In the 25 years since Mike Shea pasted together the pages of the first Alternative Press, the music scene has reinvented itself countless times. The top spot on the charts, and subsequent radio airplay dominance, has belonged to arena-rock hair-metal bands, discontented Northwesterners, angst-ridden rap-rockers, frenzy-inducing boy bands and their female counterparts, and a smattering of pop-punk bands from Chicago to So-Cal. Through the changing tides, from the rise of Napster to the downfall of actual record sales, from TRL to Taste of Chaos, Alternative Press has weathered the storm. Now with an impressive 268 issues under its belt, AP reigns supreme as the definitive voice of the underground music scene and the bands and fans that make it up. Check out our interview to learn more about Alternative Press.
1. What is your job at Alternative Press, and how long have you been with the company?
Dawn Marshman: I hold the position of marketing director and have been working at AP for two years.
John Millin: My name is John Millin—I’m the production director atAP, and I’ve been with the company for a little over five years now.
Jason Pettigrew (editor in chief): I’ve been involved with APsince 1986. Cut off my leg and count the rings.
Scott Heisel: I recently celebrated my sixth anniversary of working for AP. I’ve been here since July 2004, first as an associate editor, then the music editor, a position I’ve held since September 2006.
Mike Shea: I started AP when I was 19, and so now that I’m all grown up, I have this fancy title of CEO and Founder, which just reminds people that this was all my fault.
2. During your time working at AP, do you have any standout moments or crazy stories?
Pettigrew: You mean besides seeing some great shows, committing acts of public debauchery, almost getting killed, receiving both onstage shout-outs and death threats from musicians I admire, and the joy I get when someone discovers their new favorite band after reading something I wrote? Naah, I got nothin’….
Marshman: A recent standout moment would probably be our 25th anniversary gallery opening in L.A. Seeing all the AP memorabilia showcased was quite amazing and a proud moment!
Heisel: I’ve definitely experienced some crazy things during my time at AP and have made tons of memories and lifelong friends in the process. Heck, I got to fly to England in the middle of a snowstorm to interview the Gaslight Anthem for our cover—and just a year prior, they were sleeping on my living room floor! It’s awesome getting to make personal connections with talented musicians and watch them come up and earn their success. Read more.
3. 2010 marks the celebrated 25th anniversary ofAlternative Press, and over the years, dozens of the biggest names in music have graced the magazine’s covers. If you could put together your dream concert of any bands, past or present, who have secured a coveted spot on the cover of AP, who would you choose?
Millin: I grew up in the hardcore scene, so you’d think I’d have to reach outside my comfort zone to build a package, but you’d be wrong, because believe it or not, everyone on my bill has appeared on a cover of AP: Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Uniform Choice, Youth Of Today. Plenty of vegetarians on stage!
Pettigrew: Godflesh, The Jesus Lizard, Head Automatica, Every Time I Die, and My Chemical Romance. I would also like a side stage for a bill of bands who I desperately wanted on the cover, but got voted down. I would also like to be cloned so I could see both stages.
Heisel: Man oh man, this question is brutal. So many amazing bands have been on our cover over 25 years! I think if I were put in charge of booking this, I’d make it so every band had to play a classic album start to finish, so here’s what I’d choose: Read more.
4. It’s come to be expected that in every issue of AP there are mentions of different nonprofit organizations or artist op-eds about different social or political causes. Do you feel that it’s important to provide that forum for discussion for readers and keep music and activism at the forefront of people’s minds?
Marshman: Absolutely! Educating our readers on important issues has always been at the forefront of the magazine. It is an excellent forum for musicians to further express their passions beyond the song lyrics.
Shea: The one major negative to the Internet is that it allows everyone to make snap judgments via commentary while holing up in their own worldview of how things should be. It causes the majority of people to shut down their minds (and, thus, wallets) to fully understanding social and political causes. All of this stereotyping of each other causes many of us to not reach out to others who may be in actual need of help. So the goal of our activism is not to preach and be elitist, but to at least offer an outlet so that young adults, many of whom are heavily influenced by whatever their parents’ views are still at that age, can at least read about particular causes and events. Hopefully, they’ll then be willing to gain an understanding of how many people are not given an equal chance at life or who may have had life not go well for them at some point and need help restarting or getting back on their feet. We’re not a political organization, but I would like us to be an awareness one.
Millin: Music is activism as far as I’m concerned, but I think that’s typically about as far as musicians in the “alternative” realm are able or allowed to take their message, whatever it may be. The printed word, through vehicles like op-eds, still exists as a definitive statement to allow artists to dive into things a little more than can be done in a 2 1/2 minute pop song or an ABAA rhyme scheme. Read more.
Marshman: I have been vegetarian for over 13 years. As a kid, initially I had issues with the texture of meat, then began to have a hard time disassociating the meat with a living animal. … As a young adult, I became more aware of the treatment of animals, so the decision to cut out meat altogether was simple.
Millin: I’ve been vegetarian for about 15 years now. … Like I said, growing up in the hardcore music scene of the last 20 or so years, there has been no shortage of soapbox preachers and ‘zine and pamphlet distributors in my life. It didn’t take too long until I started to filter out the things that I could and couldn’t relate to, and eventually I reached a point where I was comfortable to define myself as “this” or “that.” So decades have passed, and I am straight edge and I am vegetarian. The things that you’re passionate about and that mesh with your way of life—well, they stick.
6. Are there any other animal rights issues that you feel passionately about?
Marshman: I am completely appalled at factory farming! Thank you, Robert Kenner, for creating the movie Food, Inc., and exposing the cruelty to a broader audience. Also, I have always been against animal testing. I try my hardest to educate myself on the culprits to avoid the purchase of their products.
Heisel: My girlfriend and I recently adopted a dog from a rescue, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for both of us. I’d love to see the end of things like puppy mills and more focus on rescuing animals in need from shelters instead of buying them at a mall pet store or something. That, and more dog parks!
Millin: Not that I can pinpoint. My focus in life and especially in these philosophies has always been more about being positive and compassionate than about being restrictive to anyone else or being anti-anything, though. So along those lines, I can really only control what I purchase, consume, and support in a day-to-day environment. And that’s what I choose to do.
Pettigrew: I’d like to see the world’s poachers and bunchers captured, so they may have their immediate families exterminated in front of them. Afterwards, said abusers need to spend the rest of their days in pens similar to the ones used in factory farms, in the great hopes they will kill themselves while in captivity. Anybody who finds pure joy in an animal’s eyes knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Big thanks to the staff at AP, who took time out of their busy schedules to chat with peta2! To learn more about ways to speak up for animals, check out the peta2 membership.