Lonn Friend, the ex-editor of RIP magazine and host of the "Friend At Large" segment on "Headbanger's Ball", has released a retrospective of his experiences when hair metal was king. antiMUSIC's Morley Seaver recently spoke to Lonn to find out about his book, "Life on Planet Rock". Here’s a sample of the conversation:
Lonn Friend: The book started as a collection of anecdotes. You know in the creative process where you started and exactly where you end up. So I had all the adventures and what began to come out during the revision process was that the focus of the book was going to be the fact that I was at the center of the loudest musical storm in history which was the '80s and '90s when GUNS N' ROSES, METALLICA, SCORPIONS, WHITESNAKE, MÖTLEY CRÜE, DEF LEPPARD, and BON JOVI just ruled the charts. And it was all about volume and we were the mag that was the Rolling Stone of hard rock music. It was important to me that you didn't take for granted that the audience was just banging their heads; that they were also USING their heads. They were also thinkers. They wanted to know what was happening inside the minds of these artists. So we didn't re-write press releases and put out articles. We ran big spreads, and exclusive interviews. And I developed relationships that allowed us to have access to the content that other magazines at the time weren't privy to.
antiMUSIC: When did you feel the magazine was really starting to take off?
Lonn Friend: The magazine started to take off with the June '88 cover where I put GUNS N' ROSES and Axl and Slash and it said the metal's new super group — I wrote the cover line and then that issue was huge. Then we rode that wave and I developed that relationship with METALLICA. We had a Christmas issue, Christmas 88. We had METALLICA with Santa Claus outfits on the cover. That issue was huge. Started to know MÖTLEY CRÜE; they were starting to make "Dr. Feelgood". Then where it really blew up was where Del James, Axl's buddy said: "Axl will do his first exclusive interview with us." And I said "Dude…" And then he said he wants to be on the cover with a shotgun. And I said, "Whatever the fuck he wants" and that was April '99 and that issue was the biggest we ever had. I mean that was huge. And he had a RIP t-shirt to boot. And this is where the story gets so multi-leveled because our relationship with GUNS N' ROSES was so intimate, not only was I invited to the "Patience" video shoot, but Del was already there and he already put Axl in a RIP t-shirt. Now could you imagine being another magazine and seeing a video that the whole world's looking at and there's logo of another magazine on screen?
antiMUSIC: That's amazing.
Lonn Friend: We had amazing access and it was all based on relationship and personality. GN'R was a family and they were very insular and they trusted hardly anyone. Because one of the edicts was that we weren't going to prostitute these artists over their bad behavior. If it fell into the story, we would discuss the party and then whatever else. But if it was to damage or hurt the image of an artist rather than the heroic image of the artist because that's what RIP was all about — heroes — then I chose not to. And that's why I told in this book, why I reveal that I knew that Slash had been shooting heroin the night that I did the cover story with the snake. There's a lot about me that people don't know. The whole journey into the record business; my deal with the devil and my failure and that's as important to my life story as being at "Headbanger's Ball" and the editor of RIP, the host of a syndicated radio show.
For the whole interview, go to this location.