In the 33 years since Alternative Press was born as a punk zine in an Aurora teen’s bedroom, the magazine never tried to tell you what’s cool. No, whether it was giving Nirvana its first magazine cover or launching the fan-voted Alternative Press Music Awards, AP’s engine is powered by the voices lining the mosh pit. Editor-in-chief Jason Pettigrew, hired in 1986 after calling founder Mike Shea to say his Peter Murphy review sucked (“That is not how you get a job in 2018!”), reflects on Cleveland cred and the ethos that’s helped AP endure.
On staying in Cleveland: “I don’t think we could have survived if we were in New York or LA. We’re not coastal elites. Being located in Cleveland, there’s a sense of honesty. Our only [concern] is What sounds good? We’re on this island of: ‘Let’s dig in and bring up the underground.’ ”
On the role of music critics today: “We’re responding to a groundswell of what’s happening with listeners. There’s a difference between being a conduit and making yourself the ‘idol maker.’ That’s not what we do. We just listen to see what’s happening.”
On “selling out”: “When we were given the exclusive first Nirvana cover for In Utero, there were at least three people on the staff who didn’t want to do it because it was ‘too corporate.’ People were genuinely upset because they felt that Nirvana’s success was antithetical to Alternative Press’ mission statement.”
On streaming culture: “Music subculture today is like gym class. Showing up is like two-thirds of your grade. It’s not disinterest, but what is your level of passion for something?”
On AP’s identity: “Every generation has its own misfits and disenfranchised folk. We’re there to say, ‘You’re into this? We’re here for you.’ We’ve been able to be responsive to each succeeding generation. Does that make us punks? Does that make us dinosaurs? I think it makes us historians.”