The Cadence Inc: What sparked your original interest in music journalism and in this scene?
Bobby Gorman: I can't think of an initial moment that sparked my interest, I just kind of fell into it. One Saturday morning way back in grade eight I decided to try my hand at web design and created a god-awful Blink 182 fan site on Angelfire. Through that I met a few other fan site creators and a year later one of them asked if we wanted to team up and create a site dedicated to punk music, not just one band. We did that for a year before I branched off and started ThePunkSite.com in October of 2003 when I was in grade ten.
I had no big plans, I just loved the music and wanted to help promote it. It was something I did on the side, for fun and the fact that it's lasted for over a dozen years now is simply mind blowing.
Like so many people my age, I got introduced to the scene through Blink 182. Punk started to become main stream around the turn of the century and I fell in love with it; and I soon got past the gate keepers and saw who they were influenced by, who they toured with, and saw there was more than what was on Much Music and the radio. It's a never ending rabbit hole and I savoured every note I could hear.
The Cadence Inc: How big is your team at The Punk Site?
Bobby Gorman: I'd say I have a team of around a dozen or so, it all kind of fluctuates depending on availability. Everything on the site is volunteer based, there's no money in it and everyone does it for the love of the music and journalism; and sometimes real life comes first. I have core group of editors and writers who basically keep the site running on a day to day basis and there's no way I could do any of this without them. I can't put into words how grateful I am to have them on my side. Every writer contributes so much every time they can conduct an interview, writer a review, do up a news story, or take live photos - and each writer has their own distinct style that amps up the content.
We're a Canadian based publication but aren't limited to the Great White North. We have writers all over Canada - from Vancouver to Toronto - alongside others in the UK, Belgium, and in several States. That's the beauty of being a web-based publication, it opens it up to voices from all the globe.
And, of course, I'm always looking for new contributors - so get in touch if you've ever wanted to give it a try! We're pretty easy going.
The Cadence Inc: What is your monthly viewership like and how do you focus on growing those numbers?
Bobby Gorman: I've never focused on growing my numbers. I know that's bad to say, but I just hate advertising and marketing. I can't help but feel if the content is good, viewers will come naturally. And so far, that's worked out perfectly for me.
The Cadence Inc: What do you believe sets TPS apart from other music blogs?
Bobby Gorman: Of course the daily news is integral, but all sites do that now so we're nothing special in that aspect. What truly makes us stand out is the quality of our interviews and reviews - interviews in particular.
All our writers take great pride in avoiding the run of the mill questions that doesn't really offer any new insight. It ensures that the bands are interested in conducting the interview because we actually know who it is that we're talking to and it gives the readers a fresh insight into a band they may not have known before.
The Cadence Inc: What, in your opinion, can a band or publicist do to grab your attention in an initial email pitch?
Bobby Gorman: I would say just cut straight to the point. I hate overly long and hyped emails. Everything in your e-mail is going to be positive. I know that, that's your job - but cut out the hyperbole.
You have to remember I get fifty to a hundred emails a day for the site and this is something I do for fun. I work a twelve hour a day job in film too, I don't have time to then sift through hundreds of hyperbole laden message. Tell me who you are, what you want and why I should check you out in the simplest terms possible.
After I know you, all you have to do is say "hey, check this out. You'll like it." If I trust you and know what you've pitched me before, I'll check it out instantly.
The Cadence Inc: Your coverage is pretty widespread across genres. Is there anything you want to steer away from covering?
Bobby Gorman: If it fits under the punk rock umbrella, I'm pretty open to it. That's the glorious thing about punk, it can mean so much. Tegan & Sara are not punk but their attitude somehow lets them slide right on in. The same could be said for bands like Laura Stevenson or even some of the punk-turn-solo acts like Greg Graffin or Chuck Ragan or Chris Farren. On the surface those bands may not sound classically punk, but there's something there that will speak to every punk fan.
I remember attending a music history class at the UofA and the teacher was covering the punk explosion of the seventies - they played The Clash and the person sitting next to me had never heard them but said they didn't sound very punk. In some ways, that's true; yet The Clash are the very definition of punk.
