Posts Tagged ‘Metallica’
YOU ME AT SIX – NEVER HOLD AN UNDERDOG DOWN
BY NEIL DANIELS
PUBLISHED BY INDEPENDENT MUSIC PRESS
Since forming in Surrey in 2004, You Me At Six have become one of the most revered and popular alternative rock bands of their generation, with three influential and critically acclaimed albums to their name. For three years’ running Kerrang! has nominated them for ‘Best British Band’ and says that they are ‘one of a kind’ (they finally won the coveted title in 2011).
This book examines what makes this scintillating rock band tick and why they have become such an iconic act in a relatively short period of time. Their strict work ethic and innovative nature has gained them a loyal fanbase that goes beyond the word ‘cult.’ Having toured extensively around Europe and also in North America, You Me At Six are also one of alternative rock’s most exhilarating live bands. At a time when many Britsh rock fans are looking to the United States for inventive alternative rock, You Me At Six prove that there is still a rich seam of home-grown talent.
This biography will chart the rise of the Surrey band; the stories behind the making of their albums; their energetic stage performances and their influences…
Neil Daniels has written about rock and metal for a wide range of magazines, fanzines and websites. He has written books on a diverse range of bands, including Judas Priest, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Linkin Park, Journey and Robert Plant and Metallica (also published by IMP Books). He also co-authored Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal with original Judas Priest singer/co-founder Al Atkins. His acclaimed series, All Pens Blazing: A Rock & Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook Volumes I & II, collects over a hundred original and exclusive interviews with some of the world’s most famous rock and heavy metal scribes. His other duel collection, Rock ‘N’ Roll Mercenaries – Interviews With Rock Stars Volumes I & II, compiles sixty interviews with many well-known rock stars. He had more than ten books published between 2007 and 2011. His books have so far been translated into Polish, German, Czech, French, Italian and Bulgarian with several more foreign titles forthcoming.
You can buy the You Me at Six: Never Hold an Underdog Down book from Amazon HERE.
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.
Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal – Neil Daniels (Independent Music Press)
This is the second tome I have reviewed from rock scribe Neil Daniels, the first was a bite sized look at Judas Priest’s British Steel album, a band I admitted I knew little about (although a little wiser now of course). Next up however is Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal, a far meatier affair and a subject I am better acquainted with.
Whilst no expert, I have been a fan of Metallica for nearly 20 years now and have been paying attention for at least some of this time, so approach the book with a certain amount of knowledge under my belt.
Charting Metallica’s evolution from Hetfield’s pre-‘Tallica Leather Charm, right up to the controversial (amongst Metallica fans at least) … And Justice For All album, this is a concentrated look at their pre-Black album releases and importance in metal folklore. Whilst a Metallica book is hardly a new concept, there is surprisingly little print on the early days so there is definitely a space on the Metal bookshelf for such a collection.
Neil has a good way of remaining detached and unbiased when it comes to retelling the stories, especially with regards to the often vilified Dave Mustaine who gets treated with an even, if slight, hand throughout. It is also interesting to imagine a time when Hetfield was a shy, reluctant front man, ill at ease with the spot light, rather than the strutting rock God we are more accustomed to these days.
There is plenty of input from a range of shady characters who were there/part of the Metallica bandwagon. Be it key players from the NWOBHM bands that influenced a young Ulrich like Saxon’s Biff Byford or Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler through to journalists from the day such as Metal Force’s Bernard Doe. These contributions all add colour and depth to the story and unearth plenty of anecdotes… none of which I am going to spoil; you’ll have to read the book.
It also serves as a timely reminder of just how hard Metallica worked for their success, it is easy to be snide about them these days but young bands could learn a lesson or two from Lars’ unparalleled dedication to music. Lest we forget he travelled half way around the world just to see the bands he loved live, most people I know won’t travel between Southampton and Portsmouth for a gig.
If I were to take issue with any part of the book, and let’s face it, you know I will, it has to be the discography section. Appealing to the barely contained geek in me, the discography section always gets my attention; however I beg to differ with the one provided.
Whilst it is only a cursory glance at the singles from the time, I would question why only the USA releases were given and I am pretty sure that Battery, Master Of Puppets and several others were never released as singles. Perhaps as some kind of college radio track but certainly never an official release, I could go into great details about the promo and commercial issues from these albums but fear I would bore more than normal, so just take my word for it.
Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal offers a fantastic overview of the period before the Black Album, it clearly defines Metallica’s importance in the scene they helped create and pay homage to those that made it possible. Some interesting contributions from a range of their peers adds some colour and the archive quotes from the band are insightful and show the progression the band made from wannabes to world beaters.
An overview of the American thrash scene at the end is a nice footnote and a reminder that Metallica may have been torchbearers, but they were not alone in shaping the sound of the genre.
Once again Neil Daniels has put together an entertaining and informative collection, full of facts but suitably breezy so as not to overwhelm. Whatever your interest is in Metallica, this is sure to make you think again… even about And Justice For All. Well, maybe I won’t go that far.
To find out more about Neil Daniels and his other works, click HERE.
You can order your copy of the Metallica book HERE.
Having achieved the almost herculean feat of bouncing back from the critical and commercial mauling St. Anger received with 2008s flawed but infinitely better Death Magnetic, the Metallica ship seemed to be steadying. However, no sooner were they handed back the gun, they proceed to start shooting at their feet again and collaborate on a concept album with Lou Reed. Cue yet more critical and commercial savaging and it seems Metallica have lost at least a little of the ‘cred’ they were rebuilding. Was Lulu that bad? Having not heard it myself my image of Metallica remains somewhat less tarnished than others.
Beyond Magnetic is a four track EP comprised of cutting room floor tunes left over from the original Death Magnetic sessions, no doubt issued as a reminder that things were getting better.
This is solid if not spectacular stuff, the big riffs and the groove is back but the tracks do suffer slightly from the spectre of their big brothers from the actual Death Magnetic album. Shades of The Day That Never Comes and Cyanide can be heard in the bridges and breakdowns and the songs do occasionally feel like early versions of other tunes.
Having said all that though, Hate Train is propelled by a classic Metallica riff that has just a tinge of ‘Search And Destroy’ about it and allows Kirk to throw in a little solo within the first 60 seconds.
Just A Bullet Away seems to come to a natural end on four minutes before being rudely and pointlessly kicked into life again for another three minutes, it would work better as the shorter version and the temptation to skip at the break becomes harder to resist with each listen.
Hell And Back and Rebel Of Babylon are not quite good enough to be on Death Magnetic but too good to throw away and pack plenty of riff laden appeal. What this EP does show however is that the writing juices were flowing for the DM sessions, these tracks are certainly better than just B-sides and this surely bodes well for the next proper Metallica studio set.
At their best Metallica can still knock out tunes with ease and whilst Death Magnetic may not be vintage Metallica it is certainly the best they have been for a decade and Beyond Magnetic is a worthy accompaniment to it. If you liked Death Magnetic buy this and enjoy, if you didn’t, then it is probably already too late now to win you back and you can take away one ‘Tape’ from my rating.
For all your Metallica needs, visit their official site HERE.
Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler discusses the ‘Lightning To The Nations’ deluxe reissue
There really should be a musical equivalent of ‘Behind every great man, there is a great woman’ as for every globe conquering band there is usually a number of lesser known bands that have provided them with inspiration. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, NWOBHM as it is commonly known is a real case in point, aside from the obvious break out act in Iron Maiden, few movements have had such a far reaching influence whilst never really spawning a success story of its own. And yet without the NWOBHM acts, many of the biggest names in Metal would have struggled to define their sound. Many of the biggest thrash metal acts spawned in the 1980s owe much to the NWOBHM pioneers, especially Megadeth and Metallica. Which leads us to Diamond Head. Their highly regarded and massively influential debut album ‘Lightning To The Nations’ (or ‘The White Album’ as it is commonly known) had a truly independent release back in 1980, in fact as we will discuss later, it didn’t even have a front cover, yet it fuelled the teenage imaginations of the likes of Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine, profoundly it would turn out. I caught up with guitarist, founding member and without seeming too sycophantic, thoroughly decent chap, Brian Tatler to get the inside scoop on the upcoming reissue of this iconic album.
