Answers to all of life’s questions & a witch

Folks have been continuing to subscribe to The Horror Writers Podcast even though it’s been dead since November. Others have been asking me if I’ll start another podcast. HELL NO! But seriously, I do have an idea but I don’t want to do it unless I know it will serve a need. There are SO many great podcasts for writers and I’m not sure what I can offer will add anything of value.

If you’re a writer and have been distraught since the demise of my first podcast, click on the link and ask me a question. If the demand is there and people can use my help, I’ll get back in the game. Please share the link if you know an author who might benefit from a podcast based on listener questions.

This link will only work for 5 days so click it now. Do it. You can submit as many questions as you want. By the way, even if you’re not a writer you can ask me a question. Click the link and you’ll see what I mean 😉

In other news, Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest launched on Friday and we’ve been thrilled with the response. To celebrate the release, Dan and I are sponsoring a giveaway.

We’ve been billing this story as “Game of Thrones meets the Blair Witch” so we’ve decided to offer something special.

One lucky winner will receive THREE prizes including a signed paperback copy of Game of Thrones (signed by George R.R. Martin), a signed DVD of The Blair Witch Project (signed by Eduardo Sanchez) and a signed paperback of Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest (signed by J. Thorn and Dan Padavona).

There is no catch. You enter the contest and I’ll email you the winner when it ends. If you are the winner, the prize will show up at your door. That’s it. Plus, if someone enters by clicking on your Facebook post, tweet or link, you get an additional THREE entries. How cool is that?

Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest

Dan Padavona and I are proud to launch Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest this Friday the 13th. It’s available on Amazon (pre-order right now) for $0.99 for a limited time.

Click here to get Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest.

We’ve been describing it as “Game of Thrones meets The Blair Witch.” We deliberately set out to craft a story that had elements of fantasy and horror and we believe you’ll find it unique and impossible to put down. Here’s a little tease:

Thom Meeks lives with his family in Droman Meadows under the protection of the Kingdom of Mylan. An unusually long winter creates anxiety in the village and some believe it to be the return of an ominous force known as the Shadow. When a pack of dread wolves lays ruin to Droman Meadows, Thom escapes with his wife and four daughters. They set out on the Mylan Road in hopes of finding refuge in the capital, but dark forces emerging from the primeval forest will challenge them for their eternal souls.

Click here to get Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest.

Working with Dan has been nothing short of amazing. He is a true professional and a gifted writer.

A bit about Dan from his website:

“I was born and raised in Cortland, New York, not far from the Finger Lakes region. My parents, Loretta, and Ronnie Padavona, separated when I was very young. My father moved to California, where he gained notoriety in heavy metal music as Ronnie James Dio. My mother raised me into the person I am today. I live outside of Binghamton, New York, with my wife Terri, and children Joe, and Julia.

“I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, mainly fantasy and horror. If you happen upon me, you’ll probably see me reading Terry Brooks, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, Robert Jordan, or one of many authors who have so enriched my life with their ability to tell a good tale. I am enamored with the written word and can spend hours playing with different word combinations to improve prose.”

Click here to get Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest, available on Amazon (pre-order) for $0.99 for a limited time.

“In 1970…people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal.” Talking Heavy Metal with Sam Dunn of Banger Films

Heavy metal music has the most passionate, dedicated, and loyal fans of any genre in the history of modern music. As a lifelong metalhead I can make this bold statement because I’ve spent time with musicians and fans of other types of music, and although they may love it, they don’t live the lifestyle like the heavy metal folks. Fans of the genre have gotten tattoos of their favorite bands, been buried to heavy metal music, and based their lives on a band’s tour schedule. Sure, fans of One Direction may turn out in the hundreds of thousands for a few years, but fans of Iron Maiden have been doing it for a few decades.

Within the realm of heavy metal, certain people function as ambassadors. Two that I’ve interviewed further the same cause in different ways. Bill Peters is the godfather of classic metal in Northeast Ohio and Don Jamieson waves the banner nationally on That Metal Show. My guest this week has helped to dignify the heavy metal culture and protect it from those that like to claim it’s primal and aggressive. It is. But it is also sophisticated and complex and nobody illustrates that better than Sam Dunn. Dunn broke onto the scene in 2005 with Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and has continued to produce professional, educational films about the often misunderstood genre.

