We ran a feature in this week’s music section on Atlanta-based publisher and editor Henry Owings’ music magazine Chunklet and his newly published, handsomely bound The Rock Bible: Unholy Scripture for Fans & Bands. From start to finish, it took Owings, longtime collaborator Brian Teasley (formerly of Man … Or Astro-Man), and many colleagues over two years to put The Rock Bible together.
[image-1]”This generally accepted script, commonly referred to as the hallowed ‘Chunklet version,’ was culled from scribes and ciphers in its near apocryphal form,” Owings writes in the intro. “Although perfect in almost every aspect, it still has holes. Just a glance at the lineage will reveal that it can be traced on a bloodline only as far back as the turn of the last century. However, it only takes a cursory glance at a used record bin at a local store to see that rock ‘n’ roll’s family tree is considerably older, wiser, and more desperately in need of a bath than anybody could ever anticipate.”
Just back in Atlanta after a trip to England, Owings took some time to respond to a few key questions from City Paper this week:
From start to finish, how long did it take you to elicit, compile, shape, and arrange The Rock Bible?
The original concept was “The Rock Rules” and it was going to be a theme to an issue of Chunklet. After an initial e-mail burst to contributors and friends, it exploded into a 250-page word document in two weeks, at which point I decided it would be best to flesh it out and make it a book. With that in mind, I hunkered down at the local coffee shoppe for another six weeks and came out the other end with “The Rock Bible” which is, ostensibly, 95 percent of what is in the final product.
How does The Rock Bible best retain and celebrate the “spirit” of Chunklet? [image-2]
Just consider the source. Chunklet prides itself on a certain amount of authority on subjects we write about, but for The Rock Bible? We have really dug the depths of the rock biz. Tour managers, light techs, guitar techs, promoters, designers, groupies, comedians (meaning real comedians, not drummers as I’m sure you’re assuming), mega-fans, and then the usual array of musicians from bands as varied as Death Cab for Cutie, The Hold Steady, and Widespread Panic. And along the way, in respect to Chunklet, we obviously punctuate the text with tongue planted in cheek zingers to let the reader know that we aren’t taking ourselves too seriously. However, the part about nobody smiling on stage is totally not tongue in cheek. Seriously, don’t smile. Ever.
In what manner did you and Brian Teasley collaborate — from the original concept through the writing and compiling processes? In person at the kitchen table, by weekly e-mail, by pay phone, by post, or otherwise?
I think Brian’s greatest strength is in his ability to concept very difficult to grasp ideas. Additionally, I think one of my greatest strengths is in being able to manage, edit, and punch up unwieldy copy. So it worked perfectly. We rarely were in the same room together just because it was such an intense writing environment. E-mail and phone worked ideally for our work techniques.
Did things accelerate to a “fevered pitch” as the final publishing deadlines approached?
Not whatsoever. The publisher really didn’t alter the manuscript much from when I initially submitted it. If anything, it was rather relaxed just because I submitted a finished book to them rather than a concept. There were a couple pages here and there that I wrote at the last minute (“What To Say To A Band When They Get Off Stage” was one) but the hours were more punctuated with fussing over the design than anything else.[image-3]
Describe the contributions by slow-talking writer/sage Emerson Dameron.
Working with Emerson, as always, was a treat. However, doing the Bible in eight weeks really made it all a blur. Remembering what one of the 100-plus writers that worked on the book is really hard for me to do. Sorry.
In recent decades, which group has sinned more, fans or bands?
It’s a toss-up between The Rolling Stones and Nickelback.
What’s up with the red-colored cover art? Why not black (like Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove LP)?
That’s a terrific idea, but we needed to save a couple ideas for the “Deluxe Edition” of the Bible which will be due to hit stores sometime in June 2052.
There are many detailed rules about instruments and the manner in which musicians refer to and play them in The Rock Bible — which type of musician most needs to read this Bible, drummers, guitarists, bassist singers, or keyboardists?
In rock? Definitely not keyboardists. I mean, we barely gave them two pages! However, without question, drummers need to read and re-read the Gospel According to the Drummer to spare fans and bandmates from their ceaselessly embarrassing douchebaggery.
Did your own personal experiences with the Christian Bible (or other “holy texts”) inspire this effort. If so, explain.
As a recovering Catholic, I was inspired by what parts from the “real” Bible (which is much funnier and/or fictional than my modest book) I could recollect which I had to memorize as a child. Other holy texts that inspired me: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Crazy From The Heat by David Lee Roth, Roadhouse, “The Dirt” by Motley Crue, The Rutles, any film with Jan Michael Vincent and, most obviously, the audio book edition of Howing at the Moon by Walter Yetnikoff. [image-4]
Was your mission to solidify the moral, ethical, and behavioral codes of the rock music world … or something else?
It is just one more in Chunklet’s continuing attempts to demystify rock music and “take it down a couple notches” for fans and bands alike.
How will The Rock Bible successfully clarify the language of the rock world?
In my contract, I included a sub-paragraph that would force the publisher to send one book per vehicle to each and every band on each of the major and larger indie labels for the next twenty years. So don’t worry, both The Arcade Fire and TV On The Radio unknowingly had copies of The Rock Bible placed in the glove boxes of their bus to serve as guidance for years to come.
How will The Rock Bible successfully discourage the ridiculous fashions of the rock world?
That will all be covered in my next book: The Rules of Dumpy Rock Fashion, due out on Penguin in April 2010.
Is it accurate to say that many of the Commandments and Cardinal Rules in The Rock Bible can be applied to life in general outside of the rock world?
Absolutely. In the “real” world, much like the rock world, people should avoid wearing shorts, dating soundmen, and having ponytails.
Describe the joy and anxiety involved in reading and editing that slightly lengthy sentence that begins with “In the beginning…” in Teasley’s book of Genesis.
When Teasley came back to me with Genesis, I immediately fell in love with it. When my publishing agent saw it, he insisted it be taken out of the manuscript that was shopped around. However, the publisher I finally went with absolutely loved it and kept it in. I remember when my wife came into my office after reading Genesis for the first time. She walked in with the book by her side, stood silent for five seconds and said, “Uh, Genesis is really intense.” I couldn’t agree more.
Why is the Gospel According to the Drummer so down on the “drummer/songwriter” phenomenon? Aren’t you and the co-authors terrified you might hurt the feelings of Phil Collins, Peter Prescott, and Don Henley?
If you look in the “Saints & Sinners” chapter of The Rock Bible, you’ll see an alphabetical list of musicians, icons and lifestyle enthusiasts that are exempt from the rules. Mr. Prescott, naturally, is exempt, but Phil Collins and Don Henley? Why don’t you just add “that drummer from Night Ranger” to the mix? Jeez!
Is there chance that an Anti-Rock Bible by followers of Anton LaVey may surface this year?
I could only hope that the guys from Vice are already working on it.
Have any mainstream or extreme Pentecostalists or fundamentalists raised hell over this stuff?
Seeing as how The Rock Bible is ranked #1 on Amazon.com in the “Christianity > Music > Contemporary” and “Music > Musical Genres > Contemporary Christian” categories, I think the book has found a niche market that I never anticipated!
Who deserves (or desperately needs) this book as a holiday gift? [image-5]
Any woman that’s dating a musician desperately needs this book. Consider it “The Rules” for dating a sub-IQ human. Who else needs it? Any musician (that can read, obviously), music enthusiasts across the globe, anybody needing to fix a wobbly table, bible collectors and finally, anybody with a pulse.
The Rock Bible is available through Quirk Books.