The spectre of Metallica does indeed hoover over proceedings, in fact I actually saw Diamond Head live back in 1993 at the Milton Keynes Bowl…. Supporting Metallica (and Megadeth as is goes). I confess this to Brian and admit that ‘Am I Evil?’ (care of Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’ EP) was all I knew, but rather than finding this grating he is quite upbeat about it, ‘It is a good thing people find their way to Diamond Head through Metallica’ he exclaims, ‘They have almost made it (Am I Evil?) their own, they have played it so many times and it’s been on so many different releases its almost like one of their songs. I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of Metallica fans presume it’s a Metallica song!’
But I wondered whether this seemed strange to him, a Diamond Head song, loved by millions but more readily associated with another band. ‘I’m proud of it, it’s never weird, I just think great!’ he enthuses ‘I’m glad the crowd like it! I tried to write a song that would survive years of being played live, It (now) takes on a life of its own and it travels round the world. It’s become a monster and done us proud’.
So this actually leads us nicely onto the main focus of this chat, the release of the Deluxe Edition of ‘The White Album/Lightning For The Nations’, remastered, repackaged and containing a bonus disc of non-album singles from the same period. Brian oversaw the project so I was keen to know what emotions he felt whilst revisiting his debut work, was he proud of it or were there elements he wished he could have redone?
‘It is what it is’ he states matter of factly ‘We were 19 years old, we didn’t know anything, well we knew hardly anything. It was all new to us; hearing double tracked guitars (for the first time) was amazing or hearing reverb on your vocals. Just going into a 24 track studio was exciting when you were a kid!’.
It will be hard for a lot of bands to understand how different the music world was back in the 70s/80s, now you can record your music from the comfort of your own home, upload it and you’re away. Once upon a time it took a whole lot more effort, releasing a record was a huge step for a band and many would never raise the cash to realise their dream. Despite its now legendary status in the annals of rock history, ‘Lightning To The Nations’ hardly benefited from a high profile on release. The fact the album is commonly known as ‘The White Album’ is due to the complete lack of artwork on those initial pressings rather than a conscious publicity move by the band. Brian explained how this all came about:
‘We used a studio in Worcester that had a label called Happy Face’ he muses ‘and the guy must have said to put out a 1,000 copies on Happy Face. It didn’t say it (Happy Face) on the initial copies, it had no information what so ever, not even on the centre…. didn’t even say copyright protection!’
‘It didn’t say Diamond Head didn’t say the names of the songs, no picture, it was a white cardboard sleeve. People must have thought who is this band? What do they look like? It added an extra air of mystery to the whole thing’, however when asked if this was a deliberate marketing ploy Brian laughs, ‘(it was) completely unplanned, probably a financial consideration. It was almost like a demo thing. We thought when we get a record deal, then we can do a bells and whistle thing with a cover. It was a way to get money back, we wanted to keep touring so by selling 1,000 copies at £3.50 each we did that. We then did another 1,000 copies, this time they had a printed label’.
As you can imagine, these original pressings are highly sought after, I am an avid record collector and I have never seen the completely plain issue in the flesh. This gets me wondering whether Brian has kept a stash under his bed, ready for eBay and early retirement…. ‘I’ve got one with no writing on’ he confesses, ‘but I’ve only got two copies! I am sure there are other people in the band that don’t have any! I tried to keep copies of everything but there are certain things I missed over the years, the odd video. I wish we’d kept videos. Like Reading, there were cameras there but no one recorded Diamond Head! Of the original line up, there is only one video. No one had camcorders (in those days)and we never made a professional concert film or anything’.
Moving onto to talk about the repackaged debut further, one of the most notable things is that the aforementioned white cover of old has now been replaced with a far more fitting piece of heavy metal artwork. Was this a realisation of a 30 year old dream or a last minute idea?
‘For years it has just been the white cardboard sleeve with a signature on. Our manager said we have to sell these at gigs and mail order so why don’t you each sign 250 copies each. So up until now all the issues of the album have had the white cover or one with the signatures on, so I thought this time why don’t we have a bit more artwork. I spoke to my brother, he’s six years older than me and always been very encouraging and enthusiastic about Diamond Head. He said I know what you should have and sketched out a little drawing there and then. I sent it off to the artwork guy who did the cover and he said that’s great, I can do something with that and a couple of days later he sent me that (the final cover design). I thought great, he liked my brother’s idea!’
The question therefore had to be, does Brian now prefer the album now it has a proper identity? ‘It is about time it had a proper cover on. I think it is the kind of cover that it should have had. The album was always ‘Lightning To The Nations’ it was never the white album. I’m chuffed with the look of the thing’.
