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Carl Begai Interview

A Conversation With The Heavy Metal Writer

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Updated February 04, 2009
The latest subject in my continuing series of interviews with heavy metal writers is Carl Begai. He’s the author of the new book Fire And Fame, written with Bonfire’s Joerg Deisinger. Begai is also a longtime writer for Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, (BW&BK) the outstanding Canadian metal magazine. These days Begai resides in Germany, and he fills us in on the book, some of his most memorable interviews, his metal past and many other topics.

Chad Bowar: How did you first meet Joerg Deisinger, and how did your book Fire And Fame come about?
Carl Begai: I met Joerg in ’98 in Nuremberg, Germany, where I’m living right now. He was working at a small label called USG Records and lived around the corner from me, so we crossed paths quite a bit. Between our work in the music biz and and both of us being movie buffs we ended up hanging out as schedules allowed. I was aware of his past with Bonfire but I quite honestly wasn’t a huge fan of the band. When he first approached me about the idea of writing his memoirs I didn’t really see the sense in it, the payoff so to speak. I had no idea just how popular Bonfire had been in Europe in the early days, but I understood why he’d want to undertake such a project.

Joerg could have and, if not for the hand of fate, would have been killed by the tsunami that decimated parts of Thailand in 2004 (where he was living at the time). Faced with the reality you’ve escaped death must change your perspective on life, and I think Joerg needed to have a written record of the first part of his life to celebrate his accomplishments. He asked me to write it with him because of my experience as a journalist, and he made it clear from the beginning I would have an active role in shaping the book rather than being a glorified translator. It’s his story, but it’s my voice in terms of writing style and tone; a 50-50 split with regards to creative control. The fact I would have a say in the way the book would be presented made the project interesting, and I’m quite proud of the end result.

Take us through the writing and translating process.
Writing began in April 2005. Joerg and I would meet one day a week, usually on weekends, and he’d dictate sections to me which I would then take home and work on. The following week we’d discuss it and decide what changes needed to be made, if any, before moving on to the next section. We would have been done a lot sooner if I’d just translated Joerg’s written work, and we actually tried that at the very beginning, but we were much happier with the flow and tone of the story through doing it “live.” My translation was based as much on Joerg’s body language and inflections in his voice as his words, because that gave me a better sense of what he was thinking or feeling at certain points. If I’d done a straight translation from the written work, Fire And Fame would have been a much different book. Just as it would have been a much different book, for better or worse, if someone else had written it.

I should add that because these sessions took place in local coffee shops a lot of the patrons and employees thought we were rejects from a theatre group rehearsing lines, or just plain weird. It was pretty funny sometimes, especially when Joerg became excited as he narrated parts of his story. We also had to contend with the sound of dishes being loaded and unloaded several times an hour from the shop’s dishwasher. Believe me, it kills your ears after a while, and did a fair job of garbling some of the recordings.

What has the response been so far?
The response has been very, very good overall. People really seem to enjoy it regardless of whether they’re Bonfire fans, music fans or media folks, which is what we’d been hoping for. Any criticism that has come our way has been fair, so I can’t complain. The biggest hurdle is getting people who don’t know or don’t care about Bonfire to check it out, because there’s a natural tendency to just dismiss it out of hand “Bonfire? Never heard of ‘em. Next!” As I wrote in the initial bio, the story will appeal to anyone who’s ever had that rock star dream or happens to be a working or retired musician. So, things are moving slowly, but hopefully doing press like this will help push things forward. There are comments from assorted music personalities and a couple reviews on the Fire And Fame website.

Where can fans purchase the book?
Fire And Fame is an independent release (no agent, no big name publishing house with a promo department) so for now it’s available at www.fireandfame.com, via my MySpace page and Joerg’s MySpace page. I should add that because the book is printed in cooperation with Books On Demand in Germany it is also available via Amazon.de due to contract requirements, but the profit we make through them is considerably less than if folks buy it directly from us. So, I guess the message is that if you’d like to support a couple of struggling authors please buy it through us.

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