Stacy Buchanan, Blood of Gods

“Coloring outside lines is fun,” says Stacy Buchanan. “The few times in my life where I’ve been really bold and stepped out of my comfort zone, that’s where the excitement is and where the personal growth is.”

Buchanan is the founder and publisher of Blood of Gods, a wine-meets-heavy metal ‘zine. While the two subjects might seem disparate, Buchanan believes otherwise.

“I think they’re actually really similar,” he says. “There’s an obsessiveness to both, and there’s an appreciation of craft.”

That obsessiveness and appreciation is fully melded in Blood of Gods. Buchanan started the ‘zine in 2020 after spending extensive time in the music and wine hospitality industries. His intention was simple.

“It started out trying to be transgressive,” Buchanan says. “I was trying to poke holes in things I thought were problematic in the industry, like taste makers in an ivory tower.”

Swinging for the fences

A fifth generation Walla Wallan, Buchanan grew up with family members who were into heavy metal and hard rock music. Buchanan started freelance writing about music his junior year of high school. By senior year, he was getting published in small indie magazines, then bigger magazines like Thrasher and Alternative Press.

“When you’re hearing fast drums, and it’s really fast, it taps into that lizard brain, that primal thing,” Buchanan says of his love of heavy metal. “That’s definitely what sent me on my way, just finding things that were really exhilarating and tactile and kinetic.”

When Buchanan graduated high school, he had to decide what came next. “My friend and I, we said, ‘We’ve got to do something big!’” Buchanan recalls. “‘We’ve got to swing for the fences!’”

Buchanan had previously connected with the manager of a then just-starting-out band called System of a Down that subsequently made it big. Buchanan’s swing was reaching out to the manager, who was now associated with Ozzfest, with a proposition.

Buchanan suggested he and his friend go on tour with the heavy metal and hard rock festival. They would promote various entities associated with the tour. It worked.

On tour with Ozzfest

Buchanan and his friend spent the next two and a half months on planes and tour buses. They were with the likes of Black Sabbath, Queens of the Stone Age, Pantera, and others.

“My mom, she thought it was just gonna be sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll all summer long, so she was freaked out,” Buchanan says. “It was sort of like the movie ‘Almost Famous,’ except I was 18/19.”

On tour, Buchanan would help promote different products and musicians. The next year, Buchanan returned to do it again as a sponsor representative for Alternative Press magazine.

“It was pretty amazing. Life changing for sure,” Buchanan says.

Throughout this time, Buchanan continued writing. He subsequently got a degree in public relations from Washington State University.

Buchanan moved to Los Angeles to work for Century Media, a heavy metal record label. He ultimately moved to Germany to represent the company there.

Returning to a town transformed

Blood of Gods, a wine-meets-heavy metal ‘zine

Buchanan returned to Walla Walla in 2007 to find a town transformed. When Buchanan left seven years earlier, there were a baker’s dozen wineries. Now there were 113.

“I’m looking to the left and right, I’m like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’” he recalls. “There’s wineries everywhere! The powder keg was blowing. Something special was happening.”

Buchanan started off working for a startup company trying to become an online marketplace for wine sales. He then went to work for Three Rivers Winery as hospitality manager.

When Buchanan would read and hear about so-called “rock star winemakers” – an oft used and abused term in wine writing – Buchanan would chuckle. “I actually know rock stars,” Buchanan says. “That’s not a fucking rock star!”

Then something strange happened. Buchanan started to see parallels between people who were obsessively devoted to music and people who were equally devoted to wine.

“They’re both really obsessed with the craft of it and have encyclopedic tendencies, so they want to know everything about it,” Buchanan says.

Bringing wine down to reality

In the 2020, Buchanan decided to create a “one-off” ‘zine called Blood of Gods connecting heavy metal music and wine. His intention was both to celebrate and to skewer.

“I don’t like elitism or snobbery or gatekeepers,” Buchanan says. “I hate ego shit. It was trying to take something that had this status and bring it down to reality.”

The first issue came out in May of 2020.  The ‘zine included interviews, wine reviews, and other material. (Full disclosure: I have contributed to Blood of Gods on occasion, not for compensation.)

A vegetarian and self-professed animal lover, Buchanan dedicated the proceeds from the ‘zine to the Blue Mountain Humane Society. To his great surprise, the Foley family, owners of Three Rivers Winery where he worked, donated $10,000 to support the cause. It left Buchanan inspired.

“I did the full-on cheesy thing with the giant check photo opportunity,” he says. “Then I thought ‘Let’s see what else we can do.’”

Bringing Blood of the Gods to life

The first thing he did was make Blood of the Gods bi-annual. The next was add an annual event. However, the pandemic kept pushing the event out. As a result, Buchanan’s plans got bigger and bigger.

Blood of the Gods had its first Annual Merrymaking event in 2022. The event is nothing if not ambitious.

“It’s hard to describe what the event is because it’s really just trying to bring an issue of Blood of Gods to life,” Buchanan says. “There’s wine. There’s art. There’s music. There’s all these things.”

Blood of Gods Annual Merrymaking

In keeping with Buchanan’s ethos, there’s also a charitable cause, with 100% of the tasting fees go to Planned Parenthood.

“If you love this thing, if it’s wine or if it’s heavy metal, if it nourishes you, then you have to nourish it in return,” Buchanan says. “Do you like loud, crazy music? Start a college radio show. Start a band. Do a ‘zine. Or just go to a show and buy some merch. With wine, start a tasting group. Start a winery. Maybe start writing about it. Do whatever you like, but give back to it because this is a two-way street.”

Embracing the bleeding edge

Buchanan’s work has increasingly been in the spotlight of late. He’s been profiled in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin. Wine Enthusiast named Buchanan to its Future 40 list in 2023. (NB: This was after I left the magazine.) The Auction of Washington Wines recently honored Buchanan as an emerging leader. (Full disclosure, my wife works for the Auction. I sit on the committee that determines Toast awards.)

Buchanan now works at The Motor Co., an event space owned by Michael and Lauri Corliss and also handles events for Tranche Estate, Corliss, and other related businesses.

While Blood of Gods has already come a long way, Buchanan has still bigger plans. He recently signed a book deal with Feral House Publishing and is exploring other ideas.

“It’ll always be heavy metal and wine, but I think I’ve started to leave the interpretation or doorway open of anything that exists on the bleeding edge or on the margins that are a little bit edgy or outside of the mainstream,” Buchanan says. “I think that’s where the exciting stuff is happening.”

Whatever comes next, Buchanan intends to continue coloring outside the lines. He also intends to remain true to the things he believes in. To coin a phrase from the music industry, he has no intentions of selling out.

“I live and breathe this shit,” Buchanan says. “It’s not just something some marketing team cooked up in the lab. I want to get younger people into wine, but I also want it to be real and be authentic.”

NB: Blood of Gods third annual Merrymaking will take place July 20th at The Motor Co. See ticketing information here. Blood of Gods magazines and merch here.

All images courtesy of Blood of Gods with the exception of the Ozzfest logo.

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