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So What Do You Do, Lance Gould?

Drill debuts today, and editor Lance Gould talks about producing his lad mag for military men.

By David S. Hirschman - October 14, 2003

One of the largest and most overlooked publishing markets in the United States is the military. While there are government-issued military publications like Stars & Stripes, there has never been much of an effort to create leisure and entertainment titles specific to the military. Enter Drill magazine, a men's mag that combines the puerile sensibilities of Maxim and FHM with content specifically aimed at readers in the military. Drill's editor-in-chief, Lance Gould, was the features editor at the New York Daily News for three years before leaving recently to join John Brown Publishing, a London-based custom publisher, for the launch of this new mag. Drill hits U.S. newsstands today, and Gould took time from launch preparations last week to speak to mediabistro.com.

Birthdate: May 10, 1965
Hometown: Warren, New Jersey
First section of the Sunday Times: Sports

What kinds of things does Drill cover?
The military content is very subtle. We don't have a tank-of-the-month pictorial. Or tips on how to accessorize your Desert Storm fatigues with your assault rifle. It's not that kind of magazine. Guys in the military are pretty much like other guys and are interested in the same things that other guys are interested in. So we're catering to all those editorial categories that most guys are interested in, which is cars and girls, sports and beer, pop culture, technology, and adventure.

So how is its identity different from the other lad mags?
It comes through in a number of ways. There's the iconography and the design. In terms of content, the names of each of the sections playfully utilize military jargon such as our travel section is called "Three Day Pass," our fitness section is called "Drop and Give Me Twenty," our sex column is called "Private's Parts." We also have a lot of international coverage—I think our editorial covers the globe, which most other men's magazines don't. We have stories from Swaziland and Columbia and Kazakhstan and Japan in this issue because our guys are based all over the globe and they travel all over the globe. We also have a column called "Military Intelligence" in the "AWOL" section, in which we look at the history of a given symbol, usually a patch of some sort. In the first issue, we look at the patch of the 101st airborne, which is of a screaming eagle.

We're definitely interested in being the zeitgeist of what military guys are concerned with. We don't mean to replace Stars & Stripes or the local base paper for information; this is an entertaining, diversionary read. But we also try to think of ourselves as a USO on paper, even though we're trying to be a little edgier than the USO would ever be. It's something that doesn't always make the brass very comfortable. You know, the military brass has cautious optimism about what we are. We think that the guys in the military themselves are going to love it. And what else makes us different, is, in our fashion segment, which is called "Wardrobe," we did our first one on retro sports jerseys. But the guys we used to model them were actually in the National Guard. So the guys from the 101st cavalry from Staten Island actually are our models for our first issue.

Do you use writers in the military?
Not yet, but we're definitely interested in working with guys who are from the military. There's a guy in the Navy who's doing a piece for us for issue two. We also have a column called "Maneuvers," which is stories from the front and the rear, in which we get their wildest tales. It's almost like a bulletin board form for them to discuss the funniest and weirdest things they've seen in the military.

You're going to be selling the magazines partly in Barnes & Noble stores near, but not on, bases. Will non-military people be interested in Drill?
I think this magazine is geared to and targeted and focused exclusively on guys in the military. But I also think it's the kind of thing that anyone can pick up and read who is interested in humor and adventure and the things that guys are interested in.

Also, the tagline of the magazine is, "For Men Who Serve." Other men who serve—police officers, firemen—the guerilla-style focus groups we've held seem to indicate that these guys are going to love it, too. It's very humor-oriented, it's very adventure-oriented, and it's very geared to guys who throw themselves into dangerous work for a living,

Is there any concern with political correctness, or is it more modeled on the Maxim idea that it doesn't really matter?
We are in no way excluding women, but we're just not targeting them, in the same way that Cosmo doesn't target men. We're a magazine designed for men, but in no way do we mean to demean women and say that women in the military don't mean anything. That's not our message. Our message is, if you're a guy who's in the military, this is a magazine you're going to like. You might like it if you're a woman—it's not intended for you, but that doesn't stop women reading GQ and Details and Maxim in large numbers.

