Intervju med författaren/journalisten Joel McIver!
Joel McIver är just nu aktuell med den mycket välskrivna biografin om Glenn Hughes. Helt klart en av de bästa biogafier jag läst på väldigt länge.
Sedan flera år tillbaka skriver Joel på heltid och har spottat ur sig mängder av riktigt bra biografier om exempelvis Black Sabbath, Slayer, Metallica och Randy Rhoads, för att nämna några.
Jag ringde upp Joel för en tid sedan för att kolla läget. Det blev ett mycket trevligt och roligt samtal om bl a Glenn Hughes, Metallica och Max Cavalera, där den sistnämndes biografi håller på att färdigställas och beräknas komma ut senare i år.
I´ve read quite a few of your books and enjoyed them all, especially the last one about Glenn Hughes.
Joel McIver: Thanks. It´s funny because I do a book or two every year, but this one has been in the background for five years, on and off. I´d do a book and then do some more and then another book, and it just kept ticking along like that, and to finally have the thing out, in two editions, is amazing. Finally! (laughs)
Just before I read Glenn, I read the Ace Frehley book and I´m a huge KISS fan, especially when it comes to the 70´s and I thought it could be a good and funny book, but it was a total bore! It´s an easy read, but it took me forever. I started reading other books in between.
JM: Oh no, that´s a real shame.
Yes, and your book, not to kiss ass or anything, but your book I read right through in 24 hours and loved it! These two books are so different even though they´ve led similar lives, but your book with the 70´s and Trapeze and Purple, kinda played like a movie in my head while reading it.
JM: It´s funny that you should say that, because we´ve been talking for ages, Glenn and I, how it would look as a film. I think maybe we had that in mind when I was writing it. Some of that is because he is always saying “Get a visual, get a picture of it!” and it is a very visual book as a result. But it´s interesting what you say about Frehley´s book, because there are a lot of rock biographies out at the moment, an awful lot, and I´m aware of that, so when I was working with Glenn my whole mission was not to make it a boring, generic book. I´ve read so many now, and some of them are good and some of them are just very predictable. Have you read Anthony Kiedis’s book?
JM: It sent me to sleep. I was really looking forward to reading it, and there was so much drugs and sex in it, you would think “How could this go wrong?” He didn´t put anything of himself in it. It´s the same with Eric Clapton´s book, which I expected to enjoy, but it was just a sequence of anecdotes, which was boring. On the other hand I enjoyed Slash´s book and Duff McKagan´s book: they´re a bit different because they put something of themselves in it. What I was trying to do with Glenn, was to really give a lot of himself to the reader. You´ve probably heard that I’m co-writing Max Cavalera’s autobiography, right?
JM: It´s interesting with him. I don’t want to say that he´s a macho type of guy or anything like that, because he isn’t, but he´s not like Glenn. Glenn is like… everyone loves Glenn and he´s a really open kind of guy, and Max is a bit more of a man´s man, so I had to really work with Max to get him to give something of himself. I wanted him to reveal his feelings, in a way, because that´s something people respond to. Anyway, the short answer is that one of the reasons I think Glenn’s book worked out is because there´s a lot of him in it. He gives a lot and he makes himself very open, which is what I wanted. I´m really glad you enjoyed it.
Oh definitely! I loved it! As I understand it, you kinda pitched the idea to Glenn?
JM: I did, yeah. I knew he was thinking about it anyway. What happened was that I interviewed him for Bass Guitar Magazine about five years ago, and after the conversation I talked to his manager and said “Has Glenn ever thought about doing a book?”, because I wanted to move into co-writing musicians’ autobiographies at the time, and his manager said “As it happens, yes Glenn is thinking about it. Why? Are you interested?” and I said yes. So I sent Glenn a copy of my Metallica book which had just come out, and which was doing quite well, so he could get an idea of my writing, and he liked it and he and I had a laugh together. So yeah, it was my idea, but he had been thinking about it.
Doing a book like this and I read an interview with you today, you did a lot of interviews with him and there was a lot of hours to go through, was there a lot of stuff that you had to leave out of the book?
JM: Yeah, a lot! 60 hours, that´s enough to write a 400.000 word book. The publisher gave us a 100.000 word maximum, though, and as a result the book has a bit about Trapeze and tons about Purple, quite a lot from the 80´s and then really after he gets sober, not so much. Some of the reviews said they wished there could´ve been more of his solo years, and I wished there could´ve been too, but there just wasn´t space for it. But he´s young enough so he can do an updated version in ten years! (laughs) It´s not like he´s already 80 years old. I think the stuff that sums up his life best is in there. I must have a gigabyte of stuff left over.
About his memory and recollections, it´s pretty clear about the stuff he did even when he was doing tons of coke?
JM: Well, the reason that Glenn’s memory is so good is that he didn´t drink and he didn´t smoke weed. If you´re drunk all the time or stoned, it will affect your memory, but as bad as cocaine is for you, it´s not going to have that same effect on your memory.
You tend to think about yourself and you can hardly remember what you did three weeks ago, but I live an ordinary life and if you live the kinda life he´s lived, maybe it burns a memory in your brain?
