Intervju med Steffan Chirazi, chefredaktör för Metallicas tidning So What!
(Foto: Bea Chirazi)
För en vecka sedan ringde jag upp Steffan i San Francisco. Det hela började med att jag hittade honom på Facebook, skickade en förfrågan och så bestämde vi dag och tid.
Jag ringde hem till Steffan och hans fru svarade. Fick ett mobilnr, som sedan visade sig vara hans frus, vilket hon beklagade och gav mig sedan det riktiga numret. Efter lite ringande fram och tillbaka fick vi slutligen kontakt och intervjun kunde börja. En timme senare sa vi hej då och sällan har någon pratat så mycket som denne britt.
Det blev ett samtal om hans karriär, jobbet för Metallica, "Lulu" och en hel del annat. Kanske är intervjun i längsta laget, men jag orkar inte fixa till den.
How´s San Francisco today?
Steffan Chirazi: It´s beautiful! I moved just outside the city. I´m about 10 minutes outside the center of town. It´s kind of like a little enclave village almost. It´s a bit of a secret in the area and it´s in a valley and a pretty old school town. It´s the sort of town where you´d see a zombie invasion. (laughs) You know what I mean? It´s kind of small and sleepy and rural and with the locals and all that business, but there´s always the feeling that it could go horribly wrong. (laughs)
SC: It´s very good and it´s a great place. The weather is always nice here and I love the place. I´m waiting for my visa for India and that´s a bit weird. It´s taking them a while to get that stuff going, but we got a week and a half so I´m sure it will happen. It´s taken about three weeks to come through. Anyway? How are you? Are you in Gothenburg?
No, I´m in Stockholm! How´s the weather?
SC: Wow! Time for those wonderful blankets that you use for your knees outside the bars right?
True, it is! It´s getting cold and it just went from being pretty warm and then it just switched and it´s getting colder and colder every morning. Winter is just around the corner.
SC: You´re getting fog?
Yeah, that too!
SC: That´s fantastic! I´m a bit of a Goth at heart, you see, and I like all that. I like a bit of fog once in a while, to be honest. I like the seasons. Anyways?
I was wondering about your name, is Chirazi Italian or something?
SC: My father was a… he´s a British citizen now, but he´s Persian and born in Iran and Steffan, that´s what happens when a young Irish hippie and a young Persian hippie get together. They come up with names like Steffan with two F´s. Nothing glamorous about it. I´m born in Britain and actually probably disturbingly happy about that. (laughs)
Have you ever been to Iran?
SC: No! Actually, the closest I´m ever gonna get is going to Dubai right across the water. That´s probably the closest I´m ever gonna get at this point. It would be very nice to go over, but it would be foolish to do so with a child. You know, with a couple of kids at home you´ve got to be a little more responsible and less gung ho. There´s no doubt that things can go very weird. They really do seem to keep on shooting each other in the foot and there´s always something going on. This latest business is not very helpful and you can´t help but feel it´s über politically motivated, but let´s not go conspiratorial.
Sounds Magazine, was that your first real job as a journalist?
SC: Well yeah… I did some interning with a paper called Soundcheck before that, which is a free paper and run by a very good writer called Pete Markowski, whose name you might know from the old days.
Yes, he´s good friends with Ross Halfin!
