#KickassKleveland – Smayx, CLE Suicide Girl

While many complain about the degeneration of society at the hands of those damn Interwebs, a few things have changed for the better. Social media and the internet has forever altered our culture, allowing people that used to be considered “outsiders” or on the fringe (like me) to find other like-minded freaks.

Case in point: Suicide Girls. For those of you that have never heard of SuicideGirls.com, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s only the planet’s largest website full of kick ass women that a generation ago would not have met the traditional definition of beauty.

From SuicideGirls.com:

“With a vibrant, sex positive community of women (and men), SuicideGirls was founded on the belief that creativity, personality and intelligence are not incompatible with sexy, compelling entertainment, and millions of people agree. The site mixes the smarts, enthusiasm and DIY attitude of the best music and alternative culture sites with an unapologetic, grassroots approach to sexuality…In the same way Playboy Magazine became a beacon and guide to the swinging bachelor of the 1960s, SuicideGirls is at the forefront of a generation of young women and men whose ideals about sexuality do not conform with what mainstream media is reporting.”

The women are tattooed, pierced, dyed, and even dreadlocked. SuicideGirls.com embraces a female image that doesn’t conform to the unrealistic standards set by Playboy, which in fact they outnumber in paid subscribers according to my guest.

Smayx is one of the models representing the CLE on Suicide Girls. She is soft-spoken with a playful wink in her eye. She enjoys Elvis Costello, 80s movies, and long walks on the beach (I’m making that last one up although it sounds like it fits). Smayx was kind enough to talk to me about tattoos, country music, and Suicide Girls. Did I mention she’s a Merle Haggard fan?

Allow me to introduce you to Smayx, Suicide Girl extraordinaire from the CLE.

J: Where are you from?

S: I was born in Florida but raised in Cleveland. In Parma.

J: A Westsider.

S: Yep.

J: What is a Suicide Girl?

S: Everybody’s an individual and you can be yourself. There are all different kinds of girls on Suicide Girls; ones with a lot of tattoos, ones without any, ones with piercings, ones with crazy colored hair, and ones with dreads. Pretty much you’ll find everything. If you’re a guy or a lesbian, you’ll find at least one person on there for you. It definitely has a good group of girls and we’re really close as well.

J: Is there something common between all of you? Is it the tattoos, is it the piercings?

S: I don’t know because all of the girls are unique in their own way. They do ComicCon and that kind of stuff too. So you usually find girls you’ll have something in common with and other ones maybe not as much, but you’ll still find something.

J: How many Suicide Girls are there?

S: I don’t know the exact number but I know there’s one in literally every country. I know in Columbus there’s at least thirty.

J: Do you know any of the history of Suicide Girls?

S: Missy Suicide came up with the idea. She was doing pictures of her friends and that idea led to the website. It started from there and now Suicide Girls has more subscribers than Playboy.

J: I’ve heard Suicide Girls described as an alternative Playboy, or a gothic chick Playboy.

S: A lot of people have asked me about it and that’s the best way to describe Suicide Girls; the tattoos, piercings, crazy hair, that kind of thing–kind of alternative.

J: I’m only there for the articles, the editorials, and blog posts. [laughing] There’s other entertainment too, right?

S: Yes and they have groups you can join if you have a topic you want to talk about. That’s how you meet a lot of girls as well, by joining the groups.

J: I did an interview with Erin Lung from Rebel City Tattoo. We talked about the tattoo culture and how it’s changing. He told me this funny story about a mother and a daughter coming in to get tattoos in really private places. He believes tattoos are becoming more and more mainstream. Do you agree with that?

S: I feel there are types of tattoos that everybody gets; very generic ones. Those are the ones I try to stay away from.

J: Such as?

S: The little hearts and the stars and the butterflies and those types of things.  I have one heart on me and it means something, but besides that I try not to do the normal. I try to think outside of the box and get tattoos that have meaning.

J: So all your tattoos are meaningful to you?

S: Yeah, there is a significance behind every single one of my tattoos that I’ve ever had done. I got my very first tattoo for my 18th birthday. I got it for one of my best friends that passed away when I was young.

J: How do you interact with the users on SuicideGirls.com?

S: We have the internal messaging. I have met some people in real life and then found out later that they were on Suicide Girls too, so that was kind of cool. If you go to any of the parties you’ll meet more people that are on the site; the last one that I went to had like hundreds and hundreds of people. It was crazy. It all just depends.

J: What do you listen to?

S: I have a broad taste in music. I go from like the Kottonmouth Kings, to As I Lay Dying, to country. I literally like just about everything as far as that goes and I’m a huge Elvis Costello. In This Moment is another band that I love.

J: Do you have some say in what shows Gorilla brings to town? Can you book the bands you like? [Smayx works for Gorilla Music]

S: Each of the booking agents have their own shows that they specifically do. Bryan Pauley is doing the one show and I’m just kind of helping him out with that because I’m the one who came up with doing a Suicide Girl thing. We did the foam party last year, so this is the second year in a row, and this year we’re adding Suicide Girls to it.

J: What is your favorite movie?

S: I can’t even pick a favorite movie. [laughing]

J: What about a favorite type of movie?

S: I can’t do that either. [laughing] I like Twilight, the Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. All the older ones, but those are so good.  Those are probably my top three that I can think of at the moment.

J: You’ve got an 80s thing going on with the Elvis Costello and the movies.

S: Those are some really good movies though.

J: What draws you to that decade?

S: I don’t know. I just think a lot of the stuff was better at that time than it is now, at least as far as movies are concerned.  There are some movies out now that I love, but not a lot.

J: If someone was looking at your profile on Suicide Girls, what’s not on there that might surprise them?

S: Music tastes change all the time; some people would be surprised that I like country.

J: I think there’s probably a perception that people with tattoos and piercings like extreme stuff like heavy metal—not something that seems so much more “wholesome” or “normal.”

S: I like everything.

J: Faith Hill/Tim McGraw country or like Johnny Cash country?

S: I like both types.

J: You get into old school country too?

S: I grew up on that. That’s all my parents would listen to. My dad was into Merle Haggard and that kind of old school stuff.

J: Was he a musician or a fan?

S: A huge country fan that was raised in Louisiana, so that’s why he likes country.

J: He’s not a native Clevelander.

S: Nope.

J: Your mom?

S: She was born in Alabama but she was raised in Cleveland.

J: You have some southern roots.

S: Yeah, a little bit.

J: Have you ever travelled to see any of your dad’s extended family?

S: I have. My dad passed a few years back so I went to go see where he grew up, in Louisiana. It was a bit different. I liked it a lot more than I thought I was going to.

J: New Orleans, Louisiana or the backwoods of Louisiana?

S: More like the backwoods. My mom told me that there’s a show called Duck Dynasty and my dad is from that city. I’ve never watched it but my mom’s says it’s nothing like that.

J: Why Cleveland?

S: There’s diversity here; all different kinds of people. No matter where you go you’re going to meet somebody different, so that’s kind of cool. That’s what I think.

J: Thanks for your time.

S: You’re welcome.

Smayx on SuicideGirls.com

Gorilla Music upcoming events:
–June 1st Foam Party
–June 15th with Atomic Grave in Mentor at Tequilla Jacks tickets 8 adv or 10 day of show
–June 22nd Masonic Temple with Atomic Grave tickets 10 adv 12 day of show
–June 28th at Frankies with Atomic Grave tickets 10 adv 12 day of show
–Release Tour June 8th in Geneva at The Cove 6 advance 8 day of show with Atomic Grave
–Cleveland Music Fest (booking soon) which is Sept 5-8

For more details gorillamusic.com

#KickassKleveland – Alan Cox

Alan Cox

Go ahead and try. You’re not going to come up with a one-liner about his name that Alan Cox hasn’t already heard. When the new guy took over for Maxwell in December of 2009, callers felt compelled to tell him how much they “hated the show” which has become a rallying cry for loyal listeners. Airing daily from 3-7 p.m. on Cleveland’s 100.7 WMMS, The Alan Cox Show has charted in several key demographics. Articulate, thoughtful, and witty, Alan hosts a morning radio show in Detroit in addition to the afternoon one in Cleveland with Billy Squire (no, not “The Stroke” Billy Squire) and Erika Lauren. Alan has been a DJ for a long time and has come to know radio well, broadcasting in his hometown of Chicago as well as Pittsburgh before coming to Cleveland.

Erika Lauren

You never know what you might get when tuning into The Alan Cox show. Topics can jump from gun control to penis pimples in a matter of seconds because Cox is that versatile. He does not believe that shock radio has to be dumbed down and is sometimes criticized for his vocabulary (huh?). Alan controls the switchboard, often allowing callers to make their point or hang themselves by it. 

While Bill is a somewhat new addition to the show, it is clear that Alan and Erika have developed a sibling-type relationship and even though many of Alan’s pop-culture references go over her head (Erika is in her 20s and her year of birth is not her fault) he doesn’t dwell on the inescapable reality that she is half his age. A fan of heavy metal despite a Catholic mother that had him in church almost daily, Cox is also a disciple of George Carlin, drawing inspiration from Carlin’s mastery of language and razor wit.

Bill Squire

The show started The Black List which is neither offensive nor controversial; it’s a simple idea born of the misconception that only white guys into Led Zeppelin listen to WMMS. Cox has a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude about his show that undoubtedly turns some listeners away but garners many more. On any given day, I find myself squirming (“Sperm News”) or nodding my head in agreement (“Why Florida Sucks”) and I respect that level of integrity in a show that doesn’t pander or talk down to the listener.

I felt privileged to be able to have a conversation with Cox who was kind enough to spend time talking about Rush fans, tombs made out of feces, and boobs.

How did you get your first break in radio and how do you think the industry has changed since then?

I tell people that I fell ass-backwards into radio because I did. I was doing stand-up comedy in college and needed an internship. My girlfriend at the time, her sister was leaving the biggest morning show in Chicago. The DJ was a guy who in the late 80s early 90s was just crushing. She said, “Well, they need an intern. Do you want me to put in a good word for you?” I said yeah but I hadn’t really thought about radio. I was already performing and I thought, “Why not?” I got the internship and ended up getting hired after that to produce the show. Once I left that show and saw how a program of that magnitude was put together, I kind of caught the bug and so I spent the next couple of years doing stand-up and radio at the same time until I figured I needed to do one properly instead of doing both of them half-assed. So that was my first break and then I started sending tapes out. The industry has changed a lot. When they deregulated radio in ‘96 everybody started buying up stations. So it’s changed because of that and the rise of the Internet. The pendulum has kind of swung back the other way now where radio stations that survived did so because they hyper-served their local community rather than trying to cast such a broad net. I think the stations that survived and the personalities that survived did so because the figured out what got them to the dance in the first place, which is hyper-serving local listeners.

How is your morning gig in Detroit different than your afternoon one in Cleveland?

The Detroit morning show doesn’t necessarily need a full show in the morning. It’s still a lot of music, probably about nine songs an hour, and they kind of let me do what I want in between. I have about six breaks an hour. Its six to ten in the morning and it’s just me. Up until I returned to Chicago in ‘06 to do a morning show there, I had always done a solo show. So this show (afternoons on 100.7 WMMS) and the one I did in Chicago are the first two ensemble shows that I had done. The Detroit morning show is me going back to doing a solo show but it’s not as much heavy lifting because it’s pretty short breaks a few times an hour, in between songs. The plan is to grow it outward. For now it’s a new station, they’ve only been on for about a year, and I’m their first morning guy. The initial hurdle is just getting people used to hearing somebody in the morning when they didn’t before. They don’t require as much in the way of a full show, whereas here I have four hours of blank canvas I have to fill. The bulk of my day is spent preparing for the talk show here. The show in Detroit, because I’m familiar with that area, is a lot easier to do because I can make it sound as local as I need to make it sound, but content-wise, there isn’t as much preparation for me to do.

