Interview with Luiz Mazetto, author of Nós Somos A Tempestade
Luiz Mazetto is a guy who knows his metal. More so when it’s the sort of deviant, weird and crooked metal on the fringes of the underground. So much so that he had to write a book about it, entitled Nós Somos A Tempestade – Conversas Sobre O Metal Alternativo Dos EUA (in English: We Are The Storm – Conversations About American Alternative Metal). It features interviews with a slew of TovH favorites like Converge, Neurosis, Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Melvins and more. Click here and read my interview of the interviewer. How meta.
Tell us a bit about your work and how you became interested in metal. You have a degree in journalism, right? Did you pursue that education with music writing on your mind or was that something that developed later on in your career?
I’ve been listening to metal since I was ten, totally influenced by my father. He’s one of the biggest Black Sabbath and Deep Purple fans in the world. Interestingly, I started with Led Zeppelin, which hated to be called a metal/heavy rock band. I remember that period really well, listening to “Thank You” on a Sunday morning in my house in Araras [inner São Paulo, Brasil]. Bonham’s crescendo drumming hit me, and it hit hard. From that moment on, nothing was the same. To be honest, the first metal band I fell in love with was probably Iron Maiden. I own the band’s entire collection and I have listened to their records from start to finish several times. My first concert couldn’t have been other than a Bruce Dickinson gig with Adrian Smith in his band, circa 1997. The lineup of this festival also had Dio, who put on an amazing show, and Scorpions, who made me leave early. Anyway, I got into college to write about what I loved the most – music and film. I have a degree in cinema, too. Obviously, it never happened because I never worked at a culture, music or entertainment publication, even though I tried to several times. In the end that was a good thing, because I didn’t develop the vices of writing for big music outlets and I can focus solely on what I like. My music writing would not begin until 2010, when I went to San Francisco and watched a Shrinebuilder concert. I interviewed the guys and realized I could do this on my own, without backing from a big magazine or website.
Why the interest in the so-called Alternative Metal? What is it about these relatively new and obscure subgenres that appeals to you?
I guess primarily it’s because these are some of my favorite bands, Neurosis, Eyehategod, Converge, Mastodon, Isis, among others. Also, there was no space whatsoever for this kind of metal in Brasil, but I always knew there was a public for it beyond me and my friends, which proved to be true after the book was released. I figured there was a demand for music beyond what’s covered by the traditional metal publications here, to see that there’s still people out there making good music, without worrying about the industry or labels, which is something that always bothered me a great deal even though I love heavy metal and bands like Iron Maiden, Sabbath and Dio.
Nós Somos A Tempestade (NSaT) is the product of four years of labor. Talk to us about the process of writing the book. Was it harder to get the interviews or to actually compile everything in a cohesive way?
Like I said, it all started sort of unconsciously in 2010, when I interviewed Shrinebuilder in the clumsiest way imaginable. I was prepared to interview Scott Kelly, but he lost his voice and I suddenly found myself in a room with Wino, Al Cisneros and Dale Crover with a bunch of questions about Neurosis and only a few concerning Shrinebuilder (laughs). Anyway, I later convinced myself to keep trying to pursue this and just do it. I confess that my first two interviews, with Steve Von Till and Brian Patton (Eyehategod), weren’t the best – they even got left out of the book. But after I got the hang of it, so to speak, everything just came together and it was easier to schedule more interviews. The first ones were the hardest to get, partially due to having to reach out to the bands’ PRs or even the bands themselves. After I had a good amount of material I started thinking about the book and how to divide it in chapters. Then, I figured out the essential bands I was yet to cover and went for them. The final process, from signing the publishing contract to doing the last 10 interviews and figuring out the artwork for the book, didn’t take much long, something around six months.
[NSaT is organized into 9 chapters, with 8 representing a subgenre and containing interviews with three of its representative bands. For example, there’s one about Noise/Experimental metal featuring Today Is The Day‘s Steve Austin, as well as the charismatically titled “We Used To Be Hardcore” featuring Corrosion Of Conformity‘s Mike Dean. The last chapter features interviews with the directors of Such Hawks Such Hounds and Blood, Sweat + Vinyl, an interview of A Storm Of Light done by Fábio Massari, as well as an absolutely phenomenal list of the “50 most essential alternative metal records”, compiled by Luiz Mazetto himself.]
