Richard Metzger

by Michael Szul on 2004-04-14 15:27:00 tags: disinformation company, richard metzger

When the dot com bubble burst, there were a lot of crying eyes from executives wishing they had invested their money in safer projects and better prospects. Ironically, one of the most successful businesses to come out of the Internet boom, was one that nobody actually wanted after they discovered just what it was all about.

In the end, the subversive culture won out, and Richard Metzger’s Disinformation Company is probably the fastest growing media company post-dot com.


In your own words, what is The Disinformation Company?

The Disinformation Company is based in New York, primarily, and also in Los Angeles, where I am. We publish books, we publish DVD’s, we produce television shows, conferences, and live events… and we’ve been in existence for about eight years [as of April 1st, 2004].

If you had a mission statement, what would that be?

To promote information that doesn’t have a home elsewhere, that seems to defy the mainstream media, and to promote the culture, ideas, and personalities that we think are important.

How did you and co-founder Gary Baddeley meet?

Gary was a lawyer in the entertainment industry in early 1990’s. There was one point where I wanted to start a record label. He and I decided to become business partners in that venture. It didn’t happen; and then a couple of years later, we got together to do Disinformation.

So you first wanted to work together in music?

Yeah. Gary is the only person that I ever really wanted to work with. Before or since. I’ve never met a more capable business partner. Gary handles the business aspects of the company that I can’t do. Our roles are fairly well defined in the company. He handles all the business and some – often a lot – of the creative work, too. I handle mostly creative issues, sort of A&R type creative development and some business development. We’re signed to the ICM agency now and hopefully I’ll be able to get something going on television soon. I do the press and media stuff because people see me as a kind of a “character” which I suppose I am to some extent. I will cop to the fact that there is some degree of “show biz” in my “warlock” persona, although I am completely sincere about magick and I practice it like hygiene, which is to say daily.

Gary made the comparison once that it was kind of like A&M Records in the 60’s where you had Herb Alpert “curating” the talent and doing his own creative projects (I do my books and that TV show I did for two years), and being the PR face of the company; and then you had Jerry Moss doing the business end of the company. There have been times in the life of the company when he’s been a lot busier than I was, and there are times when I’m busier than he is. If a new television show were to happen, I would be working 16 hour days again. I prefer to be busy, so I am hoping that will happen quite soon. I’ve kind of been going stir crazy lately, actually. I’d like to be a bit busier. I’m not someone who enjoys downtime, it makes me nuts and I don’t know what to do with myself.

What factors were most influential in actually bringing about the company from pipe dream to reality?

It never really was a pipe dream. It was for the most part financed quite well with clueless corporate capital!

How has your time spent in the media through the Disinformation series altered your perception of the media in general?

Not at all.

Not at all?

Not at all. The show was aired on British network television, after Ally McBeal. Some of it was censored, but they were reasonable things for them to want to censor. Things that even though we argued about at the time, we knew that the network wasn’t going to change.

We’ve seen Everything You Know Is Wrong, You Are Being Lied To, and Abuse Your Illusion that were all kind of counterculture analogies, underground material; and we’ve had Book of Lies, which was an occult anthology. But now I see books like Lines in the Sand and The Little Earth Book, which seem to be a little less in that direction, and a little more mainstream in many respects. Is that the way you see your company going? Or are these just books that you felt, you had to get out there, regardless of who they applied to?

No. And no. When you run a company you have to watch what you’re doing. You’ve got to put out things and you hope you have a hit. Bear in mind that one big hit can help finance a bunch of other projects… so you have to run things like a business and in a business-like way. It also means… like how old are you?

25.

I’m almost 40. All the things that I wanted to do and have it come out MY WAY I’ve done, for now at least… you get to the point where it’s not so much about you and your “art form.” You try not to get emotionally involved in it. You get it out of your system. I don’t desire to be a punk rocker at 38, you know? When you have to pay employees and stuff, you have responsibilities. I got a lot of that shit out of my system already, so it’s not like: “Oh, it has to be like this! We’ve got to publish this article! This has got to be in the show!” I’ve been there. Done that. Had all those arguments. After a point, you start to calm down. And like I said, when you’re running a business, you have to pay your bills every month, you have to pay your employees. We’ve been lucky that we’ve had the good fortune to be able to put out some VERY uncompromising stuff, so whereas, no, I don’t see there being a “kindler and gentler” Disinformation in the future, there has to be the proper mix of products that will appeal to the public and make us money to grow the company and also things that stay true to the vision.

