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December 2012

Black Sabbath And Philosophy contains a chapter by me on 'The Sound Of Evil', grrr! Buy here.

A new rock encyclopaedia titled Rock Chronicles, with several entries by me. Buy here.

Only The Good Die Young, a collection of music obits by Jason Draper, features my foreword. Buy here.

Ice Cube: Attitude, a reissue of my 2003 book on Foruli Classics. Buy here.

Inside The Machine
is the first ever biography of Machine Head, out October. Click here to buy.

 

Lots of fun ahead for 2013. Watch out for a major announcement about book number 24, right after Max Cavalera's autobiography goes to print.

Other stuff that I've been doing this month include liner notes on this series of Helmet reissues and this interview with Jason Becker, the most challenging thing I've written in a while because Jason is a victim of ALS, also known as motor neurone disease. The other four books over there on the left are also out and available for your scrutiny.

My new Machine Head book will be launched on 6 December in London, drop me an email if you'd like to come along. There will be much debauchery...

November 2012

Black Sabbath And Philosophy contains a chapter by me on 'The Sound Of Evil', grrr! Buy here.

A new rock encyclopaedia titled Rock Chronicles, with several entries by me. Buy here.

Only The Good Die Young, a collection of music obits by Jason Draper, features my foreword. Buy here.

Ice Cube: Attitude, a reissue of my 2003 book on Foruli Classics. Buy here.

Inside The Machine
is the first ever biography of Machine Head, out October. Click here to buy.

 

While I'm continuing to work on Max Cavalera's amazing autobiography and doing press for my new book Inside The Machine: The Story Of Machine Head, as well as other as-yet-undisclosed projects which will be revealed in due course, this month has been about other people's books as much as mine.

For starters, m'learned colleague Professor Bill Irwin, who edits a splendid series of philosophy books for academic publishers Blackwell, asked me a while back to contribute a chapter to the latest instalment in the series, Black Sabbath And Philosophy. My chapter, 'The Sound Of Evil', hurt my brain a bit because it involved philosophical and psychoacoustic ideas that I haven't considered in depth since I was a student 20 years ago, but with Prof Irwin's help it worked out pretty well. Get a copy here.

A book called Rock Chronicles is also out. This hefty tome collects mini-biogs of the great and the good of rock music and I wrote a ton of text for it. It's here.

Next. my old chum Jason Draper from Record Collector, where I was the production editor from 1999 to 2005 before I scored a bestseller and jumped ship to a life of freelance idyll, has a book out called Only The Good Die Young. Get one here. I wrote the foreword and I'm rather proud of it, so here it is:

The ultimate party-pooper, Death, comes to us all in the end, damn him and his stupid rusty scythe. Your eventual meeting with him is one of the simplest, and also most irritating, facts of life –- and one especially irksome for any creative musician, whose innermost urge is to get songs composed, performed and recorded (preferably while making a living at the same time) before the Grim Reaper comes calling.

It's a sad fact that professional musicians, whose lifestyles take them closer and more frequently to the edge of the abyss than other, less driven folks, tend to die younger than most of the population. This excellent collection demonstrates this point so well that by the time you get to the end of the book, you'll find it hard to believe that anyone who picks up a guitar or microphone will see the other side of 30.

Only The Good Die Young is no mere anthology of obituaries, however. This book is nothing less than a celebration of the life and work of 115 musicians whose appointment with Death came early, but who still managed to change people's lives on a permanent basis before that end point. How many of us can make a similar claim? And yet that's what we all yearn for: the ability to leave an imperishable legacy after we're gone.

Like life itself, this book is bittersweet. It's saddening beyond belief to read what happened to all these young talents, often in circumstances that could easily have been avoided. Did Amy Winehouse really need that second bottle of vodka? Did Randy Rhoads really have to climb in that plane? Couldn't Jeff Buckley have left that dip in the river until another day? Then there's the musicians whose lives were taken by other people, like Tupac Shakur and Jaco Pastorius –- and even Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix, if you believe the conspiracy theories. So much hatred. So much bloodshed…

Of course, drugs and booze played their devilish part. Tour hard, play hard, grip it, chug it and shoot it: this was the exit method for Tommy Bolin, John Bonham, Steve Clark, Keith Moon, Charlie Parker, Jimmy ‘The Rev' Sullivan, Bon Scott, Hillel Slovak and Layne Staley among many, many others. But at least they were having fun, for the most part: the saddest tales of all, for me at least, focus on the artists who, sick of this mortal coil, ended it all themselves. The grim roll-call includes Kurt Cobain, most infamously, as well as Ian Curtis and Nick Drake (perhaps inadvertently in his case? We'll never know).