SC: He is indeed! The first thing I ever published was in a school magazine and that was on Motörhead and I´d written to their management and they had put my letter to Lemmy and he basically said yes and “Invite this young man down to the studio and I´ll entertain him!” and he was great. Wonderful and very, very cool! That was for the “Another perfect day” record, so that was in 1982 and they released it in ´83. Even before Soundcheck I was interning at Sounds and Gary Bushell helped me get a piece published on Motörhead again in 1983, but that was strictly as an intern. The first paid gig I did was a review for Pete Markowski´s Soundcheck. It was five quid and my thoughts on a Manowar show and then from that, Sounds came back to me in 1984 because they needed a heavy metal correspondent and “Do you wanna be that person?” and I said “Sure!”. I was still in school, but it seemed like a really good thing to do and before you know it, I´m getting sent all over the place and it´s fun. Actually, go back to 1983 and the piece I did as an intern on Motörhead, as a consequence of that I went to a festival in Dublin where I saw Motörhead play with Black Sabbath with Ian Gillan, which wasn´t that great actually at the time, but now that you look back it was´t that bad I suppose, but it wasn´t Black Sabbath anyway. Being that I was a young man and I was there with my girlfriend, we obviously got violently drunk on the ferry coming back and half of the alcohol went down my trousers which wasn´t pleasant, but I do remember struggling back up the stairs at my parents flat and it was like nine or ten in the morning and there, sitting on the door step was a brown envelope the size of an album and it was the first free album I ever received. I opened it and it was “Kill ém all” and I was really excited about it because I had actually at the end of 1982 gotten hold of the demo, “No life till leather” and that was through our little tape trading network and I was like “Wow, cool! Here´s the album from that tape!”. I was very excited, so then when I got into Sounds and they asked me “Ok, here you are and we´re taking you on as a freelancer. What do you wanna do?” and I said “I wanna do something on Metallica!” and they were just coming out with “Ride the lightning”, so the first official paid piece I did for Sounds, was a review of “Ride the lightning” and my first feature for Sounds was on the guys in Paris which was also coincidentally the first time I ever went on an airplane. Quite a few firsts!
After that, you worked for Kerrang and Rip and other magazines, I guess there was a greater access when it comes to doing interviews with bands and meeting bands, than it is today?
SC: Well, number one, when I got the executive position when I was 18, I was gonna move to America. I was getting trips back and forth and I just started my A-levels at that time and I realized that I was gonna get shot down if I stayed in Britain. If I stayed in Britain I would get shot down. There´s a little bit of a weird culture of jealousy and something and I got a lot of that as a kid. Instead of “Great, you´re 15, 16 and doing it!”… some people were amazing, like Sandy Robinson, Robbie Miller, they were really cool! Malcolm Dome was great and Dave Ling! These guys are awesome! They were really nice and I love seeing them and hanging out with them. Phil Alexander! All those guys are great, but then there was this whole other click that I felt really wanted to… one was Tony Stewart, who took over at Sounds. He was pretty oppressive to me and would say things to me like “I need you to go do an interview with KISS!” and I said “Ok, what are you looking for?” and he´d go “I don´t know Chirazi, but it better be the right thing otherwise we might have to say goodbye.”. I said “Well, can you tell me what you need?” and he just said “You´re the writer, you figure that one out!”, so that´s basically a set up and a fuck you. I mean, it was fine and I hung in there, but I then suggested on doing a cover story on Metallica to introduce the “Master of puppets” album. I said “This band is huge and you´re gonna miss it!” and he looked at me and he said “Steff, Steff, Steff, you´ve got it all wrong! You need to grow up and you need to understand that it´s bands like “Hüsker Dü that are where the future is and Metallica is just a bunch of grumpy heavy metal people!” and I always found that really amusing. That was the time I realized that I had to move, so Gary Bushell who had just gone to The Sun, he was a week into his job and he really didn´t have to entertain you at all, but instead he said to me “Meet me at noon outside Charing Cross McDonalds and I will give you a letter that will give you a visa to work in America!” and basically sponsored me, so I moved. I saw America as a huge opportunity because you could get better access. Nobody else was really doing it other than Mary Anne Hobbs. She´d been the first person of my generation to do it and there was only one other writer that I knew of who had successfully moved from Britain and made a great career out of it and that was Sylvie Simmons. Another really tremendous supporter and all round great, great lady. Really, really cool! So yeah, it was much easier then. People gave you access, but you also had to hold your own in terms of, that you had to be careful… I made a pact with myself very early on, that I would not report scurrilous bullshit. If I saw people getting fucked up and whatever, that was not gonna be the beginning of the end of my report. As a fan it´s ok to read about that stuff, but I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who the people were, so I always tried to do that. Slowly you get the reputation of someone who… Well, he can ask difficult questions, but he´s honest and he won´t stitch you up.”