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Interview with rock music journalist Phil Alexander

Phil Alexander is one of the most respected journalists/editors in the field of rock writing. He is currently the editor of Mojo magazine and in the past he has also edited RAW and Kerrang!. He has been a familiar face on television for years (he hosted a show in the ‘90s called Raw Power) and can be regularly heard voicing his opinions on rock music on the radio.

Interview by Neil Daniels (free extract from the book All Pens Blazing Vol. II)

When did you first start listening to rock and metal?
The first rock and metal bands I remember hearing were people like Nazareth, Black Sabbath and Free. My cousins owned records by those bands and I was about nine or ten and they seemed quite exciting. Then, a year or so later I bought Led Zeppelin III because of its kaleidoscopic sleeve. I remember being quite bemused by it as an album. In the light of what I was listening to at the time, it didn’t sound like anything else because of its other-worldly qualities. When you listen to it with fresh ears – which obviously I was doing – even a track like ‘Immigrant Song’ is pretty weird. But I grew to love Led Zeppelin III. ‘Tangerine’ is still in my top five Zep tunes.

What was your first paid piece of rock journalism?
The first piece I wrote was a review of Venom on The Seven Dates Of Hell tour at Hammersmith Odeon in 1984 for a French magazine named Enfer. I was sixteen at the time. For some reason, Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts were the support band so, technically speaking, DRN were the first band I ever wrote about. What a priviledge.

Who were your early rock writer heroes?
I was an avid Sounds reader so I read people like Geoff Barton, Sylvie Simmons, Pete Makowski, Jon Savage, Phil Sutcliffe, Edwin Pouncey and Sandy Robertson. My heroes weren’t music journalists, though. They were musicians.

Which rock magazines did you read growing up?
Sounds was my bible. It covered every aspect of rock music in a manner that was enthusiastic and it had writers that shared your passion. It shaped the way I think about music journalism: you start from the position of liking the band rather than sneering at them. That doesn’t mean you soft-soap them. On the contrary, if they let you down, it hurts more.

Whilst writing for the French mag Enfer what was it like interviewing members of Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top et al?
Enfer was based in Paris and I was based in London. I was still at school when I was writing for them but I’m not sure they knew that initially because they hadn’t ever met me. I’d ring them up every couple of weeks and tell them what was going on in London and I’d say to them, I fancy writing a piece about Phil Lynott or whoever. They’d say, “OK get it in by next Tuesday”. It was a pretty simple process. The editor, Philippe Touchard, was a massive Motörhead fan so anything to do with them was guaranteed to run. I remember doing an eight page piece with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke when he was just forming Fastway and a five page piece of Larry Wallis – the latter for no other reason other than the fact that I’d bumped into him and we’d agreed to do an interview.
In answer to you question, though, interviewing the likes of ZZ Top and Lizzy was great. In fact, I turned eighteen with Phil Lynott when his post-Lizzy band, Grand Slam, played the Royal Standard in Walthamstow. There was a lock-in afterwards and the chaps in Metallica were there along with Paul Di’Anno. I still lived at home with my parents in Eltham, South London. To this day I have no idea how I got from Walthamstow to Eltham… I just remember not being able to speak when I got home. My mum hadn’t gone to bed because she was worried that I hadn’t called to say I’d be late. I walked in at about 6.00am to get an almighty bollocking. I couldn’t answer back or really explained where I’d been…
Before the gig Phil Lynott found out that it was my birthday and he gave me a book of his poetry and signed it ‘To Phil, from Brother Phil’. I still have it today. The best birthday present anyone could ever get.
Who was your very first rock star interview with? How did it go?
The first ever interview I did was with Wendy O. Williams from the Plasmatics. Like I said, I was a kid. I had never interviewed anyone before and she was a formidable woman. Because I didn’t have a portable tape machine, I borrowed my mum’s ghetto blaster to take the interview. Wendy must have wondered what was going on: some kid turns up with ghetto blaster the size of a small house and ten sheets of questions. Having said that, she made me feel completely at ease. Looking back, she taught me that every musician has a public persona and then their real personality. The two are not necessarily one and the same.
When Wendy committed suicide in 1998, I was really upset. Strangely enough, I ran into Lemmy the next day who was obviously a huge friend of hers. We had a good chat about her. She was one in a million. Funnily enough, I listened to the first Plasmatics album, New Hope For The Wretched, the other day. Songs like ‘Butcher Baby’, ‘Monkey Suit’ and their version of ‘Dream Lover’ still sound great.

