Eclectic Arts - Into The Fray We Go
Questions by Miz Deliverance
Answers by Mark Sugiyama - Creator/Editor of Eclectic Arts
Miz D: Hi Mark. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
MS: Sure thing. Thank you for the opportunity!
Q: What inspired you to persue creating an online arts magazine?
A: Well, first, Eclectic Arts started out as nothing. I mean it wasn't even an idea back in 2010. I was corresponding with a band from the Czech Republic. I thought after reading through the emails that other fans might want to read this exchange. At the time, I wasn't into blogs or things of that nature. So, the thought was perhaps I could get enough material together to publish a hard copy magazine. I already had contacts around the world so getting the magazine distributed wasn't an issue. Usually, it's exactly the opposite. Someone pours their heart and soul into a magazine but they can't figure out how to get it distributed. I had the network but I didn't have the magazine (laughs).
In any event, I contacted a few bands, labels, and distros in the underground and lo and behold many of them were into the idea of doing an interview for my then untitled magazine. It was all based on trust.
The process of putting together a hard copy magazine was daunting. It's time consuming, skill oriented, and it takes money. Time I had, skills not so much, and money definitely not. I did the best I could with the first issue of the magazine. A little known fact is that the first two issues were supposed to be issue one. It was too expensive to publish the first magazine at 100 pages so I basically split it into two issues. They were a work in progress. I wasn't satisfied with them but it was great to see the fruits of my labors in 2011. Issue three was another step as EA evolved. I went color for the first time. That issue was also on glossy paper. The costs basically doubled but I wanted to improve EA with each issue.
I ran into an issue with money so the hard copy version went on hiatus. In the mean time, I had the blog up basically as a means to report what was going on with the print version. Eventually, it just became too cumbersome to get another print issue together so everything went into the blog.
I can honestly say that here, in 2016, I still don't care for the blog. It may be time to make an actual site for EA. And I have vowed to put out another print copy of EA as well before I call it quits.
Q: How did you come up with the name Eclectic Arts?
A: I really wrestled with the name. I think there's a paper around my place that has the different names I was considering. None of them really captured what I wanted EA to be. I've always said I had an eclectic taste in music so that's where the first part came from. Arts is what I always wanted EA to cover - not just music. Film, television, writers, painters, basically anything I consider artistic. Now, some of the interviews have been a stretch in terms of how they relate to being artistic but at this point in my career, I don't really give a shit. I'm just doing what I want to do.
I'm still not pleased with the name. My photography name worked as soon as I figured it out. But EA is passable for now. I may change it if I get the site together. We'll see. It's becoming a known entity online so it may not make any sense to change the name at this point.
Q: How do you procure your music interviews? What is the first thing you do and what is your process?
A: If it's a known artist, I will look for a publicist or PR contact. If it's a local or up and coming artist, I will usually reach out to them directly. Usually at the same time, I do some searches online to see what I can learn about said artist.
For every yes by an artist, there are several no's or don't even hear from's. It's a frustrating process when you're starting out. Much like when you need experience for a job yet you don't have experience yet, procuring interviews takes time. You have to start with smaller artists to hone your craft. Then work your way up the ladder.
Q: Did anyone teach you to conduct interviews?
A: Nope. I suppose I've been fortunate that my previous jobs have prepared me for the interviews that I do with EA. Besides developing interpersonal skills, I am still a fan at heart. The combination really creates an interesting mix when I conduct my interviews. I am constantly striving to produce an interview that I, as a fan, would want to read or watch. I don't want to hear the same old questions asked. I don't want to look like I haven't done my homework. I want to honor the artist's time and I want to honor the reader/viewers time as well.
Q: How much research do you do prior to your interviews?
A: It depends on the subject. If a certain artist is known to be a difficult interview, I will research every current interview I can get my hands on. These days most are video interviews but there are print ones, too. I will look at official sites, social media, and fan sites to get as much information as I can.
If it's an artist that I already am a fan of, I will still do research but will gauge how much based on my current knowledge of the artist. If I'm lacking, I will of course do more research vs if I feel I'm good to go, then I'll cut back on the research.
Also, on top of all this, it depends on how much lead time I have prior to the interview. Some interviews have happened very quickly and some have been switched the day of so I have had to pivot and readjust my questions.
Q: Who would be your dream interview?
A: It changes day to day. I would love to sit down with Sly Stallone. I think he's a really misunderstood Hollywood icon. People associate him with his roles as Rocky or John Rambo. But, those are characters. He is an actor, writer, director, and producer. I'm also a fan of his work so he's up there on the list.
Musically, Steve Harris from Iron Maiden. Maiden are one of the earliest influences on me. KISS precede them but I don't think speaking to Gene or Paul would be that interesting to me as they've veered so far from who they once were, I've stopped caring what they're up to. Maiden haven't changed.
