Editor Jörg Schnebele is about legendary German fanzine Live Wire – Part II
Did the fanzine satisfy the demands of the underground fans?
The reaction of our readers showed that we were very close to what they expected. On the other hand I cannot judge, if majority of fans were not satisfied. In fact, that we sold our mag quite good, I guess we were on the right way
How were they sold and distributed/promoted? Were all of the issues sold out?
We sold our mag exclusively in record stores. So we browsed endlessly phone books to get telephone numbers to contact the shops. No internet, no mails, just telephone. And at this time every call costs a fortune, depending, which city we called. As soon as print company finished new issue, we sit together with friends, parents in law and other helping hands, packing the mags and took it to the post office. This was the part of our business, we didn’t like too much, but had to be done. Of every issue we sold approx 80-90%; some issues were sold out very soon as well.
Did you receive letters from other continents, too?
Yes, especially a lot of letters from USA; don’t ask me why. And even many years after stopping Live Wire, I get mails from all over the world; it’s unbelievable: South America, Russia, Far East… Internet open new window for a lot of maniacs around the world.
Were you also in touch with record labels? Did you get respectively how often did you get promo packages?
As I said before, contact and cooperation with record labes worked very good. So we received every new record as soon as it was published and very often in advance as test pressing
On which format did you get the releases?
Mainly as vinyl, sometimes tapes…
With which label(s) did you get on well?
Especially the independant labels. Later on the majors as well… Every company was interested in pushing their bands. The majors had to overbear their „arrogance”; but at the end of the day they recognised that we all pull at the same side of the rope.
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, unfortunately it happened, because we received more and more stuff, depending from new cooperations and increasing of releases. You cannot ensure to satisfy everybody. Sometimes it was question of mass, sometimes of our limited time, sometimes of deadline…
What about the production cost of each issues? Were your costs cleared, that you were investing in them?
In the beginning we put a lot of our own money in our mag. Sales took a part of production cost of next issue; but very important was commercial. Of course Live Wire was an independent mag; but without money from record companies you have no chance to survive. Except you have a rich daddy, who supports you. This was even very often reason, we couln’t follow our time plan, cause cost wasn’t covered. And not very seldom it happened, that we didn’t get the money from companies and bands. There are still a lot of bills open…
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?
Absolutely. These compilations were good for the fans, for the mags and of course for the bands. Without these kind of releases a lot of bands would have disappeared before they could take a chance to publish their own record.
Which year was the best for metal and why?
Hm, not easy to answer, cause it is always a subjective issue. For me personally mid of the 80’s. Especially with Live Wire I had the chance to meet a lot of great bands and from time to time my „old” heroes as well. This makes this time period very special for me
What do you recall of the fanzine world of the 80’s?
There were millions of fanzines coming from worldwide, such as Blackthorn, Phoenix Militia, Brain Damage, Violent Noize, Metal Meltdown, The Book Of Armageddon, the list goes on… As you say: too much… Cannot answer this…
Was it a kind of impenetrable scene? I mean, there were a very big amount of fanzines, every day or week popped up a new one…
Without internet you had only a chance to discover new mags by accident. I guess, no one of us had really an overview, what happened all over the world.
Which fanzines did you like personally? With which fanzine editors did you have friendship, good connection/relation etc.?
I liked Rock Hard very much and read this mag till today. I have every single issue and had the opportunity to use a local bookbindery to „refine” the first 10 years of Rock Hard. To former RH editor Götz Kühnemund I had loose contact at this time.
Because of the big amount of fanzines, was it hard to pick up fanzines for the fans/collectors?
Absolutely, especially if your hometown was countrified; in this case you had really a problem.
What is/was the importance of the fanzines in your opinion?
To open the view on a lot of bands, far away from money making industry. And of course, keep independence.
Did it sometimes happen that the materials, that you’ve got from bands or labels, weren’t featured in the certain issues?
Shame on us: yes, this happened. As I said: a lot of circumstances, which we didn’t had in our own hands.
During the existence of Live Wire did the staff remain constant or were there guys that got out of the fanzine and others joined instead of them?
The base of four people remained constant. With growing we hired additional people.
What about the prime cost of the certains issues?
Starting with number 7 the price was 4 German marks, what means approx 2 euro. We could keep this price till our last issue.
Were all of you satisfied with every Live Wire issues? Would you say, that Live Wire existed for the longest period?
As soon as you have finished product in your hands, you see mistakes here and there. We were very critical with our mag and in principle never really satisfied. But this was a good base, to do it better next time.
Why and when did you stop doing Live Wire?
In 1992 we had to make decision to take professional distribution on board, going on as we did last years or stop it. Distribution brought problem, that they demanded quantity of 30000 pcs for the first year and afterwards every year 10000 pcs more. On the other hand they gave us no insight in their operation method and distribution process. So it was for us a view in a crystal ball.
