Voices From Underground – Chat With Terrence Williams / Metal Frontline Fanzine

Terrence Williams used to do a fanzine back in the 80s’ called “Metal Frontline” and I used to trade and write to him back in the day and I thought it would make for a fun interview so let’s go back in time when the underground and fanzines were king in the metal scene

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

WT: Born, raised and still reside in Queens, NYC!!!

What sort of kid were you growing up?

WT: Lots of comics, lots of D&D, lots of military/ warfare interest, and to expand my interests….lots of sci-fi!!

Did you have lots of friends in school, this is the middle school I’m talking about?

WT: There was a crew! I’m thankful that I did have a solid group of guys to hang with. I’m still in regular contact with almost everyone too.

That’s great to hear. So were you into music a lot at this time and if so, what style of music and bands?

WT: Around that time (’81-’84) I was listening to the rock and metal staples that were accessible to a kid commercially. I have a cousin who likes an old brother so I listened to whatever he was into. At the time it was Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Van Halen, AC/DC.

My parents are Irish (I’m the first generation). So every other summer was spent in Ireland. Around that time, I had another cousin who was a Thin Lizzy fanatic! So I listened to a lot of that during the summer of ’84.

All great bands mind you. So how did the world of underground metal make its way into your life?

WT: Sept 1984: I started high school. At the time I thought I owned the heaviest music in the world (both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest). A classmate asked me if I ever heard of Metallica. They dubbed a copy of Ride the Lightening for me. I distinctly remember thinking after listening to it that this is it! Whatever the f##k you call this music, this is it for me. I had a lot of people and media telling me what I was supposed to be listening to. And none of it mattered. This was it!!!

I bought a copy of that album a week or so later and studied everything I could about it. The thanks list was the index to the next list of bands to hear. That same kid then dubbed Slayer’s Show No Mercy and gave it to me. From there I became a friend to learn everything I could about thrash and underground metal. By the summer of 1985, I was buying any Metal Blade or Combat Records I could find.

By the beginning of ’86, I was buying zines and getting trade lists. As you can infer, it was something I jumped into feet first and was obsessed with!

Same here. So back then how many people would you say you were trading tapes with?

WT: I traded with a few people via mail. I ordered lots of tapes from Ron Quintana and his encyclopedia of demos/live shows. Thankfully I knew a few people locally (and in my high school) who had lots of stuff so there was always access to the new stuff if I asked around.

So were there any local stores you got your stuff at?

WT: There were a few stores but nothing compared to the mecca: Slipped Disc Records in Valley Stream in Long Island NY. My folks would drive me out there every other month and I would stock up on whatever I could get.

That must have ruled. What sort of magazines and fanzines did they sell?

WT: Slipped Disc carried a huge selection. But the one zine that comes to mind and that had the biggest impact was Blackthorn from Denmark.

Yes, I remember that one. Did you manage to read Metal Forces at the time or even Kick-Ass Monthly at all?

WT: I also read every Metal Forces issue I could get (the 4 demos review page!!!! The classifieds!!!!). I knew of KA Monthly but never got to read it.

So what were some early shows you got to attend back then? What was your 1st sort of underground show if you remember?

WT: I started attending shows consistently right after high school. But one early one I recall is the first time I went to CBGBs which was in ’87. I was hanging out with a band named Caligula often and they were invited by Agnostic Front to open for them. So that’s more on the hardcore tip but that’s a show that comes to mind.

How about clubs you would go to a lot? Did you go to Lamour’s, The Ritz, The Sundance, Streets, etc a lot back in the day?

WT: Yes, to all of those. There were shows in other random venues but those were the standards.

G. Wilkers in Pennsauken was a place that had some awesome shows as well. That venue hosted some really unique shows. It also brought a lot of people together from as far south as Maryland and as far north as CT.

So what were some early fanzines that you read before you decided to start one up?

WT: Blackthorn!!!; Violent Noize, Grey Matter (from Texas), Metal Mania, and one zine that had a profound impact on me for a number of reasons…The Book of Armageddon! One huge influence for me and everyone in the NYC area was a radio show called “Midnite Metal” on WRTN. It ran on Sat night/Sun morning from midnight to 5 am. They played everything! Band’s demos were played in the same rotation as commercially released material. It was an incredible resource to hear bands that I never would have actually ” heard” otherwise.

So now what made you decide to start up your own zine? Was it one thing or a combo? Did you do any writing for any other zines before starting your own? Did you have any idea what you were doing and I assume you asked around for advice before starting?

WT: I forgot the exact impetus to wanting to do a zine. I know that I just wanted to be part of what was going on at the time. I didn’t ask for advice directly but just looked at other zines and tried to copy them. I had ZERO ideas of graphic design and layout. I had a friend copy the band logos by hand because I had limited access and understanding of printing.

So how did you come up with the name of your fanzine?

WT: I wanted a name that didn’t specify exactly what type of metal I wanted to cover. And I’m a huge military buff. So I figured METAL FRONTLINE fit the bill.

So now when you began to put together issue #1 did anyone help with the interviews/reviews? Who did you interview for that issue? Was it a band photo for the cover or a drawing?

