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Toney, Michael
Tales From The Stage (Book Review)
September 2012
Released: 2012, Tales Publishing
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: JP

I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. Broken down to it’s purest form, TALES FORM THE STAGE is a collection of 15 interviews. That’s it. I’ve read magazines that have 15 interviews! There is no real rhyme or reason or theme to the interviews, other than most of the artists were active in the 80’s. So on one level, there is really not much substance and do these few interviews warrant being published in a book? Well, American author Michael Toney has done just that. It’s an independent publication, a nice paperback running 238 pages with quite a few black and white photos scattered across the pages, some formal, some candid. There is an interesting page of statistics as well. I’m not sure about the title if the book, because there really aren’t that many insights about stories from ‘the stage’. The interviews are not about the live concert environment for the most part, so the title doesn’t really make sense.

Michael is not an insider, a journalist, publicist or industry heavy-weight by any means. He is a fan. He is just a pure fan who decided to write a book and talk to artists he admires. I really respect that. He not getting paid and did all the leg-work, research and solicitation. It’s a true labour of love and comes across as completely non-pretentious. There is no agenda, just raw interviews. The interviews are a standard format, he asks virtually the same question, in the same sequence for each artist, so it is very consistent.

Speaking of raw, Michael just conduct a pretty raw interview. Many of his questions are very personal and in fact he has a lot of balls. He asks questions that I would never dream of. He asks artists about their sex lives, (if they use protection!) how much they get paid, how big their house is…and many other personal and intimate questions. One on hand, I felt those types of questions were unnecessary and even bordering on rude (being a polite Canadian) and I found myself asking, ‘Who cares if Paul Shortino has a mortgage? or ‘Who cares who Bruce Kulick is going to vote for?’

On the other hand, his interview style brings out many, many interesting pieces of trivia, which are very interesting. Some of his questions are probing and thoughtful and provided some revealing insights. One of the appealing features of TALES FROM THE STAGE was that he interviewed people that I wanted to read about, and I suppose that will always be the case. If you don’t like an artist why would you want to read about them? Fortunately for me I was intimately familiar with every artist he interviewed and wanted to read about all of them. There were a couple of interviews with industry people (Brian Slagel and Eddie Trunk) and with the exception of Betsy ‘The Bitch’ all the performers are American, white males who got started in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Actually that’s not totally true, Lips from Anvil was the lone Canadian and Herman ‘ze German’ Rarebell is German of course. I loved reading about Jeff Duncan of Armoured Saint, Ron Keel and Tracii Guns. The highlight for me was reading the interview with Jeff Reynolds of Malice and another major score was a very intimate interview with Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. who really hasn’t been in the media for quite a while. Holmes admits to some things that may shock you, or not if you are familiar with his history and antics. The interviews with Eddie Trunk, Lips and Herman Rarebell were not as interesting to me because they all have recently put out books and I’ve read them all, but it was still good to see them included. Even though the artist being interviewed have long histories, Michael does focus on their recent activities, current bands and doesn’t always dwell in the past.

In my final analysis, using my intellectual side, I know this book is really not all that special or unique. My emotional side, however really enjoyed it. I always pleased to see Metal fans write about what they love, and the author tackles his labour of love with enthusiasm and sincerity. That’s why I give Michael and TALES FROM THE STAGE the benefit of the doubt and recommend it to most Metal fans who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s.
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