What about Pittsburgh would surprise Clevelanders?

People in Cleveland hate Pittsburgh because I think it’s primarily a sports rivalry, but I think Cleveland could learn a lot from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is another Rust Belt city that found a way to get over its hump. Pittsburgh got over the hump that Cleveland hasn’t gotten over yet. Pittsburgh reinvented itself as a tech hub and as a medical hub. I know that Cleveland exists as a medical hub too, but Pittsburgh’s also got a real thriving art scene. I think Cleveland has a lot of those things already but they just haven’t grown to the point where nationally and internationally they’re seen as a city to contend with whereas Pittsburgh ends up making a lot of lists for livability, and for sustainability, and for innovation, businesses moving in, and so on. I know there’s a rivalry between the two cities and having lived in both that is my assessment of it. There’s a lot of great stuff in Cleveland. Cleveland still seems to be burdened by low self-esteem that I think Pittsburgh divested itself of a long time ago.

How are you preparing yourself for the upcoming Tomb of Feces world tour?

Rigorously. [laughing]

Rush: Finally due or overrated?

I approach most bands on the strength of their drummer. I’m a drummer and so obviously Rush is one of those bands that when you start playing drums all you’re doing is listening to Rush albums all day long because you think you’re going from point A to point Z, or point YYZ, as the case may be. I like Rush a lot. I think they’re a fantastic band. I’m glad they’re getting into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame just to shut Rush fans up. Rush fans have been like the Boston Red Sox fans of rock and roll for so long. They’re overdue and they’re more than deserving. It makes the fans happy and it’s clearly a band that should have gotten in a long time ago. I’m glad to see them go in and I just wish it were here this year.

What is your technique or approach to the interview?

I’m always trying to make them better. Over the years, I’ve learned what I think does work and what doesn’t work. I have to be genuinely interested in the guest. There’s a lot of guests that I get pitched that I turn down because I’m not really interested in what they do. It’s hard for me to manufacture enthusiasm. There have been a few guests that I’ve had on that I’m a fan of but they were just awful on the radio or they were having a bad day or whatever. I hear a lot of people interviewing where it doesn’t sound like they are listening. I think if you want a good interview it has to genuinely be a dialogue. It can’t be just asking a question and then waiting for the next time for you to ask your next question when they’re done talking. The best interviews that I think that I’ve gotten are ones where we organically talked. Obviously they are on because they are promoting something but I don’t want to do a five or a ten minute commercial on what they have coming up. I’ve had people on before where clearly they don’t want to talk they just want to pitch their project, and that’s fine, that’s what they do press for, but that doesn’t really interest me. I’m not really sure that there’s one way to go about doing it. I think that my style has developed to where if I like what somebody does, I talk to them and we have a conversation. I prepare for it. I do have specific things I want to ask. I think it’s a matter of liking what they do and kind of having a regular conversation with them. There have been a few times that I’ve had somebody on where I was really geeked out; I was a real fanboy, but I try to keep that to a minimum.

What is the current vibe between the Alan Cox Show and Rover’s Morning Glory?

When I first got here that dynamic had existed for so long that I think they felt like they had to keep it going, or that the audience expected it. For maybe the first year or so, they would make fun of me and mock me for my vocabulary or something. I always thought that was a weird thing to pick on somebody for. It’s not really my style and I found it very, very strange. I had never been in a situation where two shows on the same station were ripping on each other. I never met Maxwell so I have no personal beef with him. I have my own thing to do. I’ve always done my own thing. I’ve been on the Rover show a couple of times talking about different things. I understood that it was a lot of theater and I don’t take things personally. I’d see people in the hall and I’d be like, “Hey, what’s up?” I think once they got the vibe that I wasn’t somebody that was going to continue whatever that was, that kind of WWE thing, things settled down. It’s just not my style and I don’t take that stuff personally. I get along with everybody over there. I don’t really run into Rover too much, mostly the supporting cast, but I’ll see him in the hallways and we say hello. We’ve hung out a couple of times at station events. Again, I wasn’t privy to what the prior situation was between those two shows. I only heard about it second hand, but like I said, I’m too busy doing my own thing. I don’t have time for anything like that.

Which promotion has a better shot at creating world peace; Drunk West Sixth Girls or the CLEavage Gallery?

There’s shades of difference between the two. [laughing] I think the Drunk West Six Girls spot is a lot of fun because you’re certainly not reinventing the wheel; that format’s been done forever. It’s fun to write the questions, to be out, and ask girls questions you’ve written and to hear their answers. The CLEavage Gallery was just a matter of getting online activity. That’s as much a part of radio now as the actual over-the-air signal. People like boobs. It’s silly and it’s low brow, but if you say, “Hey were putting a gallery together, send your pictures,” girls will do it. It gives people something to look at. With all of the other humorous content out there, sometimes you just want boobs. [laughing]

Why Cleveland?

I grew up in Chicago and I started there and I went back to do my own show for a few years before I came to Cleveland. There are a lot of people there who just don’t care about radio. It’s not their thing anymore. There are so many distractions and people are immersed in other things. Cleveland is still one of those cities that you have a lot of personalities here who’ve been here a long time. I am flattered and pleased at how quickly people accepted me. I don’t have anything to attribute that to other than the fact I’m still a Midwest guy so I think by extension maybe there’s that Midwest vibe that people get, that sensibility or whatever. People here want to be entertained. People have that sense of pride about being from Cleveland, even though to a lot of other places around the country Cleveland is a punch line. People wear that as a badge of honor. I admire people who thrive under that kind of adversity. I like it here a lot. The audience has been great. It’s a city with some teeth. People in L.A. or whatever might make fun of Cleveland but I wouldn’t mess with anybody from here. It’s got such a good vibe to it and the people know where the bullshit is and if you suspend that then they’ll come along for the ride.

Official Show Page

#KickassKleveland – Camille Champa

I tend to gravitate towards people with a growth mindset. These folks are constantly trying new things, experimenting with life, taking risks, and DOING. At the other end of the spectrum lies the fixed mindset; people that “can’t” or won’t try as they believe they are what they are and things will never change. I’m inspired by people with a growth mindset and saddened by and for those with a fixed mindset.

My #KickassKleveland guest is a person with a growth mindset. I met Camille six or seven years ago.  She is a woman that seeks out new challenges, all of which would be considered trivial by those that believe being an artist is not a “real job”. As we began talking, I quickly realized that Camille’s grandmother planted the seed, telling her granddaughter that it was fine to do what she loved.

Allow me to introduce you to Camille Champa. Rocker. Fangless vamp. Yogi. Can a zombie cry? Let’s find out…

J: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

C: I grew up in Cleveland, in Euclid.

J: You and Tim Misny.

C: Did Tim Misny grow up in Euclid too? That’s awesome. The only other place I’ve lived besides Cleveland is Athens where I went to college. I’m a Cleveland person with the Cleveland accent and everything. My parents are still married. Family life was pretty stable. We lived a mile from my grandparents. My dad’s mother was awesome. She was the person who was always like, “You do whatever you want to do. If you like music you do that.” A lot of people think you can’t have an artistic goal in life. It seems like people tend to say, “Oh, you can’t really do that for a living.” I think I was told that by a few people that were close to me. But my grandma kept saying, “If you want to do, that then go for it.”

J: Was she an artist or a creative type, a free spirit? 

C: I think so. She’s the person who taught me how to sew. I could never be a clothing designer but I love clothing design. She’s the person who showed me how to sew and I started making clothes with her help. She was just more open minded I guess.

J: So she was an inspiration to you early on?

C: Yes. She wasn’t the typical person at that time. She was more strong willed and she got what she wanted in life.

J: Interesting.

C: Inspirational.

J: Well you and I have crossed paths a number of times. The first time we met you were auditioning for my band at the time. You had just bought an amplifier. I think it was a Vox?

C: Yes, I had a Vox.

J: It was still in the box I think, literally.

C: Yes, it was brand new.

J: You picked it up on the way to the audition?

C: Yeah… [laughing]

J: And now you’re the guitarist for Blacklight Betty. I was wondering if you could talk about that journey?

C: When I auditioned for your band I hadn’t been in a band before and I had been trying since high school. I had friends who played bass or guitar or whatever. I wanted to form a band but nobody ever really got anything together. I had been trying and trying and meeting with people. Some people were good but they were better than me so that’s probably why I didn’t get the gig. Or they sucked and I didn’t want to be in the band. That was early and I was still learning. I think I could play guitar well but I wasn’t used to playing so much with other people. I started playing guitar when I was 12. I was always playing at home by myself to records or learning from tabs or sheet music. So that was early on and I was trying to latch on to my first band. It was a struggle and I got frustrated. Blacklight Betty just had a show this past weekend and for me it was one of the first shows where I felt like it was fun. I was comfortable and not nervous about playing. I messed up a note here or there but it was fine. It was a high-energy show. I think when you first start playing any instrument you’re concerned. You think you have to make sure everything is perfect and you’re nervous about messing it up. But sometimes mistakes can turn out to be the best part. I feel like I’m finally got to the point where I’m comfortable on stage, I’m comfortable playing with other musicians, and it’s fun. I think anybody who is just starting should go play with other people because it will take your playing to the next level.

J: Blacklight Betty is really steeped in 70‘s classic hard rock, kind of ballsy. Do you feel additional pressure being a female guitarist playing that genre of music?

C: Not really because it’s always what I’ve loved. I started out listening to the Beatles. George Harrison is the reason I wanted to play guitar. Then in high school I started listening to Led Zeppelin and I said, “Holy crap this is amazing!” I still love the Beatles to this day but I started getting into the heavier, bluesier side of rock-n-roll. I’m reading the autobiography of Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart and I thought it was interesting that when they were kids they had their guitars and were pretending to be the Beatles but their friends wanted to pretend to be the Beatles’ girlfriends. They said, no, we want to be the Beatles. They wanted to be the band. It didn’t matter that some of their heroes were men, they were all musicians. I kind of had the same feeling. I never really felt I couldn’t rock because I’m a girl.

J: Full equality rock, right?

C: Yeah! [laughing]

J: You have other artistic endeavors in addition to being in a band, such as photography. What makes a great photograph?

C: It creates a feeling. You see it and you feel something. That’s what I strive to do. Photography is relatively new for me but I’ve been an artist since a young age so it’s another kind of visual art. I look at photographs and I try to study different photographers and there are just certain ones that make you feel a powerful emotion even if it’s not something specific.

J: Is there an element of luck to that or is it framing the shot in a way that elicits that response?

C: I think a lot of it is composition. There are obviously a lot of technical aspects to photography. I have a friend who has been a photographer for 30 years and he’s like an encyclopedia. Someday I’ll know half of what he knows [laughing]. For me I think its composition. A painter would sit down and have a certain idea of what they wanted and you can do that as a photographer too. You can just take a whole lot more pictures in a lot less time!