Despite Diamond Head proving such an inspiration to the up and coming thrash metal of the early 80s, the band found themselves starting to move in a far move AOR direction, striving for a more commercial sound. Due to the changing music scene, 1984 saw the band dropped from the MCA label and ultimately disbanding in 1985. The rest of the 80s would then witness those thrash metal acts slowly moving from niche to, well, arguably the biggest metal acts in the world, certainly in the case of Metallica. But how did Brian feel seeing his band crumble, only for those following in his footsteps to garner worldwide acclaim.
‘It was difficult to see Diamond Head fall apart, no label, no money coming in, players disappeared but it took to 1985 for it to finish. I always think with Metallica…’ Brian pauses as he thinks about it for a few seconds ‘I knew Lars from 1981 and I didn’t take a lot of notice of Metallica, Lars was just a friend who had been to see the band and we kept in touch with letters. I think he sent a demo over to Sean’s house (Sean Harris, Diamond Head vocalist) and they had covered ‘It’s Electric’ and we thought, oh that’s nice, but didn’t think a lot of it. Then in 84 they recorded the Creeping Death EP with Am I Evil? on the B-side but it was on the Music For Nations label, which was an indie label and we had just been dropped by MCA (an major label). So even though I was flattered they had covered Am I Evil? I still didn’t think they were going to be the biggest rock band of all time! You see so many failures in this game, it is very rare for me to observe a group go from A to B and sell millions of records, it hadn’t happen before but I witnessed it happen with Metallica! So back in 84 when I got this EP through the post on an indie label, I still didn’t think this would be huge. It didn’t seem like they had stolen our thunder, that they took our ideas, because they sounded heavier, faster, more aggressive. Whilst what we did in 1980 was influential to them, by 84 Diamond Head was making softer, almost commercial material. So it never felt like a slap, or I wish we stuck to our guns type of thing, we had already moved on from that style’. Pausing briefly, rather ruefully he adds ‘Possibly wrongly, possibly prematurely’.
Sensing the mixed emotions Brian clearly has about the progression of the band’s sound and their rather untimely demise, I wondered whether it was a record company choice to push their sound to a more AOR tone or was it the bands choice to switch genres.
‘Myself and Sean were writing the songs, I’ve scratched my head about it a few times but I just wonder whether, because no one wanted to sign us in the early days, I think we kept searching for a successful style or formula’.
It does now seem ironic that the very sound they were striving for, arguably, they had attained on the debut record ‘That first album was actually it and we didn’t realise it and the record company didn’t realise it either. In the same way Iron Maiden did on their first album, but they were on EMI and had great management and big tours. They managed to climb up the ladder pretty quickly but we couldn’t even get a record deal and even though we had written a great debut we didn’t realise it, nor did many others. A few journalists saw the potential and thought we could go all the way but then we changed styles and never really found it’
Having recently written his autobiography ‘Am I Evil?’ (what else could it be called) and with the reissue of ‘Lightning To The Nations’ it seemed that these early choices to chase commercial success, coupled with some bad management and an unsuitable record label (MCA really wasn’t a ‘metal’ label) must have been playing on his mind even more than normal.
‘Looking back that’s how its panned out, if we had been signed quicker we may have established a market quicker, not tried to keep experimenting trying to find something people liked’.
However, in truth, even though the band broke up in 1985, the name checking from the likes of Metallica and Megadeth kept interest in Diamond Head alive and since 2000 the band (in one guise or another ) have been recording and touring extensively. So was this like a ‘second chance’ to put things right?
‘It has in some ways, but the focus seems to be on that debut. It seems to be what people want to hear. We add some new songs but the core of it is ‘Lightning’. That’s the way it is, people like it and I’m more than happy to play it’.
Without wanting it to seem like I was obsessed with talking about Metallica, the recent Lou Reed/Metallica mash up did rather beg the question, did Brian harbour any unusual yearnings to record with a slightly leftfield collaborator.
‘I’ve never thought of that question. I mean as Metallica are so successful I thought it would be nice to write with them. Or Megadeth, because Dave Mustaine is a fan of the band. That nearly happened in 2000. Mustaine asked about doing an album together. After the MD 45 album, he was going to do another one with me. But due to the problem with his arm he never did (Mustaine suffered Radial Neuropathy in 2002). I thought that would be a good opportunity but it was just not meant to be. I can’t think of anyone else though’.
