Judas Priest. Led Zeppelin. Journey. Bon Jovi. Linkin Park. Countless Rock Journalists.
These are Neil Daniels’ subjects, and over email, he became my subject for a moment. Read below for my first writer on writer interview.
HardRockChick: What was the first band you fell in love with?
Neil Daniels: Probably Queen. I was too young to have seen them live and I guess I got into them around the release of Queen’s Greatest Hits II so I’m not that old! I love the dexterity and versatility of the band and they’re still one of my favourite all time bands even though I have fallen out of love with them a few times since Freddie’s death. They have made some terrible mistakes but I thought the Paul Rodgers collaboration was interesting – they were great live and were much better on the second tour. It’s a pity it didn’t last. I also loved Meat Loaf and Bryan Adams as a kid and still do… though Adams hasn’t made a rock album in such a long time now. He’s still great live though.
Of course Journey are one of my all time favourite bands. They are so underrated as musicians. I don’t really see them as rock stars but as musicians; very talented ones at that. I mean, Neal Schon is one of the greatest guitarists in rock history yet he never gets the credit he deserves.
HRC: How did you begin your writing career?
ND: I started writing for websites like musicOMH and a few obscure ones and then moved into printed fanzines like Fireworks and Poweprlay which are more specialist. I still write for Fireworks though the rest of my free time is dedicated to books. I have written bits for Rock Sound, Record Collector and The Guardian. I haven’t written much in the way of magazine journalism as I would like but that’s the industry for you.
HRC: What was the first thing you wrote that you were really proud of?
ND: My first book: The Story Of Judas Priest – Defenders Of The Faith. It was quite an achievement and I’m still proud of it though I am also aware of its flaws as I am with all my books. The one that I think is my best is the current Journey biography, Don’t Stop Believin’ – The Untold Story Of Journey. I was really pleased that a publisher was interested given the usual snobbery that greets AOR in general. It was published on 3rd May and I hope fans will, for the most part, be happy with it.
HRC: How do you write? What I mean by this is, are you a traditional notes/outline/multiple drafts kind of guy or do you have a different method to putting your work together?
ND: Well, for the Journey biography I spent a few months researching and conducting interviews and I also wrote an extensive chronology of all the major (and not so major) events of the band’s career. From there I wrote a potted history of the band and then built all my research into it. The story of Journey is an epic and complicated one and it was not an easy book to write but I think the book gives a detailed history of the band since they formed in 1973 and there is also a back history to Santana as Journey was something of an offspring.
HRC: How do you go about starting a new project? What is the process like to get to write a book about a band?
ND: For this Journey one I was fortunate enough to come across an agent in London who happens to be a bigger Journey fan than I am. I sent him a proposal which he pitched to a few publishers and only Omnibus accepted. From there, the contracts were arranged and then I started the research process. In the past I just submitted proposals to publishers myself. This Journey book is book number 10. I have also published four print on demand ones, including the two acclaimed All Pens Blazing books.
HRC: What do you think is the biggest mistake interviewers make when talking to musicians?
ND: Not getting their facts right. You really have to know what you’re talking about and they can tell when you’re not a genuine fan of the band. I’ve been fortunate enough that I have never had a bad interview only uncomfortable ones and that’s because of either a dodgy phone line or a clash of accents. Some of the best include the late Kevin DuBrow, the late Ronnie James Dio, Biff Byford, Tim Owens, the guys from Thunder, Mick Jones and Nikki Sixx.
HRC: How would you describe the typical relationship between a rock journalist and a musician?
ND: Interesting question. These days it is hard to get close to a musician (a-b lists) because their PR people wield too much power but if you interview them enough and speak/write about them in revered tones then you can get pretty close and build up a strong relationship. I’m not a name dropper but I do have good relations with quite a few musicians. Maybe now I can interview KK Downing again?
HRC: Have you ever felt too close to any of the bands you’ve been writing about?
ND: No, not really. It’s important to be objective but what I’ve said about the albums/music in my books is of course my own opinion. With this Journey book I’ve given a fair bit of time to Raised On Radio because I think it’s an underrated album and it was the breaking point for the band. I think if the book had band cooperation half the stuff that’s in there would have been cut out. There’s some bad blood, or so it seems, between Perry and the band. The Journey story is not as easy riding as some people might think – there was a lot of heartache, turmoil and bitterness and ego that ultimately led to their demise, well, the relationship between Perry and Schon/Cain anyway.
HRC: Who’s someone you’d love to write about that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
ND: There are lots of bands that I’d love to write about but getting them commissioned is quite an obstacle. I doubt I’d be fortunate enough to have a major biography of another AOR band published – which I’d like! – unless this one sold a lot. Fingers crossed. I just want to help raise the profile of this kind of music. It is certainly much more popular in the UK these days.
HRC: Your latest book, Don’t Stop Believin’: The Untold Story of Journey just came out. What else can we expect to see from you in the near future?
ND: Well, I’m currently promoting the Journey biography which is out now and details can be found at www.neildaniels.com and at Omnibus Press’ own website. After that I have a little CD sized book out on British Steel, the legendary Judas Priest album through Wymer Publishing. Next year will see the release of a coffee table book I have written on Iron Maiden. Keep checking my website for details.