Europe had Metal Forces, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and a host of language-specific publications—Rock Hard and Aardschok, for example—for literate longhairs to satisfy their hard, fast and heavy fix. The States, however, had no real unifying print magazine. Until Metal Maniacs. The staff had enough experience under their bulletbelts for it to feel like a veteran magazine from the off. With co-editors Mike Greenblatt and Katherine Ludwig at the helm leading a bevy of brave writers, Metal Maniacs had glory in its sights. Unlike Europe at the time—where language and culture separated metalheads—publisher Sterling had no limitations. Be it a supermarket in Flint, MI, a record store in New York City, a gas station in Austin or a bookstore in Seattle: Metal Maniacs was there. When the first issue—a collector’s issue—hit newsstands in 1989, nobody could’ve predicted the title would march for 20 years under five different editorships and four different ownership groups. But it did. Like an unyielding warrior. Metal Maniacs almost never was, however. The whole thing was an experiment by a very business-minded Sterling. Predicated on brisk sales of a Guns N’ Roses one-shot, a photo magazine called Metal Studs and few more picture-based top list titles, Metal Maniacs sported the photo-heavy innards of its forebears, but also featured original, engaging content in line with its European counterparts. If the magazine failed to sell, they’d write it off. But that’s not how the story goes. Metal Maniacs sold very well. Sure, its initial existence is owed to Sterling’s wide distribution network—where it piggybacked off the publisher’s other “lifestyle” magazines—but the heavy metal public responded with their wallets and hearts. At the time, no magazine like Metal Maniacs existed. That it was commercially viable and respected meant just as much to the editorship as it did to the back office bean-counters.
Metal Maniacs had celebrated metal’s diversity for two full decades. From hard rock and heavy metal to black and doom metal to progressive and the indefinable, the readership from Anytown, USA discovered, disputed, convened and related to the magazine in ways unimaginable. Metalheads had a home in print form. A monthly respite from personal ails and worldwide tribulations. Cover taglines like “It Stands Alone,” “Not for Everybody!” and “Totally Extreme!” were the secret phrases of a resolute brotherhood. So, when Metal Maniacs announced it was destined for the scrapheap in February 2009—the place nobody ever thought it would go—metalheads were shocked, stunned and, most of all, disappointed. Their leader, in a word, had passed. Although Metal Maniacs exists today in a different guise—as a website run independent of the magazine’s storied history—what we all remember is the print publication we waited month over month for, scoured cover to cover and, most importantly, placed our oft hard-won trust in. Read on as the editors, select writers and other essential staff detail Metal Maniacs’ adventure from its fortunate birth to its untimely demise.
THE BEGINNING: Stranger in a Very Strange Land
Mike Greenblatt: [Sterling] had me doing a series of ridiculous magazines like Metal Studs, which was a bunch of boys with no shirts on. Hair bands. Sebastian Bach, Bon Jovi, Winger, Warrant, Skid Row. [Laughs] I think I did 50 Metal Pics and 100 Metal Pics. Katherine Ludwig was my editorial assistant at the time. Katherine had turned me onto thrash, so she was really the impetus behind it all. There was no magazine that covered thrash, death metal, black metal. I remember I went to the creative director, Bob Schartoff, and said, “Hey, why don’t we do a magazine that has nothing but those really extreme, crazy-ass bands?” I think Bob Schartoff came up with [the name]. He probably said, “What kind of bands do you want to cover?” I probably responded, “All those maniacs!” [Laughs] So, we called it Metal Maniacs.
Katherine Ludwig: When Sterling formed a relationship with the radio show Metalshop, they hired an outside editor, Mike Greenblatt, to be the editor of that [for Metalshop magazine], but he wasn’t really up on metal, so they moved me over to be the associate editor of that magazine. It was great, because I had some input into what was going into the magazine, he was easy to work for, and I did some writing and interviewing and lots of proofreading, captioning, titling—the stuff that is really fun for me.
