SLUG Magazine’s 20th Anniversary
Break out your finest, its time to mark a milestone not just for the scene, but for local journalism in general.
Born out of the backroom of the old Private Eye‘s offices twenty years ago, SLUG Magazine hit the streets with look at the local music scene, which at the time received little to no attention from anyone. In the course of two decades its grown into one of Utah’s major publications, spawned off hundreds of writers and contributors who have influenced our scene, gave bands a voice, promoted local art, took on extreme sports, somehow created its own language, pushed out several of its own concerts and compilation albums, and documented it all along the way. And they sure as hell don’t look like they’re done. I got to chat with four of the magazine’s staff members on everything from their first reading and getting involved with it, to their thoughts on it today and turning 20, plus opinions on our scene in general. And as you read, take a look at the magazine’s past from 1989 to today, and celebrate the occasion with them this Friday at The Trapp Door!
Adam Dorobiala, Jeanette Moses, Ricky Vigil & Meghann Griggs
Gavin: Hello to all of you. First off, tell us who you are and a little about yourselves.
Jeanette: I’m Jeanette Moses the Managing Editor.
Adam: My name is Adam Dorobiala and I am the Action Sports Coordinator here. I am a Skateboarder/ Photographer who has been working here for about three years now. In the summer I teach skateboarding at “Spocks Skatecamp” and in the winter time I am a part time snowboard instructor up at Brighton Ski Resort, as well as working in the SLUG office throughout the whole year.
Ricky: I’m Ricky Vigil, the office coordinator. I started out as an intern at the magazine in late 2006, and you can see much of the fruits of my labor during that time in the form of the downloadable back issues on our website. I was also the “Website Assistant” for a little while, and last summer I was offered a job working in the office, which I gladly accepted, and I’ve been livin’ the dream ever since!
Meg: Meghann “Meg” Griggs. Sales/Marketing Manager. I’m a single mom to Salt Lake’s hippest 8 year old, Lily. Enjoy building up this city that surrounds me with new ways to appreciate the local talent, business and culture we have here.
Gavin: When did you first start reading SLUG and what impact did it have on you? Do you remember what the first issue you read?
Adam: I remember reading SLUG in high school every now and then, but I didn’t start picking it up all the time until I got back from Art school in Pittsburgh.
Meg: When I was 15 years old I picked up SLUG at Raunch Records in Sugar House. I loved the grittiness it had to it and the “secret” scene info it contained.
Jeanette: I started reading SLUG my freshman year of high school as a way to find out about shows, local bands and cool independent businesses. I can’t remember the first issue I read, but in 2003 my wall was decorated with the covers of every new issue.
Ricky: I grew up in Kearns and West Valley where copies of SLUG were a bit harder to come by then they are now, so I didn’t really start to read the magazine until I moved downtown to attend the U. I immediately loved it and was glad to see that there were people in the city who not only liked a lot of the same music as me, but were also building a community around it. The first issue I remember reading for sure was a 2005 issue with Mastodon on the cover.
Gavin: How did you officially get involved with the magazine, and what were those first experiences like?
Meg: August of 2004 I was invited by a friend who worked for SLUG, to help out at the Sabbathon event they were doing at Bricks. After arriving and helping out for a couple hours, that friend went home and I ended up helping run the 12 hour event and making friends with Angela. Soon after Sabbathon I was invited to help out and give input on other SLUG events. Not only did working with SLUG help me pursue a life long passion of event coordinating but it also allowed me to give something back to the city I live in.
Ricky: There used to be a monthly “classifieds” section in SLUG, and one month I saw that they were looking for interns. I called the office, sent in some samples of my writing, went in for a couple of interviews and was lucky enough to be hired as a writer and intern. I’ve never been exactly sure why, because I’m kinda quiet and weird and not very cool, but I’ve always really liked being a part of the magazine. It was always a little intimidating to go into the office and converse with these people who I thought were on a much higher level of the cool scale than I was, but they always made me feel welcome and were always helpful in helping me to improve whatever I was working on, be it my social skills, my writing or anything else.
Jeanette: I got involved with SLUG when I was 16 working as an office intern. I saw a classified ad in the back of the magazine that said they were looking to hire interns. I called and the first thing that I was asked is if I was 18. Even though I wasn’t I was asked to come down for an interview and was hired. The first few months at SLUG were very cool. I just remember always being excited to come down to the office and do whatever I could to help.
