The Heavy Metal Shop | Buzz Blog
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The Heavy Metal Shop



With radio not spinning out much Metal (local or national) it’s sometimes hard to keep up with what's going on in the genre these days. But for well over two decades, one local shop has kept on peddling and banging its head for Utah's loyal Metal fans.

--- The Heavy Metal Shop has been a staple of the music scene in Utah for almost 22 years now, being one of the few veins of life for metalheads to find merch and music beyond normal means. And since you can't go anywhere in the city without finding someone wearing the store's iconic logo, its pretty safe to say the shop will be a mainstay for years to come. I got a chance to chat with owner Kevin Kirk about how The Shop got started, maintaining over the years, thoughts on music today and a few other questions that came up. Not to mention for those of you who haven't had the chance to stop in, pictures of the place in all its glory!

Kevin Kirk

Gavin: Hey Kevin, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kevin: Music has played a big part in my life from a very young age. I was fascinated by anything Rock 'N' Roll when I was a kid. Sounds kind of funny now, but I loved The Archies, had a huge collection of the Archies comics. As a  kid growing up in in the '60's and '70's, The Monkees & The Partidge Family were TV shows that I loved to watch. I even had a David Cassidy poster!  But then when I was in 6th grade (1973) I saw Alice Cooper on TV. This was way before MTV and all that bullshit. There used to be these late night music/concert shows, like Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and In Concert. Alice Cooper was performing on In Concert, I remember my little sister was watching with me and she screamed when she saw Alice's snake as he peeked his head around Alice's. That moment pretty much was the beginning of my love of Alice Cooper, and to this day he is my all-time favorite. Saw the New York Dolls, The Rolling Stones & Black Oak Arkansas on those late night shows. I was hooked!  I got a record player for Christmas around the same time. I started buying records.  Black Sabbath, "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," was my first Black Sabbath record; the album cover got me on that one. Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, and of course Alice Cooper were some of my first records. And I continue to this day to discover new music that gives me the same thrill as when I was young, The Drive-By Truckers, Michael Dean Damron, and Kleveland, to name just a few. And Alice Cooper is still putting out records and touring. Cheap Trick too, another favorite of mine.

Gavin: For those who don't know, what is The Heavy Metal Shop?

Kevin: The Heavy Metal Shop is pretty much me living the Rock 'N' Roll dream. I get to listen to music that I love all day. I love to sell the music that I love and to talk Rock with my customers. A big part of the Shop's business is our shop merchandise. I am flattered and thrilled when I see people at shows or wherever wearing shop clothes; I feel a real camaraderie with these people.

Gavin: What was it like for you growing up a metal head here in Utah?

Kevin: Utah has always had a very healthy Heavy Metal scene. Saw some great shows at the old Salt Palace:  KISS, Uriah Heep, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, with AC/DC in 1978. Black Sabbath with DIO singing on both the "Heaven & Hell" & "Mob Rules" Tours, Scorpions, and Iron Maiden in 1982, Ozzy & Metallica in 1986, Judas Priest and SLAYER in 1988, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, DIO, UFO, Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, and many more throughout the years.  Lots of great Metal Memories!

Gavin: How was your time spent in local bands? Any memories or stories you care to share from that time?

Kevin: I played guitar with friends when I was in high school, my friends and I would play out in our garage, nothing real serious, but lots of fun. I played guitar with Hank Heartless & The Homewreckers in 1984-85.  Our big gig was a house party on Halloween. I also played drums with the Maggotheads from 1990-1995.  Maggotheads played quite a few shows at the Speedway, The Pompadour, The City Park in Tooele, we went up to Wyoming and played on a flatbed semitruck trailer in a parking lot with another local band TRUCE who happened to be first band to play in The Heavy Metal Shop when we were in Sandy, over 20 years ago!  TRUCE will be playing a reunion show in  The Heavy Metal Shop in March.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start up the store?

Kevin: It made perfect sense, being the huge music fan that I am. My first shop that I opened in 1986, The CD Shop, was an all-around regular record store; I was selling all types of music, Metal, Rock, Country, Jazz, and New Age. But I was always listening to the heavier stuff in the shop.  It was hard to sell Fresh Aire CDs with Reign In Blood blaring in the background, so I decided to specialize in Heavy Metal.

Gavin: What was it like setting up the first shop, and how did you decide on the location?

Kevin: It was a lot of fun setting up the shop. I originally wanted to open The Shop in Sugarhouse, which is where my wife & I lived at the time, but nothing was available, so a real estate agent found me a spot in Sandy. We had a two-year lease, and when that was up, there was a perfect little spot available in Sugarhouse.

Gavin: How was that first year for you in 1987?

Kevin: 1987 was a little tough, but when 1988 rolled around and Z-Rock came to  town, things picked up quite a bit.  I have to thank Gene at Z-Rock (wherever you are).  He had The Heavy Metal Shop on the air every day, with ads and promotions, live remotes. He was so cool too, had me pay whatever I could afford, so when we started to make some money, so did he. It was a perfect union at the time. Of course, that only lasted a couple of years. But then Tom Araya started sportin' a Heavy Metal Shop shirt everywhere, which was the beginning of the next chapter of The Heavy Metal Shop.

Gavin: Has it ever been a struggle to stay open as trends in music change?

Kevin: The Heavy Metal Shop doesn't worry too much about trends; we leave that up to the mall stores.

