‘Sound of the Beast’ Author Ian Christe Reads Blabbermouth
One of the coolest parts about being part of the Noisecreep family is getting to talk shop with some of our favorite people in the hard rock scene. Ian Christe is one of the most respected figures in the world of heavy metal. Perhaps best known for his exhaustive ‘Sound of the Beast’ metal history book, Christe has also started his own publishing company called Bazillion Points Publishing where he’s helped other writers get their work out. 2010 is shaping up to be a massive year for the company with new titles hitting store shelves — and even some DVD things also in the works.
Since we were interviewing Christe anyway, we decided to pick his brain and ask him about some of his personal metal picks. As you’ll see in the piece below, we cover everything from the more mainstream stuff to the obscure artists that have sadly been buried deep within in the history books. Our favorite part is when he talks about his addiction to Blabbermouth.
Through your freelance writing gigs, underground metal geeks have known your name for quite some time. But it was ‘Sound of the Beast’ that truly got your name out there. How long did it take you to write that?
‘Sound of the Beast’ started innocently enough, but it took four years total to complete. By the end, I was broke and mentally broken. But the reception and continual rebirth of the book has more than made up for all the sacrifice. When I was a tiny metalhead, I only dreamed that my desire for this powerful music would someday turn into a book, and then be translated into a dozen languages. I still feel like all I did was faithfully record the stories that had made up metal lore for decades. Somebody had to do it, and I’m very lucky that I was able to be the one.
How many people did you interview for that book?
More than a hundred. Almost everybody was extremely cool. The forefathers of metal are some of the best people alive. Oddly, it was the guys that came up through the punk scene who were the biggest assholes.
Musicians often listen to their older albums and find things that bug them about the recordings and/or material. Has that happened to you with ‘Sound of the Beast’ or one of your other writing projects?
Oh yeah. I mean, I started writing ‘Sound of the Beast’ 10 years ago. At that time, any history of heavy metal you’d find would center around Mötley Crüe. I tried to remedy that by making Metallica the central characters in my book, giving them their rightful dominant role. And then they promptly sued Napster, recorded ‘St. Anger’ and released their reality movie, ‘Some Kind of Monster,’ totally undermining my case! But the early years still stand strong. And hey, I was in my 20s, neither I nor anybody else had ever written a full-fledged metal history, and somebody needed to knock Mötley Crüe off their shelf and prove that grunge didn’t kill metal. Somebody had to do it, the common man’s conception of metal was an injustice.
Thinking back to all of your years writing about heavy metal, who has been the biggest pain in the ass to interview?
It wouldn’t be in heavy metal, it would be somebody like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or Royal Trux, who acted like answering a question honestly was harder than a tooth extraction. Or some boring indie band. Actually, I interviewed government scientists when I was writing for Popular Mechanics, and they would always try to control the articles, and deny saying things that I had on tape. Metal musicians are usually the best, most honest people to interview. They know that truth always wins.
Let’s get nerdy … who is the most underrated death metal band of all time?
Hellwitch! Those guys were there at the beginning of the Florida explosion, and they’re still churning out insanely technical new songs. I mean, who else can deliver the musical goods to back up song titles like “Mordivirial Disemenation”?
Which new wave of British heavy metal band should have been huge?
Raven came close, but ended up somewhere behind Anvil. Tank and Witchfinder General were great. Aragorn and Sweet Savage had fantastic songs. But Savage and Angel Witch both recorded the best, most complete and ass-kicking albums, and they should be celebrated far and wide on international NWOBHM day. And for modern-day metalcore, the answer is Byzantine and Psyopus!
Was Celtic Frost’s ‘Cold Lake’ as bad as people made it out to be?
I’ll say no, only because people refuse to even listen to that. I haven’t heard it myself in years. Incredibly, there was a commercial live video of Celtic Frost performing classics like ‘Circle of the Tyrants’ in that campy glam style! I’m still fascinated by ‘Cold Lake,’ and how the entire progression of Hellhammer through that Celtic Frost album was only like a five-year span. Of course, Tom Fischer is releasing ‘Only Death Is Real,’ his mammoth photo history of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, on Bazillion Points. He vehemently despises ‘Cold Lake’ now. I haven’t mentioned the record to him in ten years, but I can’t say I’ve thought of it very often, either.
A lot of writers and thrash metal tape traders talked about this back in the day, but did Chicago’s Sindrome really deserve a label deal?
If they were from New York instead of Chicago, they would have definitely had multiple offers. Instead, those deals went to Demolition Hammer, Underdog and who knows? Oh yeah, you know — your boys Gothic Slam! (Noisecreep had brought up Gothic Slam in one of our earlier posts)
How many times a day do you check Blabbermouth?
You started the first part of this interview with a great question, and you’re ending with a knockout punch. I’ll admit to 10 to 20 visits a day. Good or bad, that is the soul and moral center of metal in the this decade. And for all the stupidity on parade, some profound s— goes down. I feel sorry for genres of music that don’t have a Blabbermouth as a ventilation valve!