Not that every story has a simple reason behind it, though. Life, or rather death, is like that. What really happened to Jim Morrison, dead in a Paris bathtub? And Richey Edwards, declared dead after seven years but still, in theory at least, perfectly capable of walking into a Welsh pub tomorrow? Then there's Sid Vicious, who died at the hands of a syringe full of heroin but who may, or may not, have murdered his girlfriend before shooting up one last time. These are the people who fascinate us most, because we don't know what their last actions, their final thoughts or their ultimate conclusions were before they “drew their terminal breath” (thanks, Eric Idle).

AIDS. Anorexia. Heart conditions. Bullets. Fists. Polydrug intoxication. Revenge. All these are here in some form or shape, and it's almost never good news when any of them encounter a human being. But this is no collection of ghoulishness: Only The Good Die Young isn't about death, it's about life, and what happens while people are living. Paradoxically, when it comes to music there is a strong argument in favour of impending mortality: faced with a permanently ticking clock in reverse, an impenetrable black wall silently drawing closer every day, the awareness that one day in the not-too-distant future their family and friends will be sipping sherry and eating Hula-Hoops at their funeral, many musicians feel driven to create their best work while they still can.

Name an artist whose best work came in his or her later life. Go on, just one. There are a few: Seasick Steve, perhaps, or Johnny Cash. But these are few and far between. In general, music is an expression of youthful vitality as much as it is a cerebral or intellectual aesthetic. Life is music. That is the message of Only The Good Die Young , and because this book hammers home that message repeatedly, by its end you may find yourself inspired to write a song yourself. After all, isn't that the point?

Finally, readers who have been paying attention longer than most will remember that I wrote a biography of the hip-hop Leg End Ice Cube in 2003. It was the first book that I was really proud of, as a relative newbie to the biographer's craft, and it's just been reprinted by Foruli Classics. In its first few weeks on sale it made the Top 20 of its category at Amazon, which was gratifying. Get one here.

 

October 2012

Inside The Machine
is the first ever biography of Machine Head, out October. Click here to order.

 

Inside The Machine: The Story Of Machine Head is out on 15 October and press for it is coming thick and fast. This is the fun part of any book cycle, when you get to see what people think about your work, and a flood of emails comes in saying 'You rule!' or 'You suck!' -- there rarely being any middle ground, as any author knows.

Other work is as below, with a couple of books to nail down before Christmas. It will be at least February before the workload slackens off a bit, but that's fine with me.

Check this out. You will be amazed.

 

 

 

September 2012

Inside The Machine
is the first ever biography of Machine Head, out October. Click here to order.

I'm the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine. This is my fourth issue. Get it here.

 

Inside The Machine: The Story Of Machine Head is out now or now-ish, get yourself one here! I'll be talking about it on the Killer Bunny radio show here at 6pm on 5 September, the first of a list of radio/print/online press duties which will keep me busy for a while to come.

In between that stuff I'll be completing work on Max Cavalera's autobiography and editing Bass Guitar Magazine, mutually complementary activities that successfully keep me off the streets. The mag is great fun to edit, partly because I'm a bass geek (as you'll know if you've read my books on Cliff Burton and Glenn Hughes) but also because the people are a pleasure to work with and because the readership is a loyal, tightly-kit community.

In other news, I'm off to Canada at the end of the month to be a special guest at this music conference. It will be my first time in the Great White North. I hear they have beer there.

Here's an interview I gave to a Swedish website about the pleasures and pitfalls of being a writer, here I am talking about filesharing and the death of the music business, and here's my obituary of the late film director Tony Scott in the The Guardian.

Read this!

 

 

August 2012

Inside The Machine
is the first ever biography of Machine Head, out October. Click here to order.

I'm now the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine. Here's my third issue. Get it here.

 

Inside The Machine: The Story Of Machine Head is coming your way on 15 October. My 21st book in 13 years (God help my typing fingers) is the first ever biography of the legendary Oakland headbangers and I'm very proud of it. See the press release here and order a copy here.

In other book news, the German edition of Glenn Hughes's autobiography, which eagle-eyed readers will know I co-wrote a couple of years ago, went in at Number One in its category at Amazon a few days ago. Yowsah! Or should that be 'Wunderbar'?

