So the tables have turned a bit. I want to get to know the people who spend countless hours covering and writing about the bands and artists we all listen to and love. Whether, you are a journalist, photographer, publicist or artist, chances are you are in this industry because you are a fan, first and foremost.
First, please tell us who you are and your role in the music industry and what’s your genre?
My name is Jessie May. I edit the websites Alternative Control and Metalhead Money. I’m also a musician — I play bass in a stoner rock band called Owl Maker and play guitar and sing in a band called Turkey Vulture that I guess could be best described as “doom punk.”
What’s your first musical memory?
Cassettes in my dad’s red Ford pickup! Allman Brothers and Vanilla Ice, what a combo…
Whatever your genre, what was the driving force that pushed you in that direction?
I think I was drawn to the energy at underground shows, and the “tough guy” attitude of local metal musicians. Would I think they were so tough almost twenty years later? Probably not, we’re all well-adjusted adults with houses and kids now!
How did you first discover your genre? For me it was a vhs tape my cousin had with videos recorded from Much Music. (Enter Sandman, 18 and Life, Youth Gone Wild)
When I was a young teen in the late 1990s, I started listening to stuff like System of a Down and Marilyn Manson (yuck….). I also started going to local shows around that time. A couple years later, when I was old enough to drive, I borrowed my parents car and drove a bunch of my friends up to this scary hole-in-the-wall venue; I think went to see E-Town Concrete, but ended up being wowed by this band we’d never heard of called Unearth.
For folks who are unfamiliar, they’re a Boston-based metalcore band that’s still going strong today. I had never heard those kind of vocals or that style of playing before, and it made a big impression. One of our group got nominated to buy the Stings of Conscience CD and then recorded it on cassette for the rest of us. I still have that cassette.
It’s not that I got crazy into metalcore, but Unearth was definitely my introduction to stuff that was heavier than radio metal.
How did it all start for you? What was your foot in the door?
As far as music journalism goes, I’ve always loved writing and being “on the scene” so to speak. I remember getting sent to the principal’s office for distributing a newsletter of dirty jokes in middle school; I also wrote for my college newspaper and several local weekly publications.
At some point, my old college roommate and I decided it would be cool to start a zine about women in metal — but thought the costs of printing and distribution seemed like a lot to wrangle. Then we realized there was this thing called The Internet where we could just make a zine for free (or free-ish), and Alternative Control was born!
Can you tell us about some of your successes in the music industry? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Alternative Control has run some really cool interviews over the years. I think my favorite is when I got to interview Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity at Psycho Las Vegas 2017. We sat down and had a nice Sunday morning chat! He talked a lot about how the band got started, including a funny story about an early show they played with Slayer and The Obsessed. Also, it was around a time where there was a lot of debate about Confederate monuments and I wanted his opinion as a Southerner… You can read the interview here.
The blog Metalhead Money actually came from a book I published last year called Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials. It’s all about personal finance, with an underground music spin. Just finishing that book in the first place was an accomplishment that took me the better part of a year! And I got to interview some pretty cool folks for it, like Lindsay Schoolcraft (Antiqva, ex-Cradle of Filth) and Jeramie Kling (Inhuman Condition, The Absence).
The best part about the book, though, is hearing from readers that it’s helped them take control of their finances. Money isn’t something people like to talk about, but having the right knowledge can make a really big difference in your level of comfort and security. That’s why I wrote the book, and I’m glad it’s helping people! It’s available in Kindle and paperback here: https://amzn.to/3lCsFdq
So on the flip side, what have been some downfalls or setbacks that you’ve experienced?
Welp, Alternative Control first started in 2010 — and a lot can change in over a decade in terms of responsibilities, interests, and time commitments. Writers come and go, which is fine; it’s not like anyone’s getting paid around here lol, free music and the glory of a byline is the only compensation I can offer. But sometimes it’s a challenge to keep things fresh and find the time in my own schedule to dedicate to the blog. I love writing, though, so I keep it up!
Do you have a certain process for what you do? Me, I do my pr work usually with a movie on in the background. Something to look up at every once in a while.
I’m best at writing in the mornings — and my three-month old son is in his best mood in the mornings too! So weekends after breakfast is a good time to write. I’m in my recliner on the laptop right now, while my son is playing on his mat with a Cookie Monster toy. 🙂
Do you have anything else going on in the music world? Do you play in a band, run a record store, etc? If so, please tell us about it and give us some links to click and follow.
Yep, I play assorted string instruments in assorted underground bands! Check out these bandcamp pages:
Owl Maker: https://owlmaker.bandcamp.com/album/sky-road
Turkey Vulture: https://turkeyvulture.bandcamp.com/album/time-to-pay
The Shoutbacks: https://theshoutbacks.bandcamp.com/album/trouble-at-my-door
Alternative Control also has its own bandcamp account with several really good free comps featuring bands we’ve written about. No garbage tracks, download for zero dollars here: https://alternativecontrolct.bandcamp.com/album/volume-doom
What words of encouragement or warnings could you give to someone looking to get into your sector?
Running a music blog is an awesome hobby that opens a lot of doors. Thanks to Alternative Control and Metalhead Money, I’ve gotten to talk with internationally known musicians who I truly admire. I can send an email to anyone in the metal world and usually get some kind of response. Not that my bands are touring anytime soon or ever, but I could throw darts at a map of the United States and book a tour with bands I’m in touch with because of the blogs. So there are a lot of great fringe benefits!
That being said, if you’re thinking of starting a music blog, do it because you enjoy writing and promoting bands you love. Don’t do it for money! Because there is none…
On a side note, the social media associated with your blog is how you will get the word out and drive a lot of traffic — so when you start your blog, start some social accounts for it as well and stay active!
Are there any other words you could leave us with?
It’s been a rough year for the music world — so as participants in The Scene, it’s time to go into full “Support” mode. If there’s a bar you like, go there and drink. If there’s a band you like, buy their new CD. If there’s a blog you enjoy, subscribe to their Patreon. We can support without money too — things like social shares and playlisting may seem like drops in the bucket, but eventually the bucket gets full!
Keith, thank you for inviting me to do this interview! In all my years of being part of The Scene, this is my first time being interviewed about music journalism!
Its been fantastic getting to know more about you and I look forward to working with you more and more in the future.
Help support these blogs on Patreon and Ko-Fi!
Bass photo by Matt Jersey.