The American publishing company BAZILLION POINTS has - in only a couple of years - become one of the most successful companies of Metal publications. Everybody who visits this website frequently is probably more than familiar with the book "Swedish Death Metal" (the already rather legendary book about the Swedish Death Metal scene at the end of the eighties), "Only Death Is Real" (the rise and decline of the band HELLHAMMER) or "Metalion" (the lifework of Jon Kristiansen) which were published not too long ago. When you take a look at these books, it’s really obvious that Ian Christe puts a lot of love and detail (the material, paper, layout…) in his books. An interview with this Metal enthusiast was already long overdue, so here we go…
"I learned so much about publishing by doing my own two books through big publishers, and with "Sound Of The Beast" especially I went through the process many times with each foreign edition in Spain, Italy, Brazil, Croatia, Japan, etc. And the books were successful. But when I went back looking for publishers for follow-up books, there was just still so much resistance and the process was unbearable. I decided I could do better on my own. Plus I realized that a lot of other people I knew had great ideas for books and deserved to get their stories out properly. So out of frustration Bazillion Points was born!"
As far as I know, one of the first real "Metal" books you published was the official NIGHTWISH-biography "Once Upon A Nightwish". From where did you get the idea to publish this book? Is this also the book that the husband of Tarja is so upset about and wants to drag to court or is that another one?
"That probably did seem odd sitting next to "Swedish Death Metal", but "Once Upon A Nightwish" is a very entertaining book written from the inside about a band right in its glory years. All these bands like MÖTLEY CRÜE or AEROSMITH wait 25 years to write books about what may or may not have happened, but "Once Upon A Nightwish" really captures the heat of the moment. Plus it was written by a good friend of the band, and it seems to me that Scandinavians can be merciless with their friends! We are much more thin-skinned over here in America, ha ha. It's funny how many connections run through our books. The NIGHTWISH book was originally published by Ike Vil, who translated "Sheriff McCoy: Outlaw Legend Of Hanoi Rocks" from Finnish for Bazillion Points. Plus the NIGHTWISH guys worship THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL, the Norwegian band whose records were released by Jon Kristiansen of Metalion fame, and they had been in contact in the past. Yes, ours is the translated edition of the book at the center of the Finnish defamation case, which was recently thrown out by the court, by the way."
Afterwards, you published "Only Death Is Real", the official HELLHAMMER-story written by Tom Warrior. Are you actually in touch with many musicians? Did Tom come to you with this idea? Are you a big HELLHAMMER / CELTIC FROST-fan? I know Tom is working on a revised version of the CELTIC FROST-biography "Are You Morbid?", will you publish this one also?
"Yes, Tom Fischer and his manager approached me about publishing "Only Death Is Real", and I was of course honored to be a part of presenting that in the highest-quality format possible. I had been fortunate to meet Tom several times over the years. Tom turned himself inside-out to write that text, and he spent years gathering the photos in the book. "Only Death Is Real" was a tough production on a technical level, but the raw contents were perfect when Tom brought us his text and photo layouts. It's incredible that Bazillion Points has been so fortunate to work with people responsible for entire genres of music, like Tom Fischer, Andy McCoy, and Tesco Vee, the author of the "Touch And Go" Hardcore Punk book."
One of your most talked about books is most likely the famous "Swedish Death Metal" book by Daniel Ekeroth. It’s really like an encyclopedia of the Swedish scene. Did Daniel propose the idea for this book? Did the idea come from you? What are you thoughts about it when you look at it now, after some it was published? Were you a big fan of the Swedish underground yourself back in the days?
"During the heyday of Swedish Death Metal, I was not keeping up with every Sunlight Studio production, but at least I had the groundwork as I was heavily into tape trading during the very beginning era of death metal, the days of MERCILESS, MEFISTO, and eventually NIHILIST. Daniel had originally printed a small run of the book himself, but it cost something like 80 Euros to buy outside of Sweden. I took a gamble that we could produce and sell it for less. I got in touch with Daniel, and he knew about "Sound Of The Beast" and trusted me to work things out. I spent a long time revising the text and look of that book, and really learned the ropes of how to make a book as opposed to just writing one. It's turned out to be a widely-known book now, which is amazing, and also we've become great friends. I also published Daniel's hilarious book about Sweden's sleazy movie scene, "Swedish Sensationsfilms", which led to him presenting a series of grindhouse films at the Swedish Cinemateque in 2011. I think Swedish Death Metal is the best story about the rise and explosion of a music scene ever written. You start with nothing, and end up with too much!"
Probably one of the "funniest" books is "Hellbent For Cooking", a cookbook with recipes from Metalbands all over the world. How did you get in touch with Annick Giroux? Did you like the idea right from the start? Have you ever tried a recipe from it yourself?
