Interview with Peter Markham
committed by László Dávid (Rattle Inc.)
Peter, how did you discover music and hard rock/heavy metal music particular? What did you find so exciting in this music?
- In the early 80’s, basically from the older siblings of my friends, who had all these metal and hard rock albums. Bands like early Van Halen, Cheap Trick, The Rods and even early Mötley Crüe, and I really dug it! Probably from when I was 12-years-old or so. Before that I was really into Kiss, who were a huge band in the late 70’s/early 80’s as you know and also AC/DC and Iron Maiden. My first LP was Black Sabbath’s „Paranoid”, and I remember putting it on the turntable and my dad looked truly disappointed, so I knew I was onto something! If your parents hate what you’re into, when you’re a teenager, that’s always a good thing! It was always exciting discovering new bands, and listening to albums and staring at the album covers for hours, like Witchfinder General, Demon and Rose Tattoo – a whole new world was opening up. Other than the music which I thought was really good, I think it was also being into something that everybody else hated, sort of going against the grain, or mainstream if you like, that I found attractive.
At which point and how did you turn into the underground world? How did you discover fast, brutal music?
- I grew up in surburbia and our local record shop in the nearest town had a little metal section. So there I bought Metallica, Slayer, etc. when their first albums came out. They also had a lot of Swedish bands like Oz, Mercy, Axe Witch and later Bathory. My father is English, so we went to the UK a lot on holiday, and I discovered the record shop "Shades" in Soho, London through Kerrang! Magazine. There I bought lesser known bands like Satan, Savage, Raven, Tokyo Blade and a lot of the NWOBHM bands, and also Danish bands like Mercyful Fate and Pretty Maids, because I actually didn’t know how to get hold of them in Denmark. So just digging a little deeper than the established bands like Iron Maiden or Saxon, and then I saw a video with Venom where they did "Witching Hour" on Swedish TV, and I thought that was the most intense and dark music that I’d heard at the time! Artillery lived pretty close to me, so I hung out with them quite a bit, even though they were older than I was, and I heard bands through them, and a few of the guys were also into punk like GBH and Discharge. I also hung out quite a bit with the band Witch Cross and would visit their singer Alex Savage quite often. I started going to concerts when I was around 13-14, and I was by far the youngest at the gigs. There was a lot of skin tight jeans, basketball sneakers and the good old mustache/perm combination. I saw Iron Maiden when Bruce Dickinson had just joined and Dio on the "Holy Diver" tour, I remember I thought it was quite hilarious that a grown man would pretend to fight a paper mâché dragon with a wooden sword on stage... but that’s 80’s metal in a nutshell!
What did/does mean to you underground respectively to be underground?
- Maybe not so much underground, but definitely DIY (Do It Yourself). I mean I was 14-15 years old at the time when I started the magazine, and getting records/tapes every day in the mail and corresponding with people from all over the world. I saw the metal underground very much to be ignored by the mainstream until basically Metallica became big. But anybody, anywhere can get involved: do a fanzine, put together a band, release a demo tape or a record, put on concerts etc. This goes for punk rock too, or any other music genre really. Instead of sitting around and waiting for things to happen, you could easily get involved yourself. I still firmly believe in this.
James Hetfield (Metallica), Roskilde Festival, July 1986
Did you also get involved in the tapetrading scene very soon? How did it happen?
- I never traded tapes, but got a lot of tapes sent to the magazine for review, and you could buy them in record shops, and some I ordered through the mail. One thing with Danish bands from that time like Mercyful Fate, is that they were really very good players, basically all the Danish bands were. So when bands like Bathory and Hellhammer came out, and also Mayhem, I had their first demo tape and I thought it was quite amateruish to be quite honest. I thought it was like a weak imitation of Venom really, also image wise - in the early Bathory promo photos Quorthon looked exacly like Cronos! I didn’t really get that into tapes, because I thought the sound quality is interior to vinyl, and tapes get worn faster.
