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Press of Darkness

UNDERGROUND METAL FANZINES SINCE THE 80S

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Interview with Laurent Ramadier of Snakepit

If there are fanzines that deserve legendary status, Snakepit is certainly one of them. Started in 1997 by Frank Stöver (now of voicesfromthedarkside.com), it focused on old and new traditional heavy, speed, thrash, and power metal. Frank couldn't continue after issue 4, and issue 5 marked the beginning of Laurent Ramadier's tenure as editor, with Heinz Konzett and Matt Coe (now deadrhetoric.com) serving as main contributors. The trio worked together from 1999 to 2002 and published issues 5 to 11. Then, Laurent continued on his own, publishing issues with reduced frequency. Issue 24 was out in the beginning of 2024. The magazine stands out as one of the most respected fanzines in the whole history of underground metal, due to the true passion of its editor and writers, direct opinions, and knowledge of extreme depths. We offer you to read an interview with Laurent.

Hi Laurent! Thanks a lot for agreeing to answer our questions. Your magazine has made a huge impact on us as previous fanzine editors and metal fans. How are you doing overall, and what is on your mind these days?

I’m doing ok. Nothing real bad and nothing great either like it has been for the last 12 years or so. Lost a lot of energy after the debacle with issue 22 and got even more disillusioned in recent years with all those assholes known as musicians who doesn’t give a fuck about their fans from the first hour. Sad to experience still that bullshit at 57 when you have the Metal at heart like I always did. Got the new issue out recently so it gave me a bit of happiness until I got it in hand and realized that it’s quite a lame one comparing to what it should have been, but hey… it is what it is.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the timeline of Snakepit 24? When did you decide on the content? How long did it take to make? Were there any joyful moments? Do you have any plans regarding the next issue?

Oh it was originally conceived when the pandemic started in 2020, knowing I would have some time available at home made me think that it would be the same for quite a few assholes around, so I suddenly found a bit of energy going on again in my washed mind and came up with some interviews having been given the green light from some band members. Unfortunately the same assholes (there’s no other words) had better things to do in the end, so most of my work went nowhere and you can easily imagine the effect it had on an already broken mind… So I had to re-find some energy to replace the bands planned which O partially did (and also found Konstantin in the meantime and this guy with his great features definitively saved issue 24), but nothing really went as good as planed with the newer chosen acts… There’s definitively a curse placed on Snakepit especially considering that 20 years ago I could have released 3 issues a year if the money had been given to me. Talk about a radical change. It took me 3 fuckin’ years to put together that lame new issue. Joyful moments? Not at all, which is a total shame considering there should be plenty like it was before…. Just bullshit to deal with and have to force myself coming up with questions… talk about joyful moments! So far no plans for a new issue… there’s bands I have found that I would love to feature, two UK bands particularly, but if you knew how full of shit those band members are just to be tracked down, you wouldn’t believe it…. Trust me.


How do you decide which bands you want to interview? Do you take into account factors such as whether the band has rarely been featured elsewhere, its presence on the web is minimal, or members are hard to find?

It’s based on my tastes at 99%. if I like a band I’ll feature it, if not there’s almost like zero chances I’ll do it unless I consider it’s a talented band… like CORONER… I never got into them but those guys are greatly talented guys so if I had the opportunity to do it I would do it… So that also means reduced proportions of bands that I can feature given the fact that I’ve never been one to go with the stupid ‘this is cool’ statement about everything heard. Yeah I also take in consideration if a band is featured everywhere and stuff or if it has been covered in a lengthy way like TALION (UK) recently… I told the guys that I would have enjoyed doing something but after seeing what had been already done I had nothing to add to what had been already covered in details by other people…. They (the band) had problems understanding this, but hey what can you add  to something that I never cared for in the first place (a case where I decided to check that bunch decades later) and whose history is quite limited?! NOTHING. But yeah what counts before everything else is if I like them or not. I’m doing the rag as much for me as I do it for the fans. That’s why I loved Snakepit in the first place, it had bands I enjoyed so much in my youth!!!!