Adam: I got back from Pittsburgh and was trying to find a job where I could have some creative freedom with my photography and cover our Skateboarding scene for the masses of people who didn’t know how big it really is. One night while out skateboarding with a few friends, Bob Plumb (senior photographer for SLUG at the time) met up with us to shoot some photos and he had just got this new camera and for some reason it wasn’t working. He couldn’t figure it out so I looked at it and fixed it and so he let me shoot a few photos that night. About a week or two later I got a call saying that they would like me to start helping out with some photo stuff and the summer skateboarding competitions, Summer Of Death. I came in and I met everyone and I finally felt like there were people devoted to what I wanted to see happen with my community. So I started helping out here and there and before I knew it, the snowball effect took hold and I was offered a position in the office to cover for Andrew Glassett who was going on tour with his band Uzi & Ari. They offered to let me stay in the office when Andrew got back and then I must’ve been doing something right because in the middle of last year they gave me my official new title “Action Sports Coordinator” The first experiences were awesome, you could really tell everyone here was doing what they could for the greater good of SLC’s underground
Gavin: Do you have a particular fond or big moment during your time working for SLUG you’d care to share?
Adam: The Summer Of Death competitions this past year were so rad. My favorite moment was during our “Summer Detention” competition where we had three judges, as well as photographers, sit at different spots at the University of Utah and held a “guerilla” competition. We kept it way underground ’til the day before and so many kids showed up for this event it was spectacular. I remember that there were swarms of kids skating through the U to different spots and a cop rolled up and everybody bolted. The Judge at the spot hid his clipboard and I pretended I was an out of towner student checking out the campus. The police officer started talking to the judge and myself, but we just played it off like it was some coincidence that so many kids were skating around. I still don’t understand how the University police didn’t bust it up.
Ricky: I’ve had a lot of opportunities to talk to really cool musicians, both nationally and locally, plus some great other personalities in our local community, but my fondest memory afforded to me by my experience with SLUG was when I interviewed Tim Barry of Avail at Kilby Court. He had just started a solo country/folk side-project and it was his first time coming to town without his main band, but that meant that a lot of people hadn’t heard about it yet and the show got canceled. Tim was nice enough to let me conduct an interview anyway, and what was even cooler was that he, his sister and their friend played a set out of their touring van for myself, my sister and about five other people that had showed up for the show. I recorded the set on the tape recorder I had brought and that tape is one of my most treasured possessions now.
Jeanette: Interviewing Exene Cervenka from X was an awesome experience. Reworking the entire cover story for the March 2007 was also a very rewarding experience.
Meg: SLUG has been an ongoing learning experience for me. It has allowed me to develop talents I never knew I had as well as explore the fields I wish. Also this is my family, the relationships I have with my fellow SLUGGERS is not like any other.
Gavin: Any favorite stories from the magazine’s history, or is it too hard to pick?
Adam: Too many.
Jeanette: The SLUG open house is always a riot. So are SLUG Games and Summer of Death events.
Meg: I’ve always loved Mike Brown’s Column. He makes me laugh on a daily basis, that’s not to say he doesn’t p!$$ me off daily but the laugh takes that away. LOV YOU MIKEY!
Ricky: I really liked the retrospective pieces SLUG ran in the seventeenth anniversary issue about Raunch Records and Speedway Café because they told the story of a Salt Lake before my time. I also am a big fan of the interview Nate Martin did with Tom Gabel of Against Me! where he basically called him out for being a fake anarchist, not because I don’t like Tom Gabel or I’m an anarchist or anything, but because it was really funny, plus it managed to be really informative.
Gavin: What’s your take on how its developed its own language over the years that’s become commonplace in the scene?
Meg: I truly believe with each of the different Editors the magazine has had, that an individual voice has been made. Originally with JR it was a gritty street mag that broke onto the scene letting the peeps know what was going on with their local bands. Then when Gianni took it over, he attempted, in my opinion to focus more on a national music level. When Angela took the reins she shifted the focus back on local music and has created a forum for local local local. Local business, art and culture.
Adam: I think it’s a great place to find your uncensored and off the wall stories, which makes its voice unique from all the major media in SLC. That and our writers all have a very different style of writing.
