Joe Matera / Backstage Pass is a compelling read, worth the price of admission

Joe Matera has released his book Backstage Pass, a fascinating tale of his career as a music journalist. Joe’s big break was interviewing Nickelback, just weeks before they became huge. His technical music knowledge and conversational approach has seen him talk with the greatest in rock and Heavy Metal.

Joe Matera – Backstage Pass: The Grit and The Glamour

Release Date: Out Now

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Whilst some people want to know every detail about their favourite artists, most are seemingly happy keeping their idols at arm’s length, letting them maintain that mystique and bright patina of stardom.

Whilst Joe Matera’s new book errs more on the side of the former, there’s certainly no exhaustive and exhausting dissection of everything about the artists he covers, his time as a music journalist seeing him talk to countless big names tempering any leaning towards fan worship.

What shines through the brightest is his natural warmth and way with words, each section carefully created to put the reader in the middle of the action. The book does exactly what it says on the tin, never shying away from the more mundane truth behind life on the road. We hear about the hours of waiting for artists and their supporting entourage to turn up so interviews can take place, the mercurial nature of some musicians and how egos play a huge part in the ‘game’ of being a journalist as they navigate through constantly changing minefields.

Matera has a seemingly magic touch, though, possibly due to his being a well-respected guitar player in his own right, and this has been a salve in several potentially fraught situations, infamously difficult subjects cracking their veneer of loftiness to let him in. The good, the bad and the downright ugly all populate the pages here, and it’s to the author’s credit that his net is cast so wide as to include everyone from P!nk to Lemmy and every point in between, displaying a commonality of experience, irrespective of genre.

You get chats with the always hugely entertaining Rick Wakeman, a man of a thousand tales, each one more outlandish than the previous one, something I’ve experienced personally over a number of years.

But there are also more unexpected figures like the very funny Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers. From there, we also see the bad behaviour of Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkin frontman demonstrating just why Sharon Osbourne stepped down as their manager for health reasons (“they made me sick”).

And there are the usual displays of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll from notorious hellraisers. Whilst none of this will come as a shock to any but the most casual rock music fan, it’s just a fraction of the narrative and far from the core of what this such a compelling read.

Whilst there are no huge, earth-shattering revelations, neither is there a reliance on oft trotted out tropes of wild days and nights on the road. If you want those, look to The Dirt, Hammer Of The Gods or Walk This Way, amongst others. As entertaining as they are, this eschews that patina of glamour to scratch below the surface to the realities of the business.

Sidestepping dry anecdotes, Matera brings life to these moments and perfectly conveys the humdrum existence that runs alongside the bright lights with an illuminating spark.

Opening the book with an interview with Nickelback was certainly an interesting choice, the band strangely being one of the most disliked or divisive acts of recent years, but the author treats everyone with enviable equality, seeing beyond the public perceptions and thus drawing a more honest and real portrait.

With an enviable roll call of characters from Steve Vai and Joe Satriani through to Status Quo and onto Celine Dion, there’s much to enjoy, the abrasions and champagne all experienced from the safety of the reader’s armchair.

A fascinating read that will provoke one or two knowing nods of the heads and smiles from those who have been in the industry, but also a peek behind the curtain for anyone who’s ever been to a concert or played a record as more than just background noise.

Well worth your time and the price of admission. This is your very own Access All Areas pass.

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