Interview: Dying Scene founder on running the web’s most badass punk news site

Interview: Dying Scene founder on running the web’s most badass punk news site

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a DIY punk news site now’s your chance for some learnin’.  Amp Magazine recently did a DIY Spotlight on Dying Scene’s devilishly handsome* and brilliantly minded** founder in which he discusses what goes into running the most consistent, insightful, funny, mostly accurate, badass and humble motherfucking (we can write that cuz we’re DIY) punk news site on the web.

Read the interview here.

* according to his mom
** according to himself

NOTE: This interview was done nearly 6 months ago and appears in its original form in Amp’s March print issue as well as on their website here.  Some things have changed since then so I’ve taken the liberty of updating a couple answers and re-posting below.

What are some general things that you think people don’t know about being a music journalist?

If what Dying Scene does is considered to be music “journalism,” then I guess the first thing people might not know about us is that we don’t think of ourselves as “journalists.” We’re just overly enthusiastic fans of punk rock who have found an outlet for our passion in the form of sharing what we love with like-minded individuals. We aren’t paid for what we do and the entire Dying Scene staff, myself included, are either full-time students or fully employed at “real” jobs. I think it’s easy to take for granted the amount of work music journalists put into their craft, and the general assumption is that they’re financially compensated for the hours they put in. The truth is that what we do, we do for the love of the genre and nothing more.

What kind of work goes into running a website?

Running a website has turned out to be ten times more work than I ever thought it would be. You’ve gotta be tech savvy enough to create and maintain a site that people will enjoy spending time on, but that’s just the beginning. Providing comprehensive news coverage of over 3,000 bands in the form of 20 to 30 stories a day is a huge undertaking that requires an entire staff of writers. Training, coordinating and corralling 20+ contributors who live all over the world into one cohesive team with a single goal is a full-time job in and of itself. Layer on top of that the actual finding and writing of news, which requires constant communication with bands, labels, publicists and fans, and things have just gotten even more complicated. Even with the help of an incredibly awesome staff, running Dying Scene is more work than a regular full-time job. Had I known it would be so much work I might not have ever started, but having come this far I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

How much time a week would you say you spend working for DS?

It’s hard to measure since I’m often multi-tasking Dying Scene with my regular day job work, but I probably put in 40 hours or more a week. Obviously, if you take into account the work put in by 20+ writers the total number of man hours spent working on DS in a week grows significantly.

What does covering the punk scene mean to you?

I started Dying Scene two and half years ago because I felt there was a huge coverage gap in the existing punk blogosphere when it came to unsigned artists. Bands like CHASER, POUR HABIT (pre-Fat Wreck Chords), YOUTHINASIA, THE BASTARD SUNS, and a dozen more were putting out some of the best albums in punk rock and not a single “punk news” site was talking about them. I wanted to launch a site that could keep readers informed on the bands they already knew and loved, but could also act as a platform to find new bands. So when it comes to “covering the punk scene,” Dying Scene’s mission is to provide the reader with the most thorough and timely coverage possible, with an emphasis on new music discovery.

This doesn’t mean we shun bigger bands. We cover them just as much as the unsigned acts which occasionally draws criticism from the punk rock elitists who don’t believe a site called “Dying Scene” should be covering “radio” bands. In addressing the issue of more mainstream band coverage, it’s worth noting that “punk” is a subjective term to begin with, and whatever “punk rock” means to one reader might mean something entirely different to another. The elitists have heard this argument before but still want to know how we can claim to be supporting a “dying scene” if we are also covering a bunch of highly successful, mainstream bands.

As previously mentioned, one of Dying Scene’s biggest goals is to expose the smaller punk bands we love to greater audiences. To do that, however, we first need to create a “greater” audience to share with. We do this by covering all bands even remotely considered to be in the punk rock umbrella, including the more mainstream ones.

