We catch up with Neil Daniels to discuss his recent Metallica biography
Neil Daniels is a busy man, I caught up with him at the end of October last year to talk about life as a music journalist and find out what he was working on… back then he was just starting on a coffee table book about Iron Maiden and a biography on the early years of Metallica. Fast forward to June 2012 and the Iron Maiden book is released later this month and the Metallica book is already out!
I recently read and reviewed the Metallica book, as a fan of the band it was a great excuse to mix business with pleasure, always nice to be able to lose yourself in a book, especially when you can claim it is ‘work’.
You can read the full review of Metallica – The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal HERE.
I was keen to grill Neil a little bit more about Metallica, so I did. So to find out what Neil had to say and what his Top 5 Metallica albums are, keep reading…
It would have been great to talk to Dave Mustaine and a lot of the other thrash metal guys but it wasn’t possible. Also, as any music author will tell you you’re often up against a tight deadline especially now given the state of the publishing industry but I’m happy with the way the book has come out. I think it’s a nifty little tome on those first four Metallica albums. Plus the graphics are pretty cool with lots of vintage flyers, posters and ticket stubs etc. The feedback has been good so far so I’m pleased. It seems to please both casual and hardcore Metallica fans so jobs a good ‘un.
2. Do you think Metallica could have been as big if Mustaine had stayed in the band or do you think the power struggle would always have surfaced?
Maybe not. I think they’d be a different band and would not have been as “corporate” and I think the same can be said for Cliff Burton if he were still alive. They’d probably be more like Motorhead; you know, a big sort of underground metal band with some mainstream awareness. Of course, you can always speculate. Hetfield, Ulrich and Mustaine are big personalities with egos so it would never have lasted as history has proven.
3. Lars has always been very business minded about the band, how important do you think this factor has been in the continued success of Metallica?
It’s been very important. In that sense, he’s like the Mick Jagger of metal – he knows how to run a business. Running a band is like running a business; it’s a brand and you have to protect it. But it means Metallica have had to compromise their music, image and integrity given the changes in direction since The Black Album. It’s not always pleased fans but they are the biggest metal band in the world so Ulrich’s business brain has worked. Plus singing to Q-Prime management was a big deal and took them to bigger levels in the late eighties and thereafter.
4. What do you feel about the Load/ReLoad albums? Bloated mess or under-rated masterpieces?
I like these albums. They got some good riffs and decent melodies but unfortunately no memorable songs so they’re kind of forgotten about, and consequently it makes fans cherish those first four albums even more vehemently. I still think Metallica should go back to those really fast three/four minute songs rather than bloated five minute plus mini epics. I guess they would have done it by now if they felt that way. They’re a different band now and we have to accept that.
5. What are your thoughts on the Black Album? Do you feel it was a game changing masterpiece or the sound of the band selling out?
I like it. I still think its metal but its melodic metal. Having producer Bob Rock obviously told fans even before the album came out that it was going to be different from Justice given Rock’s background. I think it’s got some killer songs, great riffs and melodies. It was a big shift in sound but not a bad one at all, in my opinion. It’s still metal. It’s one of those ongoing debates in the metal world.
6. What are your Top Five Metallica albums?
- Ride The Lightning
- Kill em All
- Master of Puppets
- Black Album/Metallica
- And Justice For All
One thing you can give Metallica credit for, and even today with the dreadful Lulu opus, is that they always looking for new ways of stretching the boundaries of metal. Priest have done it an made some big mistakes in their career but hell, if they churned out the same sounding album very time they’d get criticised for that too. Being in the limelight and being successful means you’re open to scrutiny. I much prefer their eighties stuff to what they have done since but I’m always keen to listen to a new Metallica album. I really like Death Magnetic. And they’re an awesome live band.
8. What is worse, a brilliantly written bad review or a poorly written good review?
Either are probably just as useful or not. I tend to follow writers rather than particular magazines or websites. I mean, there are some really good writers out there but you can tell they don’t have an expert knowledge of the artist or even genre of music. And then on the flip side there are some okay writers that are certainly not great wordsmiths yet they have an expert knowledge and you can tell from their writings. There are lots of journalists out there who are not really journalists.
9. Who is the most over-rated rock/metal artist around at the moment?
U2 and Coldplay – don’t like either bands.
10. Does your Mum keep a scrap book with your press cuttings/reviews in?
Not really except articles from the local papers and she does collect my books.
As told to Jules – June 2012.