Interview with Eddie Trunk: The Essentials

He’s managed bands, he’s been a record exec, a radio personality, a TV personality and now he can add author to his ever-growing resume. Eddie Trunk, the host of Eddie Trunk Rocks, Eddie Trunk Live, and VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, has released his very first book, Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. This ultimate coffee table hard rock and heavy metal bible includes a plethora of photos by photographer and longtime friend Ron Akiyama facts on 35-plus essential hard rock bands, along with anecdotes about them, Eddie’s personal playlist for each band and he’s even added a piece of his show to the book by adding some trivia from his “Stump the Trunk” segment.

Eddie gave me a call recently to discuss his latest venture.

Tell me about Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.

Well, doing a book has always been something that I kind of wanted to do. I had always envisioned doing an autobiography, which I still hope to do at some point, but this opportunity came to me with a publisher who doesn’t do autobiographies. They’re known for doing more photo-driven stuff, high-quality printing, coffee table books and things like that, so when they talked to me initially about doing this, it was going to be much more photo-driven, not that it isn’t already. The book is about 50 percent photos as is, but it was going to be more 80 percent photos and 20 percent thoughts and texts from me underneath these pictures. But what happened was, I hooked the publisher up with an old friend of mine, Ron Akiyama, who did about 99 percent of the photos in the book, and the absolutely hit it off.

Ron and I had been friends for over 30 years, and we attended many of these shows together and he was always photographing them, it made for a perfect marriage for him to basically do the pictures in the book and they just connected so perfectly into the stories because in many cases some of the stories that I’m talking about, he has the exact show or shot right there next to it. So it worked out really well.

A lot of Ron’s work has never been published before, so the pictures are unique in that people have never seen them before. The one real thing that changed in the evolution of the book, though, is that once the publisher [Abrams Books] started to see some of my thoughts and stories underneath these pictures about these bands, they immediately started wanting more stories. Then all of a sudden, I found myself kind of writing a book that was very different than what I envisioned. But I went with it, because at the end of the day, I thought that it was going to make for a much better product. It was tough to narrow down the bands that I was going to put in it, but I think that I hit what was important to me and think what was important to the scene at the time. Every band has at least one personal story from me and an interaction, an overview and playlists, so people have really liked the balance. It’s something certainly to read, but also something to really look at.

Well, that’s what I found special about this book; your own personal stories and pictures with these really big bands. I especially loved the old pictures of a young Eddie Trunk!

Oh, yeah! It’s always so depressing for me to look at old pictures. It bums me out! Even family pictures, it bums me out because you just realize how much time has passed, and you’re like ‘What the hell just happened?’ There you are like 20 to 25 years ago, and then you’re like ‘Wait a minute, that felt like yesterday!’ So, I actually get bummed out looking at old pictures. It’s funny, when people hear that this is my book, and they hear about a lot of photos, the initial thought is that there will be a lot of pictures with me with rock stars, and that’s clearly not the case. These are unbelievable live shots, and yeah, there’s a bunch of candids spread out throughout the book. There are also a lot of buttons and ticket stubs. That’s all personal stuff from my collection, but I wanted the photos to be really incredible shots of the artists.

There are some really cool candids in there, though. There’s a shot of me signing Ace Frehley when I was at Megaforce Records in my 20s. It’s things like that that people generally have never seen before. Those are fun, but they’re a small part of the book also. The other thing was the cover. I didn’t want it to be one artist and I didn’t want it to be me on the cover. I kind of wanted it to be something that summed up that era, and Ron had a great shot of the crowd at an Anthrax show at L’Amours in Brooklyn, NY, in 1987. A show where I actually introduced the band and as I walked off the stage, Ron ran on and took a shot of the audience reaction as Anthrax was ready to come on. So, I think that picture really sums up what the world was like back then. You just look at those faces in the crowd and it could be anyone from 1987, and what’s ironic is that I heard from a few people who have seen the cover of the book and saw their picture in there. Talk about looking back.

You do have a great mix of photos and stories, but I have to tell you that as a rock fan, seeing some of this stuff and growing up in this area, these photos really brought back memories. Some of these pics are from shows that I’ve been to.

That’s exactly it! A lot of what I’m writing about, the photos are actually from that show. One that comes to mind right off the top of my head is the Deep Purple chapter. I talk about something funny that happening during that show with a guy that I was with, and those shots are exactly from that show at the Meadowlands. So, that’s really a nice component of it that it really worked out so well with Ron’s photos, because he had everything that I was going to be talking about.

