The Underground Scene and Wheel Of Torture Webzine

Back in 1998 to early 2001, I was a stupid high school student who got into the underground metal scene. Back in that time, I was limited on which parties to go to and me and a friend attempting to go to a show for people ages 21 and older, but that was a failure, we got in but the guard kicked our 17 year old asses out of there.

The underground Metal network would work with many bands, zines (or Literature as I like to say now), and also disros. The last mention is short for distribution, and what happens is the person would buy 10 cassette tapes or CD’s from a band at a lower price, and/or buy 10 of the zines and practically set-up his own mail order store to make a few bucks and also help support the band on zine.

Most of the underground Metal network I knew was done mostly by snail mail.  My entrance into that world was me putting out a pen pal ad in the now defunct magazine called Metal Maniacs (the store I bought it is also defunct). Me going to this Magazine was due to my displeasure of Guitar mag focusing more on the alternative bands 1997 had to offer, plus there was a focus on blues rock from a then 19-year-old Kenny Wayne Shepard and then 15-year-old Jonny Lang. They did cover Ozzy Osbourne’s re-entrance into Black Sabbath in their June 1997 issue, though.

Metal Maniacs 2007 issue. C: BlastedTower.net
Metal Maniacs 2007 issue. C: BlastedTower.net

The Metal Maniacs issue had My Dying Bride on the cover, a band I would later become a big fan of. In the end of most Metal Maniacs mags would be the pen pal ads, or otherwise called ‘shorts.’ My short was ran on their final issue on 1997 and found quite a few pen pals. However, the ones I found on Metal Maniacs lost touch with me or the other way around within a year.

One in particular, a guy named Harold (forgot if he was from Missouri or Montana) would send me ads. On his last letter, he sent me an ad to a Death Metal band called Unholy Death, what interested me was the band was in Ortonville, MI, about 60 miles north of where I was living at the time, Eastpointe, MI.

I would later buy their demo on cassette and keep a correspondence with the singer/guitarist of the band named Tim. The band would later make a full-length CD which I bought a copy of that. Like Harold, Tim would send me some ads. I would later write to a few folks, buy some tapes and CD’s and I would later do tape trades. I would later get sick of death metal altogether and move onto Doom and Gothic Metal.

Summer of 1998 and after, I got into bands such as the aforementioned My Dying Bride, Therion, Love History and Nightwish. Besides the tapes and CD’s, I would also buy some zines. Most were basically about the metal scene altogether. Comedy-based zines were a little hard to come by, one of them I have a copy of is “I Hate You Mother Fucker.”

IHYMF Zine
IHYMF Zine

Yes, that indeed is the title. IHYMF had interviews with unsigned Death Metal or hardcore bands, the writer very honest album or demo reviews (if he hated your demo, he’d rip it apart), some movie reviews (he gave the Lifetime movie Death of a Cheerleader a good review) and lots of articles and content that could easily be filed under NSFW.

After a while, I decided to create a zine called Wheel of Torture. My intention was to have the zine published via newsprint from a company in Florida who had asked for $600 to have 1000 copies printed. It was late 1998 when I started trying to get the content together. I began to save cash for the zine. I also began to learn HTML just in case actually publishing in newsprint would go south, therefore I could make a webzine.

With the help from Tim & another pen pal named Patrick, I was able to get the zine together before spring ended in 99. However, I lacked the funds due to me getting canned from the local Kroger. I didn’t have the $$$ for the Florida deal and I wasn’t interested in doing what the editor of IHYMF did. A letter from him before I declared Wheel of Torture Webzine, told me on how local printers in his area would not print his zine due to it being considered “too offensive.” So he had to go to Kinko’s (now known as the FedEx Office) and do it himself.

Since I knew how to make web pages (in 1999s standards) and some basic graphics, Wheel Of Torture was created and hosted on AOL. Of course, I didn’t have www.wheeloftorture.com, the url was something like: www.aol.com/hodz67890/Wot/index.html

Wheel of Torture Webzine was on the AOL world for a few months, I was later e-mailed by someone claiming to be a female Christian who wasn’t happy with my heavy metal site and threatened to report me to AOL. I e-mailed “her” back and told her to do her worst (however, my words were not nice on that reply). Sadly, she did, AOL deleted those pages and gave me a warning. AOL also gave carbon copies of my offense to all accounts in the household, including my mom.

A friend would later tell me about Geocities from Yahoo! Also, Geocities had less rules on content, the only problem they had is that you couldn’t make a porn site. I wasn’t looking to do that, but I was later asked by a couple people if they would help with that. Geocities saved the day, but I had to make new ads to go through the underground via snail-mail. Also, the W.O.T. Webzine once uploaded on Geocities had an additional page on the AOL situation. This came along with my then hatred of that company and the wish that “they go down in flames.”

