He was in a tennis racket wielding Kiss cover band at the age of seven.
He was a metal DJ at the age of 14. His music is featured on the movie
Gummo. And finally Ian Christe has unleashed upon us one of the first
heavy metal history books titled 'Sound of the Beast: The Complete
Headbanging History of Heavy Metal'. Covering everything from Sabbath to
Slayer to the Sex Pistols to the Scorpions, no stone is left unturned.
Metal Update had a chat with Ian about this fascinating read and the
man's impressive heavy metal background.
METAL UPDATE: First things first. Tell me your age.
IAN CHRISTE: 33.
MU: Were you born in Switzerland?
MU: And from there you've lived various other places in the US?
IC: Yeah. I lived there 'til '73 and then we came to Ohio. Then my
parents split up and my mom got to work for the government. Then every
two or three years we were moving around. In 1980 we went to Germany.
Then and now it was a total metal hotbed. When 'Back in Black' came out,
I got hooked on the stuff and was able to stash aside half of my lunch
money and go buy Scorpions, Saxon, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath
MU: Was music influential to your family?
IC: I grew up around a lot of Beatles, Hendrix and Rolling Stone
records, so I definitely always thought of that as being the records
that my parents listened to.
MU: When did your fascination with heavy metal begin?
IC: I remember being in a KISS band when I was 7 where we just had
tennis rackets. That was basically because of TV. There was a made for
TV movie that was out at that time. But really it had to be 'Back in
Black' and "Hells Bells" in particular being a super frightening cool
song / anthem.
MU: What was the first metal album you ever purchased?
IC: Definitely 'Back in Black'. Before that the records I had were like
Looney Tunes and novelty records and stuff. Monster Mash.
MU: What was the first concert you ever attended?
IC: AC/DC on the 'For Those About To Rock' tour in Frankfurt, Germany.
MU: All making sense so far.
IC: They had Y&T opening up for them and AC/DC were so huge at that
point, it seemed like the entire city of Frankfurt was there. Kids were
jumping off of bus stations and bleeding all over the place and
screaming and singing "Whole Lotta Rosie" at the top of their lungs.
They search you going into the concert hall and there was this broken
down police booth. All the windows were smashed and it was filled with
switchblades and pot pipes. There was this whole "wow, this is a big
deal" scene. The whole time Y&T were on stage, they were constantly
getting pelted with beer and pieces of paper. A pretty dramatic show. Of
course, they had the bell and the brand new cannon. I pretty much just
kept digging and digging. As much as 'Back in Black' affected me, every
year or so there would be a great landmark record like that. I started
doing radio shows in New York a couple of years later.
MU: That was when your were 13?
IC: I started when I was 13. I trained when I was 13 and then I turned
14. You had to have a license back then.
MU: This was in New York?
IC: Yeah. Seneca Falls, upstate near Rochester.
MU: Who did you DJ for and how did that come about?
IC: It was WEOS and basically they were playing Mercyful Fate and Raven
and I had never heard those bands. They announced, "We're looking for
volunteers," so I hitched a ride from my mom and I was off. And then I
hitched a lot of rides because I did that show for about two years when
'Show No Mercy' was coming out and the first Voivod and 'Ride the
Lightning'. And a lot of rightfully forgotten bands like Obsession and
Lizzy Borden. But I definitely remember the time period where there were
two Slayers. The San Antonio Slayer and the Los Angeles Slayer.
MU: At what point did you start music journalism?
IC: Then we moved to Indiana. I'm glad you're asking more about my life
because it makes sense. Nothing was going on in Indiana. There were no
radio stations that played metal. There were barely any shows. That's
why I turned to tape trading to kind of keep this thing going and my zine just
grew naturally out of that. So I started the 'Ian zine' in like '85 and
did that for a few years.
MU: What was it called?
IC: I called it 'Ian Magazine' so I could cash the checks. I would get
weird postal money orders from Japan so I would just take them down to
the bank. Indiana was small enough that my PO Box number was 5.
MU: Oh wow. Yeah, that is pretty small?
IC: After going through all these constant reiterations of brand new
styles of metal, through the 80's and through the 90's, once I graduated
from college I started writing for a living. But eventually I was doing
regular work for 'Wired', writing about technology and stuff. I felt
that my craft was good enough that it was to a point that I could write
well about almost anything. I still had the heartfelt desire to do
something about metal. And because nobody had ever written a book like
this and so many people knew so much about only certain parts, not
really the whole big picture. I wanted to get it all down, congratulate
the people that did it and show the people that didn't know about it
what it's all about.
