Chad Bowar: Is a second book like a second album, where you have your whole life to do the first one, but only a few months for the second one and a lot more pressure and expectations?
Eddie Trunk: That’s a great question. (laughs) Certainly the expectation is there for people who have the first book. The first book was incredibly well-received by most people, more so than I think me or my publisher ever envisioned. All the elements that people loved about the first book: the layout, the mix of photos versus text, the personal stories, the playlists, all the anecdotes; they are all there. This book is a sequel in the truest sense of the word.
The big difference of course is this one has 35 chapters on bands that were not in the first book. I really wanted to include many of these bands in the first book, but I ran out of space. I hope it lives up to the expectations and the precedent that was set by the first book. Obviously, as you move into another 35 bands, not every one is going to be a household name. But a lot of people are looking forward to reading about some of the more off-the-radar bands. And there’s plenty about established bands, as well.
Was there an artist or artists that people complained weren’t included in the first book that you were able to put in this one?
I didn’t really hear from so many people about bands that weren’t in the first book. I did hear from a lot of people about bands that were in the first book that they were kind of surprised about. An example of that would be Bon Jovi. Younger people especially don’t quite understand the connection that Bon Jovi had with this scene when they first came on it. If you’re not my age (I’m 49), you might not understand that they were very much a part of the hard rock/metal scene early on, and have evolved past it. Billy Squier, same story, from book one.
There were a couple of bands that I’m personally very close to that weren’t included in the first book that are in this one. People were like, “I can’t believe you didn’t include Overkill in the first book.” Overkill is a band that I was personally very close to from the beginning, being they were a Jersey band, and they are still friends to this day. One of the guys said, “Jesus, we’ve known this guy for 30 years and didn’t make his book!” (laughs)
It was nothing personal, I love Overkill. But each book has to be a balance between bands I feel are important to include, bands I feel are important to include because of my personal relationship with them, and there are bands that I’m a really big fan of that maybe weren’t ever all that popular, but I want to include. So it’s got to be a balance. Obviously you have to have some name bands in there so that the book sells and enough people recognize the names. Then there are those bands that I love and want to talk about. So I’m happy to say Overkill is in this book, as are Testament, who were a big part of my early years in the music industry. Same with White Lion. I have a huge history with those guys. In this book I was able to include those guys and get their stories out.
Let’s talk about a few of the artists included in the book. Queensryche have split into two versions. You’ve said you aren’t taking sides on a personal level. But musically, most people think the Todd LaTorre fronted version’s new album is much better than the Geoff Tate version’s new album. Do you think that’s accurate?
It seems like there was much more behind the Todd LaTorre version. What was strange about Geoff’s is that it seemed like it was almost just a race to see who was going to get theirs out first, and Geoff was the winner there. But when Geoff’s version went out on tour, they went out and played the Mindcrime record. I interviewed Geoff for the new record and asked him about that. He said, “New music is what it is, you put it out there. We’re just trying to get it out.” It doesn’t seem like that album was properly worked from the band. It seems like they put out a brand new record with this new band, and then they went into more of a nostalgia tour. So whether there’s a tour to come for that record, I don’t know.
I was pleasantly surprised by Geoff’s record. I thought it was a pretty good record. I just think it didn’t get any attention at all. It didn’t seem like there was any marketing behind it, and the tour behind it was not featuring that record. It’s almost like a lot of people don’t even know it came out, whereas the version with Todd was something those guys really worked.
Scott Rockenfield told me recently that they are considering playing this new record start to finish on the next leg of their tour. So they are taking the opposite approach, looking at it as a totally different fresh start. They’ve also made a record I think is really strong. It seems the approaches between the two camps have been very different as far as how they are going to treat new music. That may play into it a little bit.
And out of the gate Geoff has this stuff to overcome because of how he conducted himself publicly when the thing broke up, and there are certainly a lot of people that feel badly about that. But being completely honest, I have not seen Geoff’s new lineup live yet. I will next month in Brazil at a festival I’m hosting. I’ve seen the Todd version a couple of times and thought they were great.
It’s hard for me to say which one is going to come out of this the winner, or who’s going to end up getting the name or how this is all going to play out. I’ve got to say, and not just trying to be politically correct here, people I’ve heard who have seen and listened to both records and seen both lineups of the band have said pretty positive things.
Dream Theater is also in the new book. You know former drummer Mike Portnoy very well. In the short term it doesn’t look like there will be a reunion, but do you think 5 or 10 years down the road he might end up back in the band?
I really don’t know. Reunions usually happen for one reason: because it’s going to significantly impact the number of people that show up at gigs or the amount of records that are going to be sold. Dream Theater with Mike Mangini seem to have done the same business as Dream Theater with Portnoy. I believe it’s always great to have the original key members in a band whenever possible. It seems to me that the fans have embraced this version of Dream Theater and certainly embraced what Mike is doing now.
I think that Mike (Portnoy) is really happy with a home in a great band like the Winery Dogs, which I’m proud to say I had a role in putting together. He really seems, for the first time since Dream Theater, to have something to hang his hat on, which I think is great. As far as the Dream Theater guys, I was a fan of Mangini’s way before he was in Dream Theater. I used to talk to Portnoy about Mangini and how amazing I thought he was, years ago. They couldn’t have found a better guy to fill that spot.
