Heavy Metal Author Martin Popoff Talks Black Sabbath FAQ
Canadian author Martin Popoff released his latest book, ‘Black Sabbath FAQ,’ earlier this month. In the book, Popoff tells Sabbath fans what they need to know as he debunks myths, dissects legends and lore, and espouses his highly informed opinion about the group.
Popoff, who isn’t on MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter, recently popped off to Noisecreep about why he returned to the Black Sabbath well for the second time in his career (he also authored the Sabbath biography ‘Doom Let Loose’), as well as what other books he has in the pipeline.
The former editor-in-chief of ‘Brave Words & Blood Knuckles,’ Popoff has written nearly 8,000 music reviews and 33 books on hard rock, heavy metal, classic rock, and record collecting. He has a music archive that would make most geeks drool, consisting of approximately 12,000 LPs, 15,000 CDs, 3,000 45s, 1,400 backstage passes, 2,900 personally obtained autographed items, as well as tapes, digital files, and hard copies of the approximately 1,500 interviews he has conducted since 1994.
Noisecreep: What prompted you to write the Sabbath FAQ?
Martin Popoff: My agent approached me with the idea. Wow, that sounds so important. But no, I thought that there was no way I could ever write a second book on a band. But when I saw the format, I got really excited. The whole idea is whimsical chapters, trivia, stand-alone things, side stories, and so I took it upon myself. The challenge to not have any overlap with my first Black Sabbath book, ‘Doom Let Loose.’ So yeah, any interview footage that is in there is all brand-new, chats I had with guys in the band and other folks with interesting Sabbath stories. [The interviews were all done after] I did that book, which is like 2006 or something. This includes three or four interviews with our dearly departed Ronnie, God rest his soul. It was definitely a cool intellectual challenge and puzzle. There’s 400 pages of stuff, including memorabilia shops, photography, and even that, I made sure that 90% of it at least was brand-new, and not repeats from the first book.
Of all the books you’ve written, what is your favorite?
I like this question! I think the best writing, pound for pound, is in the two The Top 500 books, for which we took a poll to get the top 500 heavy metal songs for one book, and then followed up with the top heavy metal albums. Of the band biographies, hands down, the most interesting is my Blue Oyster Cult, ‘Secrets Revealed!’ The UFO book, ‘Shoot Out the Lights’ is pretty cool too. Plus, I really satisfied a lot of questions I’ve had as a hard rock fan for years, doing the ‘Ye Olde Metal’ series, which is now up to five books, each limited to 1,000, each numbered. I sign them all. I’ve got to get going on 1979 and 1980. But yeah, I got to investigate and write long chapters on albums I would never do a whole book on, or bands I would never do a whole book on, rather, like Derringer, Ram Jam, Hounds, Angel, Piper, Rex, Moxy, Buffalo, even like a 40-page chapter on Ted Nugent‘s ‘Free For All.’ And yeah, the Derringer – Sweet Evil… got to talk to all four guys. Sorry, I’m geeking out.
Geeking out is OK. What other books or projects are you working on?
Well, this might sound crazy, but I’ve done two Deep Purple books so far and I’m just finishing up another two, again totally with the idea to please my little bunch of friends who own the first two – i.e. all new stuff. I’m also going to do two books, sort of at once, on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Also just finishing up a big swanky coffee table book picking and talking about 200 classic hard rock and heavy metal album covers. This is not a book project, but I worked for a year-and-a-half full time with Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen on a metal documentary series for VH1 Classic called ‘Metal Evolution,’ which launches 11/11/11. [It's] essentially 11 one-hour episodes each on a different heavy metal genre. Worked with them on the Rush movie as well before that, a fair bit of it full-time. So that slowed down the book writing a little bit, but I’m ramping up again. It seems I can’t say ‘no’ to stuff, and I’m constantly coming up with things I want to write about, whether they are commercially viable or not! I’m almost getting to the point where if I don’t write about some of this old forgotten stuff, probably nobody will.
What is the best/funniest/craziest thing that has happened to you while writing or researching your books?
Nothing really. My life is pretty dull. Most of all of this happens on the phone, as you know. But I got some cool trips in, oddly, to the Washington, D.C. area to shoot a bunch of Black Sabbath memorabilia and Judas Priest memorabilia for those two books, and made some cool new friends in the process. It was pretty wild getting to interview Eric Moore from The Godz in his house. Poor guys in pretty rough shape, health-wise. But that was great getting to meet him and his wife.
Anything else you’d like to shamelessly self-promote?
Not really, I think I’ve done enough shameless self-promotion! But seriously though, I’m becoming a bit of a hermit. I don’t really chase too much press anymore, or care, and even turn down doing a lot of things. I’ve got my little audience who knows me, with a lot of them owning a whole pile of my books. God bless them, and like I say, the stuff I want to write about seems to be getting even more increasingly arcane, notwithstanding the new Black Sabbath book of course. But yeah, I feel like I’m putting up walls and becoming even more like the sort of kvlt black metal band of metal historians. In fact, my favorite model for putting out books now is self-publishing, and I’m going to do more of that, which increasingly puts up walls and brings everything in-house. I’m just happy that despite so far completely ignoring social media. Enough folks seem to find me and appreciate me writing about all this forgotten history to keep things going.
Buy Martin Popoff’s ‘Black Sabbath FAQ’
Martin Popoff – A Complete Bibliography
Black Sabbath FAQ (2011)
The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal: Volume 4: The ’00s (2011)
Goldmine Standard Catalog Of American Records 1948 – 1991, 7th Edition (2010)
Goldmine Record Album Price Guide, 6th Edition (2009)
Goldmine 45 RPM Price Guide, 7th Edition (2009)
A Castle Full Of Rascals: Deep Purple ’83 – ’09 (2009)
Worlds Away: Voivod And The Art Of Michel Langevin (2009)
Ye Olde Metal: 1978 (2009)
Gettin’ Tighter: Deep Purple ’68 – ’76 (2008)
All Access: The Art Of The Backstage Pass (2008)
Ye Olde Metal: 1977 (2008)
Ye Olde Metal: 1976 (2008)
Judas Priest: Heavy Metal Painkillers (2007)
Ye Olde Metal: 1973 To 1975 (2007)
The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal: Volume 3: The Nineties (2007)
Ye Olde Metal: 1968 To 1972 (2007)
Run For Cover: The Art Of Derek Riggs (2006)
Black Sabbath: Doom Let Loose (2006)
Dio: Light Beyond The Black (2006)
The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal: Volume 2: The Eighties (2005)
Rainbow: English Castle Magic (2005)
UFO: Shoot Out The Lights (2005)
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Singles (2005)
Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed! (2004)
Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years Of Rush At Home & Away (2004)
The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time (2004)
The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal: Volume 1: The Seventies (2003)
The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs Of All Time (2003)
Southern Rock Review (2001)
Heavy Metal: 20th Century Rock And Roll (2000)
The Goldmine Price Guide To Heavy Metal Records (2000)
The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal (1997)
Riff Kills Man! 25 Years Of Recorded Hard Rock & Heavy Metal (1993)