Interview: ‘Blood Of Gods’ Publisher Stacy Buchanan

Blood of Gods logo

Hopefully it surprises zero of you that Decibel loves DIY zines. We have a shirt that reads “Only Print is Real” for a reason. It took exactly one issue of Blood Of Gods to get me hooked on the zine’s passionate discourse about wine and heavy metal. I know, I know. You think we spelled beer wrong. Despite Decibel‘s affinity for craft beer, there’s a goblet at extreme metal’s table suitable for wine as well. Blood of Gods explores the stuck-up stigma surrounding wine with a combination of self-aware humor, fantastic artwork, and thoughtful features. Almost every page belongs in a frame, boasting artwork from illustrators the caliber of Decibel‘s Mark Rudolph. Get wine recommendations from Watain. Interviews about vineyard collabs with black metal wine connoisseurs. Genre and bottle pairings from literal tastemakers. It’s brilliantly executed, and even inspired me to learn more about my local vineyards.

Blood of Gods publisher Stacy Buchanan gave Decibel insight into the zine’s origins and the similarities between wine and metal. Scroll down to read that interview in full. The fourth issue of Blood of Gods is out now. The first two issues sold out, so get on it.

Blood of Gods issue 4 cover

What was the spark of inspiration that started Blood Of Gods?

Stacy Buchanan: I used to be more directly involved with music, having worked at Century Media in their Los Angeles and German offices back in the mid-2000s. I also did a fair amount of freelance writing for magazines like Thrasher and Alternative Press before that. During this same time, my hometown of Walla Walla, WA had blossomed into a wine and foodie haven. A number of amazing restaurants and loads of wineries were crafting world class wines, transforming it into a tourist hot-spot. When I returned to find my hometown suddenly culturally enriched and packing some “best kept secret” cachet I was a little taken aback by its evolution. However, many parallels between my former world in the music business and the wine industry quickly became apparent: trends in style, distributor dealings, media habits, general fandom, and more.

It was mildly humorous at first, but then the frequency and sheer number of comparisons became startling. The [Blood Of Gods] zine originally started as a pithy commentary on how these two seemingly different realms actually have lots in common, admittedly a bit more of a kitschy novelty. But, as the old precept goes, what started as a light-hearted joke grew to the point where it became more serious. There was still loads of humor in the zine, but there was also some heart and sincerity to it. Higher profile names lent some more legitimacy since there was also some interesting insight and educational components as well. Like most great albums and wine, balance is key, versus being a one-trick pony. So I hope the zine maintains a well-roundedness as it grows and evolves.

When did you first become passionate about heavy metal, and how have your tastes transformed over time?

SB: Growing up I had an older brother and a couple uncles who were huge hard rock fans proudly serving in the KISS Army, so there was always loud riffs around as far back as I can remember. Using that as my starting point, I was naturally drawn to more extremes: crazier, faster, weirder, heavier. You can pretty much list the heavy hitters from the hay day of Roadrunner Records, Metal Blade and Century Media as my bread and butter growing up.

But being into skateboarding early on was also a big influence. I really connected with the attitude and spirit of punk and hardcore bands you’d find on Victory Records, as well as Epitaph and Fat Wreck. The DIY mentality really inspired me. But the highest honors go to Relapse and Hydrahead—the bands on those labels took the ‘creative’ and ‘intense’ axis and rocketed it into the stratosphere. Plus, seeing Botch a bunch of times as a teenager was influential.

I think fans of heavy music also have a wonderful encyclopedic tendency, wanting to learn and know more about the niche they’re so passionate about, and I’m no different. As I’ve gotten older I’ve reached for older albums often regarded as classics, or followed the trail of breadcrumbs for various styles or scenes. But your question is great in that it illustrates how tastes, or at least interests, can change over time and the same can be said of wine.

There are plenty of metal anthems about beer and liquor, but too few about wine. How do you personally try to encourage metalheads who think wine is a highfalutin luxury beverage to learn more?

SB: I’d say it’s a combination of two things: first, demystify the stereotypes about wine, or at least demonstrate that most of the cliched stereotypes are really just a super small slice of the pie despite them dominating the general public perception. It’s like an average Joe assuming that all metal bands murder people and worship Satan because of the Scandinavian black metal drama of the early ’90s. Secondly, I’d like to show how much heavy metal and wine actually have in common. Also—this is maybe most important—how each is deeply passionate about their respective craft. That spirit is the same to me. The excitement, the nerdism, the joy, the appreciation, the expressiveness, the fun, and the desire to know more. They are completely equal between wine and metal.

Craft beer has been embraced by the metal underground with Decibel‘s festivals and tons of collaborations between bands and breweries. What are some of your favorite band/vineyard collabs?

SB: You’re completely right; metal and beer is a match made in heaven, er, hell. That combination is ubiquitous; beer knows how to party and have fun. Meanwhile, wine is on the sidelines wearing a monocle or some shit. I can’t lie, it’s this perception that’s always been a chip on my shoulder, going back to your first question about what initially inspired the zine. All these great metal bands with their style, aesthetic, and attitude have their fingerprints all over beer, but it’s mostly been sorely missing from wine. I’m a fan of any band who actually rolls up their sleeves, gets dirt under their fingernails, and does some honest work at a winery as part of their collaboration.

