Dave Wolff has been a long time contributer to the heavy metal scene in New York, with his zine, Asphyxium Zine that covers (obviously) Metal, but also Punk, and even alternate writers and poets. He is a talented writer and also contributes to this fine zine from time to time! We thought we’d introduce the man and get down to the bottom of what drives this guys and where his love for the scene comes from. This is a really cool read!
First up Dave tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into the heavy metal scene?
I first became interested in music at the age of four or five, particularly what Elvis Presley recorded in the 1950s. Listening to him I became inspired to perform in front of an audience. Soon after seeing “The Man Who Fell To Earth” with David Bowie, I saw the Beatles’ animated movie “Yellow Submarine.”. Why did these movies speak to me? In the former, an extraterrestrial was dragged into American capitalism when he came to earth to aid his dying family. It was a statement for the time in which it was released that’s still timely now. In the latter a band had a role as heroes of a sort, defending free expression against a society of villains who sought to destroy it. Also a statement for the times.
“Alive II” was my first Kiss album around 1976 or 1977. My mind was blown after listening to a stage show from a theatrical shock rock band I’d never experienced before. Although I still like their old stuff, I’ve become somewhat disillusioned as they’ve become a marketing tool in many ways and the original members are slamming each other too much in the press… as a fan I find it disappointing. After discovering Kiss, I discovered Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, the Who, Cheap Trick, Blondie, AC/DC, the Doors, the Rolling Stones, the Plasmatics, the Clash, Rush, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and finally Venom. This may not be the world’s most popular viewpoint, but I’ll say it anyway. “Black Metal” personally left me even more mind blown than “Alive II” did and marked the beginning of my transition to a hardcore metalhead.
In the following years I discovered Slayer, Overkill, Anthrax, Exodus, Possessed, Sodom, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Destruction, Whiplash, Blessed Death, Carnivore, etc. My tastes led me to heavier and more extreme music. At this point, I began listening to punk and hardcore artists: Misfits, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Fear, Agnostic Front, Corrosion Of Conformity, GG Allin, Lydia Lunch. Yngwie Malmsteen and Bad Brains were the first to introduce me to classical and reggae, and I credit death metal and second wave black metal for my appreciation of industrial and Celtic. In the late 80s a band called Nuclear Death were far in left field and sparked my interest in extreme bands who took their music in new directions.
Why did you make the transition from being a fan, to writing a zine / blog? Any influences that inspired you to take up writing?
After playing in several local bands and “basement projects” in the early 1990s, I began writing about underground music for local music papers, including The Angle and Good Times. During my time at Good Times, I wrote a weekly column. Known as The Dungeon, it supported every incarnation of metal, punk, hardcore, hardcore, goth and industrial. At this time, I was meeting people who were publishing zines and was inspired to do the same. I was inspired by a local Manhattan zine called Endemoniada, which ran in print from 1993 to 2000 and online for several years afterward. This mag supported extreme music and left hand path related subjects. Also active in the mid- to late 90s was Metal Mafia from Long Island, New York, which included Jill Girardi of the independent death metal label Mortal Coil Records. The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds from New Jersey was also active in the 1990s and published by Bill Zebub, an independent film producer.
Asphyxium zine focuses on more than just metal; you’re able to cover punk, poetry and art. How does this separate your zine from the others? Does it make it harder to run?
Asphyxium zine supported metal, punk and hardcore in its early issues, when it was called Autoeroticasphyxium. The inclusion of art and poetry, performance art, fiction, and articles on a range of subjects, started around the third or fourth issue and was a gradual process. I didn’t really think about distinguishing Asphyxium from other zines; I interviewed writers and artists I was interested in; but I suppose this makes it unique. I’ve read a lot of zines that featured poetry, fiction and articles, so who knows? Although I don’t know if it complicates running the zine, it does give me an opportunity to contact people who otherwise might not have heard of it.
What are some of your all-time favourite bands / artists? (This can be poetry too)?
There were the bands I mentioned earlier who generated my interest in metal. As far as underground music is concerned, Venom and Slayer are two of my all-time favorite thrash metal bands because of their influence on popular music. I appreciate bands like Sigh, Charmand Grimloch’s Tartaros, Enslaved, Diabolos Rising, Sear Bliss, Masonna, and Rhapsody for their originality and inventiveness. As much as those bands, I appreciate bands like Sisters Of Mercy, Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus and Christian Death as well as Loreena McKennitt, Diamanda Galas, Sarah Brightman, and Serpentine Arborvitae for being versed in different forms of music from the world over. I like early grunge and alternative bands before those genres became a trend: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Rollins Band etc.
