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Interview: Dave Ling (Journalist & writer)


Dave Ling has been involved in many rock magazines including Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Classic Rock. He is also the author of a recent biography of Uriah Heep. A keen concert goer as well, he can be seen at many London gigs...

How did you become involved in the music business?

A friend of the family had a union card for the print union. They got me a job in the post room at IPC Magazines and I worked my way up from there. Secretary, office junior, cub reporter.

What was your first magazine and your first review/feature?

The first live review I ever had published was of Diamond Head at the Saxon Tavern in London's Catford, back in 1981. A great pub venue that's now an Aldi Superstore. My debut interviewee was Graham Bonnet, then freshly out of Rainbow and promoting his album `Line-Up' and the single `Night Games'. He was such a nice guy, putting an extremely nervous young lad very much at ease, and answering all his stoopid questions with patience. I'm still grateful to him for that.

Who are your musical heroes, and why?

The blasé response would be to reply, `Anyone who's able to make a long-term living from the music business'. Names like Uriah Heep, Magnum and Saxon spring to mind. Not those acts, but it's amazing how many musicians you meet who claim never to have received a royalty cheque, but who are still out there and working.

Otherwise, when I was younger I would sit and marvel at each new album from Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Sweet, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Genesis and Status Quo - where was this music coming from? Sometimes it was so good, so exciting, it seemed barely plausible human beings could've made it.

Of the many people you have interviewed over the years, who have been the most fun/honour to interview? Anyone else you would still like to interview?

Although we fell out over an interview we did last year for Classic Rock, Ted Nugent is always a lot of fun. Despite whatever's gone on between us I'll always have the utmost respect for his music. Ted's a very talented guy who's made some of the all-time great records, but he wouldn't know a soundbite if it bit him in the ass. He'll give you a 25-minute reply to an innocent question like "How's the tour going?", in which he'll voluntarily raise the subject of "niggers" and "faggots" himself, then claim to have been "misquoted".

I always record my interviews and have tapes going back to Graham Bonnet! That came in rather handy when Jon Bon Jovi tried to suggest I had fabricated a controversial interview with that band's then bassist Alec John Such. Pete Way from UFO and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson are two others that I look forward to speaking to on a regular basis because they're never short of an entertaining quote.

I've met Jimmy Page, but never interviewed him. So he's still on my list. I spoke at length to Angus and Malcolm Young from AC/DC for the first time a few days ago in Berlin. That was a dream come true.

What have been the best bands you have seen live and why?

Too many to mention, though I'll forever rue that fact that I was deemed too young to see Led Zeppelin at Knebworth by my parents - even though I had ticket (thanks, mum). Since then I've been lucky enough to see everyone from the Eagles and Alanis Morissette to, er, Spineshank.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

My friend and fellow journalist Malcolm Dome. Recently described by Geoff Barton of Kerrang! fame as "part vampire, part Robocop", `Mad' Malc is a walking rock music encyclopaedia who's encouraged and helped me on every step of the way since we first met on the band Spider's tour bus outside the Hammersmith Clarendon in London more than 20 years ago.

Any hints/tips for people keen to start out in rock journalism?

If you believe you've got the necessary talent, stick with it. I've received countless letters asking the same question: I tell them keep on submitting reviews of gigs they've seen recently or an album that's moved them. You'd be surprised how little patience people have. If the first couple don't make it into print (and they rarely do), or if they're not interviewing Robert Plant or Ritchie Blackmore within a month, they throw in the towel.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Anything else you still want to achieve?

The success of Classic Rock magazine has made me very proud. I was a member of the team that launched this British title from scratch, with many insisting the concept was doomed to failure. It rapidly became evident that we were tapping into an area that had been overlooked. A barrage of letters and emails from readers tell us that we helped them to re-discover rock music, which is an honour.

Last year we were also named as the UK's fastest growing music title. Personally speaking, I'd also like to write more books. Last year I was thrilled by the positive reaction to Wizards And Demons, my official book on Uriah Heep published by Classic Rock Productions (

Is the Internet helping or hindering new bands in your view?

That depends on the level of the band. If you're an established name people can now be aware of all your latest moves within hours. As a writer, the arrival of websites have made it far easier to make direct contact without the help of a disinterested/overworked press officer. But if you're a new band who relies on the income of record sales - ouch.

Heard any good music lately?

Every day of the week. Currently playing the Heavy Metal Kids' excellent comeback album, `Hit The Right Button', Styx's current `Cyclorama' and of course the Mötley Crüe re-issues, specifically `Shout At The Devil' and `Girls Girls Girls'. Oh, and I scooped up a bunch of still shrink-wrapped Ohio Players vinyl records at a car boot fair last weekend. That was a good investment.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

Writing a poor review of Guns N' Roses debut album, `Appetite For Destruction', in Metal Hammer. I felt it was patchy and unoriginal when compared to existing names like Aerosmith and Cinderella. I've since revised that opinion - given the way it's still played in clubs I had no bloody choice - though I still consider Guns N' Roses to be one of the most overrated bands around.

Any good rock `n' roll tales to tell?

Got any vodka and cider depth charges while we pass the next three weeks? The most embarrassing one that springs to mind was meeting one of my all-time heroes, Geoff Downes of Asia, for the first time after a 12-hour booze-up at a German festival and depositing a stream of vomit at his feet as we shook hands. Incredibly, we went on to become friends. I don't know whether that tells you more about Geoff than about my good self.

Interview © 2003 Jason Ritchie

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