Greenblatt: The very first issue [of Metal Maniacs] I leaned very heavily on Katherine. I went with her sensibilities on just about everything. She was a lot younger and lived the life. I was never a headbanger. I was a professional journalist. I do remember the first issue had a pin-up of Blackie Lawless in diapers. Yeah, nothing but diapers. Why?! [Laughs] I interviewed Stryper and King Diamond for an article called, “Between Heaven and Hell.” I tried to be creative. Amazingly enough, it sold like crazy. That’s when I got the go-ahead to make it a magazine with regular frequency.
Ludwig: I had no idea how to be the actual editor of a magazine, so Mike showed me how to figure out how to map the stories and ads, and how gradually you’d have to take space away from the stories as late ads were booked. This was 1988, so everything was done on paper.
Borivoj Krgin: I remember that Katherine Ludwig was looking for an assistant, and she called me wanting to know if I knew of someone I could recommend for the gig. I ended up telling her that I was interested in the position myself, even though the pay was total shit—something like $16,000 a year, if I remember correctly. This was around the end of 1989 or early 1990, I think. I am pretty sure I stayed there for at least two years, although I can’t recall the exact date when I stopped working out of the Maniacs [Sterling/Macfadden] office.
Ula Gehret: I was very raw and probably trying far too hard when I started writing for Metal Maniacs. I had only done four issues of a metal fanzine called Comedy of Errors, and it was by sending a copy of the zine to Borivoj for coverage in his “Metal Forces” column that I found out he was also working with Metal Maniacs. I was very opinionated, but I also tried to make the content both informative and entertaining.
Mark “Barney” Greenway: I’m not going to tell you I was a professional journalist. I had enthusiasm and could string a few words together. It’s like Napalm [Death]. I had absolutely no intention of doing it. I just fell into it. It was Borivoj—who was one of the main Maniacs guys—who encouraged me to do it. I remember him telling me, “Why don’t you do it?” I said, “Why would I?” [Laughs] I wrote a sample review and submitted it to Katherine. She said it was great. I was so reluctant. I was really wary of opening up about other bands. I felt uncomfortable with it.
Vincent Cecolini: My first assignment for Maniacs was a review of Biohazard’s Urban Discipline. My first feature for Maniacs was interviewing members of Korn. They spent the better part of our conversation complaining that Sepultura and other bands were ripping off their sound. Thankfully, the Korns and Marilyn Mansons of the world were soon replaced by the Cradle of Filths and Dimmu Borgirs of the world.
Greenblatt: The Tuller family owned Sterling magazines from, I believe, the 1950s on. That’s where Modern Screen, Tiger Beat, Teen Beat and a slew of other titles came from. When Tuller the family merged with the Macfadden Group—around 1992—that was the beginning of the end.
Ludwig: There were great magazines elsewhere, like Metal Forces and Terrorizer, but they weren’t that easy to get in the U.S., and while they were packed with info, great writing and musical insights, they didn’t have the same kind of personality that Maniacs did, did they? Borivoj, Alicia [Morgan], Ula, they all had definite personalities that were not edited out of their writing and I think most of the readers really liked that, even when they claimed to hate a specific viewpoint or person. They could identify with or oppose, and people like to do both.
Alicia Morgan: I remember walking into that office at 355 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan with my partially typed, partially handwritten résumé in hand, writing samples carefully culled, after answering an ad in the Village Voice. I was nervous as hell. I wanted the job so badly! Katherine’s desk was covered in copy, and as she made me room on the chair to sit down, I remember going over every little detail in my head what I was going to say if she started asking me about facts from the magazine. Instead we talked about bands and my experience editing and writing for various other zines. Then she picked up a stack of typeset copy and said, “Here, can you proofread this? Now.” I hurriedly set about proofreading a bunch of stories and record reviews, and handed her back the copy. I don’t think it was so much of a test as she was so swamped in work and needed the copy proofread right then and there! I had the job.
