Hails and Metal to you all. As I have said before, heavy metal music has gone far from just being a genre of music, it’s a life style, a philosophy to look at the world …. my guest this time is a British writer specialising in rock and heavy metal. Neil Daniels wrote ten books about bands and artists such as JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, Robert Plant, BON JOVI and most recently, ZZ TOP. Neil‘s career and his newest project, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide, which was released recently, inspired me to conduct an interview with him, which can be read below:
Hello Neil, Thanks for accepting to be my guest on Metal Shock Finland. How are you doing?
I’m good thanks. I’ve just been working on my new website www.neildanielsbooks.com which was launched last Monday. I’ve had 500 hits so far, so close to a thousand already. This year alone I’ve released two books – “Electric World – A Casual Guide To The Music Of Journey’s Neal Schon” and “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers – A ZZ Top Guide”. Finnish rock fans may be keen to know I’ve had three of my books translated to Finnish – Judas Priest, Robert Plant and Iron Maiden.
Let’s start with your newest book, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide,” which was released recently. Would you tell me first, how did you choose the title?
It’s a pun on the ZZ Top song. I try to do that was much as possible with my books – Judas Priest with “Defenders Of the Faith” and Neal Schon with “Electric World”, Journey with “Don’t Stop Believin’” etc. It’s a cool title. I like to think it works well. It kinda sums up the band and their music. Even Motorhead covered it.
What encouraged you to choose ZZ Top, was it because they are one of your favourite bands or it was suggested by someone? And can you tell me more about the process, researching and writing?
There’s not much out there on the band. I know Dave Thompson years ago but since then there’s hardly been anything and given the success of the new album and how much they’re in the rock press I thought it was a no brainer and thankfully Phil and his wife Sue at Soundcheck Books really got behind the idea and commissioned it after my UFO book. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get ideas off the ground but Phil and Sue have really stuck behind my pitches. It’s a guide to their music and history – the first half of the book is a biography followed by detailed discographies, timelines, trivia, essays/quotes from fellow rock writers and all sorts of other tidbits of info on the band as well as unpublished photos. It’s a really nice looking book. There’s a foreword by Steven Rosen and an afterword by Martin Popoff. It’s out now in the UK and published March 1 in the US.
Ok, let’s go back when you had not started writing about rock or metal, as in when you were still a young school boy, how were your writing skills? For example if you had a dream to become a writer one day.
I don’t think I ever dream to be a writer when I was a kid. I was a film obsessed teenager like Dawson in that cheesy TV show Dawson’s Creek. I’m still a major film buff. I released a collection of my articles on films and TV shows last year called “In A Dark Room – Exploits Of A Genre Fan” and I’m currently working on a film biography for a major London publisher. I’ve also been a pop culture nerd whether it be books, comics, magazines, TV, films and music. I love it all. The one thing us fans have is an opinion, so it just happens that mine gets published. I think I’ve improved as a writer over the years. Some of my earlier stuff makes me cringe so it’s all a learning curve; a process of improvement and refinement.
What encouraged you the most to improve your skills during the years that you were beginning as a writer and perhaps facing some difficulties?
I’m still improving and learning and face difficulties with everything I write. A lack of confidence is a major difficulty to overcome. I certainly had that with the first couple of books. Facing criticism is hard but you learn to use it as an aid rather than an obstacle. I learn something new with each book; how to write, edit, organize etc.
Would you like to share with us, if you have any particular memories or experienced any difficulties during the process of writing your books?
Well, with my UFO biography, I started as I usually do with each book by gathering a list of possible interviewees and approaching them. I got to interview the likes of Leo Lyons, Laurence Archer, Mick Glossop, Nick Tauber and Ron Nevison, amongst other producers and ex members from the band’s history. I then created a chronology of their history going back to 1969 and merged my research into the chronology to create the first draft. It’s very hard to write a book on a famous band and unearth new information in the age of digital information and research because so much is online. Plus, it depends on your own knowledge of the band – one story may have been heard before by one fan but unheard of by another. What this book does is tell the story of the band in a chronological and easy to read fashion – there’s enough geeky detail on the music for seasoned fans and enough casual detail for newcomers. The difficulties are usually always research because there can be so much of it so you have to set yourself deadlines and targets. I get better with each book.
I’ve read somewhere that you love science fiction, fantasy and horror. So do you have any plans to write a novel in those genres? If so, I would like to know if you have any picture formed in your head?
Yes, I love sci-fi, fantasy and horror as well as crime. I love comic books too. One day I’d love to write a book – when I have enough confidence. I have lots of ideas. Neil Gaiman began his career writing features and articles; hack work. He even wrote a Duran Duran book. I’m happy working on the music stuff for now though my aim is to expand into film and TV writing.
What else do you do except writing? Would you like tell us more about your life?
There isn’t much to tell, really. I have a day job and live in the North West of England. I love music, films, TV, books and comics. I’ve just released books on Neal Schon and ZZ Top. Last year I had books out on AC/DC, Pantera and UFO.
Well, as my final question what would be your next project?
Well, I’ve just launched my new website www.neildanielsbooks.com which is a pretty good way to start the year. It includes information on everything I have ever written. On the book front; I have released two so far – the Neal Schon and ZZ Top books. My books on the first four Iron Maiden albums and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet are due to be released in around 3-4 months. There’ll also be a few more Createspace books. Everything is detailed on the site.
Thank you Neil for giving me your time, feel free to leave a message to your fans and our viewers.
Thanks for taking the time to read my interview. I hope you check out my books. Please visit my website and take a look around. There are links to social media if you wanna get in touch.
* Interview by Mohsen Fayyazi