Interview: ‘Tales from the Stage’ author Michael Toney chats about ‘80s metal and more
Michael Toney knows what makes a killer metal personality. After all, he’s the author of “Tales from the Stage,” a book featuring 15 in-depth interviews with metal greats who got their start in the business during the hard rock and heavy metal movement in the ‘80s and ‘90s: Eddie Trunk, Bruce Kulick, Herman Rarebell, Tracii Guns and more.
Toney checked in with Audio Ink Radio to chat about the book’s genesis, his experience rocking out Detroit in the early ‘80s and swapping stories with metal great Eddie Trunk. Read the chat below, and for more information on “Tales from the Stage,” visit the book’s official website.
What gave you the idea to write “Tales from the Stage?”
Five years ago, I owned a small MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) based company. In 2007, I had co-authored a book in which we interviewed 18 prominent MMA pros and asked each of them a couple dozen off-the-wall questions. The book was short and under 100 pages, but people ate it up! Right after the book came out, I was offered a job that I couldn’t refuse in the corporate world. This past October, I lost my job, and realizing that I would have some time on my hands, I wanted to do something that would allow me to get back into the music side of things. The concept for “Tales from the Stage” is a fairly simple one that I thought would connect with a lot of people. Luckily, I guessed right on that.
How long have you been a metal/hard rock fan?
Since the early ‘80s, music has been a passion of mine. I was lucky enough to be part of the music scene in Detroit during the mid ‘80s. My band, Medusa, played at Harpos, the Ritz, New York New York and other clubs. You hear stories about people who move across country with only the shirt on their back, living in poor conditions and music keeps them going. I was one of those guys. Even though when I came to the fork in the road back in the ‘80s and I chose the corporate world, I never lost my passion for music. What is surreal at times is that I grew up being a huge fan of Bruce Kulick, Oz Fox, Chris Holmes, Herman Rarebell and others, and now having the chance to interview them for the book was just crazy. I grilled these guys and gal for over an hour each, and they answered everything. Even people who have been in the music business for decades are enlightened when they read it.
What was it like interviewing Eddie Trunk?
Eddie is as cool as they come! I’ll admit that I was a little nervous going into the interview, but after 30 seconds, the butterflies went away. He really doesn’t have one of those intense personalities that keeps you on edge. It is puzzling to me that Eddie has become so controversial. So many people in the music media paint Eddie in a non-flattering light, and I just don’t get it. What you see is what you get with him. He is a straight shooter, and he’s incredibly intelligent, reliable and professional. I stay in touch consistently with all of the book participants, and when I send an email to all of them with a question, he is always the first to respond. Outside of maybe Ronnie James Dio, he has done more for the promotion of the hard rock/heavy metal genre than anyone, so I have nothing but respect for the guy.
Everyone always hears the tales of partying with these ’80s bands, but did you find any interviewees who really saw things at a deeper level?
Oh, every one of them! They all partied a bit, but most of them were quite serious about what they were doing. Ron Keel, Ripper Owens, Paul Shortino and Lips from Anvil immediately come to mind as being very serious and dedicated making music for a living. I can’t stress enough how in-depth the interviews are. Not only do we discuss their careers in detail and clear up all controversies, but we focus a good amount on their personal life—namely, their finances. We discuss rent, size of their house, car they drive, publishing revenue and endorsement deals. There is certainly some discussion of their partying, then and now, but it’s less than 10% of the interview… The real meat of the interview is discussing the dynamics of their career back then and how they are doing now. I think it’s awesome that every musician in the book is still very involved in music and gigs regularly.