At which point did the fanzines enter in your life? Do you still remember which fanzines did you get in your hands for the first time?
- I did the first issue of Metallic Beast in 1984, so a little before that. I read Metal Forces from the UK, and an early Danish fanzine called Hot Rockin’ and they were both a big influence. Also Ron Quintana’s Metal Mania, because it was also very humorous. There was an early Swedish fanzine, called Heavy Metal Massacre, that was a big inspiration too, they had a piece on Metallica when Dave Mustaine and Ron McGovney was in the band, so this was really early on. I remember when the first issue of Metal Hammer came out, that was the first big glossy magazine other than Kerrang!
How did you like them? Was this a brand new world for you?
- I was really into it, it was always exciting to get a new fanzine and to see what they wrote about and how they did the layout, and what new bands you could discover. I really liked some of the zines from California like Heavy Metal Onslaught, which I also wrote for, and Brain Damage and one from Florida called Guillotine and Sledgehammer Press. So I would buy some of the bands they wrote about like Laaz Rockit, Hirax, Abattoir, Dark Angel, Hades, Savatage and bands like that, but finding import albums was quite hard and expensive.
When did Metallic Beast start exactly?
- I would say about 1983, and the first issue came out the following year. My father worked for a big company that manufactured photocopy machines, so he did the all the photocopying. I did all the writing, layout and some photography myself. I drew the logo and stole some of the graphics from the first Venom album. I was always really interested in graphic design, putting text and pictures together and creating the layout. Which is what became my profession later, first in the print industy, and to this day where I work for an advertising agency. It’s almost like my hobby became my job.
How about the staff? How did you get to know each other at all?
- In the beginning it was just me, and some contributors sent in interviews and articles. I was so secluded, so it was all through the mail, and also people from overseas did some writing, from the US and Europe.
What was your motivation, goal with the fanzine? What did inspire you founding a fanzine?
- I think it was just a form of homemade entertainment, I didn’t play in a band, so I could get involved by writing about bands that I really liked and maybe inspire others to check them out. They was never a goal behind it, but now – 30 something years later, people still write me occationally about the magazine, and I got out of the metal scene in the late 80’s when I lost interest and got into other kinds of music. Lars Ulrich – through their management got in contact with me for the reissue of „Master of Puppets” to use some of the material from the magazine. So it’s fun and quite strange that people still remember and are interested in what I did as a teenager, as I am now in my early 50’s.
Did you have contributors/helping hands as well?
- Yes, a few people helped with the writing, but everything else I did by myself. My mother helped with some translation, since one of the issues came out in both English and Danish. My parents would also give me a ride to concerts and my mother came along when I first interviewed Slayer in ’85!
Would you say that Metallic Beast belonged to the first fanzines from Denmark?
- Hot Rockin’ was definitely the first, and I think I put out Metallic Beast roughly at the same time as Blackthorn came out, and there was also one called Unchained Energy, maybe I was a little before them. So yes – probably one of the first, but Hot Rockin’ had already existed a few years by then.
Did you, I mean the fanzines, help and support each other or was it rather a competition among you? Did you also trade with each other?
- I think we very much supported each other, trading ads, magazines etc. Not so much competition, as we were all quite different. Blackthorn was strickly metal, but I was also into punk and what later became known as crossover. But I was good friends with the other fanzine people, especially Tom Hallbäck from At Dawn They Read in Sweden, he was later in God B.C.
How did you get in touch with bands that were interviewing/featuring in each issues?
- Some interviews I did through the mail, but others I did in person. Metallica used to record in Copenhagen at Sweet Silence Studios ("Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets"), so I did some interviews with Lars, which was among the biggest articles I did. Also Slayer on their "Hell Awaits" tour, and a lot of bands came through on tour – Kreator was an early band that toured in Denmark, and US bands like Exodus, right after they released "Bonded by Blood". Also NY bands like Anthrax and Overkill, and Motorhead always had letter known bands opening, like Exciter. And back then, touring was big part of being a professional band, up until Lemmy passed away, I think Motorhead playing in Copenhagen once a year, and I’m sure they did that everywhere else – almost. Also there would be these package tours in Germany where metal was really popular, so we would take the bus or train down to Hamburg to see Megadeth or Agent Steel, and whatever US bands that were touring.
