Interview with Joel McIver30th January 2016 0 By John Deaux
AATR: Hi Joel, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us!
Out of every publication you’ve created, out of every amazing rock talent you’ve met, whose story has resonated most with you and why?
JM: I’d say that Cliff Burton’s life story is the most poignant. Cliff was a stoner geek whose musical talent took him across the threshold of stardom but whose life was cruelly, and pointlessly, wiped out just as his talent was peaking. Stories don’t get more bittersweet than that. You could say exactly the same about Randy Rhoads.
AATR: You’ve covered a real array of musical genres in your writing career, but what’s your preferred listening? Can you give us any recommendations?
JM: I listen to a lot of metal, of course, but like anyone with a brain I like lots of other music. Off the top of my head, I recommend JS Bach, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, Ice Cube, Björk, Faith No More, Queens Of The Stone Age and the Sisters Of Mercy. But everything’s valid, it just depends on your mood.
AATR: Who wrote your favourite foreword?
JM: Tom Gabriel Fischer wrote a marvellous foreword to my Metallica book. He really poured his intellect into it, as he does with everything he creates, and asked me to return the favour on his amazing book about Hellhammer a few years later, which was a huge honour. But having Dave Grohl, Alice Cooper, Robb Flynn, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, Mille Petrozza and others write forewords to my books is equally gobsmacking.
AATR: Tell us a little bit about the focus behind Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica. Obviously there is light and dark behind every success, but how were the ‘low points’ in Metallica’s career significant to their progress?
JM: That answer requires more space than we have here, but essentially the sucky albums which Metallica have recorded have been significant because they’ve thrown the good ones into stark contrast. But Metallica don’t need to write any more music: they have such a great catalogue behind them that they could happily tour playing the old songs for the remainder of their career.
AATR: How was your writing received by the band?
JM: I highly doubt they’ve read my books about them, but Lars did pay me a great compliment: he said, ‘Your book looks very professional: I get asked to sign copies of it all over the world’, which I appreciated. And the fact that Kirk wrote the foreword to my Cliff Burton book would seem to indicate that they think I’m OK.
AATR: How do you begin to analyse an album for your work? Do you feel you have to know the music inside out before you can write about it?
JM: You certainly need to give an album the chance to grow on you, so I don’t review any album until I’ve heard it a few times.
AATR: Are Cannibal Corpse really that nice?
JM: Yes, they are. I really enjoyed working with them. George is really funny. I remember relentlessly taking the piss out of him to the point where all he could say was ‘Dude, I’ll fuckin’… Dude, I’ll fuckin…’ and trail off in frustration.
AATR: What was it like to create an autobiography with Max Cavalera? He’s had an intense time.
JM: Fun from start to finish. He’s a lovely guy. Like most career metalheads, under all the aggression, he’s very mellow.
AATR: How do you go about capturing the emotion in a story like his?
JM: With great sensitivity. As co-writer you have to coax out the big stories in a person’s life while realising that these memories may be painful for him or her. In order to do this you have to adopt the position of confidante, even therapist, and with a person whose guards are naturally up, as Max’s are because he’s had a tough life, that requires careful thought.
AATR: Is it difficult to discuss the tougher moments in a band/artist’s life? How do you remain unflinching when it comes to the crucial interviewing moments?
JM: You remain supportive and let the stories come out without forcing them. It requires some strength on your part, as you might imagine.
AATR: How close to a band/artist do you need to be, before you can begin to write about them?
JM: You don’t need to be close, you just need to let them come to you and feel confident in confiding in you.
AATR: How on earth would you go about getting a level of closeness to a band as indefinable as Tool?
JM: Well, no matter how obscure an artist’s work is, the artist him- or herself is only human, and therefore you can relate on a human level. Even ‘difficult’ people are just people with issues that can be resolved, or at least sufficiently minimised to allow a meaningful dialogue to take place. In the case of Tool, my book about them was an unofficial, third-party biog and I didn’t meet them. I focused on the art rather than the personalities as a result, and that enabled me to take a deep look at the occult themes in their music which I loved. It was a six-month journey into a completely unhinged psychic universe and I emerged a wiser man.
AATR: Give us your perfect festival line-up. You can use bands/artists both alive and dead.
JM: Headlining the main stage over three nights: Beethoven conducting a 500-piece orchestra from 1800, Slayer as they were in 1986 and the Beatles in the Cavern Club era, which would have been 1962 I guess.
Headlining the second stage: Metallica from 1983 (Mustaine line-up), Cream from 1969, the Jimi Hendrix Experience as they were in 1967.
Other bands would include David Bowie, Pantera, Gary Numan, NWA, Ice-T and Morbid Angel. That’ll do me.
AATR: Thanks Joel! Nice one!
Main image of Joel Credit Andy Knight
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Some say Yank My Doodle, It’s A Dandy! is a biographical movie based on John. Some have even said that his favorite artist is Chesney Hawke! All we really know is he sleeps inside out and his hair tastes like candy floss.