Monday, October 31, 2016

interview with Mike Coles, from The Outcast webzine

Mike Coles has been moshing, banging his head, screaming in bands, doing zines and taking pictures for a long time. Once he got into metal in the seventh grade in the late 1980s, he says, it’s been a constant in his life. He has introduced many people to new bands and to metal in general over the years, myself included, of course. He was there in person for the big wave of death metal that appeared in the late 80s and early 90s. Friendly, hysterically comical and down to earth, he also happens to be a walking library of metal music knowledge, as you will read in this interview. In this interview Mike will take you back to the 80s and the 90s big time.
You have been writing about metal music for a long time. How did you get into metal music in the beginning? Do you remember your first contacts with metal music?
My friend Jose Medrano from Houston introduced me to metal in 1988, I think it was. Whatever year it was that I was in 7th grade. He introduced me to King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Testament, Exodus, Anthrax, and from there, after each album that I bought, I would read the "Thank you to...." and would discover other bands in that way. Funny story, when I moved from Texas, using this method of finding new bands out, there was a music store called Camelot Music store at the Cape mall in Missouri. There was a metalhead that worked there and he would let my friends and I buy tapes, go to the car and listen to them, and whatever we didn't like we would return and exchange what we didn't like for other bands. After a few months of doing this, he said we had to stop. hahahahaha!!!
Do you remember how you started doing zines? What gave you that idea? When did you start? In your experience, how was it back in those days?
It's kinda an odd story. I think the year was 1992 or 1993, and I was at this Christian Metal Festival called Cornerstone in Bushnell, Illinois. A friend of mine was doing his own fanzine, you know, simple cut and paste photocopied zine, and he asked me if I would interview some of the local Christian death metal acts that were at the festival. I was like; "Ok." So here I was, 16 years old, not knowing what to do really, not really having any questions in mind, I walked up to this death metal band and asked them if I could interview them. Of course, they said yes and so the interview began. After the interview my "boss"/friend was impressed and said he couldn't believe how well I did with it considering I had never done that before. He said my questions were really great and said he felt ashamed that I was better at his job than he was, ha, ha, ha!!!
He was way older than I was, so maybe that is why he felt ashamed? After a year or so of doing this with him, I started playing in the death metal band Existence in 1992 or 93, can’t recall. After a few years of talking to people in the underground through snail mail, tape trading with other bands with the bands I screamed in, in 1996 I met a guy named Tim from Michigan I think it was and he talked me into working with him in his magazine called Before Dawn. So we released one issue together with Before Dawn in 1996 and in 1997 I decided to go off on my own and The Outcast was born.
Back "in those days" everything was new and fresh. I remember when the first few Death albums came out. I remember when Earache released Altars of Madness, Left Hand Path, etc. I remember buying the first Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Monstrosity, etc. albums. It was fresh. Bands didn't really sound the same as they do now, you know? Today the scene is cluttered with bands that all sound the same. Although I will still do interviews from time to time, I quit reviewing bands releases, old and new. What can I say that I haven't already said, you know? I can't even recall the last newer band I ever bought an album of. I think Orphaned Land is the only newer band that I really enjoy. Give me my old school metal/punk and I'm good to go!!!
Even though you live in the Midwest, you started out in the metal scene in Houston, Texas. What do you remember about The Axiom and other venues and the shows that you saw there?
Although I was 13 when I started going to shows until I was 15 years old before I left TX, I had an awesome mom whom would drop me off at these shows. At times with friends, other times alone, but I tried never to miss a show if I knew about it. I still cannot believe she let me go to these shows in downtown Houston, especially alone at that age. I would never let my kids do that today!! Numbers was the first venue and time I saw King Diamond in 1989 during the Conspiracy tour and GWAR during their Hell-O tour. Great memories there for sure seeing my idol at the time live!! And GWAR, well, it's GWAR!! Fitzgeralds was the first venue and time I saw DRI, Sick of it all, and Nasty Savage. First show I ever stage dove at and it was the first time I almost got knocked out because someone stage dove into my eye. The Afterdark. No comment there.
And of course, The Axiom. I saw so many bands there. Morbid Angel during their Altars of Madness tour was our last show together there before I moved from TX, huh? Great memories!! I saw Morbid Scream there, Devastation, Soilent Green, Dark Reign, Dead Horse, Lunacy, Malignant Terror, etc. I cannot recall all of the bands I saw, but I do recall having a great metal childhood!! One of my fondest memories at the Axiom was Dead Horse having to stop shows all of the time because of the skinheads. Always fighting and causing havoc. Thankfully this little Mexican survived the hate!! hahahaha!!! And let’s not forget the Laaz Rockit, D.B.C., and Devastation show at the Axiom when the fire martial and fire dept showed up. And oh yeah, when I almost got arrested for peeing in the alley that night. Great memories for sure!!!
How was the move from Houston to the Midwest at first, in terms of family, school friends and all that? Did you miss going to shows?
At first the moved sucked!! I hated living in a town of nothing full of racist assholes. And although I still hate that town with all my heart (Anna, IL), I'm not going to lie, the slower pace of life was nice. No traffic or gang violence, you know? As for friends, when I moved. I had maybe 5 friends? Everyone was afraid of me when I moved back to Illinois from TX because of my Satanic imagery due to metal. It was rather humorous. Yes, I missed out on many shows when I left Houston, but if you go to The Outcast fb page, one will see ticket stubs from around 80% of the shows I was able to catch in St. Louis, MO. back in the early 90s up until now. I still go to shows. I saw DRI and Metal Church a few weeks back, you know?
At The Galaxy in St. Louis I was able to catch Dissection and At the Gates in their prime, you know? At Mississippi nights I was able to catch Kreator during the Coma of Souls tour. I've seen Morbid Angel on every tour after I left Houston in St. Louis. I got to see Grave, Cancer, Demolition Hammer, Monstrosity, Devastation, Cannibal Corpse during their Eaten Back to Life tour, Deicide on their first tour and everyone else mentioned at CLUB 367 during their first releases. I got to meet King Diamond for the first time at Mississippi Nights in 1994 I think it was. I was able to hang out with Sepultura and talk to Igor during the Arise tour at CLUB 367. I have great memories from living in TX and going to shows, but don't think I haven't had my METAL fill here in the Midwest, either!! Let's not forget Milwaukee Metal Fest, either!! That was only 8 hours from my house. Great memories there as well!!
Now that you are older, have you grown to like the Midwest more? You went from living in a big city like Houston and to a small town. Were you miserable at first? How do you feel about it all now?
I'm currently living in Ironton (remember that horrible town?) due to my divorce, but still work in Carbondale. I live in Illinois and in Missouri. It's a crazy life, I tell ya!! I'm not miserable living in Carbondale, but I am in Ironton. Thankfully St. Louis is only 1hr 20min away so when I need to live the city life, I take off and go there. Carbondale is a cool little city, even though it’s ranked at 23 out of 100 as most dangerous cities to live in. But yeah, I call Southern Illinois my home and I'm ok with that now.
How many bands have you been in? You were the vocalist for El Pecado, which is in Metal Archives. What other bands did you work with?
It is pretty cool that some dude from Japan bought our El Pecado demo and put us in the Metal Archives. I had no clue we were in there until a couple of years ago. Since 1992 I've screamed in CLAY, Existence, TURN, Koz-E Kittens, El Pecado and played keys and handled theatrics with S.S. Bounty Hunter. In 1999 I quit playing music all together and started focusing on my photography and writing. Haven't played with anyone sense.
Do you ever the get itch to do vocals again?!
Yes, I tried reforming El Pecado with the bass player a few months back, but I think since my ideologies have changed, people think one cannot be a Christian and play metal so it never happened. Maybe one day I'll find some people who love metal and that can and will accept my lyrics.
You have kids and you have been married. Do your kids like metal? How have you approached this issue? What kind of contradictions or dilemmas did you run into?
My son is ok with metal, but my daughter hates it!! She actually started bawling the first time I let them listen to El Pecado and Koz-E Kittens. She said it scared her!! I couldn't help but laugh hysterically at her, which then made her cry even more. Bad, bad daddy!! Hahahaha!! I pretty much just listen to Christian pop music when I'm with my kids in the car anymore. It's just easier to please everyone in the car and not just me, you know? And as far as the "bad metal", I do not listen to anything evil or Satanic anymore, so I think the metal I do play for them in the car is ok. Usually power metal of some sort if I listen to it with them although they call all metal, death metal. Still trying to teach them the difference!! Hahahaha!!
Finally, you do photography of all kinds. Can you talk about that and about your business with that? You are active with The Outcast web zine. Can you tell us about that and what you do in 2016?
I've been shooting professionally since 1999 and haven't looked back. I do not photo-shop any pictures or believe that scene is for me, which has made me lose business, but oh well!! Yes, I'm an artist, but when it comes to photography I'm a purist. I don't like to manipulate pictures. Due to how I work and do not really advertise other than on FB and word of mouth, my business isn't much of a business in my book. I do an occasional wedding, band shoots, Sr. pictures, etc. a few times a year, but waiting tables at my job is where my main source of income comes from.
Digital photography and the amount of photographers around now has somewhat "killed" the photography business. About 4 years ago I had a photographer in Carbondale who had been established way before me, call me asking me for a job. I busted out laughing!! I told him what I did on the side for extra money and he said he drove school buses to make ends meet. A few months later he closed shop. For the past two years I've been taking pictures here in Ironton for the little league basketball and baseball teams. Although those are the only two big gigs I get a year as a photographer, these two gigs help me take most of the summer off from my other job so I can stay home with my kids when they aren't in school, so that is a blessing.
As for The Outcast, I still do an occasion interview or concert review, but for the most part I only take pictures of bands more than anything; even bands I do not like. I love doing concert photography the best. If you go to my FB page for The Outcast, one will see pictures from 1989-until now. Although some pictures are not on-line due to taking them with a 110 film camera back in the day, meaning they aren't that great!! :)

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