Have you had any difficult interviewing experiences?
None that were particularly horrific. I do remember interviewing Witchfynde once. They had a pseudo-satanic reputation and, to be honest, I quite liked their music. But for some reason Montalo, their guitar player, took exception to a question I’d asked about their satanic shtick and spent the entire interview trying to stare me out. Anyhow, I got home and went to transcribe the tape and found out it was blank. For some reason it hadn’t recorded at all. Consequently, in a moment of karmic magnificence, the piece never ran.
Other than that, there’s very few people that I’ve not enjoyed interviewing, although there are a number I’ve found to be rather pompous… David Lee Roth being one of them… He got rather irritated when I described him as ‘an entertainer’ rather than as a musician. “Listen, buddy, I’m a musician, first and foremost!” he said and then he got all pissed off. Then, three questions later, he answered me by telling what a great entertainer he was and how he viewed himself as far more than just a musician. At first, I thought he was taking the piss. Then I realised that he wasn’t. I didn’t enjoy talking to him at all. I just thought he was up his own arse.

How did you end up as a staff writer at RAW?
By complete chance. I’d graduated from university just as RAW was being launched. A PR by the name of Maggi Farren rang me to say that this new magazine was launching and they needed someone who knew about the extreme end of metal. I went up to meet Dante Bonutto, Malcolm Dome, Mark Putterford and Steve McTaggart and somehow I ended up with a job…

What was your experience like editing RAW magazine?
I edited RAW from 1991 to the summer of 1993 and we had a great time. I was in my early twenties and the staff was very small so the hours were rather daft. I am not sure we ever finished an issue of the magazine on time but we did have a good time doing it. The team lived what it wrote about and I think you sensed that from the magazine itself. It was a bit like a diary and the team itself lived in the office… quite literally in the case of certain staffers. Assorted band members would also drift in and out of the office – people like Magnum, Uriah Heep, Napalm Death, UFO. Würzel from Motörhead used to turn up with great regularity because he knew we’d be all too happy to abandon the day’s work and repair to the local boozer with him.
  I remember Alice Cooper popped in just to say hello once but we were down the pub for the entire afternoon and, after about an hour of sitting in reception, he left. Thee Slayer Hippie from Poison Idea came to visit once. He was armed with a few bottles of vodka and some beer, and he drank himself senseless during the course of an afternoon. He spent a couple of days with us in the end – most of the time comatose. The Mudhoney lads told me that Thee Slayer Hippie got arrested recently for armed robbery. I couldn’t quite believe it so I checked on-line and there’s a picture of him lurking outside a pharmacy pre-robbery on Flickr. That’s tragic.

In hindsight, what are your thoughts on RAW and its eventual demise?
RAW’s demise was very sad. It was a really spirited magazine that could and should have survived. But when EMAP – the company that owned RAW – acquired Kerrang! it made it quite difficult. Kerrang! was and is a genuine global phenomenon. It was the first magazine to specialise in metal and hard rock and it defines everything that came after it. In contrast, RAW was a magazine launched by a bunch of people who had worked on Kerrang! and who wanted to broaden the musical remit of the magazine without ever quite shaking off the ethos that had driven Kerrang!. RAW’s frequency – fortnightly – was also an issue. It wasn’t fast enough to be a weekly, nor was it substantial enough to be a monthly read.
I had left RAW when they closed it to edit Kerrang!. EMAP tried to turn RAW into a Britpop mag because its sales as a hard rock mag were dwindling. It was a disaster. I remember Geoff Barton working on the last ‘hard rock’ issue of the magazine before RAW ‘turned’. We bumped into each other on the stairs of our office in Carnaby Street and I remember both us being quite teary about it. For all its faults, RAW was a magazine that was built on passion and to see it change into something that had no passion and no reason to exist was utterly heartbreaking.