Also, there are some highlights in this book that people who don’t get to listen to or watch your show will learn about you. Like the fact that you convinced Twisted Sister to get back together in 2001 and your relationship with the late Ronnie James Dio.

I’m lucky in what I’m doing now is kind of varied. I’ve got the two different radio shows, I’ve got the TV show, and now this book. But it’s funny because I hear from people all the time through email that I connect with them on different levels. There are some people who are aware of all the things that I do, and then there are others that listen to the satellite radio show that have no idea that there’s an FM radio show and vice versa. There are people who only watch the TV show, and only know me from that in the last few years, but they have no idea that I worked at VH1 Classics for six years before that. They have no idea that I have a radio show. So, there are some that know everything, and there are some that I connect with through one thing or another, and they’re unaware of the other stuff.

Everyday there’s new people kind of discovering what I do. So, that is cool. If you really only started watching the TV show in the last year, and you were unaware of everything else, there’s a lot more to read about and to learn. Some of the stories in the book, I’ve told at various times over the decade whether it be over the radio or elsewhere, but a lot of it I haven’t. There’s some stuff in there that some people will probably be surprised about. I tried to put a lot of that in there, but I also tried to put a lot about why I loved the bands and a little bit of an overview. Because, as much as most of the people who are going to buy a book like this are going to be completely into the scene and these bands, I also didn’t want it to exclude people who are more casual fans and are people who just wanted to learn a little bit about the band and why I think they’re important. I wanted to put a little bit in there for everybody.

I’ve also read a few quotes from some rock stars like Slash, Rob Halford and Bret Michaels, saying some great things about your book, and I know that in the past, when I needed advice with my band, you always gave me great advice. How does it feel to be so influential in this industry?

It’s really pretty amazing! I don’t think of myself in those terms ever, but when I hear others say it, especially artists like the ones who wrote what they wrote on the back of the book, like Slash and the late Ronnie Dio, of course, all these guys to have had said stuff like that about me and feel that way about me is really amazing to me. Because, yeah, I know that I’ve made some sort of mark here, and I know that I’ve been doing this a really long time, and I know that I’ve stayed true to what I do.

I’ve never changed with the trends or the fads. Look, I have a niche, I’m not the death metal guy, I’m not the progressive guy, I’m not really the modern metal guy. I have a niche, I have a history, and I have an area that I have an expertise in, so having done this all these years, it’s awesome to see that people feel that way about me, and I appreciate it because at the end of the day, I don’t look at myself as anything more than just a fan; a fan that got lucky being able to find outlets to make a living out of doing this. Don’t get me wrong, it was, and is, and always will be a tremendous amount of hard work. I mean I broke my ass to get to this point, but at the end of the day, I feel that I’m just a fan just like anybody else.

Do you feel that this book will open some new doors for you as far as future books or even a chance for a book two?

I hope so! I would like to do another one at some point. I’ll tell you what; it’s a tremendous amount of work. I mean some of the stuff in this book I wrote two years ago, it’s just a long process. You go through all these drafts and these phases, and then, when you finally put it to bed, there’s this six month lag by the time they all get printed and processed. It takes a long time, and to be honest, it was a hell of a lot more work than I ever thought it was going to be, doing a book. I mean, it was a lot of hours just getting those stories out in a format that everyone is okay with.

I’ll tell you funny story, speaking of a second book, if you look at the last few pages, it says ‘more essentials,’ and there’s a bunch of bands listed there with just a quick paragraph. What those were supposed to be were full chapters, and being naïve in writing a book, I just kept writing, and my editor was like, ‘we don’t have any room for this.’ In my mind, I was wondering why they just didn’t add pages, but in the publishing world, they wanted to keep the price point at a certain level. If you go beyond a certain amount of pages, you have to charge more for the book, so I had to do some serious editing and hack all those bands back to the one paragraph or so that you’ll see. So, to answer your question, the blueprint for a second book is right there because I could start with those bands and then add from there. At the end of the day, it came out great, but I would still also love to do an autobiography, because I have a lot more stories to tell and I didn’t really discuss much about the business end in this book.

Eddie Trunk will be signing copies of Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal at the following locations:

4/1—Hard Rock Café, Times Square, NYC

4/5—Mendham Books, Mendham, NJ

4/6—Book Ends, Ridgewood, NJ

4/7—Book Revue, Huntington, NY

4/9—Vintage Vinyl, Fords, NJ