Thomas Wictor was born in
Caripito, Venezuela, on August 6, 1962. He has worked as a stevedore
in Stavanger, Norway; a bartender
in Portland, Oregon; a conversational English teacher, technical
writer, e-news editor, and voice-over actor in Tokyo, Japan;
and a delivery driver and document retrieval agent in San Francisco.
He was also a freelance music journalist for ten years, five
of which he spent covering Los Angeles as a Contributing Editor
at Bass Player. In Cold Sweat: Interviews
with Really Scary Musicians is his first book. He
currently lives in southern California, where he pursues his
dream of becoming a novelist. Visit Thomas online at http://www.thomaswictor.com
Pageonelit.com: Where did you grow up and
was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest
influences and why?
Thomas Wictor: I was born in Caripito, Venezuela,
of American parents. My mother was an elementary-school teacher,
so she taught us to read and write before we went to kindergarten.
I can still remember learning the alphabet; I always left out
the letter Q, maybe because it wasn't used very often. It was
embarrassing to keep going from P to R because Mom would give
me that look, like, "Wait a second, pal."
The first novel I ever read was The Day of the
Jackal, by Frederick Forsythe. I was in the first grade when
I read it, which means I was six years old. I found a hardback
copy of it in the school library and was attracted to the cover,
a drawing of some guy in a funny square hat with a crosshair
on his face, like he was
somebody's target. I didn't understand most of the book, but
it made such an impression that I've reread it once or twice
a year ever since. It's my favorite novel. I liked it so much
that it made me want to write books too, books that drew people
in and put all sorts of pictures into their heads using only
words. It seemed like being an author was one of the most glamorous
jobs in the world.
Pageonelit.com: Why did you write In Cold
Sweat: Interviews with Really Scary Musicians? Tell us about
this book --- How long did it take to put together and write?
Thomas Wictor: In Cold Sweat: Interviews
with Really Scary Musicians is a collection of uncut, unabridged,
uncensored interviews with four scary musicians: Gene Simmons
of Kiss; Peter Hook of Joy Division, New Order, and Monaco; Jerry
Casale of Devo; and Scott Thunes of Frank Zappa's live band.
I put it together as a sort of swan song for my ten-year career
as a freelance music journalist. I'd had it with writing about
music--mostly because the acts were getting worse and worse--so
I decided to try and publish my four best interviews in all their
complete glory. It seemed like such a shame to discard some truly
terrifying, funny, and poignant moments caught on (audio) tape.
The book itself only took a matter of a few months
to write, as I already had transcripts of the interviews. By
the way, all four interviews were originally conducted for Bass
Player, where I was a Contributing Editor.
When I queried my future publisher Limelight Editions,
I was told that they might be interested in my book if I expanded
the introductions to each interview in order to provide the reader
with more background info about
the musician in question. Limelight then accepted the manuscript
and had me sign a contract, following which the book was copyedited.
This meant another rewrite--I discovered that I didn't know as
much about ellipses, em-dashes, and three-em dashes as I thought.
So altogether, I spent almost a year writing and
rewriting the book.
Pageonelit.com: You interviewed four musicians
Gene Simmons of Kiss; Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order;
Jerry Casale of Devo; and Scott Thunes. Which of these interviews
was your favorite to do and why? Which was the most difficult
Thomas Wictor: Though it's hard to choose,
I'll say that favorite interview was with Scott Thunes (pronounced
"TOO-niss") because it was so otherworldly. One of
Scott's conditions was that I come to his house a couple days
before the interview to hang out with him. I did so; it was quite
hairy. I've never met a smarter, more antagonistic, unpredictable
person. He speaks at four times the speed of a normal human,
he uses his own lexicon, and he likes to make extremely personal
comments on very short notice. If he hates your hairstyle, for
example, he'll tell you immediately, maybe even as he's shaking
your hand. He's also one of the most gifted musicians alive.
He's certainly one of the greatest electric bassists ever. He
spoke to me for almost four hours, resulting in an interview
that takes up almost half the book. His is one of the saddest
stories in rock music, about what happens to a man with a gigantic
talent but absolutely no desire to get along with most of his
The most difficult interview was with Peter Hook.
He was three hours late, and when he finally showed up, he could
only spare me twenty minutes for what was to have been a feature-length
article. The interview was conducted in the venue's kitchen as
the sound check was in full swing and three cooks bashed pots
and pans all around us. Hook was notorious for giving journalists
a hard time anyway, and since he's a native of Manchester, England,
his accent was often unintelligible to my American ears. The
interview lasted twenty-six minutes and ended when the tour manager
screamed at me to end it.
Pageonelit.com: Why do you call these musicians
scary? Please explain.
Thomas Wictor: All four have reputations
for not liking the music press, and two are dogged by stories
of amazing physical altercations--bar brawls or band brawls or
even journalist brawls. One is famous for his thousands of conquests,
and another has been pegged as a kind of supercurmudgeon, hating
everyone and everything. Face to face, all four are terrifying.
At least to me. I don't do well with new people anyway, but these
four almost left me incapable of speaking. I guess it's a question
of persona. All four of these musicians have well-honed public
persona, and that always scares me. When somebody is in persona,
you don't know what they're really thinking. You don't know if
you're doing a good job or not because they're not giving you
feedback. They're not responding, really.
makes a good interview? How did you go about getting these interviews?
Thomas Wictor: As both an interviewer and
a reader, I think it's a good interview if the person says something
that they haven't said elsewhere. One of the reasons I quit interviewing
people was because the whole process had become just another
way of hyping a current project. The responses were canned, and
there were restrictions on what you could and couldn't ask. I
was bored with it all. And the younger musicians I was interviewing
had nothing to say. There was no way I could make them interesting
because they simply weren't.
At Bass Player, I would pitch an interview subject
to the editor, and if he agreed, I was in business. I had to
come up with most of my own ideas. Only occasionally was I assigned
a person to interview.
has been your feedback from readers? What do they like about
Thomas Wictor: People seem to like the fact
that these are the complete interviews. In most interviews published
in magazines, the writer and/or editor's voice can distort or
even obliterate what the artist is saying. In this book, the
reader can see exactly what the artist wanted to get across
because every one of his words is there.
People also like the photos and the way the four
interviews cover almost the whole spectrum of the professional
musician's experience, from superstardom to abject failure, from
heavy metal to pop to classical to avant garde. There's something
in it for everybody.
Pageonelit.com: Are you working on a follow
up? Or something totally different?
Thomas Wictor: I will probably never publish
another work of nonfiction. It was too much work, and I had to
rely far too much on totally unreliable people. Getting the photos
to the publisher under the deadline was an absolute nightmare
that I'm sure shortened my life by a decade. No, I've had it
with interviews and music and the whole shebang. Never again.
I'm currently shopping the manuscript for a novel
about rage and personal transformation, set in present-day southern
California. It's a black comedy, full of anger, venom, and spite.
We'll see how it does.
Pageonelit.com: What was the last book you
Thomas Wictor: Freaks:
Myths and Images of the Secret Self, by Leslie Fiedler.
Pageonelit.com: Do you have any hobbies?
What are they? How do they enhance your writing.
Thomas Wictor: I play the bass guitar; I
sometimes draw or paint; I write essays for my Web site; and
I build models of figures, aircraft, and tanks of the First World
War. Only writing essays for my Web site enhances my writing.
I do everything else to escape my writing.