J: Do you have a personal favorite of a picture that you’ve taken?

C: Maybe a favorite style? When we had our gig last weekend with Blacklight Betty and we knew the band we were opening for so I took my camera and photographed them while they were playing. That’s one of my favorite things to shoot is live music, live art, just capturing the moment.

J: You’ve done that for Threefold Law on a number of occasions. Anyone that has seen my Twitter or Facebook avatar should know that it’s your photograph. The lighting and composition within the moments you’ve captured are fantastic (photo of Threefold Law performance by Camille).

C: I’ve done a couple things for my current job where I went to events to shoot. We went to the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy, which I’m sure, a lot of Cleveland people know. It’s great and it’s another one of those things that’s totally different than doing a live show but it’s similar in the way you’re capturing a live event. People are outside having a good time, people are selling their wares, and everything is moving. So you’re going out there and capturing a different side of it, a different side of the human experience, or whatever you want to call it.

J: Zombies or vampires?

C: Zombies, lately. [laughing]

J: Why?

C: Because I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead. I just like…I don’t know. It’s a hard question.

J: It is a hard question.

C: I have to choose whether I was going to be a zombie or vampire?

J: Yes. Which would you rather be?

C: Vampire because I wouldn’t want to be walking around like a mindless…aaahhh! [marginally scary zombie voice]

J: What’s cooler?

C: I think vampires are cooler.

J: Even after Twilight, you think they’re still cool?

C: I can’t get down on Twilight. I’ll admit to you that I’ve read all the books.

J: I can scratch that from the interview if you want. [laughing]

C: One of the other things I’ve tried is acting which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and another one of those, “Oh you can’t do that, other people do that, but not you.” But when I see things like Twilight, and somebody’s going to get mad at me for this, but some of the acting is hideous and I think I can do better than that.

J: Haven’t you been involved in some vampire movie making?

C: I know a local photographer who’s venturing into film making. The project originated as a photo shoot he did with a couple of models and it was a vampire-themed shoot he decided to make it a film. We’re shooting a short film, a B-movie type of thing. We shot a couple of weekends ago with the fake blood, and teeth, and everything. It’s great and a good experience to be working with other people who love that medium. It’s called Vade Macum Vampirium, which is Latin for something. I’m not sure if it exactly translates to “book of the vampire” but it’s about a book about vampires and their secrets and the struggle to keep it away from the people who might want to hunt them.

J: Did you get to wear fangs?

C: I have some fangs but I’m not a special effects person and didn’t get them to fit quite right so I didn’t put them in for the shoot because I knew one of them would probably be falling out while I was acting!

J: Where did you shoot?

C: We shot some scenes at the Cleveland Photographic Society. The film maker is a photographer and he’s a member of the club so he rented it out for a day and set up a vampire lair. At this point we only have a few more scenes to shoot.

J: What’s in a vampire lair?

C: Daggers and a lot of red things. [laughing] I got to work with some people who I’ve heard a lot about. I didn’t realize there was such a film community here in Cleveland.

J: Is there a possibility that the short film will end up in the Cleveland Film Festival in the near future?

C: I don’t know about the film festival but I do know they’re planning a premier at Atlas Cinemas in Euclid with a couple of other short films.

J: Have you done other film projects?

C: I worked on a few student projects with some awesome students from Cleveland State and I was so impressed with how professional they were.

J: Do you have to study vampire characters in literature and other films?

C: I’ll look at classic movies. I’ve read Interview with the Vampire but I’d never seen the movie so I made a point to watch that. It’s interesting to see how different people portray vampires. I had a small role in something that’s still in production. It required some crying and emotion and that was tough. I had never done method acting before but I spent the day trying to get into a sad mindset that would make that easier. I’m still trying to learn different techniques. I’ve been reading and watching interviews with actors checking out their techniques for getting ready for a role and that helps. It’s similar to playing a show with a band; you have to get into the mindset.

J: So you feel a correlation between what you do on stage and what you do on a shoot?

C: Yeah, it’s funny because right now I still work a 9-to-5 job. We had a show on Friday with Blacklight Betty. I came home from work and I had to transition from working in an office to playing a rock show. So it’s a similar thing. Working on a film you have to go on set and transition into being a vampire in a vampire lair or whatever type of character you’re playing at that moment.

J: Do the people in your office know that you’re rocking out on the weekends and that you’re wearing fangs?

C: Some of them do. [laughing] I have a coworker who I also consider a friend that came out to see Blacklight Betty on Friday. She came out with her husband and they were great. She came back to work and she was like, “Yeah, you were rocking out!” I work at a rock radio station so I think people are more open to that kind of thing.

J: How does a guy join a yoga class without appearing creepy?

C: I’ve been doing yoga at lunch with a couple people from work. We’ll take our lunch break and go to this yoga studio across the street from our office. The other girls in the office and I keep trying to get this guy to come. We’re like you gotta come with us, because we’re buds and guys do yoga too; there’s even this thing called bro-ga. He was like, no, I don’t want to do that either because it’s going to be a bunch of guys doing yoga. [laughing] I’ve been to a studio called Cleveland Yoga which is awesome and there are a lot of guys in those classes. Yoga’s a lot more intense than people think. I think some people think it’s a thing for women to do, which is ironic because women weren’t allow to do yoga for a long, long, time. It’s an ancient Indian tradition and it was only males of a certain class that could learn it. If a guy is going to come to class and make creepy comments, that’s a problem. But if you’re acting normal and there for yoga I think women are totally fine with having guys in class.

J: I know you’re studying to become an instructor so you know what real yoga looks like. I’m assuming it’s not like Namaste Yoga where all the women are in Hawaii doing yoga under a waterfall in very little clothing?

C: No, no, no. [laughing] At Cleveland Yoga where I go sometimes, it’s a heated studio. They keep it at 85 or 90 degrees and it is an intense workout. Everyone is sweating and we don’t exactly look glamorous!

J: Is it the common misconception of yoga that it’s a Zen-like meditation practice rather than a workout?

C: I think so, but it can be meditative too. There are so many different styles of yoga and there are so many different facets to yoga. Meditation and the Zen aspect are important but there’s also the physical aspect. If you look into B. K. S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, which is amazing, it’s pretty much a manual of how to do all yoga poses. There are pictures of him doing all of the poses and some of them look crazy! There’s no way I can do some of those things. There’s some misconception that you have to be flexible and bendy and only women are like that, but this guy from India, an amazing yoga guru, is doing all these things I can’t.

J: Beyond the physical workout, what is another benefit to yoga?

C: I think a huge benefit is your mindset. My wonderful teacher has been listed as the best yoga teacher in Cleveland by Scene Magazine and she’s amazing. I’ll go to her class and she can use her words and her inspiration to make my day so much better because she has such a deep knowledge of yoga. She offers this amazing experience that goes so far beyond a workout.

J: Can a zombie cry? You can answer that a number of different ways so I’ll let you think about it for a second.

C: One of my theories, after watching The Walking Dead, is the difference between old zombies and what I call newer zombies, meaning people who have just been bitten, died, and comeback recently.

J: Newly turned?

C: Newly turned zombies, yes. One thing I’ve noticed is that they seem faster which makes sense because they’re less decayed. On this season of The Walking Dead Merle had just turned and it was almost like he recognized Daryl. He starts walking towards him like he kind of knows who he is. Thinking back to season one when Amy, Andrea’s sister, was bitten and she stayed with her all night and when Amy turned, it almost seemed like she was still a bit human and could see Andrea there. She didn’t immediately turn; she was kind of looking at her. So if they could cry it would probably be in those first few moments of becoming a zombie.

J: Like the, “Oh, shit. I’m a zombie!” moment?

C: Right. “Oh, shit. I’m a zombie and this sucks.” [laughing]

J: Why Cleveland?

C: I like the attitude of the people. There are people who like to get down on Cleveland but we’re past that whole “burning river” thing. There’s a lot going for Cleveland now especially downtown. I think people here realize that there are a lot of scenes. We have amazing clubs like the Grog Shop and the Beachland Tavern that attract national acts. I’ve seen some great bands in these clubs.

J: These clubs are fifty-seaters, for people that aren’t living in Cleveland. These are intimate venues.

C: This is not a House of Blues or an arena. These are small clubs that also support local bands. We can play there too. One of the other things I learned that I didn’t even realize because I grew up here is the quality of our local theater. We have Playhouse Square, the second largest theater district in the United States, second only to Broadway in New York City.

J: Most people would assume that would be Chicago or L.A.

C: Right, because they call Chicago the second city but Cleveland’s got the second largest theater district next to New York. I think a lot of the rankings of cities are hype but you can hype up a city or you can hype it down, if you will. I think Cleveland’s been hyped down.

J: Anything else you’d like to share tell people that might surprise them?

C: I think some people might already be surprised. [laughing] I had somebody at work the other day ask, “You’re in a band? What kind of band is it?” I said we’re garage, rock, blues, raw, loud rock-n-roll. “Really? Really? I wouldn’t expect that at all.” She was genuinely surprised and excited.

J: And meanwhile you’re thinking, “Thanks grandma.” Because you’re the one on stage instead of saying that to someone else.

C: Exactly.

Contact info:
Blacklight Betty

#KickassKleveland – Chris Van Vliet

An Emmy award winning journalist, a Cosmopolitan Magazine Bachelor of the Year, a WWE enthusiast, and a bass fisherman walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Hi Chris.”

And now you know why I’ll stick to writing instead of stand-up comedy. But seriously folks, we’re talking Chris Van Vliet. As the entertainment reporter for WOIO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio, Chris brings his unique take on the day’s entertainment news and movie reviews  every weekday during The Buzz on 19 Action News. He can also be heard on the radio as a DJ on WDOK, Cleveland’s New 102. However, that only reveals some of what Chris does, not who he is. When he won Cosmo’s Bachelor of the Year award in 2011, he donated ALL of the prize money to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland.

Van Vliet was kind enough to invite me to the Channel 19 studios where we sat and talked about Cleveland, American Pie, and fishing. An engaging and charismatic young man, Chris is genuine as well. When I had finished asking all of my questions, instead of leaving to go live on the air that night, Chris began asking me questions right up until he had to run downstairs to the set. I found myself in a fascinating conversation with a superb human and I’m grateful for getting that opportunity.

Please allow me to introduce you to Chris Van Vliet.

J: Where did you grow up?

C: I guess not everyone will know this but I’m from Canada. I grew up in Pickering, Ontario, which is about 20 miles, or, 35 kilometers east of Toronto, a town of about 90,000 people. I lived my entire life there, in the same house, with an older sister. It’s a city kind of like any of the suburbs here in Cleveland. You’re on the outskirts of the big city and you go downtown to Toronto for the big events. There would be Leaf games, Blue Jay games, Raptors games or going to the theater. So it’s kind of that dichotomy of living in a smallish town but having this mega-city which was very driveable, half an hour away, and you could go to it anytime. Toronto is the largest city in Canada, fourth largest in North America. It’s this huge influence. It was a great time and I love the fact that now I live in Cleveland. It’s a five hour drive to go back home and I do it all the time. It’s great to be that close to home.

J: When you worked for MuchMusic you covered the Canadian entertainment industry. How is the celebrity culture different in Canada than it is in the United States?

