Pim Blankenstein is naast zijn activiteiten als zanger van het Rotterdoom combo Officium Triste en schrijver voor diverse periodiekjes ook een fervent lezer van boeken die over bands en artiesten gaan. Uiteraard wel in de heavy hoek, want op geneuzel van huis, tuin en keuken popartiesten zit geen zinnig mens te wachten, nietwaar? Op dit plekje in Lords Of Metal zal hij dan ook op maandelijkse basis zijn gedachten laten gaan over hetgeen er terecht en onterecht over de groten der aarde is neergepend. Deze maand zijn dat doodleuk twee boeken van de Engelse schrijver Neil Daniels, te weten 'Iron Maiden: The Ultimate Unauthorised History of the Beast' en 'The Story Of Judas Priest: Defenders Of The Faith'. En alsof dat nog niet genoeg was deed Pim ook nog een interview met de man die inmiddels meer dan tien boeken op zijn naam heeft staan.
English writer and journalist Neil Daniels got in touch with us about some of his books. In fact we got copies of his brand-new book on Iron Maiden, his first book ever on Judas Priest from 2007 and his 2011 book on Journey. The latter I will review in an upcoming issue. This time I like to focus on the books on Maiden and Priest, Two giants from the history of British heavy metal.
Neil's latest book is 'Iron Maiden: The Ultimate Unauthorised History of the Beast'. When you flip through the pages you will see it indeed has a lot of illustrations; photos, backstage passes and so on. The layout therefore is really cool. When it comes to the written aspects it is not too in depth. The book covers the history of Iron Maiden and talks about the albums. These parts about the albums are written by fellow journalists like Mick Wall or Ian Christie. I wasn't too sure what I thought of that but we will get some explanation in a minute. What I did like was all the extra info like tour dates, set lists and the extensive discography. Exactly the stuff you want to know. So, if you're a fan of Maiden you won't find much new information here, perhaps some of the trivia might be unknown to some. Still the book is a good read and it simply looks great so I don't see any reason not buying this one.
Iron Maiden: The Ultimate Unauthorised History of the Beast
We asked Neil Daniels some questions about his writings and he explains a bit more about the book on Maiden.
So Neil, your newest book is about Iron Maiden. There are already quite a few books about this band, which makes me wonder why you decided to do a book on them? Next to that the band doesn't seem to be very cooperative when it comes to books on them. is that something that makes it more difficult?
Well, it's not a biography per se. It's part of a series of heavy weight hardback's on major rock bands. My Maiden one follows illustrated tomes on AC/DC, Queen, and Aerosmith. It's a potted history of the band, with reviews from fellow rock scribes like Mick Wall, Martin Popoff, Ian Christe and John Tucker et al, as well as tour dates, set lists and various fresh articles written by me and others for the book. The graphics are amazing. It's a real fans book but casual fans should dig it too. The publishers approached Derek Riggs for the cover design and I was thrilled he designed the book cover. I mean, what could be better for a book cover on Iron Maiden? It looks great! I've had a few reviews in so far and they've been great. Really good.
How much time does it generally take to write a book like this, or the ones you did on Judas Priest and Journey for instance? You use a lot of quotes from interviews and so on. I assume that takes up a lot of time doing all the research? And you interview many people involved yourself too. That takes a lot of time as well I presume?
It all depends on the brief – some publishers want a book done in six months; others, a year. It depends on the style of book. My Metallica one that has just been published is a book solely focused on the first four albums so it would take less time than Journey, which was about their entire career. The Judas Priest one – my first book, Defenders Of The Faith – also took a year. My Maiden book took about six months. Writers have almost no control on the deadlines; it depends on so many factors.
The book on Maiden in my opinion is really suitable for a younger generation who got to know the band in a later period of their career. Do you actually think about your audience when you write a book like this?
I'm a fan of all the artists I've written about so when I'm writing a book I think about what a fan would like to read and us rock/metal fans are really geeky – we love our little nuggets of info, tour dates, set lists, timelines etc. I think it's good to at least attempt to appeal to die-hard fans as well as the more casual ones, or even newcomers. Again, much of it depends on what the publishers want. I think I've done a good job with my current books on Maiden and Metallica in terms of pleasing fans with such information.
