Mick Wall knows more about Metallica than anybody on the planet. Itís as simple as that. Beyond the knowledge and insight, he knows the band on a personal level. Here he shares a few bits of wisdom about the writing of Enter Night and the band he wrote about.
Interviewer Steven Rosen: If you could sum it up in a nutshell, why were Metallica so important in the development of metal?
Mick Wall: They were massively important in the sense that they were the last true innovators of the genre. Since then we've seen stoner metal, nu metal, progressive metal, you name it. But they all came from the same creative breakthrough which is the one Metallica made in the early
'80s when they brought US and UK metal together, tried to take it to a new extreme, and accidentally invented a whole new genre. They called it speed metal. In the UK we gave it the name thrash metal.
Thirty years later we're still talking about it.
Describe each band member in 25 words.
Lars: short, skinny, pretty-boy Eurotrash, educated, funny, smart, shrewd, obsessive, hard working and completely driven. A great music businessman and a fairly good drummer too.
James: tall, plain as boots, pure-bred American frontierman, a loner, a rifleman, a control-freak, formerly very insecure, now quietly confident, a gentleman and father.
Kirk: West Coast acid flower child offspring, grew up on comics and weed but kept it together learning the farthest out reaches of the guitar
Rob: whiskey Samurai warrior, hellacious bass devil, long-haired true-metal disciple in whom now resides the true spirit of Cliff-era Metallica. And smart.
What were the most mindblowing moments that you unearthed?
Having first met them over 25 years ago, I thought I knew a lot about Metallica before I started the book. About a year into it I realised I never really knew a thing. It was a total trip from start to finish. A couple of things: no, they didn't carry on after Cliff died cos that's what Cliff would have wanted. Yes, they did sell-out with the Black album. Jason was the bitch of the group throughout his entire time with them, so much so they tried to ditch him weeks after he joined. But those are small bullet-points. The real story to those things as with everything else in the book is much more third-dimensional.
With so much having been written about Metallica, how did you decide what had real value and what was just trash?
The reason I did the book is because for me there has never been a really good grown-up book written about them. There have been fan books, of which Joel McIver's is easily the best. But this wasn't a fan book. This wasn't written for the band or even for their fans especially. This was written for adult-minded folk who already know a lot about rock music and about life and who appreciate really good books with real, hair-raising stories in them. So yes they were assholes at times, yes they made bad decisions, bad records, bad everything. But they also made many righteous decisions, spectacular and brave moves, and some great music too. All human - and monster - life is in here. The trick is to let the story take you whatever way it goes, not impose some fan's eye view on it, or try and please the band.
Do you think that Metallica had the impact on music that Led Zeppelin did?
Absolutely. Just as Zeppelin affected everybody that immediately followed them, so too Metallica. If you are thinking of making your own rock music, you can't escape either band. Like if you want to climb mountains you can't escape the history of Everest and the climbers that first conquered it. The pioneers that wrote the rules. Metallica are one of those.
Was there a particular bit of history that was difficult to unearth?
No. I applied the same due diligence to every part, especially the so-called easy parts. The bits that got handed down over the years. Most of which were totally wrong.
Did you end up with the book you set out to write? Or did the book take a different direction once you were underway?
When I write books, I never set out with a specific idea in mind. I let the story take me with it wherever it may go. Sometimes it goes to places you don't much care for, sometimes it affords the most spectacular views. You just have to hang on for dear life.
Mick Wall has written about music since 1977. He is one of Englandís best known music journalists: his work has appeared in
Classic Rock, Mojo, the London Times and a variety of other publications, and his books include eleven rock Ďní roll biographies. He has also served as a trusted on-camera source for a number of BBC-TV music documentaries. He lives in England.
Contributor Steven Rosen interviewed author Mick Wall, author of Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica (see accompanying review), about
his book for curledup.com. Steven Rosen/2011.