Shayne Mathis (@MetalShayne2000) is an enigma wrapped inside an American pie full of chocolate mouse and creamy goodness. Few actual writers reside on the isle of Manhattan but, thanks to Shayne’s shocking ability to obtain and retain a girlfriend, he has that luxury. Shayne hosts the brilliantly funny Full Metal Hipster in addition to his seemingly endless writing duties. You can check out some of his best stuff over at Metal Injection. He’s a versatile, patriotic and wonderful human being that should be listened to, with full attention, when speaking.
We previously interviewed Shayne about one simple subject, his non-metal listening favorites. You can check that out here.
How did you first get into writing and podcasting and have you achieved all your wildest dreams that you set out to achieve?
I’ve written my entire life. Like most of humanity, I have a biological drive to create but I hate children and I suck at most creative endeavors. I discovered at a young age I could string words together well enough to occasionally evoke praise from my peers and teachers, and that kind of stuck with me. At various points in my life I’ve flirted with acting, drawing, playing music and filmmaking, but, frankly, I either sucked at or didn’t enjoy any of those things. So writing won out by default.
I started blogging in the early 2000s on MySpace and eventually moved to my own blogs after that. Most of that stuff was a mixture or politics, music, and rants about the absurdity of everyday life. It never occurred to me to try writing for another site or publication until 2012 when I responded to a Facebook post from Hails and Horns magazine soliciting writers. It was at this point when I began writing exclusively about heavy metal.
Hails and Horns folded in early 2013 so I contacted Rob Pasbani at Metal Injection to see if he needed any writers. It turns out he did and I’ve been writing primarily for Metal Injection since then. I’ve also written stuff for New Noise Magazine, Invisible Oranges, and Noisey, too.
In March of this year I launched a podcast called Full Metal Hipster. Essentially, it’s a way for me to talk to artists and creators without having to spend hours transcribing the interview for publishing. It’s also a good way to force my taste in obscure heavy music on people while learning a new skill. It’s gotten a pretty good reception and I just started syndicating it on Metal Injection’s podcast network. Started at the bottom, now I’m here (a little above the bottom).
I don’t really have many dreams or aspirations. I mean, yeah it’d be cool to do this for a living but realistically I know that’s not going to happen. I make a little bit of money from writing and I’ve been published on Vice.com a few times so I’ve basically accomplished more than I ever expected. Also, Dave Mustaine’s son personally insulted me because I called his dad a bitter, dried-up turd in an article, so that’s been a highlight of my journey as a writer.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get a promo, guest list or interview that you really cared about?
I don’t have any good stories about debauching myself for promos or guest list spots. The truth is, being a prestigious heavy metal writer opens a lot of doors. It’s basically like that Sheila E. song “A Love Bizarre.”
You write a bunch and host a podcast. You’re also quite tall (and handsome). Do you prefer the podcast or writing? Which makes you feel more comfortable and secure?
I don’t necessarily prefer one over the other. I can put a podcast together much faster than an 800-1000 word article, but I find writing more fulfilling. The problem I keep running into lately is that it’s increasingly hard to concentrate on writing when the inside of my head sounds like Lou Reed’s 1975 album Metal Machine Music. So, I guess podcasting is more comfortable because it doesn’t devolve into a Barton Finkesque nightmare of frustration to engage in.
What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your work?
Social justice issues are important to me and that frequently carries over into my writing and podcasting. I have nothing but contempt for bigotry and gatekeeping so I try and call out and condemn that crap as often as I can. I’m generally not great about subtlety, so I tend to use strong, confrontational language that angers the knuckle-dragging idiots in my audience, who then lash out in the comments section. I don’t necessarily support the idea of giving assholes an unregulated soapbox to spew their garbage from, but, as vile as it is, when racists/homophobes/etc get vocal it demonstrates to the naive “heavy metal is a meritocracy” crowd that there’s still a long way to go before that’s actually true.
Additionally, I try to seek out and cover artists from marginalized groups. Heavy metal is overwhelmingly straight, white, and male in the United States (and I suspect across the world, as well), and that homogeneity is bad for the music and alienating for people who don’t fit that mold. I try to do what I can to normalize the presence of any group other than straight, white guys. It’s not hard, really. I write about them and talk to them on my podcast as much as I can. I love heavy metal, but ignoring or chasing away minority voices in the culture is the best way to insure the genre remains on the path to artistic stagnation.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you?
Heavy metal has always been in my life in one way or another. My dad listened to stuff like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Mountain so I was exposed to heavy music from a very young age. One of my earliest memories is being equally scared and fascinated by Ozzy Osbourne’s video for “Bark at the Moon.” I guess I officially “got into” metal when I was 12 or 13 and I heard someone playing “Enter Sandman” on the school bus. I was already familiar with hair metal and the burgeoning grunge revolution, but Metallica didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before, and I was hooked immediately. It’s now twenty-three years later and my obsession with metal is as strong as it’s ever been.
