The Making of the Phoenix Metal Scene: A Peek at the Men and Women Behind the Curtain

Maria Vassett
Alice Cooper is one of Phoenix's proud residents;

There's a lot to love within our fiery little corner of the rock and metal industry.

We've thelped breed some pretty legendary bands, like Sacred Reich, Flotsam and Jetsam, Job for a Cowboy, and Alice Cooper, to name a few. We have dozens of brutally talented underground bands, from melodic death metal (Vehemence, St. Madness), sludge and doom metal (From Dogs to Wolves, Tempel), thrash and psychedelic metal (Black Banner Dovichenko, Pelvic Meatloaf), as well as such events as Southwest Terror Fest and the Fuck Cancer benefit. Plus, back in 2012, Heavy Metal Television decided to plant roots in Mesa.

The rock and metal scene in Arizona is alive and well. And that is a direct result of a group of behind-the-scenes folks who keep the whole thing running.

Every month, the calendar is packed with shows. Bands regularly tour and record in the Valley of the Sun because we have a strong population of industry professionals. These professionals, from producers to club owners to promoters, are the very people that keep the local scene running like a well-oiled machine, dedicating their time and money to promoting the hell out of the Arizona heavy scene. It would be impossible to highlight every single person who contributes to the behind-the-scenes aspect, as there are many noteworthy figures and companies.

There's Donny Johnson at the Marquee, Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents, and the Mantooth Group, in charge of booking and managing The Nile Theater, The Underground and 51West, also occasionally booking shows at Yucca Tap Room. Joe Grotto, the owner of one of my favorite venues -- aptly named Joe's Grotto -- is all about supporting local metal. On any given weekend you can find some major national acts, or local bands' anniversary parties and CD releases on the stage that just recently allowed moshing back into the game. The venue also just started up a "Metal Tuesdays," where you can bring in your favorite metal CD or just show up and jam.

Joe's is host to all the shows promoted by Mosh Pit Army, a production company with a strong presence in the Valley; you're bound to see a patron at any given metal show wearing one of their shirts. Oh yeah -- and at any of these shows, you're bound to see the production crew from Heavy Metal Television, whether they are interviewing one of the rockers or just rocking out themselves.

And I can't leave out No Cover Phoenix, a market of No Cover magazine that sponsors a bunch of local metal. Event coordinator Michelle Leach and editor Janet Blankenship (aka. Phoenix Amazon), can always be counted upon to show up at any metal show on any given night, and put tremendous effort into promoting local metal.

Another noteworthy lady in the metal scene comes from 13th Floor Entertainment, a production company owned by the lovely Kim LaRowe. From larger acts like Flotsam and Jetsam, Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar (all upcoming shows), to CD release shows for local bands, 13th Floor helps organize dozens of acts a month at venues like Club Red and The Nile. LaRowe has worked in the industry since '94, has managed an array of bands, and the venues on her resume she helped book include the classics Mason Jar, Brickhouse and The Sets.

"We have a great scene despite people who try to tear it down," says LaRowe. "There are many high-caliber, hard-working and very professional bands and venues out here." She goes on to add that the amount of behind-the-scenes professionals is vast, too. "I could go on forever. Kimber Lanning, the owner of Stinkweeds, formerly of Modified, Will Anderson. He doesn't live here now but has always been a huge supporter of the local music scene working for AMJ, Luckyman & now The Kollective. Michelle over at Mantooth. Marcus Meng at Kupd, Nancy [Stevens] at Pub Rock/KUPD."

Stevens, is the owner of Pub Rock Live, which is also home to the KUKQ radio station. She produces some radio festivals that several local rock bands play on, such as UFest, Desert Uprising, and others.

She moved to Phoenix in 1989 and has been in the music/radio scene ever since, but in the last five years at KUPD she had a chance to really work with a few of the heavier local acts.

"I think out of all the different genres in Phoenix, I have noticed that the local metal scene seems to promote and support each other better than anyone," says Stevens. "It takes a revolution these days to get noticed as a young band."

Very true, as booker/promoter Stephen Chilton can attest to. He's dedicated to getting those names out there, but if you attended such highly anticipated shows as Ghost BC, Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom, Black Flag or The Sword in the last year, you have him to thank.

Chilton, who you might know better as "Psyko Steve," promotes and books about 150 concerts every year throughout Arizona. While he books everything from country and indie rock to punk and metal, any metalhead in the Valley knows that they can count on Steve to put on regular heavy metal shows each and every month.

"I started booking DIY shows here and there for friends in 2000, doing street team stuff for different venues, and gradually that grew into a career," explains Steve. "Since high school, every job I have had has been some how been related to promoting music and art."

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