Metalized is Scandinavia's oldest and heaviest metal magazine that has been running since 1987. The magazine started earlier than its counterparts in Norway and Sweden, such as Scream Magazine and Sweden Rock Magazine.
Mika Botfeldt is one of the magazine's founders, and he is still with the magazine today. Please read on an interview with Mika to know what he has to say about the magazine start and how it is still alive and kicking today.
Initially, the magazine was a knife-and-scissors-made endeavor, and later turned into a professional glossy color magazine. An interesting fact is that the first computer layouts for Metalized were done by Jacob Hansen who is now a Grammy award nominated producer and mix engineer who worked with Volbeat, Primal Fear, Amaranthe, U.D.O., The Black Dahlia Murder, Epica, Pretty Maids, and many others (see Hansen Studios).
How did you start?
We started the magazine in 1987. It was me, Tommy Løve, and Jakob Schultz. You probably know Jakob, he started Invocator, and he is probably the most famous death metal guy in Denmark. [Jakob is also a member of Maceration which released "It Never Ends..." album in 2022 - Ed.] So that's how the whole thing started. Me and Schultz came from another fanzine. Those fanzines were like small magazines, but it was very expensive to print back then. Most fanzines were four pages folded together. We did that also. We did a fanzine before Metalized called Metal Power from 84 to 86. That kind of faded out. I decided to do a big magazine, full size, still black and white, all homemade with a knife and scissors and some glue. That's how we did the layout back then.
So that's how the whole thing started actually. Back then there were no computers, no nothing absolutely. You had a piece of paper. Maybe you had some pictures, you had scissors and you had a glue and you had a razor blade and that's how we did it. Then you had to have a typewriter, and then you typed it all and you cut it out. You glued it on the paper. And that was one page. Then you did another one. But you had to have all the logos and everything ready to put on the page, you know. You could use maybe three or four hours on one page.
It sounds crazy now. You had a lot of dedication.
Yes, absolutely. That's why we are here. It is not about the money. Well, it is also a business, but it's all about love to the music.
How was your contribution and involvement with Metalized during those years?
Um, let me think. I'm the guy with all the ideas, you know, so I'm pretty much the one who figured it all out. I'm also the money guy. I wanted to not just to run a magazine. My whole plan was, or my dream was, to make some money out of it at some point. That took me about 25 years. But now I'm here. So, it's all good. I'm the money guy and the idea guy, so to speak. I am sitting with all those advertising (activities). That's where it all comes in. Advertising is a key point here. If you have a lot of advertisers, you can run a magazine, that’s no problem. If there are no advertisers, you have to put money into it yourself and sooner or later you'll die. Have you run a magazine before?
Yes, I had a fanzine in the late 90s. I know what you are talking about. It was on a smaller scale though.
Yes, but it's still the same point. You have no ads, you have no magazine. It's pretty simple. It’s not possible to run a mag just on the sales, you need advertising. That's a key point to keep a magazine alive.
How is it like for you now to run a printed magazine when people search information on the internet?
Oh, yeah. Well, I think the internet broke through in the States around mid 90s, and it was going fast. Here in Denmark, it was a little bit later. During late 90s it was getting difficult, even though the magazine was getting a LOT better, you know, no more glue and no more scissors, cut out logos and stuff like that. It was getting a better and more professional layout. It was looking good, but sales were going down, definitely. Yes, it was tough. But it seems like it comes around again, people like to be in it. I know a lot of smaller bands who like to be in a magazine, in a real printed magazine. We're talking about bands that have members that are 20 or 25 years old, and they love to be in a printed magazine. They have never seen anything like it. So, it's kind of turning around. It comes back again, but not like in the old days.
I visited Copenhagen and Copenhell festival this June, and I went to a record shop run by Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate. I saw your magazine and bought it as well. I was happy to see it is still running.
Oh, really? Great! Well, that's funny. If you were there a couple months before, we did a pop up record/CD/DVD store in the beginning of 2022, from Jan to April. The shop was right next to his shop Beat Bop in Peder Hvitfelds strædet in the heart of Copenhagen. We had a lot of different very cheap stuff, also death/black metal vinyl at 5-10 euro and a ton of great cheap heavy metal CDs. The shop as a pop-up idea that should be there for a month, but we had it for four months. Something we for sure could do again, if the rent is right. I love doing business with Denner, he is a good and honest guy you can trust 100% and he trusts me the same way. He is a little like a bigger brother, he told me a lot about how to deal with music back in the early 80s. I have known him for 40+ years. And also, Denner did some reviews for Metalized in the very beginning, and he still does. I think the first one he did was Vinnie Vincent Invation, he loved that one.