If you’re a hardcore Dream Theater fan, I can’t think you wouldn’t want to see Portnoy back in there, because he was such a huge part of that band in so many ways. But for the time being, I think everybody’s happy, everybody’s doing well. Pornoy was on my radio show and made some news when he said he had some cordial texts with John Petrucci. It seems that things are thawing and cooling a little bit. Whether they ever come together again really comes down to one thing, what their careers do without each other. If Dream Theater does well or grows or gets bigger, then the demand or pressure to bring him back isn’t as great.
One band that’s included in the book that you have championed is Y&T, who I think are very underrated.
I’ve always loved Y&T. As a kid I used to go see them at clubs like L’Amours in Brooklyn in the early ‘80s. I’ve seen them so many times over the decades. I think Dave Meniketti is one of the great singers and guitar players who doesn’t get the accolades he should. I was really glad to be able to include them. One of the things that happened with the first book that I hope happens with this book is that you have the big bands that everybody knows like Ratt and Whitenake. But you also have Y&T and Riot and Angel, bands that maybe not everybody knows. That is something I hope people get turned onto through the book. Everything I’ve ever done is about sharing music that I love and maybe getting people to discover stuff they didn’t know about.
Some classify Y&T as “hair metal,” a term you do not like and have talked about on your show. Do you have a problem with it if it’s used as a term of endearment?
I’m not the thought police (laughs). I just say how I feel about things. Why I was vocal about that is that mostly younger people that didn’t grow up in the times where these bands were crucified, don’t realize that was born as a derogatory term. It was a statement that was applied to these guys that really hurt them for decades. I had Jake E. Lee on That Metal Show recently, and he said he couldn’t get gigs throughout the ‘90s because every time he’d go in for an audition, bands would say, “There’s that hair metal guy.”
I’ve never understood the segment of rock fans that believe it’s a flag of endearment. If you want to use it that way, it’s your prerogative, but I don’t know if they understand the history of it. It’s something that these bands have fought against, and to dredge it up and reduce what they’ve done basically to what they looked like, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It was a term that thrash bands and writers and others came up with to diminish that whole scene as style over substance. It’s eighties hard rock to me.
Has VH1 Classic given the go-ahead to season 14 of That Metal Show yet?
We are in discussions as we speak. We’re getting ready to do more shows, and just working out some stuff as far as when we’re going to do it, where we’re going to do it. VH1 is always looking to evolve the show and change some things and mix some things up. We’ve been doing the show in Los Angeles for a long time. There have been some rumblings about possibly doing it back in New York where we started or keeping it in L.A.
There have been some discussions about doing it on a more regular basis rather than doing a big clump of shows and then taking a break, then doing another big clump. All of those decisions ultimately come down to the network. They hold all the cards. They own the show. So we’re in that period right now, which is not uncommon.We do this pretty much every time we’re in between seasons. Hopefully in the next few weeks a decision will be made to when and where and how many. The plan is to have more new episodes on the air by the end of the year. It's just a matter of working out the details.
Last season saw quite a few changes to the show, including a new set and some new segments. What was the response to those changes?
Some people got so comfortable with the set and the way we were doing things. I was shocked with the response we got from having a new set. A lot of people liked it, but a lot of people were really upset about it. I found that kind of funny, because looking at the three of us, the last thing we care about is the cosmetic, the look. The reality is for us, you could put us on milk crates on the corner, as long as we’re doing the show. I could care less what the table looks like. It’s completely irrelevant to what I worry about, which is getting the story and getting the guests and doing a fun show. But there was a shocking number of opinions, pro and con, about the look of the set.
As far as the new features, we did a ton of new stuff. One of the things the network wanted to do was kind of reboot the show after having been on for so long. That’s why we got the new set, and we were definitely under direction to come up with new stuff to do to freshen things up. So we did that. I think some of it worked, some of it maybe didn’t work so well. What we will do when we do the new ones is go over that and discuss how we were feeling about certain aspects of the show and what we liked and didn’t like and what we heard from fans what they liked and didn’t like. We’ll make whatever adjustments we can. It’s a group thing. We all have to feel comfortable with what we’re doing, and we did take a lot of big leaps with the latest season. We're just growing and evolving, trying to keep it fresh.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
It’s extremely exciting to being doing a second book. I’m doing a book tour that goes across the country. I hope to do more signings. Both books will be available at every thing I do. It’s amazing to have a second book out. I never envisioned the first one doing as well as it did, so I thank everybody for that.
In addition to the book coming out, it’s also the 30th anniversary of my FM radio show, where all of this started. We’ll be celebrating that with a big party in October at the Hard Rock. The Winery Dogs and a bunch of special guests will be jamming. That’s a big free listener party. And going to South America for the first time where That Metal Show is really popular should be great. I’m very lucky and thankful for the last 30 years that I’ve had in this business. I’m incredibly grateful for the support from everybody. I consider myself a fan, and to have this sort of appreciation from the rock audience is amazing.