Ian Gittins Interview
Ian Gittins is a freelance writer. He has contributed to a number of publications, including The Guardian, Time Out and the Daily Telegraph et al. He has previously written for Melody Maker and was a senior music book editor at Virgin Books. His latest tome is The Heroin Diaries with Nikki Sixx.
How long have you been a writer?
My first article was an atrociously written live review of The Icicle Works for Leeds Student in 1983 and it’s pretty much gone downhill from there.
Can you tell me about the books you have written?
They have varied from co-writing a sex- and drug-filled confessional tome that spent weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list to churning out cheap and cheerful cash-ins that, frankly, even members of my own family were unable to wade through.
Which one was the hardest to write?
Possibly Weddings From Hell, for the sheer sense of soul-chilling futility that descended the second that I sat down to write it.
What publications have you written for throughout your career? And what do you write for now?
I freelanced for Melody Maker (R.I.P.) in the late 1980s and early 1990s when its rigour and forensic vim urinated over the NME from a great height. Sadly, this was not reflected in their respective sales figures. I also wrote for Q before it became quite so ‘50-GREAT-LISTS-YOU-MUST-READ-NOW!’ and nowadays write mainly for The Guardian and online outlets such as Virgin Media and eMusic.
What was it like working with Nikki Sixx on The Heroin Diaries?
How did that come about?
Bizarrely enough, through Meat Loaf, but I won’t go into now.
Can you take me through the writing process for that book?
Nikki Sixx had kept diaries during the depths of his addiction to heroin and cocaine in 1986 and 1987, when Motley Crue were just about the biggest rock band in America. He showed me the diaries, my jaw dropped at the insane levels of narcotic and sexual excess they contained, plus the sheer misery they depicted. I then helped him to tidy up a few of the more incoherent entries and set about interviewing the friends, family, former lovers and musicians he was hanging out with back then. Most of them didn’t have anything terribly nice to say about the arrogant, solipsistic junkie he was back then, but that all added to the candour of the project. Then I laced these quotes and condemnations through Nikki’s journal to produce the warts-and-all document that was finally published.
What is the research process like for you?
I tend to be reasonably diligent. If I’m about to interview an artist or review them live, I will spend a fair amount of time listening to their most recent release, plus ideally back catalogue, as well as skimming through any interviews and critiques that are available. The more you know, the better.
Does the Internet make the task of research any easier?
Vastly. It’s hard to believe that I used to trek up to the newspaper library in Colindale to research projects. Sitting at my desk, scratching my arse and Googling is a lot easier. Vorsprung durch Technik, and all that.
What are your favourite music books?
I should declare an interest in that I commissioned and edited a few of them – David Cavanagh’s history of Creation Records, Simon Price’s Manic Street Preachers’ biography, Jane Bussmann’s brilliant acid house celebration, Once In A Lifetime. Paul Morley’s Words and Music is also fantastic – I still boggle at the depth and ferocity of his analytical intelligence.
Who are your favourite writers?
Paul Morley, Simon Reynolds, David Stubbs, Simon Price, Sylvia Patterson, Chris Roberts, Taylor Parkes, Caitlin Moran, Andrew Mueller, Charlie Brooker. And that Martin Amis bloke isn’t bad.
Of all the interviews you have done, who has given you the most frustrating one?
The drummer from Kinesis sticks in my mind.
And the best?
Nick Cave, Laibach, Slipknot, Shaun Ryder and Iggy Pop all excelled in various ways, but all fade into nothingness next to Björk.
What advice would you give to aspiring music writers?
Always carry a spare pen, and smile like you mean it.
Are you working on any new projects?
Yes, I am hoping to get a major new book project moving next year, but if I tell you any more, I will have to kill you.
Interview by Neil Daniels 2008