So what of the future?
‘This year we got to go to Canada for the first time. Places in America we had never been to like Vegas and Seattle and San Francisco, Arizona and it was great. I fancy some more of that, South America or Australia. We have been to Japan, that had always been a goal. I have ticked off some of the boxes but we’ll see what happens next year. We have been offered some festivals so we will just have to see’.
Considering all of this Brian concludes ‘It has been a good year for Diamond Head, much better than 2009 and 2010. We are on the radar!’
As told to Jules.
For more information on all things Diamond Head, visit their official website HERE.
The Deluxe Edition 2CD of Lightning To The Nations is out now.
Having recently reviewed the Rock Landmarks book on Judas Priest’s British Steel written by rock journalist Neil Daniels (which I rather enjoyed), I felt I needed to know more about Neil and his work. Taking some time out from working on upcoming projects on Metallica and Iron Maiden, Neil took the TAPEtoTAPE Q&A and tells all about life as a Rock scribe….
Well, I first started writing about music after I left Uni back in 2003. I started writing for websites like musicOMH and other lesser known sites and then I moved onto fanzines like Fireworks and Powerplay. I’ve contributed to Record Collector, Big Cheese and Rock Sound over here in the UK. I write mostly for Fireworks these days though. They’re great to write for and very lenient with the word count. It’s becoming a joke now in some magazines. I mean, how can you possibly say what you think about an album in 100 words? There’s hardly much point in listening to the whole album. It’s the same with music books. I read 100 word reviews of my books and wonder if the reviewers have actually read it or just skimmed through and looked at the pictures!
I then had an idea for a book which became Defenders Of The Faith: The Story Of Judas Priest and from there the books have rolled on, thankfully. The Priest one was fortuitous timing because of the reunion and the new album Angel Of Retribution. Since then of course there have been more books on them (some very good ones!) as well as my second book on the band Dawn Of The Metal Gods, written with ex-singer Al Atkins and now my third one: Rock Landmarks – Judas Priest’s British Steel. Other books include, Journey, Bon Jovi, Linkin Park and four anthologies.
I like blues music too so bands like Sabbath, Zeppelin, Cream, AC/DC and early Stones are favourite bands of mine. But then I like AOR bands like Journey and Foreigner and classic British bands like Motorhead and Saxon. Basically, I like strong melodies, powerful vocals and a terrific riff.
I like mostly rock and metal but don’t forget that those genres are very broad. Even Britney Spears has called her self a rock star. I like blues players like Robert Johnson and less heavy rockers like Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton.
Does your music writing mask a failed musical career yourself?
Ha, no, not really. I took guitar lessons as a kid but was never very good and never really wanted to pursuer it anyway.
Musicians and the press often have a love/hate relationship, have you had any difficult encounters when you have been writing/researching for your pieces?
Fortunately I’ve never had any difficulties with anyone I’ve interviewed. The difficulties, however, have come from management. I’m not going to name names buy they can be awfully difficult to deal with. Most of my interviews are done at home over the phone. The days of writers travelling the world with rock bands for access all areas type features are over as record companies don’t have the cash to fund it anymore. There are some cool tales in my books All Pens Blazing that might interest you.
Which other music journalists (past or present) do you admire?
That’s a good question and one that ties in with the publication of my books All Pens Blazing: A Rock & Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook Vols 1 and 2. The first vol was my first print on demand book – which seems to be the way to go for music/non-fic writers at the moment because of the recession – and is available from Amazon and Authorsonline.co.uk as well as other online book stores. OK, so now the book plugging is out of the way (ha!) I’ll directly answer your question: I like the ex-Kerrang! scribes like Derek Oliver, Paul Suter and Dave Reynolds. I’m not old enough to have read them back in the eighties but have discovered their writings through back issues. They were/are very, very passionate about music and have encyclopaedic knowledge of rock and metal. That kind of enthusiasm comes across better than a few well written sentences, if you know what I mean. Some writers try to be too clever and are more interested in themselves than the music, but with those guys you could tell it was the music that matters. They’re interviewed in All Pens Blazing along with fellow ex-Kerrang! scribes Neil Jeffries, Dante Bonutto, Dave Dickson, Malcolm Dome and Howard Johnson. There are 65 writers in total in vol 1 and about the same in the second one.
