Ian Christe is an author, publisher, radio show host, and a musician. Along with writing myriad articles as a freelance writer, his critically acclaimed 2003 book, Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal (SOTB: TCHHOHM) wonderfully documents the history of heavy metal music. He is also the author of Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga. His weekly radio show, Bloody Roots was launched in 2004 as a supplement to the book and can be heard on Sirius XM Radio. Christe is in the metal band Dark Noerd the Beholder and has also played with Grouse Mountain Skyride (a bluegrass band), Kuboaa (a drone metal band), and Les Opportunistes (an early Brooklyn rock renaissance band).
1. What was the first heavy metal album you bought and what drew you to metal in the first place?
"Hi Victor, that's easy—AC/DC's Back in Black, especially the song "Hells Bells". I was ten years old and living in Cold War-era Germany, going to American junior high school. Tons of young American GIs would spend their paychecks on killer stereos and that was the record blasting out of every building at insane volume. The song was so ominous and overwhelming, just total power. Then it was a quick step to discovering the early Bon Scott records, and everything by Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Judas Priest, and Saxon. I was just the perfect age, because then thrash metal began just as I started high school, so I got into tape trading and doing a sine, leading to death metal and eventually the young black metal bands. I grew up with metal as it grew, too, it all happened naturally."
2. In the last decade (since SOTB: TCHHOHM was published), we’ve seen a growing resurgence in heavy metal fandom and a plethora of new styles/sub-genres and bands emerge. What are your thoughts on the current metal scene? Who are you excited by right now and who should we be listening to in your opinion?
"We've had an amazing run for the past ten years. I wrote Sound of the Beast at a very low point in metal, and we've definitely seen a golden age rise again the ten years since. Five years ago, you could still see most of the original heavy bands performing at a top level. Today in 2014, I think there's a little bit of a challenge ahead, with several of the biggest bands starting to wind down. Who will replace them? Personally, I listen to all kinds of heavy bands, from new school Swedish death metal weirdos Morbus Chron to shoegazers Lantlos to Icelandic terror-killers Wormlust. We're still lucky to be able to see such an incredible variety of legendary bands live, like Pentagram, Carcass, Destruction, and so on."
3. In SOTB: TCHHOHM, you include several insightful “best of” lists (including: Best 25 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time, Greatest Fist-Pumping True Metal Anthems, and Best Live Records, to name a few). Now 11 years since published, I’m curious to know if you would make any additions, alterations, or deletions to those lists. Would you add any lists?
"I would change probably 15% of what's on the lists. We can talk about my radio show in a minute, but after 500 episodes believe me that I have a lot of genre lists! I'd add Technical Death Metal, Funeral Doom, Slam Death Metal, Symphonic Metal, and Neo Thrash Metal just off the top of my head. I also would check anything written about Metallica after the Black Album very closely. I don't think it's flattering at all in the book, but some people seemed confused about that, so I'd make sure my position is crystal clear. Though they remain the biggest metal band in history, they got lost and stopped being a metal band around 1993."
4. So, the million-dollar question that you probably get sick of answering, but I’m going to ask anyway! Can we expect a follow up to SOTB: TCHHOHM?
"In a way, many of the Bazillion Points releases are the definitive deeper histories of the many offshoots of heavy rebel music described in Sound of the Beast. Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries, Only Death Is Real by Tom Gabriel Fischer, and Swedish Death Metal are pretty much untouchable in documenting the origins of black metal and death metal. Our We Got Power! and Touch and Go books capture the feeling and spirit of hardcore punk from the ground level. Murder in the Front Row is the ultimate thrash metal experience, bringing readers into the living room when Cliff Burton first jammed with Metallica, and into the club when Kerry King was a hired assassin for Megadeth's first shows. I think Sound of the Beast was light on progressive metal, but I worked with Jeff Wagner to bring out his essential Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal. Lots has happened. I could expand the book a lot, but I think the basic definitions and knowledge still stand. I mean, the rebirth of thrash metal still abides by the rules of the original thrash metal wave. So I'd rather dedicate years to bringing out books that would never otherwise exist, by people with amazing stories and experiences. Sound of the Beast slays and stays!"
