Monday, July 27, 2009
ExplodingInSound.com recently had the honor of conducting an interview with esteemed rock author and critic, Greg Prato. Prato has written several books, including "Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music," and "A Devil On One Shoulder & An Angel On The Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon". He is also a regular contributor to AllMusic.com, Billboard.com, and RollingStone.com amongst others. "Grunge is Dead" will greatly appeal to fans of this site, as it features interviews with members of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, The Melvins, Screaming Trees and many more. In this interview we discuss the future of grunge music, Blind Melon's legacy, his favorite albums, and more. It's great to see we share some similar favorites. You can check out all four of Greg Prato's books (including samples) on his myspace page, www.myspace.com/GregPratopage, as well as links to recent articles and interviews.
EIS.com: How did you get your start in writing/professionally? When was this?
GP: I got my start writing in 1997. I was hired by a music magazine (which shall remain nameless) as a customer service rep. When I saw how bloody easy it was to write via the writers on staff, I took the plunge. It quickly became evident that I wasn't going to write regularly for those foolers, so I jumped ship, started freelancing for other mags/sites, and have lived happily ever after.
EIS.com: What advice would you give to aspiring music critics/writers looking to make a profession of writing?
GP: When I started, I took a lot of writing gigs for no pay in local papers, just to get my writing published - so I had samples to show bigger places. But I'd imagine now there are less local music papers than there were 12 years ago...
EIS.com: Writing for allmusic.com, rollingstone.com, billboard.com, and several books, how often do you write? How do you decide which article to submit to which source?
GP: I have pretty good relationships with a lot of management and publicity companies, so they give me the heads up re: new releases and possible interviews. I also snoop around the net for music news that is taking shape.
EIS.com: Are you working on a new book now? Any insight into what’s to come from you…
GP: I just helped a photographer friend of mine, Richard Galbraith, put together an awesome new photo book of KISS, titled 'Richard Galbraith Photography Presents KISS.' It features awesome live shots (almost all of which are unpublished) between 1976-1986. I also interviewed him for the book (he talks about his memories of shooting each show and how he got into photography). To check out some sample pix of the book/ordering info, go to http://stores.lulu.com/richardgalbraith, and to check out awesome shots of other bands throughout the years, check out http://www.myspace.com/richardgalbraith.
EIS.com: A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon is a terrific book. Were you close to the band before you began writing it? If readers only take away one thing from the book, what would you want that to be?
GP: I'd say I became friendly w/ the surviving members, via phone interviews and whatnot (also even did lunch w/ 3 of them in NYC). But not very close to the point of weekly phone calls or anything like that. One thing readers should take away from the book is that Shannon was one of the all-time greats, and that 'Soup' is one of the best rock albums of all time.
EIS.com: Had Shannon Hoon, Layne Staley, and Kurt Cobain been alive today, where do you think their careers would have taken them?
GP: I really believe Shannon/Blind Melon would have continued putting out great albums, but can't say for sure. Cobain was planning on doing something a bit more mellow for the next Nirvana album - that would have been interesting to hear.
EIS.com: Do you really believe that grunge is dead? Might there be a “second coming” of the genre? Maybe happening in other parts of the country (IE. Austin, TX)
GP: Well, Pearl Jam, the Melvins, and Mudhoney continue to tour/release albums, so from that perspective, grunge isn't totally dead. But I'd say some of the worst rock music of all-time are these modern day clowns that have made a career of doing watered down versions of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, etc. (I'm talking about Creed, Nickelback, Staind, etc.).
EIS.com: Seattle has become a very diverse musical climate right now from art rock to indie pop and everywhere in between. Any favorites?
GP: Seattle has always had a great music scene (all the way back to Jimi Hendrix and Heart), too many to choose from!
EIS.com: You tend to write your books with oral histories from people who were part of the scene/music. How long do you generally compile interviews for?
GP: It varies. The grunge book took about 3 years, but my Shannon and Tommy Bolin books took shorter. But that said, I had interviews for both sitting around for a couple of years or more before I started those books (as I did earlier feature articles on each for Classic Rock Magazine).
EIS.com: When writing an album review, do you take previous efforts from the artist into account, or look at each one as if completely separate?
GP: Each album is different, but yes, I try to familiarize myself with what the artist has done beforehand, so I know where they're coming from w/ their latest release.
EIS.com: The 90s were a glorious time for rock radio, what happened, and why are stations so hesitant to play anything with integrity these days?
GP: Because most major record companies just want to make easy money - why take a chance with something original that may not pay off, when they can hire some professional songwriter and mold some stinky band into the same-sounding doo-doo that's guaranteed to top the charts?
EIS.com: Seeing that you recently interviewed Kim Thayil about the possibility of a Soundgarden reunion), what sort of impact do you think that would create?
GP: Again, hard to say, but like Ben Shepherd said in 'Grunge is Dead,' that if they got back together, they could pick up exactly where they left off (which Kim also agrees with).
EIS.com: Recent reunions between many 90s bands (STP, Toadies, Dinosaur Jr, Meat Puppets, etc) have proven to be in demand, anyone you’d still like to see reunite?
GP: Hmmm, I'm not the biggest fans of reunions necessarily, because you run the risk of a stinky show ruining how you view the band's legacy (seeing Van Halen w/ David Lee a few years ago was a letdown - especially since I saw David Lee a few years before that solo, and his solo show was better than the VH reunion!). But Soundgarden would be cool to see again, as well as Faith No More. Mr. Bungle is another one that really should be back together recording and touring - I'm sure they'd still be great live.
EIS.com: The mainstream musical climate has changed so much in the digital age, do you think it will ever be possible to have another Nirvana type success story in rock?
GP: Sure, why not? Something I've said in many of the interviews I've done for 'Grunge is Dead' is that I compare the '90s grunge movement to the '60s hippie and '70s punk movements - meaning that an unexpected music movement can shift society beyond just music (all the way to politics, fashion, etc.). So if these 3 musical 'shifts' happened, why can't another? Where and when it will happen, I have no idea.
EIS.com: A few personal questions if you don’t mind…
Favorite album of all time?
GP: I'll give you a few - Blind Melon's Soup, Soundgarden's Superunknown, Faith No More's Angel Dust, Queen's Greatest Hits, the Pretenders' self-titled debut, and Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous.
EIS.com: Favorite concert?
GP: Blind Melon at the Wetlands in NYC in early '93 was pretty sweet, as was Black Sabbath at Nassau Coliseum in '99, and Soundgarden at the New York State Armory in '94.
EIS.com: Favorite album of 2009 (so far)?
GP: Does October '08 count? If so, I'll go with Eagles of Death Metal's "Heart On"
EIS.com: Best record store in the country?
GP: It's sadly now defunct - Slipped Disc Records in Valley Stream, NY (www.slippeddiscrecords.com).
EIS.com: Favorite place to write?
GP: From my light tan colored IKEA sofa at home.
EIS.com: I'd like to give a very special thanks to Greg Prato for the interview. Please go check out his writing and feel free to drop him a message on his Myspace page telling him you saw the ExplodingInSound.com interview.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 6:28 PM