Ian Christe: The Katherine Ludwig era was great. She ran the magazine with a central social mindset that made Maniacs more than a typical boring music format magazine. She had a passion that included the general well-being of the readers. She wanted to take care of them like a big sister. Under her reign, Maniacs offered kids in Nebraska a guidebook to living life under their own terms. Seriously!
Ludwig: I think everything you do is political. I think everything you do matters. Everything affects people in ways you don’t necessarily know of. From the amount of love and hate mail I was getting, I knew Maniacs was affecting a lot of people in a lot of different ways. I poured all of my time and all of my creative energy into Metal Maniacs. It was my whole life and I was not going to spend time pushing the status quo or blatant sexism. I never made a conscious decision that I would use the magazine to try to further any specific political or social ideas, but like I said, all of my time and energy went into that magazine, so I had to mention general ideas; I guess I confused metal with punk rock, thinking you want to make a positive change against fucked-up institutions.
TRANSITION TO ALICIA MORGAN: Too Late to Change
Greenblatt: Fast forward a couple of years and Katherine quits. I’m in a lurch with no one to do Metal Maniacs. So, we hired Alicia Morgan and her boyfriend, Mike Williams of Eyehategod.
Morgan: I started as an assistant to Katherine Ludwig in spring 1993, when the publication was first owned by Sterling publications. I worked my way from her assistant, to assistant editor, to associate editor, ended up the editor, and my last issue as editor was in February 1996.
Mike IX Williams: I started out just writing. I had moved to New York. Katherine had asked Alicia if I wanted to write stories, so that’s how I ended up at Maniacs. During that period, we did a lot of different stuff for the magazine. When Katherine left, me and Alicia changed it. Or tried to. Maybe that’s why we didn’t last long. Maybe we were trying to change things too much. I changed the name of the “Firing Squad” column to “Helter Skelter.” I mean, we wanted to change the name of the entire magazine. We were doing punk rock, a lot of grindcore, and I think Emperor’s first feature in the magazine was during Alicia’s time. Neurosis was in there for the first time. We were just trying to think ahead.
Morgan: We enticed [writers] by giving them an honest platform to write. I’ve always been an admirer of writers like Lester Bangs, for example, and I rather enjoyed a stream of consciousness, intense, razored way of writing. I wanted the writers to have freedom to not only interview the bands, but also put forth the same feeling and excitement that they felt about the music into the writing as well. Look at the writers we had! To this day, I feel like we had the best in the business for insightfulness, opinions, passion and raw feeling.
Christe: I think I keyed into Mike Williams’ writing after reading a great Metallica live review in the early 1990s. I had already seen Eyehategod in New Orleans, at a show where horror writer Nancy Collins punched him out, but I didn’t put two and two together that the Metal Maniacs writer was the ratty Eyehategod singer until I actually met Mike a while later. I was imagining an older guy with a gray beard and a bandana. [Laughs]
Cecolini: Since my day job was close to the editorial offices, I would often drop off discs and hard copies. It gave me the chance to pick up free copies of the magazine, as well as copies of other magazines there. One day after leaving then-editor Mike G’s desk, I noticed some kid hunched behind open boxes of hip-hop magazines. It was actor Brian Austin Green, who had just released a rap record. It appeared that he was afraid I would recognize him. What the fuck would I give a fuck about that dickhead?
Gehret: Alicia had an entirely different approach than Katherine, and I probably had very little in common musically with Alicia. She was kind and fair to me, but it was also a bit chaotic and I just saw the writing on the wall, and that was when I decided to basically stop [writing] as well, which was not long before Jeff [Wagner] took things over.
Williams: For one issue, I was associate editor. I remember being told by Allen Tuller—who had no idea of what we were doing—to write about bands that advertised in the magazine. I was doing 7-inch and cassette demo reviews of black metal bands. I could tell things were going to get ugly the more we pushed against the establishment. Things kind of went south after that. Their excuse was that they had cut the budget for the magazine.