C: I think there’s more of it in the United States. Certainly the culture here is more inundated with celebrities. When I started covering entertainment news, Paris Hilton was just starting to get famous and Kim Kardashian came out of the woodwork. You have these people that are made famous for being famous and you don’t have that so much in Canada. The interesting thing about covering entertainment news and music news in Canada is there’s so much focus on the homegrown Canadian talent. So if someone has just a couple lines in a movie, all of a sudden they’re a big star in Canada. Or if someone has a couple songs on the radio they’re a huge star there. They have this thing in Canada on the radio called Canadian content, CanCon, where they have to play 30% of Canadian music on the radio each hour. It generates these big stars and, of course, there are very famous Canadians like Drake, Justin Bieber, etc. There’s certainly not as much of in it Canada as there is here. So when you do find a big star in Canada, we love to call them their own. Even if they live in the U.S. now, we love to say, “Drake, he’s ours. Bieber, he’s ours. Ryan Gosling, he’s ours. Ryan Reynolds, he’s ours too.”

J: Are you responsible for getting Rush into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

C: I’d like to say yes. I’d like to say that I am.

J: Did you use your Canadian connections?

C: I called up the Prime Minister and I said, “Let’s make this happen here.” [laughing] I’m so happy that they’re in. I think there’s a ton of Rush fans that are very, very happy they’re finally in. I wish that the induction was here this year. Although, last year’s class was fantastic. We’re talking now at the station about maybe going out to L.A. to cover that. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed.

J: What movie best represents Pine Ridge Secondary School in 1997?

C: I went to high school during the time of American Pie, and I remember seeing American Pie when I was 16 years old and saying, “That’s us! That’s who we are as teenagers! I can’t believe I’m seeing a movie where everyone I know in high school is somehow represented in a movie.” I just saw it again last week, just to refresh my memory. I think American Pie would be a great representation of not just my school, not just Pine Ridge, but any high school in the late 90s.

J: You won Cosmopolitan’s Bachelor of the Year Award in 2011. The prize money could have bought you many nights in a stretch limo but you turned around and gave that money to charity. Can you elaborate on that?

C: I said from day one that if I won I was going to donate the $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. At first, it sounds like a nice gesture, but it was a long shot. There were 51 people in it total, 50 other guys. The week before the announcement of the winner we held an event downtown at the Barley House and we raised several thousand dollars that we gave to the Boys and Girls Club even if I didn’t win. They are such a great organization, we work very closely with them here at Channel 19. I know they could use $10,000 a lot more than I could use $10,000. Honestly, when I won it didn’t feel like a win for me. I held that check over my head and I took a bunch of photos and I did a bunch of interviews and it didn’t feel like a win for me. It felt like a win for Cleveland. It felt like a win for Ohio and it certainly felt like a win for those boys and girls. When I went to the Boys and Girls Club the next week I donated the check to them live on the air. Just to see the smile on their faces, I just knew in that moment that this is the absolute best possible thing to be doing with this money. I’ve worked with them since and we have a great working relationship. If I had to do this again, if I had to do this again a hundred times over, unquestionably, I would do that same thing.

J: What is your approach to the interview?

C: I try to treat every interview like it’s a conversation. I’m not a huge fan of the question and answer television interview. It should be a fluid conversation. I think to myself, “If I ran into this person at a party what would be the things that would come to my mind? What would I want to ask them?” I do my best to try and ask questions, like you, that they haven’t been asked before or to try to find a way to ask something in a way that they’ve never been asked. I think that they certainly respect that, especially when you do these press junkets in L.A. and New York and you’re one of sixty journalists interviewing them that day. You try to bring something different to the table. In doing that, you do a lot of research and you just to try to pull a different sound bite out of them, or maybe something they’ve never said before, and that’s kind of when you go, “Alright. That’s a good one.”

J: Why Cleveland?

C: Well I graduated from university eight years ago and since graduating I’ve moved around a lot. This is the fourth market that I’ve worked in and Cleveland is the place I’ve been able to call home for the longest since college. In fact, in a couple more months, this will be the longest I’ve lived in one place since I was 18. That in and of itself, is something that has endeared me to this city. This is certainly a place that I can call home and I have felt so welcome ever since day one. I love being here and I love living here, and I love that there’s always something to do.

J: What was it like interviewing one of our hometown heroes, Drew Carey?

C: We had a great chat. We talked for 15 or 20 minutes on camera. He was open to talking about absolutely everything and anything. He wishes he could spend more time here. He says he only comes back about four times a year. That guy is so amazing and he’s accomplished so much too. Really, really, great guy. This is the thing you find out about most celebrities; they’re so down to earth and so willing to talk. The great thing about that particular situation was that he wasn’t really promoting anything in particular. He was in town doing something at Playhouse Square. A lot of times when you get interviews with celebrities they’re trying to push a new movie or a new album, book, or whatever. This was just Drew being Drew, having a conversation with us out of the kindness of his heart. What a great guy! It was really good.

J: Is there something that you’d like readers not in the Cleveland area to know about you?

C: I think that one of the things is that I love this industry so much. I feel so fortunate to do it every single day. I wake up every morning with the attitude of, “You’re gonna allow me to do this today and you’re gonna pay me?” Recently I started working in radio. I’m working for CBS radio now. I have a show on WDOK. As I sit here talking to you right now, I’ve been up since four this morning. I was filling in on the radio show this morning and I’m gonna be here working at the station until midnight tonight and no part of this is bad at all. A lot of people would think a workday that starts at four and ends at midnight is a pretty rough day, but I just love it. I’m so fortunate every single day to be able to keep doing this, and hopefully that will continue. That’s the plan anyway.

J: If you could get a second crack at an interview you’ve done in your career, who would it be and why?

C: I’m a huge WWE fan and I always wanted to interview The Rock. He’s a childhood hero of mine. I was fortunate last march that WWE was in town at the Q and The Rock was doing interviews there. I got to interview him. The interview was fine and we got some great answers out of him, but I’d love to do it again. I felt like I was 16 years old meeting my childhood idol. I’m usually pretty calm and cool, but I had this grin on my face that I couldn’t get rid of. I thought I was going to be interviewing The Rock. I thought I was going to be interviewing the guy I’d been watching on TV for years and in walks Dwayne. He was cool, super nice, and great, but I think I was expecting The Rock himself to come in and call me a jabroni or tell me to “know my role”. We had a great conversation but I’d love to do it again now that I got the first one out of the way, fingers crossed, I will get that opportunity hopefully. Maybe we can have another great conversation, maybe take it up a notch.

As a writer, do you find times in the day that you have to write?

J: Every day. It’s like if you get up in the morning for a workout routine. I have a writing routine. If I don’t write I feel off the whole day.

C: Really? How long do you write for?

J: Usually 60 to 90 minutes.

C: Wow! And are you working toward a greater goal every time, like a novel?

J: I try to hit a daily word count, usually 3,000 words. The standard paperback is anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000, so if you do 3,000 a day, every day, you have a first draft knocked out in a couple months. It’s taking a little chunk at a time, otherwise it seems overwhelming.

C: That would take incredible discipline. I know you’re obviously passionate about it and you love it, but I can think of days you’d get there and start writing and it just wouldn’t come to you.

J: You have to fight through that. I think it’s similar to what you mentioned about getting off the air at midnight and then being up at four, but you’re so enthused about what you’re doing you just don’t even think of it as a chore. For some people, writing 3,000 words a day or getting three hours of sleep would be tough.

C: Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy sleep a lot. I interviewed James Patterson recently because he did Alex Cross and obviously it was shot here in Cleveland. So I was getting an interview with him and Tyler Perry. James said it didn’t matter what day it was, didn’t matter what he was doing, he had to write. I thought that was fascinating. Here’s a guy who has millions and millions of dollars. He said it doesn’t matter if he’s doing press or on vacation, he needs to write. I’m just fascinated by that.

J: Stephen King has that approach too. I think he once said that there are only two days a year he doesn’t write; Christmas day and his birthday. That’s it. He writes every other day of the year. I’m not THAT disciplined, but that’s the mindset you need to be successful. Advice from guys like Patterson and King about writing is like learning how to slam dunk from Michael Jordan. When the best talk, folks listen.

C: What novel are you working on right now?

J: I’m working on a sequel to one of my horror novels (Preta’s Realm).

C: Cool! So you’ve got the characters developed already. That must make it a little bit easier?

J: Easier in some ways, but you have a longer story arc that you have to remember. Readers, probably like viewers, are quick to point out where you make a mistake, have an inaccuracy, have something in the plot that doesn’t make sense. I have a couple of great editors that help me with that.

C: They can kind of keep you on track or keep you on point?

J: Right. They’ll say, “Hey! This person wasn’t in the scene and all of the sudden they’re over here. How did that happen?” And you say, “Um. Right.” It’s like that in the movies too. Someone is a wearing a digital watch and it’s set in 17th century France.

C: I love those inaccuracies, like the ones on moviemistakes.com. I could spend hours on that. I could spend days on that.

J: Was it Charlton Heston that was wearing a watch in Spartacus?

C: There’s some really bad ones like a guy in a t-shirt and jeans in The Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s standing on the boat and he clearly doesn’t belong.

[more laughing]

You know, one thing I really miss about Canada and my busy schedule is bass fishing. I love bass fishing and before moving here I was in like 10 or 15 bass tournaments a year. It was every weekend. I work a lot on weekends now. In fact this is the first weekend I’ve been here in a while. I’ve spent the last four of six weekends in L.A.

J: Did you travel to do the bass fishing or do you have a favorite spot?

C: When I lived in Toronto I was within about an hour or two from of all these bass fisheries. One place, Lake Simcoe, is about an hour north of Toronto and it’s a world-class bass fishery. So you’re close enough that you don’t have to stay all night. You can drive up first thing in the morning, fish the tournament, head back home, and do another tournament the next day. So that’s one thing I really miss.

J: Is it different than fly fishing?

C: It’s different. Bait casting gear, spinning gear… [laughing] This is going to sound so nerdy and technical. I won’t get into too much about that. When you ask if there is something about you that people don’t know, I certainly don’t think anyone’s going to turn on Channel 19 and assume that I’m a bass fisherman.

J: True. You’re not going to be on the air giving tips on casting.

C: I could. [laughing] I could be giving tips on how to throw spinner baits, flip jigs or work a dropshot. But no one’s going to understand. You had no idea what I was talking about or what I was saying.

J: No. I went fly fishing on vacation one time.

C: You did? Where?

J: Colorado.

C: Was it trout?

J: I have no idea. [laughing] It was one of those deals where the guy takes you out for a day and they teach you the basics.

C: Did you catch some?

J: I caught one.

C: Nice!

J: I was so proud I was able to cast. I didn’t realize the amount of skill that it took. Reading the water, knowing where to throw, how soft a touch to put on it; there’s a whole lot more to fishing than people realize.

C: Sounds like you already know.

J: I know what I don’t know. [laughing]

C: The hardest part about fly fishing is you’ve got all this line sitting around your legs and a fish bites and you don’t know what to do. I’ve only gone fly fishing a handful of times.

J: How is fly fishing different than bass fishing?

C: Fly fishing is more of an art form. There’s the art of flicking your wrist and getting the bait out there which is a very light bait that you wouldn’t be able to cast with any other equipment. A lot of bass fishing, while there are some finesse techniques, is about making as many casts as possible in the shortest amount of time; they call it power fishing. We should talk about something more interesting. [laughing]

J: This is interesting. These are the kinds of nuggets though you unearth when talking to someone that are unexpected and I find that really interesting.

