Metal Talk: Bradley Zorgdrager of Exclaim! & BANGER TV

How did you get into reviewing albums and interviewing bands?

This started when I was at Conestoga College for print journalism. In our second year, we wrote a weekly school paper and a couple of your articles could be opinion pieces. Being music obsessive, my opinion pieces became reviews of albums. Eventually, we had a Careers in Journalism class, for which we had to do an informational interview with someone whose career we were interested in, asking about their education, an average day at work, pros and cons, etc. Someone who interviewed bands for a local TV station agreed to be my subject, but when it came time to set up the interview closer to the due date, she disappeared. Fortunately, I had been hanging out with my friends in a band called Exalt recently, who had played a gig with the band Vilipend. In passing, one of them mentioned how it was wild that the singer of the band they’d played with as the metal/hardcore editor at Exclaim!, so I cold called him and he agreed to do the interview. At the end of our conversation, I asked him if I could send him some of my work. I wasn’t thinking he’d ask me to write for them but was hoping maybe for some pointers. He replied saying it was pretty good and asking for more work, so I sent him something else and was preparing another sample, but before I could finish he emailed me back and said what he’d seen was good enough to offer me the opportunity to write for them. That was coming up on six years ago, now.

You're a part of Exclaim! and Banger TV, how did you land those gigs?

I just told you the story about how I first started with Exclaim!, but I’ll go into more detail on how I went from freelance writer to full-time employee. At the end of every year, we have genre-specific meetings to discuss trends of that year. I attended some of these because by the next year I had moved to Toronto to attend university there, so it was convenient for me to swing by. I built up a bit of a rapport with the editors because of that, so when I needed to do an internship for my degree, I applied and got one of the positions. While interning, I was helping our concert listings guy out with editing/inputting data and was quite fast. When he left, they asked me to continue doing that for part of my internship, which was extended to an offer of part-time employment while I finished my final year of school. I was offered more hours following completing my classes, eventually allowing me to take over as Assistant Editor of the metal and hardcore section, Producer of our Aggressive Tendencies and No Future YouTube channels and Sponsorship and Promotions Manager.

As far as Banger TV, it started when my predecessor as Assistant Editor of the metal and hardcore section guested on their Lock Horns show, which is a live streamed debate digging into the Metal Family Tree they developed when making the documentary ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.’ She connected me with someone at Banger, who subsequently had me on as a guest for the deathcore debate. I appeared on another episode (a debate about metal in fashion) and was asked to try out for their Overkill Reviews series. I guess I did alright because they asked me to become a regular, and here we are. I recently reviewed the latest album by Vancouver technical death metal masters Archspire.

Is it hard at first reviewing an album whilst talking to a camera instead of typing it up?

Dude, it’s such a weird transition. Being a writer, you focus on each word and you want to avoid repetition because someone can look over your work and notice its lack of diversity, but people don’t talk like they write and you can say the same stuff a few times. For example, when you’re writing you don’t want to keep referring to a release as “the album,” so you throw in “the record,” “the LP,” “their third release,” etc., but in conversation you might just keep calling it “the record” and the goal of talking at a camera is to appear conversational and natural. Breaking the obsession with specific syntax is very hard, but the end result benefits from you talking naturally over regurgitating a specific sentence you came up with; it ain’t a newscast.

What 3 albums have you heard this year that have completely blown you away?

This is such a difficult question. The first one would have to be Vatican’s Ache of Eternity EP, which I released on my record label Sorrow Carrier Records. I was in a bit of a musical slump when I first discovered them, with nothing really exciting me, so I often found myself sitting in silence and listening to nothing. After hearing Vatican, I listened to nothing but them for ages. Eventually, my friend Tom, who I’d met when the pop punk band I tour managed, Like Pacific, toured with the pop punk band he plays in, Forever Came Calling. We bonded over being the metal/hardcore nerds on tour. Anyway, I went down to Binghamton, New York to see the band play (that’s a five hour drive), and I spoke with Tom about who was going to put out their next release. He said he wasn’t sure and I tossed my name into the hat. I hadn’t released anything in years due to the Canadian dollar being shit and being busy in other areas of life, but I loved the band enough to revive it. Luckily, they went with me and the release is great. It’s got something for everyone into heavy music, including the crushing early metallic hardcore sounds of bands like Disembodied and Converge, the slightly more melodic ones of bands like Poison the Well or Eighteen Visions, melodic death metal riffing a la At the Gates, deathcore brutality in the vein of early Suicide Silence and the sharp death metal of Cryptopsy.

