Interview conducted by Dave Ling for Classic Rock Magazine - October 2001.
Dave Ling: Why and when did you start melodicrock.com?
Melodicrock: It all started with writing occasionally for the now defunct UK rock magazine Frontiers. I had the idea to start my own venture and a magazine was my first thought. But being geographically challenged, the logistics and expenses of such a plan were always going to make it a hard task.
At the same time (early 1995), the Internet was just starting to get mainstream exposure and a good friend was right into PC's and the 'Net.
I got involved in a couple of primitive bulletin boards and was answering questions in a 'where are they now' vein and thought this is a medium with possibilities and one where my location was irrelevant.
It built from there. The site had a couple of different names and designs, with melodicrock.com coming online in 1998.
I did it as I saw that there were still a lot of rock fans out there, plus a lot of great new releases and artists, but the two parties were having trouble finding each other. In the U.S. especially, as the UK already had a strong underground scene.
How many hits do you get each week?
There are various figures, with total site hits and page requests etc, but the opening page is also the Newsdesk, menu page and index, so taking stats from that page, I get between 40 and 50,000 hits a week.
Those hits are spread over the world, with a rough break down being 50% from North America, 30% Greater Europe and the remaining 20% Australasia/South East Asia.
Why do you think that melodic rock continues to survive all the
trends; why has it retained its staying power?
Melodic Rock, in its various forms, seems to attract the most die-hard or loyal fans I have ever come across. I have worked in various positions where I can see and measure the fan base for other genre's and nothing comes close for passion and dedication to their music than these fans.
The genre also has its roots in 70's rock, not only the 80's. So you are talking about a lot of bands with a fair legacy between them. 20 years of great music - that is hard to ignore.
Is it is problem for you that fans of the genre don't seem to
embrace change? In fact, they shun it completely and seem to want
rehashes of the same ideas... or do you disagree?!
Well, there is a fine line between updating one's sound and selling out to a trend.
That's what usually gets fans over-excited and tarred the genre with the reputation of fans not looking for change.
Until the mid 90's came along, there wasn't a lot of call for change. For 20 years, melodic rock had survived nicely and evolved on its own.
The grunge movement saw an unprecedented number of bands abandon their sound for the fans of a passing fad, and that hasn't been forgotten.
I don't think anyone is opposed to new ideas - such ideas will help keep the genre moving. There is a fair crowd that is happy to accept change and modernization, should it be done correctly.
It all comes back to the talent of the individual artists and whether they can pull such a change off. Some bands totally sold out their original sound, only to feel the wrath of fan backlash. No one wants to see that happen, but I don't think anyone wants to hear the same album over and over again.
It's a fine line between the 'same old' and the sell-out, but that's the truth of it.
I think the majority would be happy to hear the classic sounds of their favourite act, being brought into the present and future with advanced songwriting and production.
How do you now view the rise of labels like Now & Then and Z
Fabulous. Simply put, they are great. They get a hard time from some areas of the press and a few others within the scene, but the general public at large love the work they are doing for the music and appreciate most of their releases.
Having said that, not everything can be a classic and there are financial recording constraints, but not every Sony or Warner Bros. release is classic either, is it?
These labels are giving many artists a shot where they might have previously given up or felt like there was no market at all for their music.
One benefit of the sales and success of many artists in the 80's had, was that it gave the sensible ones a chance to invest in their own home studio's and equipment. It's those forward thinking individuals coupled with modern computer technology that is today seeing artists making albums for one tenth the cost that it used to take.
When these labels first started, most of their releases were collections of previously unreleased tunes or demo's. That's a much rarer occurrence these days, as sales from those records have allowed the proper development of new artists and new recordings.
That is allowing these labels to be able to finance and release ever improving quality releases.
How did you feel during the Grunge years?
Those years were frustrating for sure. An occasional clean out can be a good thing, but total annihilation is not.
Those bands and the trend-hopping media of that era have a lot to answer for.
To this day, the negative effects of that movement are being felt. Take a look around - how many great hot-shot guitarists or red hot vocalists are there in commercial rock these days? It's all pretty bland stuff.
Personally, I still knew that good music was still being created. It wasn't receiving much publicity or exposure, but it's still there. Many didn't. I am going to open a new second website to cater to all those releases of the past 10 years that got lost.
The Net has re-awoken many fans to the news that their hero's didn't all keel over and die. That's going to be great for the future, but there were still a lot of great releases that deserved better.
As we've already said, the scene continues to thrive despite being
driven underground. It's a difficult question, but do you envisage it
climbing back towards its former glories, slipping further away from
mainstream acceptance, or staying the same?
I do think it will continue to improve and continue to expand and the quality of the releases should also continue to grow.
But a total come back to past levels is not realistic I think. Many old fans of the genre have grown up and moved on and now collect DVDs and have families and new priorities.
But there are still many that are still looking for the music they once loved, so there will definitely be growth. There are more than enough people still into this music to keep it healthy and allow musicians to make a living out of it.
There are some barriers to its expansion. Firstly, these releases have to be more easily available. The fact is that the small labels and the independent artists don't have the power and money to get their product into retail stores.
Again, the Net and online buying will help this, but nothing can take away from walking into any CD store and browsing through a range of titles.
We also need to attract a younger audience. New fans of the genre are essential, but with mainstream media still content to take the piss rather than respect some of these guys' accomplishments, that will be hard.
How is the scene in the States, compared to the British one?
Bigger, smaller, more or less devoted?
I think the States is a key area for expansion. There are more fans, more bands and more opportunities, but the problem is size - nothing is central. It's so hard to reach a wide audience in the US.
In the UK, I think that it's much easier to reach the fan base and easier for people to travel to shows etc.
I think the devotion is equal, but there is definitely a difference between the scenes. The US is far more behind the major bands of the scene like Journey, Styx, Night Ranger and REO Speedwagon. All these bands can make a good living from touring and continue to do so.
But getting those fans to embrace new acts can be harder than it is for European fans to.
It's funny, but the US based rock bands of the 80's that took time out to tour the UK and develop a European fan base are the ones doing the best still today.