Metal Archives or Encyclopaedia Metallum is most likely one of the most important information and source sites for metalheads and metal magazines alike. At the moment there are nearly 130.000 metal bands listed and hold informations like origin and founding date, info about releases, bandmembers and lets the user dive deep into the history of the listed combos. As we are currently working on our top secret project in cooperation with Metal Archives, we wanted to get some more insights about the page. Time for us to interview „Derigin“, who is a staff member and administrator at metal archives for over 10 years and who has used MA since 2003.
UG: Hi Derigin.
Derigin: Hi Grave.
UG: So, please tell us something about the daily business of an admin at MA.
Derigin: On MA, there's many different tasks that we as staff do on a regular basis. Daily we check the 'queues'. These are lists of band submissions, pending reviews, reports on errors/updates needed for pages, and appeals of bands that we've rejected or deleted that need to be assessed for acceptability. There's also other tasks, including dealing with vandals, trolls and other delinquent users, as well as providing advice and answering questions from users, and moderating the forum, too. As admins we're expected to do all of this, as well as answer any tough questions users and other mods might have when it comes to site policy, guidelines, dealing with users, and so on. In addition to all of this, we do regular upkeep of the site, as well, which means updating information or cleaning up pages whenever we can.It may seem like a lot of work - and it is, don't get me wrong - but it's enjoyable. I hold the belief that working on MA isn't a job so much as a hobby, and being able to contribute to a website that means so much to so many metalheads is, honestly, an honour.
UG: I can fully understand this, as running a non profit online zine costs a lot and only pays with honor and satisfaction. And yeah, this sounds like quite a task! So, for an outsider it's hard to understand the dimension of this job – Just how much people are working at MA? And is there any monetary aspect in MA?
Derigin: It's difficult to give an exact number. At present we have over 420000 registered users, of which at least 85000 have contributed something to MA over the years. Of those 85000 members, 7 are currently administrators, 34 are moderators, and over 1400 have achieved a rank high enough to be able to update and add information to pages on the site (although not all of those users are still active these days). On any given day, you can expect dozens, if not hundreds of people working on MA. This also doesn't include the many visitors that may stumble upon the site and, without registering as an user, still send in a report asking us to fix or update or add information to the site. We get many of those, too.
Everyone who contributes to MA is a volunteer, including the staff. And, as far as the monetary aspect goes, MA is ad-free and entirely paid for by its owners, Morrigan and HellBlazer. They take care of all the costs associated with the server and anything else that may arise. They do accept donations, and we have an affiliate program, as well, if users and visitors wish to help out with the costs that way.
Oh, I should mention that we have a ranking system, so not all users have the same abilities. Administrators and Moderators, for instance, have near total access to the site, but a person with a Veteran rank will only be able to add new information and update existing information. Administrators and Moderators are the only ones who can deal with band and review submissions, as well as warn and ban users. Some of our highest ranked users can help us with reports sent in by other users. Beyond that, the ranks we have just determine what you can edit on pages.
UG: This is nothing but impressive. So Morrigan and HellBlazer also came up with the original idea to create a „Metal-Wikipedia“? Or was there another purpose, like the forum for example?
Derigin: Yes, it was Morrigan and HellBlazer that came up with the idea for MA back in 2001/2002. Funny enough, this was back when Wikipedia was barely even a thing; the idea for creating MA was independent of wanting to create a metal version of Wikipedia. They just had the idea that cataloging all metal bands in existence would be worth doing, and so from the beginning our goal has been to build the most comprehensive encyclopedia as possible, for bands that have released metal albums. The site's forum is just an additional feature that's secondary to the site's main purpose, and was included just to allow our users to more easily chat with us and one another.
UG: I bet they didn‘t think it would come to this behemoth of an archive. So, when MA is discussed, there sometimes pops up the question about “data-quality”. Right now there are nearly 130.000 bands listed and when going through the data base, we found around 8.500 different genre and their combinations. If I got you right basically everyone can put in their band project? How does a band qualify to be listed on MA or when do you guys decide that it gets deleted?
Derigin: Well, with few exceptions, for a band to get added to MA we require that it has already released and distributed a predominantly metal album. Any registered user can submit a band, though it's up to the staff to determine if it fulfills this requirement. If it does, that's great, it gets approved and added to the site. If it doesn't, it gets rejected and blacklisted so that it can't be resubmitted again. On the rare occasion we do make mistakes, and so we allow users to appeal bands that they feel were unfairly rejected, as well as bands they feel that we shouldn't have approved. In those cases, we'll review their request and determine if we were in the wrong or not. We try to be as clear and open with our users as much as possible, and don't shy away from explaining our justifications for accepting or rejecting a band.
When judging bands for acceptance, we typically look for two things. First, and most importantly, we listen to the album and determine if it's predominantly metal. The site defines metal as music which has metal riffs. Second, the album itself must satisfy a number of conditions. It must be a mostly original, officially-authorized finished product that was made available to the public, either physically or digitally. There's a few caveats to that, but generally that's what we look for.
UG: This must be quite a workload if every band gets checked - How many entries are there a day or lets say a week normally? I guess there are quite some interesting “appeals” or stories with rejected projects. Do you recall a particular story you want to share with us?