I would put Annie Lennox at the top of the list, too. She was a huge influence on me (as was Dave Stewart) in the 80's. While I was a metal head, the Eurythmics really spun me in a different direction.
From a PR standpoint, President Obama would be interesting and intimidating just because of who he is.
From those that we've lost over the years, Gary Moore would be my number one interview quest. But, that will never happen (sigh).
Q: How many crew members do you use when doing a video interview?
A: It's usually myself and an assistant. If I have more involved gear, then possibly three people total. And, if logistically it doesn't work out, then just myself.
Q: Do you have staff to help with the online magazine?
A: Right now I am flying solo for the most part - video interviews usually involve myself and an assistant. Ditto convention coverage. Various people have helped with the magazine over the years. From contributing art work, music reviews, columns, convention coverage, and assisting with the video interviews but the bulk of the work is handled by your's truly. I would love to expand the staff as there is a lot more I could do with other people involved on a consistent basis.
Q: How do you format the magazine?
A: Poorly (laughs). I did the layouts for all the hard copy issues. Mind you, I have no background in such things and it shows. But, progress was made as each issue was released.
I handle all details of the blog as well.
Q: If someone wanted to start an online magazine, what advice would you give them?
A: Question yourself and your motivation. What I mean by that is do a gut check about what you want from your magazine. Have a plan of attack. Your drive better be unrelenting as well. I'd add you need a thick skin to deal with some of the people in the business - particularly the film side of things.
Once you know what you want your magazine to look like (goals) - then comes the hard part of figuring out how to make it a reality. Again, start with smaller interviews - email, phone, or in person. Build up your interviewing skills. If you're on the shy or introverted side, you'll have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to become a decent interviewer. There's no way around it. I've seen some video interviews that were painful to watch. I felt bad for the interviewer and bad for the artist being interviewed. Basically, be honest with yourself. Read/watch your interviews and decide what worked, what didn't, and what would you do differently next time. Everyone starts somewhere but you should never be satisfied with your work. That attitude will drive you to work harder, smarter, and you'll start to come into your own with your end product.
Q: Is there a lot of competition between online zines in the music industry?
A: You know I really don't think so. There are so many people doing something similar that there really isn't time for competition in the direct sense. There is no secret to getting interview access. Finding the right contact person(s) may take some time but once you do, and you deliver, then you'll be in the good graces of the right people. Then, the next interview you want to do with one of their artists, will be a step easier to secure.
Be politely persistent. If you ever utter the phrase, "do you know who I am?" That's when you need a good kick in the ass to come down off your high horse (laughs).
At the end of the day, everyone has a job to do. If you're doing yours, and treating people with respect, you'll be just fine.
Q: What other type of art does your zine feature besides music?
A: Film, television, craft breweries, artists (traditional and digital), etc. Like I mentioned earlier, if I feel it's artistic to me, I'll run with it. EA is as selfish as possible meaning I won't interview someone just to do it. At the end of the day, I'm the boss, and I want to read or watch interviews with artists that I enjoy on some level.
Q: Is it possible to make a career out of doing an online magazine?
A: I honestly don't know. For me, I never set out to make EA my career. It was mostly a journey to explore all the artistic things that fascinated me since my younger years. There are online music sites that have sponsor ads and such that keep their doors open.
I can say that the work I've put into EA has paid off in many ways, not necessarily monetarily, but here I am five years later interviewing and covering some of my favorite artists ever!
Q: Have you ever had an interview that was tough, awkward, or temperamental?
A: Yes! The toughest interview thus far was also my first video interview: Doyle. He is known to be very straightforward and gives very short answers. He speaks his mind as well. If he doesn’t like a question, he'll tell you flat out. I would say interviewing him for my very first video interview was intimidating and nerve wracking at the same time for sure.
He was a great interview in the end. I over prepared and at the time I managed to get one of the longest interview of the tour. So, I'm proud of that interview - it has the most views of any of the video interviews I've done so far as well.
Q: Do you have a time frame for when EA will have its own site?
A: I've been doing some research and I would really like to have EA as a full site before the end of 2016. I'm mostly likely going to revamp/scale down my photography site Seattle Next Door and focus more of my energy and finances on EA.
Q: What are the difference between creating a blog VS a full website?
A: A blog should really be a part of a full site in my opinion. Just like when I first started EA, I wanted to put in the work and do a hard copy version. A full site requires a lot of work and it also requires the webmaster to constantly update the site to keep viewers coming back. A blog requires little work or at least mine doesn't (laughs).
Once EA becomes a full site, I fully plan to incorporate the blog into the site.
Q: Thank you for allowing me to pick your brain about the ins and outs of online magazine publishing. We are grateful that you do this and look forward to future issues!
A; Thank you so much for taking the time to check out Eclectic Arts. I appreciate it!