. That certainly helped, so suddenly I found myself in this position. Before I moved, I didn´t know how it was gonna work with Sounds because Tone was pissed off with me. I was actually praying there would be an editorial change, but it all got accelerated when Tony Stewart decided two weeks before I moved, “You know, I can´t have you here anymore!” and I said “Ok!” and he said “No, you´ve got to go now!”. I said “Pardon?” and Tony said “Get your things and I want you to leave the building!”, I said “You´re joking?”, but “No, out!”. So he ordered me out of the building and had a security guy come and walk me out. I walked out and they basically made sure I left the building and it was quite humiliating because their offices was right at the back, the back in this long building at Mornington Crescent and the only other offices that were further that theirs was Kerrang´s office. As I hit the lobby, Geoff Barton´s walking in and he goes “Hello Steff, what´s going on?” and I said “Tony Stewart´s having me marched out of the building.” And he said “What? That´s absurd! How ridiculous! You´re joking?” and I said “No!”. He said “You wanna write for Kerrang?”, “Alright!”, I said so we walk passed the security guy and Geoff goes “It´s alright chap, he´s with me!” and then Geoff walks me right passed Tony Stewart, who´s standing with an open mouth and “It´s ok, Steff is with Kerrang now!”. (laughs) You can put Geoff Barton very close to the top of the list of people who have always been super cool! One of the great things with Geoff I must say, as an editor he encouraged and subsequently tolerated some of my quite ludicrous alliteration and phrases, but he enjoyed the enthusiasm in me and he was very encouraging and it was like “Wow, this is really fucking fun!” and he really trusted me, so Geoff Barton, take a bow always! To this day and I don´t do much freelancing anymore, but if he calls me and says “We´d really like you to do something, can you do it?” even if Classic Rock doesn´t pay particularly well, it´s alright, but if he needs help, I´m happy to do it. He´s a top man! I think somewhere in there you got an answer. (laughs)
Sure, cool story! Eventually all this leads up to you becoming the chief editor for So What magazine. What was it that made the Metallica organization pick you? I guess there were others they approached?
SC: No, not at all actually, that was not the case. Let´s go back to 1986 or so. I moved here and Cliff introduced me to a lot of people when I moved here and was super cool. We used to hang out in the city and he introduced me to people and then he passed and I started hanging out a lot with Lars and I started doing a lot of freelance stories on them for Kerrang and actually ended up syndicating… these were the days in the 80´s when one story could go to 10 different places in various forms. The internet wasn´t around so… but one of the things I always made very sure I did was that, despite our friendship, I would always separate that, which is difficult to do and you need two to tango. They were totally onboard with it and I would make it my job to ask more difficult questions and perhaps try to get into things other people wouldn´t, in terms of the way they wrote and who they were and so on. I remember on the Guns N´Roses tour, Lars and I did a huge thing for Kerrang on that tour and we got into it over the white leather jacket he was wearing and I asked him “Come on, you only got that because… why can´t you say you worship the guy (Axl Rose, Editor´s note) and fucking get it over with? Why do you worship him? What is that about? Isn´t he a bit of a tit?” and Lars was like “Well, you don´t understand!”. “Well, make me understand!”, so there was a lot of that sort of stuff and we enjoyed it and he was very honest and I never fucked them like I never fucked anyone! I did think that I really tried to give the kids and inside curve on who they were. The magazine (So What, editor´s note) was initially started in ´93, Tony Smith, god bless him and another man that I would have to say deserves a gold medal of thank you very much from me, Tony was running the magazine and the fan club and he knew what I did and he knew I could do it, so I ended up doing the majority of editorial even while he was there, as a freelance writer. It was interesting. I was doing a lot of work there and then they wanted to move the fan club from Knoxville in 1999 and Tony was the one who turned around to them and said “Why don´t you just hire Steffan full time as your magazine editor?” and Lars and James said “Yeah, that´s a great idea!”, so they asked me and I was like “Yeah, it would be fantastic, but one thing I can´t do is please don´t ask me to come into an office!” and they were like “Well no, just do this magazine four times a year!” and I was like “Ok, I have an idea of what I´d like it to look like and be and I don´t think that´s gonna be cheap.” and they´re like “This is not about the price! We want to give the fans something that is really high quality.”. They allowed me to bring in the designer that I´ve worked with to this day and we changed the paper stuff and we did a few things where I thought they would go “Hey, hang on buddy, you´re going to far!”, but they were really into it and thus it began. I felt when I came in, that as fun as it was to have loads and loads of my sort of sarcastic essays, I really felt that if you´re a fan you want to know who these people are and I didn´t think there was enough of that, I really didn´t. I thought we gotta aim for two things! Number one, really bring people into their world at the time we´re talking to them and obviously that changes per year, but really give people an insight to what is happening and who they are. Number two, really try and produce and get top quality photography. Make an effort, like make people feel they really get piece in their hands every time it comes through the door. Those were my aims initially.