And you know those books you mentioned… Lines in the Sand is a kid’s book. It’s quite a radical kid’s book. These books are still subversive. The Little Earth Book is for sale at different chains nationwide. People look at this and say: “Oh, this would be a nice gift for so-and-so.” Is it a mainstream product? Sure. But does it have information that could and would change your mind about something? Yes, it does. They’re not as mainstream as you may think. It’s a genre. We have a territory that we mine.

Speaking of the books your guys publish, the Book of Lies, how much fun did you have throwing that together?

A lot. That book was a condensation of a lifetime of reading. I wanted to do a book that, if I was just starting to get into those things, I would be totally into it.

It seemed more like a passion than something that was just put out there as part of a business plan.

Definitely, like I was just saying, not all of it is about the bottom line, but not all of it is just about that passion either.

Now, I had wrote up a review for the Book of Lies, and I received a little bit of feedback from people about something I said about the Terence McKenna essay, where I felt he started strong with DMT and ended weakly with extraterrestrial mushrooms. Why did you choose that essay?

Read it again.

It did end with extraterrestrial mushrooms.

Yes, but there’s more in there than just that!

When I saw the Disinformation series, at least the parts on the DVD’s, I saw the seqment on Paul Laffoley – absolutely amazing. Why isn’t this guy more well known?

He is becoming better known. There’s not really a short answer to that question. He should be hailed as one of our greatest geniuses, I think. It takes a long time for Paul to do a painting, and they’re really quite big. They’re six by six. They might take him about a year to finish, and by the time you’d have enough collected paintings for a one man gallery exhibit, you’re talking about ten years worth of work, so very often the paintings are sold as part of like a group show. He has had several solo shows and there have been books published on Paul, two of them. You know… because of things like my show, because of the [Disinformation] Interviews book, his own books, the big museum show he had in Texas, and most importantly, the Kent Gallery in NYC and its owner Douglas Walla being so completely behind Paul, his profile has been rising in recent years

Paul’s story is different. You look at Dali or Picasso, they were discovered when they were nineteen and their talents flowered in the public eye. With Paul, he’s a senior citizen and you have this large body of mature work that’s just waiting to be discovered. I think he’ll get the recognition he deserves soon enough. He’s too brilliant to be ignored forever. It’s happening.

He needs the recognition. There’s been very few artist that I’ve seen that have just left me in awe. Dave McKean is one. And with Paul, when I saw all the prints in Disinformation: The Interviews, I just thought: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I own a few of them by the way.

I’ve seen a picture of you with two of them.

That was taken in my bedroom. I have five. I have six if you count the print Doug Walla gave me for Christmas this year. They are amazing things to wake up to every morning, I’ll tell ya that!

Speaking of the Disinformation DVD, do you have any plans to release the rest of the UK series, or the rest of the Disinfo.con event?

No.

No?

It’s weaker stuff. There were a lot of things… like when Genesis was on stage, he was off mic half the time or the speech would be too dated to release because it was about current events at the time, so the quality for another DVD just wouldn’t be there.

Word association. Joe Coleman.

Honorable. Dependable. A blue friend. A great talent.

Grant Morrison.

Flakey. I love Grant like a brother, but he’s fucking flakey sometimes. You can call him 20 times before he’ll return a call.

[Laughs] I was thinking insane myself.

Well, he’s crazy like a fox, isn’t he? Grant is brilliant. HE is this generation’s William Burroughs in my opinion. Who else can incorporate IDEAS into fiction better than our Mister Morrison?

Do you personally have any plans to edit any more anthologies yourself?

