Founded in 1985, Powerline began as an undergound hard rock/heavy metal mag, distributed mostly in record stores worldwide. As it evolved a few years later, it embraced more commercial hard rock
(the popular genre at the time was classified as “hair bands”) and the mag was distributed as a high-gloss publication on American newsstands with a circulation of over 100K.
By 1992 the party was over. The magazine became defunct (for various reasons). The staff went onto other jobs. And the name gathered dust. Until now.
Resurrected online, Powerline covers hard rock/heavy metal music in general (truly From Glam to Slam!), as well as reminisce about the old days in the form of time-capsuled articles and experiences.
Backstage Auctions sat down with Pat Prince to talk about all things hard rock and heavy metal, the new online version of Powerline and the industry in general.
How did you start Powerline? And why?
I grew up reading magazines like CREEM and Kerrang! But I then became obsessed with seeking out and collecting metal fanzines – I loved Bob Muldowney's Kick Ass monthly and Metal Rendezvous — and the pure excitement of discovering new metal bands. Powerline was really born out of my love for fanzines and the metal underground but also my frustration of not being able to get enough of my photographs published in the metal press. I'd been sneaking my 35mm camera into metal clubs like L'amour in Brooklyn for years and taking photos of all the latest bands. Finally, in 1985, I figured I'd take my photographs and put them next to my ramblings about the bands I loved, so I started Powerline with a typewriter, pasteboards, and veloxes from my photographs. And, at first, I dropped off copies to sell in all the record stores in the tri-state area that carried metal. It progressed from there.
Since Powerline started as a fanzine. How much did the editorial content change upon hitting the newsstand?
After I teamed up with my friend Mike Smith in 1988, we merged the essence of the fanzine with the more popular hard rock/ metal acts of the time like Ozzy, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, etc. It was really a great combination because it covered everything. Soon we were able to hire renowned metal journalists like Mick Wall (a favorite of mine from Kerrang!). And the graphics and quality became really fantastic. Some might of seen it as a sell out. But it was really an evolution.
What was your favorite issue to put together?
Each issue had its own great experience. But I would have to say the Metallica issue, September 1989. I was into Metallica from the very beginning of their existence but by the time I started Powerline in 1985, Metallica became too big to get access to. Finally, we were able to get an exclusive interview and make it a cover story, with great color live shots.
What was the strangest interview you've done?
L.A. Guns. It was in a hotel room in New York City and the band had their rock star hats on. They were rude and seemingly drunk out of their minds. My questions were repeated back at me and answered in a nonsensical manner. Steve Riley was laying on the bed and bouncing a rubber ball off the walls and giving me a juvenile play-by-play of it. I had brought Powerline t-shirts to give the band and Phil Lewis stood up and said sarcastically, 'Oh, great, t-shirts.' He picked one up and rubbed his crotch with it and then threw it across the room. Up to that moment Powerline had been a big promoter of LA Guns — not that that demanded my respect, but it certainly hurt witnessing this kind of behavior. I walked out of the room with Riley, Lewis, and Kelly Nickels in a laughing/giggling fit. I had loved Lewis' singing since he was in the UK band Girl, but I thought 'F*ck you. I don't care who you are.' The PR woman finally directed me to Tracii Guns' room. And walking in, you can clearly tell Tracii was in the middle of getting hardcore stoned. It was like walking into a hash den. But, completely opposite of his bandmates, Guns was one of the coolest musicians I've had the pleasure to meet. That's why when people ask me nowadays which faction of LA Guns I support — Tracii Guns' L.A. Guns or Phil Lewis' L.A. Guns — it becomes quite an easy question to answer.
How is the metal genre different than it was when you started Powerline?
Today's metal now has standardized extremities — it seems too forced at times. I like all kinds of metal for its musical value but I don't agree with this way of thinking. You don't have to be extreme to be intense.
Is it harder for a metal band to be recognized nowadays?
Metal seems to be making a comeback. Genres can be cyclical as far as popularity. But hard rock and heavy metal will always be there. It was very hard for metal bands to get recognized in the early - to mid-'80s— which made it seem more exciting, actually.
How are Metal fans/collectors unique? Do you collect metal memorabilia?
When you listen to a genre exclusively, you like to think that your music is the most unique, and its followers are the most enthusiastic. And there are some aspects of it that are unique. But, basically, fans and collectors are the same all over, no matter the genre. After being the editor of Goldmine I certainly realized that!
A lot of my favorite memorabilia, unfortunately, has been lost over the years. I had almost all the metal demos from the '80s, including Metallica's. And the heavy metal demos of the '80s were the most fun to collect and trade. It was a world onto itself — almost a secret society. And, unlike today's MP3s, bands wanted you to trade demos -- get the music out there. I'm glad I experienced it. The demos from bands like Malice and Mercyful Fate were better than a lot of the stuff that made it onto their studio albums. Brilliant stuff that you'd could only hear if you were part of that scene. And then you had bands like Surgical Steel that you can only hear on demo tape. It's a moment in time that you really can't recapture.
Why did you resurrect Powerline as a Web site?
I listen to all kinds of music now, but I had missed Powerline and the music it cherished being an important part of my life. Plus I got kind of sick of bands like Korn being seen as the face of heavy music. What about bands like Saxon, Riot, Accept, Raven and the hundreds of other great bands from the '80s — the ones that started it all?! They deserve the most respect!
What are Powerline's future plans?
To have Powerline conitnue to represent vintage Hard Rock/Heavy Metal bands. I love the idea of turning kids onto all that old school stuff for the first time. Kind of like how Kerrang! turned me onto it in the early '80s.
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