C: When I worked for MuchMusic, it was obviously a very different dynamic from how a news station would function. Here, we’re trying to disseminate a news story and get a message out. When I was on that station, I did a celebrity interview that lasted 15-20 minutes. At Channel 19, we would have to cut that interview down to a minute and a half. At that station, we were given the liberties of going three or four minutes and because we were a MTV style of station, it didn’t need to always be about the album they were talking about or the movie they were trying to promote. If you got a nugget like bass fishing, you ran with it. Or if they really liked a TV show and talked about how they watched it on their tour bus, you ran with it and you made it part of the interview. The fans would eat that stuff up. So now, if I get those nuggets in an interview on Channel 19, I have to say, “We’ve posted the whole interview on our Facebook page. Go check it out.” So, that’s kind of cool. You kind of get both elements that way.

J: I’m relatively new to the interviewing process and so I like to study guys like you who are really crisp with it.

C: I feel like I’m learning every single day. I think that the most important thing you can take out of the art of interviewing is; if you’re not asking questions you find interesting, they’re not going to be interesting to that person. Another really big thing I was taught when I first got into the industry is if you don’t know how you’d answer the question yourself or if you don’t know the answer you should expect, you probably should give it some more thought before you ask the question. Like if you’re gonna ask someone what movie represents their high school, if you don’t know yourself how you’d answer that, you probably shouldn’t ask it. How would you answer that question?

J: Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I’m probably a little older than you, though.

C: What did you think I was going to say?

J: I wasn’t sure. I thought possibly American Pie or Fast Times at Ridgemont High because those are two classic teen movies that resonate with people. They tend to recognize their friends in those movies, but never themselves.

C: So who would you be?

J: I was probably more like Mr. Hand. I was probably more of a rule-follower. [laughing]

C: Yeah, you can watch those movies and go, “Oh yeah, I know that guy.” Everyone knows a Stifler. Everyone knows a Jim. I think everyone even knows a Finch.

J: Did you find yourself more in the spotlight after winning the Cosmo contest?

C: When that Cosmo thing happened, interviews came out of nowhere. I had just fished a tournament with B.A.S.S. which is The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. They called me up out of nowhere and were like, “Congratulations! You just won and placed fourth in our tournament last month. Can we do an interview?” I said, “Yeah, of course. I love to talk about fishing.”

J: That’s a pretty interesting collision of worlds, Cosmo and bass fishing. That’s probably two things people don’t mention together very often.

C: The fact that they ran me on the front page of their website (B.A.S.S.) was mind blowing because I’d been subscribing to their magazine since I was a kid and then one day I’m in it. It was really cool.

J: That’s fantastic. Thanks for talking with me.

C: Thank you so much.

#KickassKleveland – Tim Misny

He’ll “make them pay.” If you live in Northeast Ohio, you know that slogan. Tim Misny is one of the most recognizable celebrities in town. He resembles a professional wrestler more than a lawyer and he has a big personality to match. With over 33,000 likes on his Facebook page and his own reality show, Misny is more than an attorney. He is an innovator who has embraced technology and made it work for him rather than using more traditional marketing. More importantly, he uses his influence and power to drag settlements out of corporations, insurance companies, and government agencies which try to ignore the devastation caused by their negligence. In other words, he’s tough as nails and he’s on your side. Mr. Misny was gracious enough to invite me to Misnyland where we sat down together on a snowy February afternoon to discuss reality television, Elvis, and the gem that is Cleveland.

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I am a local boy, as local as they come. I grew up in Euclid and I have fond memories of growing up in a one bedroom brick bungalow. I have an older brother, Tom. Both of my parents have since passed but I got my work ethic from my dad (Andy). He worked two or three jobs and I had a happy childhood. It was great playing sports and we had a great neighborhood. I went to St. Joseph’s High School (now Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School) and then John Carroll, and John Marshall Law School (part of Cleveland State). So my background is, like I say, as local as it can be. I was in the prosecutor’s office for four years, and then I was an attorney for the Cleveland Police and Patrol Association for four years, and I’ve been representing people in injury cases in the United States for the last 32 years. I’m raising my family here. I love Cleveland. I love everything about it and I love the role I have in Cleveland.

How you would define the Tim Misny brand?

When I was on The Alan Cox Show, Chad Zumock said, “You’re kind of like a Robin Hood.” I said, “Wow. That’s the nicest thing anyone ever said to me.” The branding of “make them pay” really works for what I do, because if you have a guy who was involved in a terrible accident and he’s lying in a hospital bed, the insurance company, in effect, has offered him their middle finger. He needs his car fixed, he needs his lost wages, he needs his medical bills paid, and he needs someone to do what? Make them pay. It is as basic of a branding as it could possibly be. It’s just amazing and it’s becoming part of a vernacular that people associate me with and that’s a good thing because that’s what I do.

In your opinion, what are the tactics or strategies that large corporations, insurance companies, and the government are using to exploit everyday people that you find troublesome?

I’ve been doing this for 32 years and I see it all the time. Typically, the insurance companies take a “no pay” position. Deny, deny, deny and here’s why: It’s a business practice with them because they know that in 20 to 25 percent of the cases, if they were to deny the claim, that claimant will walk away. They’ll say, “We can’t fight this big, bad, multibillion conglomerate. They must be right so were not gonna fight it.” So could you imagine anything in your life where you get an automatic 20-25 percent discount? I mean, you pay your taxes and you say, “You know, I’m only gonna pay 75 percent.” Or go out to dinner and when you see the bill is $10, you say, “Here’s $7.50. That’s good enough, that’s all I’m gonna pay.” Why that’s despicable is because there is a contract often times, between the insured and the company, to offer the proper compensation. So when someone is involved in an accident and they bring a claim through their carrier, their carrier is obligated to do the right thing: to practice fair negotiations with that person, and they violate it on a daily basis. I can’t tell you over the years how many times I’ve gotten phone calls where the facts of the case were very clear but the insurance company took the “no pay” position because they were hoping that person would go away, and that’s wrong. I’ve said in many of my commercials that if insurance companies did the right thing—treated people with dignity and respect—I’d have to do something else for a living.

What would you do if the insurance companies did a complete 180, if they did treat people with dignity and respect?

My goal in life right now is to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be. We recently found out that we are having twins. We have a little boy, Max, and my wife Stephanie is 12 weeks, four days pregnant with twins. My goal in life is very simple—I want to be the best father and husband I can be. I got married a little later in life at 54. If I got married at 25 years old, I would have been a horrible parent. I was working full time at the prosecutor’s office and I was going to law school full time at night. So if Stephanie would have called me up when I was 25 years old and said, “Hey, honey, could you pick up x,y, and z from the pharmacy for Max?” I would’ve said I couldn’t for two reasons. With my last five dollars, I put three dollars of gas in my Chevy Nova and I drove through McDonald’s and got two dollar’s worth of food. So number one, I have no money, and number two, I’m in class until 10 o’clock and the pharmacy closes at ten. Not by choice, but I would have been a lousy father. Because I got married a little later in life and started a family a little later in life, I can spend a lot of time with my family and that’s all I want to do. So if something happened, the insurance company did a 180 and they treated everyone fair and no one ever called me again, I would relish the opportunity just to focus in on my family and that’s all I would do. Basically, my goal in life is to live every day of my life like I live my weekend—We sleep in, we go out for pancakes, we take Max to the zoo, we take him to a park, we have friends and family over, we cook, we play cards, hang out. So that’s my goal in life and hopefully I can do more of that. With the twins coming, forget about it. I mean, that…that hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

I couldn’t imagine that [laughing]. I have two but they’re not twins, and having them at the same time…

I feel good about it because Stephanie is such a great mom. She truly is. If it was with someone who wasn’t maternal, it would be a nightmare, but Stephanie is so wonderful. She was a very successful businesswoman before we got married, and with Max, her maternal instincts have flourished. She loves being a mom, every aspect of it. It makes my role of being a dad so easy. In essence, I show up. I’m blessed.

What was it like doing a live radio show with Alan Cox [on WMMS 100.7]? That seems to be something that’s a little bit different than some of your other ventures. 

I’ll tell you, Alan and the whole crew were just magnanimous, funny, and courteous. At one point in time, it seemed to me that I was sitting with a bunch of friends in a bar, just talking. It was a lot of fun. He’s a great guy, a funny guy, and it was great. I feel very comfortable in those settings because the story I tell of helping people is an easy story to tell. I take great pride in knowing, but for my help, certain people in our society would have no chance for justice. I’m proud of what we do and what we’ve accomplished. Being a Cleveland boy, I get all jazzed up about Cleveland. I love talking about what I do and I love talking about Cleveland, so it’s easy.

What’s your connection to Elvis?

Years ago, before I lived here at Misnyland, I did a pilgrimage to Graceland. Even if you’re not an Elvis Presley fan you go through his home and his gravesite is in the back yard. What you take away from Elvis is that he was a man of the people. The stories of him buying a Cadillac for some lady walking down the street and him donating money to youth centers and all the things he did, he was a man of the people. I’ve always been a huge Elvis Presley fan. When I bought Misnyland, I got a postcard of Elvis Presley standing in front of Graceland and I put it on my refrigerator. People said, “Geez, Tim, how did you superimpose Elvis in front of your house?” Well, our home is identical to Graceland, so that was cool. We did a fundraiser last summer for a youth center and it was an Elvis Presley night. I dressed up as Elvis even though I said I would never wear a wig. I made an exception that night. Max had his little hair moussed up and Stephanie, boy, she was one hot Elvis mama. Let me tell you, wow! Yeah, man, Elvis is super cool. What’s not to like about Elvis?

Can you talk about the reality show and what might be next for Tim Misny?

I think it’s a natural evolution of what we do in trying to get the message out. All the messages have to be entertaining. A commercial is, in effect, a mini-movie. I have a phenomenal social media staff, Celina and Sarah. They make everything happen in terms of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, our website, and all the events we participate in. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and that’s how you need to convey a message. In most lawyers’ ads, the lawyer is sitting behind a desk. He looks like he’s constipated and he probably is. He mumbles something about “no recovery, no fee” or he mumbles something about, “I’ll stand with you.” I don’t know what that means. You know what? It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t connect. It isn’t just about getting compensation for people. In virtually every case, we actually change policy and I take great pride in that.

Case in point: I represented someone who was killed while working on a railroad. We found out that when the railroad brought in private contractors they, would put out red warning flags. When the railroad put their own guys on the track, they never bothered to put out the red warning flags. So at the final pre-trial I said to the railroad’s chief counsel, “I’m gonna stick this so far up your ass and break it off at the end, it’s not even funny. When the jury hears how you protect private contractors but you spit on your own employees, do you have any idea what they’re gonna do to you?” He said, “Tim, what will it take to settle this case?” I tore a little corner off a sheet of paper and wrote a number, folded it in half, and gave it to him. He came back ten minutes later and said, “Tim, the case is settled.” I said, “Man, I should have written a bigger number down.” The point is, since that incident there has not been one accident, not one fatality on that railroad. It took a wrongful death case for them to do the right thing. That’s sad, but that’s our society. That’s just one of many examples where we actually changed policy. A lot of it has to do with loss prevention. An insurance carrier will say to the insured, “Misny just hit you for 5.3 million dollars. You can’t ever do this again. You can never put this product out there. We won’t insure you if you put this product out.” Or they’ll say to a doctor, “If you keep practicing medicine like this, we won’t insure you.” They change their policy and it makes it safer for all of us. We take great pride in that. I think that’s something the image of a personal injury lawyer doesn’t quite convey. The whole image of the ambulance chaser is that you’re greedy and you’re making these big fees. Really what we’re doing is changing policy.

