Hi Alison, thanks for taking time to chat with us today! So, who is Alison "Metal Babe" Cohen?
I’m a rock journalist with a clothing line. My primary focus is to support and promote both independent and national artists in an effort to share music and fashion with the world.
You are active both in the metal and gothic scene - how did you get in, and what fascinates you about both scenes?
What fascinates me most is the music. I love all types of music, including metal and goth, especially when performed live. I grew up on 80’s rock, and will always hold bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Skid Row close to my heart. However, I reached a point in my life where I needed something more musically, and experimented/discovered several different genres. I fell in love with 70’s glam (David Bowie, T-Rex, Mott the Hoople) and punk (mainly The Ramones). I got into prog metal pretty hard, and consider Savatage my #1 favorite band of all time. I started listening to goth, where I fell in love with bands like Bella Morte, London After Midnight, The 69 Eyes, and The Cruxshadows.
There used to be a hard boundary between metal and gothic, for a long time you were either in one camp or the other. But fortunately both sides are opening up to each other in recent years, and the boundaries between both have been fading - what are your thoughts on this? And how do you experience this in the US?
A tough question. [LAUGHS] All I can really say is that from my experience, it seems the goth and metal crowds are primarily different, but there is definitely some crossover. I always know way more people at a metal show than a goth show, but I do see some familiar faces at the goth shows as well.
"I do it all for the love of music."
You have been to music festivals in Europe - what are the differences between the European and the US festivals, and the metal scene as whole, in your experience?
In recent years a variety of festivals have been popping up all over the United States including Rocklahoma, ProgPower, Welcome to Rockville, etc. There have also been quite a few cruises taking place, including the Monsters of Rock, 70000Tons of Metal, and Axes & Anchors. They even brought Riki Rachtman’s Cat Club back last summer for a festival in Irvine, CA called Cathouse Live with a ton of ‘80’s rock bands.’ I’ve only been to a few of these in the U.S, but the overall vibe has been great!
My first and only European festival was Wacken 2015, which was the 26th time Wacken has taken place. The festival was filled with die-hard fans who covered their arms and/or jackets with bracelets of year’s past as if they were badges of honor.
It’s really hard to do a ‘true comparison,’ being just one person who has been to a limited number of festivals in each part. I am just happy to see people getting together for the love of music, supporting the bands, and seeing live shows, both in the U.S. and Europe.
Let's talk about your activity as a journalist. You are very prolific, promoting young bands through your blog, sponsoring shows, and also your podcast - how did all of this start?
When I lived in St. Louis I would make my own flyers (the old-fashioned way… With a glue stick, scissors, and a copy machine) and plaster them everywhere when bands came to town. Just out of high school, I interned for a music marketing company for a few years promoting bands like Buckcherry, Staind, Limp Bizkit, and Clutch.
Now, with Metal Babe Mayhem, I have created a platform to help get exposure for bands on a variety of different levels. I regularly sponsor shows, (promote the show and donate merch or do give-aways) interview bands for my blog or podcast, review shows, and do a monthly playlist 15 live-stream songs. I do it all for the love of music. I want to help people, and help bands that I
believe in. I wanted to do something creative and unique that would be beneficial to all parties involved.
What artists are you currently working with?
I have a ‘bands’ page on my actual website, which includes Blacklist Union, Cooter Brown, Crack in the Shell, CrashDollz, Edge of Paradise, The Hard Way, Hollywood Roses, Lit Soul, The Militants, and Stonebreed. There are so many bands that support Metal Babe Mayhem in addition to the above, and I appreciate all of them and do what I can do help all of them any way that I can.
With your insider knowledge, do you have CD recommendation or particular band we absolutely need to check out?
Another tough question… I’d have to say, surprisingly for some, Wednesday 13 and Savatage. Everything! Wednesday 13 is ‘newer to the scene,’ and has put out and extensive selection of CDs with the Wednesday 13 name and a handful of side projects. Savatage is my #1 favorite band of all time. The Florida-based prog metal band was formed by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva in 1978, and has released 11 studio CDs. There is a lot of history behind Savatage, and most know them from their current ‘formation’ Trans Siberian Orchestra, but I am amazed at the dozens of times I have mentioned Savatage to people who have no idea who they are.