Morgan: I felt like I was drowning. They cut my budget severely. I had no money to pay freelancers. I would work from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with dinner at my desk, ride the subway home, take a break, and then work into the dawn on this broke-ass computer that they lent me that kept crashing and freezing. I averaged about three hours of sleep a night. I could never catch my breath. It seemed everything I did was wrong. For one issue, the boss’s son came by and told me that the cover story on Paradise Lost was “too dark,” and that he was changing the colors on the cover. He then changed it to light gray with yellow lettering. I felt I was being undermined at every turn, and I backed up and rebelled.
TRANSITION TO JEFF WAGNER: Glory to the Brave
Ludwig: Several months after I had quit Metal Maniacs—probably late 1995—Mike Greenblatt called me up to ask if I would come back to help him put out an issue that should’ve already been half done. Alicia was gone and he was tapped to do the issue. He had Alice King, a Sterling/Macfadden employee, appropriated as an assistant to do the editorial work that wouldn’t require someone acquainted with metal. He said he couldn’t put out the issue if it was just the two of them. I was missing Maniacs terribly, so I went in to see what was up. The issue “in production” was in terrible shape and there was not a lot of time, so I said I’d get the issue out and that I’d like to work in the capacity of a consultant for future issues. Mike was thrilled about that and got the OK to do it. He was the editor of a Sterling/Macfadden country music magazine at the time, and really wanted that to be a success. The plan for Maniacs was that I’d go into the office a few times a week to oversee what was going in the magazine and do some editorial, while Alice would do all the assistant/support work. After the whirlwind of getting the issue finished, Mike Greenblatt said he could take it from there. He and Alice put a few issues out before Jeff Wagner was brought in, whipped the magazine back into shape, and took it in a new direction.
Greenblatt: I asked Katherine to come back and she turned me down. For much of the 1990s, I did Modern Screen’s Country Music and Metal Maniacs. That meant that I had to have a really good assistant [editor]. I knew I had to have an assistant that was Katherine’s equal at least or better. It was then that I found Jeff Wagner. He became my savior.
Sue Nolz: I’m not sure if this is for public knowledge, but I was offered the assistant editor position, which ended up going to Jeff Wagner. I couldn’t take the job at the time for various reasons, but that would’ve been really cool. I’m just extremely happy that Jeff got it, because the era of him and Mike G as editors was truly the “golden age” of Metal Maniacs. Liz Ciavarella did a great job as well, and she tried to keep the magazine up with the times by focusing more on the new bands that younger fans are into.
Jeff Wagner: I heard about the opening in late 1996. As a reader of the magazine since the early ’90s, I thought it was at a low point, editorially, with things like Marilyn Manson and Korn making the cover. But I thought I’d be perfect for the job, especially if I could help swing it back to where it should be, so I got in touch with Mike G and scheduled an interview. I was working for Relapse at the time, in Pennsylvania, and took a train to New York. I sat and talked with Mike for 15 minutes and got the job on the spot. He’d already checked my credentials with other people and felt I was the perfect fit.
Cecolini: During the 1990s, the music industry was much different. Labels, both indie and major, flourished. Publicists and musicians were eager to promote their records and tours. I had to open a post office box to receive all of the advance recordings and swag. I enjoyed receiving T-shirts and other items so much that Relapse’s Gordon Conrad called me a “promo-sexual.” It wasn’t until this millennium that the Internet made the world smaller, made many printed magazines obsolete and sent record companies into a tailspin.
Chris “Professor Black” Maycock: I was still 18 then, and I brought to Metal Maniacs all of the exuberance, inexperience and ego that come with adolescence. The best part was the mutual inspiration between Jeff and the rest of the staff. He set an example of writing passionately about what we loved, and although he was constantly fighting upstream against Sterling/Macfadden’s outdated business practices, he summoned a lot of new voices writing about a lot of new music. We put a lot of work into our album reviews and diligently interviewed our favorite bands, maxing out the word count limit every time. I was also on a mission to drive out the grunge and nü-metal that had snuck into Maniacs when nobody was checking IDs. Today, I view it all with mixed feelings, not only what I wrote, but the way I acted toward certain people along the way.