How did you choose the bands that you wanted to interview/to feature at all? Did it depend on your personal musical taste or…?
- Very much my own personal taste, and the other writers wrote about bands that I wasn’t particularily into.
Was it easy to get in touch with the outfits?
- Yes, quite easy, they all had contact addresses on their records or demo tapes. Remember back then, postage was really cheap as opposed to now. I corresponded with Mick Harris from Napalm Death trading tapes, and he used to put soap on the stamps and then would ask me to send them back to him, then he would wash off the soap and reuse them. That went on until the British postal service threatened him with legal action, or something along the lines of that. The early Mercyful Fate records had a telephone number for their management on the back of the record. I remember calling that number and talking to this guy for a long time – maybe about an hour, when I was 13 or 14, so I had all these questions about King Diamond, if he was really a Satanist and what he was like as a person. I later realized that the guy on the other end of the line, was actually King Diamond himself – Kim Bendix Petersen, and he was talking about himself in the second person and now looking back, that was completely ridiculous, but also quite hilarious!
Did you always use own material or did you perhaps borrow articles from other fanzines, too?
- It was always original material in Metallic Beast.
I would ask you to give us every details about the issues of Metallic Beast! I mean, how were they done, what about the content of each issues, how in depth were the interviews, how were the reviews, how many issues were released, how much time did pass between each issues etc.. I’m interested in everything what come to your mind!
- No. 1 (1984): Witch Cross, Artillery, Wasted, Maltese Falcon, Evil and Mercy.
No. 2 (1985): Artillery, Warlord, Tyrant, Deathslayer, Overkill, Dorian Gray, Siren, Laaz Rockit and Alien Force.
No. 3 - 60 pages written in English, A5 size (1986). Interviews/articles with: Angel Witch, H-Bomb, Metallica, Venom, Savage Grace, Razor, Maninnya Blade, Death Angel, Prophecy, Helicon, Mantus, Chastain, Helloween, Abattoir, Thanatos, Mercy, Megadeth, Tankard, Excalibur, Artillery, Sacred Rite, Slayer, Kreator, Possessed, Laaz Rocket, Savage Thrust, Hawaii, Sodom, Slaughter, Samhain (DesExult), Destructor, Hallow's Eve, Havoc, Blitzkrieg, Liege Lord, Nasty Savage, Predator, Exodus, etc.
No. 4 - 36 pages written in English, A4 (1987). Interviews: Anthrax, Agony, Hirax, Agent Steel, Cryptic Slaughter, Death Angel, Exciter, Excel, Dark Angel, Kreator, At War, Blessed Death, Zoetrope, Metallica, Mefisto. Other articles & features: Suicidal Tendencies, Spastik Children, Corrosion Of Conformity, Mace, Cyclone, Wehrmacht, Cro-Mags, Master, Necrophagia, Wargod, Hellwitch, Final Conflict, Voor, Savage Death, Casbah, Mourner, Thanatos, Desexult, Legacy, Zoetrope, Heathen, Mercenary, Black Jack, Battalion, live reviews (Voivod, Venom, Cro-Mags, King Diamond, St. Vitus, Tormentor (LA), MDC, Vicious Circle etc.), news...
I really didn’t like doing reviews (I still don’t), so it was mostly articles or interviews. I did a few hundred of the first ones, and the last two issues maybe 1000-1500 or so, maybe more as I did a repress of those two issues.
The first three issues were written by Danish…
- No. 1 and 2 was only in Danish, No. 3 was both in Danish and English – I did two separate versions and No. 4 – the final issue, was just in English.
