‘David Stagg’ of ‘HM Magazine’ Interviewed by Brazilian webzine ‘Sinkilller’


david staggDavid Stagg is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of HM Magazine. Prior to joining the HM team in his current capacity, he worked and taught at Rice University, was the Creative Director at an agency in Houston, and started his own website design and development company, New American Creative, in February 2012. He enjoys horror movies, minimalism and Houston Texans football.

Norman Lima of Brazilian webzine ‘Sinkilller’ recently conducted an interview with David. The English version can be read below.

You are the new big shot of HM. How was this negotiation with the Godfather of HM, Doug Van Pelt?

Doug and I have a wonderful working relationship. I started out as an in-house intern about 10 years ago and have worked with him since then. Without going into his personal life, he reached out to me, almost as an afterthought, to take over responsibility for the magazine. I was in a very good position in my life to make an offer to him, and the rest seemed to work itself out.

I noticed, that did not change the old format to be HM. If you did or not, could you tell how to take this responsibility?

Part of the ultimate goal is to always stay true to what Doug envisioned for the magazine: Covering the bizarre, intimidating world of metal music from a faith-based perspective. A decade ago when I was intern, we were fighting battles: “Are they Christian band? Do they belong in the magazine?” In today’s age, the wall between “Christians” and “non-Christians” — thankfully — is being torn down. Now, there are great bands with believers on the mic — Memphis May Fire, Being as an Ocean — who are in no way considered “Christian bands,” spreading love as their message. The whole cultural shift, especially in America, has allowed more feedback and more interest from the thinking minds that read our magazine, so to see them respond so well to the challenging pieces we’ve run has been very encouraging. There is a time and place for worship, but our magazine is designed to reach out to the dark, desperate and lonely. A lot of us, including myself, were that kid. Our coverage will always seek to entertain, educate and inspire critical thinking.

david stagg hmOne of the great parts of the magazine, which I always enjoyed, was the devotion to secular bands — which I always saw as a positive thing. How was the experience of interviewing declared satanic bands like Behemoth and Watain? What were their reactions when you told them that it was a Christian magazine interested in talking to them (Behemoth and Watain) ?

Outside the art, you could see the person beyond the music and see something positive and not just negative? The public’s perception of what they don’t understand is almost always a swift and immediate rejection. I don’t claim to know everything, but I try to embrace what I don’t. In the most direct sense, I have no worry or doubt about my belief in God and my personal salvation. I have a personal and professional desire to understand the nature of the human race and our world’s condition of entropy, and — whether that discussion includes God or not — isn’t up to me; it’s up to the artist. We always try to talk with influential bands, and if that happens to be Watain, Behemoth or Cannibal Corpse, we’re going to do it. Anything to help believers push their minds and challenge them to think about other points of view.

As a sidenote, in all my years, I’ve only truly interviewed one “Satanic” band, and even that’s partially a misnomer. I spoke with Watain frontman Erik Danielsson in Downtown Austin before a show last year, and his first question to me was, “What do you want to talk to me for?”

Essentially, I explained to him the paragraph above, and he was on board. He’s not fearful of my opinion; he merely appreciated an open discourse about humanity’s purpose. (Danielsson is a theistic satanist, which acknowledges Satan as an actual entitiy; this is different than the common “Anton LaVey” satanism where “Satan” is an archetype or figurehead representing something but is not an actual entity.)

In general, what is the reaction of bands when they are addressed by the HM?

Any band has demonstrated not understand anything about the spirit of the thing, or even do not know how to better promote your stuff. You ask one thing, and they say another thing … This rarely happens. In our interviews, we do our best to not make any overt separations from whomever we’re interviewing. A good interview rarely starts, “We’re Christians and you’re not. Tell us why you’re not.” Even said with the best intentions, it speaks into being a distinct You vs. Me. We want to tell the artist’s story. That’s what the magazine is about. It’s how we relate as human beings, and relation helps people get through the struggles of life. Our goal is always to relate first and tell the artist’s story.

What is the biggest criterion that considers for a band appear in HM? The fame? The faith of one or more band or body of work?

Timeliness is the most important decision-maker, so a lot of times, the issue writes itself. As a monthly magazine, we need to make sure all the applicable releases are being covered because it won’t be long before another crop starts rolling in. We seek out the influencers with art to . Our editorial team is constantly in contact, as well; there’s no way I could do any of this without the support of intelligent and unafraid cohorts. We are all in different parts of the country, so it helps to cover our bases when it comes to new music.

Leaving out a bit cheaper than the big entretinimento is that when mixed with some charitable cause, is even more potent. Thing as inspiration and motivation, you can absorb this music? — Have you ever said something like, wow, this song is for me! Or, this song is about me … and so on ..

Of course! I’m honestly humbled by the things the Lord has given me, and there are definitely times when an album hits my door and I stop and admire it. It can be for purely musical reasons; I loved the raw, pissed-off metalcore of Silence the Messenger and Seeker, both new records from last year. but I also appreciate the encouragement and spirit behind new bands like Darkness Divided (on Victory) and Silent Planet.

To close – tell me, how you contribute to a better world?

Every day of my life, my only goal is that His name be the first and last name off my lips. I’m here to love as the Lord first loved us; He reached down and saved me from death. To make a better world, I choose love.

I like a lot of quotes and one of my favorites is this — “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi – I would like to comment on that and to share one that you like. Gandhi’s reduction of a society’s morality or greatness isn’t based on the way they treat their animals. His opinion on the ethical treatment of animals is one a lot of people share, and I support those people. I don’t know Gandhi so I can’t speak to his heart or intent. There are a lot of quotes I like, but right now, the verse that keeps rattling around in my head is the oft-quoted 1 Corinthians 13:13, roughly, if all we have left are faith, hope and love, we are to choose love. It’s one of the most difficult verses I’ve ever wrestled with. I understand losing hope; I’ve been there. But the only thing that got me through desolation was faith. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around. At the end of that rope, I know I wasn’t capable of love. I was barely capable of shifting positions under a blanket. I’m still trying to figure that one out. Let me know if you have any more questions!


Read the interview in Portuguese here at Brazilian webzine  Sin Killer

Interview by Norman Lima



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