That's nice. I looked in the latest issue I have, and your list of people who write for the magazine is really impressive. I think it's 20 people or more. How did you find them all?
Actually it's 30. It's just, you know, not all people are getting money. It's more like, what do you call that? It’s a love thing to music. They would get a CD or vinyl or something and they would do a review. We have expenses like, you know, layout is not for free. I have to pay a guy some money to do the layout and stuff.
But yeah, that's a lot of people. I'm the idea man and the money man in the whole thing. For them, it's all love to the music and they love to do it. It's all good. And then, you know, they get a free concert ticket and then they do a review. Without those people, there would be absolutely, absolutely no magazine. It's impossible. I could not sit there and do all those interviews.
You know how it is, it takes forever to do an interview, just a small interview. After you talk to me, you have to sit down, write everything down what I said. That could be maybe one hour, two hours, or maybe four hours. It takes a lot of time. We need a lot of people to do all that. Otherwise, there would be absolutely no Metalized at all.
Can you share a bit how do you communicate with all those people? Do you sometimes meet that in someplace or do you communicate online?
Back in the days it was all phone. I was good at using a phone, actually. Calling people, blah, blah, blah, all the time in the 90s. My old company was Nordic Metal, do you know it?
Yeah, you actually know it. We'll talk more about that later. I think we were absolutely the last company in Denmark to have a computer. That was in 1999. All I had was my phone and my fax. So, back then it was all phone.
But now everything runs through email. People are trying to talk to me on messenger or something else, but no, everything has to be cut down to email, otherwise you can't backtrack it. If you would have four different platforms to communicate, it would be chaos. Everything is email, it’s running pretty smooth.
Okay. Nice to hear that that email is top one for you.
What is it for you? You also do email, right?
Of course. I don’t run a magazine, but I know there are many places that use tools like Teams, for example. I agree that you should keep one platform.
Yes. Because otherwise you can't control it. This one guy is writing here, another guy is writing there, and you have to backtrack everything and it is impossible if you don't have your email, it's all fucked up. I am trying to keep it email only.
If people write to me on the messenger, I just tell 'em, that's all good, send me an email. Otherwise, if something comes up, I can't backtrack it. There's so many bands, so many labels. It's crazy. You have to have some kind of control.
To get a new issue of Metalized out requires a lot of work in terms of content, but you also need to coordinate all activities. Who does one interview and when, who does another interview, and so on. How do you take care of that?
It's a lot of work. First of all, you know, we have a deadline and you have to keep the deadline. Otherwise, no, it'll be all chaos. Back in the 90s, people were like “Yeah, yeah”, and then deliver some stuff later, maybe a week later or two weeks later.
Back in the day, we did a magazine every four, five or six months. And it’s not good if you have advertising in the magazine about a concert or a festival or something, and the magazine comes out after the concert.
It has to be under control. First of all, interviews, you need to set all that up. Find people to do the interviews. Reviews, you send different albums to the writers, and then they do reviews, but we have a deadline. Absolutely. Otherwise, it would not be possible at all.
Maybe, you know, we can stretch this a little bit, maybe a week or something, but after that is done, we have to send it off to be printed at a certain date. I'm telling you, sometimes in the last minute, sometimes I sit there with everything and you have to check the mag over and over again. Something is missing, something is wrong. And sometimes I sit 24 hours actually. Without sleeping. Just checking over and over and over again. It's a lot of hours. Right before deadline it’s chaos, but then it's all good. Send it off to be printed and yeah, sometime, mistakes happen and sometimes it is all good. Most times it is all good. We have done this so many times, and we are getting good at it.
I believe all those people who write understand deadlines and try to keep them, right?
Yes. Well, but not all [laughs]. We try. Sometimes there's a band or a label or something that needs a little bit more time. And then we do [accommodate it], if it is a bigger band, we’ll hold a little bit and then we rush it through and then we do it anyway. But yes, there's a certain deadline when there is no margin to do something else. We just need to deliver the magazine to the printer, and that's it. So yes, there's absolutely a deadline.
There's a deadline for written stuff, reviews, interviews and so on. And deadlines for ads, that's maybe a week later. So people who want to book ads, they have a week more.
Okay. You mentioned Nordic Metal. Can you tell more about it?
Yes. It is a little bit funny. Metalized started out with those people I talked about. Then my ex-wife took it over a little bit for a few years, because I wanted to get into the distribution and label thing, Nordic Metal.
