Monday, June 13, 2005

An Open Letter to Mike Shea of Alternative Press

The following email has been sent to Mike Shea, President and Founder of Alternative Press in response to a letter he addressed to readers in the recent issue of AP (issue #204, July 2005, page 74). In the letter, Mr. Shea talks about the importance of reader feedback and how it helps to keep AP in check by preventing it from becoming a “Goliath” in the mold of Rolling Stone and SPIN where “advertisers and bean counters determine the content of the magazine.” Since Mr. Shea is looking for feedback, I’ve decided to give him some. If you love or hate the magazine, I encourage you to do the same.

Dear Mr. Shea:

I just finished reading the July issue of Alternative Press. Congratulations on 20 years. I am writing to you after reading your impassioned plea (issue #204, July 2005, page 74) for readers to provide you with feedback about the magazine with the purpose of keeping AP in check, as well as the staff’s open invitation for readers to “use” Alternative Press as a vehicle to launch their own music and ideas. While I recognize this is noble gesture on the part of your magazine, you’ll have to excuse my skepticism.

Three months ago, Alternative Press published a feature entitled “Bringing it Back: AP’s Hardcore Special” (issue 2001, April 2005), which caught the attention of the entire hardcore scene, but not for the reasons Alternative Press might have hoped. Although I’m not able to provide any empirical data, I can tell you with certainty that after reading the Hardcore Special, the collective thought throughout the entire hardcore scene was somewhere along the lines of “duh.”

After reading the Hardcore Special, I decided something needed to be said. Since your reader’s forum (entitled Incoming) invited “Love Letters, Hate Mail & Sound Advice” from the unwashed masses, I decided to brew my own little dirty bomb and send it to Alternative Press via email. The sticker graphic at the top of the Incoming section says “100% Manure-Free Magazine,” but when I opened this month’s issue to finally see what feedback readers had to offer about the Hardcore Special, I was over-powered by the stench of chicken shit.

Are you honestly telling me that even though an ENTIRE scene threw its hands up in disgust after reading the Hardcore Special, absolutely NONE of your readers wrote into Alternative Press to offer a little hate mail or sound advice to be printed side by side with the two gushing letters you got from readers Josh Fekete and Michelle Rakshys?

When invited to contribute a dissenting opinion, this reader makes the assumption that you might actually print it. Sure, my email was way over the top, so I can understand why it wasn’t printed (even though it could’ve easily been edited to be more friendly for your advertisers), but I couldn’t have been the only person to be screaming about how bad the Hardcore Special was. If I was the only person to offer negative feedback, then you can interpret my initial email as being co-signed by a significant faction within the hardcore scene, as my inbox was jammed with high-fives and “atta-boys” from a lot of kids around the scene, including members of bands that were interviewed for your feature.

Like I said, I appreciate that AP is offering to become more of a people’s mag in the mold of a punk rock institution like Maximum Rock n’ Roll. But the difference between AP and MRR is that when Maximum Rock n’ Roll asks for a dissenting opinion, they’ll actually print it.

I find it ironic that Alternative Press thinks of itself as a "David," rather than a "Goliath." Even though my opinion wasn’t represented in your magazine, I did manage to find some heated responses for Scott Heisel and Johan Bayer, along with a more diplomatic response from Aaron Burgess in my inbox. As we exchanged vollies of email, I often thought to myself “even though I can’t slay Goliath with my sling and stone, how cool is it that I pissed him off enough to throw rocks back at me?”

Man, if you’re David, then what the fuck am I?

I have spoken.

Ronny Little
Barebones Hardcore


Incase you missed it last time around, this is the letter I sent to Alternative Press after reading their "Bringing it Back: AP's Hardcore Special" on March 20, 2005. Despite the fact that it was my first-ever blog entry, I drew over 5,000 hits in 3 days with minimal promotion of my site. -Ronny

Dear Tiger Bea--, whoops, Alternative Press:

Thank you so much for including Hardcore's ummm... best and brightest in the pages of the Boy Band Bonanza that calls itself "Alternative" Press these days. Your feature, "Bringing It Back: A.P.'s Hardcore Special" read more like a paid advertisement for labels such as Victory, Trustkill, Equal Vision, and Bridge Nine Records than as an authoritative piece on today's Hardcore scene.

The reason that Hardcore music has experienced a massive resurgence over the past 10 years is because labels like Victory Records nearly killed traditional hardcore in the early 1990's. Back then, bands such as Earth Crisis and Snapcase -- metal bands packaged and marketed as Hardcore bands -- were painted as the new face of Hardcore music. Fortunately, a few Hardcore purists saw it more as vandalism and took the musical direction of the scene into their own hands.

By 1995, a handful of bands rejected the status quo of the new scene and started repairing the damage done by Victory -- record by record, show by show. While bands like Ignite, Mouthpiece, Floorpunch, Ten Yard Fight, In My Eyes, 97a and Rain On The Parade would never be able to move the amount of "units" that any of the bands in your feature could move, they were undeniably the reason that Hardcore did not vanish into the metal abyss perpetuated by the likes of Tony Brumell. They were also the reason your magazine now has a Hardcore revival to write about, which by the way, has been going on for 10 years now. Get with the times.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by how bad your Hardcore special turned out. Not when you charge a handful of outsiders and rookie newbs with writing it. To mix bonified Hardcore bands such as Triple Threat, Righteous Jams, Mental, Paint It Black, Outbreak and Champion in with the likes of overtly metal-influenced bands like Bane, Converge and Terror (who have gone down hill since Todd Jones departed the band on his own terms) shows the true colors of your writing staff, which is decidedly green.

And don't even get me started on Laura Wiebe Taylor. At first, I thought she might have fallen into this assignment as a guesture of gratitude by Johan Bayer after she held his coat while he was off moshing. Instead, it just turned out to be bad judgement. Afterall, why would you select someone with a background in metal to write for your Hardcore special? A google search had her name turn up at Unrestrained Magazine, which is apparently Canada's "Authority on the Metal Underground."

"So what" you say? Well, if your writing staff was more in touch with our scene, they would never compare New Jersey's Triple Threat (a band that meticulously crafts it's complex sound after legendary California acts BL'AST! and Black Flag) to the likes of lunch pail mosh bands like Madball, Terror, and Bane. Such a reckless comparison in a national forum is enough to drive a straight-edge band to drink. Why is there a need for the "Rocks Like:" comparisons anyway? Is this Alternative Press or is it

If you want your magazine to ever have a shred of credibility with the Hardcore scene, you'll have to do better than a couple of half-assed Hardcore "specials" written by a bunch of posers who bend over and let Victory and Trustkill Records ram it home. Until you get it right, I'll continue to wipe my hemorrhoids with your Boy Band rag.

I Have Spoken,

Ronny Little

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