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Blood Riff's n' Metal Myth's - Exclusive Interview with Author Joel McIver.

By Michael Fischer, Writer, Cartoonist
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 @ 4:25 PM


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Joel McIver is part of the latest generation of British Invasion rock writers. He is currently the Author of a brilliant new series of Rock Biographies such as "Crazy Train: The High Life and Tragic Death of Randy Rhoads, Overkill: the Untold Story of Motorhead and The Bloody Reign of Slayer." His latest project has been to co-write the autobiography of Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Country Communion). His book "To Live is to Die: The Life And Death of Metallica's Cliff Burton" was nominated as music book of the year in 2009.

Joel has chalked up over 800 interviews with such iconic artists as Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, or some English Actor Goon waving a pub dart and a pint of Guinness screaming "Sidís dead and God save the Queen!" Hmm, or maybe that was just Johnny Rotten? (Sex Pistols)

Now we turn the KNAC.COM table on Joel to get the inside story on what it's like to spin dirt and unearth his true tales and historical myths about the rollercoaster lives of Rock Gods in the 21st century...

KNAC.COM: Hi Joel, congratulations on your now '20' book titles is it?

MCIVER: Hi Fish! Yes, there are 20 in English anyway. If you take into account the foreign-language versions of my books there are more than 50. Basically Iím responsible for the death of the rainforest.

KNAC.COM: (Laughs) A lot of work goes into writing a 300 page book. Whatís the writing and creative process for you as you put one of these together?

MCIVER: Well, my attitude is always that the person who buys your book is paying you a great compliment. By paying 25 dollars for your book, that person is trusting you to do a good job and give them information which they canít get elsewhere. If you donít deliver, that person is going to feel cheated. They donít deserve that. So, the point Iím making is that I try to do the best job I possibly can, which means in the case of a musicianís biography tracking down the right people and getting as much first-hand information as possible. In practice this means doing a ton of interviews and using them to build the structure of the book. I also insert an editorial voice, in other words I try to weave my own opinions and philosophy into the narrative, although Ďphilosophyí is a big word in this context, I admit.

KNAC.COM: Whatís your favorite time to sit down and write?

MCIVER: The morning, right after I take the kids to school. I hit my desk at about 9am and thatís when my ideas and energy are at their peak. By mid-afternoon I tend to run out of steam: thereís only so long you can sit at a keyboard.

KNAC.COM: Do you pick the artists you write about like Randy Rhoads or Glenn Hughes? Or is that a publisherís decision?

MCIVER: I pick them. Occasionally a publisher will contact one of my agents and ask if Iím up for writing a book, but usually itís the other way round. I want to write a particular book and my agents take the idea to the market, where the publishing deal will be agreed.

KNAC.COM: What was it like collaborating with Glenn Hughes? I saw the first run of your book was sold out or out of stock on Amazon.

MCIVER: Itís back in stock now. The first few thousand sold out in about 10 minutes: itís the publisherís fastest-selling book ever, which is very cool indeed. I had a blast working with Glenn and Iíll never forget it. On and off for the last five years weíve been meeting, talking, emailing and whatever to get the story down, and heís been the perfect subject. His memory is intact, which is amazing given that he stuffed half of Colombia up his nose in the 70s and 80s, and everyone queued up to contribute. Tony Iommi (Guitarist Black Sabbath), David Coverdale (Vocals Deep Purple, Whitesnake), all of them, plus some unlikely fans like Tom Morello (Guitarist Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave).

KNAC.COM: You wrote a book about Deep Purple?

MCIVER: I didnít write a Purple book, thatís an error on Amazonís part. What I actually did was write some liner notes for a Deep Purple DVD collection. The Mark II 'Made in Europe' Deep Purple is obviously legendary but I was too young to get into it at the time: I had to go back and listen to it between listening to Slayer.

KNAC.COM: "The Bloody Reign of Slayer" is a great book title!

MCIVER: Thanks man. I have a long journalistic relationship with them. I know Iíve interviewed Guitarists Kerry King and Tom Araya at least 15 or 20 times between them over the years. Nice blokes, Iíve always thought.

KNAC.COM: Your bio of Cliff Burton (Bssist Metallica) was well received with critics and readers. How do you think Metallica changed as a band after Cliff died?

MCIVER: Yes, people seemed to like that one a lot, hopefully because itís good rather than just because people like Metallica. You know who explained this best? My esteemed friend Mick Wall, the writer who said in his own Metallica book this year that Cliffís death paved the way for Lars and James to take over the band and steer it in the direction that they wanted to go, in other words commercial, anthemic stadium metal. I wish Cliff had been around to be part of it.

KNAC.COM: Writing Tool's untold story is an interesting read, they have a loyal legion of fans. They really came out of nowhere!

MCIVER: They did, and what amazes me to this day about their success is that their music is so resolutely un-mainstream. You could play those albums a hundred times each and still not uncover all their secrets. Yet Tool play stadiums. I love it. Bands like this are proof that the masses donít all listen to Disney pop and hip-hop.

KNAC.COM: So your new book "Crazy Train: The High Life and Tragic Death of Randy Rhoads" was just listed as one of the top Metal reads of the year. How were you inspired to write this book?

