How did you start writing about metal?
I was a teacher in my 20s but wanted to switch to writing for a living, so did some freelance stuff for various magazines until I got a job at Record Collector magazine in London in 1999. I started writing books more or less as soon as I got there. The first one came out in 2000 and then in 2004 I had a bestseller with my Metallica book, which allowed me to quit a year later and work from home as a full-time author, which I’m glad to say I’m still doing eight years later.
What difference do you see in metal bands from the past and now?
I try not to let middle-aged nostalgia affect my view of modern metal, but it’s difficult because when I was a teenager, bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slayer were recording their best albums and I haven’t really heard anyone do better since then. That said, if I were 15 years old now I’m sure I’d be totally into the modern stuff. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Tell me who was your inspiration?
As a writer, I was inspired by the late Tom Hibbert of Q magazine, whose relentless attacks on his subjects blow my mind to this day, not least because his writing was so good-humoured and self-mocking. I never really warmed to writers who portrayed themselves as rock stars. That’s not our function.
Can you share some of the best and worst times which you have seen in your life?
I’ve lost family members and become a father. Those are the worst and best things that can happen to anybody. Life has generally been good, though. I’m lucky enough to have a great job that allows me to be in full control of my time, which in turn has enabled me to be available for my family.
Personally which band do you like the most?
I’m currently as fond of the same mixture of metal (the obvious thrash/death/black/heavy acts) and non-metal (Prince, Beatles, Tom Waits, Bach) as I ever was.
Can you tell us which is your best and worst interview that you did?
Worst: Jon Bon Jovi in 2000, who was bored and distant, but it was my fault really: I couldn’t think of anything interesting to ask him. Best? It was a life-changing experience to meet James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, Dimebag (just a couple of months before his death) and the guys out of Anthrax and Slayer. Dave Grohl was amazing, just recently. I remember John Williams, the classical guitarist, trying to speak down to my level. Lemmy of course, Bill Wyman, the godly Jack Bruce. Tom Jones, Mike Oldfield, Michael Nyman the composer, Clive James the thinker, John Simm the TV actor, Patrick Moore the astronomer, Katie Price the ditzy model. Having a curry with Rick Wakeman. Helping Bob Geldof write a letter to the Pope. Disagreeing with John Lydon. Having a laugh with Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, Bill, Ronnie. Talking death metal with Slipknot. Interviewing every metal band under the sun – Satanists, murderers and rapists among them – some of whom were great, some of whom made me feel disgusted. Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran phoning me up, and my wife answering the phone and being left speechless. Marc Almond talking about the road accident that nearly killed him. Gary Numan talking about the plane accident that nearly killed him. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden inviting me onto his BBC radio show and telling me “What an amazing career you’ve had” (!). Most of Deep Purple, many times. Alice Cooper – in shock, the week of 9/11. Mike Patton and Billy Gould of Faith No More, some of Green Day. Peter Gabriel meeting my daughter when she was a few months old. Queens Of The Stone Age, Machine Head. Ice-T telling me about life in the army. Stewart Copeland teaching me Italian swear words. Standing on stage at Ronnie Scott’s and pretending to be Miles Davis. Asking Liam Howlett of the Prodigy about Rage Against The Machine. Exchanging fanboy tales about Randy Rhoads and Deep Purple with Tom Morello. Telling Slash I’d heard him swear on kids’ TV and him being mortified. Thomas Fischer of Celtic Frost gleefully reading me a bad review I’d written of his recent album, and me being mortified. It goes on and on – I’ve been doing this for 16 years and have done about 1000 interviews. Most of all, the three autobiographies I’ve co-written – of Glenn Hughes, David Ellefson and Max Cavalera. I did between 30 and 60 hours of interviews with each guy, which gives you a viewpoint into their heads that no-one else gets – not their bandmates, wives or children. It’s quite a responsibility.
As doing interview from a year I know at starting phase everyone do mistake. Can you tell me what is the most stupid thing that you did?
Nothing terrible, just basic rookie errors like lack of preparation, lack of research and so on.
Nowadays what are you working for?
I’m the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine and I contribute to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Acoustic, Drummer, Record Collector and The Guardian. I also write two books a year on average and do the occasional sleevenote for record companies.
What are the achievement that came in your life after writing for metal?
Being a good dad comes first.
When you start writing what are things that come in your mind?
How to manage my time so the thing gets done on time.
What do you think metal band should be underground or come to mainstream?
Both are fine.
Anything that you have say to the reader and your fans out there?
Don’t worry, it’ll all be fine in the end. And thank you for the interview.