This is part 2 of an ongoing multi-part series that recounts the life and times of the late tech-metal webzine, The Apparatus. If you missed it, take a moment to catch up with The Apparatus – Postmortem, part 1: Introduction, and stay tuned for part 3 next week, “History of the Scene”.
In 2006, technical and progressive music, let alone mathcore never really had a mecca-website. By default of resources and a very strong will to obtain the new Psyopus album me and Paul started to put together our project. Something online was a better way to reach more people and cost zero money, only time and energy. The site itself had no backend. We’d hardcode our content in the html. We took a lot on and covered everything from forums, news, album and concert reviews, written and video interviews, annual compilations, artist of the month segments, mailing lists, polls, we even had a Flash games arcade where members dished it out for high scores. It was rough time cutting our teeth, but fun and rewarding nonetheless. I still find it hard to find fans of mathcore that are only somewhat into it. However, the fans themselves are few in numbers, but when you can herd the cats of introverted music elitists – it’s a beautiful thing. The small numbers made it easy to branched over into collectively concluded awesome music that wasn’t always mathcore (technical death metal, progressive rock, jazz fusion, math rock, etc).
Before The Apparatus I was a veteran forum user. I ranked up around 25,000 posts among various messages boards. I figured out what made a forum successful. The obvious was creating relevant topics that entices self-indulgent opinions. In order to have loyal users you need to moderate efficiently and encourage band members to help generate their own discussion. It’s also important for them to be around to make a fan’s day and answer a question. Heated arguments will generate some serious traffic but it doesn’t always out weigh the loss of users being scared off or rage quitting. Among the heap of trolling and fruitless posts, SMN‘s forums had awesome official band forums. If I wanted to shoot Necrophagist a gear question, talk serial killers with Crowpath, or obsess with Nate and Max from Anomalous over a little band from Chile called Coprofago, there was the internet pipeline to do so. However it was always soured by IRC and 4Chan culture that had boiled over into music forums a lot. At one point Muhammad of Necrophagist opted out of his own SMN forum. Particularly the Between the Buried & Me forum lost control from the band and music was rarely the subject at hand. It was quite vicious, funny and challenging trying to keep up with all the circle jerking. Our forums where small, but we had an awesome meat-to-fat ratio.
Interviews were a way to ask the tough questions, to challenge their integrity and purpose of mastering their instruments. It helps put their intentions in check and validates their musical vision.
Everyday, I was on Lambgoat, SMN, Blabbermouth, and fiercely looking through endless MySpace bulletins to get news from my favorite obscure bands. Why not put all my findings together so other fans didn’t have to do the same? News filtering was important to The Apparatus. Having only relevant mathcore news and honest commentary about it generated some credibility off the bat. Though I might have been youthfully unhinged and without tact writing reviews, it was a way to give feedback to bands. Our good friend and writer Chad discovered us at a SWWAATS and Maruta show. We had been handing out flyers for this new —œtech metal— site. We knew a lot of the same people. He was anxious to get involved and he had a BA in creative writing. The flood of reviews were submitted by the dozens. Record label promos were also coming in from all over. We took this on as a challenge; not to kiss everyone’s ass but stay professional as much as possible. You’re covering a label’s product regardless of how you score them. If it’s a positive review, that’s just a bonus. Bands having such limited coverage makes the content much more potent. Everything becomes a lot more personal this way. We found great relationships with people like Michelle from Black Market Activities and Cathy from Sargent House. Interviews were a way to ask the tough questions, to challenge their integrity and purpose of mastering their instruments. It helps put their intentions in check and validates their musical vision. We didn’t have the money for hi-tech equipment, at risk of breaking at crazy metal shows. It was also an odd time after the house phone and before the smartphone or cams with reasonable quality internet chat. It was crude, but it was the most validating reason to take advantage of email interviews. This way you could gather preconceived questions thoroughly from the help of forum users and bands could write back at their most convenient times, even on the road on a tour nowhere near town. We did eventually beef up our interviewing techniques with the help of Jared Oates. Audio and video interviews were mixed into the fold.
Our biggest pride of The Apparatus was our compilation albums. It started one year with an idea for a contest prize. We handmade a 2-disc album of 70s prog and fusion essentials with custom Roger Dean inspired artwork on vinyl LP themed disc labels. It was something I saw The Chariot do similarly in 2009 only with 25,000 copies of Wars and Rumors of Wars. Meanwhile, by that time I had started work on a digital album compilation of unsigned tech metal band called Mecha Organa. It had to be unsigned bands. The grassroots approached couldn’t waste time with bureaucratic label attachment. Besides it was for free promotion. Being unsigned acts also meant they were hungry for publicity and would be enthused to help promote themselves and in turn promoting the rest of the line up and The Apparatus all at the same time . All 20 or so bands per compilation doing this snowballed the exposure. Bands that I had never heard of from all over the world Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Australia, Germany, UK, Netherlands, France, Canada, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, to name a few, expressed interest in being on our compilation series. I did a few of these compilation myself but eventually I got great help from Simon of Mathcore Index and Ross of American Aftermath. They ended up on MSN metal channel, Metal Injection, and Metal Sucks. I would love to think some of these comps helped few bands like Exivious, Cyclamen, or Rings of Saturn get signed, which makes the whole effort extra rewarding.
This has been part 2 of an ongoing multi-part series that recounts the life and times of the late tech-metal webzine, The Apparatus. If you missed it, take a moment to catch up with The Apparatus – Postmortem, part 1: Introduction, and stay tuned for part 3 next week, “History of the Scene”.
Do you remember The Apparatus? Were you around during the tech-metal rush? Let us know your story in the comments below.