""Satannick" Giroux used to publish the awesome Morbid Tales zine in Montreal, and I had been devouring that mag since the start. She published some band recipes in her final issue, kind of a "Hellbent For Cooking" mini-zine, and I got in touch to see if she could expand that into a book. She was already dying to do that, and we worked like crazy throughout 2009 to make this deluxe collection of intense recipes by many of her favorite bands. Annick is really a force of nature, she collected the recipes, tested them, photographed them, then designed the book. And she has great taste in food and Metal, as you can see by pulling together bands like REPULSION, DESTRUCTION, SAINT VITUS, AMEBIX, and all the others. In fact, I hooked her up with a recipe by LAMB OF GOD, and she turned it down because she's not a fan of the band!"
One of your latest and most impressive publications is the Metalion-book, a compilation of stories published in Slayer-magazine throughout the years, It’s really a massive book. Were you a big Slayer-fan? Did you propose the idea for a compilation to Jon? Was it hard to decide in which format and what kind of material you would release this?
"That production was just crazy. We all spent years hammering away on METALION, especially Jon, since he had been working on Slayer Mag for 25 years in the first place. I was first in contact with him in 1987, and we stayed in loose correspondence after that and then met in Norway and New York in the past decade. You might notice that the introductions are in order of when the writers first encountered Slayer Mag, ha ha. The book really captures his entire life in Metal, so we spent a lot of time on the different dimensions - the reprints, the diary sections, and the photo artwork. The process was very, very hard, but it happened naturally and that's why I think the book is so powerful. I think the final result is exactly what it should be."
The last book you published is "Murder In The Front Row", a very impressive looking photobook about the scene of San Franscisco in the mid-eighties with many unpublished pictures of METALLICA, EXODUS, POSSESSED, SLAYER and many more. Could you again reveal the background-story how you got the idea for this book and how it came together?
"This book is incredible because it combines excellent photography with truly historic moments in American Metal. We just received delivery of the finished books last week, and I can still barely believe it. Back when I wrote "Sound Of The Beast", I wanted to find the elusive Harald O. to get some shots, but I never tracked him down. I knew there was a crew of guys that took photos in California as METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH, EXODUS were just getting started, and he seemed to always be in the center of things. In the years since then, I started reading Brian Lew's great old Metal blog, and he was constantly posting stories from the very early days of American heaviness. Somebody put Harald Oimoen in touch with me in 2010, and we agreed to combine his huge archives with Brian Lew's crucial collection of the very earliest METALLICA and MEGADETH shows. It turned out they had known each other since the 1970s, it just clicked and I think the book is pure magic. It's the first Bazillion Points book where the visuals stand on their own, which is also new territory. But as always, the most important thing was to create a lasting document of what actually happened in the early DIY days. It's also eerie to see things like Cliff Burton's very first METALLICA soundcheck."
When you look at the paper (often very nice glossy paper), the format (rather big) and the way your publications are finished, it’s obvious that you put a lot of thought, love and dedication into it. I noticed some of your books were printed in China and Hong Kong, countries were the printing is done a lot cheaper than in Europe or the US. How hard is it to try to make a book really special and also keep the costs as low as possible at the same time?
"Thanks! I would love to produce books in the US, but I haven't found the right factory, I guess. As you know, we produce less and less over here as a country, same as in Europe I think. The Asian presses I've dealt with with a very serious, dedicated and focused attitude, and it's cool to test out different ideas and different materials during the process of designing the books. Every title seems to call out for its own format, seeing all our books and DVDs together is really a mixed motley collection. It has to feel right in the end, I just rely on my instinct and the authors' instincts for that."
What’s been the best selling book you published and what’s the book you’re most proud of that you put out and why? Would you say that you sell most of your books through mailorder / internet or through sales in bookstores?
"So far "Swedish Death Metal", "Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83", and "Hellbent For Cooking" are the frontrunners, but our new books "Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside / Outside AC/DC", by Mark Evans, "Murder In The Front Row: Shots From The Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter", and "Metalion: The Slayer Mag Dairies" will all be up there within a year. We sell books all kinds of ways, split evenly between bookstores, record stores, and internet. People find books all over the place, and we're always trying to find new places where readers are hiding. Books are kind of a cult thing, even after hundreds of years."
What are your future-plans?
"I'd like a little rest this winter! But 2012 is going to be busy, with "We Got Power", a photo and zine collection of very early Hardcore Punk material from LA, a jumbo Heavy Metal Movies book, a long book about Mellotrons, "What Are You Doing Here?" by Laina Dawes, and a biography that I am writing myself about the late Chuck Schuldiner of DEATH. This has been an intense few years already, and I appreciate so much how many people have embraced what Bazillion Points is doing."
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