The Worley Gig is a blog dedicated to the arts and entertainment that was founded by writer and music fan Gail Worley back in 2003. The New York based blog features news from the art world and interviews with some of the most interesting people across creative industries such as music, movies, theater, books, visual arts, and even food and toys. With a background in publishing, publicity, and radio hosting, Gail has had the opportunity to interview Marilyn Manson, befriend 1980s rock stars, and rock out at many concerts and other cool events. To date, The Worley Gig boasts nearly one-million visits, two million page views, and just over 6,000 posts.
Gail recently discussed her blog and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and then break into both radio and print media?
Gail Worley (GW): The Beatles kicked off my love of music and they remain my favorite band to this day. I grew up with an older sister who came of age at the height of Beatlemania, when I was five years old, and she was 13. I absolutely idolized her. The only way to listen to music at that time (because it was the 1960s and there were no personal devices) was to play albums on the family console stereo in our living room, so I was exposed to the music she was listening to. Of course, she had all of the Beatles albums that had been released to that point, and my favorite was the soundtrack to the movie HELP!
I was totally infatuated with Paul McCartney, and that crush inspired me to just become very passionate about music and the whole rock star phenomena.
I was never interested in sports or team activities and I didn’t have a lot of friends because I was a huge dork, so music was the most important thing in my life all through primary school, high school and then through college, which is where I became involved in both radio and journalism. Both of these things happened somewhat accidentally.
The college radio station (KUCI at University of California at Irvine) and the school newspaper were on the same floor in the building above the commons and I ended up becoming friends with people who hung out there. The girl who was the station manager encouraged me to apply for a time slot (which were for three hours one day per week of on-air time) and host a radio show. I already knew a ton of bands/music but lacked the technical skills, so she taught me how to use the controls in the studio so I could produce my own radio show. I applied for a restricted FCC license for radio broadcasters (which I still have) and I hosted a weekly music show, where I played mostly punk and progressive rock, for three years. The radio station is also where I met the majority of my college friends, many of whom I am still close with today.
I started writing for the school newspaper mostly because I knew about music, and the editor of the newspaper asked me if I wanted to review some albums, so that was the start of my writing career. I wrote album reviews and also movie reviews. I believe home video tapes were new at the time so I would review a few titles a month.
I moved to New York City in the late 80s, and a few years after moving here I started writing for a local music and entertainment newspaper called the Manhattan Mirror. The Mirror really helped me get my start in a career that eventually included writing for many different online and print publications. How that happened for me was that once I had a few published clips from The Mirror, I was able to submit them to other magazines and publications, and get other writing jobs from that. The clips I accumulated also helped me get on the mailing lists for all of the major record labels and this is how I got serviced with promotional material (CDs mostly) and how my personal network grew and expanded. It was really about doing a lot of foot work, talking to everyone, knowing how to ‘work the room,’ and being willing to write about things I was unfamiliar with in order to expand my resume.
MM: What were the big differences between covering music for the radio versus publications?
GW: When I was doing radio, I would not say that that was covering music. I was playing music on my shows, but I wasn’t writing any content for radio. So, I don’t really think that I can compare the two.
MM: What was it like to grow up amid the 70s punk scene and 80s hair metal scene?
GW: I like to say that the 70s was the best time ever for music, because it started out with the Beatles, and ended with punk rock. I met a couple of girls at a huge outdoor concert at Anaheim Stadium, who started talking to me because they noticed that I was wearing a Queen T-shirt, and they were really into Queen (as was I). It was kind of funny because I think we were there to see Alice Cooper, right after the Alice Cooper band broke up and he went solo, but that didn’t end up being our mutual interest. But anyway, these two girls and I ended up becoming friends and then we all got into punk rock together. We were kind of at ground zero for Orange County punk and it just had to do with being in the right place at the right time. My entire social scene was hanging out with the orange county punks, and I was good friends with guys in The Adolescents, Agent Orange, Social Distortion, and a lot of other bands you probably wouldn’t have heard of. There was an amazing record store in Long Beach called Zed Records and a couple times a month we would drive up there and get all the new records coming in from London. It was an incredible way to stay on the cutting edge of new music, very exciting.
Hair metal wasn’t a thing until I was out of college, and I think where I started learning about that was by watching Headbangers Ball on MTV on Saturday nights. I just loved that music; probably because there was the mixture of hard rock and fashion, that reminded me of a lot of 70s glam rock. I didn’t get to know the guys in those bands however until I was writing about music in New York a decade or so later. It wasn’t that hard to meet musicians because I was writing about them and in many cases I would do my interviews in person and we would just end up seeing each other at shows, or in some cases these guys would introduce me to other musicians and that would just go on and on until I had a huge network of musicians that I was friendly with. I think that a lot of guys I was interviewing appreciated the fact that I was coming from the place of being a fan, and not coming from the place of being a journalist, so that my questions were much more engaging and my interviews felt more relaxed and conversational than other interviews they were doing. This is why I think my work became so popular.
