Updated: Nov 2
Transcending The Mundane is a fanzine from Long Island New York and it has 30 issues published between 1999 and 2006. In 2023, its editor Brett Van Put decided to revive the fanzine and start publishing issues again, this time digitally. Transcending the Mundane is a fair and open-minded fanzine which covers a wide variety of metal styles from traditional heavy metal to experimental, black, death metal and beyond. We offer you to read an interview with Brett.
Why did you decide to publish Transcending the Mundane fanzine in 1999? Was it easy to start? I was hooked on metal as a teenager and always loved writing. I have multiple degrees in English and became a high school English teacher, so writing about heavy metal was such a natural thing to do. It was surprisingly easy to start. I had immediate support from several labels; Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Napalm Records, and Metal Blade Records. I bought a big photocopier because we had almost no supplies at the high school I taught at in NYC and the first couple of issues I did were just photocopied and stapled. By the fourth issue, Rich Black, who had the hardcore/punk magazine Under the Volcano here on Long Island hooked me up with the printing company who did his magazine, so I stepped up to newspaper print and some color pages after that.
In the late 90s, the Internet and World Wide Web started to become really popular, many webzines and music reviews/news sites appeared. Didn’t you think of publishing on the web only then, or during later years? I always (and still do) preferred the print magazine. I didn't even think about doing a website until John Love and Ladd Everitt from Maryland asked me if I would like them to do a site for me. Transcending the Mundane was online at www.tmetal.com for at least a year or so before I stopped doing it altogether. Even now I wanted to do a print magazine, but prices are so much higher and advertising money is almost nonexistent. I always wanted to keep this free and not have it sit on a shelf. When I came back in December, everyone said I would be nuts to print and everything is digital now. I compromised by doing the digital issue route. It still looks like a magazine, with a cover and advertisements to look at, but it's free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Tell us a bit about the fanzine years between 1999 and 2006. What comes to your mind first when you remember this period? Thinking about those years during the initial run - it was a fun, learning experience. I really enjoyed helping independent bands get some exposure. I really enjoyed putting together the compilation CDs. I interviewed almost every band I wanted to. I had multiple friends who were huge fans of particular artists so I would have them interview those bands - Rob Halford, Death, Morbid Angel, George Lynch - it was really cool to have friends who were lifetime fans of them, have an opportunity to meet them and do an interview in person.
How was your fanzine distributed and what was the circulation? I used to just mail copies all over the place, obviously most stayed in America. I would mail directly to record stores around the country and drop them off locally to places like None Of The Above and Slipped Disc. By the end I was printing around 10,000 copies of each issue.
Why did you stop doing the fanzine in 2006? It was just time. The music industry was starting to change. I was seriously talking about teaming up with Dave from Punk Core Records to either buy None of the Above Records (after Tom Destefano's untimely death) or opening a club for live music. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing those things didn't work out because of the radical changes in the music industry. In May of 2006, right when I finished my 30th issue, I suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for eight days and needed surgery to close a hole in my heart. I even lost most of my eyesight for a few days, but I recovered quickly and used that as an excuse to justify ending Transcending the Mundane at that time.
Did your interest in metal music remain constantly strong between 2006 and now? Absolutely. My interest in metal has always and will always be there. From the mid-80s on I've been hooked. I do feel that there has not been any real groundbreaking albums in the last 23 years or so and I look back at the 90's as the golden era for heavy music, but the only time I don't have music on is while I'm teaching and even during those four hours I will try to sneak some in lol. I don't even have a television (just a DVD player) at home, so it's just music and my tropical fish tank for entertainment when I'm home.
