Mike Daly, best known as a producer and former multi-instrumentalist/co-writer of alternative counrty act Whiskeytown, just published his first book: "Time Flies When You're In a Coma: The Wisdom of the Metal Gods." The book is a collection of some of the most profound (and often most hilarious) lyrics written by metal bands during Mike's formative years in the 1980's. You can check out the Web site for the book right here
. Mike caught up with The Gauntlet to share his experiences in putting the ambitious project together:
The Gauntlet: How did the whole idea for the book come up?
Mike Daly: I have this friend who decided to move to France. A couple weeks later I asked her if she was still moving and it was like, "Yea, in a couple months." Months would go by and there would be one reason or another why she wasn't actually moving there, but just sort of inching towards there. One day I was on the phone with her and she was like, "I don't want to move to France because Jazz Fest is in like three months so I don't want to move there and then come all the way back." So I said, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." The old Rush lyric. She went dead quiet, and was like, "Dude, did you just quote Rush to me? That actually makes sense!" So, you know, we had a good laugh about it. Then I made the joke that maybe I should do a one-a-day calendar of inspirational heavy metal quotes. All of a sudden she was like, "You know what, you should really do that." So one thing led to another and I talked to my good friend who was a book agent and he was like, "You got to do a book first." So then I decided to do a book. It snowballed from there and everybody I told about it thought it was such a great idea. I mean EVERYBODY.
The Gauntlet: So it was sort of one of those times where the joke ends up going too far?
Mike: Exactly (laughs). Even in the depths of it - it's hard to get books out with all the licenses and stuff- people were telling me how great it was gonna be. Then I got a really good agent and we sold the book to Penguin Group. Literally, the day the check showed up from Penguin I looked at it and I called my agent and was like, "We gotta give the money back. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing. This is a joke and everybody keeps saying yes for some reason." She was like, "Well, you're going to have to figure it out because we're not sending the check back." And she hung up on me. So then it was just like, "OK, guess I'm gonna figure this out."
The Gauntlet: So what was the research process like? Did you go back and listen to a bunch of old records?
Mike: Well, there was some I had known and remembered. Like the Van Halen quote: "What's the use of behaving if you're living on a playground?" That one I totally knew from way back when. I listened to tons and tons of stuff and then I would research a lot of lyrics online and just sort of sift through them. It was really amazing. I think a lot of times when people look back on that stuff they think it was all just one thing. You really do start to notice distinct lyrical perspectives in bands that I don't think they get credit for. King Diamond lyrics are like this long soap opera. Same with Queensryche with the "Mindcrime" stuff. This long, interweaving story stuff. It was really cool just sitting down and reading them rather than just listening to them. It took me so long to assemble what I thought was a really good cross-section of quotes.
The Gauntlet: You grew up in the metal scene, who were some of your favorite bands back in the day?
Mike: Oh my God... I loved Metallica from the moment I heard them. But I also loved Van Halen, Ozzy, all the real big ones. My first concert, which was written about in the book was Metallica opening for Ozzy. It was just the most frightening and exhilarating night of my life up to that point (laughs). Like every kid that played guitar I assumed I'd grow up to be Van Halen. AC/DC, The Scorpions I loved.
The Gauntlet: So you sort of straddled the line between thrash stuff and glam stuff?
Mike: Yea, it's weird. I just liked bands with really good songs. Whichever bands had really good songs I liked. I wasn't that genre specific. Like I didn't love every Bay Area thrash band. Back then these bands would just come on your radar through radio, MTV, or Hit Parader magazine, and you never really knew that much about them or where they were from anyway. I think it was good because you didn't really get involved in "scenes." I didn't know that Bon Jovi discovered Cinderella until about 10 years later. The fact that you knew who the guys in S.O.D. were - Scott from Anthrax and their roadie as the singer- you felt like some big insider, you know? Now you know every minute detail about every band with the Internet.
The Gauntlet: The book was made in a light-hearted manner, but when you picked the quotes did you look for some that you could find some real meaning behind?
