When I first moved to New York City about 20 years ago, I didn’t know many people, and so I spent a lot of time by myself, exploring my East Village neighborhood, and just people watching. On Sunday afternoons, I used to enjoy sitting at a window table at the late, great 7A Restaurant, having a cheap, boozy brunch while watching the parade of tattooed rockers and rock star wannabes that would pass me by on their way to their mid-afternoon adventures. It’s true what they say that some of the best forms of entertainment are totally free.
Way, way back, when I used to interview Famous People for a (meager) living, I acquired a valued reputation as a bit of a Rock Star Whisperer for my ability to get musicians to open up and talk about anything — even subjects or revelations that they had never made before to another journalist. This happened all the time. And while I take full credit for honing this skill through interviews with members of bands like Motley Crue, Duran Duran, Alice Cooper, The Sex Pistols and Led Zeppelin, I did have a couple of valuable mentors in fellow rock journalist friends who showed me the ropes when I was just an egg, and who taught me to me fearless. One of those friends was veteran rock journalist Vincent “Vinny” Cecolini, a Metal God in his own right, whom I have been friends with for twenty years. Vinny is the bomb.
Vinny has just published his first book of his collected interviews with some of the biggest names in metal and extreme rock, which is called Shootin’ the Sh*t — Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti- Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods. Unlike typical collections of rock star interviews, Vinny’s first eBook is a compendium of conversations with artists that were conducted during pivotal moments in each of their careers. Plans for pop culture domination; The truths behind long-debated rock ‘n’ roll legends; the inspirations for — and true meanings of — classic song lyrics; the decisions for leaving and returning to major bands; the struggles with such un-rock ‘n’ roll experiences as fatherhood and maturity: these are just a few of the revelations contained within the pages of Shooting the Sh*t Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti-Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods. Each conversation focuses on the artist and not the writer. This is a must read book!
“Fans want to read the artist’s words,” Vinny explains. “They want to read exact, contextual quotes. They don’t care about a journalist’s musings and meanderings. If they did, they would immediately flip over to a magazine’s reviews or editorial section.” As the title suggests, the author never treats his artist chats as paint-by-numbers question and answer sessions, but as friendly, naturally flowing conversations.
“Straight-forward interviews are the kiss of death,” Vinny continues. “When promoting something new, most artists are subjected to a cattle call of interviews. And nothing will bore an artist quicker than hearing the same sterile questions over and over again; nothing will frustrate or turn them off quicker than watching a ‘hack’ journalist stammering as he or she fumbles with a list of questions.
“If a journalist lets the conversation flow naturally, it may take him or her in a different direction than intended, but that is fine. Even if given an agenda by a publication (to talk about a new album, DVD or tour), eventually, the conversation will find its way back to topic.” This practice has resulted in a number of amazing chats with artists such as Neil Young, Meat Loaf, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and the late, great Ronnie James Dio. Metal!
During his 25-year career, Vinny’s work has appeared in dozens of publications including Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs and Bikini. He was also the head writer for cable network VH1 Classic during the short window when that station actually played music videos. Like many veteran journalists, Vinny accumulated conversations that, for a variety of reasons, had never been published. Shooting the Sh*tis Vinny’s opportunity to help these amazing and often highly candid conversations a new audience. The idea was born as the author lamented over an unpublished chat with a pre-American Nightmare Marilyn Manson.
Shooting the Sh*t Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti-Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods is available now an e-book on Kindle now and will be available on other formats this week! Get it on Amazon right now atThis Link!
Do you enjoy meeting Famous People? I’ll tell you who does: my friend Geoffrey. Geoffrey has met more famous people from every possible facet of celebritydom than most actually famous people have met – I’d bet money on it. Go ahead and Google the name of a famous person and hit “Images,” and you’ll likely find a photo of that celebrity with Geoffrey among the first 5 results. JUST BEING SERIOUS. Continue reading Recommended Reading: I Won The Internet! By Geoffrey Dicker→
Hundreds of books about Art are published every year and it’s challenging for even hardcore Art enthusiasts like me to keep track of the best ones. But I don’t think I’ve yet come across a coffee table-sized Art book that I wanted to peruse cover-to-cover for hours in the way I do Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of The Americas — a comprehensive collection of public art, due out from Phaidon Press in November, 2013.
When I was in High School, our senior class was shown the documentary film Scared Straight, a cautionary tale in which a group of hardened criminals serving life sentences at New Jersey’s Rahway State Prison spend a day terrifying a group of smart ass juvenile offenders in an effort to deter them from pursuing a life of crime. I’m not sure if this film – which probably seems quaint in retrospect – is still part of the curriculum in a day when metal detectors are installed at the entrance of most schools (and I was never in any way what one might consider a delinquent kid) but Scared Straight scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would think going to prison was cool or desirable, but apparently there are kids who live with circumstances in which a prison sentence is an aspiration. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I think it’s important to be aware that such a mindset exits.
The teenagers featured in Scared Straight are the kinds of kids that musician and guitar teacher Buzzy Martin was working with – teaching music classes in an effort to promote his “Education not Incarceration” credo – in various Northern California group homes and juvenile detention facilities, when he was offered the opportunity to teach guitar to inmates locked up in San Quentin, one of the country’s most infamous maximum security prisons. Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man is the daily journal-style story of Martin’s three-year gig teaching guitar behind the walls of San Quentin, and it is not like any book I have ever read.
Before Martin’s episodic storytelling even begins, he devotes a chapter to setting the scenario of what San Quentin looks, sounds and smells like inside and out: describing how it is laid out logistically (which sections of the prison house which degree of offender), emphasizing the unchanging daily routine, explaining what the rules are and detailing the penalties for breaking those rules. For a person like me, who wants to stay as far way from incarceration as possible, his revelations were amazingly informative and engrossing, because what it’s like being “on the inside” isn’t anything that the average, law-abiding civilian would know or could ever imagine, no matter how much TV you watch. By Martin drawing you into that world before he ever starts talking about his weekly teaching experiences, the prisoners he met, taught and whose stories he got to know, the reader is able to easily sink into Buzzy’s world and experience his stories tangibly through his words. I had a hard time putting the book down, and once I did I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again.
During the three plus years that Martin taught guitar to the inmates of San Quentin, he moved between teaching in various units, including H Unit (which he calls “The Land of Lunatics”) housing inmates that will eventually be paroled, and North Block, where inmates serving life sentences will live out the remainder their days. His stories of these men — what they did to get locked up and what they’ve become in prison — are sobering and often as terrifying as any horror story. For those incarcerated who hope to eventually see freedom again, the joy and redemptive power of music that they experience in Martin’s classes might inspire them with to stay straight. For those who are serving life sentences, the music classes lift their spirits and give them something to look forward to. While Buzzy’s writing style is straightforward and very easy to read, it is nevertheless highly colorful and extremely compelling.
Through his descriptive details and his inclusion of the words of those he met at The Q (as the prison is referred to) his stories come alive with the grit, fear, degradation and violence that are part of daily life for these inmates. While some stories are uplifting, touching and even funny, many are also emotionally devastating, heartbreaking and harrowing: revealing the hopelessness and tragic waste of life that comes from ending up in a place like San Quentin. There is nothing glamorous about it. Don’t Shoot! I’m The Guitar Man, is the modern day Scared Straight, for sure. It’s a story I think everyone should read. Not surprisingly, the book is being made into a major motion picture to be released in 2013 (supposedly with Eric Roberts signed on to play Buzzy – woo!). I hope the filmmakers can do Buzzy Martin’s amazing story justice.
The Worley Gig gives Don’t Shoot! I’m The Guitar Man Four out of Four Stars.