Lonn Friend Writes About Steven Tyler, Lars Ulrich and Other Friends
With his first book, 2006’s ‘Life on Planet Rock,’ former RIP magazine editor and segment host of the seminal hard rock show, MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, Lonn Friend took readers on a white-knuckle thrill ride aboard the ultimate heavy metal roller coaster.
Just as he did with his magazine, Friend used ‘Life on Planet Rock’ as a sort of literary backstage pass that allowed readers an all access (and all excess) look at everyone from Metallica to Aerosmith. Backstage, onstage, in the pit, in hotels, on buses – Friend spared nothing in this naked-to-the-bone autobiography. It’s the kind of insider look at the rock scene music geeks live for.
But ‘Planet Rock’ was just part of the metal maven’s story and now he’s returning with ‘Sweet Demotion: How An Almost Famous Rock Journalist Lost Everything and Found Himself (Almost),’ his latest book.
Noisecreep caught up with Friend to chat about the new book.
In ‘Sweet Demotion’ Friend picks up the story where his last book left off, adjusting to life after leaving the vaunted metal magazine he put on the map for life as a hotshot record company executive. Friend’s journey wasn’t as smooth as he expected it would be, but he faced the hurdles with a healthy balance of humor and wit.
Friend dedicates a good-sized chunk of the book’s back end to the fascinating scenario he encountered in 2009 when old pal Steven Tyler brought the author into his home to help him re-write the autobiography he was working on.
“I sat with him in that New England cottage, alone, just us,” Friend told Noisecreep. “I winced for hours on end. Tyler has such an intense energy, but he was descending into painkiller addiction at the same time. I tried to be careful about that. But as I learned, he was my own reflection of my own self- created suffering of what I was going through. And he would have died had he not gotten help.”
Without giving too much away, Tyler steps up when Friend most needs a friend, something the author will never forget. “In my book, I wanted to make sure that people knew about Tyler’s humanity. He’s such a big rock star. As I write in the book, when we go to the local fair in his hometown, it’s like being with the president. Where he grew up, he is loving to everybody. But he still consciously aware that he is Steven Tyler. We were both in self-preservation mode at that time. But I knew I was witnessing the ‘naked” Steven Tyler – the one few get to see.”
Friend also speaks lovingly of Tommy Lee.
“To me he is the one true visionary that came out of the entire 80s metal scene,” Friend said. “The thing he does today with that rollercoaster drum set is remarkable. He combines Carl Palmer, Neil Peart – all the greatest drummers wrapped up into one showman. The things he does with technology on stage are incredible. He’s just a big kid that plays with toys -that’s what the rollercoaster is for him – a big toy. I have a passion for certain human souls that I met along the way and Tommy Lee is the perfect example of that. I was very happy to give him a copy of this book.”
‘Sweet Demotion’ shines because Friend knows a lot of cool people and he has a gift for great storytelling. It’s the kind of book that’s so addicting, you’ll plow through in a weekend.
“I was standing in front of the Roxy on Sunset in L.A.,on a chilly night in 1987. I recognized Lars and James from Metallica. One thing led to another, we started talking, and a relationship formed. I’d soon go on to spend about 11 months documenting the making of what became ‘The ‘Black Album,’ which is 20 years old this month. It changed my life. Lars ended up writing the foreword to my first book. That band, like others, became like family. They were family. These are the synchronous moments in my life – the basis for the stories in my book.”
Friend’s deep faith in the theory of synchronicity (among other spiritual forces) create a cosmic pulse throughout the book – but again – it’s his passion and enthusiasm for the music that makes this a must read for any fan or student of American music history – especially the magical metal years that Friend so dutifully documented from the late 80s on.
As well, Friend shared with Noisecreep his top 10 albums from the RIP years; the albums most likely to have been cranked up at his home back then. He didn’t plan this list out – rather it was a gut reaction to the question, spontaneous and in the moment.
‘Appetite for Destruction’ – Guns N’ Roses
‘Rust in Peace’ – Megadeth
‘Cowboys From Hell’ – Pantera
‘Metallica’ aka ‘The Black Album’ – Metallica
‘Dr. Feelgood’ – Motley Crue
‘Superunknown’ – Soundgarden
‘Long Cold Winter’ – Cinderella
‘1916’ – Motorhead
‘Blow My Fuse’ – Kix
‘Empire’ – Queensryche
Personally inscribed copies of Sweet Demotion can be purchased directly from Friend at this link.