Tag Archive | Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading: Shootin’ The Shit, Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti-Heroes, Icons and Metal Gods By Vinny Cecolini

Shootin the Shit Cover

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*t is 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!

Recommended Reading: I Won The Internet! By Geoffrey Dicker

Geoffrey I Won The Internet
Image By Troy Gua

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.

Being almost singlehandedly responsible for reviving interest in the art of taking the celebrity selfie, Geoffrey has spent the past five years documenting his near-daily photo safari conquests on his wildly popular blog, According 2 G Dot Com, where he shares them with a global audience for the enjoyment of everyone.

Recently, because not everyone can figure out how to click on a hyperlink, Geoffrey wrote and published an indispensable tome for the celebrity–obsessed and social-mediaphiles who simply cannot stop Instagramming photos of their lunch, entitled I Won The Internet!: Daily Wit, Wisdom and Selfies, According to G. This book is outstanding on so many levels.

I Won The Internet! chronicles some of the encounters of Geoffrey as a “Modern Day Zelig” who has met a celebrity born on each day of the year (including Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Morrissey, James Franco, Lady Gaga, Joan Rivers, Bryan Cranston, Jane Fonda and Ringo Starr) and presents his witty and uncensored one-liners and words of wisdom disguised as Status Updates and Tweets.

This rad book contains two sections of thoughtful and hilarious ideas for people to ponder and share online to make them the most popular person in their social media newsfeed. Geoffrey encourages readers to use this book as a guide to put them at the forefront of pop culture.

Geoffrey Selfies
Know Thy Selfie

The third section is dedicated to Geoffrey’s unique Celebrity Selfies, which showcase only a fractional portion of his impressive celebrity selfie photos, and daunting autograph collection (30 years in the making). Using I Won The Internet! as a daily calendar, readers get the chance to view these superstars and legends-in-the-making in an entirely different light. The book features 365 exclusive color photographs of some of the biggest names in entertainment, music and art. Last but not least, I Won The Internet!‘s original cover art, which depicts Geoffrey as an adorable Cat Meme (because everybody loves cats!) was conceived and created by pop artist Troy Gua.

Pick up your copy of I Won The Internet! from Amazon Dot Com at This Link.

Recommended Reading: Don’t Shoot! I’m The Guitar Man, By Buzzy Martin

Dont Shoot Im The Guitar Man

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.

Recommended Reading: Fall to Pieces By Mary Forsberg Weiland

Fall To Pieces Cover
In Book Stores Now

Around the time that The Strokes were first being hyped-up-the-ass in the press as the Saviors of Rock – while simultaneously confounding my senses with their hopelessly derivative, shitty music – I found myself in the NYC office of that band’s publicist. This particular guy, who I’ll call Ken, because that is his name, had formerly worked as a publicist at the once mighty Atlantic Records and, in addition to working with upstarts like The Strokes, had maintained his relationships with some of that label’s artists. While being given a tour of the office, I ended up at Ken’s desk, where he had on display one of those Family Photo Holiday cards; this one depicting a couple, with the woman holding a small infant. I couldn’t help but notice that the man and woman in the picture, who looked to be in their late twenties to early thirties, appeared to be very gaunt and almost sickly. Honestly, they both looked like shit.

“I wonder who this could be?” I thought to myself. And then, because I am nosy, I picked up the card and read the inscription. A pre-printed message directly under the photo read “Merry Christmas from Scott, Mary and Noah Weiland”Scott Weiland, of course, being Stone Temple Pilots’ sobriety-challenged lead vocalist. I remember being absolutely shocked at how completely wrecked Weiland looked; there was no way I would have recognized him had his name not been printed on the card. And, I thought, if his wife Mary was really a model (as I’d heard), I couldn’t imagine she was getting many jobs, looking as downtrodden as she appeared in the photo on their holiday card. Of course, I was already familiar with Scott Weiland’s ongoing drug problems. What I couldn’t have known at the time was that Mary Weiland was also battling assorted demons of her own.

I forgot all about that photo until a few weeks ago, when a copy of Mary Forsberg Weiland’s autobiography, Fall To Pieces, arrived in the mail. I finished the book in a few days and then lent it to Geoffrey to read. And we concur; we both love this book. Fall to Pieces – the title lifted from the name of a Velvet Revolver song penned by her husband – is Mary’s intriguing, brave and deeply personal tale of her own life that’s easily as complex and interesting as anything her husband could throw down, which is rare in the “rock wife tells all” genre of memoirs. But before Mary and Scott were ever a couple, Mary struggled through what might be called a “character building” childhood of parental divorce and financial destitution, ostracism by her peers, an innate predilection towards substance abuse, and undiagnosed mental illness. It seems the deck was stacked against her from a young age, but that makes her journey to hell and back all the more fascinating.

Scott and Mary
Mary and Scott in Happier Times

Through her own drive to make a better life for herself, Mary began a career as a highly paid print model while still in her teens. Through her modeling career, she met struggling musician  Scott Weiland, whose job it was to pick up teenage models and drive them to their daily assignments. Mary fell in love with Scott at first sight and readily admits she knew in her gut as soon as she met him that the two would one day get married. Perhaps that’s a bit of a cautionary tale to be careful what you wish for, lest your wish be granted. Most of us who pay attention to the music press and gossip media know how the fairy tale turned out.

Tales of celebrity drug addiction, more often than not, fail to render much sympathy from the public, and I include myself in that demographic. They don’t seem to take their stints in rehab seriously at all; considering it more of a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I can never understand the motives of, let alone sympathize with, people who have seemingly everything going for them – talent, great careers, ass loads of money, fame, good looks, tons of friends, devoted significant others, every conceivable material luxury – but willingly throw it all in the toilet to be a loser junkie with a laundry list of “poor me” excuses that make me want punch him or her in the face. Please, spare me. The most refreshing aspect of Fall To Pieces is that Mary never lays the blame for her mental, physical and financial descent anywhere but at her own feet. Personal responsibility! I’ve read tons of biographies of famous junkies and this is the first one I’ve found that was not only wildly entertaining, but actually allowed me to feel significant empathy and compassion for its subject. Although few of us have lived the life of a gorgeous, jet-setting model married to a successful Rock Star, Mary Forsberg Weiland’s story ultimately presents a universal truth about struggle, failure, rebirth and triumph that anyone can relate to.

The Worley Gig gives Fall to Pieces Four out of Four Stars.