Rich Wilson Interview
Rich Wilson is the author of the acclaimed ‘Lifting Shadows: The Authorised Biography Of Dream Theater’. He is a frequent contributor to Classic Rock magazine. More information is obtainable at www.rich-wilson.com.
Why did you decide to write a book on Dream Theater?
I have always wanted to get my teeth into a book project, and I'd already decided that if I did write a book, it would have to be about a band at have a strong affection for. Otherwise, what's the point? I had already been in contact with the band's drummer Mike Portnoy for a small piece in Classic Rock, and I mentioned it to him. He was keen on the idea, so I started writing.
Given the history of the band, in terms of research, how did you approach the writing of the book? You obviously had a lot of information to work with…
Yeah, there was a lot to cover. In terms of the practical writing of the book, I just set up 15 separate Word documents - each covering a timeframe in the band's history. It was just a case then on slotting all research and interview transcripts into the relevant documents. Then it was pretty easy to sew all the text together. But the interviewing took a long time, and the transcribing even longer.
How long have you been writing about music?
For about 11 years. I started off writing for a University magazine back in Bradford between 1988-92. After a short break of six years, I got back into it writing for the now defunct Record Mart & Buyer, then on to Record Collector and Classic Rock.
Is writing your full-time job?
Nope. Unless you're lucky enough to live in London and be a staff writer on a music magazine (total number of jobs less than 50), then you have to have another source of income in the form of a "day job." As yet, I've not managed to earn enough to dump my day job.
Can you give me a bit of background information on your journalistic background?
I write mainly for UK magazines in a freelance capacity. At the moment, most of my work tends to be in Classic Rock. Having said that, as the book is now out and I've more time on my hands, I could do with finding my way back into magazines like Record Collector and Metal Hammer. Other than that, I've no formal journalistic training though for some reason, I've got a degree in Business Studies.
Which artist has given you the most memorable interview?
I remember doing a phone interview with Robert Palmer once. He was basically pissed and slurring his words and became amusingly aggressive, shouting down the phone "Do you know anything about my music or what?" Other than that Dream Theater's bass player John Myung was also fun, as he is incredibly quiet and when I asked each question, he would close his eyes and didn't say anything for at least a minute before coming up with an answer. It was one of those nerve-grating moments when you felt you had to break the awkward silences by saying something. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to interrupt and his answers were always worth waiting for.
What do you think about the state of current rock journalism in the UK compared to, say, the seventies and eighties?
I'm too young to really know, but from what I understand there were a lot more freebies lavished on the humbler rock writer back then. Tales of first class flights to the States, with great hotels and copious amounts of free alcohol abounded during the eighties. Nowadays the record labels tend to be a lot more restrictive.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Not yet. I do have a couple of ideas for future books but until these become a reality I'll keep 'em to myself.
What sort of advice would you give to aspiring music writers?
To be honest, I don't really think I am in any position to give any advice, as I still feel I have a long way to go before I "make it" myself. But I guess persistence is the key and not giving up after a week just because you haven't managed to interview Metallica in that time. It also helps having supportive people in the industry and Dave Ling at Classic Rock has been incredibly helpful to me over the years, as have a few others. But the longer you stick around, the more commissions you'll get.
Interview by Neil Daniels 2008.