Along with Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn runs Banger Films. Over the past seven years they have created Global Metal, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, Metal Evolution, and Rush: Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland. Dunn also has a documentary in production aptly titled, Satan. Sam is a Canadian and a musician as well as a film director. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal, including Bruce Dickinson, Geddy Lee, and the late Ronnie James Dio.

The widely-successful series that aired on VH1 Classic, Metal Evolution, chronicled the history of heavy metal through the decades but did not include the most recent strand, extreme metal. With an IndieGoGo campaign running through October 8th, Dunn hopes to raise enough money to finish the episode on his own. Sam is an intelligent, articulate, metalhead and I enjoyed talking to him about the moms of Slayer, Norwegian church burnings, and Satan. Not necessarily in that order.

I feel like I have somewhat of a personal connection with you because you chose to film Rush: Time Machine 2011 in Cleveland. Tell me about your experience doing that project.

Cleveland is an extremely important city, not only for a band like Rush, but for rock and metal. Generally, it was those northern American towns that were the bread basket for bands like Rush touring in the 70s where they found an audience for their music. So Rush wanted to give a little love back to Cleveland because it was the city that broke the band in the U.S. and they knew it was going to be an amazing crowd. It all worked out really well.

Why the Midwest? What does the Rust Belt mean to Rush?

I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact people in that part of the U.S. feel a really personal connection to the band because they toured early on in the small towns of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, all through the Midwest. So they’re going back and playing where they played in 1973, 1974, 1975 to people who saw them when they were in their early teens. And at that age, those are your formative years. You’re starting to cement your musical tastes. So going back to those places, you see a lot of people who saw them back at that time. In that part of the world, there’s a little bit deeper or personal connection to the band because they have such a long history together.

I couldn’t believe that it’s been eight years since Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey was released. I’m wondering what your thoughts are looking back on that? How do you feel about it these days?

It’s a film we’re still really proud of. It premiered at TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival] in 2005 and really opened a lot of doors for us. It was really the first documentary that took metal seriously as a style of music and as a culture, and really tackled the question of why it polarizes people. The film really resonated with a lot of people and did really well around the world. We were obviously pleased. I think that there was this whole world of metal and rock that hadn’t really been paid attention to in documentary or film form with a few small exceptions like Spinal Tap. So it helped us establish a lot of relationships with artists like Geddy Lee and Bruce Dickinson—two good examples of musicians who we went on to make movies about. It really helped us and is still doing something for us now.

I think one thing that sets it apart is that it’s a real cultural study. It’s an anthropological study of not only the music but also of the subculture. Was that something that you had in mind at the outset or did that evolve as you worked on the film?

It was always our goal to make a film about metal that wasn’t just for metalheads, that would connect to a broader audience. One way to do that was not to talk only about the intricacies of the music or do a super-detailed account of the history of metal, but rather look at it as a culture. I wanted to look at it as something that was born in the 70s and is still going strong today. I wanted to ask, “What is the appeal of this music and why does it cause so much controversy with things like the PMRC?” We looked at the church burnings that happened in Norway in the 1990s and bands like Cannibal Corpse getting their records banned around the world. It was about much more than just the music. It was about the culture and the impact. We felt that it was that part of the film that could interest even Kerry King’s mom.

Well, when you can get the moms of Slayer to watch, you must be doing something right. [laughing]

We know a few moms of metal guys that understand their sons a little bit better after our movie, so I think that’s a good thing.

Definitely. It seems like it also planted the seed for Metal Evolution, which to no surprise, did so well because it’s such a comprehensive look at all of the branches of the metal tree. I was wondering if you had a particular episode or sub-genre that you found particularly engaging as the creator of that show?

