Are you still writing biographies?
Technically, I've only written one biography, Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem. The only other book I've written as myself is Why AC/DC Matters, which is a philosophical argument of that point more than it is a biography of the band. I still love that a publisher let me write it. The majority of my books are co-written autobiographies, which are very different than biographies. In ma,ny ways they are more challenging because I need to adopt the voice, cadence and attitude of my subject in order to tell their story in the first person, as them, not me. Biographies are from the writer's point of view on a subject that most often isn't involved at all in the creation of the book. Fellow writers have asked me if my books are just me interviewing someone and then editing their quotes. I usually say that if it's that easy, they should give it a shot. The subject's involvement has pros and cons. It's a process that involves a lot of trust, and a lot of working around someone's schedule. There are many times when I've wished I were writing a biography and able to work on my schedule, not theirs. The process of absorbing someone's thought patterns, their conversational rhythms and turns of phrase and creating a language that isn't necessarily how I think or express myself is step one. I then use that language to tell the world that person's most intimate details and history. It's very rewarding to me creatively because essentially I'm getting into character on the page. So to answer your question, now that I've digressed, yes I'm still writing co-written autobiographies. And I've just signed a contract to write my second biography.
What was the first concert that you ever attended?
Black Sabbath (with Tony Iommi), Quiet Riot opened, at Nassau Coliseum. This was the Born Again tour, with the famous Stonehenge blunder that was parodied in Spinal Tap.
How much time do you generally spend with a person in order to do their biography?
It really depends. I lived with Tommy Lee for nearly a year because he really threw himself into it and we are very close friends to this day. I tailed Derek Jeter during his last season playing for the Yankees but I spent very little one on one time with him. Derek is good at getting to the point and knows what he wants to say, so it didn't hurt the final product. Usually the time I spend is somewhere between those two extremes. There's no formula but what remains the same is that it takes quality time to establish trust and a rapport. Once we have that, it probably takes between 10-24 hours of useable interview.
Do you have a favorite type of wine?
Oh, I have many! What I love most about wine is how many different styles can be created from the same grape. I'd say my favorite grape is Nebbiolo and my favorite version of it is Barolo. I also love Amarone. And there is nothing more sublime than a Montrachet.
Do you drink different wine according to what genre of music is playing?
If I'm having a dinner party or some friends over, I usually create a playlist for the evening and choose the wine accordingly. I really do think pairing the right wine with the right music creates a mood and a vibe that sets the tone for the evening. I wish that every festival or concert I went to paired their wine with the entertainment! That is why I'm so excited to be working with the amazing people at Music Tastes Good. They are letting me curate a Winyl wine bar for the VIP ticket holders. The menu will be wines that I pair with acts that are playing each day. It's never been done before, and I salute them for being as excited about the concept as I am.
Have you ever tried pumpkin spice wine?
No! Have you? Does that even exist? I hope not. I would however try Smashing Pumpkins wine if it exists.
What is your opinion of wine in a box?
The best wines in the world are not going to be put in a box, because they won't age in a 3 liter plastic bag inside a box. They will age in a bottle. There are times that call for quantity over quality, and these days there are some very decent boxed wines out there. Bandit out of California was the first company I became aware of that made drinkable boxed wine, and they've been doing it for a while. They even make one liter cardboard containers similar to coconut water - perfect for your next drunken hike or bike ride! I also like La Vieille Ferme from France. They make a boxed white and a boxed rosé that are totally respectable and perfect for a barbeque. For the right application, having a box full of seemingly endless pours is what you want. Just don't ever kid yourself into thinking it's worth drinking out of your best crystal wine glass.
Why are people snobs about wine?
There's so much to know, so many grapes, so much history. There is evidence that humans have been drinking wine since 8000 BC, so anyone who truly undertakes an education in wine has to learn a very great deal. I have so much respect for somms, especially upper level and master somms, because the amount of knowledge they need to know is astonishing. I think with any specialized type of knowledge, like a P.h.D., there comes a certain sense of superiority that is deserved. If you've spent a great deal of your time studying a subject and know it intimately, it's hard to listen to someone completely butcher it and essentially reduce your life's work to nonsense. That said, I've met brilliant, certified wine experts who are not snobs, who have all of the wisdom, yet still have the ability to talk about wine in an approachable manner. To me that is a true command of a subject: being able to translate something complicated into terms that anyone can understand. I think people get snobby about wine because for so long it was hard to learn about and was a real old-world status symbol. You simply had to spend a lot to get good wine. Things have changed, and today you can get a really great bottle for $20-$50 if you know what you're looking for, and something completely acceptable for a bit less. If someone is snobby about quality, I can understand that, but if they're snobby because they think only expensive wine is good wine, that's another issue. They're probably shallow and not very fun.
What do you want people to know about Winyl?
It's something I used to do with a friend of mine who is a professional musician as well as a sommelier. He'd bring over a bottle, we'd taste it, then I'd go to my vinyl collection and pull a record that seemed like the perfect accompaniment, and we'd discuss both the wine and the band and everything else that came to mind as the afternoon wore on. I've since taken that experience and woven it into a podcast. Each day at Music Tastes Good, I'll be heading up a panel of chefs and musicians, all there to discuss what they love - or hate - about a chosen musical artist, while tasting wine that I feel reflects that artist's work. We will be doing that for an hour each day in the Taste Tent, live in front of an audience, who will be able to join in and taste the same wines with us. Then, for the rest of the year, I'll be compiling intimate, one-on-one interviews with musicians, comedians, wine makers, sommeliers, restauranteurs, athletes, barkeeps and writers where they select a favorite band or album that I will pair with wine that, to me, reflects the flavor of that band or album. The entire season will be out in the first quarter of next year. I've done quite a few already and I really like what has been happening. Winyl has a format, but in it's essence, it is an informal, intimate interview. My guests are not there because they need to promote something, they're there because they want to be. They're sitting with me talking about something they love. And in all of my years as an interviewer, I've found that there's no better way to find out who someone is than to get get them talking about something they love.