A few years ago, I was a writing contributor to the late great Metal Edge magazine in addition to running the PiercingMetal site and one of the assignments that I was tasked with during this time was to find a “Metal Mecca” for a feature article. “Metal Meccas” focused on specialty shops that were dedicated to the Heavy Metal music scene and its products and I could think of no better place than Steve Keeler’s Rock Fantasy Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Specialty Shop up in Middletown, NY. New readers to our offerings can enjoy that piece by clicking HERE.
Since that time I’ve kept up with Rock Fantasy proprietor Steve Keeler on a regular basis at the Metal shows down in the Big Apple and offer up kudos that the store successfully had passed its quarter century mark. Later this year the shop will reach year “28” and with this being the case Keeler decided that a change was long overdue to the lay of his Rock Fantasy empire. I compiled a bunch of questions that can be enjoyed as the photos present themselves. Check it out.
PiercingMetal: For starters what does it feel like to be closing in on thirty years of business for a place like Rock Fantasy?
Keeler: It feels very good to be able to make it so many years . being able to be your own boss and live your own lifestyle . I have many customers that have fond memories of buying their first CD or LP or meeting a favorite band at our many in store appearances. I know have a lot of second generation customers!
PiercingMetal: So why the revamp to the way Rock Fantasy is currently set up?
Keeler: We were offered the vacant store front next door around the holidays . at first I balked but then realized we could add much more merchandise to our smoke shop and build a few record racks to help out with our growing vinyl LP selection, plus we added a pinball room that also helps us display and sell posters and tapestries. We also hold pinball tournaments twice a month and host Stern factory launch tournaments too. Now we also have room for special events, band meet and greets, musical events and glass blowing demonstrations.
PiercingMetal: Overall how many pinball machines are we talking about here and which three would you say are your favorites? Why are they the most special to you.
Keeler: We have 25 set up to play and enjoy from the latest to the classics from the 1970’s ! my favorites are the Rock n Roll ones and the comic book heroes. We have the classic Ted Nugest, KISS and Rolling Stones tables, the ones I grew up playing as a teenager.
PiercingMetal: What are the hopes with the new expanded room and for Rock Fantasy as a whole as you spearhead towards its big “30”.
Keeler: just to be able to keep the place going . promoting Metal and giving everyone a cool Rock n Roll experience when they visit the shop whether they are in to buy music related merchandise or a smoking device from our smoke shop.
PiercingMetal: Do you see more Metal band in-stores happening with more regularity than recent times have allowed?
Keeler: yes ! now that we have a local venue in town . we have a instore meet and greet scheduled with Goatwhore on May 1st from 5 to 6pm . I have another tentatively planned with krisiun on may 31st.
PiercingMetal: Now the new space has all pinball machines right now but do you foresee a couple of other classic video games like Donkey Kong or even Pac Man, Asteroids etc…..bring the vintage to the eyes of the younger generation.
Keeler: it’s possible but I mainly deal with pinball . we may have a couple vintage gun games soon .
PiercingMetal: If any three bands could have a pinball machine made for them right now, who would you like to see this happen for?
Keeler: well Metallica is the latest Stern pinball title . I would love an Iron Maiden which I hear is in the works ! Led Zeppelin was another strong rumour! Most of the bands I enjoy are too underground to have a major release ! My fantasy wish list Amon Amarth, Immortal, & Maiden
PiercingMetal: Talking about the Metal scene what are some of the bands that you think are currently the most exceptional and perhaps don’t get the attention they deserve. Why do you feel this way.
Keeler: Well I am mostly into Black Metal and Pagan stuff and of course the melodic European melodic acts. I think a lot of this genre don’t get tons of respect in the USA .
PiercingMetal: What do you hate about the Metal scene today as opposed to the way it was when you first opened Rock Fantasy. What kind of drastic changes does it need for its better proliferation.
Keeler: Not too much hate for anything Metal. If anything I give credit to the different styles . I do feel the scene is more divided than ever !
PiercingMetal: Tell me about some of the upcoming events that you are sponsoring and most excited about.
Keeler: We are having a in store appearance with Goatwhore on Wed May 1st and this is our first with a band in years! I hope to have many more events in the shop soon glassblowers from our smoke shop section, acoustic plugged performances, pinball tournaments. We will be holding a Metallica stern pinball launch party in June .
Welcome To Rock Fantasy’s Pinball and Poster Room. Amazing Isn’t It?
I didn’t take photographs of all of the machines because I wanted to leave you with some element of “I must go here immediately and see what is happening” and to encourage your need to play a little pinball if you are in town. So about a dozen that I liked most are reflected here. Check it out.
Now let’s take a look at some of the cool posters that are hanging on every corner of the wall in the new space. How many of these did you have, or still have for that matter…..
As Steve had mentioned, there is also a smoking supplies section in Rock Fantasy, I asked him a little about this as well.
PiercingMetal: Now I had to laugh when I realized how the expanded smoke supplies section was being presented to the world at large on “420”; Was this a plan or just one of those whimsical in the cards happenings. Tell me a little about the changes here.
Keeler: Oh it was a plan . The store has a vast selection of smoking devices and has become known as a destination for smokers. We carry a lot of the name brands and deal with a lot of local glassblowers . We have two glassblowers coming in this weekend showing off the art of glassblowing.
I’ve never been more of a casual Dead fan but I so much loved this poster. It was almost alive in its design
PiercingMetal: I almost forgot that this is also “Record Store Day” and as you’ve brought up there is now a nice new larger vinyl section in Rock Fantasy. What do you think led to the resurgence in this mediums popularity? I mean, so many music fans no longer have record players and then there is the cost involved with such things. Thoughts?
Keeler: Well, we are selling as much vinyl as we do CD’s nowadays and I am glad too see it back. I would hate to not be able to sell music and strictly become a head shop because the store was founded on selling music.
Well my friends that brings us to the end of this little adventure. We wish Steve Keeler and the staff at Rock Fantasy a great success in the Grand Re-Opening (but mind you they never truly closed as much as locked off areas that they were working on in case you wondered). The place looks great and I have already played a few rounds of pinball with Steve and my buddy Sea Pete. I didn’t win, so you know I am hungry for a rematch. So what are you waiting for? The full details and the invite above shows you more information about the good time to be had. Tell them PiercingMetal sent you if you visit based on this article. Goodbye for now.
Official Website: http://www.rockfantasy.com