Of all the bands that labored (or rejoiced... the choice is your) beneath the epithet "Heavy Metal," UFO always felt like one of the most awkward fits. Not later on, of course - after a while, they tired with swimming against the tide, and happily took their place among the horde of heavies whose logos were emblazoned upon the average Metalhead's denim jacket. Through the 1970s, though, UFO occupied an almost unique musical station, closer to Taste than they would be to Tesla, louder than hell but capable, too, of turning in an almost better-than-the-original version of Love's "Alone Again Or."
High Stakes & Dangerous Men (Soundcheck Books), is the story of this remarkable, resourceful and best of all raw rock'n'roll band, told for the first time by British author Neil Daniels, an authority on all things heavy and metallic, and also the mind behind a series of books, All Pens Blazing, that turn the tables on a clutch of top rock writers, and make them answer the questions for a change. So Goldmine turns them back again, and subjects Daniels to our own inquisition.
Thumbscrews at the ready!
What prompted you to write a book on UFO?
I was asked by the publisher, Phil Godsell, at Soundcheck books if I was interested in a book on UFO after I had pitched a few ideas to him on other bands. I jumped at the chance. It’s out now in the UK and due in coming weeks in the States.
It wasn’t an easy book to write as they have a very complicated history. They’re a very underrated. I hope fans will enjoy the book, though I realise many fans are hard to please. It covers their entire history dating back to 1969, and includes a foreword by US broadcaster Eddie Trunk who is also a major UFO fan, and an afterword by British rock journalist Peter Makowski.
Who did you interview?
I started as I usually do with each book by gathering a list of possible interviewees and approaching them. I got to interview the likes of Leo Lyons, Laurence Archer, Mick Glossop, Nick Tauber and Ron Nevison, amongst other producers and ex members from the band’s history. I then created a chronology of their history going back to 1969 and merged my research into the chronology to create the first draft.
It’s very hard to write a book on a famous band and unearth new information in the age of digital information and research because so much is online. Plus, it depends on your own knowledge of the band – one story may have been heard before by one fan but unheard of by another. What this book does is tell the story of the band in a chronological and easy to read fashion – there’s enough geeky detail on the music for seasoned fans and enough casual detail for newcomers.
You’ve also released a book on Journey’s Neal Schon. What was the reason behind that?
I wrote a book on Journey in 2010 when the band were still in the press a lot because of Glee and the way they’d hired their latest singer Arnel Pineda (courtesy of YouTube) and Omnibus Press saw potential in the idea. I wrote a bonus chapter on Steve Perry and one on Neal Schon but the latter was edited out because of the word count so I kept it, and thankfully since discovering Createspace I thought I’d extend it and publish it as a guide to his solo music. A the title says, it is a ‘casual guide’ but there’s still lots of detail - a potted history, reviews, interviews, quotes, timelines, discographies and unpublished photos. It turned out well and is my bestselling Createspace book so far. My next casual guide book will also be on an underrated guitarist.
How does this compare to your Journey biography, Don’t Stop Believin’?
I think both books make nifty companions. My Journey biog was pretty well received by the rock press (despite what Amazon reviewers would have you believe) and it sold okay. Maybe I should write one on Steve Perry now…or maybe not.
How did you become involved with Createspace?
The great thing about Createspace is that anybody can use it. It’s free and after a few tries very easy to use. I looked to your goodself for advice as you’ve released a few Createspace books in between your commercial ones and I took your advice and tips seriously. I thought the first two books that I did, AOR Chronicles and Rock & Metal Chronicles, came out quite well but I’ve done about 10 more since then and they definitely look and feel better and I’ve started to insert images too. My latest books are called Bang Your Head – Heavy Metal Shots and Get Your Rock On – Melodic Rock Shots, as well as the Neal Schon one.
In the age of digital printing, more of these print on demand companies are cropping up but Createspace is probably the best. I even reprinted my first four PDO books (through AuthorsOnline, initially) through Createspace and renamed them, so Rock N Roll Mercenaries became Hard Rock Rebels – Talking With Rock Stars and the All Pens Blazing books became Rock N Roll Sinners. They’re all sold on Amazon and details can be found at www.neildanielsbooks.com.
Tell me about your current ZZ Top biography?
There’s not much out there on the band. I know you wrote one yourself years ago (Eliminator, in 1985), but since then there’s hardly been anything and given the success of the new album and how much they’re in the rock press I thought it was a no brainer and thankfully Phil and his wife Sue at Soundcheck Books really got behind the idea and commissioned it after my UFO book. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get ideas off the ground, but Phil and Sue have really stuck behind my pitches.
What are your favourite ZZ Top albums?
The earlier stuff still works for me, so; Tres Hombres, Fandango!, Tejas and Deguello. There new album rocks too. I like the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any rock star B.S. with these guys and that they’ve never changed the line-up. They seem like very humble, very music-focussed musicians.
What can fans expect from the book?
It’s a guide to their music and history - the first half of the book is a biography followed by detailed discographies, timelines, trivia, essays/quotes from fellow rock writers and all sorts of other tidbits of info on the band as well as unpublished photos. It’s a really nice looking book. There’s a foreword by Steven Rosen and an afterword by Martin Popoff. It’s out now in the UK and published March 1 in the US.
What’s your next project?
Well, I’ve just launched my new website www.neildanielsbooks.com which is a pretty good way to start the year. It includes information on everything I have ever written. On the book front; I have released two so far – the Neal Schon and ZZ Top books. My books on the first four Iron Maiden albums and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet are due to be released in around 3-4 months. There’ll also be a few more Createspace books. Everything is detailed on the site.