While we're on the subject of Deep Purple alumni, I was sad to hear of Jon Lord's death this month. I spent an hour with Jon back in 2004, interviewing him for a magazine: sometimes you instinctively know when you've met a truly great person, and this was one of those rare occasions. The Guardian asked me to write his obituary, which I duly did: see it here. It was a privilege.

On which note, watch this.

 

July 2012

I'm now the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine. Here's my first issue. Tasty, eh?

All Hope Is Gone: the spanking new, fully updated edition of my Slipknot biography from the prehistoric era, circa 2001. Click here to order.

 

Summer? What summer? Still, as I'm chained to a hot computer the weather isn't really relevant...

This month I have mostly been working on Max Cavalera's forthcoming autobiography as well as the photo book by Sex Pistol Glen Matlock which I mentioned below. My Machine Head biography will be with you in the autumn and is looking splendid, judging by the cover designs they've been sending me.

Everything else is too hush-hush to talk about, and if I did disclose what was going on, the sky would fall in, there would be a plague of locusts and the end of the Mayan calendar would happen in September not December.

It's all good. Life is great. If I could just take eight months off, though...

 

 

June 2012

I'm now the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine. Here's my first issue. Tasty, eh?

All Hope Is Gone: the spanking new, fully updated edition of my Slipknot biography from the prehistoric era, circa 2001. Click here to order.

 

So now I'm dividing my time between the eight current books -- researching, writing and promoting them, depending on which stage of development they're at -- with editing Bass Guitar Magazine. The two disciplines complement each other but are different enough to be highly interesting in their own ways. Once again I find myself thanking Satan* that I didn't end up as an accountant.

The next book out, number 21 for those who are counting, is Inside The Machine, a biography of the excellent Bay Area metal band Machine Head. In this book I've taken a slightly unorthodox route, focusing on the early Forbidden/Vio-Lence days as much as the stadium era and taking a fresh view of the mid-career albums. Machine Head's ex-drummer Chris Kontos provides the foreword and I've drawn from the many interviews that I've done with the band over the last few years. I'm rather pleased with it.

Here's an interview I did with Soundshock, in which I ramble learnedly about various books and stuff.

Off to see this...

*For the benefit of any Bible Belt-dwelling Americans with no sense of humour, I don't really pray to Satan. I pray to John Barleycorn, the old English god of beer.

 

 

May 2012

I'm now the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine. Oh yes.

All Hope Is Gone: the spanking new, fully updated edition of my Slipknot biography from the prehistoric era, circa 2001. Click here to order.

 

As if writing, researching, promoting and generally working on eight books at the same time (see last month's entry, below) weren't enough, I'm now also the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine, starting with their June issue. Of all possible magazines, this is the one I have most wanted to edit ever since I began contributing to it nine years ago, largely because I'm a total geek about bass -- as you'll know if you've read my books about Cliff Burton and Glenn Hughes.

Who needed sleep anyway?

 

 

   

April 2012

All Hope Is Gone: the spanking new, fully updated edition of my Slipknot biography from the prehistoric era, circa 2001. Click here to order.

 

All right, so in response to several queries from interested parties, behold the details of the shelf-load of books that I'm working on right now. Half of the subjects have to be kept mysteriously secret as they won't be published for a year or whatever, so you'll have to use your imagination. I could tell you who they're about, but I'd no doubt be found hanging from a tree.

1 Max Cavalera's as-yet-untitled autobiography

So, the great Soulfly singer and living legend Max Cavalera and I have been working on his autobiography for a year or so and will be winding it up this summer. It's stuffed with epic tales from the Sepultura days, of course, and goes deep into the events that shaped him, good and bad. For a Cavalera fanboy like me, it's been an enormous privilege to hear this stuff at first hand. He talks about the book and says some dashed nice things about me here.

2 Autobiog of Thrash Metal Legend Who Shall Not (Yet) Be Named

At the same time as the Cavalera book, I've been assembling the autobiography of a certain chap whose poster you may well have had on your wall in the 80s. I can't really say more than that but a major deal has been signed, the champagne is about to be popped, and a press release will be hitting the internets very shortly.

3 Updated reissues of ye olde Slipknot, Tool and Kings of Leon books

Omnibus Press are, even as we speak, publishing expanded and updated softback versions of three of my recent books, one of which appears on the left. Classic Rock writer Paul Brannigan was kind enough to write of the Slipknot book that it is a "fine study of an intriguing band". I must buy that man a light ale or two. The publisher interviewed me about the three books here.

4 Official biography of Amazingly Brutal Death Metal Band

Well, there aren't too many candidates for this one, so I'll shut up. Expect it in 2013.