Which writers did you work with while editing RAW?
The writing team on RAW was pretty small really. We did a lot of writing in-house because someone like Malcolm Dome could do an interview at ten the morning and have a 1500 word piece written before he went down the pub at lunchtime. Dave Ling and myself would take a little longer in that we’d at least have to make the effort to transcribe the tape…
Writing-wise, we had people like Sylvie Simmons, Kirk Blows, Maura Sutton and the self-styled enigma Dave Dickson, and later on the likes of Liz Evans and Paul Rees joined the team.

How did RAW compare to the likes of Kerrang! and Metal Hammer?
RAW was always meant to have a broader base than either Kerrang! or Metal Hammer. The name itself rather fancifully was meant to stand for ‘Raw Alive Worldwide’. The idea was that we could just as easily write about Keith Richards as we could Napalm Death. And we did…
There was a sense that RAW could be more alternative than Kerrang! or Metal Hammer and I guess it was as a whole. We got some of the grunge scene’s leading lights to write for the magazine. Krist Novoselic wrote a piece at the height of Nirvana’s success, for instance. Then Mark Arm and Steve Turner agreed to write a history of the entire grunge scene from start to finish. I agreed to run it over three issues. I got the first part which was incredible. The second part was even better. And the third part just never arrived… If I remember rightly, Mark Arm had split up with his girlfriend and was gutted. I still run into Mark and Steve and they still joke about it. Apparently, they finally did finish part three and all three parts were printed in some American magazine. Having waited over fifteen years for it to turn up, I’d quite like to read it.

Can you tell me about the early ‘90s rock show you presented Raw Power?
RAW Power was meant to be one of three shows created as a joint venture between a company called Music Box and EMAP. The other two were Q The Music – associated with Q magazine – and Smash Hits On The Telly – the pilot of which I believe was presented by some unknown bloke by the name of Chris Evans. Anyhow, of the three shows only RAW Power got made and I co-presented it utterly by default. It was on in the middle of the night and was watched by insomniacs and milkmen. Rock fans used to video tape it. To be fair, it was the only place on British TV where you could see rock bands.
Ann Kirk, who initially produced the show, had a penchant for hair metal. I, however, hated it so there was always a certain amount of bickering over what we should put on the show. I remember arguing ferociously about the fact that we should include a Soundgarden video. Ann wanted to show a Danger, Danger video instead. She won the argument.
The show itself was filmed at 10.00am on a Friday morning at The Marquee and, for some reason, I always managed to be ingloriously hungover during the filming itself. It didn’t help.
Then there were moments where we were just completely disorganised. I remember one occasion where a prog band – who shall remain nameless to save embarrassment on both my part and theirs – turned up to be interviewed. No one of the crew could remember actually booking them but Ann suggested that I should interview them all the same. I did but I didn’t have a clue who they really were or what they were up to. The opening question ran along the lines of “So, tell me about yourself…”

What have your experiences been like working on TV and radio?
I’ve enjoyed working in radio and TV but nothing beats doing magazines. All the stuff I’ve done on radio and TV has been completely by chance. Guesting on the Radio 1 Rock Show with Mary Anne Hobbs was great fun, though. I also enjoyed doing a show called Mojo Rocks on Friday nights on Mojo Radio which I presented. We had really great guests – Roy Harper, Elektra founder Jac Holzman, Brendan Benson, Kristin Hersh, Ozzy Osbourne, Tim Armstrong, Peter Hammill and loads of others.

How did you get the producing job of the Judas Priest video/DVD Metalworks ’73-’93? What involvement did the band have?
That came about through Music Box who had been approached about producing an anniversary DVD for Sony. They asked me if I’d get involved and I was delighted to on the proviso that all the band were involved. Sadly, Rob Halford was out of Priest at the time and, as we started filming, it became evident that he didn’t want to be involved. In the end we had to forge ahead without him. The plus-side though was that we got to conduct an interview with Glenn Tipton at his Spanish mansion in El Madronal. In fact, if I remember rightly, we went out and had a curry, got ridiculously pissed and nearly crashed the car on the way back to the house. Then we had to do an interview the next day…