I’ve got another book idea that I have been mulling over. The thing is, I get real solitary when I start writing. When I’m writing a book, I generally write it from 5:30 in the morning to 11:00 at night. And as much as I like to write, it burns you out after a while. Don’t forget that I’ve done a television show, two books, and a lot of other stuff. It’s sometimes hard to find the time to sit down and write. I do have a new idea though. I’m hoping to write a column where I can talk about my interests and enthusiasms in popular culture. Then hopefully collect those in a volume.

Now let’s get a little political for one question.

Okay.

Looking at the current state of politics, do you think the American government – the political system – is becoming more of a showcase.

Showcase?

Like a game; a parody.

I’d say it’s more like a bull fight; and the problem is that the public is being told to watch the cape. This election is important more for the world’s perception of us than anything else. World opinion has isolated America by and large. It’s not that the Bush administration is doing anything that the Clinton administration didn’t or wouldn’t do, or that the next administration after his will do either. It’s not that the behavior of American politics is different. It’s not. It’s that the rest of the world sees Bush as a rude, boorish, cowboy-type of guy, as opposed to Clinton’s personal style and his natural “charm” as a man. The policies are THE SAME for the most part. On that level, I think it is important to get him out and someone else in who the rest of the world can RESPECT and deal with or else there are going to be changes on the world stage that will really hurt Americans, like OPEC not pegging oil prices to the dollar, but to the Euro, to fuck with America and George Bush. That happens, guess what? We owe billions and billions of dollars to foreign investors. The national debt becomes DUE. Pay it back. NOW. But I can’t look at these things on a micro level or a case by case basis anymore, because the older you get, the more you feel nothing will ever change. It’ll always be the same group of criminals involved. And the sad thing is, these fucks are in power because they CAN BE, because the public is so fucking lame and uninterested. The French have a saying “If you don’t DO politics, politics DO you” only they say it in French, not English…

There were a lot of candidates that I would have liked to have seen oppose Bush rather than Kerry.

Edwards said some great shit, real class war rhetoric, I loved it. The boldest speeches since Jerry Brown in the ’92 election.

Edwards I would have loved to have seen get in.

I know what you’re saying… it’s like, all of the sudden it’s Kerry? Why? Says who? Dean implodes, and then all of the sudden it’s Kerry, Kerry, Kerry?

What’s next for The Disinformation Company? What do you see as your most important projects coming off the block?

We’ve got a lot of books coming out – a lot of books and a lot of DVD’s. The important thing is for us to not lose site of the long term goal, which is – and always has been – to have a Disinformation television channel.

A whole channel?

Yes. It was the vision, ten-twelve years ago, before we even got off the ground. In 1992, I was pitching this idea around Hollywood and trying to figure out how it could happen. With the 500 channel future of television, and with everyone and their broadband connection… I mean we started out on the Internet because it was cheaper, and then we translated it into the next step, which was the television show. I think that what will happen is – with Al Franken and Michael Moore doing so well – large conglomerates like Time Warner are starting to realize that there actually is a market for this kind of stuff, and it’s not just people that want Rush Limbaugh. They want to be entertained and now more progressive “entertainers” are filling that void on the left and, importantly, making money for them.

These large conglomerates see that trend. So in contrast to a Bill O’Reilly, they might say let’s hire Al Franken, or let’s hire Michael Moore to do a daily talkshow. There’s a natural progression there. Somebody, at some point, is going to say: “Let’s do an underground culture channel or a counterculture channel” or like a “freak out” channel. It’s one of the few vaguish categories that hasn’t been mined yet. Why wouldn’t an underground culture or counterculture channel do as well as a Comedy Central? Somebody’s going to think of this and they’re probably going to call me and Gary to program the motherfucker and that’s when our plans become truly realized, when we are the anti-Fox News. Who else are they gonna call?


Richard Metzger is a businessman. True. But you can hear by the enthusiasm in his voice, that he isn’t just a businessman. He’s passionate about his work, which is often more than can be said about many in the publishing industry, or the media.

A Disinformation Channel? Why not? We have other shows dedicated to just cars, or just fashion. Hey, there’s even something called Spike TV. So five years down the road, don’t forget to tune your television to channel (what… 666?) and catch Richard Metzger exposing the truth, just the way you like it.