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Articles Home » Book Reviews » Interview with the Author of Heavy Metal Biographies James Curl By Thomas Amoriello Jr.
Interview with the Author of Heavy Metal Biographies James Curl By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

Horns Up, Pen Down

Interview with the Author of Heavy Metal Biographies James Curl

By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

Boston Rock Radio



When an author has a passion for a topic, is well acquainted with subject matter and has input from expert witnesses, then a good story is bound to be told.  James Curl is a Sacramento, California based writer who is creating reference materials for future generations who may rediscover definitive 1980's metal bands.  The subjects of Dio and Dokken provide the landscape for Curl's palette that documents the pinched harmonic super-Strat squeals, falsetto and growling vocal ranges and at the end of the day, great songs of rainbow, dragons, and fire that conjure nostalgia for a generation.  Boston Rock Radio would like to thank James Curl for this exclusive interview.  


Your new book is about the 10 million selling California based Dokken.  How long did it take you to complete this project and without spoiling the fun, what made this band important in the history of 1980's hard rock and metal?

The book took about a year and a half to write. Usually my books take about a year, but I had a couple of home repair projects that took up a lot of my writing time. I think first and foremost what makes Dokken important is their music and the fact that they helped write the sound track of the ’80s. For many people Dokken was part of their youth. When they think back to great times, Dokken is often remembered as playing in the background. For me personally, I can remember rockin’ with Dokken as a teen and watching them on MTV. Great memories! So, yeah they are important because they left an impression on people and helped define an era.  

What are a few rock and metal biographies that have had a profound influence on you?

I really enjoyed Dirt, the book about Motley Crue. I also liked Sammy Hagar’s biography Red. More recently I have been reading a new book, The Spectacular Rise, Fall & Rebirth of Hair Metal. I really like the author's writing style and the book is packed full of great information.


What kind of reception and feedback have you received from fans of your books?

The overwhelming response has been positive and most fans really seem to enjoy the books. However, there are always those who are quick to bash one's writing or point out a typo or some wrong information. But to be sure writing the books has been a very positive experience and something I really enjoy doing.


Claude Schnell was cooperative when you worked on your Dio biography, did you have any resistance from the estate?

No, I had no resistance from Ronnie’s estate. In fact I had no contact at all. I made every attempt to get in touch with Wendy Dio for an interview, but she never responded. As far as Ronnie’s family in New York, I did have some contact with his son and his cousin Dave Feinstein who gave me a great interview. I also interviewed some of his childhood friends from his early bands.

Do you have your own personal guidelines when conducting an interview?

Personally I will think of a few questions beforehand that I really want to go over, but after that my interviews just tend to flow. I just let them go wherever they're going to go with little effort from me. I try and let the person talk and tell their story and try not to force anything. It’s very organic. Afterwards, I take my voice recorder and write everything out and try to shape a paragraph or chapter out of it.

As an author, what kind of process in the draft and editorial department do you go through?

For myself I write one chapter at a time and then send it over to my editor, a guy named Mike Valentino. Mike looks it over and catches any misspelled words and punctuation mistakes. In my mind I have an idea of how I want the story and follow-up chapters to flow. This process seems to work for me but maybe not for everyone.


Any advice on self-publishing?

My advice on self-publishing is make sure to get a good editor or proofreader. Also, get someone who can design a cover and just learn everything you can about the process. It’s not easy to put a book together from scratch but in the end it’s worth it. It is truly an accomplishment to be proud of.


Respectfully, it was a shame that you were unable to have George Lynch and Mick Brown participate in your book project.  What is your take on many of the marque named classic bands from this era that tour around with one and sometimes even none of the founding members in place?

It was definitely a shame that George and Mick chose not to participate. I can only imagine how much better the book would have been. I did interview George twice and he gave me some incredible information that you cannot find on line. Regrettably, after the interviews, he pulled the plug and asked if I would not use anything we talked about. Of course I agreed not to include the interviews, but it was a major bummer to have to remove all the great things he told me from the chapters. However, I am grateful for Don and Jeff and the other guys I talked with and I think the book turned out very well considering. As far as bands and original members go, personally I like seeing as much of the original lineup as possible. But I also realize that bands split up and people retire and pass away—that’s just life. Really it’s all about the music and if a person is okay with seeing a band with one original member, or no original members, then good for them.

It also must have been exciting for you when Jeff Pilson was part of Dio camp on the bass for a time?

It was definitely great to see Jeff Play with Dio. I know that some of the fans were put off by the two albums that Jeff played on, Strange Highways and Angry Machines, but for me I think they're great, especially Strange Highways.


What are your top 5 Dokken and Dio songs?  

Wow! tough question, there are so many great ones to choose from.


1. Mystery

2. Last In Line

3. Don’t Talk To Strangers

4. Caught In The Middle

5. Why Are They Watching Me


1. Into the Fire

2. When Heaven Comes Down

3. The Hunter

4. Lightning Strikes Again

5. Sleepless Night


Can we expect more heavy metal genre books from you in the future?

Absolutely! I have two in the works that I can’t really talk about, but rest assured one of the bands was very close with Dokken. The other is a bio of a musician that I have befriended and he played in a very big band—wish I could say more. I am also putting together a book that will have interviews with 15 great guitar players from the ’80s, with each player getting a chapter to tell their story. So far the interviews have been a lot of fun and include guitarists: Rowan Robertson from Dio, Oz Fox from Stryper, Jeff Duncan from Armored Saint, Joey Taffola from Jag Panzer, and Jennifer Batten from Michael Jackson’s band, as well as many more.


Dokken: Into The Fire And Other Embers Of 80s Metal History

Ronnie James Dio: A Biography of a Heavy Metal Icon


Boston Rock Radio Music Journalist Thomas Amoriello Jr. is a heavy metal guitarist, children's picture book author, educator and recording artist who resides in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA. You can learn more about Tom at https://thomasamoriello.com

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