What’s the stickiest you have ever been?
The church I grew up going to had an “initiation” into the youth group that involved making all the new kids lay on the floor facing the ceiling while the older kids stood over us and dropped ice cream and sundae fixin’s on our faces. So, basically we got waterboarded with ice cream and chocolate syrup. It was as foul as it sounds – lots of retching and blowing dessert out of noses.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics out there?
Here’s some advice for music writing in general. I’m by no means an authority on the subject, but I try to live by all of these statements and I’m doing ok for myself.
- If you’re thinking of yourself as an aspiring music writer, you’re already in the wrong mindset. In 2015 there are no hurdles to overcome or barriers blocking entry to the fabulous world of music writing. Do or do not. There is no try. If you want to be a music writer, start a blog and write. Shazam, you’re a writer.
- Don’t expect to ever support yourself writing about music. You might get to the point where you can pay your electric bill from writing, but it’s probably never going to turn into a career. Music sites that pay contributors are few and the number is getting smaller all the time. Also, if you’re getting into music writing to make money, you’re delusional and should see a doctor. Oh wait, you can’t afford health insurance because you’re a music writer. Sorry.
- Don’t be a shitheel. There are already enough passive aggressive babies and ax-grinding buttholes in the music writing community. Please don’t add to their ranks.
- Don’t accept exposure as payment. Unless you have a degree from a really good college and industry connections, you’re going to be writing for free when you start out, and that’s fine. But, if you ever get to the point where editors are asking you to write for their site, the first thing out of your mouth should be, “How much money will you pay me?” If the answer is along the lines of, “We can’t afford to pay contributors in cash but you’ll get more exposure,” your answer should be no. Ultimately, it’s up to you, though. I’ve pitched stories to sites that don’t pay, but it was my decision. If a website is using the size of their readership as an enticement to write for them and they have ads, they should be paying you. *Cough* Looking at you Popmatters. *cough cough*
- Don’t write unless you love it, and take a break from writing in you stop loving it.
- Read what other people are writing and then write something totally different.
- Remember that you’re not entitled to anything. Don’t get upset when you can’t get a promo for a huge release to review on your tiny blog that twelve people a month read. I write for one of the biggest heavy metal sites in the world and I still pay for some of the music I write about. Work hard and make connections with PR reps, labels, and bands. That’s the only way you’re going to make a name for yourself.
- Don’t buy into the “reviews should be objective” bologna. Experiencing art is a subjective experience. If you’re going to write about it, tell people what you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy and let them make up their own minds. Your job as a music writer isn’t to tell people what to like.
- There’s nothing of value in the comments section.
- Always punch up. Nobody likes bullies except other bullies.
This one is a two-parter: Being from the Midwest, Ohio to be exact must make life in NYC seem pretty interesting. What’s the one thing you miss most about home and what is your favorite regional dish from your hometown? As a follow-up, how annoyed do you get when someone calls you “Brohio” (please answer on a scale of ‘shrug’ to ‘write something passive-aggressively on twitter’)
The only thing I miss about Ohio is my circle of friends. It’s a boring-ass state full of terrible people. The citizens of New York City get stereotyped as rude, but Ohio is rotten with people who graduated high school and said, “Welp, I’m done learning things and growing as a person!”
I do miss Cincinnati-style chili, though. People outside of Ohio (and a lot of life-long Buckeys) tend to hate it if they ever taste it, but I love it. It’s not traditional chili; it’s a sauce that’s ladled over spaghetti or hotdogs, and the ingredients include cinnamon and chocolate. If you’re reading this you probably think that sounds repulsive, but I would bathe in that stuff if I could.
I can honestly say I’ve never heard the term “Brohio.” If someone called me that I would probably shrug and be like, “You’ve never actually been there have you?”
Finally, what are some of your favorite albums of 2015 (feel free to include non-metal)?
I can’t believe you’re making me do a Best of 2015 list for this thing. I don’t think I’ve listened to any non-metal albums that came out in 2015, so here’s a list of some heavy stuff I’ve been digging this year:
Coliseum – Anxiety’s Kiss
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
Clouds Collide – All Things Shinning
Old Witch/Keeper – Split LP
King Woman – Doubt
Unleash the Archers – Time Stands Still
Yellow Eyes – Sick with Bloom
Visigoth – The Revenant King
Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards
Lament Cityscape – The Torn
Thanks to Shayne for being such a handsome, good sport!