Jackson May of Mandatory Metallica
In the last week Mandatory Metallica has run a preview of Megadeth and Iron Maiden’s upcoming Sprint Center date, a primer for another half dozen upcoming metal shows, and a review of Fu Manchu’s recordBar performance. While the blog’s seen an irregular posting schedule so far in 2013, for a number of years it’s been a key source for metal reviews and news, regularly covering shows in Kansas City and Lawrence. What’s enjoyable about the website is how the man behind the metal (blog), Jackson May, avoids rambling in his reviews, choosing instead to economically dive head first into the action as he did with January’s recap of Title Fight’s show at the Jackpot. “Title Fight was, by far, the craziest crowd experience I’ve ever been a part of at a show,” he opened. “As soon as the band started the intro to ‘Numb, But I Still Feel It’, the number of stage-divers was in the teens.” He doesn’t meander, critic-trolling questionable technique, or balking at the entertainment value of a performance. He writes about (mostly metal) music from the perspective of a fan who wants you to know what it was like to be there. Why bother with frosting?
How long ago did you start Mandatory Metallica and is there a story behind your Mankvill handle?
My internet handle, like most, started off from something lame that I just decided to stick with. In 5th grade, like every good 10 year old, I was heavily into the Pokémon craze. There’s a monkey Pokémon named Manky, and for a school project I made up a city based on them: Mankville. It just kind of stuck from there.
I started Mandatory Metallica specifically as a blog where I recorded my thoughts on hearing Metallica songs. I got into heavy metal music backwards, starting with black metal and grindcore, and really didn’t hear more mainstream things like Metallica and Iron Maiden until later on. On 98.9 The Rock they play a block of three Metallica songs at 9pm called “Mandatory Metallica,” so I would listen and just kind of give my thoughts on each song. It helped me get into Metallica greatly. I started to put my own reviews and concert news on there until I decided to just make the blog about the local scene completely. I’ve been contemplating changing the name to something like “KC Metal” but I’m really digging the banners I had made for me.
In terms of covering metal locally, is there anyone besides you who is writing about the scene at all, or is conversation mostly relegated to message boards?
As far as the local heavy music scene, there isn’t too much widespread coverage of it. The two names that spring to mind for that kind of music is KC Anthem TV and fellow KC-centric blog Headbang or GTFO. Sometimes the KC Star sends someone to review certain hard rock or heavy metal shows, but they tend to shy away from local acts and the more underground shows.
Since starting your blog which local metal bands have stood out most to you?
My favorite part of running this blog is how it’s opened my mind to just how awesome and eclectic the Kansas City local music scene is. The first two bands that really stood out to me were deathgrind band Troglodyte and thrash metal band Hammerlord. I’ve met with and became friends with each band and I truly believe they are putting out some of the best music today in their respective genres. There’s a ton more I’ve found as well – Gornography, Marasmus, At The Left Hand Of God, Death Valley Wolfriders, Meat Shank, etc. Too many to name!
The bad thing about the Beaumont Club closing is that there isn’t really an all-ages medium-sized venue in Kansas City now. Bands that would’ve been a decent pull there are now relegated to either the Riot Room, which is way too small in some cases, or the next big venue, like the Uptown or the Midland. I’ve seen bands much too big for the Riot Room and bands much too small for the bigger venues, and it’s not nearly as good as it would’ve been at the Beaumont. Not to mention KC pretty much lost their only hope for an open-air outdoor metal stage! Luckily, it seems shows (at least heavy shows) are still coming to Kansas City or Lawrence, so it hasn’t had too much of a negative impact on the scene as a whole. If it came back, though, it’d be amazing.
When I was growing up Henry Rollins had a tremendous influence on me and I also held a strong appreciation for guys like Ian MacKaye, but their straight edge lifestyle failed to connect with me (sidebar: that ended up really biting me in the ass). What influenced you to follow that path in your own life?
I decided to be “straight edge” before I really knew the term or the music associated with it. And I’m afraid the reason for that is pretty boring. It just never really connected with me. I hold no ill will to people who decide to drink or do drugs or anything like that. My entire family and my best friends drink and it doesn’t make me uncomfortable or anything. Hell, all my ex-girlfriends have been heavy drinkers. No one has ever given me trouble for my choices either, which I’m thankful for! Sometimes I’ll goof around and scream Minor Threat lyrics at them when they’re drinking, but it’s all in good fun. The biggest thing I take from Ian MacKaye though is how he felt the “norm” for the period in his life was to drink and do drugs and he felt like it was pointless to destroy your own body just to have a good time. I don’t really feel my friends are destroying their bodies, but that sentiment really stuck with me.
Stepping slightly outside of metal, you had some positive things to say about Clairaudients when they opened for Title Fight. Are there any other non-metal bands that are on your radar right now?
The good thing about the Kansas City scene is that its brilliance isn’t limited to just our metal bands. Clairaudients really have something unique and great going on — I really hope they get a lot bigger. There’s a rock and roll band that I’ve seen open several shows called the Runaway Sons that reminds me of the garage rock/punk bands I used to listen to years ago, like the Hives and the Vines. Other great ones would be the Casket Lottery, Cowboy Indian Bear, Mac Lethal, Beautiful Bodies, Hearts of Darkness… again lots of great music all around KC.
Question in the form of an answer: “Girls’ Generation.”
Being straight-edge doesn’t get me any lip from anybody, but liking Girls’ Generation sure as hell does! I’m not ashamed of anything I listen to, but Girls’ Generation might be what I consider closest to a “guilty pleasure.” A few years ago, I started listening to pop radio stations on my long-drive home after concerts, and somehow I got introduced to K-pop and they just have their own crazy culture associated with this infectious pop music that I can’t get out of my head. And Girls’ Generation has nine smoking hot girls in it, so it can’t be that bad to like them, right? When I finish my patch jacket to wear to metal shows, it’ll definitely have a Girls’ Generation patch on there.
Rapid fire finale: Favorite local band, favorite local club, and song you’re most looking forward to hearing played when Maiden arrives in September?
Favorite local band: Definitely Troglodyte. Putting out deathgrind that is leagues above internationally famous bands on major record labels. It’s a crime they aren’t world-famous. Favorite local club: I’ve had nothing but amazing experiences at the Record Bar in Westport. I think it’s the greatest sounding venue for metal concerts I’ve ever been to, and it has killer food and a great atmosphere. I usually don’t stick around too often after shows, but I definitely do at the Record Bar. Maiden song: To be honest, I’m probably going to pass out during the show. I’ve never seen Maiden and this will be a dream come true. They’re doing a setlist based on their Maiden England tour from 1988, so “The Evil That Men Do,” “The Prisoner,” and “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” will be like a dream come true. One of my favorite albums of all time is their album Powerslave, so I’m really hoping they play some tracks off that, like maybe “Aces High” or “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Whatever they play, it’s guaranteed to be my #1 concert of all time!