A lesser-known ‘gem’ I am listening to right now, and is one of my top favorite CDs is a band from New York called The Dwellers. I definitely recommend checking them out, and their 1st CD “Whatever Makes You Happy.” Also, I just saw Hardcore Superstar open for Michael Monroe and bought a couple of their CDs at that show that I am really enjoying.
You are also busy organizing concerts in the LA area, but you don't call yourself a promoter - can you tell us why?
This is an interesting question. You are correct, in the sense that I don’t consider myself a ‘promoter’ I like to help people, in general. I like to help bands, because my ultimate love is music. So anytime an opportunity presents itself for me to book/sponsor a show, I jump on it. The primarily difference between what I do, and being an actual promoter, is promoters (ideally) get paid. I do it for my love of music and to expand my brand/logo.
The music scene can be a rough crowd, and I am not talking about the audience. What are the challenges when setting up gigs as an independent?
Booking gigs in the L.A. area can definitely be a challenge. In a perfect world, fans pay to get into a show and bands are paid to play. However, that is not always the case.
I see, you are probably referring to the clubs that used to be the first stepping-stone for new bands in the 60s, 70s and 80s that are now having pay-to-play rules, forcing young bands to pay for the opportunity to perform to a live audiences, instead of getting paid for the show. What do you think of this practice? Is it still an issue in LA?
Recently, many of these types of clubs have been either going under or changing ownership in the L.A. area. There are many different viewpoints on the whole “Pay to Pay” phenomena, which is not only in L.A. It’s definitely a ‘touchy’ subject, because bands would obviously rather ‘get paid’ than ‘pay to play,’ but the money has to come from somewhere, and there is actually potential for bands to make money on their tickets if they do it right.
The most important thing that I stress continually is to support the opening bands. Anytime you go to see a show in L.A, instead of going to Ticketmaster, Ticketweb, etc. Look up who is opening and send the bands a message. It’s so easy to find out this information these days, and 9 times out of 10, an opening band will get back to you with information on how to purchase discount tix, so it’s a win for everyone.
"I love seeing bands that I have worked with on some level become successful."
You do a lot for young bands, but also work with national acts - can you tell us more? What were the biggest challenges, what were your favorite moments? Any particular memory you are fond of, or funny moment that you would like to share?
I believe that all bands have to start somewhere, and every national act was a young band at some point. It’s important to support the young bands and local musicians because they are the ones potentially turning into national touring artists.
My biggest challenge is staying organized, focused, and getting things done in order of priority. I have a great support team and love and appreciate everyone who helps spread the word about Metal Babe Mayhem on a daily basis. However, the day-to-day responsibilities, duties, and need for accomplishment fall solely on my shoulders, so it is challenging to do everything I need to. But I am motivated by accomplishment and am able to take a breath of a reward each time I finish something before I move onto the next.
As far as a favorite moment, I love seeing bands that I have worked with on some level become successful. I definitely have great pride knowing that I helped bands like Buckcherry, Clutch, and Limp Bizkit (as mentioned above) get their start. (At least in the St. Louis area).
It’s also really rewarding, in the past year or two, how things have come ‘full circle.’ I did a Podcast this summer with Steve Brown of Trixter, AFTER he had just worn a Metal Babe Mayhem shirt onstage during a concert. Trixter were my 3rd and 4th concerts EVER, and here I was interviewing him for a podcast on MetalBabeMayem.com where he willingly gave a shout-out about how much he liked his new shirt. My number one favorite singer in the world, Zak Stevens (Savatage/Circle II Circle/TSO) literally ‘wore out’ his first Metal Babe Mayhem “Kiss of Death” shirt because he loves it so much, and has worn it all over the world. Moments like these are definitely my favorite.