Marty Rytkonen: I was a longtime follower of Maniacs, as it was often easy to obtain in northern Michigan. The day Jeff called me up to ask if I would be interested in writing for him, I thought he was joking. Once the shock subsided, I cannot tell you how honored I was to have been given the opportunity.
Craig Zahler: Nobody assigned me stuff I didn’t like, and at a certain point, I just stopped doing interviews, since I’m too focused on music—and perhaps too opinionated—to do them especially well. When Bruce Dickinson was trying to promote that stupid Ed Hunter videogame, I just kept cutting him off (which isn’t easy to do to Mr. Air Raid Siren), nor a great approach for an interviewer to take. Nor was telling him he was wrong when he called Soundgarden a heavy metal band, even though he was wrong, and they aren’t.
Nolz: I once was working at my regular job when the receptionist told me I had a call from “Reed.” When I answered the phone, it was Reed Mullin, Jr. from Corrosion of Conformity. He had gotten my number and called to personally discuss my scathing review of America’s Volume Dealer. He was very cool about it and actually agreed with some of the things I said in the review—if you recall, he left the band right after that album came out.
Wagner: To the mainstream, or people outside the metal stream, [metal] seemed dead. The focus was very much on heavy alternative bands or the emerging “nü-metal” thing. Other than Pantera or Slayer, you had very few big leaders keeping it real. But then I also remember a lot of amazing Scandinavian bands emerging and doing exciting things—Opeth, Arcturus, Katatonia, Dissection, At the Gates, Enslaved—and that’s a lot of what I tried to push Metal Maniacs toward when I started.
Greenblatt: [Jeff] was perfect. He was the greatest. He was so filled with not only knowledge, but a curiosity. He had no ego. He would sit at my desk and watch me edit his stories line by line. He knew why I was changing things and why I was moving certain things around. It was fabulous. I became very close to him, so I was upset when he left.
Rytkonen: I look back on the whole experience with a lot of fond memories and nostalgic desire for something like that to rise again. During the Wagner era, we all bonded over this labor of metal love, and many of us became friends. Some of which I still keep close contact with to this day. I will never forget the first ever Metal Maniacs Xmas party over at Zahler’s. It was my first time ever on an airplane and to NYC; a first step into a larger world. The air guitar competition. The laughs. The endless hours listening to records and debating them. I have never been in a working environment so fun or creatively charged, and I will always remember that feeling.
Wagner: I left for two very different reasons: 1) frustration with the often backwards/dated attitude of the publishing company, feeling I had done the best I could do with the tools given to me, and 2) the desire to move away from the city and live a quiet existence in the country, which ended up being 10-plus years in Virginia.
TRANSITION TO LIZ CIAVARELLA-BRENNER: Until the Heart Stops
Dov Teta: I showed up for my interview with the publisher of Sterling/Macfadden, Allen Tuller, dressed in a suit. I recall Allen rollerblading into his office in shorts and a tank top. We exchanged pleasantries, and I recall one of the first things he jokingly said to me was, “If I ever see you show up here in a suit again, I’ll throw you out!” Barbara [Seerman] had spoken highly of me, and I was offered the assistant position on the spot. For the next several months, I assisted Barbara in collecting ads from the labels, sending out media kits to potential new clients, and fielding the 50-60 calls she received a day.
Greenblatt: I asked Katherine to come back and she said no again. Ultimately, what happened with Katherine is that she had changed her mind. And I don’t think she’s forgiven me. Even to this day. But she wanted to come back. She felt I had screwed her, but I had already found Liz Ciavarella. And she was the answer to all my dreams. She came to the job interview and maybe I treated her out to lunch, but the point is she gave me a gift. She had told me she loved the magazine, was a big fan, and had given me a book about the Holocaust. I remember thinking, “Now, that’s a way to a man’s heart. A book about the Holocaust.” She somehow knew I’d love such a book. She was right. I’ve always been fascinated—I’m Jewish, by the way—with the Holocaust.