During the whole Snakepit history, what are one or a few interviews that you are most happy about in terms of Snakepit delivering a rare and unique reading experience with a high level of quality and detail?

Hard to say in all honesty… There was so much done since 1997…. One that will stand up even if looking back it could have been BETTER was the Piercy/Altus one from issue 4 that’s for sure. The ANVIL CHORUS one done with the Den Of Iniquity editor was also incredible but it as a joint effort so…. Steven Craig one was absolutely kick ass for sure given the fact it is as closest as I could get to my all time fave band, SLAYER ! Other than this… it’s hard to know which one really stands out…. There was so much…     


How often do you encounter difficulties in tracking down band members, and what kind of methods do you apply in this "detective"-like work? Does it get easier nowadays with many people having some kind of online presence? Which bands were the most difficult to find?

It happens time to time. Some countries are more difficult than others, one of the most difficult one is fuckin’ U.K…. before it was really easy with Facebook but now they’re using less and less FB and also they don’t have any free phone books anymore so that makes things difficult. Plus as people, along with Swedish ones, they’re some of the worst to be honest; those people that aren’t older than me actually mostly act like shitheads and often doesn’t give a fuck about replying… how the fuck can you dare to act to shitty?! they should be fuckin’ on fire to see people caring for their shit some 40 years later especially when it was only a demo or one single release kind of band. It just kills me the way those shitheads act. You wonder why they got to play Metal in the first place to be able to erase part of their history this way…. They also belong to some of the most difficult bands to find actually… FUN PALACE main man and shit. But I managed to find them. Finding LAZER people wasn’t that easy or DEMON FLIGHT…. That was one of my greatest find!!!! But I’m sure there were some more great ones that were HARD to find. 

    

Which three Snakepit issues are your favorites, and for what reasons?

22 could be my all time fave one…. There was some insane features in it and the way it was printed was OVER the top…. Other than this, it’s hard to say the ones I was doing alone after the departure of Coe and Konzett like issue 12 I believe was killer, so much shit packed  in… Issue 4 could be another one…. Frank did such an incredible job with it!!!!





Snakepit went through several stages. For example, during the late 90s/early 00s, it had a solid group of writers like Heinz Konzett and Matt Coe, and nowadays it is mainly your individual work. What kind of upsides and downsides do you see when you work individually versus working with a group?

Well there’s no doubts about the fact that things were way EASIER when we were a trio when it came to have a content for an issue… I wish things would have ended differently back then, Heinz decided to focus on personal things and with Matt… well without going in details the way he handled things weren’t the way WE handled things. Which is a shame cos his interviews were extremely great. So once they were gone, it as out of question for me to try to find other people collaborating because it’s hard finding people sharing your views, and most of your musical views. So I had no other way than getting the thing going on purely by myself. I’m glad Konstantin joined me on the recent issue but for how long… I don’t know. I take things day by day now. This said, when you work as a trio you have to accept the fact that you’ll have to feature stuff that yourself you wouldn’t have featured, that’s the main upside, but hey when I used to read Metal Forces, not everything pleased me so…


Three Snakepit books were published in 2021 by Sonic Age. Are you satisfied with the way they turned out and with the reception? Which book has gathered the most interest?

Oh yeah Kostas and Manos did an incredible job with those. After the big letdown coming from that clown fronting Shadow Kingdom records (he was supposed to reissue all the early issues), I was so happy Cult Metal accepted straight away to do those books, it’s so much better than having them released individually. There was no way big heads like Ian Christe would show interest in doing this so… I tried my best to come up with singles that would attract interest from people who wouldn’t check Snakepit other way, but when you get ‘big figures’ like SATAN, JAG PANZER and stuff, logically it expands the interest for the publications cos the real fans has to get the 7 single you know?! I have no idea which one got the most interest so far... I think it’s equal for each of them, but one thing is sure, no matter the energy and time you invest in this, it’s still a very limited circle of people who want to invest in that… We’re far from the 1000 copies Heinz was selling back then…. Sad times.  