Are there delicate subjects, where you have to tread lightly? Obviously you can't take a political position except being totally in favor of the military.
Right. We look at ourselves as apolitical. We are not supporters or opponents of the administration. And we don't support or oppose Bush, we just support the guys in the military who do this for a living. We try to be cheeky, but we're trying not to have too many sacred cows. Everything is fair game except for guys putting their lives on the line. We're not going to question why we're in Iraq. This is an entertainment read. It's meant to boost their spirits—not necessarily in a patriotic way, but in a fun way. We're not cheerleaders for the administration, we're cheerleaders for the guys in the military, saying we understand what you're going through and we're putting this magazine out for you to relax and enjoy yourself, take a few minutes out. Whether you're patrolling the streets of Baghdad or preparing MREs in Massachusetts, this should be a good read for you.

Is your editorial influenced by the fact that a huge number of people are in Iraq and Afghanistan? The fact that so many people are overseas affects their lives tremendously. Does this change the way that you aim the magazine at them?
I don't think so. We're not going to be cavalier about Afghanistan and say "Have a samosa." We know they're putting their lives in danger, but we're still intending to be a humor magazine. I think the way I would best describe the magazine is, it's either a humor-oriented adventure magazine or an adventure-oriented humor magazine. That's our mandate, and that's what we're going for. We have to be sensitive to the fact that guys are putting their lives on the line and we're not treating anything they're doing in a cavalier way. We're sensitive to that, but it doesn't necessarily affect a story that we're doing on the sport from Kazakhstan.

Also, we're not profiteering. We didn't come out specifically because we were at war. The idea for the magazine came out long before we knew that war was going to happen. In peacetime, this kind of scenario isn't happening. It's advice for the military man living his life in normal circumstances. The fact that he's at war, I don't think it's teasing him to be giving him dating advice because he's presumably carrying out a relationship online or at home where he's missing her, or for how to conduct a relationship while you're away.

Is it mostly aimed at single military men?
I think it is. The aesthetic is mainly for a single guy, but there are a lot of things in there that appeal to everyone. I think that we don't have anything in there that a married guy would be too ashamed to show to his wife. In fact, I think, and this is just me, wives should be encouraged to buy subscriptions for their men as presents because it's that kind of thing. We're not anti-family, but it's mainly intended for young single men.

In the military, the culture is very concerned with obeying commands and doing what your superiors tell you to do. And, is there any dissonance between this and popular music like Eminem which is saying "fuck you" to authority? Is this an issue in choosing records to review?
No. We pick records they want to hear. I don't know how popular Steve Earle and his song about John Walker Lindh is. I probably won't feature that. But no other retailer sells more CDs in the world than the military, of all different kinds of music. Before I took this job, I made assumptions as I'm sure other people do that the music that was most popular in the military was shitkicker country. Not the case. We did our guerilla focus groups during Fleet Week and I made visits to Fort Bragg and Fort Lee, in Richmond, Virginia, and guys in the military love Eminem and 50 Cent. Hip-hop is huge in the military. A lot of the guys, though they may be stationed in North Carolina or Texas, they might be from Brooklyn or Seattle.

How about movies, like Black Hawk Down? Would you choose not to cover that if that came out now?
I read Jarhead by Anthony Swafford, which is a fantastic book. If you read that book and take his insight into what life in the military is really like, these guys used to rent all the war movies. They would go to somebody's barracks and get really drunk and watch Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket and just get really into watching war movies. If the question is do we have to monitor what kind of controversial, anti-authority pop culture that we endorse in the magazine, the answer is yes. We do have to be somewhat careful of it. I don't think Sean Penn and Tim Robbins are very popular figures in the military, because they take a very specific political stance against it.

But they're not necessarily anti-military. They would be more anti-administration.
Right. I'm just saying that, from what I've gathered, they aren't very popular figures in the military. But someone like Eminem or 50 Cent who are just kind of fuck-everything, fuck this, fuck that, it's all about me, they're kind of like anti-heroes without taking specific political stances. You have generic antihero worship from youth whether they're in the military or not.

I had always been into the antihero thing growing up, but I assumed that the kind of people who go into the military voluntarily would probably not be anti-establishment.
It does make sense, but I think, in today's economy, not every guy in the military is there because he wants to kick foreign ass. There are a lot of guys who joined in the peacetime scenario who wanted to get extra money to go to college or to learn a skill. There are a lot of people in the military who don't get credit for being able to utilize and develop and become familiar with incredibly complicated technology that then becomes more popular in common civilian life. There are these guys who join the military in order to learn a skill or to get money to go to college so it wasn't necessarily that they wanted to be Rambo. I think that's a common misconception.

David S. Hirschman is a freelance writer and editor and the news editor of mediabistro.com.



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