From the Archives: Martin Popoff (2000)

From July 2000, Steven Ward interviews metal/hard rock critic, and Toronto native, Martin Popoff. Some kind of prolific writer when this interview was first published, Popoff is a veritable publishing industry unto himself these days (check out his website for more current information about his many projects). Given his success as a writer and self-publisher, I trust (and hope) Martin was able to deal with the carpal tunnel syndrome that was causing him severe pain at the time of this interview.  

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Enduring the noise: Martin Popoff Pops Off on Heavy Metal, Rock Criticism, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

An E-Mail Interview by Steven Ward (July 2000)

If Chuck Eddy is heavy metal’s bastard child, Martin Popoff is its favourite son. Popoff, 37, has been writing about metal for more than a decade and listening to it for twice that long. Regardless of what other writers say about the best books on heavy metal, Popoff, a Toronto resident, wrote THE BIBLE on the genre: The Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal. The book is crammed with 3,700 sharp and detailed reviews of metal albums and (almost) full discographies. It features top ten lists, lists of everything from the most overrated performers (Eric Clapton and drummer Carmine Appice) to a breakdown of the different metal genres (what is the difference between Gothic metal and Viking metal anyway?).

One of the best things about Popoff’s observations is the intelligence, honesty and straight forwardness of his reviews. You won’t find any Teena Marie reviews in Popoff’s book (sorry, Chuck Eddy. No Offence). You are likely to find details about Witchfinder General’s debut, though. In other words, Popoff is the true guru for headbangers everywhere. He’s a senior editor at Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, probably the best magazine/fanzine on metal from this side of the Atlantic; he can also be found occasionally in magazines as diverse as Guitar World and Lollipop.

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Steven:   What the hell is it that attracts you so much to heavy metal music?

Martin:  It’s the only music from my youth I’m not embarrassed about any more, except, that is, for classic rock, mainly prog. R.E.M, The Cure, even fIREHOSE, Joe Ely, Kate Bush and The Replacements, for me it’s all inextricably linked to university (you folks call it college), weepy, vulnerable, girl problem stuff. Metal just is. It rarely contains irony, and when it does, we all get it and laugh at the joke bouncing around, with, and at us. It’s never changed, or, at least the general power chord, power personality aspect of it still courses, plows, blunders, chops away. It keeps you young, it makes you get up in the morning and methodically vanquish your action points, it staves off the dozy mid-afternoon, gotta-take-a-breaks. It can occasionally brainwash you into jogging. It basically jars you out of a number of potential funks, losing situations, surrenders.

These metal makers, if they have problems, they rarely show it, and in the many cases where all they seem to do is growl about problems, by session’s close, you are quite sure said quandaries will be stomped shortly. Plus, it’s a vibrant, growing genre. Tons of new artworks every month, most of it from destitute Swedes still living with their parents. The camaraderie? Forget it. That’s for young folks, of which there are many at these sorry 150-attendance shows. Please stop trying to talk to me about the merits of various Stratovarius albums while Destruction is pasting us to the back wall and I’m busy putting a cigarette filters in my ears because I forgot my ear plugs.

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From the Archives: J.D. Considine (2000)

Steven Ward’s interview with J.D. Considine first appeared in rockcritics.com in May of 2000; thanks to Considine’s sense of humour throughout, it’s always been one of my favourites. At 7,000+ words it’s a long one, too–though not half as long as a few still ahead.

The two photos of Considine were tacked on to the article much later–in 2007 or 2008, I think, after I had a chance to meet the man in person following his move to Toronto, where (far as I know) he still resides. Oddly enough, of the 80 or so folks interviewed for this site over the past 13 years, Considine remains the the only critic I’ve ever actually met in person (not including a couple people I knew before rockcritics came to fruition, not including another Toronto critic whose hand I once shook in a memorable encounter that lasted about four seconds).

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The not-so-hip J.D. Considine: A music critic who writes about music
By Steven Ward, May 2000 

J.D. Considine has been writing about popular music since 1977. During his more than 22-year career in rock criticism, he has polarized as many of his fellow critics as enlightened the readers who follow his work. The reason: Considine has always written about the music he likes. Considine has never worried about following the rock critic pack–only praising the unheard of and left field alternatives so obscure, college radio DJs give you a blank stare at mere mention of the band’s name. That’s not to say Considine only embraces mainstream music. On the contrary, Considine loves PJ Harvey, trance rock, and the Japanese pop music of Namie Amuro and Hikaru Utada. But don’t be surprised when Considine tells you he loves the pop country balladry of Faith Hill, the sultry and introspective R&B of Toni Braxton and (no joke) ‘N Sync. He’s serious and explains in great detail in his reviews why he enjoys the music so much.

Because of Considine’s job as the pop music critic for the Baltimore Sun, he’s forced to examine mainstream music and popular music culture in ways that snobby, trying-to-impress-other-critics writers at The Village Voice and Spin don’t really have to worry about. Considine’s reviews are a revelation. He is one of the very few rock critics out there–Chuck Eddy can do this too, but his writing is not as serious or straightforward–who writes about the music. Considine will be the first to tell you that lyrics–the overwhelming preoccupation with 90 percent of the rock critics out there–is something he hardly pays any attention to. Instead of dissecting lyrics (Considine is not interested in teaching freshman poetry to college students), he has the amazing ability to tell you about the music, what it sounds like and why a consumer might like it or not.

Writing about the music and what it sounds like is Considine’s secret weapon. It’s not easy and he will be the first to tell you about it. (Elvis Costello once put it best: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”) I recently conducted an e-mail interview with Considine where he sounded off on a number of matters: why music magazines today suck, which ones he believes are the best (you may be surprised), his love of his job as the pop music critic for a major daily newspaper, and his strange entrance into the world of music criticism in his high school/college days.

Last but not least, Considine will tell you how unfashionable he is–a trait that he thinks allows him to write about the music he loves.

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Steven:    Let’s start out with some bio info. How old are you? Where did you grow up, go to college, etc?

J.D.:    I’m 43. I was born in Albany, New York, and moved with my family to Baltimore (where both my parents grew up) in 1962. We lived in Towson, MD, a suburb that weirdly enough was home to John Dos Passos, Spiro T. Agnew, and John Waters. All at the same time, for a while there. It’s also the fictional home of Elaine from “Seinfeld,” which seems to impress no one. Including the natives. I went to public school, and then attended the Johns Hopkins University, a school which at the time taught neither music nor journalism. What I studied was called the Humanistic Studies Area major, which was a pretty vague concept for a major (though it did have the advantage of appearing as “Human Stud” on transcripts). Mainly what I learned was structuralism.

Basically, I’ve been in Baltimore most of my life. Not because I love it here–the weather sucks, and apart from a couple specialty shops, we have no decent CD stores–but because I’ve never had to leave. If I were offered a job in New York, I’d go, but so far, all my full-time employment is here in Baltimore. So I stay.

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