When it comes to classic rock and heavy metal, author Neil Daniels
knows the score. A passionate love of the two genres, a total dedication to the music and an appreciation for the artists that create and perform the music, Daniels
puts pen to paper regularly to write about his love of all things rock and metal. He has penned books on Judas Priest
, Robert Plant
, and Bon Jovi
as well co-authored "Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal
" with Al Atkins
latest book, All Pens Blazing
offers a potted history of the genre as well as the publishing industry from the legendary Sounds
and Melody Maker
to metal bibles Kerrang!
and Metal Hammer
to modern day magazines like Terrorizer
and Classic Rock
In this comprehensive collection, Neil Daniels
interviewed a staggering 65 of the world's most successful writers of heavy metal and hard rock - including two regular writers for Ultimate-Guitar
. Many of these writers are successful biographers, editors and long-standing freelancers who have interviewed some of the genre's leading artists from Kiss
and Black Sabbath
. They've travelled the world over, lived in tour buses, got drunk with their idols, attended some of the greatest gigs in history and are still alive to tell the tale. It's all here; the wild stories, the anecdotesand the advice! So if you've ever wondered what it takes to be a heavy metal journalist, then this book will answer that question for you. In the following interview, Neil Daniels
gets his pen blazing to Joe Matera
UG: What made you decide to compile a book of interviews with rock and metal writers?
Well, as you may know, there is a section of my website neildaniels.com which is an archive of interviews I've done with music writers. It was getting a lot of good feedback and I thought it would be a good idea to make a book out of them but instead of using ones on the site I'd collect a new batch of interviews specifically about heavy metal. I've used some interviews that were on my site but have extended those so I'm not ripping people off my making a book which you have to pay for when you can view them for free online. I think I've only used a handful anyway that were published on the site. In total there are 65 interviewees all of them exclusive to the book. Not all of them are heavy metal writers per se but they do cover rock and metal and I thought it would be good to cover as many sub genres of hard rock and metal as possible. I had so many writers in mind that I'm may end up doing a second volume. I had to stop at some point and 65 seems like an odd number but 100 is too many. The size of the text had to be reduced in the book because of the cost of buying such a chunky book. It's 350 pages consisting of 65 interviews. It was either reduce the text or cut out some interviews so I decided to reduce the text. Some readers may complain but it's a book that is meant to be dipped in and out of rather than read from start to finish.
There are a lot of interviews in the book, was it a laborious process tracking people down and getting them onboard and undertaking the interviews?
Yes, it was very hard but at the end of the day if I didn't it who would? I managed to track a lot of them down through Facebook or writers that I know quite well. The cool thing is everybody said yes, well, almost everybody, so it's great to know they were cooperative. It took several months getting them all together, and then compiling them in one document, proof reading, etc. It was done by email which gave the writers time to study the questions and really think about their answers and also, the answers can be done around the more important work/day jobs. There's a foreword by Martin Popoff and he's always very helpful. I think his foreword really sums up the life of a metal writer.
So some of those that were asked declined to participate?
Yes, but I'm not going to name names because that's not very nice. At the end of the day these guys were doing the interviews for freebut on the plus side they're going to be mentioned in a book which is free promotion for them! It may even help them shift copies of their own books. Who knows?
From all the interviews in the book, what was the most common thread running through them?
"There is no effing money in the music writing business!"
That there is no effing money in the music writing business! Very few people work full time and make a decent living from it. The other thing is that it's very hard to get paid magazine work mostly because Reviews Editors have their favourite writers and would rather ask their mates to write reviews rather than people they don't know (even though they could be better, more knowledgeable writers.) Also, some magazines are like cliques and you have to have to be special in some way to get involved, like maybe there's a secret handshake/password or something. It sounds like I'm be facetious but that's what it sounds like. Not only that but if there is one industry that is dying at a rapid pace at the moment it's the publishing industry especially magazines how many of them have gone bust in the past year? Too many. It's very sad but that's the nature of the business. Of course, it's the Internet that's doing it. But at the same time the Net is creating jobs toojust not a lot of paid ones for writers. Give it a few years and there'll be barely any music magazines left.
You have a couple of Ultimate-Guitar writers included in the book as well?
Yes, you and Steven Rosen. Steven has been writing for years and knows loads about music. I wanted to interview the more experienced journalists because they've got so many great stories. Steven's interview is very in depth and if you want to learn about the music industry and how to write about it, his interview will tell you everything. I also like the former Kerrang writers like Dave Reynolds, Paul Suter and Derek Oliver they've got loads of great stories and unlike some of their peers they were incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about rock. It wasn't just a day job but a passion, a life's commitment to the cause. It sounds cheesy but it's admirable. That's the whole point in the book getting all these guys to talk about their careers. How else would people know about what they've achieved and experienced? All Pens Blazing is like a forum for them to let it all out. I want the book to be seen as a historical document, a reference book.
You're quite a prolific author having authored books on Judas Priest and Bon Jovi recently, what motivates you to write these types of books and how laborious and time consuming is the process?
It differs depending on the deadline. Most publishers want books written and published very quickly in case someone else comes along and beats them to it. That's the nature of the beast. It took me longer to write the Judas Priest book than it did the others but that's because the other books were written for smaller publishers so the deadlines were quite tight. I only write about artists I like thoughI want to move between books that might sell quite well to books on artists that will maybe have some kind on historical meaning in the world of metal/rock like the Al Atkins one Dawn Of The Metal Gods and my new book.
