Blood…You Got It”, Van Halen debut album, and AC/DC “Bonfire” cause it is a boxed set ha ha…
Underground Metal
Slayer ‘Reign In Blood, Metallica ‘Kill Em All” and Possessed ‘Seven Churches”  
Are there any newer bands that have caught your ear lately? Any suggestions?
 Off the top of me head I’ll just throw some out there, Havok, Deathhammer, Poisonious, Witchtrap, Blessed Curse, Bestial Holocaust to name a few. Some veteran bands that have some great new music include Kreator, Testament and Overkill.
What does the future hold for you and Metal Core?
 CF: Well I don’t plan on stop doing it anytime soon. I have 2 girls that will be 2 years old by the time you are reading this and they take up a lot of my time, but I always fit in time for Metal Core. I will say this, if it wasn’t for the internet, I would have to stop the zine. Having the internet makes things a million times easier and it is easier to send out an interview via email than to actually write, do a phone one or type one out and then when you get it back, you have to either transcribe it or re write it. I just wouldn’t have the time with my little ones. I just take things month or month now and like I said I always find time to do it and as long as that holds true then the website will exist. I can’t believe sometimes it has been over 25 yrs and counting. What the hell was I thinking ha ha.
Many thanks Chris, for taking the time out to do this! Any final words?
CF: Well thanks a million for doing this interview with me. I hope you and your readers found something of interest while reading it and I had a blast typing away and reliving lots of old memories from back in the day. They are times I will cherish till I head 6 feet down. If any of your readers want to check out m site it is
If any bands want to send me anything for review you can send it to me at
Chris Forbes PO BOX 622 Marlton, NJ 08053
Anything sent will be reviewed and best of luck with your zine/blog and it is people like you that will keep the metal flag burning bright my friend.


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