How did you become editor of Kerrang!?
I became the editor of Kerrang! – or ‘Ead’itter to use the magazine’s accepted parlance of the time – in the summer of 1993. The powers-that-be at EMAP asked me if I would consider it. At the time I was editing RAW and we’d turned a corner in that we were actually making a small profit of about fifty pence instead of the thumping loss of the previous year. I think that, despite the fact that none of us were money-orientated or business-minded, we all felt quite proud of that. So when I was offered the job on Kerrang! I had to think long and hard about it.
I felt that if I accepted the job, I would be letting people down that I’d worked with for a long time. I went home and I literally did a list of pros and cons. Top of the list of why I wanted to edit Kerrang! was the fact that I had bought the first issue and I remembered the excitement of that. As a kid, it meant so much to have a magazine that was ours. The more I thought about that, the more I found it impossible not to take up the Kerrang! challenge, so to speak. I went back in the next day and said that I’d be interested in doing the job.
How would you describe Kerrang! when you first joined the team?
When I joined Kerrang! the magazine was going through something of a transitional period. Grunge had already happened and while Kerrang! had covered that scene, it was still in thrall to cock rock as a whole. I thought that was wrong so we set about changing what could and couldn’t appear in Kerrang!. The model which I used for that was Sounds – a broad-based rock magazine that covered music with a certain attitude. That’s what we aimed to create and I think we managed that, using a team that was open-minded enough to do it. In fact, my life ambition has always been the re-launch Sounds. I haven’t managed that yet…

In general, how would you describe your period editing Kerrang!?
Editing Kerrang! was one of the best times in my life. The team at the time lived the magazine and I think you could sense that in its pages. There were constant arguments about what could and should appear in the magazine, but that’s what made it good. We used to trust our journalists to tell us about what they wanted to write about and why. If they could build a case then we trusted their instincts.
I remember Mörat – a man who was widely known as only really liking Motörhead, punk and extreme metal – coming in an arguing rather forcefully that the Prodigy were the future of rock ‘n’ roll. I just thought they were a crap dance band but Mörat’s passion was infectious so I told him to go and get an interview sorted and we’d run it. And we did. The first piece Kerrang! ran on the Prodigy appeared in a Christmas (sorry, Kerrismas) issue which featured Bon Jovi on the cover. The second cover sell was a piece on the Alternative Tentacles label. On reflection, that’s quite a strange mix….

While you were editor, how did Kerrang! of the ‘90s/’00s compare to Kerrang! of the ‘80s?
I think it was pretty different in a number of ways. Firstly, like I said, the scene in the ‘90s had changed dramatically because grunge had killed off hair metal. That suited me fine, because I never understood the appeal of the whole hair metal scene in the first place because I came from South London and I really never aspired to riding around LA on a Harley looking like a clown
Secondly, magazines had become more sophisticated and, whereas previously the magazine team had no idea how issues sold week-by week, we knew exactly how well or how badly we were doing. With that in mind, the aim was to try and keep Kerrang!’s paymasters happy and still write about the music that we genuinely loved.
I was quite lucky because when I first turned up at Kerrang! we had three genuine superstar acts that we could put on the cover and that were guaranteed to sell the magazine at any given time. They were Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Bon Jovi. So basically, if I’d taken a risk with a band that we liked but which were incapable of selling our magazine, I’d wheel out one of The Big Three and we make up for the disaster of the previous week.
Having said that, we also sensed that we were struggling to find bands that could sell the magazine other than those three and so we changed our approach as to how we dealt with acts. To put it simply, we decided to create a system where we could actually build a band through the pages of the magazine by constantly supporting them. It wasn’t hype per se because we believed in them, but it was more strategic than it had previously been.
We also knew that Kerrang! readers were really hungry for new music so we started doing things that would get that music out to them as quickly as possible. Obviously this was in the days before the internet, so we had to rely on tried and trusted methods, like cassettes… I remember one example where Monte Conner at Roadrunner New York had sent me a Machine Head demo. I thought it was great so I asked him if we could give away 250 copies upfront of the album’s release. We did and it set the album rather nicely because I dare say that those 250 people that got that tape ran off copies for their mates. We did the same thing with quite a few other bands and it worked every time.
I think when you look at where Kerrang! is now, it still does the job it always did. It reflects and leads the scene in a unique way. A lot of people have been critical of Kerrang! down the years – myself included (as a reader, I remember losing patience with it when they put Malice on the cover around issue 34) – but it was the first magazine of its kind and it still plays a pivotal role in the growth and development of rock bands in the UK and around the world.

