Favorite

Barely Legal 

Alternative Press celebrates 20 years of breaking bands.

Lou Barlow's worst nightmare: Alternative - Press Editor-in-Chief Jason Pettigrew. - WALTER  NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • Lou Barlow's worst nightmare: Alternative Press Editor-in-Chief Jason Pettigrew.
Jason Pettigrew stabs at the ice cubes in his drink as if Steve Perry were doing breaststrokes in his raspberry tea.

"Journey is coming to Blossom," the editor-in-chief of Cleveland's Alternative Press magazine says. "And there's going to be 27,000 morons there that are going to eat that stuff up. 'Dude, I got my first hand job to 'Lovin', Touchin,' Squeezin'.'' When the end of days comes, it's going to be led by Thomas Alva Edison, whose beloved invention, the phonograph, was used to promulgate such socially, emotionally, psychically, musically devoid stuff as Journey."

It's this kind of invective that's long defined Pettigrew -- he seems to take bad records personally, as if they're somehow responsible for the loss of a loved one. It's not surprising that a guy like him would despise the cardboard classic rock of a group like Journey. But what is startling is that AP has become as much an institution as those shaggy-haired '80s mainstays.

Beginning as a homemade 'zine on newsprint in 1985, AP helped catalyze the industrial and goth movements in the early '90s and was the first magazine to feature future stars like Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails on its cover. In the late '90s, it broke nü metal -- and as with a drunken dalliance with a cross-eyed stripper, it's been trying to live it down ever since.

In recent years, AP has experienced a creative and commercial rebirth by helping spearhead the current boom in contemporary punk. This week, the magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a blowout concert at Scene Pavilion, featuring prog-punk Coheed and Cambria, hard-edged emo upstart Story of the Year, and half a dozen others. With 20 years of bruising egos behind him, Pettigrew sat down with us to reflect on the good times, the bad times, and Lou Barlow.

Scene: Do you ever get tired of defending AP's n&3252;-metal era? It was a relatively short period, like three years, but people still give you so much shit about it.

Pettigrew: We really don't defend it. I mean, it's really kind of indefensible in some ways. The reason we covered that stuff was because here was a genre of music that was gaining a lot of interest, a groundswell, but nobody was writing about it with some analysis or integrity -- and what I mean by integrity is that we didn't use words like "amazing pipes" or "blistering fretwork," all those things that you see in Metal Lunchbox, Metal Chair, whatever. But we weren't emotionally invested in that stuff.

But what was it about bands like Story of the Year and Yellowcard that got you emotionally reinvested? From an artistic standpoint, they don't seem to be any more credible than the Deftones or Korn.

My personal interest in that is on more of a sociological level, because those bands mean so much to these kids. And when I say kids, I don't even mean that in a condescending way, like the typical middle-aged rock critic being like, "You call that punk? Let me tell you what punk is." They're just punishing young people who were swimming in their old man's balls while the Ramones were still making records.

But as AP's direction has changed, you've had to shift your focus away from acts that you once were an advocate for and developed personal relationships with as a result. And some acts, like Ministry, Boys Against Girls, even Nine Inch Nails, still seem a little bitter about it.

What's that classic line from Almost Famous: "Rock stars are not your friends." My wife reminds me of that constantly. I have a really short list of people that I can talk to when they come to town, and they'll make their complaints and point me out as being part of the devil and all that stuff. It is difficult, because the thing about music culture is that it's all about right now. And a lot of the young kids who read AP now and are going to the Warped Tour -- they're young enough where, to them, Green Day invented punk. I'm not making a comment on that, positive or negative; it's just the generational shift of how things work. I mean, we don't put the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the cover anymore, and they can still sell a million or so records. Admittedly this may sound ageist, but for the most part, it is a young person's game.

What rock stars have been the biggest pain in the ass to deal with?

John Lydon is the classic one. Lydon was difficult because he knew that this was the only press he was going to get for his shitty 9 album. I was looking at the clock while I was talking to him, we were on the phone, and it was like, "Oh, we're right on the hour, it's 3:59, as soon as that hour hits, that's it, I know he's gonna shut it down." And sure enough, after it hit he said, "I'm going now, you're boring me." And I go, "Oh, well, I listened to your album three times before the interview, the least I could do is return the favor." And he goes, "Humor, how droll." And puts down the phone. And sure enough, it was four o'clock.

Outside that, Tool was very difficult. The story behind Tool is that we had some other writer go out and spend time with them. He'd ask them a question, and they'd be like reading books -- "Did you say something?" It was just a really bad scene. Finally the guy said, "Ah, fuck it, I got nothing" and leaves. So I go there. Sometimes they would be condescending to me, and I would be condescending back. That was Tool's first major magazine cover. It was like, "We're going to treat you like shit," and you had to either lie down on the ground and let them use your face as a welcome mat or you were just going to basically come after them for certain things. It was a terrible situation.

What are some of the best feuds with bands and their handlers that AP's gotten into over the years?

There have been things, but they're usually fleeting. The only one that's been really lasting is with Lou Barlow. Sebadoh has always gotten a lot of stories in Alternative Press. They've always gotten good reviews. When that last album on Sub Pop came out, The Sebadoh, it got something like a two out of five. Then when Sebadoh came to town, Lou Barlow was like, "Fuck that magazine, that magazine has always sucked." Then the next time it was like, "Every time we come to Cleveland, we like to say a special fuck you to Alternative Press" and all that stuff. But look at his career now; he's so insignificant.

As far as other things, [AP Editorial Director] Aaron Burgess went on tour with Family Values one year and was backstage when some roadie had a bunch of drumsticks and a naked groupie, as an audience looked on. And then Fieldy from Korn said to him, "You're not going to write about that, are you?" Burgess was like, "Maybe I will, maybe I won't." And he's like, "No, you won't, dude. I'll come after you." Well, as soon as Fieldy said that, it was as good as done. And then somebody from the Firm [Korn's management group] called up [AP publisher] Mike Shea and said, "Aaron Burgess will have no access to our artists ever again." And Aaron was like, "Hooray! I'm free."

Have you ever regretted really ripping into a band, in hindsight?

No, because I don't think anybody's ever died.

Maybe their careers have.

That's not my problem. Because frankly, I don't think I'm that important. You just have to call 'em like you see 'em. I'm not apologizing.

More by Jason Bracelin

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Staff Pick Events

  • John Morgan @ Improv Comedy Club & Restaurant

    • Wed., Aug. 31
  • Finesse Mitchell @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Thu., Sept. 1
  • Tanz SummerFest (On Tour)

    • Sat., Sept. 3

Facebook Activity

© 2016 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation