Mick Stingley is a regular contributor to KNAC.com and a staff writer for Metal Edge. His work has been published in The New York Post, Men's Fitness, FHM and CLUB magazines, as well as Hustler Busty, where he was a “friend of the features.” Most recently, he wrote the liner notes to Ministry’s new compilation, RaNtologY. His affairs are chronicled at his blog, Rash of Stabbings.
Age, Occupation, Where are you from, Where are you now?
37; Freelance writer. Regular contributor to Metal Edge, The Hollywood Reporter and KNAC.com. I am cowboy looking for anything heavy.; From Newport, Rhode Island; Now in Washington Heights.
About this photo:
This is a picture of me with Penthouse Pet Tammy Lee from 1999. Since most music critics have out-of-date photos with their bylines, here’s mine.
A few for you:
Are music critics "The Enemy"? Or are they all just tools of the big media machine?
I am here to tell you the truth. The Brotherhood of Evil Rock Critics is a collection of jaded, bitter, sexually frustrated pseudo-intellectual musicians and aging high school nerds who still wear thick glasses. We meet in secret once a year at SxSW and our sole purpose in life is to DESTROY ALL MUSIC. Our reach is worldwide and our powers are limitless. We broke up Van Halen. We have taken control of MTV. We invented the genre of “New Age.” We pioneered the reality show concept. We gave Creed a record deal. We introduced Madonna to Kabbalah. We teach singers to act. And soon -- very soon -- we will let Axl Rose release Chinese Democracy. We cannot be stopped. Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.
How'd you wind up a "low-rent" music critic? How did get your start, and where do you see yourself down the line?
I’ve always been extremely passionate about music, particularly metal, which I have long felt is too easily dismissed by the mainstream media. I was looking for an outlet for my writing and lacking any clips outside of Hustler, I found KNAC.com. KNAC is a hard rock/metal internet radio station with a web magazine and they have an open submissions policy. So I started reviewing shows. What the hell? I was going anyway and wanted to write. I started with them in 2001 and continue to write for them, proudly, to this day. They don’t pay anything, though, hence the “low-rent” tag. I used the chance to build up some clips and took it from there. I’ve got a long way to go but managed to do a lot ever since, I think. I’m not always right and not everyone will agree with me on a review but you know how it is with opinions. Currently I’m stringing for The Hollywood Reporter covering NYC-area shows. I’ve also had music pieces in The Post, FHM, Terrorizer, Guitar One and since this year I’ve been a staff writer for Metal Edge. I try to balance all of this metal and music by submitting elsewhere and some of my humor pieces have been taken by Yankee Pot Roast. Freelancing kinda sucks, though. I’d have more patience playing Scattergories with Tara Reid. Ideally, I’d like to publish a book of my essays and be known as “the rock and roll David Sedaris.” I don’t have a “Plan B.” Shit. Can you get paid for obsessively reading The Times?
You've also written for Hustler Busty Beauties as "Mick Stingley -- Friend of the Features". Please, oh please, tell us what it's like to be a friend of the features. (Plenty UpTopp. Explain.)
Yeah… that’s, ah… well, Plenty pushed me to become a writer. I went to college for creative writing but pissed away my 20s working in restaurants. I met Plenty in 1999 and we hit it off instantly. She’s a big-busted “feature,” which is basically the headliner at a strip club. Not all strip clubs book features but there are hundreds that do. They tour the country and they all have these great names: Alyssa Alps, Nikki Knockers. I moved to South Florida to live with Plenty and we just had a dynamite time together. Sometimes I’d go on the road with her and I got to meet all of her friends, see the country, party. Everything. You name we it, we did it. Big fake tits rock. Anyway… I was finally trying to get started as a writer and Plenty showed me this magazine she was in. The pictures were great but the interview was weak- too many stupid questions about sex and zero about her. I thought I could do better and pitched Morgen Hagen at Hustler Busty. He went for it and I started doing a bunch of interviews with Plenty’s pals. They were intentionally humorous and I felt the pieces gave the girls a chance to demonstrate that they were more than the sum of their parts. Not sure how many people actually read them, but my interviews continued to run until Busty closed in 2004. Plenty and I have since gone our separate ways and I returned to NYC. I’m still a “Friend of the Features,” though I haven’t been to a strip club in some time. But, ah, my foes and oh, my friends…
Give us some behind-the-scenes dirt: what's it like quizzing true-blue rock stars? Who's been completely off the handle? Who wouldn't shut up? Who OD'ed right in the middle of a question?
Nothing bad, really. I’d rather have an interview with a rock star go south than have to interview someone like that alien-human hybrid Paris Hilton. I had a tough time interviewing Danzig. He’s extremely guarded. I had the ambitious idea to get him talking about his youth and how he was influenced by social events of the 60s and 70s. He wasn’t so into that. He did warm up after a while and gave me some killer stuff about writing songs for Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. Very intense guy. His mannerisms and the cadence of his voice made me feel a bit like Matthew Broderick in The Freshman.
I had a fantastic time interviewing Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead recently, for Metal Edge. Scheduling conflicts made it difficult to arrange a sit-down, so his publicist offered to let me interview him on his way to the airport following his last show in NYC. They had a stretch limo pick me up at my apartment and we scooped Lemmy and his manager at the hotel in midtown. After they got in, Lemmy pulls out a full bottle of Jack and his manager took out a bag of ice and Lemmy starts pouring us Jack and Cokes. And I got to hang out, drinking and smoking with Lemmy on the way to JFK. That was a blast. What a gentleman. Metal Edge only wanted 3000 words, but I think I gave them 8000. I can’t believe I get paid for this.
Ever get a little starstruck interviewing a rock legend? Who do you wish you could Q & A with and haven't?
As a “critic” you’re not supposed to admit that anyone you grew up admiring gives you the screaming thigh sweats. I like a lot of people and some of them are downright exciting to meet. It wears off after a few minutes and you relax into the interview process, but there’s no denying that meeting your heroes is a kick.
In 2002 I got to sit down with Ronnie James Dio for KNAC.com. I was shitting bricks. In maybe two minutes this wonderful man had me relaxed enough to throw out my stupid handwritten questions and we just had a conversation. Cheery and fun. By the end of the interview he was talking about his pasta sauce and cooking and his secret recipe for chicken soup. It was fucking great. He’s the Tony Bennett of metal. But if I could interview anyone I wanted? Bowie. And definitely Bono. We’re both Irish. Imagine the fun.
What's your take on the music industry vs. fans with Internet access? How's this thing going to play out, and will downloadable music be the death of traditional, packaged albums?
Access is everything. We’re spoiled in New York City. We can jump on a train and be at a record store in fifteen minutes. I’ve talked to kids in the Midwest who have to drive for an hour plus to get to a mall or a Wal-Mart (or some chain) to buy a CD. That’s gas + time and it’s a pain in the ass. And the prices of the CDs and the limited (sometimes censored) selection don’t contribute a great deal to advancing the cause of the RIAA and the piracy police. Furthermore, with artist websites and MySpace and Amazon streaming music 24-7, the potential exposure is both a godsend and very dangerous. If I can check out 30-second audio-samples of the latest CD from Shakira, and I only like one song, I can go to whateverthefuckdotcom and likely download it for .99 cents. That’s gonna kill the sale of one record and in the long run it hurts the industry. On the other hand it can do wonders for an artist because it provides exposure they might not get otherwise. Billboard is already tracking the “most downloaded songs.” Cheap access will likely stem the tide of P2P file-sharing, but it won’t stop the flood unless they can find a way to make it stop and it’ll probably get worse before it gets better. I shudder to think that one day I will have to explain to my kids or my grandkids what a “CD” was; but think about your dad telling you about 8-tracks. It’ll happen. You’ll know it’s over when MTV airs a nostalgia show about it.
Why is Rolling Stone so out of touch with the music scene?
I think we have collectively romanticized our memories of that magazine and as we’ve aged they haven’t been able to live up to the standards we hold them to. RS expanded beyond music coverage ages ago and have become a brand. The internet has brought diversity to our doorstep and every magazine is struggling to keep up with whatever sells. They have to put up numbers just like anyone else. I know this much for certain: I have seen David Fricke out at shows that he wasn’t covering. He just loves music and that speaks volumes to me. But business is business, man. Although it wouldn’t kill them to cover more metal.
What's in your iPod right now?
Right now a lot of industrial/metal. Fear Factory. The new Ministry. I am also really digging the Tom McCrae CD Just Like Blood. Not metal, but a beautiful record. And everything Type O Negative.
I know you love those big, loud, rock monsters. Is metal (and its hair/glam offshoots) completely dead? Why do you think that sound is primarily driven by old bands for old fans? (Kids today, with their noise...)
The 80s rock scene had its day in the sun, and now a lot of those bands are doing okay as “heritage acts.” Cinderella and Ratt might be the Temps and the Tops of rock but they still draw and they still deliver. And just look at Mötley Crüe. The crowds are older of course, but I don’t think Carole King is drawing a lot of tweens and teens. Metal isn’t dead, just always evolving. Ozzfest has been going strong for 10 years and Maiden can still sell out the Garden. Slayer just signed a new deal with Warner. And keep your eyes on Mastodon, Avenged Sevenfold, and Children of Bodom. There’s tons of great rock bands right here in NYC, they just don’t get coverage. Check out Trashlight Vision, Joker Five Speed, Slunt, and by all means, Lesion. But you know, things change and people get older (just wait for that Killers/Bravery reunion tour in 2020). To paraphrase Dee Snider, you can’t stop rock and roll.
You wrote the liner notes for the new Ministry collection, RaNtologY--awesome. Whose box set liner notes would be your dream to write?
Yeah, I'm psyched about that. Considering that Al Jourgensen (Ministry) worked with William S. Burroughs, it was an honor to be asked. I think all the bands I'm really passionate about are too under-the-radar for box sets; the Sisters of Mercy should have one, but I don't know if Warner Music is hip to how cool they are. L.A. Guns needs one because that band is like a fucking soap opera and it would be fun to write. But truly, there is a Finnish goth-metal band called Sentenced that might benefit from some American appreciation: they could have been huge here, but never really took the chance.
So what's the deal with the whole Jew thing?
I think you are referring to my affinity for Judaism which came from having dated an Orthodox girl for some time. Not sure what to say, really. I fell madly in love with this girl but I was terribly conflicted about proceeding into conversion. It's a long story with an unhappy ending yet I've become somewhat obsessed with Judaism ever since. I think a lot of it has to do with the familial aspect of the religion, which is so warm and loving and welcoming -- and I wanted so much to be a part of that (especially coming from a stainless-steel Catholic upbringing). Maybe I can't let go, but my friends have been very understanding. I'm a long way from making Aaliyah, and I don't wish to seem glib about something so meaningful; but let me just say that I am very comfortable rocking a keepah at Seder, and very grateful to have such good friends who would let this ongepotchket fakakta shaygits sit at their table.
Favorite bar or restaurant in NYC?
Lately it’s been Gray’s Papaya on the UWS because that’s about all I can afford. If I had my druthers, it would be Orso. Best liver in town.
Best celebrity sighting on the streets of New York?
I saw Anthony Bourdain not too long ago. I wanted to tell him how great Kitchen Confidential was but I was scared shitless because he looked really pissed off.
What place or thing would you declare a landmark?
L’Amour, in Bay Ridge. Sadly it closed last year, but for ages this was the home of metal. I know it sucks about CBs, but I miss L’Amour more than I’d miss CBs.
Who's the New Yorkiest New Yorker in town?
Ed Koch, Giuliani and Charles Rangel. No one has represented NYC to the world with as much flair and enthusiasm as these three men. And Fran Drescher because I have a big thing for her. Move back, please. (Who’s more New York than Bobbi Fleckman?)
Any advice for Mayor Bloomburg?
Oh, man, I don’t want to end this interview on a sour note. I can’t think of anything nice to say. I wish he liked metal. After 9/11 while Giuliani was rallying the city, all creepy Mike could do was bitch about making sure the election happened. That’s always bothered me. NYC deserves better.
Fuck this guy, turn up the guitars and let’s rock.