WT: I put the first issue together by myself for content. My friend did the artwork for the first cover. He’s a graphic designer now so I’m happy I gave him his first job. The first issue had: Wehrmacht; Dream Death; Insaniac and Toxaemia. They were all demo bands at the time.

So how many copies did you print up? How did you go about getting rid of them? Where did you get them printed?

WT: I think it was somewhere between 50 to 100 copies. My dad printed it at his job so I was at the mercy of when he could do it!!! I may have properly sold 10 but, for the most part, I handed them out to friends, mailed it to other tape traders, and sent them to labels to get review copies.

So how long was it till you began work on issue #2? Who was in that issue? Did you print up more copies?

WT: The second issue came out in the spring of ’87. Deathrash, Hallows Eve, Savage Thrust, and Primal Scream were interviewed. I don’t recall the print run but it was certainly under 100.

Were you getting much mail and would you be excited when a package from a band would arrive in the mail?

WT: I lived for the mail!!!! It was amazing to come home from school and have a pile of packages from around the world arrive.

Same on this end. Now how long did it take from issue 2 till 3 came out? Were any labels sending you stuff?

WT: I think # 3 was the fall of 1987. By then I was getting promo stuff from the usual suspects: Metal Blade; Roadrunner; Combat; New Renaissance…

How many copies were printed by this issue and were you able to get rid of them? Who graced this issue interview wise?

WT: Again, I think it still hovered around 100 or so. My dad printed them at his job so I was at the mercy of whatever he could do. I don’t remember everyone, but the biggest standout was Overkill. I did a phone interview with Bobby Ellsworth. It was one of the first phone interviews I ever did.

So as issues were coming out did more mail pile in? Did you makeup ads and have bands and other fanzines spread those throughout the underground?

WT: Tons of mail starting flowing in!!! I was getting packages and letters from around the world. I did the 1/4 page ad circuit along with everyone else. It definitely got the name around. (those were the days-cf)

So as issues were getting released, did you end up printing more copies? Was it easier to get rid of copies then too? Did you have many stores in NY selling them?

WT: I don’t think I got past the 100 marks, honestly. Some stores carried a handful of copies. Slipped Disc was one store that was always good to take a few. Sales ebbed and flowed. Even though I charged a price for the zine, I generally gave it out to people at shows.

So how many issues did you end out putting out in the end?

WT: I think I got to either 7 or 8 eight issues before I ceased operations on the zine. It was sometime in early 1991.

So what made you decide to stop doing the zine? Was it a tough decision? Early on did you miss it a lot?

WT: It was early ’91 that I stopped doing the ‘zine. There were a number of factors that contributed to it. I was getting more ‘promo packages ‘ and review copies of albums than demos. So things were becoming more standardized and formulaic. It wasn’t as interesting to it as when I first started. I was also in college full time, working part-time and was in a band. So my time was stretched thin as well. It seemed to fade organically. I missed certain aspects of the ‘zine but that’s also what made me decide to end it.

Did you continue to follow the scene at all or did you just lose interest in the whole underground scene and what it had become?

WT: I definitely stayed involved. Work and school kept me from going to as many shows as I wanted but I never lost interest. I also got involved in other creative projects along the way.

So how did you end up writing for any other zines? Were you ever asked to write for any other zines?

WT: I wrote some reviews here and there and a few columns for smaller punk/ hardcore zines.

So when you look back at your time writing and doing a zine, what are some of your favourite memories?

WT: There were lots of great times. Besides being exposed to amazing new music (both in the mail and watching onstage), I got the chance to meet great people whom I still consider friends.

Any chance you might xerox your zine so the issues can be read online?

WT: Unfortunately, I don’t have access to those archives at the moment. Hopefully, in a few months, I will.

That would be great. So do you still follow the scene much? How many people from the old days did you reconnect with due to Facebook and stuff?

WT: I’m still buying new music and going to shows as often as possible. I still run into old friends as well as make new ones all time. I attend MDF annually which is a great way to run into people.

Do you still have copies of each one of your issues and do you have a lot of old zines from back in the day?

WT: I think I have a box of both my stuff and some contemporary zines. However, the box is located at my folk’s house in their basement. Due to recent world events, I’m not able to access it.

Slayer breaks up and now the world is coming to an end!

What are your top 3 favourite bands and why?

VoiVod: no two records are the same and they never cease to amaze me.
Entombed (earlier): they defined Swedish DM and I am a devotee to every derivative since.
Rorschach: a smaller band in comparison to the first two but these guys are my absolute favourite band. They combined the amazing elements of hardcore and metal in the most unique style possible.

Do you see yourself listening to metal for say the next 10 or even 20 years?

WT: I can’t phantom any other existence.

Tell me something that might surprise people about you.

WT: I don’t if it surprises people that know me well, but a lot of people who I know through music don’t know that my entire professional career has been in human services/social work.

That’s cool. So if someone wants to contact you they can at?

WT: [email protected] is the best way to contact me.

Terrence horns up for doing this interview. Any last words to wrap this up?

WT: Thanks for the opportunity to chat. Music stays alive and as long as you take the time to check it out!!!!

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