Motörhead’s Lemmy has read Shakespeare’s work more times than people would assume. Richard III is his favourite. Nikki Sixx was originally going to publish a poetry book in 1990, but it never got published because he wanted it to be as available in record stores as much as book stores. If it was Madonna, it would be a different story. Otep Shamaya, however, succeeding in publishing her poetry and short stories. Unlike most metalheads, Rob Halford has been wanting to write his autobiography for a very long time (ever since he left the band in 1992). The title that he rightly envisioned was The Life of the Metal God. In 2002, Lemmy told Rob that the best approach is to get an author to interview him while he talks into a tape machine.
In 1979, Rob wrote a unique Sci-Fi novella titled The Library of Tears (which is still unpublished as of 2015). It’s about a sick man who enslaves humanity by catching their tears before storing them in jars. He lives off their misery, thereby making him the ultimate schadenfreude). In the mid-70s, he knew some writers – one of whom was a white witch who encouraged him to write it. When he showed it to her, she enjoyed it. This is what Rob said about it:
“I know quite a famous science fiction writer. She deals mostly with the kind of science fiction which exists within the realm of horror. She inspired me to take up the pen and put a book together. It was terrific really because it overwhelmed me, I couldn’t stop, but it was intense writing – 4 or 5 hours per day.”
In 1991, Rob generalized about the subject (when being interviewed for Metal Maniacs):
“I love the English language. I absolutely adore literature. If I’m not doing what I’m doing on stage, you’ll generally find me reading. I consume books all the time. In the science fiction mode, I’ve just picked up the current Stephen King book. The title is The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands. I’m reading the new book by James Herbert – The Creed. I just finished reading a very stimulating book by a guy named Mark Baker. The title is Name. It’s about Vietnam vets. It’s very, very compelling stuff. I’m reading a book about the Kray twins – some notorious gangland villains from London. It was written by their brother – Charlie. The title is Me and My Brothers. I treat book shops like TV. I overlook each story until something catches my interest. Also, I’m reading different books at different times depending on the mood that I’m in.”
In 2010, Rob couldn’t find the manuscript. He didn’t throw it away because it was a big deal to him. It’s just that he has lots of boxes which are in different locations. When interviewing him for VH-1, Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach expressed an interest in wanting to read it.If it was adapted for the big screen, Judas Priest would’ve composed the soundtrack (ala Queen doing the same for Flash Gordon).
Anthrax’s Dan Spitz claimed that Scott Ian’s initial takes on lyrics about Stephen King’s stories were so long that they could’ve been short stories, so the band had to encourage him to truncate his material. Many years later, he went on to be a comic book writer (without feeling the need to entirely abandon music). His first creation was Lobo: Highway to Hell.
Ever since Metallica composed The Call of Ktulu and The Thing that Should Not Be, there have been metalheads who were interested in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. As for other influential bands, Led Zeppelin introduced J.R.R. Tolkien to a world of rockers who may never have been interested in reading his work. Again, if I had been aware of these two writers at an earlier age, I would’ve read their work. By the time that I was aware of their work, I was too occupied with things which weren’t relevant. Even when I started becoming a novelist, I didn’t want to read their work because they had no relevance to what I was writing.
Lars Ulrich talking about the creation of One (which spawned Metallica’s critic-proof music video):
“All the ideas that we get come completely from within ourselves, but in order to gain further knowledge, we may sometimes look into books about that certain subject. We usually tell our manager, Cliff Burnstein, because he’s really in touch, and he told us about a book called Johnny Got His Gun. James read the book and got an idea from it, so the lyric ideas were from that. I know that a lot of bands read a book or see a movie and then they’ll get influenced to write a song. With us, it’s the other way round.”
Lars talks about another song from …and Justice for All (which is named after an Al Pacino film that Lars and James were thoroughly engaged by):
“Either we had a really strong song title but no subject to go with it, or we had a subject with no song title. You start with what you have. We sit and talk about it. For example, The Shortest Straw. That song title was there before the subject. To me, that title sounded like something I’ve been interested in – the whole idea of blacklisting in the ’50s in the entertainment industry. There were a whole load of people, and entertainers who had ideas that were different from the norm; hence they were blacklisted and couldn’t get jobs because they didn’t fit with the mainstream. So, James had that title, and I came up with subject matter. Then we went to a book called Naming Names, which was about that subject. Actually, it was about the most blacklisted author Dalton Trumbo – who also wrote the book I mentioned before. That was kinda weird.”
The title of Metallica’s second album (Ride the Lightning) was derived from a line of dialogue in King’s The Stand. Anthrax’s Among the Living (the title track) was also about The Stand (although the cover of the album was based on a character from Poltergeist). Dee Snider had dedicated a Twisted Sister song (Horror-teria) to King because The Stand was the inspiration. The first part of the song (Captain Howdy) was based on Captain Tripps. Apt Pupil (a King novella) was what Anthrax’s Skeletons in the Closet was based on.
Anthrax’s Misery Loves Company is based on Stephen King’s Misery. When I heard Megadeth’s Five Magics, I had no idea that it was based on Lyndon Hardy’s Master of the Five Magics. The controversial American Psycho was the inspiration for Anthrax’s This is Not an Exit (except Scott rightfully refused to recreate the graphic imagery). Entombed’s Left Hand Path is based on The Satanic Path.
Iron Maiden are the most prolific when it comes to writing songs based on literature. The Trooper was influenced by Alfred Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade. Lord of the Flies was based on William Golding’s novel of the same title. Children of the Damned is based on The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. Still Life was based on Joseph Campbell’s The Inhabitant of the Lake. To Tame a Land was based on Frank Herbert’s Dune. Sign of the Cross was based on Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
The Number of the Beast was influenced by The Book of Revelation and Tam O’Shanter (a Robert Burns poem). Rime of the Ancient Mariner was based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem of the same title (except the poem’s title begins with The). Lastly, Sun and Steel was based on a section of Yukio Mishima’s book of the same title. All Nightmare Long (a Metallica single) was based on Frank Belknap Long’s The Hounds of Tindalos.
To conclude this metalhead literature section, this quote from Les Claypool (the bassist of Primus) reflects who I am:
“I like Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson a lot. It seems to me that they write like they speak – very off the cuff. In other words, it’s from the gut or it’s very street. That’s my interpretation. I tend to write in that vein – not comparing myself to those guys by any means, but I tend to write what comes to mind. Even the serious stuff that I come up with is pretty tongue-in-cheek. It’s never entirely filled with facts. If it takes too much thought, I stop then go out and do something else like going on a fishing trip.”