But since “Some kind of monster" and these magazines and the So What book, do you think there´s a risk for the band being to accessible for their fans and too private with their fans?
SC: I suppose it´s a good question! It´s a good question in term of… well first of all, let me categorically say, no I don´t think so! But that´s because my nature is to be curious, so I want to know and I like to know what makes people tick and I always think that if you´re fan you have a choice. You can either look for that information or you can choose to put it on the back burner and dip into when you want to. If you don´t have access to it, you don´t know who people are. If you don´t know who people are, especially artists, you may miss some of the finer ingredients of their personality that make the work what it is. I think it´s very relevant and let´s fast forward to the “Lulu” project, which is causing great controversy, but the bottom line is, when you understand who these guys are and who they are now, I think hopefully, add a lot more to why this project has happened. If you just approach it from “Hang on, this is Metallica who did ‘Master of puppets’ and ‘St anger’ and ‘Death magnetic’!” and that´s not good enough. You´re not giving yourself a fair shot of understanding where their appetite and hunger for a project like this, comes from. The other thing is I have to tell you, you look at society and society itself is so utterly invasive, so if we didn´t do it in and in a tasteful fashion… if you didn´t have “Some kind of monster” and sometimes the revelations in So What or whatever, if you didn´t have Jeff doing the wonderful work he does on the web with the video stuff, someone else would do it and if they´re doing it, you know, what are they saying, what are they putting out? At the end of the day mate, all the material that comes out is subjective to a degree and the one thing you can guarantee with Metallica is, that it is the least subjective material you´re gonna see. They are the least afraid of showing their warts and all, but they will show the end all as well as the warts. They´ll show you the full spectrum whereas I think sometimes, especially in this sound bite world, some people only want to show a tiny portion of the spectrum and it´s usually the dirtiest bits they can find and that´s no good, because that doesn´t tell anyone anything. I actually think it´s very important to make yourself accessible, I really do. The other answer to that would be, I think that when you´re as large a band as they are, in terms of volume of their success and so on, you leave yourself open to people saying “Well, they´re aloof now!” and I also think it´s equally important to remind your fans and everyone that “Hey, we´re human beings just like you are!”. Another thing, we´re talking about a time when a new album came out, but you´d go and sit at your mates house and you´d sit and listen to it and talk about it afterwards. I mean, does that happen anymore, amongst people other than fanatics? People don´t take the time! Generally speaking it´s a bit sad, but it´s a new era in that sense, a new world… which one of the things and I´m gonna go back to “Lulu” here, but one of the things I fucking love about the “Lulu” project is that it demands that you listen to it from start to finish. Anyone judging that project on one song or a 30 second clip, no way! You´re missing the entire point! This is something to sit down and take in. If you still don´t like it, great, but it is a piece of work, not pieces and I wonder if we´re in a generation that can´t handle that? That´s my fear.
I work as a teacher and when you talk to kids today and when they´re 13, 14 or 15 and the stuff they listen to, they listen to one song and that´s pretty much about it! Then they switch and listen to another one. They never ever listen to an entire album! They´re not interested. It´s one song here and another on there and when they´re done with it, they throw it away and get the next new one.