The reality show really showcases the courage of my clients because in many of these cases, it would have been very easy for them to curl up into a fetal position and just forget about it. When you bring in a client, they have to relive it. It tears open the scars, tears off the scabs, and they have to relive it. One of my clients was sitting in a deposition and the defense counsel was asking her about her son who was killed by a doctor. It’s absolutely brutal, but she had the courage to do that, and she had the courage to say, “It’s not about the money, it’s about policy changes. I don’t want any other little boy to die in a doctor’s office because of this negligent procedure. I want there to be training from now on.” Those are wonderful stories.

Why Cleveland?

It is a melting pot. It always has been and always will be. It is a city that was founded because of its tremendous natural resources, such as the Great Lakes, the Cuyahoga River, and a great influx of workers. It has evolved over time. We have incredible institutions, world class—Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Orchestra, University Hospitals, Severance Hall, all the pro teams, Case Western, John Carroll. What’s going on here is a revitalization. There are so many positive things. The production staff from Misny Makes Them Pay is from Los Angeles and they came to Cleveland with a—how can I put this tactfully—kind of a quirky feeling about Cleveland. They’ve heard about the river catching on fire, they’ve heard about the depressed housing stock and they didn’t know what to expect. For all of our shots, we went to magnificent places. We went to Little Italy, the West Side Market, Lakeview Cemetery, and the Old Courthouse. We drove around town and they were blown away by Cleveland. What a beautiful, amazing city with housing stocks such as Shaker Heights and University Heights. It has so much to offer and it’s so affordable to live here. I think people have no concept of it. I’m hopeful that more people are gonna come to Cleveland and there are more opportunities coming up. Cleveland State is expanding every day, the Cleveland Clinic is expanding, the Medical Mart, all the new housing downtown. These are bold projects that are coming into realization this year, so I’m excited about Cleveland.

What else would you like the readers to know about you?

I really encourage them to watch the reality show because what we’re doing is offering four $2500 scholarships. And as I’ve said, there are two schools of thought as to why I’m doing the reality show. One is to inflate my already bloated ego, and secondly—the one to which I subscribe to—is that we want to inspire a whole new generation of advocates for the downtrodden. You talk to young kids in law school and in pre-law and you’ll never hear a kid say, “I want to be a personal injury lawyer.” It’s all corporate law, corporate law, corporate law. Our hope is that we are going to inspire somebody to think about representing the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. So to put our money where our mouth is, we’re offering four $2500 scholarships. When the episodes conclude, we’re going to encourage students to write a one page letter explaining why they would be an effective advocate. We are going to select the four most compelling stories.

Virtually everybody has a story about something that happened to a friend where their whole world was turned upside down and everything good was shaken out. You can’t turn back the hands of time and bring this person back or make it so they aren’t crippled anymore, but you can certainly do two critical things. Compensate that person and their family because all these cases involve family. When a father is hurt he can’t work. Does that affect the family? Oh, yeah, it does. Often times it ends up in divorce and bankruptcy. They lose their home. They lose their wife. A guy comes to me and says, “I’ve lost everything. This guy hit me head on. He was drunk and the insurance company won’t pay. I’ve lost everything. Can you please help me?” I’m not going to be able to turn back time but I will do two things: I’ll get him the right compensation and we’ll make it so this never happens to anyone again.

Our hope and our prayer is that we can connect with students across Ohio and across the country who will see this [the reality show and scholarship contest] and say, “I think there’s something to that. I think it might be a good thing to do.” Maybe they think if they’re a personal injury lawyer that they’ll get lucky and get a wife as pretty as mine. I don’t think that’s possible. In fact, I know it’s not possible but I encourage it.

Contact Info:
Official Website

#KickassKleveland – Pat Butler

Pat Butler used to get high on a daily basis before budget cuts pulled him from the helicopter where he called out traffic like highway bingo for WKYC. Now, he does it from behind a big monitor. Pat is also a guitarist and front man for the local rock band, SIGNAL 30. I met him years ago when SIGNAL 30 and Threefold Law began playing the same clubs in Cleveland. In addition to a cadre of massive amp cabinets, Pat travels through Cleveland with a six pack of tacos.

Who would be more likely to win a wrestling match with a bear, Russ Mitchell or Kris Pickel?
Can’t answer this one. I really don’t know either of them personally. I met Russ briefly when he came to town though. He seems to be a super nice guy.

Do you get paid more if the traffic is worse?
I wish. I barely get paid anything as it is. I should’ve gone into computers. My uncle John used to always tell me that computers are the future!

How did you get from the mean streets of Parma to WKYC?

I just kind of fell into traffic reporting. We started our own traffic department at the radio station years ago, and I overheard the Program Director mentioning that he hadn’t received any decent demo tapes yet.

I was working in the promotions department at the time, and I asked him if the traffic gig would pay more than what I was making. He said yes, so I told him I’d hand him a demo by the end of the day. You can figure out the rest.

When I was growing up I loved staying up late listening to college radio in my bedroom. When I was finishing HS, I applied to John Carroll solely because I wanted to do a radio show at 88.7. I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door at Clear Channel while I was finishing up my Communications degree. I always hoped to host my own show at some point, but Traffic is a decent job. It beats digging holes, in the rain, in 10 degree weather, with a bad back.

What falls from a helicopter faster, a ten pound watermelon or a ten pound water balloon?
I don’t know for sure, but I bet a 160 lb. white boy beats both of them.

What’s the future of terrestrial radio? TV?
The kids today have no idea. No idea of how good radio used to be. A lot of the personality, creativity, and spontaneity is gone. So, as they grow up, they won’t even know what they’re missing.

People will always need some kind of local input though, so I can’t imagine it going away entirely. Things will just get more and more homogenized. I’m really not much of a TV watcher. Is Gimme a Break still on? That was a sweet show.

What do your amps go to?
Each of them? Or all of them collectively? Have I mentioned that I have really shitty hearing? Reallllly shitty hearing.

Why Cleveland?
I’m too lazy to pack up all my crap. Plus, I love Dollar Dog nights at Tribe games!

Where can folks see you?
You’re guaranteed to catch me on the toilet at 2PM daily. Like clockwork.
Or on Ch. 3 in the early morning. Or on a stage with SIGNAL 30. Or eating tacos on Tuesday nights.

Contact Info:
SIGNAL 30 Facebook Page
SIGNAL 30 ReverbNation

#KickassKleveland – Bill Peters

The music came alive and he pulled the fader down on the control room soundboard. We sat inside the cramped broadcast booth at WJCU, half of Threefold Law, awaiting our live, on-air interview with the DJ. He pushed another button and took a call from a devoted listener.

“WJCU, Metal on Metal.”
“Hey man! I love the show. I got a question for you. I found this old cassette in my buddy’s basement. He thinks it could be a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band from about 1980. Can I play it for you?”

The DJ looked at us and shrugged as if this is fairly common. Angus Khan and I smirked underneath our microphones, thinking there’s no way he’s going to nail this one. The music began as an ancient, worn, cassette played through the phone.

He nodded and smiled.

“Praying Mantis, from the ‘High Roller’ 7 inch.”

And that is Bill Peters, founder of Auburn Records, Metal on Metal DJ at WJCU for the past three decades, and the definitive heavy metal guru in Cleveland, Ohio. I recently sat down with him at Pantera (or maybe it was Panera) Bread where we used our Mouth for War to discuss metal, mayhem, and madams.

Your daughter comes home and says she just got engaged to a heavy metal musician. Who do you hope has proposed to her?
You’re killing me. [lots of laughing] I hope it’s nobody! Maybe just a dream or a nightmare. The guys from Stryper? Wait they’re not real Christians are they? I can’t even answer that question. I know musicians pretty well so I can’t answer that. My daughter likes musicians and hockey players. Pray for me! [more laughing]

How has Auburn Records changed over the years?
It went full circle. I started with my friend Tim Stewart in 1983 as Clubside Records with the release of the “Cleveland Metal” compilation album. Auburn officially started in 1984. I had no money. I went around to ten banks trying to get a loan and nobody would give me the money. The banks would not take me seriously. My mom saved the day by co-signing for me on a $10,000 loan. With that money I put out the Shok Paris and Black Death albums. I also started a Breaker record at that time but we didn’t get to put it out because of some issues with the band line up. It was a real grassroots thing when I started. I had a full time job at the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic and grew the label in my spare time through word of mouth, handwritten letters, printed fanzines, and radio stations. I would reply to anyone that contacted me no matter how big or small the magazine or journalist. In the late 80s I ran the label as a full time job and started making deals with major labels. I had deals with Island, I.R.S., MCA, Sony Europe, Roadrunner, and SPV/Steamhammer which changed how I operated. I hired Shelly Hammer (aka Steel, the Z-Rock DJ) and moved her from Dallas to Cleveland to help out, I rented an office, and it began a full time venture. You have to remember that I’m a fan. So anytime I had to make any decisions, it came from a fan’s perspective. But when you bring in the major labels and outside entities that make decisions without knowing the music, that’s when I ran into problems because their best interests were not always my best interests for the bands and fans. I was not going to sit idly by. In the 90s I put the label on a bit of a hiatus after the major label deals fell through. I ended those deals because for me it was never about the money, it was always about the music first and foremost. It was frustrating and very disappointing dealing with the corporate music world. When I restarted the label in the late 90s it was the same as it had been before when I first started. It was a grassroots movement, part time, having the most fun doing it myself again.

What has remained the same with Auburn Records?
What I’m very proud of is that I’m working with the same people now that I did when I started back in 1983 and that is unheard of in this business because “falling outs” are inevitable. It’s just the nature of the business. But I’ve always run the label more like a family than a business, right or wrong. It’s always been from the heart, not the wallet. That’s hurt me in many ways but I wouldn’t change that. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. It’s the way I have always been. I care about the musicians and crew, they’re like my family. We take care of each other. The crew, the bands, they’ve all been there with me for close to 30 years. That’s unprecedented in this business.

We’ve had rough times. The first tragedy was Dave Iannicca from Destructor. He was murdered on January 1st, 1988. Dave was a really close friend of mine. When that happened it was hard for me to continue after that incident. It hit me hard and I’ve never really recovered from it, honestly. But the community rallied around that situation to help out Dave’s family. The person convicted of Dave’s murder has been up for parole several times. The last time, we gathered five or six thousand signatures to keep him inside and I spoke at the parole hearing on Dave’s behalf. I did this amidst death threats but I taught my kids that you have to stand up for what you believe in. I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t going to back down. I promised the Iannicca family I would always be there for them. They call me their guardian angel. I will continue to stand by their side to help keep this murderer locked away in prison where he belongs.

Jared’s passing was rough too. We rallied to help the family. These things have happened with people that need help and I put everything else on hold during these rough times. For months, the cancer was slowly killing Jared and we did a lot of fundraisers as the family didn’t have medical insurance. That was more important to me than anything else going on at the time.

[Jared Koston, drummer for Venomin James, passed away on June 1st, 2010 after a long battle with cancer.]

