While the Black Crowes are busy rehearsing for a round of upcoming one-off shows, where they’ll perform their new album, Warpaint, from start to finish, the band’s manager, Pete Angelus, has launched a full-on campaign to redeem their reputation — and that of all entertainment journalism — soiled by a bogus review that recently ran in Maxim magazine. By Thursday of last week, we thought the whole brouhaha was finally behind us when freelancer David Peisner reluctantly broke his silence to the Los Angeles Times, stating that he was assigned to write a preview and the two-and-a-half star rating was inserted without his knowledge. ”I never at any point or to anyone claimed to have heard these albums in their entirety,” he told the paper’s Soundboard blog, also referring to another review with his byline, of Nas’ upcoming album N—-r. ”Whatever decisions Maxim made after I turned in my work were beyond my control.”
But that didn’t settle the score for Angelus. And since this issue hits close to home (for the record: EW does not review albums that can’t be heard in their entirety), we were left with some lingering questions, like: Why wasn’t a magazine with a circulation of 2.5 million allowed to listen to the album in advance? What if the write-up had been positive, would the band still cry foul? We let Angelus take the floor and got an ear-full. Read on for his candid take on the situation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us how this whole thing started. Did you just happen upon the review?
PETE ANGELUS: It caught us off guard. The [band’s] publicist called and told me that there was a disparaging review in Maxim. And I thought, ”Well, that’s not possible because we haven’t issued any music, so I’d like to know how that came about.” Of course, the initial explanation was that it was an ”educated guess.” In the music business, a fabricated review is a serious concern that may ultimately harm all artists, because it calls into question the credibility of the entire review process.
The writer has since said that he was asked to write a preview and that the rating was added without his knowledge. Did that change your view of the situation?
As far as Peisner’s most recent statement, I think it speaks to his lack of character. Isn’t it obvious that he knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote, ”It hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.” He was disparaging the band, their career, and their album without having heard the music. For him to now claim that it was Maxim’s fault, it’s an embarrassment to himself. It’s absurd and [shows] total lack of accountability from all who were involved.
Why make such a crusade out of it?
It wasn’t a crusade. What we did was ask a question, and it was a fair one: How do you review and rate an album you haven’t heard? That comes into play not just with musical artists, but what about novelists or films? Do they not have to see a movie in order to review it? But the magazine’s response publicly [was] something like, ”Maxim will continue to provide its readers with excellent coverage of fashion, music, film, and television” — what kind of response is that? These are people who don’t realize the full scope of what they’ve done. Then, once the media coverage started to escalate, Maxim issued a statement about [how] they hadn’t followed their own polices in the March issue and they apologize to their readership. I rejected that and simply said that they owe an apology directly to the band.
Did you ever get that apology?
In the Associated Press, there was a half sentence that said, ”[Maxim Editor-in-Chief James] Kaminsky apologized to the Crowes.” But to be very clear, there has been no formal apology made directly to the Black Crowes from any Maxim representative. I don’t feel that’s fair.
Were you surprised that it got so much attention and was it gratifying for you on some level?
I wasn’t actually thinking about how much coverage this was going to get or not. The truth is, I don’t believe it would have escalated to this level if Maxim would have simply stepped forward, accepted full accountability and offered an apology to the Black Crowes and their fans.
There are some who say if it had been a positive review, you might not have called them out on it.
Those people are absolutely wrong. I can tell you unequivocally that I would have called into question how they could give any kind of review, positive or negative, to an album they have not heard. I would have acted in the exact same manner.
Why wasn’t the magazine serviced an advance or offered a listening session?
We didn’t service any hard copies to anybody. In this day and age, I think everybody recognizes that’s potentially dangerous because of the Internet leakage situation. What we did was provide streams to credible music publications, like Rolling Stone, Relix, Paste, Harp… Maxim was not on the list. I don’t consider Maxim to be a credible music publication, and at this point, I’m not sure you could consider them a credible publication in any regard.
Perhaps you can appreciate some animosity on the part of music critics. There does seem to be this inherent distrust when it comes to previewing big releases. Like when journalists were invited to hear the last White Stripes record, everyone had to check all electronic devices at the door when the only means of hearing the music was through headphones attached to an iPod that was locked in a see-through case.
I totally understand what you’re saying, but I really think that’s a misperception. The musical landscape has changed so dramatically that certain precautions have to be taken because livelihoods are at stake. This is what musicians do — live off the music that they create. Things have changed for everybody, not just the media, because it’s not as easy to get an advance CD, but also for the artists, management, the crews, record companies, publicists, and agents. Now, we never took it to that extreme, we’re not strip-searching people or putting them through metal detectors. But prior to streaming, we tried different things, like downloading the album onto MP3 players. We took some precautions by destroying the USB port, knowing it would be good for 20 or 30 complete listens in the comfort of their home or car, but some people found that insulting. We’re trying.
I’ve heard people say that they take it personally, but in my opinion, rather than bitch and moan that it’s directed at you, have a big enough vision of the world to understand that it’s changed for everybody. What happens if that CD gets stolen out of the person’s car? Or gets taken off of the journalist’s desk? With the best intentions, there’s a possibility that it might get leaked months before an artist is going to release their material. Have some compassion, people. Understand that the world has changed and try to work with it.