SC: Which is so sad! You think about albums like, and I´ll give you three right of the top of my head: “Dark side of the moon”, “Sgt Pepper´s” and “The Wall”. These are records that really… when you listen to the first song you´re sucked in and if you´re not, I think there are certain parts of your brain´s development that´s being stumped by electronics or whatever and you´re missing the wonderful delicious journey. You really are and it´s sad. Now I sound like I´m 60. (laughs)
Again. I check around on all kinds of different discussion forums all over the place and you read about peoples thought on “Lulu” and for me, I don´t think it´s the greatest thing they´ve ever done. But I can see… it´s the same thing that Cliff Burnstein said in the movie, “They´re famous rock stars and they´ve got gazillions of dollars in the band and they need something to get them out of bed every day!” and I guess this is a thing they need to do to stay excited. They could probably do another “Master of puppets” I guess, but they need to keep it more exciting and to be adventurous in a way when it comes to music. A lot of people don´t like what they´re doing right now, but I can understand why they´re doing it.
SC: Go back to what we previously talked about! First of all, a lot of people don´t know what they´re doing and they know one song and this is another problem that I think we have. It´s both a collective responsibility and a collectively sad thing that we are all conditioned… and I´m not different, I sometimes have to sit back and go “Oohhh!”. We react and the internet allows you to react immediately to thousands of people, so you kind of just blurt things out sometimes and it´s a shame and it can be quite destructive, but it is of course also based on what you expect and one of the things that is the most obvious element of Metallica´s career and yet the most secret in a way it seems to many people, is that they do things for themselves when it comes to the creation of music. They do not do what people necessarily think or want them to do. One of the things I always say is that they refuse selling out! They did the “Load” record, there was some makeup, they cut their hair, had weird clothes and all that, but that sell out is by what definition, I wonder? Actually, for Metallica to have sold out at that time, they would´ve made “The black album” 2. That would´ve been selling out! That would´ve been the easy way out. Look at it at the context of history, they did possibly the single most perversely 180 degree opposite thing they could ever had done, which by anyone´s definition is not selling out! Again with “Lulu”, I haven´t done any interviews yet with anyone about it and I won´t be probably until November, but what I did do was that I had access to them recording, so I was actually in the studio and that is the nature of the report that is coming out in the next So What that we´re putting the finishing touches on. You´ll see a lot of elaborations on what I saw and what I personally observed and again, all I can say is that I´m so delighted that these guys follow their hearts and do what is artistically exciting to them and challenging to them. I don´t want to get into too much more. My full perspective will come in the magazine. I think and I hope, that it will explain a lot of stuff. I´ve listened to it a fair few times and there´s gonna be some stuff on there that really fucking blows people’s minds! There is beautiful stuff, but there is absolute is excessively aggressive stuff on that record as well. These guys will fuck you up! They will! There is stuff on that record which is gonna… but it´s a journey and it must be taken as such. An artist that I like a lot is David Bowie and you can´t love everything that your favorite artist do, but you need to respect it in the context of their volume of work. Not everything Pink Floyd touched was brilliant and with Rush you can possibly say the same, but by god, when they were good they were fucking great! It´s an art and that´s the journey of an artist, like our journey, right? We´ll see. Again, let´s look at “St Anger”, at the time I thought it was the perfect record for where they were at. It may not have been the perfect record for what people wanted, but for where that band was at and what they´ve been through, it was about as raw and just fucking abrasive as it can get. I remember thinking “This is great! It´s exhausting to listen to and it´s an exhausting 73 minutes!”. It´s really fatiguing which Mike Gillis, the band´s longtime studio engineer explained to me, a lot of that was to do with the levels at which it was recorded and they actually fatigue you. These are seven minute songs and I always felt this would be the blueprint for future stuff and if you look at “Death magnetic” and look at the format of the songs, you´re really looking at possibly “St Anger” part 2 or definitely related. You can see that they´re siblings. You can see that they´re related. I don´t know if they´re cousins or direct brothers, I´m not sure, but there is a direct relation. You´ve got two albums with long songs, lots of parts, lots of changes and very intense. I think that once people get over the “snare sound” on “St Anger” and stop snickering around about little things… take it as a body of work and listen to it now and tell me what you think? Give it another five years and it will be considered a classic! It will, it´s the truth and I firmly believe that!