Financial risk only in our hands. To go on as we’ve done before was no option. At this time more and more small fanzines went the way with distributor or stopped the mags. There was barely no scene between. So, in fact, that I leaded the mag on legal aspect alone (cause my partners didn’t want to keep any risk), I had to make my decision. At this time my daughter was born and I had responsibility for a family. This brought me to the hard decision to stop Live Wire. In 1992 Live Wire died.
Did you go on writing for other fanzines/magazines? If so, in which magazines/fanzines did you take part?
Parallel to Live Wire I wrote even for a big magazine called „Shark”, but Live Wire had priority. For many years I stopped writing and doing pictures from the front row, but 2011 fever came back and I liked to shoot pictures in concerts again. Some old contacts were still alive for example Weiki from Helloween or Gaby Hoffmann, managment of Accept. I asked them for photo passes and it worked. More and more I came back in this business and three years ago a friend of mine, living in my town, started webzine Hellfire (www.hellfire-magazin.de). I joined after my friends partner, with whom he started this, left the small team. And actually we’re really successful. Great to be back, and much easier, cause you publish more ore less by copy/paste.
Talking about the thrash metal scene, the German bands, such as Destruction, Kreator, Sodom, Iron Angel etc. played an important role in the evolving of thrash metal and an important influence on other bands. Do you agree with this?
Yes, I do! These bands were/are counterpart to Bay Area bands in the 80’s and actual influencer of present bands.
While Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer are mentioned as The Big Four, Destruction, Kreator and Sodom are The Big Three, how do you view it? What’s the reason of it? Do you like their present records or only the old, classic ones?
Personally I like more the older records. I guess this linked to the vibe of the 80’s. We’re living in a time of a lot of upcoming new interesting bands, which makes it difficult for bands like Destruction, Kreator etc, to overlap this. But they are still very important part of German Thrash Metal.
What are the most underrated thrash metal bands in your opinion? Why did it fail them to be bigger?
I don’t want to name special bands; the problem I guess is the flood of new bands, favoured by Facebook etc.
In the past you checked out some few bands. You had time to get familiar with the music. Today no chance… We receive every week approx 50 new releases. Who is able to hear all of this? That’s in my opinion the reason that a lot of bands have no chance to become bigger.
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?
Yes, absolutely, but even ment in a positive way. Stiles like Grunge etc. will come up from time to time, but important is that the Metal base will keep the same significance over all the years and decades.
Did all of these type of music kill the traditional metal? Did these movements force a lot of bands to change their style/music drastically and turn their backs on metal and their fans?
You cannot kill traditional metal. Traditional Metal is in my opinion immortal and will survive on and on.
Maybe one day it will called different. But the core will remain the same.
By the way, what do you think about the reformation of cult, classic bands, such as Artillery, Agent Steel, Nasty Savage, Onslaught, Metal Church, Death Angel, Heathen etc., that happened in the last 10-15 years?
Sometimes I like it very much, sometimes I ask myself, if it is really neccessary. If there is only one member remaining from original band, it’s really disputable.
Are you still proud of Live Wire these days? Who are/were your best friends from the scene? Are you still in touch with them?
Live Wire was more or less my baby, so even, if your baby is not perfect, you’re proud. Especially positive reaction even after many many years confirm that we made a good job. Short anekdote: when I came back into this business and got in contact to record companies again, a lot of my contacts told me that they read our mag in the past and haven’t forgotten. That’s what makes you proud!
Do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground? How do you view the scene these days?
As I said, with Hellfire I’m very close to the scene.
What do you think about the internet and the downloading/mp3 files as a whole?
It’s good for quick communication, but a real Metalhead is collecting physical CDs.
How do you view the webzines? Do you often read them?
Unfortunately there is not so much time to read a lot of webzines; I’m in contact with several others and have a look here and there. But not so much. Just question of time.
My last question: please list us your first ten all time favourite records (and tell why)!
Deep Purple – Made in Japan (milestone in live recording)
Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys (beginning of a new era in German Metal)
Hammerfall – Glory to the Brave (comeback of real traditional metal after grunge)
Accept – Breaker (German answer to international Metal)
Judas Priest – Painkiller (proove that a good band never dies)
Ensiferum – Ensiferum (rampant energy)
Blind Gardian – Tales from the Twilight World (big step in an unbelievable career)
Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (just a blast)
Kiss – Destroyer (opened universe for good music)
Manowar – Kings of Metal (zenith of a great band)
I have to say that this was not easy and a lot of great bands and records are in my personal best of list. 100 all time favourite albums would have been more relevant…
Thanks a lot Jörg for wasting your time to do this feature! Anything to ad, that I didn’t cover?
I have to say: THANX A LOT for your interest! I wish you a lot of success for the future!