Do you think the internet has been a God send and opened up opportunities for writers like yourself that may not have been there pre-internet age?
Well I have only written about music while during the age of the Net so I don't know what it was like before, but I can imagine it was a lot more time consuming but maybe more pleasurable. I have boxes and boxes of metal magazines going back to the days of Sounds so I use them as well as the Net. It's good to have a balance. The problem with the Net is that there is way too much info and you have to double check it all. Having said that working on the Net is very quick and that is important in any writing job.
What's your view of the state of metal as it is in this current world of downloads and a music industry in turmoil?
It's similar to the publishing industry and the film industry too the Internet is killing it. In years to come we'll live in a world were nothing exists but on a computer. Of course there'll be food, cars, etc but I mean materialistic things like books DVDs, CDs, books, comics, etc. They'll be stored in annoying little gadgets that won't work and that will need to be charged every dammed hour. I don't download because I can't be arsed and it annoys me that a lot of metal labels don't send out press CDs anymore but get the writers to download the music instead. Erm, shouldn't they be trying to keep the CD alive? It's cheaper for them but they won't be getting as much press some sites refuse to review authorised advance downloads. It takes up too much time. And don't get me started on those bloody voiceovers on advanced press copies that ruin a perfectly good album.
When choosing to write about a particular subject or artist such as Judas Priest - what criteria do you use?
With Judas Priest there hadn't been a book on them in 20 odd years so it made sense especially as they had just reformed. Since then of course there have been books on Priest written by other writers. I think the band have missed the boat on that one four books on the market and they still want to release an official one? Doesn't make sense. Al Atkins has a great story to tell and I wanted to be involved hence that book; and the others were publisher's ideas and they asked me for whatever reasons. Seeing as I like those artists I agreed. It seems odd that I have written three books on Midlands' artists when I live in the North West of England. I can't think of any metal bands from St. Helens!
Have you had any feedback from the any of the artists you've written books about?
Nope, none and I'm not likely too because they are unofficial books. There are so many books on Led Zeppelin related stories that I kinda feel guilty for writing that Plant one especially as it was released after the O2 gig so naturally some journos slagged it off for cashing in on the gig but that's not true. The book was in mind well before the gig was ever announced and as for the cash-in claim ALL books are cash in's!! If the artists weren't popular there'd never be a book. Who'd want to write or read a book about an artist that released one album twenty years ago? Instead you write and read books about artists that are important and successful NOW.
Since your Judas Priest book wasn't approved by the band, how did you go about gathering information and then weeding the fact from the fiction when you have not got co-operation from the artist themselves? As you know, press bios etc can be littered with much fiction and myth
With Priest there were plenty of ex-members to interview and lots of associated personnel. I never got to interview Les Binks which I would have liked too but never mind. Official books tend to be nothing more than exaggerated press releases. For example, in my Priest book an official one would never have mentioned Dave Holland's imprisonment let alone a personal letter written by him from behind bars! Unofficial ones, contrary to popular believe amongst obsessed fans, offer the full objective story.
You've also written for many different magazines. Who have been your favorite interview subjects?
"If there is one industry that is dying at a rapid pace at the moment it's the publishing industry especially magazines."
The older guys are brilliant because they don't give a crap and say what they like. Dio is a real gentleman and was very chatty as was Sammy Hagar and Nikki Sixx. Some of the younger ones are cool too but they don't have that many great tales. I've enjoyed interviews with Doro, Tom Owens, Jeff Waters, Don Dokken, KK Downing and Glenn Tipton, amongst lots of others.
Have you had any bad interviewees?
I've been fortunate enough not have had a really bad interview. I didn't gel that well with Hanoi Rocks backstage at the Manchester Academy a few years back but it was right after a gig and they were tired.
Who are some of your favorite rock and metal artists?
I still love Meat Loaf even though his period as a great live performer is well and truly behind him although I am looking forward to his next album. I like Queen, Motorhead, Ozzy, Sabbath, early Bon Jovi, Scorpions and loads of others. Some for nostalgia, some for emotion, some for technical expertise but mostly I want music that takes me to another world. There has to be a huge entrainment factor for me to listen to them...
What other books have you got planned in future?
All Pens Blazing is entirely self-funded so it has cost me money to publish it if it breaks even I will collect interviews for a volume 2. There' also another print on demand one called Rock N Roll Mercenaries which is a collection of 40 interviews I've done with rock bands/singers. It seems as though print on demand is the way to go for some music non fic titles. It makes sense although there is a lot more work involved.
If you weren't a writer what would you be?
I'm not a full time writer I have a day job too. I'll always write in some way.
What's your favorite rock or metal album of all time?
Today it is Metallica's Kill Em All but that's only because I've just played it twice on repeat. My favourite albums change all the time. It depends on what day it is and how I'm feeling. I love the first few Queen albums, a whole bunch of Motorhead albums, the first few Motley Crue albums, and some Journey albums. Far too many to mention, but basically, I like AOR, melodic rock, heavy metal, prog rock/metal and thrash.
Check out www.neildaniels.com
Interview by Joe Matera