Your cameo in the Alternate Reality video has helped push the song’s YouTube views to almost 900,000. What’s next? Have you called your agent?
I don’t know how I get talked into these things. It’s hard for me to say ‘no’. [laughing and head-shaking] The Delchin brothers begged me for months to do the shoot. They kept wanting me to be in the video that they were shooting at Squire’s Castle but they didn’t tell me what I was going to be doing in it. They kept after me, telling me that they listened to my show as kids and that I’m the reason they’re into heavy metal and that it would be such an honor if I would be in their video. Finally, I felt so guilty and I said okay. I had no idea what my role was. So I drive out there on a Saturday morning and they hand me this wizard outfit and tell me I have to fight this guy while the band plays in the background, and I’m going to shoot blue plasma balls out of my hands. I’m like, “What! You gotta be kidding me. Are you crazy?” So I did it. After everything I’ve done in my life, I’m only going to be remembered as the wizard with the blue balls. [laughing again]

What has been the craziest thing you’ve seen on one of your trips to Germany?
We have a saying. “What happens in Germany stays in Germany.” Our trips to Hamburg’s red light district, the Reeperbahn, are always interesting. I could probably write a book about the trips to the Reeperbahn, but I can’t name names. I’ve never participated in the festivities of the red light district. I’m like the chaperone or the babysitter. I have to be there to bail some of the guys out of jail with the Auburn Records international credit card. Whether or not you agree with prostitution, sex is no big deal in Europe. So when we go on these trips, there are always guys that announce months in advance that they plan on purchasing the “services” of the ladies in the red light district. They have no shame, they don’t care what people think, and they have nothing to hide. But on every single trip, there is always one guy that you would never expect to go into a brothel and partake and yet it happens on every trip. I’ve been quite shocked at the people that have gone inside. I don’t judge and I respect their privacy but it always happens with the guys you never expect. And not everyone in the touring group knows about it, but I do because I know everything that happens on these trips. One time the police raided a brothel because one of the members of our touring group thought someone stole a watch that his father gave him before passing. They searched the entire brothel, and it turns out the watch was stuck in this guy’s jacket. He runs out of the place and everyone is chasing him—the madam, the girls, the police and they’re all yelling at him in German as he’s running down the street. If you go to Hamburg today, in the Reeperbahn, and ask about the American that lost his watch, there are people there that still remember that story.

What is the future of heavy metal?
The music will always live on. The problem is on the business side. I think it’s difficult for bands and labels, and everyone involved, to make money. There has to be some kind of business model. I don’t do this for the money but I’ve got to have money to keep the thing going. Any money I make from the label I turn around and reinvest it into other projects. During my time at Warner Records, I was able to supplement the label from my income. I can’t do that anymore. I have to be very conservative with the label’s spending. Heavy metal still has a core base that supports the music but I think everything has to be reinvented. Right now, nobody in the music industry knows where to go. Touring is great if you’re Iron Maiden. You can tour five times without releasing an album and sell merch but small bands can’t do that. The big bands are taking the concert dollars and dates away from the smaller bands. As great as the internet age has been for recording and distributing music, it’s tougher for the smaller bands, in my opinion. When I started the label people were buying music. It was harder to put out a record but when you did, people bought it. Even putting out a killer record nowadays doesn’t translate into sales. If you saw some of the sales statistics from the bigger labels, you’d be surprised at how little is selling. It’s a difficult time right now.

The young people are growing up with digital music. Guys like me came up with physical product. We’re from a different era. But I accept the digital era, I understand the appeal of it. My kids like digital music but my kids purchase it, they don’t steal it. But a lot of their friends do and they don’t think it’s stealing. I don’t blame them; it’s just the way it is. I’ve been to Europe over twenty times and I can tell you that music means something to them. It’s special in their life, it’s a priority. For the majority of people in the States, it’s more of a background thing. Many of my German friends have learned English from songs. Music is a passion for Europeans, they love to collect and support the bands. We have so many entertainment diversions here that it isn’t as special to everyone as it is in Europe.

Besides Threefold Law, [snicker from interviewer] who has been your favorite on-air interview?
I really enjoyed my interview with Michael Schenker. He put out an ad for an acoustic record called, “Thank You”. The ad said if you send him $20, he’ll put your name on the cover. Michael Schenker is one of my all-time favorite guitar players so I thought, “What the heck, it’s only twenty bucks.” I send my money to him and I don’t hear anything for like three years, I figure the money is gone. Then this CD shows up at my house with nothing. No letter, no explanation, nothing. But there’s my name on the cover with all of these other people. So I send a message to his management and ask them if he’d like to do an interview. Michael calls into the show from Arizona. We’re talking about the CD and his music, and then all of a sudden, about five minutes into the interview, the topic switches to this hippy-type commune he’s built. He’s trying to recruit girls to come out to Arizona and live with him. We’re on the air and he’s soliciting my female listeners, trying to get them to come out and live with him and I keep trying to bring the subject back to the music. The interview ends and I think it’s a bit strange. The next week, Michael calls into the radio show again. We go on the air again and again he starts trying to get females to come out and live on his commune. The week after that, he calls again. We go on yet again and this is really getting bizarre as he doesn’t want to talk music. All he wants to talk about is the women he has at the commune, this free love, kind of thing. [laughing] So the next week I took the phone off the hook. It was cool the first couple of times the legendary Michael Schenker called but the novelty was starting to wear off. It began to freak me out honestly. Nobody could call in for the next couple of weeks because I had the phone off the hook. Those were some fun and bizarre interviews – let me tell you!

I had the Mentors on the show once. I can’t even tell you what they were doing in the station lobby. The concert promoter brought them down and I was really against it because I knew of their non-FCC friendly reputation. I knew it was going to be dangerous. The promoter assured me that they knew how to behave. So they come to the station and they’re doing all this stuff in the lobby and the president of the university is right outside the window and I’m thinking, this is my last show. They had a brand new song on a cassette from the “Up the Dose” album and I hadn’t been able to listen to it or anything. They assured me it was fine to play on the air, a single called “S.F.C.C.”. I put this unmarked cassette in, going on their word. A few seconds into the song the chorus comes up, “Suck and fuck and cook and clean”. I’ve got El Duce in the lobby doing a line of coke, I’m playing this vulgar song, the president of the university is right outside the window looking in wondering what is going on and I kept saying to myself, “This is my last show here. I’m done.” I was very upset with those guys. The funny thing about the story is that shortly after the interview satellite heavy metal radio station Z-Rock flew me down to Dallas to do a guest DJ spot. After the radio show, the Z-Rock crew takes me out to dinner and a concert. This is a week after the incident with the Mentors in Cleveland. We walk into this club in Dallas, and I can’t believe it. The band playing on stage was the Mentors! What are the odds? I’m like, “Not you guys again!” That was the last band I wanted to see at the time. I was still upset from what happened in Cleveland. The Z-Rock people couldn’t figure out why I was so agitated with the Mentors until I told them the story. To their credit, El Duce and Dr. Heathen Scum did come over and apologize to me for what happened. They actually felt bad about it. Everything ended on a good note.

Is there anything else you would like to mention to fans of Metal on Metal or Auburn Records?
A lot of people keep asking for me to reissue the older Auburn albums and as a fan myself I completely understand why they want me to do this. I will get to those reissues at some point but I do not want to be Rhino Records and just live in the past. That’s not what Auburn Records was about when I first started the label. The Shok Paris albums, the Black Death album, those are all great records but I did those already, back in the 80s. All of the core Auburn bands, like Breaker, Destructor and Purgatory, were unknown bands at the time when I first started working with them. I helped develop and build their followings. I enjoyed doing that. I’ll eventually reissue records on CD with bonus tracks and so forth, but with the limited time and budget I have I can only work on so many projects. I get more personal enjoyment out of working with newer bands, like Venomin James or Eternal Legacy. For me, getting bands like those to the level of success they had at playing the biggest heavy metal festival in the world in Germany, Wacken Open Air, that’s what I enjoy personally. My goal is to always move my bands to the next level, never to hold them back. I also love being involved with my established bands in creating new music. SHOK PARIS, DESTRUCTOR and BREAKER are all working on new material that sounds, in my opinion, just as good as their older material. The point of both the record label and the radio show is to turn people on to new music because we’ve got to keep this genre alive for the next generation of heavy metal fans. When I was a young kid growing up on the west side of Cleveland, my music library started by collecting 45 singles. I would always play the B-sides for my friends to turn them on to the more obscure and unknown songs. It’s always been my passion to discover new music and new bands. We can’t just live in the past. I have always loved promoting new bands with both the label and the radio show. This interview was only the tip of the iceberg of my life’s adventures. I’ll save the rest of the stories for my book and movie deal. I hope they find a good actor to play my part! (laughs) By the way, am I like the only guy in the world who likes Panera Bread? My male co-workers won’t come out to lunch with me here. They think it’s a place only women go to eat. I love the roast beef sandwich, broccoli cheese soup and French baguette combo. What can I say? That’s not very metal though is it? (laughs) Thanks for chatting with me James. I really enjoyed it. Up The French Baguettes!

How can folks get in touch with you?
Auburn Records
WJCU 88.7, Home of “Metal on Metal”

#KickassKleveland – A Christmas Story House

A Christmas Story is the Woodstock of holiday movies. Everyone claims to have seen it in the movie theater in 1983 and yet that is not true. I can honestly say that I did. My old man took me to a moldy, dilapidated, single-screen theater in Butler, Pennsylvania on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving. I was 12 and getting ready for my first experience hunting buck in Western PA. I was about [sarcastic gulp] to become a man. We decided to go to the movies the night before Opening Day and see the only PG movie playing. At the time, I was slightly amused by the film. Most of the humor came from my dad’s childhood, not mine. I begged Santa for video games, not Red Rider BB guns. As I grew up and TBS started pummeling us with 24 hours of A Christmas Story, I began to like the movie. Now I love it. I’m not a Christmasy-kinda guy, but Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story always get me in the mood for annoying relatives and rooms full of screaming kids.

This past week we visited the wonderfully sketchy, I mean, trendy neighborhood of Tremont on Cleveland’s west side. Calm down hipsters; I’m only joking about Tremont. Sort of. Drive to 3159 West 11th Street and you’ll be greeted by a most spectacular site. There, between the “parking attendant” charging ten bucks for a space on his front lawn and the “museum” across the street, sits A Christmas Story House in all of its restored glory.

The wonderful glow of the Leg Lamp beckons from the front porch while the barking echo of the Bumpuses’ dogs can be heard in the distance. Stroll through the living room, complete with a Red Rider BB Gun and blue bowling ball under the Christmas tree. Go into the kitchen and hide under the sink like Randy did. Stand in the bathroom and stick a bar of Lifebuoy soap in your mouth or pick up the rotary phone where you can still hear Schwartz’s mom screaming about her son’s alleged dropping of the F-bomb.

They shot most scenes of the home’s interior on a sound stage in Toronto. However, the house at 3159 West 11th was used in pre-production for wide angle shots of “Cleveland Street” and owner Brian Jones used each and every frame of the film to restore the entire structure to the way it appeared in the movie. Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur, bought the house off of eBay in 2004 for $150,000 and spent a quarter of a million dollars restoring it.

A Christmas Story House draws fans from around the world. If you time your visit just right, you might even get to meet Jim Moralevitz. He starred as the delivery guy that brought the “Major Award” to the front door. To this day, I pronounce fragile as “fra-GEE-lay”. It must be Italian.

