Lying for Jesus
About three weeks after my sudden conversion to Christianity (for the core gist of that story, see my blog of April 12--NOW!), I got a job offer to be the editor of a much loved music magazine/tabloid here in San Diego. At that point SLAMM (“San Diego Lifestyle and Music Magazine”) had been in business for five years. They did 40,000 copies every two weeks; it was distributed everywhere throughout San Diego. They ran album reviews, show previews, show reviews, band and artist profiles, and so on. Just about every city has such a publication. SLAMM was ours. It was extremely popular. (It was also sold about two years ago.)
As you know if you’ve read some my earlier blogs (which you should go do now!), at the time I became a Christian I was 38 years old, and working as a flunky in a law office. It had recently begun to dawn on me that maybe I shouldn’t be 38 and have a job I could have handled when I was nine--that maybe I should get a real job.
“Time to stop worrying about the art of writing,” I said to myself one day, “and start worrying about finally making a living writing. Cool enough.” Then I said to myself, “Hmm. I’m a law office flunky. No one’s going to pay me to write. I better start writing stuff for free.”
So I submitted a 250-word album review to SLAMM. They ran it. Then I wrote another one. They ran that one, too. Before too long, I was spending my nights writing tons of material for that publication.
Eight months after that my editor got a better job offer, and recommended me to SLAMM’s publisher as his replacement.
And voila: I became a magazine editor.
Who had just become a Christian.
Have you ever heard of singer named Rob Zombie? I have no idea what ol’ Rob is up to these days, but he was/is one of those artists who ground their image and music in Gruesome Death stuff: lots of dripping blood and spooky tombs--and worse. Rob’s albums have titles like “Living Dead Girl,” “Superbeast,” and “The Sinister Urge.” Rob is quite the hero of a significant portion of the death/industrial metal-head set.
Or perhaps you’ve heard of the extremely popular singer/songwriter Marilyn Manson. Mr. Manson’s latest album is called, “Eat Me, Drink Me.” Two of his other big albums are “Smells Like Children,” and “Antichrist Superstar.” He favors a look that says, "Soulless, Bloodless, Androgynous Zombie with Really Red Lips and Hollowed-Out Eyes." He wears more pancake make-up than Bozo.
Anyway, you get the idea. As you surely know, there are lots of artists like Mr.'s Zombie and Manson: Music racks everywhere are jammed with singers who drench themselves in all kinds of truly gruesome images of death and gore. A great many of them, of course, are exceedingly proud to be associated as clearly as possible with Satan.
Now, my job at SLAMM was to present its audience with the music it wanted to learn about. And at that time Marilyn Manson was wildly popular; he was selling out stadiums all over the world.
And just my luck, he was coming to San Diego.
A weird thing about the music business is the degree to which it’s driven by publicity. I mean, we all know what a media-driven society we live in, but unless you’ve ever actually worked in media, you have no idea. (Or do, I know—since all media ever seems to talk about anymore is media.) If you, reading this right now, typed “The Music Publication” across the top of a piece of paper, wrote a line or two beneath that about how you reviewed albums, and that "MP" was distributed throughout your area, ran off 100 copies of that, and dropped those sheets off at your nearest coffee shop, by the time you got home you’d already have wating for you five messages from five different record labels.
It’s pretty insane like that.
During the time I was at SLAMM, the only artist doing a show in San Diego (and they all do shows in San Diego: Wouldn’t you?) who didn’t make themselves totally available to us for interviews and so on was Bob Dylan. Everyone else, no matter how Humongously Popular they were, contacted us before we even knew they had a local concert scheduled. They all wanted profiles done on them. They all wanted to be on the cover.
And most importantly, they all wanted to let me into their show for free.
Man. Talk about your top-notch perk.
Anyway, I loved that job. Like about everyone, I’m crazy for music. And I was learning so much about it. The “world music” movement was just then taking off; my office was forever filled with African, Irish, and Latin music I was thrilled hear and study. Jazz, rock, blues, experimental … it was just all so great.
Way more than that, even, was that I was doing something I was apparently born to do, which is run a magazine. Freelancers! Photographers! Graphic designers! Salespeople! Advertisers! Headlines! Deadlines! Captions! Covers! Faxes! Phone calls! Interviews!
It was sooooo not standing alone all day in a boiling little room making photocopies for massive corporations determined to make clear to whatever employee had filed a complaint against them that they, the employee, had zero idea with whom they were messing. (You would not believe the resources a huge international corporation will marshal against, say, a single employee who’s filed a sexual harassment suit against the lowest of their managers. They bury that complainer: They do everything they can to make sure that person, and anyone who knows that person, never, ever again entertains the idea off filing a suit against them. And they can do a lot towards that end. It's actually pretty scary.)
Running a music magazine was a positive dream for me.
And then one day across my desk came the press packet for Marilyn Manson, who was coming soon to San Diego’s largest concert venue. Tickets for that show had gone on sale that morning; they'd sold out in half an hour.
I could “accidentally” lose a Rob Zombie CD that had come in. I could misplace the “Killer Death Mutants” latest disc. I could forget to run that piece about the “Blood Dripping Maniacs” concert. I could completely lose track of the PR material for “Animal Carnage.”
But there was no way I could legitimately “forget” to deal with Marilyn Manson.
My job was to put Marilyn Manson on the cover of my magazine. In a lot of ways, my job was to promote Marilyn Manson.
And there, in the bookcase right next to my desk, was my Bible.