Danny Lilker is a goddamn legend in the metal scene. His long history includes stints in bands as diverse and influential as Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Storm Troopers of Death, and Brutal Truth. Now on the verge of his 50th birthday, he's announced his retirement from the touring life, and what better to celebrate his accomplishments than a oral history covering his life and career? Dave Hofer has put together such a book, Perpetual Conversion, and it's packed with rare photos, interviews with the man himself and people that have worked with him (like Scott Ian and our own contributor Kevin Sharp), and even reprints of old reviews of his projects. It's a pretty impressive undertaking, and you can get a gander for yourself just how much the book covers by clicking on our exclusive preview of the book's index at the bottom of this post. It'll be coming out later this year courtesy of Handshake Inc. Hofer was also kind enough to tell us a little bit about the process of putting together Perpetual Conversion.
What prompted you to write a book about Danny?
Long story short, I ended up selling merch for Brutal Truth on their first tour back, which was in the UK in February of 2007. I went with them to Europe a year later and it was on that trip the idea was hatched. I got home from that tour and emailed Danny saying something along the lines of, "So, that book idea . . ." September of 2008 was the official start of the process in that it was the first of three weekend trips I took to Rochester to interview Danny.
He's a figure in metal that's appreciated by the die-hard fans and many of his peers, but I don't think gets the recognition he deserves as far as his influence on the genre. His discography is awe-inspiring.
What was it like working with him?
Totally easy. One of the recurring themes in the book is how laid-back and easygoing Danny is, and he was open to answering any questions I had. He's also been interviewed about a million times, so he's no stranger to the process. We had some long days of interviews, but generally we'd just start with coffee, move onto some brews, bullshit for a few hours, take a break, eat, talk some more and then watch TV or go hang out somewhere at night. Oh, and we'd smoke weed.
Were any of the interviews particularly hard to obtain?
Not really. Again, Danny was super helpful. Early on in the process he sent out an email to a bunch of people saying, "Hey! Do you want to be interviewed for a book about me? If so, email Dave." Some of the interviews I did were a result of this, while others were just seeking out contact info and cold calling, so to speak. As the interviews with Danny progressed, I started noticing some names coming up repeatedly, so those were ones I really sought out.
The biggest bummer was that I couldn't get Billy Milano. He just wasn't into being interviewed. I have to stress that he was in no way a dickhead about it, because I know he as a reputation of being an asshole, but I love SOD so I was a little sad on that front. I met him one of the times I was selling merch for Brutal Truth and he was totally cool then, too. It didn't cripple the book, so I can easily look past it.
Some other people I had to hound a little bit, like Dig from Earache, but I can understand: here's some random dude trying to write his first book and emailing you out of the blue. I know I'm not the first thing on anyone else's to-do list.
What's your favorite thing that happened to you while working on the book with Danny?
It's not directly related to the book, per se, but at one point Lock Up was playing in Chicago and Danny was filling in for Shame Embury. The way that day worked out was that the band got to the venue a few hours before they could load in and relax, so I ended up picking up Danny, Tomas Lindberg and Nick Barker from the venue and taking them to my apartment so they could shower. Tomas and Danny cleaned up while Nick and I smoked weed and bonded over our love of NWA. Surreal.
Do you have any personal stories about Danny you would like to share?
The most rewarding aspect of working on Perpetual Conversion was getting to spend time with Danny. We're not best buds from back in the day or anything, but just meeting him and finding out that he's a kindred spirit in a lot of ways is very cool: we both love metal that's on the brutal end of the spectrum, have a silly sense of humor and aren't easily offended.
Did you have a favorite section of the book?
The SOD and Brutal Truth sections, because those are my favorite bands of Danny's. I also have an interest in the business side of the music business, so I tried to include as much relevant information about labels, distribution, contracts, etc as possible. Seeing how much the industry has changed in the last three decades is astounding.
What do you think is Danny's ultimate legacy to heavy metal and music in general?
The title of the book kind-of sums it up for me: Perpetual Conversion. Danny's contributions to music are constantly evolving, which is crucial to survival. If you can't adapt, you're dead in the water. To more specifically answer your question, though, one crucial aspect of the book is Danny's open-mindedness, especially in the '80s when punk/hardcore and metal were very divided. He was one of very few people who didn't give a shit about what scene someone was from as long as the music was good. He was an integral part of crossover, which we all take for granted today. OK, who am I kidding? It's definitely Speak English or Die.