I also like Martin Popoff – as every other metal writer does – because he is also very passionate and knowledgeable and, with Martin, he intellectualises a style of music (classic rock/metal) that has been derided for years and that, I think, is very admirable. There should be more writers like him.
How long does it take to write a biography? Is the research the most time consuming part or is it putting the whole thing together that is the hardest?
It depends on the subject to be honest and what the publisher wants. I’ve written books in as little as 3 months but then I’ve written some in 10 months. All depends on the word count too and my own knowledge of the bands.
You co-authored Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal with original Judas Priest singer and co-founder Al Atkins, how did this come about?
Basically, I’d worked with Al a lot during the researching and writing on my Priest bio Defenders Of The Faith, which came out through Omnibus Press in 2007 and is now out in paperback (gotta get that sales pitch in, right?). He has loads of great stories about the band from the pre Halford years (1969-1973) and kept a few stories to himself for his own book. He’d already started work on his book but the word count was too low and he needed somebody to assist him to finish it off and make a coherent narrative. I had nothing else on the go and liked what he’d written so I thought, “Why the hell not?” Matthias Mader at Iron Pages in Berlin liked my Priest bio and was keen on the Atkins book so there was no problem getting a small book deal. Any book deal is better than none, right? I thought IP did a really good job on the production of Biff Byford’s autobiography so it was a no-brainer for us. Matthias is a really cool guy and has an immense knowledge of metal history so he was keen to work with us. He’s also very friendly and approachable. His reputation preceded him which is not what you’d say about a lot of publishers.
Nobody else was all that interested because I had a book out on the band as did Martin Popoff and Matthias himself had published a German bio so the book market was already saturated with Priest tomes after years and years of starvation. The Atkins book came from a different angle in that it’s the autobiography of a former member, plus Al had been in bands before and after Priest and had released a handful of solo albums. He’s a down to earth bloke with some really cool stories and the picture sections in the book speak for themselves. Sales haven’t been that great which is a shame because Priest fans and metal archivists, if they gave the book some time, would enjoy the pictures and anecdotes. It’s an historical document about metal history, at least that’s what I tell myself. Most of the reviews were positive. Naturally some criticised us for cashing in on Priest’s recent success, etc. and complained that we went off on tangents in the narrative but that’s Al’s style. He’s a humble working class guy and has only ever used the Priest name when record companies (on his solo albums) have required him to do so. You can read all about it on my website.
They’re the most diverse and influential metal band of all time! With this little book on British Steel I wanted to work with Jerry Bloom because I liked his Rock Landmarks book on Rainbow’s Long Live Rock N Roll and British Steel seemed like a no-brainer.
What effect do you think KK Downing’s departure from Judas Priest will have on the band?
In the long run, possibly more than Halford’s departure because he was bound to come back after he tried his hand at a solo career but with Downing, I don’t think he’ll come back now. I saw them on their recent UK tour and though they were much better than the previous road jaunt but they still looked fatigued.
In an increasingly digital world, do you see a time when physical books will be completely replaced by a virtual format?
At some point, yes, but not during my lifetime. We will live in a Star Trek world where everything is digitised. Personally, I like books.
I believe you have an Illustrated History Of Iron Maiden coming out next year. This must be an expansive project given the amount of merchandising/touring they have done. Will you be concentrating on any specific Countries/time periods?
It will be a massive coffee table book with a potted histories, extensive reviews of every album plus pocket boxes of information on merchandising, their success abroad, etc etc. The graphics will be pretty cool too. You can check out the cover at Amazon.
Which is your favourite period in Maiden’s history? What do you feel Di’Anno and Blaze brought to the sound?
Certainly the 1980s with Dickinson. I’d much rather listen to the Di’Anno albums than the Bayley ones. The Di’Anno era was certainly more punk than metal so when Dickinson came into the fold, they become a fully-fledged metal band.
What can you tell us about the new Metallica book you are working on? You say it focuses on the early years, which period exactly are you looking at?
It’s’ be out in early 2012 by IMP Books and will focus specifically on the first four albums before the drastic change in sound with The Black Album. This was the period when Metallica were kings of the underground metal scene and recorded some of the most dangerous and aggressive metal of the eighties. Metallica fans will usually always refer to this period as the most creatively interesting era in the band’s history. Of course, it’s all changed since then. Look at what they’re doing now!