JM: Yeah, probably. I don´t know about you, but I´ve had my share of booze and weed in my life and Glenn never did, so it´s all there. But I think there´s something to what you´re saying. If you live a very vivid lifestyle and you play in front of 60.000 people every night, you don´t forget that.
There was nothing about Kevin DuBrow, because I remember them as being very close up until his death?
JM: Yeah, they were buddies. I didn’t leave Kevin out for any particular reason. He had a lot of friends like Kevin who I didn´t mention, just because we ran out of space. He ended up putting all those guys in a very long acknowledgments section. We had a lot of leftover anecdotes about people, but it would´ve been a much bigger book.
I guess the same goes for Dave Holland and his escapades?
JM: Well, the thing with Dave Holland is that Glenn chose not to talk about him. What can you say, you know? I don´t blame him for avoiding that issue.
There is a book about a Swedish guy called Anders Tengner and he ran one of the biggest pop magazines here in the 80´s called OKEJ…
JM: I talked to someone from that mag when I did the Cliff Burton book…
JM: Yes, that´s the guy.
Yeah, he worked for that magazine too! Tengner talks about Glenn in his book and how he worked with John Norum…
JM: With Glenn being impossible to work with at the time?
Yeah, when he was in Stockholm working with Norum, but what he mentions is that Glenn had this really bad habit of not just biting his finger nails but his fingers too and spitting out the skin flakes all over the place.
JM: Yes, Glenn talks a lot in the book about the crazy twitches he had when he was high: they were horrible and people used to freak out. He was very apologetic about John Norum in the book. They´ve made their amends. He was just being impossible at the time, just as he was with a whole row of people all through the 80´s. Glenn was really horribly embarrassed about all this, and now he’s got it off his chest in the book. You know the bit about Judas Priest and the time they kicked him out of their dressing room? He was really upset about that, but when I interviewed KK Downing for the book he said “No, no, Glenn is awesome and he´s a fantastic bloke and we forgot about it the next day”.
How did you go about picking photos for the book?
JM: Let me think. Glenn did quite a lot by himself. There´s a guy called Dr Drew Thompson, an Australian who looks after all of Deep Purple DVDs. Drew basically has an archive of stuff and he´s friends with Glenn, so he threw open the archive and said “Take what you want!” Then there´s a few photographers Glenn knows and they gave us some stuff. You saw the luxury Foruli edition as well as the Jawbone paperback, right?
JM: Well, that edition contains hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a lot of those went into that edition. There’s also a lot of Glenn´s personal memorabilia. I had two suitcases of his stuff here at my house for years: there was loads of stuff in there. I just recently returned them to his parents. The stuff in there was amazing, like the harmonica that he played in Trapeze and loads of crazy stuff we could never reveal to the public, like contracts from Trapeze and Purple, royalties statements, bank accounts… just amazing stuff. No way could we put those in the book. Basically we had this giant archive to choose from. It was pretty simple.
Cool! And you got Lars Ulrich to write the foreword. Are you on a friendly basis and you can just call him up and say “Hey, I need a foreword!”?
JM: Ha ha, no! But Lars and I have spoken a bunch of times over the years. I went through Q Prime, like everyone does. I e-mailed them and said “Would Lars like to do the foreword?” and Lars immediately said yes. We had a quick phone call and that was that. It was cool. Kirk Hammett did the foreword for my Cliff Burton book, so their managers obviously know I´m not evil, you know. (laughs) Have you interviewed Metallica?
(laughs) No! The closest I´ve come to Metallica was when the Big 4 played in Gothenburg last summer and I interviewed Frank Bello from Anthrax and while I was waiting, James Hetfield stood like 3 metres away from me. That´s the closest I´ve gotten.
JM: You should´ve said hello. I´ve been in that situation. I´ve interviewed them all for magazines and books a bunch of times now, but the first time I met them personally was when I had an interview with Robert Trujillo, right after he joined the band nine years ago. I was interviewing him backstage and all of them walked in and started eating their dinner at the same table I was sitting at. They all started talking, and I was asking Rob questions about the bass and Hetfield was shouting jokes at him and Kirk was laughing: it turned into a really nice chat. I left them to it, though: when you´re there as a journalist you need to be professional, so I thought to myself, “I should go. They´re having their private time”.
Looking back, which was the first book you wrote?
JM: It was a little encyclopaedia called “Extreme Metal”. I´m not going to say that it sucks, but it´s of much lower quality than any book I would write now. You write your first book and you look back a few years later, and you think “Why did I make that terrible, stupid joke?” or “I should´ve planned this better!” It was fun to do, though, and it was the first book of its kind.
What would you say are the most important things you´ve learned since writing that book?
JM: You have to plan well. You need to know what you´re going to write and you need some structure, which I didn´t really establish that well for that first one. Time management is crucial, especially when you´re on a deadline. When you do a book and they say “OK, give it to us in a year” that´s actually harder than if they say “Give us a much smaller thing in a week!”, because you think “Oh, I´ve got a whole year to do this, there’s no hurry”, and you can imagine what happens. You also need to have something to say that is relevant. Nowadays, what are the reasons for people buying books? You can go to Wikipedia and read 50 interviews on the web. You have to think, “What can people get from this book that they can´t get anywhere else?” It´s a huge compliment when people pay like 30 Euros for a book. They do that for you and they´re investing their time in you as well, so you really need to deliver something good, and to me that means new information, a new perspective and a professional job, all those things.
