Based in New York, metal guru Ian Christe is the author of the terrific
history of metal 'Sound Of The Beast' and most recently a well-received
biography of Van Halen.
Why did you decide to write a biography of Van Halen?
Well, though Van Halen remain legends in the United States, nobody had written a
history of the band in almost 25 years. I felt like they deserved an update,
just something to preserve their story. After all, their trials and tribulations
had only just begun when David Lee Roth
first left the band.
I should also say that I rediscovered Van Halen while working on my first book,
'Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal,' and that
this book is a homage to these guys who had such a big impact on hard rock
Did you approach the band about the book?
Yes, but unfortunately this is not an era of great openness for them.
The days of mile-a-minute motormouth interviews are long gone. They were all in
deep hibernation while I was writing, and I eventually gave up and treated them
like historical subjects.
Even now that they've revived, though, the Van Halen's have only done one
interview each and Roth has done none. I don't blame them! The press has never
been their friend.
Do you know if they have read it yet?
I personally handed copies to their management, so I hope so. And I hope they
get a kick out of it. I understand it's a fragile situation and they may not be
in the mood for a romp down memory lane, but it's a fun book and it's meant for
a few laughs, even if your last name is Van Halen.
What do you think of their current reunion? Have you been to any of the gigs?
Is there a future for this line-up of the band?
I've been to two early shows, and I have tickets for a third at Madison Square
Garden which was recently postponed.
As far as prior speculation went, they are already in the future, as nobody
expected this second round of dates in 2008. Right now we're halfway through the
brief regrouping period, and hopefully the machine gets back on track and
continues onward to Europe, Australia, and Japan before the end of the year.
On a good night, this line-up definitely has that old time magic, I hope it
lasts. You really do have to experience it to understand the importance of Van
Given the sheer scale of material for 'Sound Of The Beast,' how did you go
about writing your latest tome? Was it an "easier" process?
Ha, good question! Yes, this book was much easier, and took a fraction of the
time. Even with their twists and feuds and periods of confusion, Van Halen were
much easier to portray on paper than the amorphous 40-year-old black blob of
heavy metal, with its tens of thousands of bands and hundred-odd cities and
countries. Yeah, 'Sound Of The Beast' was utterly overwhelming, man. Van Halen
was a blast of fresh air.
Can you tell me briefly about your writing career so far?
I started writing a heavy metal fanzine as a teenager, and then somehow wrote
professionally for music magazines in the 1990s. I wrote for Wired for a few of
the good years, and then took about five years off to tackle 'Sound Of The
Now I do all kinds of projects. In the past year I've done science stories for
Popular Mechanics, an essay for Megadeth's Warchest box set, and a chapter on
Iron Maiden's 'Killers' for a book about desert island records, called
Do you have any music/non-music writing ambitions?
Well, I'd like to raise goats and bees, if that's what you mean, but that's
pretty hard living in Brooklyn. As far as writing aims go, it is important to me
to get all these stories and ideas about heavy metal and bands like Black
Sabbath, Van Halen, and even Napalm Death down on paper, so there's a historical
record of the huge expenditure of energy they represent.
What are you working on now?
I've just finished a novel about a "satanic panic" in a midwestern town in
America during the 1980s, called 'Satan's Hollow.' I've been doing a weekly
heavy metal history show for Sirius satellite radio since 2004, and that's going
But my main focus in 2008 has been launching a small book publishing company.
The first two books are 'Swedish Death Metal,' a great history of that scene by
Daniel Ekeroth, and 'Sheriff McCoy,' the lively autobiography of Andy McCoy from
Hanoi Rocks. Best of all, I'm getting married in the fall--oh, is that work?