MM: You are now friends with some 80s rockers, so do you have any cool stories about them? Have they mellowed since the decade of decadence?
GW: There aren’t many relationships with those guys that I have maintained, although they were fun while they lasted. I am still friends with a guy named Mike Fasano who was the drummer in the band Warrant, and he is probably one of my favorite people. Just a really great, standup guy, and an amazing drummer, who now plays with Tiger Army. Mike is also someone who has introduced me to many other musicians, who I either ended up writing about or have become friends with. I do have kind of a funny story about the band Poison however. I once did an interview with Poison’s drummer Rikki Rockett, and then Rikki set me up with tickets and backstage passes to one of their shows at Jones Beach. Backstage at that show were guys from bands like Quiet Riot, E’Nuff Z Nuff, Slaughter, and I don’t even know who else. It was so much fun. Not long after that I was contacted by a writer named Christopher Long. Chris had been a Roadie for Poison, and was writing a tell-all book about them. Somehow, he got my name from an article I had done with Rikki, and he asked me if I would write the foreword to his book. That was a lot of fun also. The book is called “A Shot of Poison,” and it was first published 10 years ago. Chris just published an updated, anniversary issue a few months ago, and my foreword is still part of the book. It’s a great read.
MM: You have interviewed Marilyn Manson, so what was that like?
GW: Manson was my very first in-person interview, taking place in the dressing room at Irving Plaza, and I was unbelievably nervous. I did a lot of preparation beforehand and had all of my questions written down as a list, so that I could refer to it during our interview, but I was so intimidated by him that I was not able to be terribly spontaneous and probably missed the chance to ask more interesting questions than what I had prepared. It probably didn’t help that he did the interview shirtless, and his chest was covered with fresh scars from where he had been cutting himself with broken bottles while on stage the previous night. However, he was very polite and actually a nice guy. He and their bass player posed for pictures with me after the interview and, overall, it was a very memorable way to cut my teeth. A while after that, a writer name Kurt Riley wrote a book about Manson and used some quotes from my interview in it, so that was nice. As an aside, several years ago I met former Marilyn Manson guitarist Daisy Berkowitz, whose real name was Scotty Putesky, through a mutual friend, artist Mark Kostabi. Scott and I became friends and we used to go to art shows together. Unfortunately, Scott passed away from cancer a couple of years ago.
MM: Who else have you interviewed that is regarded as extremely famous?
GW: Fame is such a subjective thing. If I had to toss out what might be called ‘household names’ I can say the most famous people I’ve interviewed would be members of Duran Duran, Alice Cooper, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Slash from Guns N Roses, and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols. I’ve interviewed musicians like Alexa Ray Joel, who would be known to many people because she is Billy Joel’s daughter. I interviewed the comedian Andy Dick once, and while I think he has fallen from grace, at one time he was quite popular. I wrote for Modern Drummer for 13 years, and during that time I interviewed some of the most famous drummers in the world, but that doesn’t mean you would know their names. Some people I interviewed when they were way past their heyday, and in that case someone like Gina Schock, the drummer from The GoGos comes to mind. They were huge back in the day. Gina is a nice lady.
MM: What prompted you to start The Worley Gig blog and how did it gain popularity?
GW: I started Worleygig.com originally as a place to advertise my services to get writing jobs. So, originally it was more of a bulletin board where I could post links to some of my recent interviews or artist biographies that I had done. But if you really want to get into the history of The Worley Gig as a brand, it started as a column that I wrote for a local newspaper called the New York Hangover. When The Hangover went out of print, I moved the column to Pandemonium online, out of Seattle, which had originally been a print publication. Pademonium was a great site and had a global readership. When Pandemonium went offline, I took the column over to an also now-defunct musician’s resource called Starpolish. Eventually, it just made sense to buy the domain and develop it into something that was completely my own. Worleygig.com celebrated 17 years on the web this past June, but I’ve been building the brand for over two decades.
MM: You have a background in music but this blog also covers visual art, theater, books, food, toys, etc. Was it tough to branch out into such a range of fields?
GW: In a way, it was the easiest thing in the world to branch out. Most of my paying music outlets had either gone out of business, or they wanted you to write for free. I thought, well, if I’m going to write for free, I’m going to write about what I want to write about with no restrictions. In addition to getting free music, I was also getting a lot of books, and DVDs in the mail, so I had plenty of material to write about. I also have a background in design and architecture from working as an office manager for an architectural firm, a contract furnishings firm, and later a furniture manufacturer who made some incredibly detailed custom desks, including Roy Disney’s Wizard Hat-shaped desk for his office at the Walt Disney offices in Burbank. Design was just something I knew a bit about, and so I decided to explore that interest. New York has an incredible art scene, and the Chelsea galleries are not that far from where I live. For many years my best friend Geoffrey and I would go to the gallery openings every Thursday and then we would go home and write about art for our blogs. I also met a lot of artists that way, and you know everybody wants you to write about their art. There’s never any shortage of things to write about. During the pandemic, when the art galleries were closed, I took long walks every day and photographed and wrote about street art.