What about the Max Cavalera book then? I just thought that he´s a young guy. Did you pitch the idea to him too?
JM: Well, he’s relatively young, but he´s been through a lot. I pitched the idea to Gloria Cavalera and she said yes. It’s a whole different approach to Glenn’s book. You think about the classic rock and the funky soul that Glenn does, and then the kind of thrash/death metal that Sepultura did and the stuff Soulfly is doing now, it´s a complete change, but it’s what I´m really, really into. I´ve always been a thrash metal and death metal guy, so I remember when Gloria got in touch and she said “Right, let’s get started,” I went “Fuck yes! Max Cavalera! What a huge honor!” Then we did the interviews, so right now the interviews are all done and I´m writing the book. My American agent´s looking for a deal. All those things will come together and Soulfly´s got an album out now, and it´s all good. Like I said before, Glenn and Max are very different. Glenn will walk up to you and give you a giant hug even if you´ve never met him, whereas Max is more of a man´s man.
The Brazilian style, I guess?
JM: Well, he´s been through a lot of trauma in his life. His dad dying when he was young, his stepson dying and then the whole Sepultura split. There´s also major, major revelations about his private life as well: crazy stuff that he´s never really talked about before. It´s really amazing, and the most metal story ever. Those early days when Sepultura used to get on stage in Sao Paulo and Rio, and just play in a little club at the most incredible speed, and as heavy as possible, and they were all only 15! Amazing times… so that´s a really cool book. There´s a great story in the book about how he vomited on Eddie Vedder. This is way back in the mid 90s, when Pearl Jam were massive: for some reason there was some party going on and Max was sitting next to Eddie Vedder, but he was so drunk that when he turned around to talk to Eddie, he vomited right on his lap, all over him. Eddie Vedder jumps up and goes to get cleaned up and when he comes back, Max asks him for his autograph! (laughs) Having puked on the guy. The book is full of stories like that.
Are you looking at a 2012 release?
JM: Yeah, I would think so. There´s loads of other books going on too. A well-known bass player´s autobiography, the official book of a major death metal band, and I´m doing a photo book with Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, so there´s loads of different shit going on. There´s also an amazing guitar company who have asked me to do their official book. It´s all good and it´s all exciting and far, far better than any real job you could mention.
How did you start out from the beginning? What was the first interview you did?
JM: Oh, did you ever hear of a dance band called Faithless?
JM: You ever heard of a pop singer called Dido?
JM: Well, her brother is in Faithless and he was the guy I spoke to. This was in 1996, and how metal is this, it was for Cosmopolitan! (laughs) That was my first bit of freelance writing. I was a teacher for a few years and one of my students was an editor at Cosmopolitan, which is how I began writing for them. Then I was on the staff of Record Collector mag for six years, and after that I just kept writing books and contributing to magazines. Keep going and don’t stop and in the end you’ll make it into a career. My Metallica book was a bestseller in 2004, which was the real breakthrough for me. I quit my job and have worked from home ever since then, which has been great for many reasons, most important of which was that I’ve been around while my kids were little, unlike almost any other father that I know.
What would you say have been one of your most memorable or fun interviews you´ve done?
JM: There´s loads. Lemmy for starters. The first time I interviewed him, he had a rockabilly side project going, and he invited me up to his hotel room to hear the demos: we went up and sat there and drank Jack Daniels. It was weird being in his hotel room: there were clothes everywhere and his personal possessions that he brings on tour. Lemmy is always good value. Dave Mustaine is always a great interviewee too. He´s funny and he really, really makes me laugh.
I read a funny one with Katie Price!
JM: Yeah, that was just really weird. I don´t do much celebrity stuff and it was just out of curiosity. Is she well known in Sweden?
Not really, but I think people know of her when they see her picture.
JM: She´s so popular here and the opportunity came to interview her, so I took it. You might have seen that I played her a Slayer song. I didn´t particularly want to upset her, but she was so confident in her little world, so I blasted Slayer at her and watched her reaction. She was so out of her comfort zone: it was great. There´s a guy called Sir Patrick Moore, an astronomer. He´s legendary over here and he hosts the longest running TV show in the world, a program called “The Sky At Night”. I interviewed him a couple of years ago and went to his house and had a cup of tea and it was amazing. Who else… Gene Simmons makes me laugh. He´s so evil and he´s always doing this macho thing. I remember he spent ages telling me “Oh, it´s not natural to get married!” and at the end of the interview I said “OK, I’ve got to go and make my wife some breakfast now”. The only interviewee I´ve ever had problems with is Jon Bon Jovi. He hates doing interviews. It´s not like he´s an asshole or anything. He just didn´t have anything to say and to be honest with you, I didn´t really have any questions to ask him. I mean, what do you ask Jon Bon Jovi? “What´s it like being you?”
True! Well, I think I´m done!
JM: Thanks, I appreciate it Niclas!