"Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read," Frank Zappa once said. Dawn Anderson, who edited a Seattle rock rag called Backlash in the late eighties had a different take: “Musicians are just frustrated rock critics,” she claimed. Judging from the number of future rock heroes who attended our monthly Schmidt beer-fests disguised as staff meetings, I have a sneaking suspicion that Dawn was right.
Author Neil Daniels would readily agree. His All Pens Blazing: A Rock & Heavy Metal Writer’s Handbook may be the ultimate exercise in journalistic narcissism. With APB, the artists themselves are completely cut out of the picture. Both volumes concentrate on the most important ingredient of all, the writer.
Accordingly, Daniels has compiled dozens of interviews with rock journalists, who discuss their craft ad infinitum. Two books featuring a critic talking to other critics about criticism probably sounds like the pinnacle of self-absorption to most people. Frankly, I wish Zappa were hear to see it, just to hear his righteous indignation. Me? I’m still waiting for the call to put my two cents in.
In the initial edition, Daniels spoke to 65 heavy metal writers including Malcolm Dome and Greg Prato. The always quotable Everett True even makes an appearance. In the first volume, the author concentrated more on metal than rock - although True's claim to fame was his association with Seattle grunge. He has updated and expanded things considerably with Volume II.
There are 70 interviews included in this one, and a foreword by Mick Wall. Like the first volume of All Pens Blazing, Mr. Daniels has primarily chosen English writers to speak to. Regardless of nationality however, all have similar stories and bits of advice to offer aspiring writers. First of all, each writer began as something of an obsessive music fan. All have a unique tale regarding their beginnings, and many have a series of fortuitous events and coincidences to thank for it.