MU: So you've just completed 'Sound of the Beast'. Is this the first
book you've ever written?
IC: Yeah. I wrote about Brutal Truth and Napalm Death for an
encyclopedia of music called "The Trouser Press Guide To Records" a few
years ago but that was definitely a very different thing.
MU: How long did it take to put this together and what was the process?
IC: Three years probably. Three years purely writing. I had a lot of
information and as time went on I would get in touch with different
people, sometimes on purpose. I would hunt them down -guys like Jeff
Beccara from Possessed. And then sometimes it would kind of be an
accident. Some publicist would call me out of the blue and say,
"Stryper's playing a show. Do you want to talk to em?" I would totally
jump on that in a second and be like, "Yes!" And there were so many
different people that I had so many questions for. I tried to get as
many different perspectives on the different segments of the heavy metal
story as I could. What did the guys from Stryper think about glam metal?
They were basically a glam band from L.A. It was pretty interesting.
They came up playing with Metallica and ended up being a power ballad
smash hit. They are a weird band.
MU: So, I bet a lot of people were open to talking to you knowing that
you were doing a book and the fact that a book of this nature hasn't
IC: You would think that people might be really good behind the grand
gesture of the whole thing, but I don't think people entirely understood
what I was doing. Now that it is out, it's what I've always wanted it to
be and probably better, so it makes sense to me. I think that now a lot
of people that I interviewed look at it and go, "Ahh, OK."
MU: They were a little skeptical at first?
IC: I don't think they were skeptical. I think they just heard book and
probably thought something much smaller in scale or more obscure. I
don't know. That is my honest opinion. Obviously, I can't speak for the
hundred people that interviewed, but I get that feeling.
MU: They probably figured that it wouldn't be on such a large scale. Now
how did you hook up with such a well known publisher?
IC: The original deal was with Avon Books. That I thought was awesome
because the final page would have said, "Enjoy this book. Please read
these other fine books on the Avon label. 'The Satanic Bible', 'Necronomicon',
'The Satanic Witch'. Along the way Avon was swallowed up by Harper
Collins. And when that happened, my old editor was out. I had a new
editor and the situation was kind of iffy but basically they said, "Keep
writing. When you feel that you're done, then we'll decide if we're
gonna put it out. A couple of rewrites later, I had something that I
felt really represented all the facts - all these great stories - but
also, it had a good flow. You could pick it up and start reading about
Black Sabbath and then it made sense.
MU: What made you decide to write this book?
IC: In a way I wanted to fly the flag. It takes so much commitment to be
in one single heavy metal band. You consider how many bands have
existed and still exist - tens of thousands - and it's very easy to be
forgotten or overlooked or just simply dismissed as, "Oh, more heavy
metal." I wanted to do something that gave a sense of the nobility of
the cause. It's funny when people stop being in metal bands and maybe
just kind of lead normal lives. They forget it's intensity. I think
that's one thing that anybody from Judas Priest to Slipknot has in
common, even if musically they sound nothing alike. At one time or
another, they feel intensely passionate about what they are doing.
MU: You have many lists throughout the book. Is this provided as a
guideline to those who seek guidance?
MU: And I know Jeff Wagner is a big fan of lists too. Right?
IC: He didn't tell me to put any lists in but yeah, it's very easy to
talk to Jeff Wagner about lists.
MU: Was he a contributor?
IC: He definitely read an early draft of the book and said, "Where is
the progressive metal?" And I said, "In your book! The book that you're
gonna write when I am done with this. Start compiling your notes pal."
He was one of a group of people that contributed. I had a couple pages
left. When you're printing a book you have to do it in a multiple of 16
pages. There were a couple of pages. I quickly came up with a couple of
pages of appropriate lists - just weird album titles and short songs. He
was one of a group of people along with Kevin Sharpe and others who
added to that.
MU: Are the lists compiled by your tastes only or by what you interpret
to be the mass opinion?