In my opinion, the Danish metal scene of the ’80s was very unique, such as Mercyful Fate, Evil, Artillery, Maltese Falcon, Witch Cross etc. can you tell us more about those times? What were your views as a whole?
- Yes, I agree – it was really unique. There wasn’t a lot of interest in some of those bands at home, Mercyful Fate and Evil were on Rave On Records, a Dutch label, so was Maltese Falcon, and Artillery were on Neat Records, an English label, even Pretty Maids were on an English label – Bullit Records. So the bands were really good in getting known outside of the borders, I think it was definitely thanks to Ken Anthony, who managed some of the bands, wrote for fanzines like Metal Forces and worked in several record shops in Copenhagen (Bristol and Double Fun). Metallica stayed at his apartment when they recorded "Ride the Lightning", and after their stay he said the drain in his shower was completely clogged because of all the long hair!
Did the fanzine satisfy the demands of the underground fans?
- I’d like to think so, a lot of people was really interested in the magazine, still to this day, which I find pretty amazing.
How were they sold and distributed/promoted? Were all of the issues sold out?
- Mostly through mail order or record shops, and the last two issues had distribution in the US – Important Records out of New York and in Swedish cities like Stockholm. And I would go around to record shops in Copenhagen and sell magazines to them.
Did you receive letters from other continents, too?
- Yes – I received letters from all over the world! Mostly the US and Europe, but also South America and South East Asia. Remember people sent cash back then, so I would take money to the bank to be exchanged, and sometimes they had never seen money from that particular country and couldn’t exchange it!
Were you also in touch with record labels? Did you get respectively how often did you get promo packages?
- Yes, a lot of labels sent our promo packages, I would say I got promo stuff on a daily basis. Some labels like Roadrunner and Music For Nations didn’t send out promos (not to me anyway), so I bought them myself. US albums were really expensive, because the US dollar was so high compared to European currency. Metal Blade and Combat releases you couldn't really find, but most of them came out as an European issue on either Roadrunner or Music For Nations.
On which format did you get the releases?
- Vinyl – mostly 12”, very rarely 7” and demo tapes of course.
With which label(s) did you get on well?
- Hmmm, I can’t really member – New Renaissance Records and Wild Rags springs to mind, mostly because I went to California in the summer of 1987, so I went to the actual record label offices and they supplied me with promo copies.
Did it happen that the materials, that you’ve got from bands or labels, weren’t featured in the issues because of lack of space or did you always have enough material for every issue?
- Yes, very often, it was too overwhelming to feature everything. And like I wrote before, bands like Mayhem, I just didn’t think wasn’t good enought to feature, the same with Social Mayhem and bands like that.
What about the production cost of each issues? Were your costs cleared, that you were investing in them?
- The first was my dad did for free, the rest I had offset printed and I paid for it with the money I made from selling the magazines. And my mother’s cousin owned a printshop, so he did it – but I paid for it myself. I actually also had a newspaper route to pay for printing of the magazine.
During the 80’s a lot of compilations were released by several labels, such as the famous "Metal Massacre", "Speed Metal Hell", "Thrash Metal Atack", "Beyond Metal Zone", "Stars On Thrash" to name a few. Did it help a lot for the bands to make a name for themselves? Were these samplers good things to introduce newer bands for the fans?
- Yes, it was definitely a good was for the bands to get known, Metallica and Slayer and bands like that, as you know, first made a name for themselves on "Metal Massacre". But to be quite honest, some labels like New Renaissance seemed to release anything regardless of quality. Let’s be fair, there’s a lot of mediocre bands on the "Speed Metal Hell" series.
Which year was the best for metal and why?
- I think 1984-85 because it was just so fresh and original. And all these bands that came out – the first Exodus album, Megadeth, Dark Angel, Possessed, Hirax etc. It was just so powerful and it was almost like they were trying to outdo each other in intensity! The NWOBHM wave, that was a little earlier, was also pretty amazing to my ears, the lesser known bands like Blitzkrieg or Bullet were easily as good as let's say Saxon or Tygers of Pan Tang.
