Running With the Devil – An Interview with Grady Hendrix
An interview by Kris Kielich
As soon as I saw the cover of Grady Hendrix’s newest novel WE SOLD OUR SOULS, I knew I had to read it. And then as soon as I started reading it, I knew I had to interview him. Horror author GRADY HENDRIX has made a name for himself by showcasing his love of the genre through his work in both fiction and non-fiction, and this latest novel is no exception. The catch is, this one is about a metal band, and the struggles of the former frontwoman who must deal with the consequences of her old band falling apart through possible supernatural means.
If you’re familiar with Faust, I’ll just say you’ll probably know what comes next. But the book is chock full of deep metal dives and a lot of tender love and care shown to a genre that’s found itself both underground and in the public consciousness at multiple times in its history, and I spoke with Hendrix about his inspiration for the book as well as a dissection of the research and ideas found within it. But to find out more, you’ll have to give it a read, and trust me, it’s worth it.
Q: You go very inside baseball in this book when it comes to metal references and history. Were you/are you still a big metalhead and did that love of the genre make you want to go deep from personal knowledge or was it a result of a great deal of research? Perhaps a blend of both?
Grady: I wasn’t a metalhead growing up, so this was all research. It took me forever to find my way in — searching for that one song or album or band that would be my gateway to metal. I finally found it, ironically enough with “Black Sabbath” on the album Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath. The first track on the first album by the first metal band. After listening to it about 500 times I went all over the place. Also, Thom Youngblood from Kamelot was really generous with his time and let me come backstage and see how the shows come together. And I have so many cocktail napkins covered in drunkenly scrawled album and band recommendations from so many friends and random metalheads who were kind enough to be my tour guides.
Q: As a horror author, did it seem natural to pen a novel about the ties of darkness and demonic power to metal and rock and roll? Where did the genesis of the idea to pen this book come from?
A: I wanted to do a book about selling souls and having it be about a metal band made sense. My publisher expected something like This is Spinal Tap meets Scooby Doo only with more demons, but then I saw a documentary about Anvil and realized that hanging on and playing out even as you got older and all common sense told you to give up was serious business. Never giving up is something everyone can relate to.
Q: The band Durt Wurk, in the book, perhaps followed the trajectory of a lot of groups on the cusp of success who seem to be overshadowed by other groups. In writing about their fictional trajectory, did you discover any startling statistics or knowledge about metal bands that could have been more famous but ended up being forgotten?
A: Anvil was a big inspiration, and if you haven’t seen Anvil! The Story of Anvil I highly recommend it. Also, Love/Hate meant a lot to me. They were a metal band in the Eighties and Nineties who came close to making it but never quite got across the finish line. Their music is badass but their band history is full of bad luck and near misses, like when their lead singer, Jizzy Pearl, crucified himself on the Hollywood sign as a publicity stunt to promote their new album, only no one noticed. When they finally pulled him down hours later his label was super-pissed and pulled their support for the album.
But there are so many bands that might have missed. Twisted Sister spent years as a bar band and it looked like they would never get a record deal. And Van Halen famously almost broke up in 1976 after Gene Simmons signed on as their manager and no one would pick them up. There’s a great story where they’re all back in LA after coming home from New York and they’re driving home from the airport and the silent consensus is that this is the end and David Lee Roth turns around and says, “Don’t think for a second that this is over. This is just a flicker of what’s eventually going to be a LOT more.” That kind of confidence, that belief that you’re doing the right thing against all evidence to the contrary, that is the heart of this book.
Q: In the book, you paint a picture of a country that has a metal band, Koffin, in the center of its musical consciousness. In the story, this is due to nefarious forces, but do you think that idea is harkening back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when metal was very much in the public eye and almost as easily consumed as pop music? Do you ever see it emerging that way again?
A: Absolutely – Terry Hunt and Koffin are essentially Marilyn Manson but I’m not sure that moment will happen again. We’re going through a very different period right now and the aggression and attitude of metal feel a little out of touch with the mainstream at the moment, but who knows? I mean, who would have thought KISS was going to be the biggest band on the planet at one point?
Q: Metal in “We Sold Our Souls” is seen as a way to peek behind the curtain of the rat race and see through matrix, so to speak. Do you still see the power of the genre to reveal truths about our society and culture? What do you think the place of metal is in the world in 2019? Does America in particular need more metal?
A: I think the world could always use more metal. One of the most inspiring bands out there right now is Baceprot, the Indonesian metal act made up of three teenage girls. The fact that they’re rocking out in a country that doesn’t really look fondly on girls rocking out is absolutely badass and a tribute to the way that metal inspires people to just not give a fuck about what’s expected of them.
Q: The fictional metal album, “Troglodyte”, in the book is a prophetic one when it comes to predicting the events seen in the story. Are there any real life examples of concept albums that you drew upon for inspiration that may also be prophetic to our times?
A: The idea of a concept album that predicted the future was one that I’ve had for a long time. It just sort of grew inside the soft folds of my brain like a mushroom and wouldn’t leave.
Q: You touch in the book on the idea of a lot of metal sounding copied and pasted. This is a notion that ran especially rampant in the worlds of post-grunge and alt-metal. Is this where you pulled that particular notion from or is it something you just noticed in popular music in general regardless of genre?
A: Sturgeon’s law says 90% of everything is crap. That’s especially true in pop music where everyone’s looking for the next big hit. That’s why I have so much love for musicians who did their own thing on their own way-out wavelengths: Roky Erickson, Devin Townsend, Buckethead…the list goes on and on but there’s a special place in heaven for folks who didn’t care about being big and instead focused on making music.
Q: Finally, are there any metal bands you’re currently high on and that you feel deserve to be heard? Or are there any older bands that you feel deserve a second listen in this day and age?
A: I listened to a ton of Devin Townsend, Doro Pesch (especially with Warlock), Girlschool, and The Runaways while writing We Sold Our Souls. I’d honestly encourage folks to give Love/Hate a try. And if you want to expand your boundaries a little, the late, great Roky Erickson is one of our most magnificent musical messes and his rockabilly tunes ache with yearning. And Karen Dalton is a bluegrass/folk singer who never made it big and wound up living on the streets for a while and eventually dying of AIDS-related illnesses in a trailer park in upstate New York. Her song “Something on Your Mind” is one of the most heartbreaking and hopeful tunes I’ve ever heard. Santana took her on tour as their opening act in the Seventies but she couldn’t make herself leave the dressing room and perform, and to me this song is Dalton, with her cracked and broken voice, trying to talk herself into grabbing her guitar and going onstage. It’s a song that’s bailed me out of some pretty dark places.
I am very proud to host this interview with horror author Grady Hendrix and valuable contents by our Senior Editor and music journalist Kris Kielich. To find out more about Kris, sneak peek into his music background and bio at:
For all interviews available on SICK AND SOUND, please check out:
For all reviews and articles available on SICK AND SOUND for new albums, please check out:
For all reviews and articles available on SICK AND SOUND for concerts, please check out: