Interview with author, Greg Prato
It has been seven long years since we chatted with prolific author Greg Prato, just about the time he released his excellent biography of deceased Kiss drummer Eric Carr. Since then Prato has cranked up his productivity into high-great and has since published an astonishing 15 more books about Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. This makes him one of the genres most prolific authors, in the upper echelons with McIver and Popoff. To ask him what he has been up to lately would be redundant, so let’s start with a quick chat about his newest release, KING’S X-AN ORAL HISTORY.
I’m a big fan myself, but why a book about King’s X and why now? I mean the timing is perfect!
I’ve been wanting to do a book about the band for years, but after seeing a great performance by them at a venue called Stage 48 in NYC in 2015 and being blown away by how much the crowd was into it (and singing along), I decided to get in touch with the band’s management and we started discussions regarding how the band and I could work on a book together. It just so happened that the book coming out this year also coincides with King’s X putting out their first new studio album in years, and also a documentary is currently being worked on about the band, too.
I know you tried to answer this age-old question in your excellent book, but can you try to summarize what it is about King’s X that is so well-received by the music community but not with the broader rock audience?
Hard to say, as some of my favorite all-time bands never broke through to the masses during the time they were together (Stooges, MC5), or were only popular in certain regions of the world (T. Rex, Thin Lizzy). But if I was forced to pick one reason, I would say the selection of what their singles/videos were in the ‘80s/‘90s could have been better, and could have potentially broadened their fanbase. The most glaring example of this is their most beloved song by their fanbase, “Goldilox,” was never issued as a single/video (this is the song that nowadays when King’s X performs it live, do not even have to sing – they just turn their mics towards the crowd and the audience sings every word, which shows how enduring it is), and could have been a big hit. Additionally, the later songs “Lost in Germany” and “Mississippi Moon” both were never issued as singles/videos…and I believe both would have done well on radio and MTV at the time.
How do you choose projects? Strictly personal interest or occasionally will you get solicited by a publisher to tackle a band? Do you find it easier to solicit bands for comments now that you have a well-proven track record?
Every single book I’ve ever done has been a subject that I felt strongly about and was a fan of. And some subjects I thought did not get the respect/acclaim they deserved, so a book could possibly help steer the ship in the right direction. Case in point, I’m a long-time fan of Blind Melon’s original singer, Shannon Hoon, but when he was alive, it seemed like the music press pegged the group as a “one hit wonder” and “the bee girl band,” because of the song “No Rain.” But after seeing the Hoon-led line-up 5 times from 1993-95, I experienced first-hand what a special band they were, and what a special talent Hoon was, and how tragic it was that he died at such an early age. So…my first-ever book was about Shannon – 2008’s ‘A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon.’
With the book’s enduring popularity, the group reuniting with a new singer (Travis Warren) and touring, and photographer Danny Clinch assembling a great film of footage Shannon shot on a video camera during the last five years of his life, ‘All I Can Say,’ it seems like over the many critics and music fans have changed their view about the band, and have realized how great Shannon was.
I notice you do a nice mix of working with publishers (like Jawbone) and independent projects. What is your criteria for deciding which route to take, or in this day and age, does it come down to the money?
Each book project is different, and I usually go with my gut feeling re: if it should be shopped around to traditional publishers or if I should just self-publish it myself.
How do you feel your writing style has evolved since your earliest works to today?
Not much, to be honest, as I was a music journalist and had written countless features articles, news articles, and reviews for over a decade before doing my first book. Most of my books follow the “oral history format,” meaning that they are a collection of quotes from people I interviewed, pertaining to certain subjects – so you are getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth.
What is it that is so appealing about the oral history technique that is used in many of your books?
As I mentioned before, because you are getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth. I usually find it irritating when authors feel like they have to give their two cents concerning a subject or topic that they did not withness first hand or do not know as much about as people they could simply interview, and let them tell the true story.
Do you sort of work at night, during the day…a mix? Do you still work from home?
I work at all hours, but I find that I do my best work in the morning and afternoon (that’s usually when I try to conduct interviews, as well). And yes, I still work from home.
Pick your favourite child! They say you never forget your first, but which of your titles is closest to your heart and why?
I’d probably have to go with ‘A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon,’ since it seemed to change the critics’ and media’s perception of Shannon and the band. And it seems like it is always reaching new readers, as I still get emails from folks who were just turned onto the book and enjoyed it.
I know I’ve given you a little bit of flak in some of my reviews, (only because I care!) but have you had any really negative feedback or angry unhappy bands or fans? Conversely, tell us of a couple of those magic moments that have happened after publishing a book, maybe a letter from a fan or band, that make it all worth while?
I have not received any negative feedback from the artists I have done books about. Concerning readers, mostly good feedback, a little bit not so good. But you’re not going to always please everybody – as long as I still have the respect and admiration of Joshua Wood, that’s the most important thing!
On a related note, is there any title that has been especially more lucrative, or sold more than the others in your bibliography? What is your best seller?
I think my best seller may just be the latest – ‘King’s X: The Oral History.’ It was released in February, and already sold out its first pressing, and is in its second pressing…with a hardcover edition on its way shortly.
What is your next project or are you allowed to say?
My next book will be a self-pubished one, entitled ‘Facts on Tracks: Stories Behind 100 Rock Classics,’ which will be released in May 2019 and available in paperback or Kindle via Amazon. As its title states, 100 classic songs are included from a variety of rock styles – Hotel California, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Message in a Bottle, Jesus Christ Pose, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Blitzkrieg Bop, Roots Bloody Roots, Here I Go Again, Beth, Cosmic Slop, Peace Sells, Jerry Was a Race Car Driver, Goldilox, Satch Boogie, etc. – and each entry includes background info by yours truly, followed by memories of the track by either the artist themselves or someone closely associated with the track.
Lastly, do you have any inspiring words for young rock writers?
If you’re working on a book, it’s easier now than ever with the rise of self-publishing options. Find a subject that you’re passionate about, and dive right in (don’t enter the chilly water one step at a time)! If it’s an interview you’re interesting in doing for a site or mag, even if it’s someone you may not be the biggest fan of, do some research and come up with questions that have not been asked a million times…that way, it will become interesting to you, and to the reader. And…here are some links that readers may like to check out:
My Twitter page (which includes links to my latest articles)
My Amazon page (which includes all my books and ordering info) –
No, no, no, thank YOU!