And it was good times. It started out as a distribution to smaller labels. We got those things in and we distributed to [record stores], back then there were a lot of record stores in Denmark. Not anymore. That's maybe 30 years ago. So, I decided who to do a deal with, and as a distribution, we were the biggest one in Denmark. We had all the big ones, you know, Century Media, Nuclear Blast, everything. We did 'em all. Then I decided to do the label as well because there were so many cool bands out there without a deal. Like, Lord Bane, I don't know if you know those guys.
Yes, I know them.
Beautiful American progressive metal band. And The Last Things also. Richard Elliot from The Last Things sent me this, I can't remember was it a tape or a CD, I think it was a CD. Black and white. Everything was black and white. But damn, that was good. I loved it. And I talked to him and I said, hey, let's do a reprint and do it all well with color and everything. He said yeah, let's do that. I talked a lot with him on the phone back in the early 90s, had a very expensive phone bill back then and so did he, ha ha. And we did that, and we did a few more bands, heavier shit like death metal stuff.
But to be honest, there was no money into it. I think the only one we made money off that was Lord Bane. I had this one guy, a distributor in Germany. He was working with all the big guys in Germany. We sold a lot, man. We sold, I think, 1200 or something just in Germany of Lord Bane. Then they had to do a reprint. On that one, we made some money, but the rest, no, not really. It was all about the love to the music and nothing else.
I remember quite well those albums you mentioned, I have both Lord Bane “Age of Elegance” and The Last Things.
Really? Excellent. So, you know what I am talking about.
There was also a band called Catharsis with “Pathways to Wholeness” album.
Yes, yes, yes. [laughs] It’s funny you bring all that shit up man, I can't remember it. It was so long ago. What is that? It is not 10 years ago, it’s not 15, it is more than 25 years ago. [laughs] Was that 1995? It's a long, long time ago. Actually, it's funny that you mentioned that band, they popped up and disappeared. No contact at all. I had to hire this guy to paint the cover. I still have it back home, it's like fucking, what is it? Two meters by two, or well maybe one meter by one. It's a huge painting. And there was a lot of money for that. Maybe translated into nowadays it was a thousand euros to do the cover and it's fucking ugly. Man, it's ugly, but hey you spent the money and here we go.
It’s very cool you mention all those bands. Did you like this style back then, like Lord Bane and others?
Oh yeah, I love it. Again, I did this because of the love to the music. With Lord Bane, I was just fascinated. God, that was good. Shawn, the lead singer, that was a long story, but they had a demo cassette tape, and he sent it to me. I'm like, fuck, this is good. Let's do a CD. And he was like, yeah, let's do that. It just reminded me of old Crimson Glory. You know that band too?
Yes, of course.
Yeah. I was just blown away. God damn, this is good! Cassette, no, we had to do a CD on that one. Actually, that was the only one we had to do a reprint on. Normally you do a thousand [copies], I don't know what you do nowadays, but back then you do a thousand and then do another thousand. We had to do that because only in Germany we sold 12 hundred. That was pretty good. I love that band. It was all about love to the music, nothing else. I couldn't help myself. I'm like, aah, this is good, let's do it, because we are making money from the distribution. And I was thinking, well, let's put some money into smaller things. Just like a kind of Robin Hood. [laughs]
Very good. There are people who remember those albums.
Well, how did you learn about them?
I have been following bands like Psychotic Waltz and Fates Warning, I was looking what else is there. I actually have a few issues of Metalized from the 90s.
Really? Hey man, give me your address and I'll send you some of the latest [issues]! I don’t know if you can read it though.
Nice, thank you. I do understand some Danish, I can read a bit. I lived in Denmark for a few years when studying. Back then I was doing my fanzine, and was getting CDs for review from Nordic Metal. I was also in touch with Claus Jensen.
That’s crazy, it’s a small world! [laughs] That is crazy!
It’s nice to speak with you after so many years, even if I didn’t meet you before.
It’s fun after so many years. Everything is kind of coming back. If you look at it, every 10 years is like a cycle. Back in the 80s, all the glam and hard rock and all that American stuff was big. Then it kind of went down with grunge. And that went on for 10 years. Try to think about it. Then it went down for 10 years, and then slowly all the stuff, Poison and Motley Crue, all that was coming back again. So, I think it’s a 10 year cycle. It’s just going around and at some time, everything is coming back.
Do you forecast what is next that is coming back?
Well, 10 years ago, what was going on then? [laughs] It's coming back. Seriously. It’s not only metal. Look at the dance trance thing. Back in the 90s it was like “yeah, we come back to the 80s, welcome!”. Then it became 2000, and it was the 90s [that came back]. It’s a 10-year cycle that is coming back. Everything is coming back. Absolutely.
And some things just stay where they are and they never move. Classic heavy metal never moves.