Another highlight would have to be Employed to Serve’s The Warmth of a Dying Sun. They somehow make chaotic metallic hardcore catchy without sacrificing the unpredictability that makes that music so special. You can read my Exclaim! review here to get my full opinion of the release, but I’ll throw my final paragraph summation below, too:

“As the best bands of their subgenre have done — Converge, the Dillinger Escape Plan and Curl Up and Die, to name a few — Employed to Serve mastered chaos before transcending it. Though disorder often seems to control those who try to tame it, it's clearly serving these Brits, rather than vice-versa.”

Being limited to three is really hard, as I could just talk for ages about rad albums, but I’m going to give the last spot to Full of Hell for their album Trumpeting Ecstasy. I ain’t giving you my full opinion here (watch my damn Banger review for that), but these dudes meld genres in a way like no other. Exclaim! Aggressive Tendencies is actually co-presenting a tour they’re on with Cattle Decapitation, Revocation and Artificial Brain, which is a huge honour. In my news story about the tour, I called them “noisy grind bastards of death,” which somehow sums them up perfectly yet not at all. Not enough bands have their own sound these days, but these guys definitely do, and they’re CONSTANTLY releasing music. Like, I saw a post today that they’re in the studio again, and they have their second collaborative album with The Body coming out later this year.

Is there a band or particular music artist that you haven't interviewed that you'd love to talk to someday?

The first interview I ever did for Exclaim! was with Jacob Bannon of Converge, which was pretty much the pinnacle for me, but there will always be others I want to talk to. The first to come to mind is Cannibal Corpse, who I had an interview set up with once but it fell through last minute because shit happens on tour. I’m also really looking forward to talking with Andrew W.K. about his love of death metal. Someday I’ll pull my boots up and interview Curl Up and Die for a comprehensive retrospective of one of the most underappreciated bands ever. Oh! I’d love to interview Glen Benton of Deicide. I’d also like to interview Gaahl, formerly of Gorgoroth, but only if he doesn’t try to take me up the mountain to his favourite place because I think I’d collapse first (watch the Vice mini-doc about him if you don’t know what I’m talking about). If this dream goes into total fantasy, I’d love to talk to Paul Baloff, formerly of Exodus, because he was obsessed with metal and the original voice of the greatest thrash band of all time.

What's your favourite live show that you've ever attended?

I don’t know if I have a definitive answer for this, but I did mosh for Converge at the Decibel 100th issue celebration in Philadelphia, which I NEVER do, so clearly something about that set was super special. I recently saw some bands I never thought I’d see — Disembodied, Martyr A.D., Racetraitor, Insect Warfare, etc. — and that was very exciting for me. I also saw The Secret once in Philadelphia, and I’m super glad I made the trek because they never made it back across the ocean and are inactive, as far as I can tell.

What's your preferred sub genre in metal, with so many out there, is it hard to pick just one?

It’s so hard that I actually refuse to pick just one. My favourites are metallic hardcore/metalcore (before it became the curse word of heavy music), death metal and grindcore, as well as any mutated fusion of the aforementioned.

What's been your favourite album to review so far this year?

Man, I don’t even know. I’m going to go ahead and say the Archspire album, Relentless Mutation, if only because it was the most recent one I did for Banger and we did it on our new set. I’ve gotten a lot looser in my reviews, so they’re just more fun in general to do lately, as I goof off more and say dumb shit that I think is funny.

Do you have any advice for those that want to get into the music industry? Whether it's writing, filming, band management or being in a band?

Just do it. It’s such an unconventional industry. I started tour managing Like Pacific because I messaged their bassist, Chris, whom I’d been friends with for a while, and said (and I quote), “Bring me on tour, you fuck.” I came up with the idea for Sorrow Carrier Records on an airplane just spit-balling with my brother, then when my friends in Safe to Say were looking to release an album, I said fuck it, let’s do this now. I took over a lot of the video stuff at Exclaim! with rudimentary knowledge and a lot of passion to succeed and develop a platform with which I could shine a light on bands I think deserve it, which I’m getting closer and closer to. This whole industry runs on passion, especially on the heavy side of thing where there isn’t as much money, so if you have that, that’s half the battle. Figure everything else out as you go; be a nice person and you’ll be amazed at all the people who will help you out. Oh, and if music is your only hobby/area of interest (as it was for me), be prepared to develop another one or three because you’ll get burnt out and want to do nothing more than sit in silence sometimes, and that can get really boring if you don’t have anything else to focus on.

You can follow Bradley here:

Twitter - @BradSeed Instagram - @BradSeed Exclaim! - YouTube - Aggressive Tendencies & No Future & BANGER TV Record Label - Sorrow Carrier Records / @SorrowCarrier on Twitter / @SorrowCarrierRecords on Instagram Vatican (your new favourite band)

Written by Steve Jenkins

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