Gavin: Has the merchandise changed over the years, or have you been pretty consistent over what you keep in house?

Kevin: The Heavy Metal Shop merchandise hasn't changed much at all over the years. You will always find Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, SLAYER, etc.  Every so often, there is a band that comes out that you know is going to last and be added to the the list.  Lamb Of God is definitely one of those.

Gavin: Where did the main logo from the store come from?

Kevin: One of my old customers, Rob Will, from the old CD Shop days came up with the logo.  At the time, The CD Shop logo was pretty much block letters, not really a logo at all, and Rob was always asking me if I ever needed a logo, he would love to do it.  So when I decided to switch over, I asked him to do it.  He wasn't much of a Metal Head, he was more into the New Age & Jazz, but I asked him to give it a try anyway. The first thing he came up with had a half of a record album, instead of the the skull.  I told him that was cool for a regular record store, but we were Heavy Metal, so we need some blood or skulls, or something like that.  So he came back with the half skull. I loved it immediately.

Gavin: What do you think of the idea that it's become one of the most famous icons of our scene?

Kevin: It is a thrill and an honor to be a little part of Heavy Metal history. Tom Araya and SLAYER are definitely a big part of The Shop's history.  I still get a thrill when I see old pictures and videos of SLAYER sportin' The Shop clothes.

Gavin: You've had a number of musicians come through, Alice Cooper is the big one that comes to mind. What do you believe attracts them to come check the shop out, and who are some of the people who have popped in over the years?

Kevin: Tom Araya used to have a girlfriend from Salt Lake, so he would come by when he was in town. Of course we did the SLAYER In-Stores and that brought out all of Salt Lake's Rivet Heads. The Sick Of It All guys have always been real cool and stopped by. Travis Barker bought himself a SLAYER shirt from my shop. Karen Cuda  from Nashville Pussy has come by a couple of times. Randy from Lamb of God came by to buy himself a new Heavy Metal Shop Hoodie because he had traded his old one for a kilt when he was in Europe. You have probably seen the drunkin' footage of Randy in his kilt.  The Sword stopped by recently when they were in town with Metallica.  Beefcake from GWAR came by; he is a real cool dude. Dying Fetus, Bleeding Through. Faith No More stopped by in 1989 when they were on tour with Metallica. Tons of bands have stopped by.  I know I am forgetting a lot here.

Gavin: Going more local, what are your thoughts on the local metal scene, both good and bad?

Kevin: The local Metal scene is very healthy. It is good to see TRUCE is at it again, one of my favorite of the old school Salt Lake Thrash bands. Thunderfist is another great band, more of a Motorhead type Metal band, which I love.

Gavin: Same questions, but on our music scene in general.

Kevin: Heavy Metal is with you for life, so there are always the old guys, like me, and the new kids that are just discovering Metal. They are the smart ones, which is funny, because people often associate Metal with stupidity.  And these kids are not following any trends; Heavy Metal has always been on the fringe of popular music, the bastard child of Rock 'N' Roll, music for the outcasts.

Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Just keep going to the shows, buying your favorite bands' music and merchandise.  Copying your buddies' CDs or getting the music free online is not helping support your bands. Most of my customers don't do that shit, they support the bands. But I can see how that happens; it's hard to argue with free.

Gavin: What are your thoughts on our local labels, and do you feel like they help or hinder artists?

Kevin: I am all for the DIY ethic; that is what I did. If you have the resources and talent, start a label, or band. Just be true to what you believe in. If you go in it just to make money, you will be in for a big surprise. But then if you do make some money, good!

Gavin: Nation-wide, thoughts on rock and metal music as it is today, and where would you say its headed?

Kevin: Like I said before, I believe that there is a very healthy Metal and Rock 'N' Roll scene going on all around us. It might not be the Big thing; you don't see it on TV or hear about it on the radio, but there has always been this fringe music that is on the outskirts of popular music, every so often one slips by into the mainstream, which I think is great.  Metallica did a lot for Metal Music, you have to give them credit for that.

Gavin: Being a part of the downtown area, what are your thoughts on surviving as a local business right now?

Kevin: Downtown seems to be coming around again. I think people are getting a little bored with Wal-Mart and the Internet. They want to go back to the downtown way of a life a bit. I remember when I was a teenager and riding my bike all over downtown, checking out all the record stores, meeting Lynyrd Skynryd and Blue Oyster Cult at the old Odyssey Records on Main Street, The Salt Palace and Terrace shows. Seems there is a downtown revival going on. I am just happy to still be doing what I love.

Gavin: What are some of the events you've got coming up down the road, and what can we expect from you the rest of the year?

Kevin: You can expect about one live in-store performance every month at The Heavy Metal Shop.  As always, these Shows are FREE, and all Ages are welcome.  I am always thinking about what New Heavy Metal Shop merchandise I can put the logo on, so watch for that too.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Kevin: Feb. 23rd my buddy Mike Damron is coming back to once again grace The Heavy Metal Shop stage. He always kicks ass!  Whatever you have to do, don't miss this one! In March, we will be hosting an in-store performance from local old school thrash Gods TRUCE. They were the first band to play live in The Heavy Metal Shop over 20 Years ago! This show will be a celebration of former TRUCE bassist and old friend of mine, Brent Barker, who recently passed away. So come out and pay your respects to Brent and TRUCE. On April 17th, from Arizona, we have The Earps playing the shop. These guys are always a good time.