by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist –
Hardrock Haven’s founder, publisher John Kindred, gets grilled by one of his staff columnists Alexandra Mrozowska. After 10 plus years running the respected online magazine, the man behind the curtain gives insight into his past, his opinion on music journalism, and more…
Alexandra Mrozowska: Please introduce yourself in short and tell me how your adventure with the music journalism has begun.
John Kindred: My name is John Kindred, and I live in the in Liberty, Mo., U.S.A. Growing up, I was fan of hard rock and metal music. As a child, I grew up listening to my father’s favorite music bands, such as Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Eagles; classic rock mostly. From there, I latched on to KISS and truly loved their image and music. By 1984, when I was 14, I had an electric guitar and began learning to play. The next step was playing in bands and forming the all-original band Felony in the late ‘80s. We recorded a couple demos and worked with Eric Grief, who later managed a band named DEATH, on one demo, which we sent to labels, looking for a recording deal. Eventually, that dream faded as the music scene changed in the early ‘90s. My guitar playing went on the back burner for a few years, but I still was listening to music and discovering music and bands I had missed, as the current musical trends were unsatisfying for me. I love to read and have written plenty of poems and lyrics over the years. In ’96, if I recall, I was living in Texas and was newly married. My wife is a journalist, and I was interested in learning how to create websites, which need content. I started building a website that revolved around my interests, music being the primary focus. This laid the foundation for Hardrock Haven.
Alexandra Mrozowska: Can you introduce the website you are in charge of – Hardrock Haven (http://hardrockhaven.net/online/) and say a few things about the foundations of it?
John: Hardrock Haven has existed in its current incarnation since 2003. There have been many layout changes, a lot of html coding learning and plenty of time learning how to write properly. It helps that my wife is an editor! Originally, I started soliciting records labels and musicians about reviewing their music. Unsigned bands and smaller labels provided a lot of the early content; reviews, interview and concert reviews. I have made some long-lasting friendships with some stellar musicians, such as Alan Williamson, a guitarist in the U.K.; partnerships with some great music labels, such as Lion Music and Frontiers Records; and PR firms, such as Earsplit PR, Chipster PR and Freeman Promotions. As the first “employee,” I was handling all duties, including webmaster, publisher and writer. It didn’t take me long to bring on other staff writers and begin creating a network of amazing writers and photographers.
Alexandra Mrozowska: Once, I heard an opinion that most of the music journalists are “the unfulfilled musicians,” who have decided to try the other side of the spectrum of the music industry after years of an unsuccessful struggle in garage bands, etc. What is your take on that?
John: A lot of music journalists have never played a note! I still write and record music, and what I do is for myself first. When I write, it’s about me; it’s about what I have to say as musician, as a lyricist. You know what? It’s therapy. When everyone else’s world is falling apart, I can pick up a guitar and get lost in it for hours. It might be a little better than drugs and alcohol. Being a music journalist, for me, is an avenue to let people know about bands that they may never hear about. I am proud to say that I provide a platform for many of the Hardrock Haven staff to express their feelings about the music they love. I don’t want the glory; I just provide the portal for the writers and photographers to showcase their work.
Alexandra Mrozowska: Which advantages and disadvantages had been brought with a shift from newspapers and magazines to world of the Internet and specified webzines? What changes has it brought to the worldwide music journalism?
John: While the Internet provides the ability for freedom of expression, it also is lets everyone who thinks they are a rock stars put inferior products out there on the Web, cluttering it up. Whether it is music or words, it’s all the same. It leaves readers listeners and readers drowning in a polluted information highway. Newspapers took too long to figure out the Internet, and at least in the U.S., it has led the industry to take a nose dive, leaving a lot of unemployed journalists looking for work. As far as music journalism is concerned, anyone can start a website, say they’re a professional journalist and away they go. Oftentimes, quality suffers with terrible looking sites and plenty of bad grammar. But there also those that shine. Again, more of something doesn’t make it better. Quality over quantity is what matters.
Alexandra Mrozowska: Which forms of music journalism do you prefer: Album/DVD reviews, concert reviews or the interviews and why?
John: When it comes to music, at least right now, I prefer to listen to music. Reviews of music filmed for DVD is cool, but unless it’s a band you really want to see, I defer to a listening to a physical CD over MP3. The industry mainly has moved to releasing MP3 or digital promos. And you know what? Just like the previous generation prefers vinyl, well, CDs are way better than compressed digital audio files. Concert reviews really have to be a band that I want to see. There are so many bands out there today that it’s hard to not be jaded and only like what you want to like.
Alexandra Mrozowska: What features of character are essential to a good music journalist?
John: If you can’t take being critiqued, then get out of the game. Throw your ego out the door. I want to make you a better writer, and if you don’t want to listen and learn, hit the road. I am not perfect. I am way better than I was when I first started. I have a lot of pride in Hardrock Haven, knowing that two of my editors, Derric Miller and Kathy Kindred have degrees in journalism. Several staff writers work in PR, marketing or are technical writers. Several have written books. And a lot don’t have the accolades or certificates or degrees. But they all work hard, they listen to me, and I listen to them. As the publisher, I get critiqued too, and I should because the visual or navigational changes to the site make it easier to use. I need input to make it so.
Alexandra Mrozowska: “People who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read” – that is how a rock musician Frank Zappa defined rock journalism in his ‘The Real Frank Zappa’ book. What is your comment on that?
John: Wow. That’s truly an intellectual slam on everyone. Hardrock Haven writers can write, and we do our best to ask questions that musicians intelligently can answer and the site’s visitors can read and genuinely are interested in the artists and bands we cover. Our stats keep going up, so we are doing something right, or is it write?
Alexandra Mrozowska: Now, a bit stockist question, let’s say – how would you consider the quality of music journalism nowadays?
John: Major outlets that follow Associated Press style guidelines in conjunction with their own style guidelines that parallel AP style have it right. Quality is important; is it “to” or “too?” People should care that you get it correct, or you look sloppy and lazy. We probably don’t get it right all the time, but we are damned close. We are at least in the high 90th percentile. I do go out and read what other music sites say about a bands and their music to get another perspective. There probably are some home-grown music sites that should call it a day, and there are some big ones that should do the same.
Alexandra Mrozowska: Are there any professional magazine writers or journalists whom you consider/ed your role models? What are your favorite magazine titles?
John: I never really thought about it. I read more of Hardrock Haven’s articles than any other specific magazine. I can say that Alissa Ordabai is a great writer, Mark Allen makes you chuckle, Derric is pretty studious; see, I can talk about our staff more than others. Now, if you are talking about book authors, I like to read guitar magazines and comic books, but I read more print novels than print or online magazines.