Metal Evolution was born out of the heavy metal family tree that we created back when we did Headbanger’s Journey because we knew that film wasn’t going to be a detailed history of metal. We thought that maybe somewhere down the line there’d be an opportunity to do something more in depth and that’s what Metal Evolution became—eleven episodes on the history of the music.  When it comes to specific episodes, I’m a big fan of the thrash episode because that’s the one sub-genre in the series that is really close to me and includes a lot of bands that I love. But I think from a storytelling perspective, the shock rock episode was fascinating to make because it allowed us to take a step back before Alice Cooper, who many people attribute to being the godfather of shock rock. We looked at people like Arthur Brown, and even PT Barnum who wasn’t a musician but was an entertainer, that used shock to entertain the public. So it was a lot of fun because it allowed us to do something that touched on things just beyond the metal realm.

It seemed as though you went into the 80s metal episode a bit skeptical but you came out the other side with a new appreciation. That time in metal often gets a bad rap. People call it hair metal or glam metal with a derogatory tone. Would that be a fair assessment? Did you come out of that episode with a different perspective on the 80s metal scene?

Glam metal in the 80s when I was a teenager was not my cup of tea. I was more into the heavier styles. Granted, my first cassette was Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry and Ratt’s Out of the Cellar. But I quickly got into the heavier stuff. When it came to the episode on glam metal, from a documentary perspective, it was great because it’s always more interesting when you have two sides represented. There’s a debate still about whether this should be called metal or not. I am still not a fan of those bands. [laughing] When I come into the office in the morning, I don’t put on Poison to get me going. [laughing] However, I always had the preconception that these bands were manufactured, that they were the products of record executives in skyscrapers. But I learned that’s not the case. In fact, it’s not the case with bands that did quite well. I’m talking about bands like Poison or Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, etc. They were doing exactly what they wanted to do and not solely because they thought it was going to be commercially viable but because it was a bit of a “fuck you.” I learned a lot from Rikki Rockett who said, “People wanted to fuck us or fight us and that’s exactly what we wanted.” So there was a weird twist. They almost had a punk kind of attitude with what they were doing and that’s not what I expected at all. I didn’t come away a bigger fan of Poison’s music but I certainly came away a bigger fan of Rikki Rockett and his attitude. I thought, “That’s fair—I don’t have to love your music but I respect your attitude.”

I think in a way the industry came to them as opposed to the industry creating them, and that’s an important distinction to make whether you like the music or not.

Don’t get me wrong; the hair is ridiculous. [laughing]

It was even so back in the day, wasn’t it? The great thing about Metal Evolution is that the series isn’t quite done. I was wondering if you could talk a little about the Indiegogo campaign you have going on? Me and my band [Threefold Law] have already contributed. Tell us about the campaign.

Well, we did the main series—eleven episodes—and it was always our hope that we could do an episode on extreme metal but the broadcasters thought it was a little too heavy, a little too niche for their market. And that’s fair. I understand that. We were happy that we got to do this massive series on metal and it made a big contribution. Of course, the one glaring omission was extreme metal so we decided to get an Indiegogo campaign started and fund it that way. We know its music that is underground but that has a really passionate fan base. The people who like extreme metal, love extreme metal. They live and breathe it. Once you find a stronger cup of coffee you can’t go back to Folgers and I totally understand that because a lot of the music that I listen to is at the extreme end of the spectrum. We had one campaign and raised almost $40,000 which was amazing and that helped us pay for the first phase of the project. That involved a lot of travel, a lot of equipment, vehicle rentals, a crew, and travelling around the world. We went to New York and Florida. We filmed in Toronto and we went to Norway, Switzerland, France, and the U.K. And so here we are. We’ve got all of this great footage, we’ve got an episode mapped out, we’ve got it planned and ready to go, and now we’re in the second phase fund raising campaign because we’ve got to turn that footage into something. We pay our editors because our editors are some of the best in the business and that’s what’s allowed us to create the good work that we’ve done so far. That’s one part of the cost. The other part of the cost is paying for all of the photos, footage, and music that we use in the episode. That can get quite costly especially if you’re dealing with major labels. So there are still costs. We’re right smack dab in the middle of the second campaign and we’re pushing. We’re releasing little snippets of interviews every week. I’m writing a blog on Revolver on the top five metal albums of all time. We’re keeping the campaign really active, so we hope we can get to the finish line and make it.