What do you recall of the fanzine world of the 80’s as a whole? Blackthorn, Shock Power, Deathfuck, Violent Noize, Kick Ass Monthly, Metal Mania, Headbanger, Aardschok to name a few…
- Some of them I don’t know, but for me – Metal Mania and Kick Ass (Monthly) was the best and also most original. Bob Muldowney, who sadly passed away, was a really good writer, I think he basically started that whole thing about "posers" on the metal scene. Some European fanzines that weren’t put out by native English speakers, were quite poorly written I think, and difficult to read. That’s my view anyway.
Was it a kind of impenetrable scene? I mean, there were a very big amount of fanzines, as every day or week popped up a new one…
- Definitely – there seemed to be a couple of new fanzines popping up every week during those years. It was really great.
Because of the big amount of fanzines, was it hard to pick up fanzines for the fans/collectors?
- No, it was really easy – all you need was a postal address, and people used to send cash back and forth in those days.
What is/was the importance of the fanzines in your opinion?
- I think it’s really important, it’s written by fans for fans. Nobody were in this to make money, it’s purely a labour of love! I still read fanzines on a regular basis, maybe not in the metal genre, but still to this day. And as us old fanzine publishers used to say – the pen is mightier than the sword!
During the existence of Metallic Beast did the staff remain constant or were there guys that got out of the fanzine and others joined instead of them?
- Yes, kind of of, early on it was just me, then a guy called Jacob – who later committed suicide sadly... Then my friend Ole Kirk, who I’m still friends with to this day. There was some US writers who contributed, like John Fetters from Heavy Metal Onslaught out of San Mateo, California, and a few others.
What about the prime cost of the certains issues?
- Like I said, with the first issue there was no cost, and I can’t really remember the cost of the other issues, sorry. Everything was cheaper back in those days anyway.
Were all of you satisfied with every Metallic Beast issues?
- No. 1 I thought was quite fun because it was the first, I took the photo for the cover in Witch Cross’ rehearsal room and developed the film myself and did the print at school. No. 2 I thought was a strange mix of bands, so I don’t like that one so much. The photo of the cover of Artillery is really cool though. But they last two issues I thought were quite good, or so people tell me.
Why and when did you stop doing Metallic Beast?
- I stopped after No. 4 in 1987, I had gotten an apprenticeship as a typographer, and my parents divorced, so a lot of things were happening in my life and I didn’t have the time to do it anymore. I tried to do No. 5, and had some of it done, but just couldn’t manage to finish it unfortunately. Also I had gotten really into punk rock and skateboarding after spending the summer of ’87 in the US. For me the crossover thing was at first quite interesting, but then I totally lost interest. The metal bands were trying to incorporate punk into their material, and punk bands like Discharge, English Dogs etc. were trying to be metal. It just turned really bland and utterly uninteresting. I think either you’re punk or metal. To this day I still don’t like mixing of musical styles, like when Metallica were trying to be rock and doing Lou Reed songs or whatever. Who are they kidding? They will always be a metal band, it’s even in their band name... Or the whole funk metal – rap metal or whatever, a really bad idea! Nu metal is something I really don’t understand, it sounds really bizarre to my ears.
Tito Matos (Wehrmacht/Spazztic Blurr), Peter Markham &
Bill Crooks (Cryptic Slaughter), Portland, 1987.
Did you go on writing for other fanzines/magazines?
If so, in which magazines/fanzines did you take part?
- I wrote for a Danish fanzine called S.C.U.M. (Some Call Us Maniacs), it was done by John Kluge, who was the manager for Artillery. And I wrote for Metal Mania and Heavy Metal Onslaught like I mentioned before, and maybe a few more that I can’t remember. After a few years of not writing, I then joined Moshable, who was done by Lars Krogh, I published the first article he ever did in Metallic Beast No. 2 (an article on Kim Sixx). It was originally and metal/punk crossover fanzine, but evolved into a garage punk/rock’n’roll fanzine and lasted up until 1999. In 2011, I started writing a little bit again and I still occasionally write for fanzines – most recently Ugly Things, which is dedicated to forgotten underground 60’s garage punk.