I just read the book “This monster lives” by Joe Berlinger. Then I watched the movie again and read your “So What” book and finally I listened to “St Anger” from start to finish for the first time in a few years. I still find that album difficult, but it all made a lot more sense after reading those books and watching the movie again. It was quite interesting.
SC: Yeah! Some of the best riffs are hidden and possibly the only complain I can have, is that there was some riffs in the middle of those songs that could´ve been extracted and turned into fucking great songs by themselves. You know what? I´ll take that. If that´s a complaint, that there are too many good riffs in the middle of things here and there, hey, it´s better than listening to most of the garbage out there which doesn´t have a good riff anyway!
SC: And again, perspective is everything and I appreciate that when you´re a fan, you don´t know much of what is going on and suddenly this thing comes out, I can understand that you´re possibly expecting something different than what you get. That makes total sense to me! Obviously I had an inside view to everything of what was happening to the band, so I was able to perhaps again to relate to that journey more, but I really hope that the magazines at that time in some of the content helped. I tried really hard at that time to make sure people were tuned in to at least how everyone was feeling at that time. One of the things that I´m most proud of that we ever did with So What was… I had been talking to James and finally we started to discuss a couple of work things about a year or so later and I said to him “You know, it would be really great if you did something to just let the kids know you´re alright! I think people are concerned!” and he said “Let me think about it, that might be a good idea.”. it went a week or so and then he sent me this fantastic hand written note as we ran as a double page and that was actually the first thing he actually really said since he´d gone to rehab and it was really great that he trusted the magazine to be able to express what he wanted to express. I was really proud that we were able to tell how the guys… to tell the hardcore fans “Hey, this is straight from the man´s hands, what more do you want?”. It was really cool! I recently read back the cover story we did probably six months before that. We did a cover story with just Lars and Kirk and I read back and I was kind of alarmed to read the quote where they say “Well, we´re not too sure what´s gonna happen? We don´t know if there´s gonna be a band!”. Like “What?”. I read that back and I think at the time I said to them “Well, there´s nothing to worry about! It will happen!”. For a variety of reasons I didn´t think breaking up was ever a possibility. When someone can only express themselves with their work… if that´s their voice, unless you wanna be mute for the rest of your life, you might want to be quiet for a while but… I read back and it was kind of funny, you know. I remember doing that piece and it was not “Wow, this is kind of strange, it´s just the two of them!”. They were joking and saying “And then there were two!”. But looking as an overall chronology which I think So What is a living archive of, I look at that and I´m really proud. We managed to keep people informed at a time when there was uncertainty and a lot of silence.
These round table interviews you did with the band, it was interesting reading them now knowing what came later and you asked them some difficult questions and they were supposed to say things about each other, good things bad things and it was like the pre therapy sessions of what would become with Phil Towle. Great fun reading those!