5. Are there any other biographies of metal bands/individuals you are currently working on or hope to work on?
"I'm supposed to be writing a biography of Chuck Schuldiner, which I feel terrible about not finishing faster. I've written liner notes for some Mantas and Death reissues to help with the Schuldiner estate's amazing efforts to keep the music alive."
6. Any particular metal icons (alive or dead) you would like to meet and interview?
"I've had the supreme pleasure of spending hours with genuine heroes like Cliff Burton, Ronnie James Dio, and Quorthon of Bathory. There are people about my age that I cross paths with now and then that I'd like to see more often, because they're great people and we share so many reference points—the Carcass guys, Napalm Death, Repulsion, and Cathedral."
7. What can you tell us about your wonderful radio show, Bloody Roots? Was Bloody Roots solely reactionary to SOTB: TCHHOHM or was this something you had been planning for a while?
"Basically, Bloody Roots is a weekly hour on satellite radio focusing on a particular genre of metal, or a country, or a landmark event, or sometimes just a theme or concept like metal love songs" or singing drummers. I visited Sirius when Sound of the Beast came out in 1993, and again when the paperback version came out in 2004. That second time, the hyper-enthusiastic metal channel director Jose Mangin asked if I'd be into doing a show based on the music from my book. Ten years later, incredibly, Bloody Roots has last 500 shows so far, playing thousands of bands, pretty much anything you can imagine related to any kind of metal. I'm still having a great time doing the show, it's a welcome outlet every week, compared to writing books which can take years."
8. When and where can we tune in to Bloody Roots?
"The show airs Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursday on Sirius XM Ch. 40, and I post the weekly playlists at http://blog.bazillionpoints.com so non-subscribers can check out and comment on the show's themes."
9. Any current/future projects you are working on that you can tell us about? What’s next on the agenda?
"Now that I'm publishing tons of metal, hardcore punk, and other music and movie books with Bazillion Points, I've always got several books upcoming. Next on the agenda is Heavy Metal Movies:Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-Scream Films Ever!, by Mike "McBeardo" McPadden, featuring over 800 reviews of everything from Trick or Treat to Mad Max to the Lamb of God documentary As the Palaces Burn. We are reissuing Slayer Mag X, the tenth issue of that famous Norwegian sine, which came out in 1994 and features revealing interviews with Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor, Enslaved, Satyricon, Immortal, Bathory, and a lot more. Then comes our Mellotron book, Mellodrama, by Dianna Dilworth, which will have an introduction by Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues. And that's just the next 3 months!"
10. My blog, Brews and Tunes pairs artisan ales with hard rock and heavy metal albums. So Ian Christe gets home from a long day of recording, promoting, researching, and writing. What album does he spin and what craft brew does he drink?
"Well, I'm listening to metal full-on 8-12 hours a day in the office, and then some, lately tons of Thin Lizzy, Carcass, Disfear, At the Gates, Scorpions, Deceased, Acid Witch, Black Sabbath, War Master, Devo, Emperor, and millions more. An insane beer store called Brouwerij Lane is literally right downstairs from Bazillion Points, which is lethal for late-night work sessions with a big can of Bluepoint Toxic Sludge or unlimited Reissdorf Kolsch. It's amazing that great beer like Keegan Ale Mother's Milk and anything by Southern Tier is now just available at any grocery around here, even far out in the country. Diamond Bar near our office had a cask ale a couple years ago, I think from somewhere up the Hudson Valley, that had been aged twice, first in used scotch barrels then in used bordeaux barrels. Decadent, man! Beer has gotten as complex as metal, but that's an equally good thing. I think the ethic of Annick "The Morbid Chef" Giroux, who wrote Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cooking sums everything up best: metal is about more of everything, but done better and with more wild imagination than anything else. Eat, drink, and listen to the max! Metal reality is all that matters."
Thanks Ian! Pick up a copy of Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal and learn more about Ian's great publishing company at http://www.bazillionpoints.com!!