I'll steer away from overly poppy acts, metalcore acts and I really doubt jazz or classical musicians would do it. Nevertheless, I feel comfortable covering Andrew WK next to Leftover Crack next to Beach Slang next to Allison Weiss, Menzingers and Foxing. Punk is an attitude not necessarily a sound. There are certain punk styles I personally favour, but I'll still cover bands that I don't really like if I know some of my punk readers would love them.
The Cadence Inc: In your experience, do you think that bands take interviews seriously? Or has it become more of an obligation or hassle?
Bobby Gorman: It fully depends how prepared you, as the interviewer, are and what happened to the band that day. Everyone has their off day and they'll be in a shitty mood, it happens.
Generally though, bands are happy to do it. You get the odd one where it's just their job, and you can tell that in their answers and attitude; but if you have good questions and show that you've done your research, they'll often open up soon enough. They just get bored if it's the same questions over and over again.
You ask them a new question based on solid research, they'll spill their guts out.
The Cadence Inc: Can you share with us your favorite or most memorable interview you've done in your career?
Bobby Gorman: I've done a lot of interviews that I'm really proud of. One I always go back to is having Travis Barker (Blink 182) call my house back in December of 2003. I was in grade ten and the biggest drummer in the world was calling to talk to me, that was surreal.
Since then there's been some great ones. My interview with Mike Ness (Social Distortion) got republished in a German textbook, so now high school kids there need to write an essay based on my interview - that's pretty interesting for me. Ben Weasel back in 2009 was a great, eye-opening conversation as was my talk with Alexisonfire at the Shaw Conference Centre. The first time I spoke to Tim McIlrath was fantastic and any interview with Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners ends in laughter. The guys from The Gaslight Anthem once saved me one of ten seats in a general admission venue because I had sprained my ankle and couldn't stand for more than a minute - an act I was eternally grateful for.
I remember at Warped Tour one year I did almost 30 interviews in two days and had a cheat sheet for all 80+ bands playing so I could interview anyone at the drop of a hat. All the other journalists there were taking photocopies of it to help them out, I was pretty proud that day.
Over my twelve years, I've interviewed hundreds of bands and have met many of my all time favourite musicians. I could probably tell stories about most of them and it's a great feeling to be able to look back and reminisce about it all.
The Cadence Inc: How do you see that the role of the music journalist has changed over the years? Now that the spread of ideas and opinions is so easily presented, how do you as an interviewer/publication stand out?
Bobby Gorman: You stand out by being authentic and having a unique voice. You can't succumb to the wind of what's popular right now and, most importantly, you have to be honest. If you hate something, say it. If everything you write is positive, then you have no credibility. Sometimes you have reasons for why you love or hate something, and sometimes you don't. Music is intrinsic and it hits everyone differently - and occasionally, you just can't explain why.
Just because I'm great friends with a publicist, doesn't mean I'm going to like everything you give me. If I did, I wouldn't be doing anyone a favour.
The internet has leveled the playing field for music journalists - there's no longer one singular gate keeper that says what's popular and what isn't. Everyone can have a voice and opinion. You'll stand out if you're well versed in what you're talking about, have taken the time to study the history and current trends of the scene; and if you're honest with yourself and the readers.
People understand bullshit and they'll leave you behind if they smell it.
The Cadence Inc: Thank you for taking some time to speak with us. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Bobby Gorman: ThePunkSite was something I started for fun - and still do for fun. Over the years, it has changed and evolved - just as I have. What many people don't realize is I created the site on my parents' computer when I was in grade ten. I had no goals other than to see if I could design a website because I was bored and suddenly I had a press pass to the Juno Awards.
People often ask me if I make any money off the site. The answer is no. I've never made a dime because I'm far too lazy to fight for advertising revenue; and I'm okay with that. Money was never the intention. I loved the music and wanted to help promote it, that was my goal. Plus, it gave me a way to go to shows and discover new music.
It's been twelve years and it's opened more doors, gave me more experiences and introduced me to more friends than I could ever imagine. So I hope to keep it going for another twelve years and I'm excited to see what happens then.
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