Apart from being a rock star, being a rock journalist is possibly one of the coolest jobs imaginable. Mick Wall, ex-Kerrang! writer and founding editor of Classic Rock, is one of the best in the business.
Morrissey, luck, the Gods of rock, and Dave Grohl.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: CONTROVERSIAL VIEWS AND NAUGHTY WORDS THROUGHOUT.
“No one’s either a nice guy or a cunt. We are all mixtures of both.”
What attracts you to rock music?
“When you go back to the eighties and you had people like the Smith’s and the Jam banging on about how shit America is, then on the other side of the coin was people like Def Leppard who were like, “Yes! We want to be zillionaires, we want the swimming pools, the private jets, bring it on!” I found that approach more honest and real. Not to mention more fun. Rockers have this unashamed lust for fame and fortune and all that comes with it. The people that sail on that journey and sometimes sink on the way, whether it’s Picasso or Elvis, forms an interesting narrative to me.
Who would you rather have a night out with, Ozzy and Lemmy, or Morrissey and Paul Weller? I interviewed them all. Morrissey is a nice enough guy, but dreary as fuck. What a moany bastard. And Weller is one of the biggest tossers I’ve ever met in my life. I think the man was born with a rolled-up NME up his arse. They talk about not selling out. Don’t form a fucking band, then! There’s more of a challenge in making an album that would appeal to 10 million people than it would be do make one that sells 100,000 and gets you on the front of NM fucking E.”
What part does luck play in global megastardom?
“If you ask any rock star how much they think they owe their success to sheer luck, most of them will agree that there is definitely an element of it. And then add, but ‘I believe you make your own luck.’ Personally, I’m still waiting for that knock on the door from someone who’s going to say, ‘Come on, who do you think you are kidding? Game’s up. Get your laptop and fuck off!’”
Who’s the most grounded rock star you’ve met?
“Ozzy Osbourne. He has his ego like we all do, but he’s very self-deprecating to the point where he just can’t believe his good fortune. He isn’t really a songwriter, or a singer in the accepted sense, but he’s a fantastic character. I interviewed him when Bark at the Moon came out in 1982/83. He had the album, this was in the days of vinyl, and on the back it said, ‘written, sung, arranged and produced by Ozzy Osbourne.’ He looked at it and said, ‘Fucking hell, Mick. I couldn’t produce a fart, me. It was all Sharon. She tells me I wrote the songs. Well I can’t fucking remember writing any songs.’”
Who is the biggest star of all?
“It’s not strictly true, but I used to say that if you meet one rock star you’ve met them all. Lemmy is the exception to every rule. He is beyond rock star. He isn’t as successful or famous as Guns n’ Roses or whoever, but they all worship him because he’s the daddy. He’s Mr. Supercool who never sold out. Of course he fucking tried to sell out, but spectacularly failed and is still bitter about it. I’ve known Lemmy for years and years. We got to the stage where he would be faxing me reams and reams of his poetry. It would be one long stream of greasy A4 bog roll. I’d get up in the morning and there would be this massive pile of paper spewing out of the fax machine in my office, all written in this gothic script handwriting. He had clearly been speeding out of his nut all night writing poetry about blood falling from the skies and dragons weeping. It so happened I was also writing poems at the time. I thought I’d send him some of mine. Guess what? I never heard about it again. You know when you don’t like something and you are like, “Yea, yea, it’s pretty good.” Well I never even got that. I got fuck all.”
Who is the biggest cunt?
“No one’s either a nice guy or a cunt. We are all mixtures of both. Life is very complicated, and there’s no such thing as a fucking nice guy in the music business. Deals are there to be done and they are not done by people saying, “What would be the nice thing to do?” Its dog eat dog and every band for themselves. Some of them can write songs or play their instruments like nobody else in history. So yes they are completely self-absorbed arseholes some of the time and most of them aren’t too fussed about helping others, but they are immensely interesting, unique characters. Jimmy Page has gone mad but the Zeppelin albums are timeless. People will still be listening to those a hundred years from now and think, ‘Wow, what a time that must have been to be alive.’”
Is Dave Grohl really the nicest man in rock?
“Yes, he is. He’s extraordinarily nice. It’s almost against the law not to like him, and he’s very good at making friends. Everyone from Paul McCartney to Lady Gaga. But you don’t get to be one of the biggest rock stars in the world by being a ‘nice guy.’ He’s fired people from his band without a second thought, and even though it’s called the Foo Fighters, it’s very much HIS band. If he left tomorrow, the other guys couldn’t just get another singer and carry on.
Of course, nobody is perfect, there’s a huge cunt inside all of us bursting to get out. But Dave Grohl fights that, and is a very classy guy to deal with on all levels. He cares about his audience, and he thinks about things. This isn’t a guy who thinks every night is in Cleveland. Every night since 1975, David Lee Roth has sang the first number then bellowed, ‘Wow! We gotta lotta fuckin’ people here tonight!’ But Grohl is a real man of the people. He totally gets why fans go to shows. He’s a bit like the fan who’s dream came true. The Foo Fighters are never going to be innovators, but they are huge crowd pleasers. It’s all peace and love. He knows how to work the magic.”
Mick Wall’s latest book, Foo Fighters: Learning to Fly, is out now on Orion.