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Neil Before The Master
As his latest book hits shelves, rock journalist Neil Strauss talks celebrities, nerve-wracking interviews, and the trials and tribulations of putting together your own anthology...
Peter Murphy, 01 Jun 2011
Author and journalist Neil Strauss is above all else a pro. Such a pro that at the conclusion of our interview, when the tape’s turned off, he improvises a prospective opening para for this article: ‘Neil Strauss... Shelbourne Hotel... jet-lagged from his book tour...’ He then proposes that when I draft my opening para I should send it to him to rewrite, just for a laugh. Alas, deadline constraints prove prohibitive. But for the record, here’s what I would’ve sent:
‘Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone and NY Times journalist, like many of the public figures he’s interviewed, is smaller than you’d expect, greyhound skinny in stylish tight pants and pullover, almost elfin, bit of a charmer...
And so on. You might know Strauss from books like The Game, his new-journalistic foray into the LA pick-up artist subculture, or his car-crash compelling Mötley Crüe biography The Dirt, or his survivalist handbook Emergency, or his collaborations with Jenna Jameson, Dave Navarro and Marilyn Manson. But today he’s in Dublin to promote Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, a collection of his most compelling interviews.
The book’s structure sets it apart from the usual journo’s retro-anthology. The interviews (a jaw-dropping cast-list that includes Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton, Courtney Love, Chuck Berry, Marilyn Manson, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Mötley Crüe, the RZA, Trent Reznor, Chris Rock, Lady Gaga and many more) are linked by theme rather than a subject, a format that might best be described as a sort of literary channel-hopping, in which the great, the good, the bad and the ugly hold forth on life, death, sex, drugs, madness, art... and Scientology.
“All along I was collecting my favourite pieces in this folder on my computer called ‘Anthology’,” Strauss explains. “When Kurt Cobain committed suicide and I went out there (to Seattle) for two weeks for Rolling Stone and wrote that kind of definitive piece, that went in my anthology folder. Which was ironic because it’s not in the book, and that’s the one I’m proudest of. There’s another one, pre-Game, where I went undercover as a stand-up comic to get over my social anxiety. And after I did Emergency, which was two years of learning how to rebuild civilisation from scratch by myself, I thought, ‘Why don’t I take a break and tell my publisher I’ll have my anthology in two months?’ And so I went into my folder and started reading those pieces.”