Have you heard the Metallica and Lou Reed album yet? What do you think, genius or ludicrous?
No, not yet. I’ve heard it’s dire though. There’s been massive backlash so it’s not a surprise that they recently announced they’re heading back into the studio with Rick Rubin for a new album.
What other artists would you like to do projects on?
There are lots of artists I’d love to write books on but they’re not necessarily ones that would be commercial books. It’s even harder now to get these types of books commissioned as sales are down massively. At present, I’ve got the Metallica and Iron Maiden ones out next year and I’ve just signed a contract for a bio of a major American metal band. I’ve also got a fictional rock memoir written which I’d like to release as a POD book next year.
You can find out more about Neil Daniels’ and his work by visiting his official website HERE.
You can also read the TAPEtoTAPE review of the Judas Priest Rock Landmarks book HERE.
It’s so clichéd it almost writes itself. My obsession with music began because of a girl. She was an older lady from the land of the ice and snow. Well, Middlesbrough but it may as well have been Scandinavia.
It was 1988. She was Michelle and 15. I was er, me and I was 8. Dad in a rare moment of coolness had borrowed the latest Bon Jovi album , New Jersey. I didn’t have a clue but Michelle wanted a copy. Being smitten and having recently discovered the merits of the wet t-shirt competition courtesy of the mechanic next door’s pervy calendars, I duly obliged. When I say I did the obliging, it was in actual fact “rarely cool Dad” that set up the compact disc to record to a C90. Dad did me proud that day and earned me unheard of kudos by my standards. I was, after all, still wearing a full football kit everyday. Yes, socks pulled up to the knees and shin pads.
Alas, due to our obligations to the law (both being underage) we decided it was best that nothing came of our (imaginary) relationship.
But from there rock n roll took over. My badminton racket became my Strat – Tennis rackets in reality fail to provide a lifelike guitar neck when compared to an old skool Yonex Voltric 80. My mirror was my audience and the neighbours the “man” that I was sticking two fingers up two. Albeit, when they weren’t looking.
I saw the Jovi for the first time years later in ’93 at Wembley arena, unknowingly the same concert that Matt talks about in “My first gig”* . Mum and Dad dutifully took me. During Bad Medicine, Mum did a dance that can only be described as a “bop” and my dad kind of “stood with rhythm” as Dads do.
The years have past since then and my tastes have changed. I’ve got snobbier and left the Jovi behind for grunge, thrash, prog rock, prog metal, black metal, blues and any number of sub genres. There is a legacy though. Whenever Livin on a Prayer comes on in a club, invariably you’ll find a 6’5” wookie playing the air talk box (details matter people) and attempting that impossible key change after the solo.
But I’m no less in love with music than when I first fell for her. Music marks the great and the odd in my collection of memories. For instance; leaving Princess Anne’s for the first time following my little girl being born, I had to make sure the right song was cued up for her to hear. It was massively important that she didn’t hear any old tripe like Shayne Ward’s god awful “If that’s ok”. After a falling out with the car seat, I was set. When newborn and mother were safely secured, ignition went on and Led Zep’s Immigrant Song sent us on our way. If I’m listening to Metallica’s Sad But True, I’m 18 again and playing along, smacking the bejesus out of mate Mart’s beat up white Fiesta taking us to the Cuckoo Pint in Stubbington or the long gone Swordfish at Hill Head.
As for the odd, well when I hear Tremor Christ by Pearl Jam I’m immediately taken back to my bedroom as a teenager where I was reading Rambo: 1st Blood when the Spin the Black Circle single came out with Tremor Christ on the B side. Random.
Summing up music’s spell, I finished writing this earlier as I’m out for a family meal. I’m trying to get the girls ready (a task akin to herding cats). Absentmindedly I shout “HEY HO” and get a 3 year old punk reply “LET’S GO”.
Gracie Ramone, I like that. Is it too late to change her name?
*[edit- The Jovi gig was same, but different. You were Friday I were Sunday, you missed Ranvilles Ranger FC presentation and a chance to meet probly Darren Anderton or another Pompey great, I missed a (one of only 3) day of school . Matt]