 

 You can order Snakepit archive books and latest issues at Sonic Age Records Heavy Metal Store.



 

When you revisit your older issues, do you frequently find that your opinions and ratings have changed regarding certain albums or bands, or do they tend to remain consistent?

In all honesty, I haven’t got time YET to really revisit the old stuff but I’m sure I’ll view some of the reviews I did in a different way with time passing… Like if I had to do it again, some bands like LONEWOLF I would have never featured in the mag, looking back they didn’t have at all the musical quality I’m looking after when I’m into a band. So it’s sure that some of my reviews from back then doesn’t reflect my views nowadays. It was the same with D.O.D… [Laurent wrote for Decibel of Death fanzine in the late 80s - Ed.] I recall shitting on EXODUS 2nd opus or AGENT STEEL 2nd opus because they didn’t reflect the way I was looking at Thrash Metal originally, but as time went on, I’ve learned to enjoy those albums nowadays.

 

Your knowledge is very deep and detailed. Do you still learn new information or things? If yes, from where?

You ALWAYS learn. Even the best specialist on NWOBHM or whatever always learn something…. I always learn shit when I get to read on some interview I see on the net, I don’t read that stuff often, but for some reason sometimes I happen to catch one here and there and say ‘oh I didn’t know this and that’. Even on bands where I really knew their history deep inside cos they were my food back then… like this guy played with that band before but had never been mentioned until some interview is coming up.


Do you use library sites like The Metal Archives? If yes, what do you think of them, and do you miss any features there?

I use them when I want to find a line up from some band I’m no big specialist of and find the basic core of them but that’s all. This site is so full of wrong info, it’s just surreal. Those guys should be ashamed to let such bullshit going on. When you don’t know your shit better do NOTHING. It’s just like Martin Popoff and its laughable books on everything but nothing. It’s like if I was going to write about a book on FATES WARNING and yet I don’t know shit on that band cos I never cared about them. Give me a book on SLAYER and I’ll write it (some should have never been published) cos I know my shit on them but I don’t pretend to know shit on whatever it can be…SABBATH or whatever… And yet those people still write stuff on stuff they didn’t witness in time. And the same goes to Metal Archives. You decide to do such site, GREAT but if you do it, you do it properly not by mentioning false demos, wrong line ups, etc… Of course it’s easier to say ‘this site is cool’ or ‘this book is killer’ like so many  do but it’s not my school. 


Your extensive interviews have a legendary status. Can you tell us about the process of how you prepare the interview questions and the article: do you do it in steps or in one big go? What kind of research do you do? How do you design the sequence of questions? Do you listen to the band's music while preparing?

Never forget that it comes from the fact that there was this guy known as Borivoj Krgin who as the greatest writer of all time…. This guy knew his shit like no one else and could bring the details that NOBODY else could. He has influenced me along with people like Muldowney and Doe… If those guys hadn’t done the incredible work they did, I would still do D.O.D… and it would suck. And of course Frank Stover cos he’s the one who started those interviews that would cover from A to Z band history and that’s what caught my attention when I discovered Snakepit! Not only bands I loved when I was young were featured but the way they were featured! That was amazing so I just ‘expanded’ this and got further you know?! But it all comes from those aforementioned guys. When I start a feature it’s either done in like one time when I get really excited for a band I worship(ped) or in different parts… like for REPULSION, it would be done in like 1 hour you know just from my memories or Shane Embury… it just depends. But it‘s all about the memory. I just do it in a timeline history way as you can see when reading…. I know it ‘s repeating but I like it that way. Sometimes I go to Metal Archives when I’m not sure about a band whose history is so and so to me about the previous bands they guys were in… like TRAGEDY DIVINE, for example, recently. I’m no TRAGEDY DIVINE expert, just a guy who happen to like their album you know ?! So Metal Archives is good for that - when they have the right info.


