A new DIY press grows in Brooklyn.
Tue Sep 2 2008
Photograph: Dianna Dilworth
One of the best music books of the past decade isn’t by a marquee-name author like Peter Guralnick, Greil Marcus or Jon Savage, and it isn’t about a cred-building act like Dylan or U2 either. And yet Ian Christe’s Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal (HarperCollins, 2003) is everything you need in a historical survey: It’s encyclopedic, astute, dryly funny and accessible—even if you can’t tell the difference between thrash and grindcore. After penning another book, Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga (Wiley, 2007), the Brooklyn writer decided to cross to the other side and launch his own publishing company, Bazillion Points; the company’s first release is Daniel Ekeroth’s vastly entertaining Swedish Death Metal. “This is a lifestyle choice,” Christe, 38, says of his decision. “And if you want to look back to artists operating their own family businesses, look to Fugazi, John Cassavetes, George Plimpton, Eugene Ionesco, Francis Ford Coppola or Jello Biafra.”
The reference to indie rockers like Fugazi isn’t a coincidence—Christe played in various bands in the ’90s, and got a firsthand education in the music trenches. “In 1991, I got a tour of Dischord house from [Fugazi’s] Ian MacKaye and it made a huge impression on me,” he says. “As a musician, I’ve had deals with [independent label] Kill Rock Stars and [major-owned] London Records, and there’s no question who’s better to deal with.”
He also used his experience as an author to steer Bazillion Points, where he handles everything from edits to storage: “Sound of the Beast is licensed for translation in 15 languages, so I’ve been through the production process a lot in the past five years,” he says. “But damn I was terrified the day 10,000 pounds of Swedish Death Metal books came flying off the back of a truck into my arms.”
Christe is keen for Bazillion Points to cover the whole spectrum of metal (for a start at least—he’d like to eventually do books about, say, Scandinavian crime fiction). Upcoming releases include the autobiography of Andy McCoy, leader of influential glam group Hanoi Rocks (“He’s kind of the Keith Richards of Finland, except Keith only fell out of a coconut tree, while Andy fell from a fourth-story balcony window”); the official story of Nightwish (“the first band since Black Sabbath to bridge the gap between heavy-metal parents and their eight-year-old kids”); and a history of prog metal by Jeff Wagner, former editor of Metal Maniacs magazine. The latter tome clearly excites the budding publishing mogul. “I’m coaching [Wagner] in all kinds of ways, like how to approach sources, how to get photos and how to set aside a chapter for a while, go swimming in the afternoon and stay sane,” Christe says. “It’s awesome, he’s a lot quicker on the uptake than I was! But I have to say, I couldn’t get that kind of help from my editors at HarperCollins, because their job descriptions were too narrow. They just didn’t know the full picture.”
Daniel Ekeroth’s Swedish Death Metal ($34.95) is out now.