Which Kerrang! writers do you admire both past and present?
There are almost too many to mention and for very different reasons. Obviously I have to start with Geoff Barton but down the years people like Malcolm Dome, Paul Miller, Paul Elliott, Dave Reynolds, Mörat, Jason Arnopp, Paul Brannigan, Ian Winwood, Ben Mitchell, Simon Young, Nick Ruskell, David McLaughlin. There are some that I’m sure I’m forgetting, for which I apologise. I do think every team on Kerrang! has had its own personality and its own reservoir of unique talent. I think that Nichola Browne’s team has that right now.

How would you describe the Kerrang! office during your years there?
The Kerrang! office was a prime example of organised chaos. It was an environment that was creative but pretty intense. Everyone on the team had different kinds of music that they liked so there was always an argument about what made its way on to the stereo. But there was also a tongue-in-cheek element to the office itself. Paul Elliott had managed to secured two cardboard cut-out Flying Vs which he’d got K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton to sign. We erected them above the door in some kind of celebration of metal-ness and we informed every visiting band that they had to cower before these, er, two pieces of cardboard.
The scene itself was also quite exciting at the time so we did have various bands popping in and out at various times. Sometimes they popped in for all the wrong reasons… Like the time The Wildhearts paid us a visit and smashed up Malcolm Dome’s computer because we’d run a story that they were splitting up. We got quite a lot of mileage out of their visit, as it goes because we ended up running a second story saying that, not only were they splitting up, but they’d come in a smashed up the office.
Beneath this façade of rock-ness, though I also have to say that the Kerrang! editorial teams down the years have also been capable of giving any editorial team across any other title a real run for their money in terms of their skill, editorial prowess and enthusiasm.

What exactly is an “editor-in-chief”?
That’s a pretty good question. I think it depends on who are and what you want the job to be. Certain people move from being hands-on editors to this exalted position and they don’t actually know what they’re meant to be doing anymore.
I became the editor-in-chief of Kerrang! because there was so much that we needed to do outside of the magazine that it was impossible to edit the magazine as well as take on all these other projects. The projects themselves ranged from launching Kerrang! TV to creating a host of Kerrang! albums and on to and assorted events ranging from the awards to the Kerrang! Weekender. Then there was Kerrang! Radio for which I wrote the application and which launched in Birmingham a number of years back.
In that respect, Kerrang! was the first music magazine to truly establish itself as more than just a magazine. It’s quite funny, because it went from being this little magazine that sold 38,000 copies a week to this entity that suddenly managed to reach four million people. I think it helped change the way people viewed rock music in the UK. You can see that now. When I was growing up, there weren’t many rock fans in my class. Now, if you talk to any school kids, you see that half the class are made up of rock fans of some sort. I think that’s the Kerrang! effect. Having said that, the growth in rock’s popularity has also possibly diluted some of the tribal aspects. That said, you still get extreme metal kids whose disdain for emo is fairly evident and so forth.
Coming back to your question about what an editor-in-chief does, however, these days I am editor-in-chief of Mojo and Kerrang!. With the latter, I am just there if the team need to use me as a sounding board. With Mojo, I edit the magazine day-to-day and look after wider brand concerns too. What I’ve realised down the years, though, is that at the end of the day I like doing magazines.
Can you recall any typical rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes that you have been caught up in during your journalistic career?
There are a few that spring to mind. Being invited to kiss the bride at a society wedding while on the road with Iron Maiden in Argentina, sitting in a hotel room with Iggy Pop and Andy McCoy as they tried to write a song while McCoy and I were slyly trying to drink Ig’s mini bar dry, and there’s also the time when Chris Robinson and I nearly got killed when we got back from The Black Crowes’ gig in Newcastle and walked into a plumbers’ convention back at the hotel bar. “Are you gadgies?” asked one of the plumbers. I had no idea that a gadgie meant a man but apparently it does round those parts. So we asked the guy what he meant. He explained that he was asking whether we were blokes, alluding to the fact that he couldn’t tell because of the length of our hair and how we looked. Chris turned around and said, “To be honest, even if I was a woman I wouldn’t fuck you because you’re so fucking ugly!” We had to get out of the bar pretty quickly, although Todd Macler – Chris’s security guy – did manage to diffuse the situation by informing the offending individual that he’d survived Vietnam but that he would gladly use what he’d learnt out there on him. There are other moments of equal daftness that I could mention…

