By Natalie Zed
I recently reviewed Neil Daniels‘ excellent books, All Pens Blazing: A Rock & Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook Volumes 1 & 2, for Hellbound (which you can read here). Rather than the guidebooks that you may have expected from the title, these books actually contain a wealth of interviews with heavy metal writers, editors of rock magazines, and other members of the press. Essentially, these are interviews with the people who usually conduct the interviews. I found that after reading and analyzing these books, I had more questions for the mastermind behind the All Pens Blazing project. Thankfully, the meta-interviewer Neil Daniels was more than happy to take the time of delve more deeply into his texts.
This feels like such a meta-interview, interviewing the interviewer who interviewed the interviewer. Did you find anything particularly challenging or different about interviewing writers, as opposed to musicians?
No, not really. In fact, it think it was much more interesting to interview these guys especially the stalwarts from Kerrang’s heyday back in the 80s and early 90s. People like Derek Oliver, Dave Reynolds and Geoff Barton have some fantastic stories and of course, they are still writing to this very day. It’s good to see Dave and Derek writing for Classic Rock Presents AOR and of course, Geoff Barton has never really stopped writing; not to my knowledge anyway. He remains a fundamental figure in rock writing. I think they have so many great stories that the two volumes of APB proved to be the perfect forum for them to recollect some anecdotes from the days when bands were not ruled by PR agents and were consequently, more accessible. These writers are also much more knowledgeable than most modern writers and I think that’s down to the internet which makes everyone a so-called writer. The APB books are not biased though and in the second volume I included a lot of internet scribes and a few female rock scribes. Sadly, there are not that many women rock writers. I tried to get Sylvie Simmons but she was busy writing a book, however, I did interview her recently for my website which will go live as soon as possible. Keep checking www.neildaniels.com.
How did you originally conceptualize this book’s audience? In your mind, who is All Pens Blazing for?
I got the idea from Clive James’ website and thought it would be a nifty idea to do a similar thing but with music writers for my own site. The book was never my original intention. I just got the idea from a few writers I’d interviewed. There are only some interviews that appear in the first book which were initially included at neildaniels.com so Vol 1 is mostly fresh material. There were so many ex Kerrang! and Metal Hammer writers that I wanted to include the list went on and on hence Vol 2. People like Paul Suter, Malcolm Dome and Dante Bonutto are legends in the field and I had to include as many Kerrang and Metal Hammer writers from the 80s as I could. Both volumes feature 134 interviews between them. If you’re into rock – these books will be great reading for you and if you wanna be a rock writer yourself they’ll prove invaluable.
How did you generate a list of writers you wanted to include in the books? Did you put the contributors for the second book together any differently than the first?
I tried to think of as many writers as I could and also asked around fellow fans and writers if there were any writers they’d want to read interviews with. The first volume I had no problem with but I did struggle to get a decent sized list for Volume 2 but when I finished the list I realised I had more than the first volume! I also have a list for the third and final volume which I hope to get out next year.
Was there anyone you desperately wanted to interview who refused, or for whatever reason could not participate?
Quite a few but because they were very busy not because they were refused. Andrew McNeice from Melodicrock.com will hopefully be in Vol 3 and the aforementioned Sylvie Simmons has already been interviewed for my site. There were some others too. Most writers don’t work full-time (such as myself) and juggle a day job with writing responsibilities so it can be hard trying to find the time to do a lengthy email interview. I’ve had lots of great feedback from these books and it seems like rock fans do want to read about rock writers’ tales. Some writers do come across as arrogant and bitter; I’m not going to name names though… but most of them are really very friendly people.
What is your absolute favourite story that is included in the book?
Well, there are 134 interviews so I can’t remember then all but he’s one from the legendary Pete Makowski: “I was nineteen and it was my first trip to the States. I was covering Nazareth and Skynyrd.I was staying at the infamous Sunset Marquis and when I got there found that not only were Skynyrd not staying there, they were banned from every hotel in the Los Angeles area. We finally hooked up in Concorde, California. The main thrust of the story revolved around me, bass player Leon Wilkinson, photographer named Randy Bachman (no relation), who happened to be a dwarf, and a woman who seemed to appear from nowhere. Being under twenty-one I wasn’t allowed in any of the bars so somehow we hooked up with a gang of bikers who were celebrating a birthday in the hotel restaurant. We should have realised this was not a smart idea when one of the girls in the party got up to reveal she was sitting on a pistol.
Anyway we ended up going off with a couple of them to another party. They claimed to be chemists and we were lured by the promise of copious amounts of crank. None of these guys had bikes with them; it must have been a night off.
In the car the two outlaws started getting aggressive waving their guns around, threatening to throw Randy out of the window and kidnap the girl. The only two things that saved me were the fact that I was paralytic and thought I was in some B-movie and my Motörhead T-shirt which apparently made me a ‘bro’. We managed to escape when we got to a garage and were given police protection until we left the State.”
*** All Pens Blazing is available via Amazon, Book Depository, et. al., as well as directly from the publisher, AuthorsOnline (in physical or e-book form). You can also order directly through the author’s website, www.neildaniels.com. )