Gavin: In your opinion, what do you think of the changes its gone through from 1989 to today?
Jeanette: The magazine has definitely become a more professional product in the past 20 years. SLUG is no longer just a forum to bash or praise local bands. Its grown up. The coverage includes art, culture, food, film, literature, action sports and music. We also pay more attention to the quality of the product that is produced every month. Plus there are all the ways that SLUG Magazine has expanded past the pages of the mag and focused its energy into creating a strong community. We plan stellar events like Localized, SLUG Games, Summer of Death and various other monthly events to bring the community together.
Adam: All for the good. Its crazy to think how far its come, from a four page pamphlet to one of the most respected publications in SLC.
Meg: Sighting what I stated above, I think that the scene and the magazine needed the focus to come about again to the local community. I feel it may have been a bit off trade but Angela has brought it where it was originally intended to be.
Gavin: How has working for SLUG changed you both professionally and personally?
Adam: Oh man. It has shown me so many different things that have been for the better, I couldn’t name just one instance.
Meg: Through out the 5 years I have worked for SLUG I have been able to adapt to many situations. Also noting that working for a small locally owned business has given me insight as to what struggles our local advertisers go through on a month to month basis. But most of all SLUG has allowed me to flourish personally and professionally on my creative side, by encouraging me to build and create amazing progressive events.
Jeanette: I’ve kind of "grown up" with the magazine… As cheesy as it sounds, I can’t image my life without SLUG. I’ve gained great friends and great experiences from the magazine. Its expanded my music taste and knowledge, taught me to snowboard, helped me become more outgoing and made me really good at time management.
Gavin: What’s your take on the magazine hitting the 20 year marker?
Ricky: I think it’s awesome, and it really speaks volumes about the spirit Salt Lake’s music community. Most people wouldn’t assume that Salt Lake would be a hotbed of alternative culture, but the success of SLUG is just one of many examples that even though we’re in Utah, we don’t have to give in to mainstream values to be a part of a community.
Jeanette: Its pretty amazing. Who would have ever thought SLUG would be around for two decades? Happy that I can be involved.
Adam: One more example that people relate to the magazine and the content within, plus the magazine is almost old enough to drink at bars now.
Meg: SLUG is turning 20, that shows maturity and sustainability however, I think we haven’t even hit our peak yet.
Gavin: Any thoughts on the direction SLUG is headed in and where it will be down the road?
Adam: Well, we are doing our best to make it the best we can and I think that if we continue to just do that, who knows where it could go down the road.
Meg: We as a group change each month and grow as we walk through experiences as a business. I feel like SLUG is headed in an utmost positive direction, however readers will have to wait and see what we produce month to month.
Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the music scene, both good and bad?
Meg: I think our local scene is gaining strength and proving to be as strong as it has been in years. The people that are currently involved whether it be the promoters, venue owners and bands are really hitting it hard to make sure we have a unique yet talented music scene.
Adam: I don’t think people from out of state realize how rad our community in the music scene really is, we have tons of great bands out there and a supportive fan base as well. The only bad thing is that sometimes we can’t get coverage for all of them.
Ricky: I think that like most places, there’s a little bit of really good stuff, a bit more “meh” stuff, and a whole lotta crap. There are a ton of local bands, and only a few of them are really worthy of praise. I think that’s likely the situation everywhere, but I do think that the people in Salt Lake who really care about the music scene will always be around to encourage new talent, to book the bands in their clubs and sell their music in their record shops. I do think that there are some truly amazing bands in Salt Lake, but I think what’s even more amazing is the framework that allows any band that’s willing to work hard enough the chance to succeed.
Gavin: What’s your take on local labels, and do you believe they help or hinder artists in the longrun?
Jeanette: I think that without a doubt they help artists. Every label was a local one when it started. Local labels help the local economy too, and ultimately they are probably more invested in their bands then a big major label is.
Meg: Local labels are a must in my book. Several bands possess the talent and drive to make it out there, however lack the marketing and product knowledge it requires to succeed in local and national markets. The local labels help the bands get out there and promote them where they otherwise may not see fit to go.