Do you have ay Ozzy-related anecdotes from your experiences?
The first time I met Ozzy I was in ’89 we ended up in a country club in Ireland. He wasn’t meant to be drinking so when we got to the bar I didn’t know what I should order. He asked me what I wanted to drink, I asked him what he was having. He said, “They do a great pint of Smithwicks in here” so I told him I’d try one. Ozzy ordered two. By the time I’d had a sip, he’d polished his two pints off. The evening continued like this, with a quick break for dinner. We had that in a posh dinning room where Ozzy enjoyed his chicken supper and proceeded to throw chicken bones at fellow dinners. Then we repaired to the lounge where he suggested a night cap. Since we were in Ireland, I suggested a Bushmills whiskey. Ozzy appeared delighted and ordered a bottle. Each. Then he informed me that we weren’t going to bed until we’d drunk our individual bottles. I told him that we’d die if we did that but that seemed to have no effect on him whatsoever. It was then that he decided he was cold and that we had to try and light the massive log fire that was in the lounge. It was quite hard for him to do with a small box of matches…
There have been other excellent Ozzy experiences but that first one kind of summed up how he is to me. He likes to go that one step further. Having said that, he never fails to make me cry with laughter. The other day we went and had a cuppa in the Covent Garden Hotel. He ordered ‘a mug of tea’ in his customary Brummie brogue which completely flummoxed the waitress. She just couldn’t understand his accent and she misunderstood what he’d said. “A cafetiere, sir? And what would you like in the cafetiere?” The more he tried to explain to her what he wanted, the more confused she got. In the end Tony Dennis, Ozzy’s long-suffering assistant, had to step in and simply explain that a nice cup of Earl Grey would do just fine. When that turned up, though, Ozzy asked her again if she had a mug! It was like an absurd Two Ronnies-styled sketch and typically Ozzy.

How do rock/metal magazines of today compare to, say, the ‘80s?
I think they’re a little bit different because readers are more aware and demanding. The internet has also had its impact so magazines have had to adapt. Having said that, a good magazine will always be an accurate of its readership and will always be able to reflect the views and passion of those that read it. Kerrang! still does that. It’s a unique magazine in that respect because it now has something like three generations of readers. There are genuinely grandparents who read Kerrang! back in the day and whose grand kids are getting into it now. You see them at Download – granddad, dad and Little Tommy, standing there and getting into different aspects of the bill, and all united by the fact that they’re into seeing the headliner. It’s quite weird, especially when you bear in mind that Kerrang! was meant to reflect music that pissed yer parents off… But Kerrang! is thirty years old next year. I am proud and dumbfounded by the fact that I bought the very first issue of the magazine. I still have it and, in moments of weakness, I drag it out and have a quick read just to see what made the lower reaches of the ‘HM Top 100’ that Geoff Barton compiled for that first issue.

What are your thoughts on the popularity of online rock and metal magazines?
I’m not a massive online guy because I don’t have enough time to waste time online so I don’t have any real hard and fast opinions of online rock and metal magazines. I do like certain sites that are more blog orientated but I don’t use any of them regularly.
Can you describe your record/memorabilia collection?
I can’t really describe because it’s pretty illogical. There are certain records I’ve kept for no apparent reason and which I will never play again. It’s that pathetic excuse a lot of journalists use: “Oh, I might need that album for research”. Then there are bits of memorabilia that I have that are ridiculous: a can of tuna monographed with the Flipper logo, for instance. What use is that? Who can I really impress with it? Who cares! I love Flipper. Everyone should own a copy o Flipper’s 1982 masterpiece, Generic! It’s a classic album and I’m proud to have a promotional can of tuna that bears their name!