When reflecting on your interviews, would you say you favor one career aspect over another? For example, the reasons why bands start, how they evolve over the years, how each album is composed and recorded, why the style turned out one way or another, or their experience with record labels and tours?

Yeah depends on the band’s career. Like for DESTRUCTION, I will obviously focus on the first three releases and go quickly through the next ones because it’s just the same, but I’m gonna try to find out why they went that way (which was often on cheating the fans). The best is when a band didn’t shit on their fans and remained a killer outfit over the years… but how many stayed that way? WOLF could be possibly the only ones right now so far… Started with a real so and so record but quickly evolved into a great Heavy Metal band and never tried to introduce whatever crap into their material. That’s how Heavy Metal should always be.


Main bands featured on the cover of a Snakepit issue may not always be well known. For instance, I recall receiving issue 20 with Aska on the cover and thinking, 'What is this band?', 'Should I be familiar with them?', 'Does everyone else know about them except me?'. How do you decide which band is featured on the cover of each issue?"

Hard to say…. Like for ASKA I can’t even recall why I decided to feature them on the cover. Possibly because I was surprised a lot by the albums I covered from that era… Their shit was so surprising for the time…. Something like unheard of since the early 80s in that territory. But other than that, it’s mostly because it’s bands I worship… ATHEIST, SACRIFICE, ACID, MALEDICTION…. It couldn’t be any other way but pay homage to my heroes… EXCITER of course… that damn Beehler photo… wait until you see it in color finally :). 

I found out about Slauter Xstroyes rather late in the 2000s. I know they were featured in your magazine more than once. I highly appreciate that you put rather unknown bands in the spotlight and new people check them out. Can you think of a few obscure bands that started to get more attention after you featured them?

Hard to say in all honesty. I doubt any really got more attention. I wish it was different but besides a handful of people who really like their Metal for the quality not for the fact it’s 80s stuff so you get your obligatory ‘legendary blah blah’ bullshit. See MALEDICTION, they were featured quite a few times because they were so KILLER (and still are) yet only a handful care about them…. So I doubt interest grew up more because of my features. 


Could you describe a perfect metal album from your point of view? What criteria does it have to fulfill?

There are no criteria in all honestly… It just has to sound like over the top Metallic madness with non stop effective riffs and stuff. On one hand you have "Heavy Metal Maniac" [Exciter], then "Hell Awaits" [Slayer] which is completely different, yet they reunite both that pure jewelry aspect or "Unquestionable Presence" [Atheist] which is at another side of the spectrum or the 1st TROUBLE you know?! So there’s no description all in all, it’s just what the band delivers… 

 

Do you pay a lot of attention to how an album is produced, or do you focus more on the songs? Can you name a few albums that you think are very well produced?

I do not care on how an album is produced. I often hear critics on this, but hell what a fuckin’ production will change if the writing is lame at first? WHAT?! NOTHING! That’s complete bullshit to me. If the songs are not there you can have the best production possible yet it won’t change shit. If the album is totally killer songwriting-wise, then yeah I expect a cool production that will crush your head like fuckin’ "Victims of Deception" [Heathen], for example, fuckin "Slowly We Rot" [Obituary], no matter how cheap it cost. On the other hand, you have MILITIA’s second album that is just unlistenable…. It’s so crappy… I guess I’ve never heard something that bad done yet they release it. And you can’t even say if the material is good or not. Give me DEATH demos over this garbage any day!


Is the running order of the songs important to you in an album? Can you give some examples where you think the band completely nailed it or where the running order diminishes the impact of the album?

Hard to say again…. Once you have a killer album such as "Heavy Metal Maniac", it’s hard to imagine the songs placed on another order you know?! You just can’t conceive it. Or TROUBLE 1st album or "Reign in Blood". It just works perfect. So I never cared about that aspect… well it certainly happened to me where I questioned about the place of a song but I can’t recall where… 


Can you name three lesser-known metal albums that you think deserve wider recognition?