IC: The final list at the end of the book of the 25 essential records is
entirely my opinion. It is meant to be something you can bury in a time
capsule and lock somebody in a cell with for a year and have them coming
out in a year and knowing everything there is to know about metal. The
individual genre lists are of course completely steered by my biases but
they're meant to be more exemplary. It's not pure, "This is what I
think." It's like, "These are the recognized classics."
MU: I noticed that you have to put in the ones that are there.
IC: I also felt free in those genre lists to add multiple records by the
same band. In the final 25 I just kept it to one.
MU: Looking back at the final product, is there anything you wish you
would have included in the book?
IC: I always could have made it better. I always could have added more.
I wish that Bard Faust was as easy to get a hold of three years ago as
he has been for the past year. He really has a lot to say about black
metal. I think he is in a very unique position. His infamy and his
musicianship are at war with each other as far as what he means to
people. I wish I could have spoken to Lemmy but he wasn't doing
interviews because he was writing his autobiography. A couple things
like that. I pick it up every now and then, because I stopped writing
about nine months ago. I pick it up and say, "Is this as good as it can
be?" Nine times out of ten, I read it and put it down like a proud
father and one time out of ten, I'll open it up and read some sentence
that doesn't make any sense hardly. I just cringe and say, "God, if only
I had a little bit more time."
MU: Oh yeah. There is only so much you can do. You definitely covered
what you had for pages to work with very well, but in the grand scheme
of things we all know you basically scratched the surface of heavy metal
because there is so much out there. But that's all you can do, and I
think you did a good job.
IC: Thank you. I think that any one of those chapters could be a book.
MU: At least you put a great deal of emphasis on stuff that was really
influential like Black Sabbath and Metallica and such. Who are
you currently writing for? Are you employed as a writer?
IC: Right now, I guess what I'm doing is just working on - I'm starting
to get the notes together for the next couple things: a book that's kind
of a prequel to this and then a novel that is about metalheads in the
mid 80's in Kansas, but that's so early. Basically what I am doing right now is
enjoying the fact that I am no longer writing 12 hours a day. Even when
bands complain about spending a year in the studio or something, a
monolithic effort - this really was three years. It's very, very
gratifying to see it in bookstores now.
MU: So you're not really contributing to any magazines or anything?
IC: I'm writing here and there for Amazon and Metal Maniacs but at least
for the time being I am trying to focus on longer term projects. It
feels so good to see this book out. I am ready to bash out a couple more.
MU: There's not a lot out there so I think the people will eat it up -
the fans anyway. Now you've been involved in a couple of musical
projects yourself. What is your role as a musician and what notable
projects have you been in?
IC: It's basically been a very fulfilling hobby for a long time. I had a
bluegrass band call Grouse Mountain Skyride that has some stuff out -
had some stuff out on Kill Rock Stars Records way before the Thrones
existed unfortunately. I played in a band called Half Japanese. I played for a
really brief time in the Glen Branca Guitar Orchestra. For about seven
years I've had a band called Dark Noerd which is basically computer
assisted insanity metal. It's meant to be all hot spots. It's music at a
pace that would probably not be humanly possible with constant changes
and overlapping guitar solos. It's definitely possible, thanks to
computer based recording.
MU: Now on to a couple of fun and brief answer questions. What is your
favorite genre of metal?
IC: Today it is extremely slow doom. Khanate. Corrupted. Boris.
MU: What is your least favorite genre?
IC: Least favorite. I don't like intentionally retro metal. Stuff that is
not looking forward.
MU: Name one favorite band of the following: Death Metal.
IC: Morbid Angel.
MU: Black Metal.
IC: Emperor. Or Bathory I guess. Emperor is so fantastic but Bathory
always trounce all.
IC: Doom I'll have to say Burning Witch.
MU: How about NWOBHM?
IC: Angel Witch by a hair over Iron Maiden.
MU: A band coming from Sweden?
IC: I like Dismember.
IC: That's a hard question because no band from Canada sounds alike. I
definitely like Anvil, Exciter and Slaughter but it would have to be
MU: Name three up and coming metal bands that you think people should
look out for.
IC: Cult of Luna, Chimaira and. . . who else is up and coming?? It's so
hard to say because some people consider up and coming as The Haunted. And
some people consider up and coming as Ravenous or something. But I'm gonna
say. . . another up and coming metal band. . . we'll have to wait and
see. I don't know. Those are two I've heard in the last week that are on
their first or second album.