Would you call yourself a music collector? If to some extent yes, do you collect CDs or vinyl? Do you follow any rules, e.g. you need to have all records of band X or you only keep records that you listen to at least once a year? Great question and I have an unusual response... I don't collect music. I used to buy cassettes and CDs all the time, but I would always burn myself a copy and pass them on to others. If I really liked a band I would try to get others hooked. I am definitely a completist. I have almost every album from almost every metal band on mp3 via multiple external hard drives. I do admire and appreciate record collectors. By me, people like Jeff Brown and Ron Grimaldi have extensive record collections that would make anyone envious. I will take a certain artist - let's say George Lynch for instance, and I will make a "best of playlist" from any album he's played on. I have about 100 of these playlists which encompass all my very favorite musicians.
Do you stream or do you listen to physical records? These days, I'm definitely a streamer. Bandcamp and Spotify have almost everything, sometimes you might need Amazon or YouTube to find more obscure stuff, but it's a convenience thing for me.
How do you discover new music? Can you share your latest discoveries? Once I started up Transcending the Mundane again, I check out metal-archives.com for new releases daily and then check out their music on Bandcamp or Spotify. Without that resource, I wouldn't have discovered great bands like Graviton, Toxicon, Lattermath, and the Enigma Division. I always prioritize giving space in the magazine to unknown bands who really deserve to have their music heard. I get the most enjoyment out of discovering these bands and giving them an opportunity to speak and share their music and ideas through my writing.
Could you name three bands or records that were released during your fanzine years between 1999 and 2006, remained very obscure but you feel that should have received wider recognition? That's the easiest question to answer... October Thorns, Single Bullet Theory, and Iron Rainbow. October Thorns was not only the most talented band I ever saw, they also wrote incredibly memorable and adventurous songs. They recently had their one release remixed and reissued with some bonus tracks. Their singer, Paul LaPlaca, became a lifelong friend and their bassist David Z. was extremely talented and charismatic. David had a band and reality show (Z-Rock) with his brother Paul called Z02. They toured with Kiss one summer. Tragically, David was killed in Florida while touring with Adrenaline Mob. Single Bullet Theory was originally known as Cipher. They were one of the best live bands I ever saw and their main guy Matt DiFabio is also a great friend. He's in a band called Vedic now. Iron Rainbow was the brainchild of Tom Destefano (aka Tom Von Dest) who was the legendary owner of None Of The Above record store after he bought it from Brett Clarin (Journey Into Darkness, Sorrow). Iron Rainbow became Monday Knights and Tom died at a tragically young age.
Do you often go to live shows? Which ones do you pick? There are only two clubs on Long Island that get metal bands, and that usually happens only once every month or so. The city has some good metal shows for sure. Unfortunately, my work schedule requires me to get up at 5:30 a.m. so I'm more apt to go to a show on the weekend. There are some shows coming up I will definitely be attending. Black Magnet and King Yosef at St. Vitus in March, Vicious Rumors is coming out here in March as well. Queensryche on Long Island in April. The best show I saw last year was Vajra at a small bar in Brooklyn.
In the first Transcending the Mundane issue after its revival, you mentioned that your son planned to go to Machine Head concert. Is he into metal and what bands does he like? I have to alter this answer, that was actually written by my friend Greg who attended the Machine Head show with me. He's a local coroner and fellow music lover. But on a similar note, my best friend Samantha has a teenage daughter named Kaia who is passionate about music and we have a daily ritual of driving for at least half an hour every night by the ocean listening to music. Thanks to her Uncle Marc, she grew up listening to Rush and Van Halen but she loves current artists like Girl In Red, Melanie Martinez, and Marina. She's turned me on to some surprisingly great stuff that's not metal but still pretty awesome like the Neighborhood and Mother Mother. So far the only metal band I've been able to get her to enjoy is Skindred, but I didn't get into metal until I was her age so there's still hope for her.
How do you view the metal music scene today? We hear that musicians don’t earn much from streaming, on the other hand we have really many bands so it seems that many people want to play metal. What differences come to your mind first when comparing the scene now and 20 years ago? The first thought I have is that I'm glad I never was in a band and tried to earn any income from it. It's always been difficult for most bands to make any money, but now the only real opportunities are from touring and Covid and energy prices have really destroyed that. But you're right, there are so many bands and musicians out there recording all the time, so the passion is stronger than ever for heavy metal. The quality is not always there, however. One of my biggest goals with Transcending the Mundane is to highlight the bands that really deserve the time, money, and effort it takes to support them. Why did you decide to restart your fanzine? Covid lol. I had Covid for at least the third time during the last week of December and since I was stuck at home because I didn't want anyone to get sick so I decided why not? Fortunately, even though I test positive for the virus, I'm impervious to any of its effects. I don't feel any sickness at all from it. I was able to get Chris Pervelis from Internal Bleeding to get the website going, I bought the Indesign program from Adobe, and started emailing people and was up and running in about a week.
What are your first impressions after starting your fanzine again? Is it easy to find bands to interview and review? Are bands responsive? It's been really easy finding bands to review and interview. I kept track of all the metal releases in just the month of January (one of the slow months for metal) and there were over 300 albums! Almost immediately, Earsplit PR and Dustin Hardman were sending me new releases to review daily. Each day I have a new label reach out to me. I have a rule that I review every album that is sent to me for promotional purposes. I also scan through Bandcamp and if I hear a band that catches my attention, I'll write it down and listen to the whole album in the car while I'm commuting back and forth to work and decide if it's an album I want to review and even a band I want to interview. Most bands are very responsive. I wanted to start doing specific features with each issue. My first issue back (#31) I decided to do an analysis of a classic album and have a band interview highlighting it. Last Crack's “Burning Time” was always my favorite album and I thought this would be the best one to feature first. I was already in touch with guitarist Paul Schluter from when he had Muzzy Luctin going in the early 2000s and I was recently in touch with Buddo - around 2018, we were corresponding via email and he sent me a ton of music he recorded with different bands and projects. This was a lot of fun and has received the most positive feedback for my return. I'm planning to do this each month for each new issue. Part two of Last Crack is in issue #32 and I already had a long conversation with Kory Clarke about Warrior Soul's debut Last Decade Dead Century that will appear in Issue 33 out April 1st. I've lined up John Connolly from Nuclear Assault (not sure which album yet - though Handle With Care is my favorite) for May 1st issue and I've reached out to the King's X guys for an interview about Out of the Silent Planet. These are timeless interviews about albums that many people have really loved and I hope to put them all together in a book when all is said and done. Even during my initial run, almost all bands were very accommodating and responsive. Kip Winger was a great interview. James LaBrie and King Diamond can talk for hours. I've probably done over a thousand interviews and there were only four that didn't go great. Jeff Brown, one of the most knowledgeable metal enthusiasts ever did an interview Trey from Morbid Angel and he gave one word responses to great questions. Mike Portnoy and Mark Zonder were not the most outgoing interviewees, and when I was on the phone with Anthrax, Charlie Benante said "we can't find our singer, so I guess I'm stuck doing this interview," and it went downhill from there. Maybe it's just a drummer thing lol - although John Macaluso was always an amazing interview. Mike Tirelli (Holy Mother) used to invite me to his home for hours to listen to new music and L.A. Guns bought me dinner and had me hang out with them on their tour bus for hours. Artists appreciate people who understand them and respect their talent.
How long does it take for you to review an album? How many times do you listen to an album before you finish your review? There are some albums you can listen to once and write an accurate review and there are others that require several listens to dissect and analyze. Due to time limitations I've taken to writing short reviews to give readers an opportunity to see what type of music it is and if I think it's exceptional (about 2 percent are), terrible (about 4 percent are) or somewhere in between. I've also noticed there are many reviewers who will write essays about a new release and go into more depth than it took for the band to even write the song. I can't compete with that lol. I don't have the time or the verbal capacity to do it.
Press of Darkness have PDFs of several old Transcending the Mundane issues, check them out following the links below!