Liz Ciavarella-Brenner: Mike called me the very day Nuclear Blast announced their relocation to the west coast, saying that it was still unannounced, but Jeff was leaving the magazine in March, so if I could hang on for two months—I was basically finishing out the year with Nuclear Blast—he would have a job for me as associate editor. To me, it was the closest thing there was to a metal bible. I called my parents literally crying, saying something like, “My favorite magazine offered me a job!”
Nathan Birk: Metal Maniacs was by far the best all-around metal magazine, and I give Liz Ciavarella all the credit for that. She assembled such a knowledgeable crew, let them do their thing, and then fought to squeeze as much content as possible into each issue, even successively shrinking the font size seemingly on a yearly basis. From one end of the metal spectrum to the other, and every point in between, the mag covered it all, and with intelligence and passion. For a major newsstand magazine and for a mere $4, a better deal could not be found.
Cecolini: Although I loved contributing to every part of the magazine, I loved reading the features, which were very underground or European in style. They were often detailed and atypical: [not] the same generic questions followed by the same generic answers. Many of the other American magazines I contributed to were like that: stagnant.
Ciavarella-Brenner: We tried to cover a lot more ground subgenre-wise—death metal, black metal, grind, thrash, doom, power metal, hardcore, stoner rock, etc. The underground was exploding in so many ways and I wanted to cover it all. I wanted to turn people onto bands they’d never hear about otherwise. We lowered the point size to cater to more stories. Dov was an ad-selling madman, and we’d often have to push stories to the following issue to make room for more ads, which was obviously to the benefit of the magazine, but in my head, every ad meant less editorial and that made me bonkers. We were often criticized by the publishers—never the readers—for being too text-heavy, and maybe we were, but I always felt that was the point: keep people reading.
Maycock: I continued to drift in and out, and the magazine became less of the “glorified fanzine” Jeff always talked about and more label-driven under Liz’s leadership. This was a sign of what were in many ways better times. Shorter features meant more bands, and the layout improved dramatically. Jeff’s Maniacs helped turn around a heavy metal recession, but Liz’s Maniacs was for the new generation being born into the wealth of metal sounds, faces, sponsorships and package tours that we know today. The sheer quantity of stuff in those later issues was amazing.
Cecolini: I did have one particularly difficult interview. After having the time of my life hanging in a hotel room with Ronnie James Dio, who delighted me with all sorts of fun stories, I met with a grumpy Glenn Danzig. In the same room. Though it was a rare cloudy day in Hollywood, Danzig wore big dark sunglasses. At one point during the interview, he went off about how he wanted to kill Anthony Kiedis. When I asked him why, he hollered, “This is an interview about Danzig and not Anthony Kiedis.” Ironically, I when I interviewed Danzig years earlier in NYC, he wanted me to hang out with him, eat candy and watch professional wrestling.
Ciavarella-Brenner: When I was first hired, I remember a lot of pieces being sent on floppy disc; a few were handwritten, dropped off in person and needed to be retyped. I worked off Jeff’s old computer, which was ancient even for back then. The screen was black and white. No one in the Sterling/Macfadden office had Internet access on their computers. There was one communal Internet station in the middle of the office you could use for a specified amount of time to check email, update the website, etc. It was pretty archaic. I didn’t have to deal with that whole scenario too long, though. When we moved to the 7th Ave. offices, we were finally given individual Internet access, so most pieces were submitted via email, with the exception of “Critical Wax.” That column came later during the Zenbu years.
THE END: The Saddest Wings of Destiny
Greenblatt: By the time I found out Metal Maniacs was closing, I was far enough away from the day-to-day action, having been let go, that the news only brought back good memories of working with those particular people in that rushed, crazed atmosphere of constant deadlines. I miss it to this day.
