Thursday, November 25, 2010

Author Interview: Mick Wall - Author of Metallica Biography Enter Night

Scott recently caught up with the Author of the Metallica biography, Enter Night for a chat about his book, and writing rock biographies in general.

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I've recently finished reading your latest biography, Enter Night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. How has it been received it the market to date?

Mick: It's too early to say in terms of reviews as the book has only just come out. Normally speaking though I take reviews with a pinch of salt. Nobody knows better than I just how good or bad something is I've written - and I've done both types of books over the years, I now realise.

Occasionally a critic tells me something I hadn't considered before and I always take that on board, pro and con. Philosophically though, I think Salvador Dali had the right idea - he used to weigh his press cuttings. It didn't matter what they said as long as there were enough of them.

Scott: You have written quite a few rock biographies now, how receptive are the musicians when you approach them for their input into these books?

Mick: It all depends. I've done official biographies with Iron Maiden, Status Quo and others and in those cases you get total co-operation and total access. The trouble is, they usually get total approval too, so that ties your hands somewhat. Like wedding photographers, you probably aren't going include the shot you took of the groom shagging the bridesmaid. These days I prefer usually to do what I see as 'definitive' biographies. In the case of Metallica, that means letting them know what you are doing and inviting them to participate if they wish but making it clear they have no say in the finished product. In Metallica's case, where control is a huge deal for them, this meant they declined to be involved. I heard behind the scenes that Lars was up for it but James wasn't. Personally, it was something of a relief. It complicates things when they become involved. I
didn't write the book for them - I wrote it for us. Those of us that are interested in the come-what-may truth.

Scott: What sort of research is involved in writing a biography like Enter Night?

Mick: First of all, I drew on my years of traveling with the band and interviewing them, also just being with them, hanging out, over a period of 25 years. Then I went back and listened again and again to all the music, revisited the various videos and DVDs and read all the other books out there. I also waded through hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, either directly about them or related to aspects of their lives and careers, and scoured the internet for relevant info. Then I set out to interview dozens and dozens of people that I had both interviewed before in the past and/or had never interviewed or sometimes even met before. I was also fortunate enough to interview Lars three times between 2008 and 2009 and Kirk and James both in 2009, so I had lots of up to date stuff to draw on.

More important than any of this though - or just as important - was just sitting around thinking about all this, letting it sink in, and not just repeating the same old stories, i.e. The band carried on after Cliff died cos that's what Cliff would have wanted (bullshit, they carried on because that's what Lars and James wanted). And just trying to be intelligent and honest and not let anybody off the hook. Every other book ever written about Metallica - and most rock bands - sets out not to upset the band and find excuses for everything they ever did. This doesn't. This treats them like human beings. Fallible, selfish, stupid, hateful - as well as generous, creative, brilliant, brave and true.

Scott: What other musicians would do you plan on writing biographies on, and have you started on any of these biographies yet?

Mick: I have a long-term plan to do a book on AC/DC. And some other ideas which - boringly, sorry - I can't discuss right now because that's all they are at this stage: ideas. It's not so much a case of writing about musicians I like, it's whether there's a great story there to tell that I feel hasn't been told properly before.

Scott: Have you ever had to cut out a part of a band's biography that you thought was interesting but was restricted from keeping in your book?

Mick: All the time, particularly in the last few years as the UK privacy laws have become harsher and harsher. You can't even say you don't like someone anymore without qualifying the statement somehow. It's the most tedious and infuriating part of book writing in the 21st century.

Scott: What are you reading at the moment?

Mick: All the Raymond Chandler novels. I don't know why it has taken me so long to get round to them but it has definitely been worth the wait. Started with an old paperback of Farewell My Lovely from the 1950s found in a junk shop recently then progressed to a new paperback of The Big Sleep and am currently at the beginning of The Lady In The Lake.

Scott: Are there any musician¹s that you would have liked to write a biography on but been unable to for one reason or another?

Mick: Not yet

Scott: Who are your top five favourite bands?

Mick: I really don't have a Top Five favourite bands. As well as rock, I am most partial to jazz, folk, blues, reggae, soul, classical, country and great film soundtracks.

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

Mick: Thank you mate for giving me the opportunity to sound like a self-righteous pillock. For more of this sort of waffle but with swear words in can I direct your readers to the blog on my website Cheers!

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