I’M A PROFESSIONAL METALHEAD: Q&A
Angelo Spenillo is a successful lawyer whose career includes stints at the Justice Department, a Fortune 500 company, and one of the fastest growing technology startups. He’s built legal departments for companies with millions of dollars on the line. He’s also a metalhead. And so you might expect his story to be one of incongruity, incompatibility; how a lawyer struggled to fit his passion for heavy music around the corporate life. But Angelo’s book is refreshingly different, because he credits heavy metal with actively contributing to and guiding his career success. Fun, fascinating and motivational, ‘I’m A Professional Metalhead‘ is further proof of heavy metal’s power to change our lives. I was delighted to interview Angelo about his story, and you can find more details about the book below.
1. Who do you think would enjoy reading your book? I think this book is for a wide range of people. Most obvious is metalheads and music lovers – it is always fun to hear about someone else’s musical journeys and influences. The next is professionals – particularly lawyers (barristers for those of you in the UK!) that work in companies and are looking for some ideas about how to approach their job. Finally, people that might be looking for something to kickstart their career and want to hear how someone did just that – repeatedly!
2. What I found fascinating about your story is that metal didn’t just exist or fit in around the rest of your life, but actively contributed to and guided your success. What do you think it is about metal (as opposed to other types of music or hobbies) that made this happen? Metal is so unique – for headbangers, metal is life. Something that I get into in the book is how it is not a stagnant musical genre. Metal has evolved significantly. The metal of the 1980s sounds nothing like the metal of 2019. It is living and breathing and – most importantly – growing. I think that is why metalheads not only feel nostalgia for the metal of old but also continue to find new subgenres that appeal to them. We always want a new sound and a new challenge and that is what I have used to fuel my own career.
3. Recent studies have helped dispel a lot of myths about stereotypical metal fans. But do you think there are certain types of metal subgenre that attract certain types of people? For example I noticed that you have got really into djent and progressive metal… There is definitely a lot of negativity that is associated with heavy metal. In the book, I talk about this and how it affected how “open” I could be about my love for metal – both as a teenager and as a professional. I think that the negativity is also what makes us metalheads so attracted to it though. We empathize with the sound of the underground, the tunes of the underdogs, and the cries of oppressed. Metal gives us all of that and in an extreme, non-commercial way. That is part of the joy of being a metalhead – finding a sound that is not mainstream. Those genres that you mention – djent and progressive – do just that. They offer non-traditional sounds that would never get mainstream play but are so appealing because of the complexity, heaviness, and downright awesomeness.
4. You play guitar – so do I – and most of the metalheads I know play an instrument or sing. Most of them became metal fans first, before they became musicians. There are plenty of jazz, classical and pop music fans who don’t feel the need to actually play the music themselves. What’s different about us metalheads?! To start, it is way cooler to be on stage in front of a crowd of screaming metalheads. Next, the origin of that music is so understandable – you see the musicians in front of you and you know they were once a fan like you. If they can go from the crowd to the stage, then why can’t you? Finally, the music is powerful. The first time that you pick up an instrument and learn to play your favorite riff or drum fill is magic. Suddenly you are going from a listener to a player. I still get that thrill when I learn a new song. It’s like the power of the metal is in your hands.
5. Do you play in a band? I played in bands for nearly 30 years (this is actually my 30 year anniversary of starting to play the guitar!). I did both original bands and, more recently, cover bands. I retired from live gigs in 2017 but if the right situation comes up, I might pull a Motley Crue.
6. Tell us your:
First show – Whitesnake
Last show – John 5
Next show – nothing on the books for 2020 yet
Best show – So many to choose from but the ones that come to mind right now –> Sevendust at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC in 2002; Anthrax in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2017; and Soilwork/The Unguided in Malmo, Sweden in 2017
Worst show – Van Halen 2004, that was the tour where Eddie’s substance abuse was out of control and it was obviously in not only his stage appearance but how poorly he was playing. Glad he was able to get cleaned up.
7. Who is your favourite of all the metal musicians you have met? That is definitely a tough one because I have met quite a few. Zakk Wylde and Steve Vai were definite highlights as I was able to have extended conversations with them and they were really cool guys. One that you and I have in common is Alex Skolnick of Testament (you can actually see me with him on the cover of the book) – every time that I have run into him, he is so sincere and genuine. He really likes to have a conversation instead of just shaking hands and moving on.
8. Do you read books about metal? Any recommendations? One of my favorite books this year that I highly recommend is The Birth of Loud by Ian S Port. It’s the story of how Gibson and Fender guitars came into being but there is some really interesting insights that most metalheads will find interesting in it. I also just finished Shut Up and Give Me the Mic by Dee Snider which is a very honest story of his rise and fall and rise-again!
9. How difficult was it to get this book published? Do you have any plans for a book tour or any other promotional activities? Where can we buy it? The most difficult thing was writing it! I financed the entire thing because that’s the metal-way to do it, right? I have been gearing up for the 12 December release but do expect to do some more interviews and podcasts in 2020. I’ll see where that takes things. A tour would be awesome because I’ve always wanted to have a shirt with my own tour dates on it. The book is available on Amazon – paper and electronic.
10. Now that you’ve written your metal memoirs, do you have any plans for the next writing project? I have been asked that and am not sure yet. My metal journey continues and I do have a bunch of stories that I didn’t include in this book. Maybe a follow-up with another unique way to present them.