Teta: Upon the closing of the magazine, we were asked to not say anything to anyone until the company issued some sort of press release. [Sister publication] Metal Edge and Metal Maniacs weren’t the only magazines shut down. The whole company was being shut down. We were told that the magazines weren’t sustaining themselves, which I knew was bullshit. Metal Maniacs wasn’t as profitable as it was six to seven years earlier, but it still was profitable to all of our publishers before the first copy was sold on the newsstands. Our “newest” bosses treated us like the magazine began with them. I knew how much it cost us to put out the magazine; I knew our breakeven point; to pat myself on the back, I know it wasn’t due to lack of advertising sales.
Gehret: I think when the news broke, Borivoj sent me the info prior to his putting it on Blabbermouth. In the wake of magazines going down, it wasn’t a surprise, per se, but it was still sad to see an institution close its doors. People who buy music and who read hard print may not quite be dinosaurs in that we’re not extinct, but it’s definitely towards the end of the Cretaceous period. I like a magazine I can bend and twist in my hands, smack against my head when the writing is formulaic, and swat mosquitoes with. But I would rather they went out, integrity intact, than dragging on to this day, becoming a parody and being forced to cover Five Finger Death Punch. Europeans will never understand that because they have had a wealth of great, enduring national magazines, but the worthwhile national metal magazine is that most rare of institutions in the States. Before I was reluctant to embrace it, but I have to admit it now: I’m a metal maniac.
Wagner: I heard shortly after Liz heard, either directly from her or from someone close to it. Maybe Dov Teta. I don’t remember. I was saddened to hear it, of course. The end of an era, to use an appropriate cliché. But hey, 20 years or so doing that? Not bad. Victim of the times, but also a victim of publishing companies that never quite “got it” and just had this weird beast on their hands. At least those publishing companies let it flourish at all. I sound like I’m being diplomatic here, but it was always kinda complicated there.
Christe: As I understood things, Metal Maniacs was purchased by a publishing company that was forced to close shop after making some bad financial decisions that had nothing to do with Maniacs. I think the Riddick brothers own the name now, and I hope they can figure out how to do something still powerful with the name.
Nolz: I remember that it was a weekend and the rumor mill was churning online. I had contacted Liz the day before to pitch an interview idea—I was hoping to get a little more involved again. But then the whole staff got an email from Liz confirming that the plug was being pulled. We didn’t even get a chance to do a farewell issue. Although I could see the writing on the wall, I wasn’t ready to let go yet. It is a sign of the times, really. Print magazines will probably not be around much longer. It’s sad that we never had a good website, which could have carried on after the demise of print. There is some online incarnation of it now, but it’s nothing like it used to be.
Ludwig: It surprised me. The magazine had gotten pretty slick and had a lot of people working for it; Zenbu was definitely putting money into it, so I figured it was doing well. I was bummed for the readers; I know how important a magazine can be. I felt really bad for everyone working on the magazine. It must’ve been devastating. It felt like the end of a form of communication.
Ciavarella-Brenner: Even though we were never really given all the numbers, it was pretty obvious for months there was an essential newsstand war out there and we were losing. I just thought we had a bit more time to prepare for the fall. I was in Finland on a Spinefarm promotional cruise when I knew something was up. I think it was the day I got back into the office from the trip. You could just tell there was a giant black poop cloud everywhere. Then one by one we were each called into the group editor’s office and told the magazine—and the company as a whole—was shutting down. Funds were gone, pack your desk, please drive through. And that was that. We were never given any real details as to what happened, really.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job they take to heart like we did. I regret not getting a chance to do some sort of final issue, and wish we would have at least made it to the 20th anniversary edition, which was already in the works, but I don’t harbor any ill will. Overall, I think it was a pretty rad run, and I wouldn’t have changed much. I’m really proud of what the Maniacs team accomplished through its whole run. For a magazine with no real plan, a subpar layout, clueless publishers and no budget, the fact that we managed to sustain for nearly 20 years is pretty amazing and I’ll always be honored to have been able to take part in some of it. Rest in peace, Metal Maniacs.