SC: I think the first one we ever did was in Sausalito and it´s always weird to discover… I think we all think that bands talk to each other about everything like best friends do, but actually I came to learn, not just through the round table but through just life and living, that bands are very much like families in the sense that you don´t actually tell your family everything you´re doing. Sometimes your brothers or sisters are the last people to know about some peculiar feeling you might be having. That´s often the way it works and I think it was really, really fascinating to discover that with them and the tension with Jason. It was pretty interesting stuff! The second one we ever did he left early. “I gotta go!” and we were all like “What?”. Jason was always fantastic and really cool. I´m not questioning anyone´s reaction or anything, it is what it is. I think it was James who wrote that in the So What book that “These were the beginnings of therapy.”. It didn´t look like that when you were doing it, but nobody was doing that with bands. I don´t remember anyone getting bands together for round tables, then of course, now it seems that that´s a format that has become more and more people do it. It required a lot of balls, I think! I think there´s still things they don´t tell each other. I´ve been shot down on doing a few, well not shot down but it´s like “This isn´t the right time! Let´s do it in a few months.”. They might be in the middle of something or maybe they haven´t been together long enough. Generally speaking, they know that when the tape goes on, we run everything. That’s one thing I must make very clear, these guys don´t fuck with what´s written! Lars will make some suggestions and when he makes suggestions they are, number one, suggestions but they are 99 % of the time on the money. He is actually probably one of the best quote unquote editorial minds I´ve ever worked with. He´s excellent! He really gets it. Obviously he´s not short of a brain cell or two. He´s a smart man, but he´s also… people think he can be very dictatorial, but he´s absolutely not. He actually encourages you to be quite… I did a story following him around in Denmark a few years ago and he was fucking exasperating at one point, like you know, he was being a prick, but then you sat and you thought about it. Look at his life, it´s insane, so you came around somewhat, but he was quite happy to let the whole the whole article flow. He doesn´t mind, because as long as you justify what you say, he accepts it. He will make suggestions now and again like “You might wanna explain this more clearly!” or “This might not be the most necessary description and maybe you can make it a little plainer?”. He´s very good indeed.
Is he the most accessible of the guys?
SC: They´re all accessible! No one is more accessible than the other, no. Well, I can find Rob probably easier than anyone and I don´t know why that is actually, but Lars is great. I have no complaints. It´s a very weird bubble I float in. I just get in touch with directly and you see each other. James is wonderful and he´s always right on it. But the key there as well is that I don´t ask them questions every day. (laughs) They know that when I´m asking something, I need to know.
How many people are involved in making the magazine?
SC: Two! It´s me and mark Abrahamson. Well, I must admit that the person who runs the fan club, Vickie Strate, she´s very helpful with some preproofing stuff because I´m an awful proof reader! It´s a skill and I wouldn´t fix my own toilet either. At proofing she´s a skill. She´s very at good helping with that and she´ll chip in. I like to involve her in the process and she likes to be involved, but putting the magazine together is me and Mark all the way. The one thing that I think only I have a really good grip on is, you can plan four issues ahead but you have to be ready to flex and get something in it. I´s a very tough life to balance and one of the biggest problems/complaints/self complaints would be that we do not manage to… it´s not a clockwork thing where you´ll see every quarter. Sometimes that fourth issue doesn´t come out until January, but sometimes it has to be that way. The one thing I don´t ever wanna do and I fought it hard, is that I don´t want filler. If someone´s telling me I have to get the fourth issue out on schedule, because we have to get it out by December, I will not fulfill that by just throwing in a bunch of crap. There has to be something of value in there. I have to be able to stand behind the lead story in every issue.
How often are you in touch with the band? Is that on a weekly basis?
SC: Well, I speak to them a lot. I speak to whom I need to speak to and it´s definitely weekly I would think. I mean, sometimes it goes a couple of weeks where I don´t speak to people. Again, it´s a very strange and wonderful relationship because I always thought when people said “Oh, you´re a family man!”, that´s Hollywood stuff, but it is true! These people are my family or a part of my family and I´m a part of theirs. We´ve known each other for 28 years. I´ve known them since I was a teenager and since they were teenagers. I remember when they lived in shitty apartments in the East bay and they remember when I… you know what I mean? Everything has happened in a sense… I´ve been there to see most of it and nearly all of it and we developed friendships and trust and everything. They really are like family and with that comes the good and the bad. You grumble about each other sometimes and I´m sure they´ve grumbled about me. I talk too much and “Will you shut the fuck up?”, but I would be disappointed if that didn´t happen. I recognize who they are and I recognize that to a lot of people they´re on a pedestal, but I don´t see that and I can´t see that. I have to do my job. I did some photos recently from Yankee Stadium and put them up on the web and that´s the stuff. I wanna get stuff of them going in and out of the dressing room and stuff in the dressing room. Those are the moments and that´s what I think is the classic moments to capture. It may just look like a simple picture when James is holding his guitar up to the camera and smiling, but believe you me, there´s 28 years of trust gone into the fact. I don´t know! We speak when we need to speak and we´re in communication a lot.