Derigin: Yeah, checking over every band can be a laborious task, but at the same time it can be an interesting one too. On occasion you run into new, awesome bands, or old bands from long ago that are just starting to see the light of day again. It's also neat seeing which genres (on average) tend to be the ones most submitted at any given time. Right now, for instance, it seems we've been getting lots of groove, stoner, and sludge metal submissions. Normally, we get up to a hundred submissions a day, sometimes less and sometimes more. Not all of these submissions get approved, and many of them tend to be pretty borderline. I guess after cataloging nearly 130000 bands, most of the obvious metal bands are already on the site. That said, we'll continue to accept all bands with metal albums so long as bands keep making them. We have no intention on ever stopping. As far as appeals and stories of rejected bands go... I don't even know where to start. Haha. Over the years I think I've seen it all, from submissions with obviously fake pictures of CDs and tapes, to submissions (mostly troll submissions) of bands like Britney Spears and School of Rock (yes, the Jack Black movie). We even once had an adbot submit a webcam as a band. We still have no idea how it was able to do that! If you can think of it, we've probably dealt with it. Appeals, though, happen fairly often. Usually a band that was blacklisted gets appealed because a new album has been released and that album is metal. That was the case with Soulfly. We've also had cases, like with Full of Hell and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, where we gave it a thorough second look and came to the conclusion that it belongs after all. Bands that are borderline metal can be tough to judge, but we work as a team in judging them.
UG: I would be a terrible admin for MA as I would (for example) never list a "metal" band like Myrkur! laughs. But if you check new entries and it is really hard to decide whether it is Metal or not, are there other things beside said "riffing" and „album release“ that you consider?
Derigin: Riffs reign supreme! *laughs*. While we understand and acknowledge that other people have their own ways of defining what is and isn't metal - for example, by how 'heavy' the music is, or by other elements like image, scene or what bands they've played with - for us we're strictly about the music. With tough cases we'll always opt to get as many second opinions from staff as possible, and if we can't agree on whether the album being judged is unquestionably, undoubtedly metal... we'll err on the side of caution, and wait for the band to release a less divisive album. (Back: Zodijackyl; Front (L-R): Myself, Erosion of Humanity, Metantoine)
UG: Riffs reign supreme - Well said! Besides the archive and the forum, there are people also writing exclusive reviews if I recall it right?
Derigin: I wouldn't necessarily call them exclusive, but we do have lots of reviews - at this point in time just over 100.000. We accept all reviews, as long as they're written well, focus on describing the music of the album being reviewed and are clearly the reviewer's genuine opinion. There are some reviewers that exclusively post reviews just on MA, though we do have others that share their reviews on other websites or on their own personal blogs, too. So long as it's the reviewer's actual review - it's not someone else's - we don't mind it being posted on MA. Reviews really are an asset for a site like MA. I can't tell you how many times I've relied on them for insight on an album, even if I may disagree with some of what is written. We also regularly host a challenge twice a year that's focused on the reviews and reviewers. Every summer and every winter reviewers are encouraged to spend a week writing and submitting as many quality reviews as possible for albums with no reviews so far. This review challenge has been running for 13 years, and has been a great success!
UG: I guess you still dont accept reviews in the world language german? laughs So you have come a long way and still a long way to go - What are the future plans for MA?
Derigin: Sadly, we don't accept German language reviews! laughs. Even though the site is owned by native francophones, and there's numerous staff who have other native languages (including many German speakers!) we decided long ago that the website would be in English. We do try to accommodate users, as much as responsably possible, who may need help and are struggling with the language. Many of us have second, third, or even fourth languages. ... But, back to your question. laughs. Future plans for MA? That's a tough one. While there's some things that won't ever really change, like how we're focused on heavy metal bands (Sorry! We're not interested in becoming the 'Rock, Metal, and Punk Archives'), we do periodically add new features and make cosmetic/technical changes to the site. For example, a number of years ago we made it possible for users to add other versions of albums that already exist on the site. So now, when you hit a record store and find Morbid Angel's "Altars of Madness" you can now determine whether it's an original, a reissue, or even a bootleg version. I would love to see many more features like that which expand the amount of information we include about the bands, albums, artists, etc. on the site. Beyond that, I think one of the other challenges we face is the changing nature of the Internet. As more and more people use phones, tablets, and other media to view websites, and as programming languages change and evolve, there may be a necessity to keep improving the site to reflect those changes. I can't say anything with certainty there - you'd have to ask our programmers (who are also Morrigan and HellBlazer) - but I know we've looked at options for making the website more user-friendly and accessible.
UG: Perfect! Basically there is one last and quite traditional question left: Imagine you could meet your younger self back in 2008 when "he" started to be a MA admin - What would you tell yourself?
Derigin: Hah! There's a lot I'd want to tell the 2008 version of me, and I can't say much of that would be related to MA! laughs. Life, man, it can sure throw challenges at you. But as far as MA goes, even back then I think I had an understanding that working on MA is what you make of it. It's easy for people who contribute to MA to get overwhelmed, or to take it too seriously, and to get burnt out in the process. The key is to find enjoyment and to balance it with the rest of your life. MA is a passion project, as I'm sure Undergrounded has been to you, and I love the fact that - in a small way - we've helped metalheads across the world discover bands, learn about different styles and scenes, and maybe even meet other like-minded people, too. I'm pretty proud of the team we have, the users who contribute to MA, and how MA has gotten to where it is today. I feel my past self would probably have appreciated knowing that MA is still around and going strong in 2019. I'm optimistic MA will be around for decades to come. I fucking love the site!
UG: Dedication is the answer and yeah, life - You got to grab it by the balls! laughs Thank you for the insights and keep up the great work - for decades to come!
Derigin: Absolutely. Thank you for the chat. If there's anything else you would like us to provide detail on, always feel free to ask. It's been a pleasure.
This interview features Derigin, Administrator of Metal Archives. He was interviewed by Grave from Undergrounded.