SACRIFICE "Forward to Termination" for sure, greatest Thrash record ever next to SLAYER’s "Hell Awaits", OBLIVEON "Nemesis" for sure and…. hard to say right now for the 3rd one maybe RITUAL CARNAGE "Every Nerve Alive". This bunch is really one of the rare examples from a recent time that could deliver REAL Thrash and not crap like HAVOK, MUNICIPAL WASTE, "Bonded By Blood", "Skeptics Apocalypse", "Darkness Descends" and whatever else…


 






 

It seems that you value most "pure" metal styles like heavy metal or power/speed metal. Are there any bands you like from the styles like glam metal, progressive metal or death/grind?

Yeah of course…. I really enjoy some of the work done by POVERTY’S NO CRIME, a band I got to discover through the numerous promos I got in the late 90s and that I would have never checked any other way… ARK debut also for example. Not forgetting THE GATHERING work that I enjoyed tremendously once Anneke joined them (and changed them in an incredible way from generic death shit to awesome atmospheric ‘metal’). Death/grind, I hate that crap… to me REPULSION were always a death metal band and certainly don’t deserve that death/grind bullshit tag so does TERRORIZER too… People who were around originally when those bands were around know that, others unfortunately don’t. Grind is crap like AGATHOGLES and stuff… Different world... So yeah I happen to like other styles. BUT NO glam crap at all, never. Give me BALANCE "In for the Count" over this crap any day or HUGHES/THRALL debut.


Do you still buy metal records, or do you have what you need? If yes, what do you buy? Do you still discover some bands from the past that you may have missed before, and you think they delivered some truly great music?

No I still buy records… I still need to get shit I have on CD that I need on vinyl or shit I would have never cared back then but still discover - mainly by accident or I decided to revisit to give them a new chance - now like DEATHWISH 2nd opus… a surprising album coming from that UK garbage false Thrash wave (ACID REIGN, REANIMATOR, METAL DUCK, and whatever else). So yeah, I still need to acquire some stuff. Or the new ARTILLERY live album... Yeah there’s still stuff (unfortunately). On the other hand, you’ll not see me buying new albums from the likes of POSSESSED, HEATHEN, EXHORDER, etc. they’re all done in my book. Washed outfits living just because of people so hungry for band names instead of telling them that their stuff has NOTHING to do with what they were doing originally. SACRIFICE being maybe the only exception and DESTRUCTOR.


If a person who doesn't know metal would ask for a good example of a metal band and album that would represent the genre you love, what album would you suggest listening to?

It depends of the genre considering I love quite a few ones…

Hard Rock: "Moving Pictures" or "Permanent Waves" [Rush]

Heavy Metal: "Fire Down Under" [Riot]

Speed Metal: "Master Of Disguise" [Savage Grace]

Power Metal: "Ample Destruction" [Jag Panzer]

Thrash Metal: "Hell Awaits" [Slayer]

Death Metal: "Horrified" [Repulsion]


How do you decide what to listen to on a given day? Can you share what you listened to or will listen to today while answering our questions?

I just decide at looking at the records mostly. Sometimes I’ll go through a phase of just listening to live shows on tapes and sometimes it’ll just be CDs for a while. I happen to often listen to a couple of records strangely enough… The more I have, the more I just stick to a few ones… strange I know. "Heavy Metal Maniac" is getting a play like every month for sure.  I think i listened to "Heaven and Hell" while doing the first part of this great interview and right now it’s RITUAL CARNAGE "The Birth Of Tragedy" that got its place once I mentioned "Every Nerve Alive" in a previous answer. Those guys had so many killer riffs in mind! 


What audio setup do you use, and how much importance do you give to it?

I have Luxman amplifier and some JM LAB speakers, nothing worthy thousands of bucks but that’s an amplifier with a lamp and the sound is really fuckin’ killer. It kinda jumps out of the speakers when you have shit like "South Of Heaven" or "Slaughter Of The Vatican" playing!


