Interview with Chris Smith
Author of ‘What You Make It’ -The authorized biography of Doug Pinnick.
Tell us a little bit about your background personally and professionally!
You bet, Joshua. Thanks. I grew up listening to rock, which led to heavy rock, which led to metal! I think the point of no return was when I was visiting my grandparents one summer and had a little transistor radio on the nightstand. I was just dozing off when I heard the most amazing sound. It ended up being Judas Priest’s ‘Living After Midnight.’ Literally from that first drum beat I was hooked. Professionally, I’ve been a journalist or editor for my whole working life. But I’ve always kept one foot in the music, whether as a writer, a radio programmer, a stage hand, a band manager, a promoter. Pretty much anything to stay a part of it.
Is this your first book?
What is it about Doug (or Dug) that is so fascinating to write a book?
Doug was born in 1950. He’s a contemporary of folks like Phil Lynott, Joe Perry, Robin Zander, and Peter Frampton, but came to the limelight much later than any of them. What was going on? What path was it that led a black, gay, Christian to being one of the most beloved musicians in all of hard rock? And someone that’s still going at it, arguably stronger and better than ever? From getting to know Doug over the years before we decided to do this book, I could tell that there was a great tale waiting to be told, the details just needed to be unearthed.
I saw that it is an ‘authorized’ biography. How much input or direct work with Dug did you have? Did you meet and or interview him for the book?
Doug was involved from beginning to end. A mutual friend and he were over at our house one weekend. We were grilling and hanging out and decided to get this book together. In addition to conducting multiple extended interviews with Doug himself, he personally provided me contact information for family, friends, musicians, industry folks. Whoever he wanted me to talk to. Bringing it full circle, he read the final version before it went to press, suggesting any changes and catching any mistakes. Add to that crossing paths every once in a while via mutual friends and his involvement was pretty wide reaching.
Was there anything that really surprised you about Dug that was revealed while doing your research for the book?
Not really. But there’re a couple of aspects to that. One is that we were already familiar with each other and had a lot of mutual friends. The other, probably more important, thing is that Doug doesn’t really have a front. He’s got shields and defenses, like any of us. But more than most he is what he seems to be. What you see is what you get!
Did you shop this book around to various publishers?
Yes. Both here and in the UK. Very early in doing so a Nashville-based publisher got in touch with me. They were in the process of establishing a music imprint with a big name in hard rock and metal media as their partner. King’s X was one of the bands they were interested in publishing something on and so reached out about the book’s status, etc. We stayed in touch about it for more than year. I went up and had a great in-person visit with them. But in the end the imprint got shelved, I was antsy to get the book out, and they weren’t sure it would fit as part of their core line up.
How long did it take to complete this book from the idea to coming off the printing press?
Waaayyyy longer than I expected. Several years.
How has initial reaction to the book been?
Overwhelmingly positive. Doug’s fans are a very warm and welcoming lot by nature, but even so the way it’s touched some of them has left me shell-shocked on more than one occasion. There’ve even been some folks not familiar with Doug who’ve weighed in positively, which is nice as well, that it works even if you’re not already a devotee.
This is a tough but fair question, how come there are no photos or even a discography in the book?
Absolutely fair. I wanted to keep costs low enough that anyone who was interested in the book could buy it without having to think about. Not just an impulse buy. But a no-brainer. That was going to be harder to do had color pictures been included. Discographies are readily available these days. I guess it wouldn’t have hurt to include one so the reader would have it right there. But obviously I wasn’t thinking that way at the time!
Do you think there could be a natural progression and your next book is a book about King’s X?
Never say never. But my next book is likely to my debut novel. I put it aside to write the Doug book and I’m ready to get back into it and finish it up.
Do you have last words of inspiration for aspiring journalists and writers?
Write about stuff you want to write about. Your work will be so much better. Don’t worry about making money doing it. Either the money will come or it won’t. But in the meantime you’re going to have so many doors open and opportunities presented. Places to go. People to meet. Being a writer lets you go wherever you want. Second only to heavy music I love auto racing. I decided to write about it. You pay your dues just doing stuff on spec or with friends and eventually you’re actually doing it.
Thank you, Joshua. Keep up the great work.
Follow the rest of the story at:
‘What You Make It: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick’