To begin with full disclosure: This book isn’t something that I’d normally read. So when fellow writer Gary Hill asked for peer reviews, I initially agreed to it as a favor. I promised myself, first and foremost, to be brutally honest – for his benefit, the benefit of the reader, and to maintain my personal integrity. This, then, is my honest summation: this work is a must-have for the serious music enthusiast.
What I did not know at the time I agreed to this undertaking was what this book was all about. I had no notion that it would be something that I would so readily enjoy – relish, even. Conversely, Gary had no notion that I was a serial collector of music in all genres, (to the tune of 140k MP3’s at last count). And, yes, I said ‘collector’ and not ‘pirate’, for the record. In offering my services as a favor, I instead received not a chore but a wonderful gift.
As a young boy, I grew up listening to classical music with my maternal Grandfather. I also raided and pillaged my parent’s album and 45 collection earlier than I can place, and remember spending fond hours listening to artists no young child normally would (or should – I’m looking at you, Savoy Brown and Jim Morrison). Suffice it to say, I developed a life-long love of the ‘air poem’ which has persisted to this day.
On the whole, while seemingly formulaic (which it is, if we’re being overtly glib), this book permits the responding parties a personal voice with which to roam far and wide from the fences of the questions themselves. Imagine a Q&A rodeo: sure, everyone begins in the same captive position but, when the gate is opened, no one knows just what in the hell will happen. Like a bull ride, then, this work strips itself of a potential repetitious downfall and, instead, sheds light from all corners of the Earth on a topic that is still as mystical and gratifying today as it has been for centuries on end.
My sole complaint (if one is to be found) is that Jeff Lynne isn’t in here. Mostly because I’d love to have seen his bull ride from his own perspective. And that isn’t a real complaint – I just love Jeff Lynne’s work that much. Perhaps next time >hint hint<.
Gary was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk with us about the work:
This new book is, I think it fair to say, a massive undertaking. What in the world made you decide to do it?
I have always found talking about music to be incredibly exciting. To me the passion involved in a conversation about music a person really loves is something special. So, years ago, I started thinking about creating a book asking musicians about just that subject. I mean, musicians devote huge chunks of their life to music. By that very act, it seems likely that they (at least at one time) love music more than the average person does. That makes for a great topic as far as I’m concerned. This book has been a labor (and yes, “labor” is the right word – it became much more work than I envisioned) of love.
Give us a brief synopsis of what the book is about, and what you hoped to achieve in writing it.
The way I’ve described it is as “a book featuring interviews with more than 85 musicians focusing on musician as music fan.”
How did you decide whom to approach?
The first consideration was that the artists had to be at least semi-professional musicians. I wanted to try to get a cross-section of musicians from different generations and different levels of success and from all over the world. I think I was mostly successful with that. Beyond that I started by contacting mostly people who had been covered at Music Street Journal. Then I looked for some other artists via social media. My intent was to be as inclusive as possible. I also know from past experience that just because someone says they are interested, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. So, the shotgun approach of contact many to get a few seemed the best way to do things.
Whose response did you find most entertaining?
I hate to single one out, but Clark Colborn probably should consider writing his own book. The guy is eloquent and very funny, making for a fun experience.
Did you contact anyone thinking to yourself that there was no possible way they’d respond – only to get a response?
I’ve been contacting and interviewing musicians for long enough that I don’t really get surprised by someone being available. I even got Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath to answer my questions (through an intermediary) for my Lovecraft music based book (The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H.P. Lovecraft). I suppose if I were ever to hear back from Metallica or one of the remaining Beatles, that might shock me.
What was the strangest thing you encountered in the responses received?
There was one person, who shall remain nameless, who completely disregarded the idea of the book and any of the questions. Don’t get me wrong, I encouraged people to just go in whatever direction they wanted, as long as it was generally related to the subject at hand. This person, though, actually just wrote a six or seven page biography, with almost nothing to do with the music that inspired him. I told him that I was sorry for his wasted time, but that I couldn’t use what he sent at all.
Obviously music is a big part of your everyday life. What artists have stood the test of time with you, personally?
Good music always stands the test of time. I remember way back when (I was probably 7 or 8 years old) discovering The Ventures and becoming a huge fan. The thing is, that music is dated today, but it’s still great.
My favorite acts have been the same for years: Yes, Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Judas Priest, Rush, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin. Sure, there are others that have come in more recently (and I’m leaving a lot off the list – it’s hard to draw a line), but the greats remain great.
Have you become friends with any of the performers who responded, as a result of this publication?
I would say not because of this book. There are several artists included in the book who I’ve known personally for years. I was very glad to get to include some of those people in the book.
What artists were you most disappointed did not respond?
I don’t think I was really disappointed. It leaves things open for a second volume, really.
How does writing non-fiction compare to fiction, in your eyes?
Non-fiction is more like doing research papers. In fact, I see non-fiction books – at least the ones I’ve done – as just massive research papers. Fiction requires imagination.
I’d actually say that they both require the ability to pay attention to details and construct something. They both need thought into the construction and layout. With fiction, it’s more about creating a world that makes sense. You have to think about the different angles and possibilities. With non-fiction, it’s about the actual construction of the book. You have to figure out how to arrange it in a way that makes sense. In a lot of ways, that’s the same process.
Both types of writing present challenges. They are just different challenges. I’d say that both are rewarding in their own ways, too. I like having both outlets. I don’t think I prefer one over the other. Although, I do think of non-fiction as easier in that it comes more naturally to me.
When will the work be available, and what are the specifics?
I had an offer on the table from a publisher, but ultimately given the options, it seemed that self-publishing (as I did before) was the better choice. I was shocked when I finalized all the files yesterday that there wasn’t a delay from doing that to having the book become available. So, it’s actually available now.
One of the advantages of the self-publish option is that I was able to do both a paperback version of the book and a hard cover one. Both are currently available at Lulu.com/strangesound. The paperback version will also be available soon at Amazon.com and other online sources (ISBN 978-1-365-38513-1). That said, with the cut Amazon takes, I had to set the pricing higher than I would have liked to make it work. So, I’ve set the paperback on sale at Lulu – 20 percent off. The hard cover, and all the other books in my Lulu book store, are currently at 10 percent off in celebration of the release. Those prices are going to stay in place there through the end of the year. However, the only place you can get those discounts is at the Lulu.com store.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’d like to say that I’m really proud of this book. In the process of the final proofing and formatting, I’ve read it cover to cover several times. I think it’s a great book. And, I mean that in the most unbiased way possible. I’d love this book if someone else had written it.
I think it’s important to contrast it with my other non-fiction book: The Strange Sound of Cthulhu. That one is much more academic. It was intended more as a reference book than a book to read cover to cover. Sure, you can do that, but it’s a very dense book. It’s not an easy read. Noted H.P. Lovecraft expert S.T. Joshi said that was one of the most interesting books he’s ever read (and he did the foreword for that book), but it’s a bit more of an undertaking to read, I think. I should mention that I plan to do a new and updated version of that book soon. I had planned it for the tenth anniversary of publication (which was last month), but didn’t make that deadline.
Poetry of the Air is written with a bit less of an academic edge. It’s meant to be more inspiring and fun. I think that comes across in the style of it. Even though it’s almost twice as long, I think it is a quicker read.
Thanks for taking the time, Gary. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone else who reads the work, appended to this thread. And to the readers: if there’s a music lover in your life, this book should make for time well-spent on their part.
Heath D. Alberts – Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Author of: ‘Terminal Beginning‘ (2010) | ‘Guerrilla Business‘ (2012) | ‘The Battery Man‘ (2013) | ‘Last Rights‘ (2013) | “Deeper” (2014) | ‘Photographic Memory‘ (2014) | ‘Guerrilla Business 2.0‘ (2015) | ‘Not On The List‘ (2015) | ‘A Twist Of Fate‘ (2015) | ‘Rockford Writes‘ (2015) | ‘The Meaning of Light‘ (2016)
Co-author of: ‘Dave’s Not Here‘ (2015)
Contributor To: ‘Secret Rockford‘ (2014)
Administrator of The Rockford Blog