That's very cool, it must feel nice to see promising upstarts mature into full-fledged headliners. What are your current projects in music? Does Alison sometimes hit the stage?
It really is… I am so happy that I have been in a position to be able to help out newer artists in the past and am able to do it on my own now.
As far as my current projects in music, I believe my talents are best served ‘behind the scenes,’ promoting musicians with my interviews, reviews, playlists, sponsorship, and networking. However, I find myself jumping onstage time and time again to announce bands. And I do LOVE karaoke!
I have actually been in a handful of bands throughout the years too, and loved having that experience. I was an actor in an Alice Cooper Tribute band (Nightmare) for a couple years, I sang back-up vocals in a 70’s punk cover band called Freekshow & Friends for about eight months, and I even sang in a Ramones tribute band for a minute.
Let's talk about your "baby" - the Metal Babe clothing collection. What is the concept, where do you draw inspiration, and how did you come up with the name?
I like how you called it my “baby.” It really is… I have put blood, sweat, and tears into Metal Babe Mayhem 24/7 for the past ten years. Metal Babe Mayhem is a rock n’ roll clothing line for both guys and girls. We currently have 18 original designs that are available on a variety of tank tops, t-shirts, baby dolls, hoodies, bags, and hats. We also carry a variety of handmade guitar pick jewelry, rings, shot glasses, flasks, cigarette cases, and jewelry boxes with the Metal Babe Mayhem logo. In addition, we carry several other rock/gothic lines and quite a bit of silver and leather jewelry.
Our designs are inspired by all things rock n’ roll and music related. Aside from our three ‘one-liners,’ all designs include the lips/bones logo, either alone, or incorporated with other artwork such as skulls, guitar picks, bats, vampires, or pin-up girls.
The Metal Babe Mayhem name is meant to personify ones personal lifestyle. When women wear clothing from Metal Babe Mayhem, they will feel like a “Metal Babe.”
From music journalist to clothing designer, that's quite a transition. What pushed you to launch your own collection?
I originally started ‘Metal Babe Productions’ in 2006 as a partnership; in an effort to create a rock n’ roll Game show (which I still am interested in producing). The idea was to create a brand and logo, and gain a following, so that when the show came out, we would have a following ready to go. Within the first couple years of its inception, the logo started to create a buzz and I realized the best way to move forward would be to change the name to Metal Babe Mayhem, and become a sole proprietor so I could invest the time/money needed to launch my collection.
Creating clothing requires a particular set of skills, so do you have a fashion / design background?
I’ve always been interested in music and fashion, and felt they went hand in hand. Ever since I was a kid, growing up on 80’s rock, and trying to figure out what bands like Slaughter, Bon Jovi, Enuff Z’nuff, and Poison were wearing and how I could emulate it. Prior to starting Metal Babe Mayhem I had ten year’s experience working in retail/wholesale sales and understood the ins and outs of the fashion industry well enough to pursue it on my own.
"When women wear clothing from Metal Babe Mayhem, they will feel like a 'Metal Babe'.”
How would you describe the creative design process?
I create and sell clothing, jewelry, and accessories that I personally like to wear. I love rock and goth clothing, and primarily wear red and black, so most of the Metal Babe Mayhem designs, and the other companies items that I sell, fit into that criteria.
What were the challenges you faced?
The two major challenges I have faced have to do with the name and logo. People who are unfamiliar with my brand may be steered away if they are not ‘metal’ fans. However, Metal Babe Mayhem encompasses all things rock n’ roll, not JUST metal, and we carry products that people from all walks of life will like, but they may not ever see because of the name.
In regards to the lips/bones logo, there are many guys that just don’t want to wear lips. It’s a fact, and I completely understand it. At this point the most ‘guy friendly’ design is called the “Kiss of Death,” which is a skull that has the lips/bones logo on it as if lightly kissed.
Another challenge, as with any small independent business, is getting the word out. It’s definitely great having the Internet and the whole world at your fingertips, but gaining exposure takes a lot of time and money.