Imagine for a second that you’re a kid who does not yet really know about the punk scene. You don’t have an older brother that introduced you to it and your friends all listen to hip-hop. You’ve heard RISE AGAINST on the radio and you know you like them, so one day you do a search for them on the internet and you end up on a story about them on Dying Scene. Now that you’re on Dying Scene, you read the next story on the front page, which happens to be about a band called PART TIME KILLER. You’ve never heard of them, so you give them a listen. Holy shit, you love it! You check out another band, and another, and next thing you know you’re buying the latest albums from five bands you’ve never heard of until today. Then you realize that the unifying factor amongst these bands is that they are more or less considered “punk” bands and now your mind is officially blown. So this is what punk music sounds like?! You tell all your friends about this “punk rock” deal and you introduce them to the new bands you’ve discovered on a very informative, sometimes funny and usually accurate website called Dying Scene. Some of those friends like what they hear and then they go and tell their friends, and just like that, we’ve helped dozens of smaller punk bands find new fans all because of one little article on a band the elitists shun because they think they’ve “sold out” or don’t fit their definition of punk rock. We call that a huge success.

Do you feel as though you’re keeping the scene alive?

Despite what the name of our site implies, I don’t know for sure that the scene is really “dying” as much as it is “changing,” so I can’t really say if we’re keeping it “alive.” What I can say is that over 100,000 people a month read Dying Scene right now and that number grows every month. Some percentage of that readership is paying attention to the stories we write on smaller bands and a portion of them are becoming fans of those bands. As fans, they buy albums, go to shows and otherwise support a band that they, in all likelihood, wouldn’t have known about had it not been for a story they read on Dying Scene. I’d like to think in that effect we are contributing to the scene in some way.

Is writing something that you’ve always wanted to do?

Not really. It’s not for love of writing that I run a punk blog and news site – it’s for the love of music.

How long did it take (or is it taking) to hit a groove with what you do?

If nothing else, Dying Scene has a good flow of operations from finding to publishing stories. It was designed before the website even launched, so we started out the gates better than most DIY sites, I’m sure. Having said that, we’re always adjusting and adapting our methods.

What kind of experiences have you had being press that you never thought would happen?

Being the “man behind the curtain,” my personal experiences are less impressive than those of some of my writers but I have had the chance to correspond with and meet some of the punk personas my high school self would have shit himself over meeting.

One pretty cool experience that stands out for me was meeting Fletcher of Pennywise at a Hermosa Beach restaurant opening a couple months ago.  I live in Hermosa and my girlfriend and I were checking out the new eatery when in walks the ginormous guitar player.  My girlfriend, who is a lot cooler than me, suggests I have the waiter send him a drink, telling him its from the owner of “Dying Scene.”  I’m not a smooth guy by any means and I was pretty nervous about pulling such a ballsy maneuver, but I finally worked up the courage and called the waiter over.  I explained to him my plan and pointed Fletcher out, “He’s that huge dude sitting over there,” and told him to deliver another of whatever Fletcher was drinking.  The waiter assures me he’s got it handled and I sit there in nervous anticipation.  I mean, I’m not even sure if Fletcher knows who Dying Scene is.  Was I about to look like the cheesedick I completely felt like?  I didn’t want to watch so I focus on my food and before I know it, the waiter’s back telling me Fletcher loved it and was really appreciative.  “Oh look,” he says, “he’s cheersing you now!”  I’m stoked.  I pick up my glass, raise it, and look in Fletcher’s direction.  But Fletcher’s not looking looking my way.  He’s got his back to me in fact.  And then my attention is drawn to a waiving hand from a table much closer to mine, where some completely random dude is holding up a drink and smiling widely in my direction, mouthing the words “thank you.”  His whole table has actually turned my way and is cheersing me for a free drink my waiter had accidentally delivered to the wrong “huge dude sitting over there.” My own drink is still raised and I’m so confused I just stare at them with what must have been a bewildered look on my face.  At that point there was nothing to do but complete my own cheers back to them and then quickly turn away in embarrassment.  Utter fail.  Sure that the unintentional recipient of my complimentary gesture must have thought I was hitting on him, I strengthened my resolve and had my hapless waiter try again.  This time with the correct “huge dude.” In the end the waiter got it right and Fletcher invited me over to his table where I got to bro down with the man himself about Pennywise and punk rock in general. Turns out he’s a big fan of Dying Scene.  If you told my 16 year old self that one day I’d be exchanging digits with Fletcher from Pennywise, who also was a frequent reader of a website I created, I’d never have believed it.

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