If I would have to describe what is unique about Snakepit, I would say that it is famous for super lengthy in-depth interviews that stand the test of time, careful selection of bands with a tendency to focus on what is less known, and a relatively short amount of critical reviews. Would you agree with this, or would you point out something additional or different?

Yeah I guess you got it to the point…. I think it’s hard to add something else. One thing is certain I want my interviews to be as in depth as it’s possible… that’s my trademark so to speak. As for the reviews, they are what they are, nothing to be proud of. I wish they would be like what Muldowney or Krgin were doing, those guys were the ULTIMATE masters at that…. I’m nothing at all comparing to this, and with English not being my main language it doesn’t help, but even if it was the case. I don’t have that faculty of describing things the way the did. I guess you’re aware of what those guys were delivering right?! [Bob Muldowney (R.I.P.) was best known for his fanzine Kick-Ass and Borivoj Krgin wrote for many publications including Metal Forces and Metal Maniacs, Metal Forces website has some archive material available.] 


You are known for being direct and to the point. Over the years, do you think you are becoming more or less tolerant about something you don't like or don't agree with?

Nope, nothing has changed. I was already that way when I was doing D.O.D. back in 87/88… like I stated before I HATE people who can only reply ‘this is cool’… to me that’s no answer when it comes to music, it’s bullshit. But in that fucked up scene there’s always something new that get on my nerves. There was that happy metal wave started by shitty HELLOWEEN and their naive laughable melodies, then you have for like 20 years now all those people all calling 80s obscure shit (or not) legendary nowadays just because there’s the stamp ‘80’ on it, now you have all those people supporting those half assed reformed bands that are going out with just one original band member often and deliver everything except classic shit but they’re so happy to see this and that bandname that they’ll go nuts because of this (when they probably wouldn’t have given a fuck when they were around originally - I have experienced that myself back then). Enough to get me angry at all that bullshit. And yet the bands that really deserve to be heard stay ignored mostly.


Have you ever considered writing a book?

Nope. It would be a wrong step to do for me. I mean I don’t have the necessary skills for this, unless someone would put it in form for me. I certainly don’t want to come with cheap stuff like Slagel book and other ones like this - another trend that gets on my nerves, all those shit books. A book should be like the NWOBHM Encyclopedia one from Malcolm McMillan, now that’s a fuckin’ book! Or Geddy Lee’s book. 


Do you sometimes ask yourself why you like researching metal history and bringing its bits to people who are interested?

See it’s not really like I’m researching Metal history in my case, it’s something that happen naturally because when I like a band I absorb their history if you see what I mean (hard to explain)… I’m interested in what they did you know so what I do is I just share what I’ve got to learn over the previous decades mainly… (now it’s like the reservoir is almost empty though!).  


Your involvement in metal is known to many who are into the genre. Can you share a bit about other things you like, such as food, TV shows, leisure activities, or anything else?

Honestly there’s not much in my life interesting besides Metal… I do not care AT ALL about sports and stuff like this. All I care is gardening and produce my own food which is very important in those days and times where crappy agro industry has taken over natural food and has fucked up for long our environment.


What do you think the future holds for your metal endeavors?

Honestly as I often state, this is a ‘poor scene I’m witnessing for quite a long time now and I don’t expect anything good coming out of it now. It’s all fucked up and has just became a big circus in my yes. All I care about is continuing releasing with my great friends from CMC a few anthologies I have planed in my mind (there’s still a handful of killer bands to be released) and my time will be over… At this point with the minor interest in what I do, there’s no way things for me will go on for more than maybe more than a few years. This ‘scene’ just disgust me. 

 

Thank you for your time answering the questions and for your continuous unique work that helps us all explore metal!

THANK YOU for that KILLER interview, killer questions for sure and always a pleasure to do such job (some bands should learn from this!). Thanks a lot guys for caring about what I do, that’s really a great pleasure to see its work appreciated when you put all your guts into it and don’t sell your soul to the market. THANKS for your time !

 

Press of Darkness features Snakepit issues 5 and 9.



 

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