One of my writer friends got me into going to food shows, and she would take me on dinner dates where she was acting as a reviewer. From doing that, I got on the media lists of some food publicists, and started doing restaurant reviews for Worleygig.com. Also, from going to food shows I made a lot of contacts and was able to start getting free samples of different foods to review. I’m still getting a lot of free stuff during the pandemic which has really helped supplement my grocery bill! (HA) I believe that most of these publicists share their lists, so every once in a while, I will get an inquiry from someone who is promoting cleaning products, or some other household good, and as long as I’m willing to write a review they send me samples of whatever it is they’re working on. It’s a fun way to discover new products, and as I said it helps to get free stuff when you have to find ways to cut down on your expenses.
MM: Has it been tough to keep your publication afloat for nearly twenty years?
GW: I don’t really think of it like that. I love writing, and there’s always something to write about. There have definitely been some times when my traffic dipped, but I know that things go in waves, and that the traffic will eventually increase again, and then ebb and flow like that. It’s just the way it is a unless you are a huge site like Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Earlier this year I did a complete site overhaul that involved a lot of coding and link repair, and that has really helped my traffic increase exponentially. Having a blog is like raising a child. There’s daily maintenance to do and you can’t ever really turn your back on it for long or things can get broken. But it’s my baby and I love it. I’ll never stop writing.
MM: How do you select the topics to cover and people to interview?
GW: I’m not really doing interviews anymore because I just don’t have the bandwidth, but back when I was, it was about 50/50 either me pitching a band or musician I thought was interesting /newsworthy to an editor, or one of my editor’s offering me an assignment. Now, I just write about what I like, or what I’ve seen, or places I’ve been. The tagline for Worley Gig is “A Blog of Neat Things” and that really sums it up, I think. When you have an iPhone, you can document everything, and you never know where you’re going to get inspiration. The photographer Stephen Shore has said, “Paying attention all the time is an interesting way to go through the day.” I’m like that.
MM: What are some cool experiences that your work in media had afforded you?
GW: Aside from the experiences of interviewing so many legendary musicians, I’ve been able to see a ton of live bands for free, as well as see plays, dine at great restaurants, and go to very fun parties. I’ve met a lot of amazing people that I never would’ve met otherwise and some of those people have become lifelong friends. But maybe the coolest thing is that people around the globe are now able to know me through my writing and photography. When people leave comments on my blog saying that they’ve connected with something that I’ve written, it means so much more than you could ever imagine. Sometimes I get funny comments. For example, I wrote about a Pantera sports car once owned by Elvis Pressley, which was notable for having an Elvis-inflicted bullet hole through the floorboard. One of the musicians from Elvis’s band ended up commenting on that post that he remembered the day Elvis shot the bullet through the car. Crazy.
MM: You are also into fine art, so what styles and themes attract you?
GW: I can find something to appreciate about almost any kind of art. However, my favorite art is Contemporary Art, and the Pop Art of the 60s and 70s by artists like Andy Warhol — who is my favorite artist of all time — Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg. My favorite living artist is Yayoi Kusama, whose art is mind blowing to me. She’s had such an amazing life. She’s been making art since she was a teenager (she’s 91 now and still active), and many famous male artists (Warhol, Oldenburg and Lucas Samaras in particular) directly ripped her off and became famous as creators of artworks and styles that she in fact was the originator of. I also really love Robert Rauschenberg, the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the paintings of Stuart Davis.
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten so far and what has been the highlight of your career?
GW: There are three people in my life right now who I initially met when they became fans of the Worley Gig column during its tenure at Pandemonium online. One lives in rural Australia, another is Wales, and the third is a Weatherman and Club DJ in DC. They have each continued to follow my work over the past 20-plus years and have turned into valued friends. The fact that they’ve continued to follow my work to the point where we’ve become invested in each other’s lives is the best “fan feedback” you can get, I think. I also have a selection of testimonials on the site (check them out under https://worleygig.com/tag/testimonials/) from musicians I’ve interviewed and some of those are pretty sweet. It is just too hard to narrow down the highlights to one event, but the friendships mean the most to me.
MM: How do you hope your career — and blog — evolves over the next five years?
GW: I would like to find more ways to monetize the blog, if possible. It’s challenging because I don’t sell any products.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
GW: My ultimate goal to make sure I have enough savings to retire from my day job in a few years and just enjoy life, and keep writing, traveling and taking increasingly great photos.
To learn more, visit The Worley Gig website: https://worleygig.com/