What’s sometimes tricky is there are the musicians and artists who are actually into wine, and then there is the marketing shtick where a band just slaps a cool label on a bottle of swill, but their fans will eat it up. How many bands with their own beer have actually harvested the fruit, hops, or grains that go into “their beer?” Or spent countless hours in the fermentation cellar? That’s not to say bands who don’t do those things are false or disingenuous, it just feels a bit more cut and dry as a marketing angle to leech off the brewery’s and band’s respective audiences. Again, totally fine, just a horse of a different color. But I digress. Of course, Maynard James Keenan is the first name that comes to mind. He’s very thoughtful, smart, and magnanimous. However, I think people would have their mind blown at how hard he works and how skilled at each level of winemaking he is—not just working at the winery, but growing the grapes, managing the vineyards, working with the land. Plus, his operation is essentially a full-blown farm, not just a typical winery.

Blood of Gods issue 3 cover

Most metalheads probably know Tool’s Maynard James Keenan owns a vineyard, and that’s about it. Who are some metal musicians that might surprise fans with their wine knowledge?

SB: Sindre Solem from Obliteration and Nekromantheon first comes to mind, as he’s in the most recent issue. For starters, his wine knowledge is extremely high, especially for more premium names, but also his bands are uncompromisingly underground. Erik [Danielsson] from Watain really impressed me with his thoughtfulness about wine as an almost magical libation—from its alchemical creation to its ritualistic enjoyment. Sigurd [Wongraven] from Satyricon has a successful winery (named Wongraven) that’s quite a large producer in Europe, so he’s pretty skilled at the production and business side of things. Riley [McShane] from Allegaeon is very knowledgeable about wine, as is Zachary [Ezrin] from Imperial Triumphant. I’d love to have Gaahl (Gaahl’s Wyrd, Gorgoroth) in an upcoming issue as he seems very keen to natural, low-intervention wine. Maybe more “metal adjacent,” but Les Claypool of Primus has a winery that’s a bit more focused on Pinot Noir.

The artwork throughout Blood of Gods is wildly imaginative. How much direction do you give to your collaborators for those art pieces?

SB: Thank you! It’s been an honor to have such talented contributors. Sometimes I have a specific idea that’s very detailed, but other times I just say, “Heavy Metal and wine… GO!” My process is pretty fast and loose, so sometimes there’s little time to have art that is exactly tailored for an article or an interview. But I’m getting better at being more organized, so that will hopefully change in the future. However, the spontaneity has also generated some completely unanticipated gems. There have been notable comic book artists, some well-known tattoo artists, and some completely new faces, bringing everything from watercolor work, digital illustrations, pen and ink, colored markers, and more. I always try to have the artistic style and motif varied in tone so readers can see the same concept through completely different lenses and perspectives—which, again, is kind of the point of the zine: looking at these two worlds from a different angle.

The zine has expanded to 56 pages for the newest issue. What are your favorite things about print publications, and what’s most challenging about putting one together?

SB: I love the engagement with the reader—you, the publication, have their complete attention. They are 100% invested when they are holding something physical and reading through the pages. It feels like a subtle repudiation of the disposable and transient nature of most things online. It can be very irritating to discover some new blog, website, or a fun account to follow, only to see it flame out almost as quickly as it appeared. Print has more energy to it. Not to sound too “new-age-y,” but I believe people’s time and enjoyment can really imprint on something physical. I love the creative process; the initial stages of idea generation and brainstorming. That gets me really excited. Deadlines are definitely the most challenging, especially when you start to realize that there are dozens of people involved to varying degrees in each issue. For me, shipping wine—especially in this newest issue—was the biggest challenge. I had wine shipping all over the place, even internationally. Timing its arrival—because it requires someone 21+ years old present to sign for it—was brutal.

What are your plans for Blood of Gods for the rest of 2021 and beyond?

SB: By the time folks are reading this, the fourth issue—aka the ‘Fall/Winter 2021’ issue—will be out. We had originally planned our first issue release party to take place October 2021, but the Covid Delta variant forced us to postpone to the Spring. However, it is going to be a doozy. It will take place in Walla Walla on April 15th of 2022, and we’re very excited about the special guests and fun lined up. Otherwise, there is a lot of unused art, sketches, interviews/reviews/features and more that were either shortened or unused due to space constraints that will manifest (finally). But I can’t spill all the beans now. However, I think people will dig it; it has sort of a “behind the scenes” vibe to it, and it’s not just filler cutting room floor stuff. The content is totally stellar, just couldn’t fit in due to space limitations. The first two issues are sold out, so they will likely be reprinted or a part of this project in some way. There is also the seed of an idea to have a Blood Of Gods wine created from a producer/people who we’re fans of. Nothing huge, maybe just a single barrel, approximately 20-25 cases made, but the idea is super exciting.

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Blood of Gods issue 1 and 2 cover