I usually tag interesting people with #KickassKleveland but I think you’ll agree that this house probably deserves it. “You’ll shoot your eye out kid. Merry Christmas! HO! HO! HO!”

Official “A Christmas Story House” Website

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#KickassKleveland – Jerry Beck

A friend of mine told me about Jerry Beck and I could relate to his artwork immediately. Jerry works outside the mainstream with a no-bullshit mentality. He’s not about to swallow the lies we’re fed by Mother Culture and his approach to life is inspiring.

How would you describe what you do?
I’m an illustrator by trade. It’s a dream job, really. I work predominantly in black and white as a result of being color blind. In fact, I initially perceived it as a major set-back, but I turned it into my major strength. Lotta commitment to my craft is what allowed that to happen. 

What is your preferred medium for creating art?
I’m old school for sure. The pencil, the brush, the pen, and some black drawing ink applied to a good quality bristol board or illustration board is all I really need.

Two deal with merchandise, but the other two are something else entirely. Can you explain your 4 brands?
I’ll assume the 4 Brands you’re thinking of our Iron Asylum, Pit Bull Loyal, American Nightmare Factory, and Natural Born Sinner. Iron Asylum is a Brand that started in the bodybuilding scene, but is ultimately going to be directed toward anyone who trains hard for anything. Pit Bull Loyal has a very deep meaning to me. It has very little to do with the actual Pit Bull breed and is much more about being loyal to yourself. I always identified my loyalty to myself as Pit Bull Loyal. It targets a more urban influence..street style apparel. American Nightmare Factory goes back to my roots as a comic book illustrator. Very dark, intense images. Fun stuff with nothing to profound behind them. Just really fun stuff from the dark recesses of my mind. Natural Born Sinner is simply my answer to so many of the false claims that society and religion have bludgeoned us with, along with some serious sarcasm, and a little dirtiness thrown in.

What inspires you?
Waking up with a pulse. My daughter saying I love you, Dad. The opportunity to make someone feel like they’re not alone. Connecting with those types of souls that often struggle to be connected with. Art effects people. Art moves people. If you can effect people in a positive way why wouldn’t you? I feel its your right as a human being to do just that if you have that ability.

How often do your kids beat up the other kids in the neighborhood?
I’d hope NEVER! Unless provoked. Then, kids…handle your business! But seriously, my son is 18 and he’s a very nice, mellow kid. Reminds me a lot of myself, really. My daughters are 9 and 6 and in my opinion are as sweet as can be. I will say this though….If my kids were the bullying types? They’d get their asses kicked by me. I don’t tolerate that shit.

How did you get to this point in your life, what’s your back story?
Lots of living. My Pops was never really around, so I had to kinda guide myself through many of life’s lessons. A simple process, really. Stumble, fall…Get back up again and again. That’s how life is when you really break it all down. A series of events that we simply learn from. There’s really no wrong way to live. You simply start at point A and hope to become a better person as you move along from B to C to D to so on and so on.

Questioning everything, especially authority, goes back to the origins of our country. What form does this take today?
For me it’s been a part of my mentality for as long as I can remember. You’re presented with one side of a story. In school, in the news, in damn near everything that our government gets their hands on. So for me it was always more about searching for the other side of the story. Which often had more truth attached to it. Our government is our enemy. People just don’t see it because they bought into it in grade school and never questioned it. They just took what they were given, absorbed it as truth, and moved along. Rats in a maze. Sheep in the herd. Scary as hell.

What’s next for Jerry Beck?
Well, my new website is about to launch, http://www.jbeckunited.com. It will feature the 4 brands we spoke about earlier. Apparel lines, singular and unique designs. I also wanna focus much of my attention on my kids, especially my youngest who is Autistic. Motivating and inspiring people with my artwork is certainly at the top of my list as well. That’s the game plan for the most part.

Why Cleveland?
Born and raised. And my youngest is here, so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Contact Info:
Online Freelance Portfolio
Brands and Merch

#KickassKleveland – Erin Lung

I first met Erin Lung six or seven years ago when his band, Venomin James, played a show with my band, Threefold Law, at the old Jigsaw Saloon on Cleveland’s West Side. Since 2006, we’ve crossed paths a number of times, sharing many stages. The heavy rock community in Cleveland is a tight one and we’ve gotten to know each other over beers and smokes.

Venomin James continues to crank out the doom metal and Erin’s 4-string rumble is a big part of their sound. When he isn’t laying down the low end, Erin can be found at Rebel City Tattoo on Cleveland’s east side (contact and info at the bottom of the post). I recently visited the shop on Waterloo Road and spent some time with Erin Lung and owner, Chris McNeill to talk tattoos, vaginas, and more.

What’s been the most “personal” tattoo you’ve given a woman? What was it? Where was it?
A recently divorced middle-aged lady came in with her teenage daughter. They both wanted to get their first tattoo. Mom proceeded to drop her pants in the shop with her daughter there. She showed me her vagina and said she wanted to get a ladybug next to it for good luck. I thought the weirdest part was that she was there with her teenage daughter. That was so bizarre. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. You have to do your job, be professional and stay focused. You can giggle and laugh about it later. But you must keep it professional and be clinical about it. Most of the chicks that want stuff down by their crotches are not always the hottest. For a normal chick, a vagina is usually enough to attract a man. They don’t need to adorn it in any extra way [pause for a few rounds of hearty laughter from both of us].

How can you tell the difference between a cheap tattoo and a good one?
A great tattoo is something you wouldn’t expect. It’s executed well, fits the body, will last, and heals well. It’s when someone looks at it and says, “I didn’t know you could even do that on skin.” There are plenty of good tattoo artists, but not many excellent ones. It’s an art form and a lot of that is based on opinion. I’ve seen a bunch of people come into the shop thinking they have great tattoos and they have crap tattoos. It’s the artist. The tools have pretty much remained the same for over a hundred years now. The machines we use are coil, the original style of tattoo machines and they literally haven’t changed at all. The pigments, however, have gotten much better, even in the past ten or fifteen years. They outshine older pigments in durability and color fastness.

What’s the connection between tattoos and musicians?
Tattoos are about creativity and expression. A lot of musicians, especially rock and roll musicians, have chosen to live outside the box. We’ve created our own existence and therefore the things that regular people might be afraid of such as marking your body or expressing yourself, we don’t care about that. We’ve decided to live our own lives. It comes from being rebellious but what it is today is a totally different thing. Tattooing has become almost mainstream. Johnny thinks it’s cool and so he gets a tattoo because that’s the next badge of coolness. With athletes, they just have more money and time than they know what to do with. Every athlete I’ve seen with a tattoo has been an atrocity. There are tons of rock and roll dudes with shit tattoos, but I think athletes are trying to keep up with the rock and roll dudes. There is some creativity to it, but it’s not the same thing. They’re just playing a game.

Is there pushback from the tattoo community as the mainstream becomes more accepting of the art?
There is a little pushback from the tattoo community but those soccer moms or Johnny-come-latelys are my bread and butter, where I make my money. Of course there’s a little bit of pushback but I wouldn’t call it resentment. It’s a double-edged sword. The TV programs have increased popularity and made my job more valid, but it’s also created a group of people that think it’s cool and yet know nothing about it. And there are a still a ton of people that don’t agree with that decision (to get a tattoo) and they’ll tell you about it. People don’t expect that. They don’t expect the pain, don’t know how long it will take, don’t know how much money it’ll cost. They have expectations they get from TV and people feel they deserve a tattoo without putting in the time or money for one and that’s where some of the resentment comes in.

What has been the impact of reality shows like Miami Ink and L.A. Ink? What has Kat Von D done for the tattoo industry?
She has made herself known. That’s about all she’s done for my industry. People come in here and say “someday I want to get a tattoo by Kat Von D” like she is the epitome of the tattoo world. She’s not. She’s talented, but quite frankly she’s a drama queen with a pretty face and that’s why she’s on TV. She’s a skilled artist, don’t get me wrong, but there are people in this city that outshine her. So again, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s like with music, back in the day when you had a band you loved and nobody else knew about them and then two years later they’re everywhere. It’s kind of like someone stole your toy. Another issue you have is that people want to get into the industry and the easiest thing to do is just buy a shop and hire some artists. So some shops have owners that are not part of the industry, so to speak. That’s part of the downside of the whole TV thing.

What is the Rebel City story?
I wanted to open my own shop that wasn’t commercial, a custom shop (Chris chimed in when I asked this question before Erin picked up the answer in the next sentence). We try to keep it an old school mentality. Chris has been in the business for 17 or 18 years working with all kinds of artists from all over the country. He read an article in the NY Times about some artists that moved to Cleveland from New York City (Greenwich Village) and ended up in North Collinwood. It reminded him of a real New York City artists’ community, no pretentiousness, real, working class people. So we got into this new arts district at the ground level and we’ve been here for three years. The idea was to be part of a new blue collar, gritty, arts community in the Cleveland area. We wanted Rebel City to be an all custom shop where we work with the same clientele for years and years. It’s a small shop where we control everything ourselves which keeps artists from backstabbing when business is slow. It’s just the two of us and Chris has an apprentice named Jennifer White but the goal is to eventually move to a bigger location somewhere on this street. Being next to the Beachland Ballroom has been great.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever done?
I’ve been doing a lot of black and grey stuff lately with different textures. I just recently did two cool pieces, a tattoo from a T Rex fossil called the black beauty. The fossil formed in magnesium and is black so it’s not typical. I also recently did a tattoo for a guy that wanted a guitar and skull tattoo. It was a really fun piece to do and ties into my music thing. I experimented with some new textures. It’s always fun to try something new. If you stagnate, you’re done. You’re never done learning. Pieces you’ve never done or techniques you’ve never tried are fun.

I was working on some paintings and it dawned on me that I really don’t like painting. It’s the weirdest thing. A painting takes a lot of time with many steps where you can fuck it up and have to start over. I’m afraid to ruin a piece of paper but you put skin in front of me and for some reason the fear goes away. It’s the medium I prefer. You create something awesome and then your canvas tells you how awesome it is. There’s nothing like that.

A lot of people don’t spend much time being creative. It’s all I do. Music and artwork.  Every day I come up with ideas and most of the ideas get thrown away. Most creative people have a million ideas and you realize when an idea is stupid or when it’s worth pursuing. Most people don’t spend their time doing that stuff so they get the flightiest idea in their head and they think it’s brilliant. They come to you with this “brilliant” idea which usually isn’t their own. It’s something they’ve seen on the internet. You have to shoot it down and it can hurt their feelings. There are things in tattooing that are just not possible or won’t heal properly, or age properly. So you have to talk people out of stuff all the time. Sometimes they appreciate it and sometimes they butt heads with you. It’s all about communication with your client. I’ve heard some ridiculous things, like “I want a straight line that’s curvy” or “I want the shape round with points”. It’s tricky to decipher want people are talking about. You need a reason for everything to reinforce to your client that you know what you’re doing. When you are totally and permanently altering your body, they better have confidence in you.

Contact Info:
From the Rebel City Tattoo Facebook Page
We are a fully custom, award winning and friendly studio. We use the brightest colors of ink and all disposable equipment. We are also health dept. certified ensuring you a clean, safe, and high quality tattoo at a reasonable price.

Rebel City Tattoo
15701 Waterloo Rd. Cleveland, OH
(216) 481-1635