Well, it’s Xmas 2016 now, my 17-year-old self kinda got his wish.

The Decline…

In 2000, I began to see less ads, zines becoming defunct, less snail mail. And also less people interested in our Unhappiness Compilation tapes. Volume 3 of our tape remains unfinished and at the time, we intended to make a CD-R release. What lead to me calling it quits was receiving the 9th and final issue of IHYMF where editor Chuck C. Bobuck indicated that he had it. Another thing Chuck said was with the help of the internet, the underground became “deader than a doornail.”

I have to agree.

W.O.T. Webzine ended just before the summer of 2001.

One of the things I would do from time-to-time is try to act more “business-like” and taking W.O.T. as a legit business. That is something I regret, big time. How are you going to be business-like when you look like this:

Me in Sep 1998
Me in 1998 – Yuk!

Sadly, Metal Maniacs went down in early 2009. As of Xmas 2016, the metalmaniacs.com domain is for sale on GoDaddy.

The Post Before XMas

For a non – religious person, I actually don’t find Merry Christmas offensive, I just prefer to say Happy Holidays.

Last week I got stuck in the Wikipedia Matrix and was looking up rock stars or artists that died in an unusual way. One in particular I ran into was Philip Taylor Kramer. He played bass for San Diego-based Iron Butterfly during the mid-70s, just after Doug Ingle quit. For those who don’t know, Iron Butterfly is known for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” which was supposed to mean In The Garden of Eden, that song was a big hit in 1968 and 1969, it was also known to be one of the first heavy metal songs.

Anyways, Iron Butterfly did brake-up briefly but reformed in 1974 without Doug Ingle and Eric Braun the guitarist took over most of the lead vocals, they did two more albums with Braun at lead with Kramer at Bass and doing some of the lead vocals. Kramer left Iron Butterfly, but was involved with other projects that included Ron Bushy.

Kramer would later go to college, and would go into business in rocket science. In early 1995, Kramer had went to LAX to pick up an associate, however in the end, he did not collect the associate. It was confirmed that he was at LAX, he made 45 minutes of phone calls to friends and family before finally calling 911 to say he was going to commit suicide. One of the calls was to Ron Bushy, the drummer of Iron Butterfly.

Four years later, his van and his remains we found on some hills by the airport. His death was ruled a suicide but the family doesn’t think that.

Unsolved Mysteries did an episode on his disappearance, but as of December 2016 it is not on YouTube. However, VH1 had a special about it (they cut to the chase and talk about Kramer’s disappearance first).

Despite the episode from Unsolved Mysteries, the official website has some info.

And there is some info about this day Kramer died along with some theories. There is also a claim that also in the 911 call, he said OJ Simpson was innocent and “they did it.” In the winter of 95, that case was top of the news. Here is a site talking about this and made in 1996, it does look 1996 like.

Not sure what to believe on this one to be honest, but before his death, he didn’t sleep well and had sleepless days. Was he delirious just before he ended his life?

Before I get to Layne Slatey, I do have to say that Iron Butterfly had quite a few people playing in that god damn band. It seems like if you in Iron Butterfly for 12 seconds, the folks of Wikipedia would add you on the list. A current member of the band is Dave Meros of Spock’s Beard. I’d imagine when Spock’s Beard isn’t doing anything, he floats to Iron Butterfly.

From Loudwire
From Loudwire

I would later go to Layne Staley’s page. For those of you who don’t know, he was the first singer for Alice In Chains back in the 90s. Alice In Chains now enjoy a second incarnation with William Duvall on vocals now. Sometime around AIC’s breakup in the late-90s, Staley bought a condo in Seattle and would later become a recluse from 1998 to his death in 2002.

During those four years, Staley kept away in his condo for the most part. Barely eating and often doing drugs. He would seldom get visits and would visit a bar nearby him from time-to-time. While on his recluse, he had gone down to 85 pounds and it was considered usual for Staley to rarely communicate with friends and family.

Sadly, Staley was found dead on 19 April 2002. It was later determined that he died on 5 April 2002. The family of Layne got a phone call from his bank that he hadn’t taken any money from his bank account since that day, which lead to the sad discovery. Another piece of news after Staley’s death was Mike Starr (Alice In Chains bassist for their Facelift and Dirt albums) had visited Staley the day before he died. Starr tried to pursue him to get help, but he refused, which led Starr leaving upset with Staley. This story was told by Starr on Celebrity Rehab in 2009, he later died in 2011.

 

So much I have learned on Wikipedia.