What I’m reading:

  • David Hume Kennerly’s photo essay about the final days of Vietnam. (Politico)
  • ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ 15 Years On: How Eminem’s Stark, Violent Portrait Of American Life Shook the Mainstream. (NME)
  • Far From Home: A brief history of Central American immigration to the U.S. (Global Post) Full Disclosure: I am a graduate of the USC Annenberg School, which contributed to this project. 
  • Stephen Curry’s next stage: MVP has Warriors closing in on the NBA Finals. (Sports Illustrated)
  • 60,000 Irish expats traveled home to vote on same sex marriage ballot initiative. (Vox)

As the August 4 publication date for Alice In Chains: The Untold Story approaches, several people have discovered this site or my book for the first time within the past several days and weeks.  I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to (re)introduce myself and my previous work about Alice in Chains to date, and address recent developments and some of the feedback I’ve received so far.

First, I have no knowledge of or involvement with a possible Alice in Chains book by Duff McKagan.  Beyond that, I won’t comment on it until I’ve had an opportunity to read it, if it should come to pass. I would also refer you to this recent tweet from Duff himself:

Second, several people have contacted me and told me they’ve already pre-ordered the book.  I am profoundly thankful to each and every one of you for spending your hard-earned money on the unreleased first book of an unknown author, and for your trust.  It means a great deal to me.

Several others have contacted me to ask questions about the book or to express their skepticism, such as if the band members were involved with the book (they weren’t), or asking why they should buy it, or telling me I shouldn’t expect people to buy it just because it’s about Alice in Chains.  All of these questions and critiques are valid, and I will address them as best as I can for the time being.

I am well aware of the fact Alice in Chains and their fans have been burned by other writers in the past, so I can understand these questions and doubts you have about me.  I can’t say anything about what’s in my book until it’s out, but I can refer you to my background and my body of work. In particular, I would refer you to this story I filed for The Atlantic several years ago, which I think is the best example of how I write and put together a story.  Although it is about a very different subject, try to imagine a book length version of that story about Alice in Chains. If I felt I couldn’t write something about the band of that quality or better, I wouldn’t have done it, or I would have abandoned the project.

If you still have questions or doubts, I would say wait until the book is out and skim through it at your local bookstore, and make up your own mind if you think it’s worth buying/reading or not. I’m happy and confident in how it came out after three years of hard work and I am eagerly looking forward to everyone finally getting an opportunity to read it.

A comparative case study involving two bestselling authors…  First, Jon Krakauer, with video:

After the interview, a man who introduced himself as Thomas Dove took the mic and began giving his background. Krakauer requested the man ask his question.

The man persisted in a lengthy presentation about documents the author had acquired, and the audience booed him. Eventually, Krakauer took away the man’s microphone, and the audience was invited to leave.

To Mr. Dove’s credit, he publicly identified himself by name and profession, and chose to address his criticisms of Mr. Krakauer to him in person, rather than hide behind the veil of online anonymity.  But that still didn’t give him the right to hijack the event or to treat it like his own personal deposition of Krakauer.

On the other hand, we have J.K. Rowling (some NSFW language here)

Shot (screenshot via Huffington Post):

Chaser:

Game, set and match for Rowling.

I was fortunate to be able to see Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck this weekend in Hollywood, and I can’t emphasize enough how good it is – good enough that I saw it twice.  The second screening I went to also had the added bonus of a Q&A with director Brett Morgen, who spent eight years working on the film.  Based on interviews with a handful of people who knew Kurt best, as well as access to a treasure trove of personal effects owned by the Cobain family, this film is probably the closest people are going to get to a Kurt Cobain autobiography.  With the exception of a handful of soundbites from interviews with his parents, sister, ex-girlfriend Tracy Marander, bandmate Krist Novoselic, and wife Courtney Love, most of the film is narrated by Kurt himself, collected from audio recordings he made for himself as well as interviews, home movies, excerpts from his journals, and his artwork.

His life story – and that of Nirvana – has been told and retold many times, so in terms of factual content there isn’t much new that most Nirvana fans didn’t already know.  Without giving anything away, Morgen does an outstanding job of trying to portray such a complex, contradictory and revered figure as Cobain within the confines of two hours and fifteen minutes.  Worth noting are the rearrangements of Nirvana songs like “All Apologies” and “Lithium” by composer Jeff Danna (you can hear a few snippets of these in the trailer), and the animated sequences created by Hisko Hulsing and Stefan Nadelman, who animated some of Cobain’s artwork as well as create original sequences to illustrate life experiences recounted by Cobain himself on his audio tapes.

I would strongly recommend people go see this film in theaters if they can – mainly for the sound. During the live performance sequences, it feels like the closest thing to actually being at a Nirvana concert, and sounds absolutely incredible. For those of us who never got the chance to go to a Nirvana show, this is probably as good as it’s ever going to get.

Update: One more thing worth mentioning – the companion book to the movie has scans and photos of the artwork, journal entries and artifacts, as well as outtakes from the interviews which were not used in the film.  I have a copy and highly recommend reading it.  There is supposed to be a soundtrack for the project with material from Kurt’s tapes, but no release date or further details yet.

Update II: Here’s a blog post from a few years ago.  During the course of my Alice in Chains research, I found a copy of the November 1988 issue of Backlash which had the review for the Love Buzz/Big Cheese single – Nirvana’s first single.  Enjoy!

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was one of several people who were approached for the book Getting There: A Book of Mentors. In this excerpt, he shares the story of his long path to success, with some inspiring words and anecdotes for anyone who has ever wanted to succeed in writing or the entertainment industry.  Here’s one:

“It took seven years from the time I wrote Mad Men until it finally got on the screen. I lived every day with that script as if it were going to happen tomorrow. That’s the faith you’ve got to have.”

The whole article is worth reading, and I suspect the rest of the book is as well.

Politico’s Dylan Byers has a hint of what’s going to come out in Columbia Journalism School’s review of the Rolling Stone UVA story, and it’s not going to be pretty:

The highly anticipated review of Rolling Stone’s disputed story about a University of Virginia gang rape was submitted to the magazine this week, the On Media blog has learned, and its contents are apparently quite damning.

The review, which was submitted by Columbia Journalism School dean Steve Coll, is significantly longer than the original 9,000-word article, sources with knowledge of its contents said. They also said the review offered a blunt indictment of Rolling Stone’s reporting and its violation of journalism ethics. A significant portion of the review is slated to run in the magazine next month, they said.

Alternative Nation posted a write-up of an interview former Guns n’ Roses manager Doug Goldstein gave to the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone. (NOTE: Consequence of Sound and Ultimate Classic Rock have also done similar write-ups of the Goldstein interview) The headline is that Goldstein blames the demise of Axl Rose and Slash’s relationship on the fact that Slash played a show with Michael Jackson and Axl wasn’t happy about it because he had allegedly been abused by his father and he believed the molestation allegations against Jackson. (NOTE: I don’t speak Portuguese, so I’m analyzing this article assuming Alternative Nation’s translation is accurate.)

Goldstein seems to be conflating several different issues together, but if you look at the timing and sequencing of events, I would highly doubt this explanation’s accuracy. (Either that or the magazine misquoted or mistranslated his comments) I read Slash’s memoir several years ago, in which he was pretty honest about the problems going on behind the scenes with Guns n’ Roses.  He briefly mentioned his collaboration(s) with Michael Jackson, but did not mention that as an issue between himself and Axl. Duff McKagan made no mention of this in his book either, nor did Stephen Davis in his biography of the band.

Beyond this, take a look at the timing and sequencing of events:

  • September 17, 1991: Guns n’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and II albums released (Source: RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database)
  • November 26, 1991: Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album released.  (Source: RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database)
  • July 17, 1993: After two and a half years of constant touring, Guns n’ Roses play the last show of that tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition to being the final show of the band’s Use Your Illusion-era lineup, it was also the final show Slash played with the band. (Source: Guitar World)
  • August 24, 1993: The Los Angeles Police Department announces Michael Jackson is the subject of a criminal investigation, which began on August 17 based on a complaint filed against the singer. (Source: New York Times)

It’s difficult to prove a negative – that something didn’t happen – but in this case it is possible based on the available evidence. Based on the time table of events, Slash probably recorded his guest parts for the Dangerous album some time in 1990-1991. The Michael Jackson molestation allegations would not become public until August of 1993 – a month after the band had played its last show together from the Use Your Illusion tour.  Bottom line – there’s no way Axl and Slash could have had a falling out over the Michael Jackson allegations two years before they happened.  Beyond that – books by/about the band show that there were problems building within the band for a very long time. I highly doubt Michael Jackson had anything to do with the deterioration and collapse of Axl’s relationship with Slash.