In your opinion, did the scene become oversaturated at the late 80’s/early 90’s? How did you view the grunge, pop/punk and nu metal scene later on?
- I think you can compare the grunge wave to the thrash metal scene. The mainstream and major record labels didn’t give a shit about that kind of music, until bands started selling hundreds of thousands of records. After Metallica got big and toured the US opening for Ozzy, they signed everything that sounded a little like them – Metal Church, Flotsam & Jetsam etc. The same goes for grunge, when Nirvana got big anything that sounded remotely like them got picked up by the major labels, they couldn't tell the difference between Alice in Chains and Mudhoney. The same goes for pop punk, I saw Green Day on their first European tour and they would hand silk screen t-shirts before shows... that’s how DIY they were. Nu metal I know nothing about, I found it utterly boring and uninteresting...
Are you still proud of Metallic Beast these days?
- Yes, I am – even though I don’t have anything to do with metal in any way, it was a fun time in my life. I listen to Sabbath or Motorhead at times, that’s about it, and sold all my metal albums and tapes years ago. I’m really into early Deep Purple, when they had Rod Evans as the lead singer. English bands always played a lot in Denmark, also in the 60’s – the first Deep Purple concert was in Denmark, when they were called The Roundabout, and also the first (or one of the first) Led Zeppelin gigs, when they were known as The New Yardbirds. I am still an avid record collector, so I sell and buy, sort of to fuel the addiction! My collection is always revolving, getting new things and getting rid of things I don’t listen to anymore.
Who are/were your best friends from the scene? Are you still in touch with them?
- I still write with people from the California metal scene like Ron Quintana and follow whatever Katon De Pena from Hirax is up to. And some of the guys from bands Cryptic Slaughter and Wehrmacht, and I’m contact with Esben from Blackthorn/DesExult, since we're both in advertising. I think that’s about it.
Do you often read webzines? What do you think about them?
- I really like them, I would say I’m more into podcasts, but I am old school, so I prefer my magazine to be printed on paper.
Do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground? How do you view the scene these days?
- No, I can’t say that I do, I am into other musical styles nowadays and have been so for many years now. I think it’s great people are interested, for me it was very much a period of my life, and a thing of the past, and I don’t really need to revisit it to be quite honest – been there, done that.
Peter Markham DJ'ing, Club Mau Mau, Copenhagen, 2009.
Do you often go to concerts, festivals these days?
- I have been to one metal show – in say the last 15 years – it was Venom with Niflheim opening. I actually thought it was quite horrible – I mean I saw Venom – at their prime in ’85 with Exodus opening. I actually wanted to go to Copenhell earlier this year, because Mercyful Fate were playing, and I was really into them growing up – but that got cancelled because of the pandemic. I’ve seen Mayhem and Slayer and bands like that at festivals, if I was passing by, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to attend. I don’t think I would see Metallica live, even if somebody would give me a free ticket. I saw them with Cliff Burton, and I think they’re so far removed from what they once were.
In your opinion, did the mp3 files/downloads cause a lot of troubles, problems, harm for the metal scene?
- No, I think the present time is the best time for music, even though I am a big record collector. You can listen to whatever music, from any time, anywhere you want. I am not a musician obviously, but if you make music, I assume that it would be in your interest that as many people as possible can hear it, not just a select few. Never underestimate the urge to own the real physical product though!
Peter, thanks a lot for your answers, what are your closing words for the Hungarian readers?
- No – thank you – it's been a pleasure! If you have any interest in obtaining a copy of the last two issues of Metallic Beast – I am selling the remaining copies I have on eBay. I’ve never been to Hungary, but have only heard good things about your country!