Who are your all time favourite rock/metal bands?
That changes all the time. But if I’m really pushed I’d say Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Ozzy, Thin Lizzy, Hawkwind and Motörhead are the bands that I go back to. There’s also a load of punk bands and post-punk ranging from the Damned to Black Flag and stopping at PiL, The Banshees, GBH, Gang Of Four and Discharge.
You can also probably throw in a load of NWOBHM bands too. I suppose I’m a product of the NWOBHM and there’s a naivety associated with that music that I still admire. Come to think of it, it could be that I associate that music with naivety because I was quite naïve myself when I started listening to it. Then there’s a ton of early thrash metal. Seeing Slayer play The Marquee for the first time is still one of the greatest shows that I ever saw in terms of sheer intensity. In fact, I refused to go and see them again for years after that because I thought they’d never be any better than that first time.
I also still listen to stoner/doom band, the likes of The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Kyuss, Clutch, Iron Monkey, Cathedral and Electric Wizard, and some of those early UK hardcore records by Napalm Death, Heresy, E.N.T and the second Ripcord album. I suppose I have to add some US noise/post-hard/hardcore to that too: Minor Threat, Minutemen, Melvins, Bad Brains and the first Cro-Mags album.
My all-time heroes though are Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Elvis because I grew up with those records thanks to my parents. Metal fans will undoubtedly disagree, but Little Richard is responsible for making the most exciting records ever.
I also think that anyone who is interested in intensity and genuine emotion should do themselves a favour and get themselves at least one album by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly and Son House. I could go on... But I suppose it’s quicker to say that music is best enjoyed with your ears wide open.
There is no point closing yourself off to anything. In fact, I think metal fans are actually the most tolerant when it comes to listening to music that isn’t metal. They are music fans that like music for the sake of music, and in this day and age that’s a rare thing

What has been the highlight for you so far?
That’s pretty hard to say. I feel pretty lucky to have enjoyed most of what I have done. I never considered what I do to be a proper job, and I still don’t. I’m lucky to have worked with really talented people down the years and the moments that are highlights for me are probably to do with them rather than to do with the fact that Kerrang! has become the biggest-selling weekly rock magazine in the world or that Mojo is now Britain’s biggest-selling music magazine. I suppose, if I think about it long enough, I still think that the best is yet to come…


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  • Berny : @RobC68: We really seem to share a love & hate relationship, right? ;) Pls. check your mail.
  • RobC68 : still waiting for download version of #98 to be available.....pathetic service
  • Berny : @iangreenfiel: The magazine is available in a number of WH Smith branches. Could you pls. contact me at «email» ? I will then send you the latest list of participating stores.
  • iangreenfiel : Can issue 97 only be ordered online? I've tried several branches of WHSmith and had no luck
  • Berny : @vialli999: I've just talked to the guys at Fireworks HQ, unfortunately, the print copy of #90 is no longer available. Sorry! :(
  • vialli999 : forget that last comment i found it....der
  • vialli999 : sorry but i must be really stupid how do i take out a subscription ?
  • vialli999 : I have the download i want a paper copy cheers tel
  • Berny : @vialli999: You get issue 90 from our download store. Would you like to purchase a physical copy?
  • Berny : You can pre - order FIREWORKS MAGAZINE #97 now!
  • Deeppurple#1 : Hi,I downloaded my free copy of issue #87 but I can't seem to open the file. Any advice?
  • Berny : RIP Alan Lancaster! :(
  • Berny : @Barneypippa: I forwarded your mail to the Fireworks team. You should receive a reply asap.
  • Barneypippa : My magazine (#96) hasnt arrived yet - should have been here last week
  • Rocktopia Te : @bakerstreetish: Pls. check your email for download instructions.
  • bakerstreeti : Hi, I just bought digital download #96. How will I be able to receive/access it? First time on this site. Thanks!
  • zom414 : Have they been posted out yet? Not received mine yet but may have the release date wrong!
  • Johns Band : Received glossy Fireworks 96 and one of best ever. I am still looking at pictures and "Revisit The Gods AOR Festive" should be great. Probably get download from issue 101 to save on space & it is read to me from audio voice. Already got Robben Ford Instrumental album "Pure" great stuff & Freddy King singing & guitar I love, so Bernie Marsden new album I will have on Amazon Prime. If you are into 70's Rock then new Help Yourself 6 CD Boxset + info will be good for you plus expert to pay no more
  • Berny : Fireworks #96 is out now! :)
  • Berny : @Paul wiv: Pls. check your email!
  • Paul wiv : I have paid for issue 92 but it hasn't downloaded yet.
  • Berny : @Adamson: Bitte kontaktiere mich direkt, meine Mailadresse lautet «email»
  • Adamson : kann man hier auch auf Deutsch schreiben? denn ich hätte eine Frage?
  • KI2000 : Wow, issue #95 has to be the BEST one so far. Congratulations guys!!

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