Mike: Yeah, the whole thing about the book is that it's my goof on self-help. I think self-help has gotten so out of control that it's almost paralyzing. There are definitely quotes that I thought were really insightful or helpful. I love the Fates Warning quote: "What do you want from love, mercy or control?" I think people look at it and go "Whatever," but when you think about it it makes a lot of sense. Another one of my favorites is the Anthrax quote: "Talking to you is like clapping with one hand." It just seems like such a great insult. It's like you can get some sound, but there's nothing real coming out. I wanted it to be where some of these could be broken down and really thought about.
The Gauntlet: I also love the other Anthrax quote: "Jesus saves, but not until I get paid."
Mike: Yea (laughs). There was this guy back in the day, I can't think of his name right now, who had this big thing against metal, and then Ozzy did that song "Miracle Man," and in the video he wore a mask of that guy. It was when the televangelist thing was getting really big and you had these guys who were ripping up these big metal bands, then going and doing blow with prostitutes all night. It was like, "OK, you both do blow with prostitutes all night, you're both on the stage, and the difference is?" So that one was my tip to the hat about that. I also think it was great wiht the PMRC thing back then when they put "Warning" labels on all the records. I was like, "Oh my God, those are gonna be the first ones I buy."
The Gauntlet: So have you shown the back to any of the guys who you quoted?
Mike: I know Ace Frehley saw it just last weekend. Scott Ian loves it. We sent it to Scott and he thought it was the greatest thing ever. Guns N' Roses isn't in there but Gilby Clarke was a strong supporter of the book even before I got it signed in anywhere. I wasn't there when Ace saw it, but the photographer for the book, Mark Weiss, showed it to him and he was like, "This is cool!" Mark got him to sign the book, and then at the end of the night Ace was like, "Hey man, can I keep that book?" (laughs) Mark was like, "Yea, you can keep the book, but you signed it to me, isn't that gonna be weird?" I think most of the bands have seen it by now.
The Gauntlet: Did you have to go through each individual band to get the rights to publish each quote?
Mike: Yea, you have to get the rights to publish the quote because it's all copywritten material. Sometimes you'd have to talk to the bands directly, but some of them had publishing deals with EMI or whoever who administered those rights.
The Gauntlet: Did any bands turn you down?
Mike: AC/DC because they just don't do any licensing. If you license "Back in Black" or something for a movie the fee is literally about half a million dollars. Then with some bands, it's like one guy has half the song, another guy has the other half and they hate each other. So you wind up becoming aware of the 20-year-old simmering power struggles (laughs). Pretty much anybody who didn't have a licensing decree or a big eternal battle was totally into it.
The Gauntlet: What about Metallica?
Mike: Well, Metallica is published by EMI and Hal Leonard handles the print licensing and the lyric reprint licensing. For instance, if there was a "How to play the songs on ...And Justice" book that was gonna get made it would get made by Hal Leonard. Then there's also licensing of just lyrical excerpts. With Metallica's deal, they only handle the lyrical excerpts deal. It became this big confusing deal, and time was running out until the due date from the publisher. When I was finally in direct contact with Metallica's management, you gotta remember that Metallica, Inc. is this massive, massive thing that a little print license gets put on the bottom of the burner. I will say this, though. I won't tell you who, but we've already been contacted by some people that aren't in this book who have seen it and want to be in the next one. It's funny, we went from having to pauper around to people to people contacting us wanting to be in it.
The Gauntlet: So what's next for you? Are you gonna go back to music or work on the sequel?
Mike: There is a lot on the plate. Last week I just finished producing this record for Atlantic. I just got done and then I had 4 days of book stuff to do. There was a book party in New York and I was going to stay there longer, but I literally had to come back to vote which is sort of a tribute to the fact that people are actually voting. But yea, I have a couple record projects. The "What Would a Metal God Do?" blog
is up and running and that's getting sorta super popular. So that's gonna take me a little bit to deal with. I'm gonna keep doing the blog, and we're gonna do a book event over at Roman's in Pasadena on the 18th, and then we're gonna start to think about doing the next book. All things all the time sort of (laughs).
The Gauntlet: Thanks for the interview and good luck Mike!
Mike: Take care!