And every couple of bucks helps. So I would encourage all the readers out there to go the Indiegogo page and contribute—let’s get that episode made.

In your travels documenting extreme metal, I’m assuming you had an interview with Satan and then you signed him on to do a documentary. Is that how that worked out? [laughing]

If you’ve met Satan, you should be part of our team because I’m still looking. [laughing] Satan [the documentary in production] is something separate, obviously, but it does have a connection to the extreme metal episode. In Headbanger’s Journey we looked at all the church burnings that happened in Norway and covered that part of the story. But it revealed that no one had really looked at the musicality of Norwegian black metal. I think because of all the controversy and the theatricality of the music, people have lost sight of the fact that what happened in Norway musically in the early 90s was pretty important. Extreme metal was getting pretty glossy at that point and the Norwegian scene was reclaiming a more primitive or raw sound that had been lost in metal and then added their own little twist to it. It was kind of like a bit of punk rock meets a bit of KISS with a dash of anti-Christianity in there. I think that’s an important story to tell because I think people have forgotten that this was also music and some really great bands came out of that era. Bands like Emperor, Enslaved, and Immortal who struck this balance between being raw but also epic. Before that you could be one or the other. You were either epic like Iron Maiden is epic or like Dio is epic. Or you had to be raw like Napalm Death or Bolt Thrower is raw. I think what the Norwegians did is they found a way to combine those two things. So from an historical perspective I think it made a pretty big contribution.

So the Satan documentary might hint at some of these misconceptions? I remember back in the day when AC/DC was satanic and KISS was satanic. Was that a label thrown around by conservatives to undermine the music?

The Satan documentary has a longer backstory. It did come out of our conversations with the Norwegian black metal-ers. We were fascinated by their perspective. What we’ve embarked upon for the Satan film is a much broader story. It’s not just about Satanic music. It’s also about Satan in film, literature, media, and pop culture. We’re taking a broader look at why the Devil has made such a big impact in the creative and entertainment world over the past several decades. Satan is a big topic, so it’s hard to wrestle Satan to the ground.

I wish you luck with that. [laughing] Whenever I interview people in the heavy metal realm, I like to ask their opinion on the future of heavy metal. Some of our pioneers are aging and in declining health and it always begs the question. What do you think?

I think the future of heavy metal is bright. It’s never going to go away. I’m going to make the argument in the extreme metal episode that it’s actually the extreme bands that can be credited with really pushing the music forward. It is by far the most adventurous, risk-taking, sub-genre of metal and because of that it’s always carving out new directions for the music to go. It’s like an art. Often it’s the underground, avant-garde artists who are the ones that push it to the next place and then everyone follows. In 1970, if the term had existed, people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal, right? I think that’s where it’s going. We’ve got the grandfathers of the genre that are still going pretty strong— Maiden, Rush, Sabbath. And in my personal opinion, Sabbath put out a pretty damned good record. At that same time, you have to remember that metal is a breed of the underground and that’s never gonna change and that’s where the real vitality is going to continue to come from. So that’s part of the story we’re telling…


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“I’m not sure if Lemmy will ever die.” – Tim “Ripper” Owens Still “Delivering the Goods” for Local Heavy Metal.

As I passed through the swinging door following Tim “Ripper” Owens and Don Jamieson through the kitchen and to the upstairs office of Ripper’s Rock House I couldn’t help but have a Spinal Tap moment. Halfway up the stairs Ripper thought the office might be locked. I shrugged and looked at Don thinking it was almost time to put my arms up and shout, “Hello Cleveland!” After shuffling back and forth a few times on the steps, Ripper remembered that the door was not locked and we settled into the new club’s office to talk about Lemmy, Ohio, and the future of heavy metal. The club had only been open for a few weeks and Ripper’s good friend and fellow metalhead Don Jamieson [my interview with Don here] was on hand to do his stand-up routine inbetween sets by local bands Sunless Sky and Wretch. I sat across the desk from Ripper. Jamieson sat in the corner writing dick jokes on his phone while waiting for his pizza and the midget prostitute he ordered [joking].