You are from L.A., which is famous for its multitude of rock fashion - Melrose is like Mecca for rockstars in search of stage apparel. Is this an opportunity, or rather a curse? How do you see it?
Well… I’m not actually from L.A. I grew up in the Midwest, and vacationed often in L.A. until I moved here in 2004. I managed Glad Rags rock n’ roll clothing store for quite some time when I lived in St. Charles, MO, and ironically, sold Shrine Clothing (who had a store on Melrose at that time). While planning my move, the owner of Shrine offered me a job at their store. I worked there for a while, until becoming their traveling sales rep. Ten year’s later, I am now an official distributor of Shrine Clothing.
As far as Melrose is concerned in relation to Metal Babe Mayhem, I don’t really think Melrose has any effect, since I primarily sell online and at special events.
So how do you view the L.A. fashion scene in general?
It’s really hard to pinpoint, and it definitely depends on which ‘scene’ you are in. There are those that go out of their way to make an impression and those who prefer t-shirts and jeans. Whichever the preference, Metal Babe Mayhem has something to fit their fashion needs.
With so much fashion at your disposal, what is your personal favorite find?
I feel like I’ve had kind of an ‘in’ as far as my personal clothing choices. Working in the fashion industry, I have always had my ‘fingers on the fashion’ in the sense where I know what brands I like to wear and have been privy to order wholesale directly from the companies.
And, of course, I get excited about every new Metal Babe Mayhem creation and find.
What are your next plans for the collection? What can we expect next?
I started a pin-up girl series with artist Bill Bronson in January and am releasing a new pin-up girl sticker at the first of each month. We are offering a variety of sticker series packages. Our first three girls (Horn’s Up Henrietta, Snare Drum Sally, Slappin’ Sadie) have been getting a lot of attention, so I am in the process of putting them out on tank tops, t-shirts, and possibly men’s button-down shirts as well.
I am also looking to begin doing custom pants for stage wear. I created Colby Veil of Hollywood Roses a pair of custom pants that included Metal Babe Mayhem decals and patches, and they turned out amazing.
In addition, I recently worked with Al Bane for Leather on some super cute fringed leather purses, both red and black. We also teamed up with Kelly’s Closet to create an amazing corset belt for Nikki Stringfield of the Iron Maidens.
Also, I am a proud distributor of Pic Stik, which is a device that attaches to your guitar strap and holds five guitar picks in place while you are playing. (They come with red/black Metal Babe Mayhem guitar picks with drilled holes so you can wear or play them.)
The Pic Stik, that's a very cool invention! I remember how it was if you needed to change a pick and the nearest mic stand was like an eternity away. Having spare picks on your guitar strap sure is something I would have loved to have. Talking about playing live and performing, I've seen many photos of musicians wearing your clothing - can you tell us more about celebrities, bands or artists wearing Metal Babe?
The list of musicians/celebrities who support Metal Babe Mayhem and wear my clothing amazes me every day! I am truly honored that so many well-known and talented musicians throughout the world genuinely like my designs and wear them in their personal and professional lives. To name a few:
- Jeff Duncan, (Armored Saint/DC4)
- Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle/Savatage/Trans Siberian Orchestra)
- Troy Patrick Farrell, (Gilby Clarke/Enuff Z’Nuff)
- Pete Loran (Trixter)
- Chris Sanders (Knight Fury/Britny Fox)
- Nikki Darling and Rachel Rekkit (CrashDollz)
- David Shankle (DSG, Devil Land Voodoo Gods, Formerly of Manowar)
- Michael Angelo Batio (Nitro)
- Les Warner (Bow Wow Wow/Gene Loves Gezebel/Formerly of The Cult)
Thanks for the interview Alison, we look forward to seeing your next designs and discovering new and exciting bands in your podcast and blog. If you too want to submit a song to weekly playlist and follow Alison, subscribe at the links below or checkout her official website.
Clothing Commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTUiENsQxi4
Submit a Song: http://metalbabemayhem.com/submit-playlist-song/
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