MCIVER: I saw that list, that was a great compliment. A book on Randy just had to be written. No one had really done the complete job of telling his story, although Rudy Sarzo (Bassist Ozzy, Quiot Riot, Whitesnake, Dio, Blue Oyster Cult) did a good job with his own book a while ago.

KNAC.COM: It's a lot of detailed work putting together the story from Randy's childhood to his tragic death. What was the most challenging part of writing his book?

MCIVER: Well, you have to remember how short his life and career were. He came out of nowhere to join Ozzyís band in 1979 and he died in 1982. Thatís not a lot of material for an 80,000 word book. Randyís friend Tami Forward and his guitar student Frank Santa Cruz were extremely helpful and I owe them a lot. Grover Jackson really helped me out too, and of course so did you when you allowed me to quote from your 2007 KNAC Max Norman interview. Next time youíre over here the beers are on me!

KNAC.COM: (Laughs) And the Fish n Chips! How do you think Randy Rhoads changed rock guitar in the 1980s and even now?

MCIVER: Well, the Jackson sharkfin shape wouldnít have existed without him, and the neoclassical style which Ritchie Blackmore pioneered and which Randy, Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch (Guitarist Dokken) extended have had a huge impact on modern-day shredders. Also, while this is not about guitar playing as such, I think that thereís a lesson in the way that Randy suddenly became a major rock star and still held on to his own identity. How many rock musicians would decide to walk away from that life to settle down and study? Thatís what Randy was planning to do when he died, he knew there was more to life than just showbiz glamour.

KNAC.COM: If Randy had left Ozzy, do you think he would have got his classical guitar music degree at UCLA like he wanted? And do you think he would have eventually got back with Quiet Riot, or joined Ronnie James Dio?

MCIVER: He would have got married and settled down, got his degree in classical guitar and then either continued as a teacher or joined another band. I like the idea of him playing with Dio, though: that would have been an incredible musical partnership.

KNAC.COM: How shocked were you when Gary Moore (Guitarist Thin Lizzy, G-Force) and Ronnie James Dio passed away?

MCIVER: Very. Gary was relatively young and Ronnieís disease seemed to move so fast. Life is fucking cruel sometimes.

KNAC.COM: Do you think Randy's Rhoads life story would make a great movie?

MCIVER: Oh, fuck yes. Itíll happen one day, without a doubt.

KNAC.COM: Did you receive any feedback from the Osbourne Camp? Sharon didn't toss a rotting ham in your backyard did she?

MCIVER: (Laughs) No, I havenít heard anything from them, and in fact I interviewed Sharon last week for my next book, Max Cavaleraís autobiography (Vocals-Guitarist Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) so her people must think Iím basically an OK guy.

KNAC.COM: Zakk Wylde (Guitarist Ozzy, Black Label Society) wrote a nice foreword for your book. Do you think he was the best guy to ever fill Randy's boots?

MCIVER: Yes, I do. Not just because he had the playing chops and creativity but also because he was a good fit with Ozzyís personality. I like Zakk, heís great. I was really honored that he agreed to do the foreword.

KNAC.COM: So Joel, you've interviewed a shitload of characters. Who were your favorite interviews?

MCIVER: Man, where do I startÖ? Certainly Lemmy (Vocals-Bassist Motorhead), James Hetfield (Vocals-Guitarist Metallica), Dave Mustaine (Vocals-Guitarist Megadeth), Ozzy and Dio of course, all of Sabbath, all of Purple, all of Rush. The list goes on.

KNAC.COM: Describe what itís like drinking and pow-wowing with Lemmy?

MCIVER: ManÖ that is something that everyone should do once in their lifetime. Donít expect to outdrink him unless you have a death wish (Laughs).

KNAC.COM: What new book titles are you working on for 2012?

MCIVER: Well, Max Cavaleraís autobiography plus at least five other books that I canít talk about yet. KNAC be the first to know, believe me.

KNAC.COM: How can people order your books? Amazon? i-Tunes? Hardback?

MCIVER: All of those! There's also links on my website. (http://www.joelmciver.co.uk)

KNAC.COM: What do you think of Kindle e-pub, i-Books and all these new forms of digital book media?

MCIVER: Pretty useful actually. I see a lot of people with Kindles and iPads on planes and whatever, itís obviously the future.

KNAC.COM: Whatís your mum think of your books and her son, the rock author?

MCIVER: Sadly, my mum died in 1992 and never got to see me become a writer, but I think she would have been proud. I know my dad and brothers are into it, though. I also have a cousin called Naomi Alderman who is a bestselling, award-winning novelist, and my sister-in-law Kate Bussmann is a published author too. Itís a literary dynasty (Laughs).

KNAC.COM: So whatís your favorite haunt during the holidays?

MCIVER: Home! Or maybe a decent rock pub like the Crobar in London. Come over, youíll love it.

KNAC.COM: Youíre like a Ninja Writer dude! You must have been editor of the weekly Viking Tribune Newspaper in a past life?

MCIVER: (Laughs) I taught Joey DeMaio (Bassist Manowar) everything he knows.

KNAC.COM: Thanks for the chat Joel and keep up the great work! Metal out yer New Year Mate!

MCIVER: Thanks for the interview Fishmeister!

Check out Michael Fischerís Website, http://toonsonice.com and order his new book, "True Confessions of a Hollywood Strip Club DJ" available on -i-Tunes and Amazon.
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