Ricky: I think local labels are cool and all, but music seems to be heading in a direction that suggests that labels aren’t entirely necessary for success. That said, though, if a band I’ve never heard of signs to a local label that I generally enjoy, I’ll usually check them out just because being on a label does give artists a certain level of clout. I probably would’ve never heard of Reviver if they hadn’t signed to Exigent, for example.
Adam: I like to think of it as nothing different than big labels, because if you think about it, what were they to begin with? They were small local labels who happened to go big, just like our local labels easily can do with all of the talent here.
Gavin: Bigger radio stations are playing local music, but its only for certain time periods. Do you believe that’s helping local musicians or making it feel more exclusive? Any changes you’d make?
Adam: I don’t see any problem with it, I think any coverage is good coverage so the publicity can’t be bad for our local musicians. Even if one person likes what they hear and buys a CD or just the song, that one song can make its way into other peoples libraries and other and others and before you know it you have people in some far off place wondering when the band might come on tour.
Ricky: There are just too many bands within too many scenes to make everybody happy. I’m about to generalize and will likely offend a ton of people, but I don’t think that most serious music fans listen to the radio. Even shows that play local music adhere to a certain group of bands with a certain sound because they know what their demographic is. That’s not a bad thing because they’re giving the people what they want, but someone is bound to be left out, and a lot of good bands are gonna go unheard. I think podcasts might be a really good way to get good music out to a lot of people that might not have heard it otherwise.
Gavin: Over the years, who was your personal favorite local group and why?
Ricky: I grew up listening to a lot of ska, but unfortunately I came of age right around the time that Utah’s ska scene was falling apart, so I didn’t get to see bands like My Man Friday or Stretch Armstrong, and though there were a few good bands that came after them, I think that Fews & Two really got me and a lot of other people excited about local ska again. They stuck to the roots of the music, so snobby dorks like me who don’t like third-wave ska could get into them, but they also had a whole lot of energy and attitude in their live show, so those third-wave fans and punk kids could get into them too.
Adam: Tough question, I liked the “Guitorchestra” a lot, I have no idea if they are even around still. Tolchock Trio is awesome, their new CD “Abalone Skeleton” is great and they just jam the f#%& out whenever I see them. Also, The Silver Desert is fairly new to the scene and I think they could go somewhere really quickly.
Jeanette: There have been so many… Early on… The Corleones because they had such fun live shows. Currently… AZON, All Systems Fail, Vile Blue Shades, Eagle Twin, Andale, The Wolfs…. The list goes on.
Meg: I absolutely loved the old hardcore scene Salt Lake had. My all time favorite was Lifeless. Not only was I familiar with all the band members, but at the time I strongly believed in what they stood for and the social morals they sang about.
Gavin: A little on the art scene, thoughts on how its developed in recent years? Anything to make it bigger or better?
Meg: Personally I have dove into the local art scene as a collector full throttle. The only thing I believe the artist could do better is promote themselves more and get their names and artwork out there for EVERYONE to see.
Adam: It’s getting bigger and better all the time. Although I will say, more galleries and more grants for artists would be nice. I know that’s the reason I haven’t had a solo show recently, I can’t afford to work with Film anymore because of the Digital Photo take-over. Film has a quality that digital will never have.
Gavin: What’s your take on other local publications and how they cover our scene?
Adam: They do a good job, just different than what we do at SLUG. you thought you might be able to catch some Mud Slinging eh? Kidding.
Meg: Each publication in our city seems to serve a purpose. I feel everyone has their own experience and expertise that adds to the coverage of our great community.
Gavin: Are there any defunct ones you wish were still around?
Adam: The Kidnapper, which was a local skateboard zine, that would have done great if their first issue didn’t coincide with that huge fiasco with Elizabeth Smart.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and SLUG for the rest of the year?
Jeanette: Awesome editorial coverage and killer events.
Meg: SLUG will continue to move forward and push the envelope while maintain the voice of Salt Lake’s underground.
Adam: Expect some great stories as well as some great events. Basically, expect what you have come to expect from SLUG in years past but with more bang.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you’d like to plug or promote?
Adam: Our website, its being updated continuously to feature all of our back issues and online exclusive content.
Ricky: Check out our website! I think a lot of people assume that there’s no original content on there, but we’ve got a ton of exclusive interviews, concert reviews, photo galleries and you can download almost all of our back issues in pdf format, so it’s definitely worth a visit.