Anyone with a vested interest in rock music or journalism, or even, God forbid, the product of a sordid union between the two, will know who Mick Wall is. He made his name on Sounds magazine in the late 70's, wrote for Kerrang! throughout the 80's heyday of heavy metal, and was a founding editor of Classic Rock in the 90s. Now he writes books and makes various TV and radio appearances. He is, without doubt, the world's most famous rock writer, and he has a catalogue of stories to show for a life in rock.
What attracts you to rock music?
"When you go back to the eighties and you had people like the Smith's and the Jam banging on about how shit America is, then on the other side of the coin was people like Def Leppard who were like, "Yes! We want to be zillionaires, we want the swimming pools, the private jets, bring it on!" I found that approach more honest and real. Not to mention more fun. Rockers have this unashamed lust for fame and fortune and all that comes with it. The people that sail on that journey and sometimes sink on the way, whether it's Picasso or Elvis, forms an interesting narrative to me."
Who's the most grounded rock star you've met?
"Ozzy Osbourne. He has his ego like we all do, but he's very self-deprecating to the point where he just can't believe his luck. He isn't really a songwriter, or a singer in the accepted sense, but he's a fantastic character. I interviewed him when Bark at the Moon came out in 1982/83. He had the album, this was in the days of vinyl, and on the back it said, 'written, sung, arranged and produced by Ozzy Osbourne.' He looked at it and said, 'I couldn't produce a fart, me. It was all Sharon. She tells me I wrote the songs. Well I can't remember writing any songs!'"
What's the inside track on the world of fame and celebrity?
"There's no such thing as a nice guy in the music business. Deals are there to be done and they are not done by people saying, 'What would be the nice thing to do?' It's dog eat dog, and every band for themselves. Some of them can write songs or play their instruments like nobody else in history. They are completely self-absorbed arseholes some of the time, and most of them aren't too fussed about helping others, but they are immensely interesting, unique characters. Jimmy Page has gone mad but the Zeppelin albums are timeless. People will still be listening to those a hundred years from now and think, 'Wow, what a time that must have been to be alive.'"
Who is the biggest rock star of them all?
"I used to say that if you meet one rock star you've met them all, but Lemmy is the exception to every rule. He is beyond rock star. He isn't as successful or famous as Guns n' Roses or whoever, but they all worship him because he's the daddy. He's Mr. Supercool who never sold out."
Is Dave Grohl really the nicest man in rock?
"Yes he is. He's extraordinarily nice. It's almost against the law not to like him, and he's very good at making friends. Everyone from Paul McCartney to Lady Gaga. But you don't get to be one of the biggest rock stars in the world by being a 'nice guy.' He's fired people from his band without a second thought, and even though it's called the Foo Fighters, it's very much HIS band. If he left tomorrow, the other guys couldn't just get another singer and carry on."
How did Kerrang! happen?
"When I was writing at Sounds it covered the whole spectrum of music. Pop, rock, punk, metal. We did a pullout once and called it Kerrang! Just for a laugh. Little did we know that a few years later it would become a magazine in it's own right. It was the eighties, and record companies had never been richer. They had these massive budgets and no one to spend it on except us. If Aerosmith or Van Halen were doing a UK tour, and a few weeks before they'd be playing in New York or LA, we'd get flown out to review the show to drum up some publicity for the UK leg. We'd go off on the road with bands for weeks on end."
What has been your biggest career faux pas?
"There's been a few! I interviewed Phil Lynott just a few weeks before he died. I don't know what possessed me but I asked him if he regretted not making it in America. He looked at me and said, 'Oh yea. But then I always regretted that I never shagged Kate Bush as well, so there ya go!'"
Why do you think tour revenues are now outstripping album sales?
"The business has evolved so much now. We can all get on our smartphones and YouTube whoever you want playing live anywhere. You can get it in a second. But what you can't get is that authentic, once-in-a-lifetime moment that live gigs often provide. If you can have a 'I was there!" moment that you can't experience via the Internet, I's something that you will take away and keep forever."
Mick Wall's latest book, Getcha Rock's Off: Sex & Excess. Bust Up's & Binges. Life & Death on the Rock N' Roll Road, is out now on Orion.
Visit his website: http://mickwall.com