Welcome to the Rocktopia Interviews Section (* For Members Only)
Interview with Mike McPadden
26 July 2012
Interview by Neil Daniels
Mike McPadden is the author of If You Like Metallica… (Backbeat Books) and the upcoming tome, Heavy Metal Movies: The 666 Most Headbanging Films Of All Time (Bazillion Points.) He is also Head Writer at MrSkin.com. His website is McBeardo.com.
When did you get into rock and metal?
That goes back as far as I can remember. The first rock song I really loved and would wait to hear on the radio so I could sing along was ‘Little Willy’ by Sweet. That was in 1972. I was four. I still love that song. And Sweet.
Can you name some of the best gigs you’ve been to?
I’ve been to so, so many shows through the years, mostly small club stuff. My first concert ever was an outdoor gig by the Ramones at Rutgers University when I was eleven. It was life changing. I first saw Metallica on the … And Justice For All tour at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. They just seemed superhuman. The instruments were like extensions of their bodies. I was watching and listening and thinking – “This is impossible! Nobody can play like that!” But there they were.
In terms of other big concerts, I try to see Neil Young whenever he goes out with Crazy Horse. It’s like watching the world’s greatest garage band with 20,000 other groovy dudes and right-on chicks just hanging out.
My favourite live band ever is the Butthole Surfers. I saw them while I was sober for the first time a couple of years ago. It was the full line-up, with Theresa Nervosa on percussion, and it was every bit as great as my drunken memories.
In 1991, I saw KISS do a surprise concert at L’Amour, the legendary “rock capitol of Brooklyn.” I grew up not far from L’Amour – or, as we called it, pluralized with our accents, “Lamawz” – and I, of course, grew up loving KISS, so this was a dream come true. KISS didn’t have their makeup on, but it was a small club that held 2,000 people tops, and I did see a girl flash her boobs at a concert for the first time at that show.
About six months later, I caught Nirvana at the Marquee in the Meat Packing District. Even though I was insanely inebriated, it was clear that this band had channelled and unleashed the powers that reside in the pantheon of rock’s greatest. As with Metallica, there was the air of the superhuman about Nirvana live, particularly in that small-ish space.
Which artists have you interviewed in your time?
In 1994, Hustler magazine sent me to Lollapalooza to see who’d talk to us. Green Day ran away, Jennifer Finch from L7 told me off, James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins pretended he had somewhere to be. Nick Cave was really gracious, however, and gave me a great sit-down one-on-one. Perry Farrel was very cool, too.
Who are your favourite bands?
I have tattoos in honour of the Butthole Surfers, the Melvins, King Crimson, and Meat Loaf. So that’s a good roster to start with. I’m also planning some Alice Cooper ink.
Beyond that, it’s not a surprising line-up. Metallica, KISS, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa, the Sex Pistols, and Ted Nugent form the base. Most of what I like arises from that swirling pool. Right now, my favourite band in the world is The Devil’s Blood, from the Netherlands.
When did you start writing about music?
I first started writing about anything and everything in my zine HAPPYLAND, which ran in the ‘90s. The first place to pay me to do record reviews was The New York Press, a weekly alternative paper. From there, I’ve picked up music freelance here and there, including some contributions to the “Aural Sex” column in Screw magazine.
Do you have any favourite rock writers?
Lester Bangs is an easy and obvious one to start with. My main inspiration was Chuck Eddy in the Village Voice throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. He could bend words and force connections between music and pop culture like no one else. Nick Tosches is top-notch, too.
What books on rock/metal would you recommend?
In If You Like Metallica… I make repeated references to Rock And The Pop Narcotic by Joe Carducci. I believe that book is of Biblical importance for hard rock devotees. An entire religion could – and should – arise from Carducci’s writings.
Also required reading: Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal by Ian Christe. That book is not just a masterpiece, it’s a miracle – summing up the entirety of metal in one manageable volume.
Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries by Jon Kristiansen is an astonishing “you-are-there” collection of zines with later musings from the dawn of Norwegian black metal.
Michael Azzerad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life is an excellent round-up of punk-fuelled independent rock in the ’80s.
In terms of Metallica, two books by Joel McIver were supremely informative and helpful to me: Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica and To Live Is To Die: The Life And Death Of Metallica’s Cliff Burton.
Enter Night by Mick Wall was similarly excellent.
What’s your music collection like? (CDs, books, magazines, etc) How do you store it?
I’m not a collector. My music now exists as millions upon millions of MP3 files.
Do you think there is a future for the printed metal magazine? Are there any rock magazines or websites you read regularly?
I look forward to Decibel each month. I think it’s an incredibly well-done magazine, apart from its online presence. Revolver is quite good, too. And I occasionally pick up Mojo or other UK special edition mags if I’m interested in the topics. So I do think there is a place for a hard-copy metal magazine in our online world. I still read every issue of Rolling Stone, for that matter. As for websites, I hit up the obvious ones like Metal Sucks and Blabbermouth, and I like the message boards at Stoner Rock Lives.
Tell me about your Metallica book... how long did it take you to write and research?
If You Like Metallica… is a reference book that connects more than 200 bands, movies, books, artists and other cultural elements to Metallica. It spans from the dawn of rock to what’s going on right now and topic-wise, it’s all over the place. Entertainingly so, I hope. Backbeat Books gave me the opportunity to write the book in June 2011 and I turned it in just before December. It was a lot of work!
Your next book is about heavy metal movies. Can you tell me a bit about this one?
The title of the next book is Heavy Metal Movies: The 666 Most Headbanging Films Of All Time, from Anvil to Zardoz. Bazillion Points is publishing it in Spring 2013.
The book contains 666 movie reviews, plus sidebars, interviews, posters, and everything in any way connected to heavy metal movies. So what makes a movie heavy metal? It’s metal if it includes substantial metal music, or appearances by a metal musician, or if it’s about heavy metal – in the case of documentaries and concert films. However, the book also includes movies that arise from metal themes, like sword and sorcery and the apocalypse – so there’s a lot about Conan The Barbarian and Mad Max in there.
Can you tell me about your website?
McBeardo.com is my personal site. I post there as needed. By day, I’m the Head Writer at MrSkin.com – the world’s number-one resource for celebrity nudity. All my jobs kick ass!