Why did you invite other writers like Mick Wall or Ian Christie to write pieces on the Maiden albums? You could have done that yourself couldn't you?
Like I said, this book is part of a series of illustrated tomes on big bands, and previous books also included reviews by other writers. I contributed to Richard Bienstock's book on Aerosmith. I think it's a good idea – it looks good and it gives the book a broad, unbiased scope.
I saw you have written two editions of 'All Pens Blazing - A Rock & Heavy Metal Writer's Handbook'. Can you tell a bit more about those? I haven't read them but based on the title they should be interesting for my colleagues and me over here at Lords Of Metal.
Well, it all started on my website under the heading 'Interviews With Writers.' I was asked a few times if I was ever going to compile them into a book, and wanting to try my hand at self-publishing or print on demand, I went ahead with the idea. I used a few in the first collection that had been published online but certainly 95% of the first volume are exclusive to the book, so I'm not ripping people off. I got in touch with lots of writers, especially from the old Kerrang! days, like Derek Oliver, Dave Reynolds and Paul Suter, and I know they have something of a following in the scene, so I had another viable excuse for a book. These guys have some really great stories. The idea for the first volume was to stick exclusively to hard rock and metal but with the second volume, I changed to title to 'Rock & Heavy Metal Writer's Handbook' to broaden the scope and to include more writers, both in print and online. When then went back to the first volume when the second one came out and republished it so they make a neat matching pair. Both books collectively feature over 130 interviews with rock and metal writers. Book one has a foreword by Martin Popoff and book two has a foreword by Mick Wall. They got some great reviews and are available to buy on Amazon and at the publishers website AuthorsOnline.
One of the things that strike me about your books is that you're very extensive when it comes to tour dates, discographies and so on. Not all books include information like that. Is that something you think is obligatory?
This goes back to your question about appealing to a particular fan base/readership. With each book I do try to include a lot of info mostly because I'm geeky about this kind of stuff. I think people have come to expect it from my books.
Your first book was the book on Judas Priest. Why did you decide on writing a book on them? Actually, what's the reason in general for you to decide writing a book on any artist? Is it because you think there's a demand or is it because you're a fan yourself?
There has to be a demand otherwise a publisher would not be interested. Publishers are only interested in artists that are in vogue otherwise the book would not sell. My Judas Priest book came out when they reformed. The Priest story is certainly one that is interesting and it had never been told properly and in full. There was an official book released in the mid-eighties by Steve Gett, which was enjoyable, but as it was an illustrated one and authorised by the band lots of detail was missed out especially on the early years and their controversial contract with Gull Records. Being a fan and wanting to get into writing books I proposed the idea to Omnibus Press and they thought the idea was marketable enough so they agreed to it. The contract was signed and over a year later the book was published. It is now out in paperback and has been updated. I've since written two more books on Judas Priest; Al Atkin's autobiography Dawn Of The Metal Gods and Rock Landmarks – Judas Priest's British Steel.
Okay Neil, last question. Can you tell us a bit about the projects you're working on at the moment? I think you have a couple of books coming up right?
Yes, I've got a little book out in August on You Me At Six, a British pop-punk band, and then I have five books out next year including a second one on Bon Jovi and a fictional rock novel. It's too early to announce the others yet other than to say they're bios of major hard rock/metal bands. You can read about my up coming stuff nearer the time at www.neildanielsbooks.wordpress.com.
So, check out Neil's writing's. You will find lots of info on his websites. His book 'The Story Of Judas Priest: Defenders Of The Faith' was his first published book and published in 2007. Even when the band doesn't want any involvement it can turn out to be a really good read. When it comes to the early years original singer Al Atkins has explained a lot and in general I thought this book was really informative. Even when the band has not authorized it, it is a must for all fans of Judas Priest as it contains so much info. I enjoyed every page of this book and I really got a boost pulling out my Priest albums again. That was the effect this read had on me.
The Story Of Judas Priest: Defenders Of The Faith
These were the first two books by Neil Daniels I ever read and I have to say that he has a pleasant writing style, so look them up and read them.