5 Autobiography of Member Of Stadium-Sized Metal Band

A man of steel known to you if you've read this far has asked me to write his book. I immediately said yes because he's a splendid chap with a gobsmacking band. It's going to be a hell of a read.

6 Photo book with Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols

More details to follow on this one as it takes shape, but it's 15 years since the Sex Pistols' 'Filthy Lucre' tour, so bassist Glen Matlock is assembling a largely photographic memoir on the subject for luxury publisher Foruli, who also did Glenn Hughes's autobiog.

7 Official book of Particularly Metal Guitar Manufacturer

Says it all really. I've always wanted to do one of those lovely coffee-table books devoted to large pics of guitars, and this one looks set to be pretty ace. The world's biggest publisher in the field has offered us a deal. Total win, as they say.

8 And finally... the world's first Machine Head biography!

Out in October, Inside The Machine details the rise, fall and rise again of Oakland's finest thrash/groove metallers. More details as they emerge, but you can snap one up here. Which reminds me, I must finish writing it.

I also do a fair bit of journalism for a bunch of magazines, primarily Record Collector, Bass Guitar and Metal Hammer, and I write obits for the Guardian. I'm also interviewed on a regular basis by magazines, newspapers, websites and radio stations who are curious to know how it all gets done: this month I appear in Loud mag (here).

Brilliantly, someone has taken the time to make a Youtube clip based on my 2007 book The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists: here it is.

I think that's it. Thanks for reading!

 

 

   

March 2012

All Hope Is Gone: the spanking new, fully updated edition of my Slipknot biography from the prehistoric era, circa 2001. Click here to order.

 

A quickie this month as I'm still deeply embroiled in the same projects that I mentioned in February's entry, below, plus at least four books that I can't talk about or I'd be whacked mafia-style and dumped in the Thames.

Loads of killer reviews still coming in for Glenn Hughes's autobiography. Thanks, you kind people. See the Books page for soundbites.

Here I am chatting with an American newspaper about the great Lemmy. While you're reading that, why not listen to this?

   

February 2012

All Hope Is Gone: the spanking new, fully updated edition of my Slipknot biography from the prehistoric era, circa 2001. Click here to order.

 

One of the great things about writing books is that if enough people like them, they never really go away, because publishers ask you to update them every few years. It's analogous to bands reissuing their old stuff in the music industry. By this point several of my books have been revised, updated, repolished etc and the latest is Slipknot: All Hope Is Gone (left), a zippy new version of the original Slipknot: Unmasked (2001) and its sequel, Slipknot: Unmasked Again ('03). Value for the reader who shelled out the first or second time comes in the completely updated story, which adds the last eight years alongside a ton of interviews that I've done with them. When I was revising the text I spent a lot of time cringing at how relatively naive a writer I was back then. Too many jokes, and too! many! exclamation! marks!

Several other books on the go at the moment, some of which are mentioned below, some of which are not. One day my typing fingers will fall off and I will have to get a job as a cheesemaker, causing rainforest campaigners to breathe a sigh of relief.

Tons of press for me this month. Here's an interview I did with Metal Shrine, in which I dig deep into the highs and lows of writing books with famous people. Here's a radio show in which I pontificate about the nature of heavy music and why people like it. Here's the Houston Press asking me to stroke my chin learnedly about various authorly stuff. And stroke it I did.

Watch this!

   

January 2012

Glenn Hughes, The Autobiography: From Deep Purple To Black Country Communion (click here to buy)

 

And so to year seven as a full-time author, year sixteen as a writer and year forty-one as a human. Things are going swimmingly so far I reckon. 2012 will, if the Long Mayan Calendar permits, be the busiest year for me yet, mostly because a lot of people are nice enough to want me to work with them. I owe them a lot of beers.

So, here's the by-now-traditional recap. Right now I'm in the middle of co-writing four books, all the autobiographies of rock bands and/or musicians (one of them is Max Cavalera), and I'm also attempting to find time to do a couple of biographies of my own. When the schedule allows I write for Acoustic, Bass Guitar, Guitar Buyer, Drummer, Record Collector and Metal Hammer magazines and I also contribute obits to the Guardian. Other publications ask me to write for them every now and then. It's never boring round here.

My last book, number 20, was the autobiography of Glenn Hughes (left), and 2011 finished with a bang as that book made the best-of-year list in Guitar World magazine, here. The one before that, a biog of the late Randy Rhoads, hit a similar list here. You can order these and many others, should you so wish, at my Amazon author's page here.

Read this!