Tim “Ripper” Owens first “…made headlines in 1996 when he went from being a fan of the British metal act Judas Priest to being their lead singer, filling the shoes of Rob Halford (and, by doing so, inspiring the movie Rock Star, which was later disavowed by the band). Despite numerous rumors that Halford would reunite with Priest, Owens recorded two studio albums with his childhood heroes, as well as two live albums and a 2002 DVD release…” as stated by Wikipedia. Since the early 2000s, Ripper has fronted or been involved with several heavy metal projects such as Iced Earth, Beyond Fear, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, and Charred Walls of the Damned. He has done a solo record and is currently a vocalist for Dio Disciples, an all-star tribute band managed by Wendy Dio, the wife of the late Ronnie James Dio. And as if that wouldn’t keep him busy enough, Owens recently opened Ripper’s Rock House near Akron, Ohio after his first club, Ripper’s Tap House could not renegotiate the lease.

Tim is an approachable and likeable guy. He spent the entire night on the floor of the club, walking from table to table and conversing with fans. He is clearly a “homer” as he told me in our interview and he wears his love for Akron (and Ohio) on his sleeve. Owens spent time with a little girl in a wheelchair (with what appeared to be a significant handicap, not a sprained ankle) and auctioned off a signed guitar in order help raise funds to send a local metal band on tour overseas. Ripper is promoting the local scene as well as the local music scene and I plan on bringing Threefold Law (my band) down I-77 to play to an enthusiastic and grateful audience.

Please allow me to introduce to you one heavy metal’s most powerful voices and an advocate for Ohio, local music, and fine dining. Ladies and gentlemen, Tim “Ripper” Owens.

What was it like growing up in Akron?

It was great. I’m always a homer on everything I do. Friends and family; I stick with them forever especially with this restaurant near Kenmore where I grew up. I travel a lot and I never had to move away when I made it in music. I got a lucky break and I was too ugly in the 80s to go to L.A. with that whole scene. I’m a homer. All my friends and family are here and that’s nice. I like everything about Akron; from the mayor to the growth downtown. Everything is great.

It’s nice to have cheerleaders for Ohio. We don’t always get the national recognition that other cities get.

Yes, that’s true.

What’s it like playing in Dio Disciples?

It’s an honor. It’s emotional every night. I feel it every time I step on the stage. There’s something special about playing with Ronnie’s band mates and I was his friend. Wendy is such a great person and Ronnie was a great person so it feels even more special. It’s really an honor to be able to do it.

Are you working on new material with Chris Caffery?

Chris and I have been friends for a long time. We met when he was in Savatage and I was in Berlin doing a promo trip with Judas Priest. We went to a bar with the band, me and Glen and K.K., and there were the guys from Savatage in this little hole-in-the-wall bar in Berlin. From that day on, Chris and I struck up a friendship; he’s played in my solo band with Simon Wright on drums, Chris on guitar, Dave [Ellefson] on bass, and John Comprix on guitar so we’ve written some things together, here and there. We co-wrote “The Shadows are Alive” on my solo record. Right now I’ve got so many things going on that I have a hard time working with myself.

You’re a busy guy. I can attest to that.

I don’t have a hard time playing with myself. [laughing]

News from Wacken and whispers in the heavy metal world indicate that Lemmy is in rapidly declining health. The bands that came from the 70s like Motörhead and Judas Priest are getting older. In your opinion, what’s the future of heavy metal? Where’s it headed?

Metal is in good hands. It’s a shame now, but guys like Lemmy have laid the groundwork. People will always dislike change but it’s still metal. There weren’t a lot of bands like Priest before Priest and when they started people probably didn’t like them, didn’t like that style of music. Bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath–they’ve laid the groundwork for newer bands. Bands like Disturbed–which I like because I think they have a lot of old-school influences and they’re at the top of the charts when they release a record, and it’s nice to see that. But I’m not sure if Lemmy will ever die. He’s been in “declining health” for about 20 years, right? Lemmy is a machine…But that’ll be a sad day. Seems like Iommi came back from his cancer scare. I think we’ll be alright. These guys have laid the groundwork and every band you see is influenced in some way by Lemmy or these other guys so we’ll be okay.

