Released: 2013, Indie
In the Foreword of his autobiography GEEK TO GUITAR HERO, Alex Skolnik states that 2012 is, "...the age of the 'rock-bio', where having a book (usually co-written) is as common among artists as having a signature guitar." (p. xiii) This may well be true as there has been a massive amount of rock bios in the past few years, however, I believe that this is only the second autobiography of a member of a thrash Metal band, the first being Dave Mustaines book. There are dozens of autobiographies of more mainstream Metal dudes but to the very best of my knowledge, no other thrash-centric ones. Oddly enough, I thought it would have been a member of Metallica, (probably Lars) to be the first thrash dude to write a book. Although Kirk Hammet wrote TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS, (a coffee-table book about his horror memorabilia collection) it is not the same thing. In a sense Skolonik is a pioneer and I hope that other notable characters in the thrash world like Jeff Waters, Scott Ian, Bobbly Blitz, Kerry King, Gary Holt or Angelripper, Schmier, Gerre or Mille from across the pond, will follow in Skolnik's lead an independently publish their own life stories.
Unlike Mustaine's big, brash autobiography on a major publisher, Skolnik has decided to go the independent route and self-publish, which is more suited to his independent spirit. GEEK TO GUITAR HERO does seem a little low-budget and low-key with an odd black and white cover that is poorly designed with much of the space taken up with promotional quotes. The paperback is 368 pages long and has lots of rare black and white photos. The title also leaves me scratching my head. The more grammatically correct title would have been FROM GEEK TO GUITAR HERO, the word 'From' signifying a journey and having the additional connection to another great title in literature, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. I'm surprised someone as well read as Skolnik missed that.
Skolnik employs the standard, linear, chronological fashion of detailing his life story and unfortunately has only decided to cover up until 1992 or so with a very brief narrative spanning a mere four pages to cover the last two decades. I say unfortunate because true fans will want to know what he has done for the second half of his life, post-Testament and the four page chapter entitled, 'Don't You Forget About Me' left me wanting more.
Skolnick describes himself as a rare personality type, forthright and analytical, and this character trait does come across in his writing. In fact, Skolnick seems quite critical and he doesn't pull any punches in his assessment of the behaviour of others. He is hard on himself, his immediate biological family and his extended musical family of Testament. He is not cruel or mean but if someone was acting in a childish or immature fashion he will not hesitate to say the way it is and at times, the truth hurts. He doesn't glorify the golden age of thrash, in fact he paints quite a bleak picture of it, quickly growing tired of the road, the debauchery and the bad business decisions, and the leeches and scumbags who populate the music industry. Despite a fairly demure tone, one thing shines through is his passion and artistic soul, speaking fondly of authors and artists and his love for creating music for musics sake. GEEK TO GUITAR HERO has a different tone and tempo from any other 'rock bio' I have read which help sets it apart, not necessarily better, just different, which is a merit unto itself.
GEEK TO GUITAR HERO ends with an intelligent and impassioned discourse about the nature of being 'Metal' and being 'Not Metal'. Alex himself admits he has felt the sting of the accusations of being not 'Not Metal' and I certainly understand as I felt a sense of disappointment, even bordering on feeling betrayed, when he left Testament to pursue other 'Not Metal' avenues. In my mind he regained some Metal credibility by joining Savatage but that was never a great fit and unfortunately he barely mentions his time in Savatage in his book. However, you can't blame a great artist for following his muse, you can only decide to support or not support him as he explores the artistic paths of creativity.
There is plenty of room left for a good Testament biography on the market because Alex while detailed about the band, was only on the band for the first seven years and didn't discuss the reunion era at all, beyond a few passing sentences. There is also lots of room for Part II of his life-story. Until that day, this is a fantastic book and any thrash fan, and especially Testament fans, will enjoy the eye-opening insiders look into a time in the history of Metal that, for many of us, was magical.