If you’re thinking of the poets who are contributing to the zine, you’ll find some talented writers, including Rich Orth, Jillanna Babb, Heather Dawson, Johnny Hellion, Elena Karis, Jerry Langdon, Steven Michael Pape, Alison Stone, and most recently Judge Santiago Burdon and Robert McDermott. While we’re on the subject of contributors, a local artist from Bronx, New York, Winston Blakely, did the cover art for issue #5 as well as every issue from issue #7 to issue #20 when Asphyxium was in print. The final three issues were designed by Alexander Kautz, who also contributes fiction. The artwork from these issues is still available on my Facebook profile (linked below), but they are no longer in print. Visit the zine’s official Blogspot (also linked below) to see a complete list of interviews, reviews, poems, fiction, and articles contributors.
Where do you hope to take the zine in the future?
My goals for the zine are basically to keep doing what I’m currently doing and to reach more people. Also, to broaden the scope of what the zine covers. Taking it slow without trying to force myself into newness for the sake of newness; just waiting to see what the next natural progression will be. I’ve started interviewing more independent podcasters so we’ll see what happens there.
What do you like about the scene in New York at the moment? Anything you don’t like? What could be done to improve the scene?
What I always liked about the underground scenes in New York was that the bands and the fans were always on the same level. Before and after the show, bands would come out from backstage to meet people who attended. No rock star attitude from the bands, no acting like the fans were beneath them. Everyone was on an equal footing. Even though I haven’t been to many shows lately, it has always been a big part of my life, and that attitude still persists from what I’ve seen.
Fans offer their views on Youtube for every new album on Youtube, as well as vocal coaches to demonstrate that there is a style to singing guttural and high pitched vocals and it’s not all screaming your head off or sounding like the cookie monster. Coaches like Melissa Cross and Mary Zimmer (Voice Hacks) teach how to breathe properly, vocalize from your diaphragm, and enunciate so you can be understood without a lyric sheet, just like melodic vocalists.
What I don’t like? Rises in rent and gentrification forced many clubs in Manhattan to close. However new clubs have opened and more shows are taking place in local bars and clubs in the New York area. Also, I’m over people who preach about being “open minded” and “branching out”. Obviously, not all artists who expand their musical horizons do this, but there’s a fine line between writing what you feel and trying to feel superior. In terms of genuinely wanting to do something new and different, that doesn’t make you any less of a “real” metal fan. While social media has led to a lot of generic and formulaic underground bands, many bands have experimented with black and death metal since the 90s. It takes some digging to find them, but they do exist. But if you have to shove in people’s faces how versatile you are and condescend people with more selective tastes, you are definitely pretentious and a poser in my opinion. Why not simply listen to what you like? The same applies to gender issues in underground music; it doesn’t matter if a band is “female fronted” or not, as long as its singers are talented and skilled.
Any bands that are particularly rockin’ your world at the moment?
Two bands that immediately come to mind are Jinjer (Ukraine) and Lorna Shore (USA). A progressive groove metal band, Jinjer is somewhat like a cross between Otep and Rage Against The Machine, with occasional blast beats. She is equally adept at clean/melodic and guttural vocals, and she works a crowd well. The rest of the band is really tight, has boundless energy and sometimes blends jazz-fusion and reggae into their songs.
As intense as the most brutal death metal you’ve ever heard, Lorna Shore is a New Jersey death core band with the speed to compare with Cryptopsy and the gothic atmosphere to rival Cradle Of Filth. Since they have been active for over ten years, their music sounds as professional and seasoned as bands who have been active for much longer. They are as dexterous and classically adept as they are brutal; there’s something about them that goes beyond most new bands.
Recently, I interviewed Lori Bravo, the former frontwoman of Nuclear Death; she talked extensively about her work with her old band and her solo work, which made me look forward to checking out her material. It’s really out of left field and comes from a very personal place, and I recommend listening to it if you’re an ND fan. Also, I like the new material I’ve heard from Abbath, Enshine, Newphasemusic, Hororhaus, Columbarium Station, Juha Jyrkäs, Misanthropik Torment and The Cannibal Fae Of Waking Dream among others. Again you can check out whose being interviewed at the webzine on Blogspot.
If you could give humankind one (or even more) bit(s) of advice what you say?
If asked, just thinking for yourself and not taking everything at face value. What’s known as “cancel culture” has taken media spin and misdirection to a whole new level. Too much labeling and stuffing of people into boxes whether they fit into them or not. I feel it’s designed to distract people from real societal problems and real suffering. It just leaves people divided and arguing with each other, and does nothing to alleviate racism, sexism, and classism among other things. Do we really care what Chris Rock said about Will Smith’s wife, or whether Amber Heard or Johnny Depp are right about anything? Is Sharon Osbourne really a racist or did “The Talk” sensationalize the issue for higher ratings? Sorry, but I’ll pass on the Kool Aid this time. At the end of the day, these are pointless distractions. You don’t have to become a conspiracy theorist or whatever… just see through the bullshit.AEAzinedw@aol.com