Do you think we’ll end up with “heavy metal franchising” like Gene Simmons used to talk about? Imagine each city having their own KISS franchise with the KISS seal of approval, playing all the songs people love so that the “band” lives beyond the original members. Is that viable?

I don’t know if we’re very far from that now. Foreigner was out not too long ago without one original member in the band. But it’s hard to say. Bands like Motörhead can’t continue without Lemmy. Some bands can’t continue. With Priest, I was able to come in but it still really didn’t go on without Rob Halford. It was a different situation. If anybody were to try a “heavy metal franchise” it would definitely be KISS. Nobody would like it but they would try it because they just need to put the musicians in make-up and maybe get away with it. I’d go watch it. You already got mini-KISS out there.

Tell us about the brand new Ripper’s Rock House.

We couldn’t sign a lease at the old Tap House which was the main reason we had to relocate. I had Micah come in and he was buying my other partner out and we were going to stay there but we couldn’t re-negotiate the lease so we decided to move. It’s a great opportunity because my partner Micah is really smart, he has a couple of business degrees, owns a 40-truck landscaping company, and I wanted to surround myself with good people. For the new Rock House I wanted to improve on everything. I like the location, the size, it’s more spacious, the food is better, the staff is better, and the sound system is premiere. It’s a Jeff Hair sound system. He was out with Manowar for years and they’re known for having a loud system. So we improved everything. First and foremost, we’re a restaurant; a restaurant that likes to rock out on the weekends. It’s been great getting Don Jamieson here and if you look at the upcoming schedule we’re getting some great people here.

Who? [Don Jamieson piping up from the corner]

Some dirt bag. [laughing]

He did something. Maybe worked at the last place? No, he was on the road with me. He drove the van.

I did drive the van. [Don Jamieson also laughing]

We can’t bring in the bigger bands because I don’t want to charge a $20 cover. Dio Disciples is $15. A lot of these bands are asking for $5000 to play and to get them here we’d have to charge a cover and people don’t understand that. We’re a small club. Other larger venues in the area can afford to do that. But we’re going to have some special guests. I’ve talked to some friends like Nicko McBrain, Mike Mangini, and Chris Caffery about coming in. We’ve got some old school acts in the works like Vicious Rumors and Seven Witches.

You have Rhino Bucket on the schedule too, right?

Yes, Rhino Bucket is booked. We have some younger acts too like Losing September and a bunch of other stuff in the works. I want to really try and promote the local original and cover bands. We want to treat’em well, give them a couple of pizzas, a case of beer, and a private green room. So far, we’ve been slammed every weekend.

Any other projects you have going on you’d like to mention?

Well, I have a lot of projects going on. The best way to keep up with me is to go to my Facebook page or my website [links at bottom of post]. Nowadays, Facebook or Twitter is the best way to get the word out. Search my name. A lot will come up but you’ll figure out which one is mine. I’m the white guy [search for “Tim Owens” on Facebook and then you’ll get the joke]. I have a lot of stuff going on, a solo tour coming up along with a number of Dio Disciple’s shows. I’m here at the restaurant a lot, Micah is here a lot. Micah’s band Fracture will be playing here. Micah’s pretty famous because he broke both of his legs on stage at the old place. I was at NAMM when my partner called and said, “Micah broke both of his legs.” His band is called Fracture, get it?

Not your typical stage stunt.

You can’t ask for better publicity than that. He jumped about four inches into the air during the first song and when he landed both of his shins broke in half. They took him away in ambulance. So I’m still waiting for him to break both of his arms to open this place.

He’s got to up the ante.

Just to open the club he’s giving away his kidney. Seriously, he’s in a great band. Fracture is a great band.

Thanks for your time, Ripper. I really appreciate it.

No problem, man.

A special thanks to Cleveland’s own Heavy Metal Godfather, Bill Peters, for putting me in touch with Ripper Owens.


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