Q&A: Heavy Metal Author Neil Daniels Talks Journey and Rock Journalism
Heavy metal author Neil Daniels, who has written books about Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi and has published interviews with fellow writers about the craft of rock journalism, has just penned a new book on Journey that sounds like a page turner whether you like the band or not. The book, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’: The Untold Story of Journey,’ chronicles the band from 1973 through 2010. Noisecreep recently chatted with Daniels about Journey and what it’s like to publish books about rock music in the age of digital adaptation and instant gratification.
What route did you go down with the Journey book, since there were so many available avenues you could have pursued with the Steve Perry drama, their prog rock history, The Sopranos, and Glee?
Neil Daniels: Well, this is an unofficial book. There’s no way the band would ever publish their own book and talk about their true feelings for Steve Perry. People don’t always acknowledge that official books are often sanitized versions of the real story that usually read like press releases. Journey fans — certainly the objective ones — know that there are still some ill feelings between Perry and Jonathan Cain & Neal Schon. Certainly Herbie Herbert, whom I interviewed for the book, did not have a lot of good things to say about Perry.
It’s an honest book, and I was never out to knock Perry because he is a totally amazing singer. But at the same time you have to realize that he doesn’t come across in good light all the time, especially during the making of ‘Raised on Radio.’ There is a bonus chapter in the book on Steve Perry’s solo music as well as some other bits in the appendices. It’s a complete bio, so it tells the story of the band from 1973-2010. The publishers have just released the cover and it looks like one of the band’s album sleeves. They’ve done a great job with it.
You’ve written a lot of rock books. What is the one you learned the most from or during the research process? Which one was the hardest?
They’re all hard to write in their own ways. Probably the Robert Plant one was the hardest because of time constraints, and it was my second book so I was still learning. Plus the subject matter was difficult. I’m proud of all my books in different ways. I learned a lot from my print on demand books, actually. The two ‘All Pens Blazing’ [books] feature over 100 interviews with rock writers between them. It was a lot of legwork but they came out well. I’ve had seven commercially released books and four POD ones so far. I really enjoyed researching this Journey one though and it’s my best book so far, I think.
I had the idea to do a book on Journey when Jeff Scott Soto was in the band but it wasn’t the right time. And to be honest, there wasn’t a single publisher interested in it. Then, two things happened: they hired Arnel Pineda, which gave them the most exposure they’d had since getting back with Steve Perry in the mid ’90s when ‘Trial By Fire’ came out; and then there was ‘Glee,’ which has done a huge favor to Journey. I read somewhere last week that ‘Glee’ made Journey $1 million in sales revenue. Journey’s sales have gone up from 75 million to 80 million in the last couple of years. When I pitched the book to Omnibus Press proper, ‘Don’t Stop Believin” had claimed the title of the most downloaded song in history. It is a major triumph for me to get a publisher interested in publishing a book on a band like Journey.
What is the craziest rock and roll story you’ve been told or witnessed in your travels as a rock author?
I think those days don’t really exist anymore. Writers just don’t have that kind of access to bands anymore because of the control PR people have. If you read the stories from seasoned rock scribes in my APB books, you’ll see just how much fun it was in the ’80s, but I’m too young to have lived through that. All my interviews are done over the phone and I have a day job too so going on tour with bands is not possible. There are some great stories by writers like Paul Suter, Dave Reynolds, Dave Ling, Howard Johnson and Derek Oliver in ‘All Pens Blazing Vols 1 and 2′ though.
Who is the one artist you’d like to biography?
Good question, but I can’t really answer it because that would mean giving my ideas away! I have to keep tight-lipped as do all rock authors. There are loads of artists I’d love to write books about, but it’s all down to what publishers think are commercial ideas. I can tell you that I’ve just written an illustrated history of Iron Maiden from an American company which is due next year.
Anything else you’d like to share, please do.
My website has just been re-launched, and in the interviews section there are dozens of interviews with rock scribes which I’m sure readers of Noisecreep would find very interesting.