Something that has been discussed by writers and readers of the Toilet Ov Hell before is how certain bands or even entire subgenres, like Isis and its post-metal, have a greater appeal among people who don’t regularly listen to metal or at least don’t fit the sterotype of a metalhead. Do you agree with this?
It might be true, maybe due to the fact that these bands, like Isis, don’t really look like “metal”, be it on the realm of clothing and the absence of long hair or on the realm of videos and album covers. On the other hand, some of these artists, perhaps even many of them, don’t want to be labeled as a metal band, or with any other genre tag, really, which can be unappealing to a more traditional metal audience.
Is there anything that got left out of the book or wasn’t around by the time it was written that you wish you had included?
There are a couple bands I wish were on the book, such as YOB, Sleep and Kyuss, they should appear on a new book I’m working on. Come to think of it, I now wish I had written a chapter on crust/sludge, featuring bands like His Hero Is Gone, Unearthly Trance and Tragedy. They’d be a good fit not only thanks to their sound but also because they’re connected to Neurosis and other bands who made the book.
What are the plans to release the book on other countries? I heard more interviews would be added. Can you share anything about that?
This project is an idea more than anything, to be honest. I actually talked to a publisher, but unfortunately there’s nothing concrete yet. I’m working on many, many interviews that will be featured in a new book, in Portuguese. One of my ideas is to put both books together and publish in English, but it’s still embryonal. This May I’m going to Psycho California and meeting with some of the bands featured in the first book – Eyehategod, Old Man Gloom, Kylesa, Russian Circles and Cave In, besides talking to others I have either interviewed recently or have plans to interview, like Cult Of Luna, Sleep and Goatsnake.
You’ve mentioned cinema among your journalistic interests. Have you written about it? Any plans for that?
Besides journalism, I have a degree in film. Actually, it was more of a technical/practical kind of course. But I’ve never written about it. The biggest thing I’ve done in that field was a short film with José Mojica Marin (Zé Do Caixão, or Coffin Joe) and a Brazilian cinema program in college. It’s definitely something I want to write about in the future. There’s lots of good people and untold stories in filmmaking, specially regarding Brasil’s “damned” generation of the 1960s and 70s.
I’m sure you know your Brazilian metal more than I do. What bands from our country would fit right in with the masters of crooked, alternative metal you interviewed for your book?
I am more of an enthusiast than anything, I don’t know more than anyone. Anyway, I’ve always had contact with the Brazilian underground from playing in a band for many years. It’s where you’ll find the best groups in our modern metal scene. Brazilian bands that I like and would fit in the book, active or not: Labirinto, Ruína, Noala, Crushing Darkness, Carahter, Elma, Saturndust [reviewed here], Jupiterian, Herod, O Cúmplice e Deaf Kids.
[I am a poser and only know 3 of these bands]
Tell us your favorite/most anticipated albums of 2015 so far.
I am eagerly awaiting for the new High On Fire with Kurt Ballou production once again, as well as the new Steve Von Till, which lately has been hitting the spot even more than Neurosis. Two of its songs are out and they have both ruined my day in the best way possible. There’s also the new Faith No More record on the horizon, which probably won’t be great but it’s a band I grew up listening to. I’m also constantly listening to the new records from Marriages and Godspeed You! Black Emperor that came out earlier this year. Oh, I’m also waiting for the new Deftones as well.
Do you have any crazy or lolbuttz stories to share? Could be something that happened in a concert or during an interview.
I think the funniest story is the one I told about the Shrinebuilder interview. Seriously, I was in the same room as Al Cisneros, Wino and Dale Crover with an entire series of questions about Neurosis. It ended up being an informal chat, with some good moments. I imagined they must have thought “this guy sucks!”, because I wasn’t prepared or anything. Anyway, the interview didn’t end up the way I’d want it to, of course, but it made me realize that, even though I was fresh out of college and had never officially written about metal, I had to pursue it on my own. Years later it resulted on the book and being able to write for CVLT Nation and Vice.
Luiz Mazetto is one of the most insightful interviewers in metal right now. He is the author of Nós Somos A Tempestade, a book you can purchase here, if you’re able to read Portuguese. He also collaborates with CVLT Nation (I’d recommend his interview with Emma Ruth Rundle here), Noisey/Vice and has his own personal page Contra Corrente.
This post is part of a series of articles featuring the perspective of people who are not primarily musicians but are still part of the metal community – photographers, illustrators, producers, promoters, roadies, you name it. You can read other entries in the series below:
(Photos via personal archive)