It´s pretty cool that they have these relationships with two British guys, you and Ross Halfin?
SC: Yeah! Well, they like their English and one of the things that I think Tony Dicioccio said in this story… I always like to do one story involving the elements of the actual crew and in the middle of the last tour we did an interview with Alan Doyle who is their stage manager and Big Mick, who obviously speaks for himself and Tony who sets up the tours from the management perspective, but Tony said… he´s grounding is from working with people like Judas Priest and all these Birmingham road crews and those are the same people around Metallica and Big Mick is a Brummie and Any who was James guitar tech for years is from Sheffield and Justin is British and then Flemming, Danish, but drier than a car´s water piston. They grew up with all this sort of Eurocentrisms. Don´t worry, James still an American! (laughs) He has a fantastic sense of humor and I have to blame some of that on his immersion with the now British culture. Yeah, Europeans man! And Niclas (Swanlund) is Swedish.
Do you think the band will do any kind of theatrical show or anything with the “Lulu” album and Lou Reed?
SC: I honestly have no idea! They could do it, but I just don´t know! Right now, I have to tell you, it´s one of the weirdest times in their career in terms of… there´s a lot of stuff going on, but nobody is really too sure what, because it is changing from week to week. There´s a hive of activity going on and you can say “Well, this may happen in two months!” and then next week it´s completely cancelled, so I honestly can´t tell you what´s gonna happen. Who knows? I´m guessing like all of you. They love the record and the lyrics are actually fantastic! Say what you like about Lou Reed and it seems like many people will, but the man is an original and the man is unique and the man is a fantastic writer, a fantastic writer! He doesn´t need alliteration! (laughs) This stuff is hardcore with a capital H, oh yeah!
You mentioned India before. Is that gonna be a first time for you as well?
SC: Oh yeah! Providing everything goes through.
I read the other day that the promoters hadn´t spoken to the police about playing at that place, that it was kind of up in the air?
SC: When was that?
Just a couple of days ago. The promoter hadn´t cleared with the police that they were playing there or something like that.
SC: Really? Fucking hell! There you are, you know more that I do! (laughs) That´s pretty interesting. All I know is I got my shots and hopefully all I´ll get is a bit of the Dehli belly. (laughs) It´s exciting!
It is! I saw them in Gothenburg at the Big 4 and they were awesome!
SC: They certainly have been turning it on and that´s one thing with them that they get even better… a lot of people say “Oh, you should have seen them back in the day!”, but let me be very blunt. I think now they´re playing better than they ever have! People roll their eyes and say “Oh, that’s sucha fucking copout!”. You can think that this is hype from an employee but go and see for yourself and you tell me!
Are you in touch with Jason in any way?
SC: I haven´t been in touch with Jason for a long time, but I hear he´s doing great and he´s in a great place. He was always great! He was wonderful to work with and very, very helpful and incredibly friendly. There´s no reason we´re not in touch. Life keeps you busy and he´s doubtless in a bunch of projects himself. I saw him at the Hall of fame and it was great! He´s a really good guy and an exceptionally talented musician. His scope of musical interest is really great. He loves so many different things.
Any new books from you?
SC: I´ve been batting it around for a while now, because people have asked me if I´d ever put out a collection of the stories I did. There´s been one part of me that says “Who gives a fuck?” and the other side of me that says “Get off of yourself and stop being stupid and do it!”. My fear is that you can seem like a self celebrator, but I think I´ve come across a format that will work well. I´ll reprint the stories and on the following pages write 1000 words about what the assignment was actually like to do. Then you get 24 or 25 good stories. And would I include David Bowie and so on and I´ve come to the conclusion that the first one I do should be a total rock, punk book. It doesn´t always have to be the big stories. Like I spent three weeks on tour with Death Angel in 1988, which is one of the funniest fucking tours I´ve ever done. One armed roadie, chipping teeth on pizza, getting their head kicked in. All sorts of weird stupid shit. Actually very, very Spinal Tap, but in a very innocent way. I hope when it surfaces that people will like it!
Thank you so much Steffan!
SC: Thank you!