Monday, December 15, 2008

Ian Christe

Ian Christe's books include Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal (HarperCollins, 2003) and Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga (John Wiley & Sons, 2007).

Christe is also the founder of Bazillion Points Publishing.

About a week ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Now that I'm an publisher as well as an author, I can't get enough books. At any one time these days I've got about 20 books open -- a few in my bag, a stack in the living room, a couple in the kitchen, one or two in the bathroom, and an entire drawer filled in the bedroom. Plus I'm working on a stack of manuscripts that will be Bazillion Points books by this time next year, like the autobiography of Andy McCoy from Hanoi Rocks, and the first books by Jeff Wagner and Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen. I'm like a junkie who just became a licensed pharmacist.

So you'd think I could finish a spare, slim volume like Sarah Manguso's The Two Kinds of Decay, but I'm having a hard time, it's too harsh and violent. Today she's a successful poet, a real woman of arts and letters, but when she was in college her immune system began attacking her nervous system. She was fully aware that she needed to be out with other kids getting drunk and laid, but instead she was involved in hospital scenes involving lots of cold needles in her body and the occasional unstoppable showers of blood. For fun she ate french fries to turn her plasma cloudy during regular transfusions. At times it's like a book written by a dead person. I know Sarah, and I'm in awe of her.

This isn't as current, snort snort, but I'm laughing all the way through the collected magazine articles that are now called The Autobiography of Mark Twain. His imagination is incredible, and his nerve is boundless. I didn't realize that he had various adventures as a publisher, too. He says some really interesting things about writers of "submerged reputation" who write for the people, and whose works lives forever while critical darlings fall in and out of fashion every season. Hey, that's the realm where I operate, writing and now publishing books that are ravenously devoured by people who are supposedly knuckle-dragging heavy metal idiots. He's my new hero, replacing WC Fields and Henry Miller. Mark Twain would definitely have loved old school death metal like Autopsy.

What else? Bill Landis' Sleazoid Express is a perennial favorite, so is Otto Bettman's The Good Old Days--They Were Terrible! Sleazoid is a guide to exploitation films that brilliantly places them in the milieu of early-80s Times Square. Bettman founded probably the world's largest historical photo archive, but this book is a cold jolt of water to nostalgia dreamers; it's exactly what the title says it is, and it's hilarious! I haven't read current #1 bestseller Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World yet, but it was co-written by the editor of Sound of the Beast, so anything's possible.
Iain Ellis called Christe's The Sound of the Beast "an incredibly comprehensive historical survey (and analysis) of heavy metal from Black Sabbath to the present."

Learn more about Ian Christe and his work at his MySpace page, blog, the official The Sound of the Beast website, and the Bazillion Points website.

Listen to his "Bloody Roots" radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio.

--Marshal Zeringue