Interview by Neil Daniels
A lifelong hard rock and heavy metal fan, Bob Nalbandian has been writing about rock since 1981 when he penned a review of Tygers Of Pan Tang for the now legendary metal fanzine Metal Mania. But he is best known for the excellent site Hard Radio at www.hardradio.com.
When did you first become a heavy metal fan?
I was a fan of hard rock and heavy metal music very early on. I was fortunate to have an older cousin who turned me onto many classic metal bands back in the early ‘70s when I was eight or nine. He used to make me compilation cassettes (and 8-tracks!) with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Humble Pie, Ten Years After, etc. I also got into a lot of American bands like Aerosmith, Nugent, Montrose, and BTO (from Canada) but my favourite was Rainbow when the Rising album came out... And by the late ‘70s I was heavily into Judas Priest and AC/DC, Rainbow. By 1980 I fully delved into the NWOBHM –Maiden, Angel Witch, Saxon, Diamond Head, Samson, Tygers Of Pan Tang and of course Motorhead became some of my new favourites!
Who were your earliest musical heroes?
That would have to be Ritchie Blackmore, even though I never played guitar I was a huge Blackmore as well as Ronnie James Dio fan, especially when he formed Rainbow. Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were also musical heroes of mine early on.
When did you start writing about rock and metal?
My first rock/metal article was for Ron Quintana’s Metal Mania fanzine. This must have been 1981, I believe I wrote a record review of Tygers Of Pan Tang’s Crazy Nights album that had just come out (I remember ripping into it too because I was so disappointed with it.) The second article I wrote for Metal Mania was an LA metal review I did with my buddy Patrick Scott. We featured short reviews of Steeler, Ratt, Armored Saint and Metallica, which I believe ended up being the very first Metallica article ever written.
Which music magazines did you read growing up?
When I was in my early teens it was Circus, Creem and Hit Parader, and occasionally Record Review when I was able to find a copy. I picked up the first issue of Kerrang! at an import record store and from that day on through the mid-‘80s Kerrang! became my Bible.
Who was your first interview with?
I think my very first interview was with John Gallagher from Raven for my early ‘80s fanzine The Headbanger, where I mailed him questions and he mailed them back to me. But my first major in-person interview was with the great Ronnie James Dio. This was in March of 1983, the week he released his first solo album Holy Diver. That was one of the best interview experiences of my life; I was an 18 year old metal fan interviewing one of my idols! Ronnie invited me to his house and I hung out there for nearly three hours!
Have you had any difficult interviews?
I wouldn’t say difficult interviews, but there were certainly interviews that didn’t go as well as I expected, whether it be because the artist wasn’t in a talkative mood or I wasn’t as prepared as I should’ve been. But fortunately I never had one of those “difficult” interviews where the artist was an asshole or walked out on me.
Who would you like to interview?
Well I never had the chance to interview my early guitar idols – Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page or Tony Iommi (although I have interviewed Ozzy, Geezer and Bill Ward.) But in a way I’m not sure I would be comfortable interviewing any of them as I would probably be nervous as hell!
Can you name some of the best gigs you’ve been to?
Well, my first concert – AC/DC on the Highway To Hell tour at Long Beach Arena (just before Bon passed) was a major highlight, also Judas Priest on the British Steel tour (also at Long Beach Arena.) Other great LB Arena shows were Rainbow on Down To Earth tour and UFO on No Place To Run tour. In hindsight, some of the early Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Armored Saint early club shows were definitely memorable. Saxon at the Whisky on their first US tour (in which Metallica opened) was also a highlight. Oh, and Metallica’s secret shows at Jezebels and Country Club when they introduced Jason Newsted were pretty incredible.
Who are your favourite rock/metal writers/authors?
As far as US authors, at an early age it was Jon Sutherland as well as a lot of the early fanzine writers like Ron Quintana and KJ Doughton. In the UK I loved most all the early Kerrang! writers, from Malcolm Dome to Paul Suter and Dante Bonutto and several of the other early writers. I look up to and respect so many writers these days, I really like Martin Popoff’s book writings, especially the fact that he loves writing about many of the obscure and overlooked metal bands from the ‘70s through current who many others would never write about.
What do you make of the American metal magazine industry (is there one left?)?
No, there never really was any great American metal magazines. We had RIP! Magazine in the ‘80s who had some fantastic writers (Jon Sutherland, Scott Schalin, Stefffan Chirazi and others) but that really didn’t compare to Kerrang! in my eyes since RIP! didn’t expose me to great new metal bands like Kerrang! and some of the other ‘80s metal fanzines and magazines out of Europe (like Metal Forces, Aardschok, Metal Hammer, Enfer, etc…)
Can you tell me about Shockwaves?
I started Shockwaves as a print magazine in 1995 and did two issues and got great feedback but the printing cost was too expensive to keep it going so in 1996 I met with Tracy Barnes who started HardRadio.com (the first Internet radio station) and he suggested I do the magazine interviews online on HardRadio’s site which was great for me because it was no expense on my end and I didn’t have to deal with shady distributers!
Are there any rock/metal sites that you check regularly?
Really the only ones I check out on a daily or weekly basis is Blabbermouth and BW&BK website and the BW&BK news page on HardRadio.com. I mainly check those out for the current metal news.
Can you describe your music collection (CDs, LPs, books, etc etc)?
I really don’t have that impressive of a collection since I move so often I always have to get rid of stuff! I used to have a great vinyl collection that I sold off in the mid ‘90s, I wish kept it because over the last 10 to 12 years some of those vinyl records I owned are worth hundreds of dollars. I live in apartment now so don’t have room for a big collection so I’ve sold off a lot of CDs as well. I ripped most my CDs on my computer drive so that works for me and is so much more convenient.
How do you store it all?
I’m able to store all my CDs, DVDs, etc in my room. It’s pretty compact these days. I do have some rarities I’ve kept over the years hidden away somewhere in my mom’s closet.
Metallica or Megadeth?
As far as actual songs, I prefer Megadeth over Metallica. I just think Dave Mustaine is such a unique songwriter and guitarist, especially in the early years.
Maiden or Priest?
Judas Priest, I love Iron Maiden but let’s face it, Priest are the heavy metal masters!
Bob Nalbandian with Slayer's Kerry King