MU: Cult of Luna was one of the last interviews I've done so I agree
with you there.
IC: Another really great band: Mezzershmitt - definitely my number
three. It's Mayhem minus Maniac and it's totally awesome.
MU: Favorite concert ever?
IC: Wow. Favorite concert ever. . . maybe because I was old enough to
have a some perspective on it and young enough to totally get into it,
Metallica on 'Master of Puppets'.
MU: Favorite album of all time if there is such one.
IC: That is rough. I'll say if I had to start over with just one record,
I would take 'Back in Black' again.
MU: How about favorite non metal artist?
MU: What is that?
IC: He was this African band leader in the 70's that had 30 people in
his band. They all lived in a compound behind a giant fence. All of his
songs were anti-government to the point that they were calling out the
government ministers by name. The army came and raided his house and
threw his mom out the window. She died. He took her coffin in a speeding
van and drove through police checkpoints while they were shooting at
him. They laid it on the steps of the parliament in Nigeria. So he was
MU: Pretty controversial stuff.
IC: He was like a mega James Brown.
MU: How about most overrated metal band?
IC: I have to think about it for a second because it is something that
comes and goes. There'll be six months where I'll be fuming over
something. I'll say Great White. They're not even a metal band.
MU: Some people think so anyways. Depends how you look at it.
IC: The nice thing about overrated bands is that they go away. I know
for a long time I was like, "Fucking Amorphis - I don't want to hear
anything else about Amorphis." Gratefully what happens is the label
promotes it to death, nobody buys 'em and they never come back.
MU: Is that your vote for that one?
IC: That's a little too out of date. I'm also in a really good mood
lately for once. Oh. . . Borknagar.
MU: How about underrated?
IC: The most underrated band?
MU: Vaguely - off the top of your head.
IC: Because they've been getting knocked so much lately, I guess I can
say Voivod. I feel that everybody is misunderstanding and a hatred of
Voivod has been coming out lately.
MU: People are probably expecting to hear the old material. Are you
happy with what they have done?
IC: I think they should have made a mini LP - five or six songs that are
great would have been legendary but as it is, it is good.
MU: What is your favorite Voivod record?
IC: 'Dimension Hatross'.
MU: Hence ending up on the top 25 of all time.
IC: Yes. Great record.
MU: Have you ever played the metal trivia board game Metal Mental
IC: I got my ass kicked by Jeff Wagner.
MU: Did you play on the Metal Maniacs board competition?
IC: He brought it over to my house and we drank whiskey.
MU: I can imagine how good he is but I'd expect you to be good too.
IC: It's really steered towards the early 90's. There's a lot of shit in
there about Entombed. And also having played the game, there are these
really weird recurring questions like, "Who replaced, this guy Ritchie
Kotzen, who was in Poison after CC Deville?" That guy, his name came up
like 12 times. I think having played the game once, I'm better equipped
now. And there were like 16 questions about Quiet Riot III.
MU: Did you play 'til 666?
IC: It took four hours and we were probably at about 300. At least one
of us was.
MU: I find the degree of difficulty of a lot of those questions pretty
asinine to even the most knowledgeable metalhead.
IC: I'd like to do my own. On my refrigerator I have the card that is
"Describe the cover of Anvil's 'Plugged In Permanent'."
MU: That's ridiculous. Overall did you have fun with that game? Did you
IC: Yeah. I'm very psyched to bring all that information out of the
MU: I'm actually thinking of making an expansion pack of my own with a
few friends. He never came out with one. I'm like, "Damnit, we need more
IC: Totally - a black metal edition.
MU: You get a lot of repeats after a while.
IC: Less Quiet Riot III. More Hellhammer. Did you see the quiz in Metal
MU: I must have.
IC: I am giving away copies of 'Sound of the Beast' after answering nine
questions. There's another contest in that issue that is like win
something from Clutch by basically just writing your name. It's
exponentially lower, the number of responses they are getting so far. I guess not a lot of
people know what the name of Iron Maiden's masked drummer was.
MU: Last comments?
IC: If you know about metal, enter the Metal Maniacs contest and win.
There are a bunch of pieces of the book online at soundofthebeast.com. I
Guess that's how interviews end. The guy stands up and says, "Buy my
book! Good night!"
SOUND OF THE BEAST
Interview: Scott McCooe [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ email@example.com ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]