Throughout the creative industries, there’s always been a sure-fire way to tell if someone (or something) has ‘made it big’: getting a book deal. We spoke to DJ and podcaster-turned-author, Matt Stocks, about turning his podcast, Life in the Stocks, into a book.
Hi Matt. First up, tell us a bit about yourself and your podcast.
The podcast is called Life In The Stocks, and it features candid, unedited, in-depth interviews with a wide range of musicians, actors, comedians & creatives. I’ve been interviewing people for over a decade now. I started out hosting the Evening Show on Kerrang! Radio from 2010-2013. Then I worked at Team Rock Radio, co-hosting their Breakfast Show from 2014-2015. I also presented a Punk Show and an-depth interview show called Soundtrack Apocalypse, which is when I began to really hone and develop my skills as a long-form conversationalist.
I’ve also written over a hundred articles for the likes of Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Vive Le Rock and Louder Than War. I spent three years (2015-2018) presenting for Scuzz TV. I wrote, produced & directed a feature-length documentary on the band Airbourne, called It’s All For Rock N’ Roll, which has had over 150,000 views on YouTube.
And at the end of last year, I released my first book, which is based on conversations from my podcast. It’s called Life In The Stocks: Veracious Conversation with Musicians & Creatives (Volume One). But no one likes a show off, do they? So I’ll shut up now.
Well, that does lead us nicely into the next question: how did the idea to do a podcast book come about?
It’s something I’ve had in the back of my head for a long time. I’ve been doing the podcast for four years now, and I’ve published 200 episodes. When you host a show for that long, and you talk to that many people, a Venn diagram starts to form between all the guests and their shared histories—both on a personal and a cultural level. And if you’re paying attention, which I always am, you start to form a mind map of when and how the dots connect. So I’ve been toying with the idea of how to combine and present these stories in a new format for quite some time.
Then on March 10th last year, the day before my birthday, I received an email out of the blue from Rare Bird—a publishing company based in Los Angeles—asking if I wanted to meet up for a chat whilst they were in London. I agreed to meet them the next day in the hope that I’d blag a free drink and a meal out of them—I always try to take business meetings on my birthday for that very reason.
I thought they’d maybe ask me to host some Live Q&A events for them, or perhaps see if I’d have one of their authors on my podcast or something like that. But within five minutes of sitting down, they offered me the chance to turn Life In The Stocks into a book. It was the best surprise birthday present ever—much better than a free meal, which they never bought me, by the way.
So that would’ve been right before the UK went into national lockdown. The timing couldn’t have been better really.
Right? It was like a gift from the gods—if you believe in that stuff, which I think I do. After the Coronavirus hit, I instantly lost all my work. I used to make a living as a DJ: 70-80% of my annual income came from touring and local London residencies. And all of that dried up immediately, of course, the minute we went into national lockdown. Then I lost all my podcast sponsors, too. So the book deal could literally not have come at a better time. Someone up there was definitely looking out for me, because aside from the book advance, I haven’t had a paid gig since March 2020. Bleak times.
Thanks to the support of my listeners via Patreon, though, I’ve managed to just about scrape by with money from the Patreon page, the book advance, and the government self-employment support income. It’s funny, I calculated my earnings for 2020 just before Christmas, and it was my worst financial year since leaving university in 2008. I say “funny,” it’s obviously not… but if you don’t laugh then you’ll cry. And I just about managed to get by, so I can’t really complain.
If the last twelve months have taught me anything, it’s to be grateful for what you’ve got. And writing a book has always been a lifelong dream of mine, so 2020 wasn’t all bad—at least for me. And I don’t know if I would’ve had time to write a book if it wasn’t for the Coronavirus and resulting lockdown, so I have to look at things in that light too. I made the best of a bad situation, I guess.
There’s 35 guests in the book, and you said you’ve published 200 podcast episodes. So how did you go about choosing who appeared in Life In The Stocks Volume One?
The first decision I made was that all the guests in this book would be from the United States or Canada. There’ll be time down the line for a UK edition, and I’m already excited to get into that one. The publishers are LA-based, so it just made sense to focus on that market—if you want to call it that. I also love the history of American music and pop culture, too. So this gave me the chance to really delve into that.
As far as picking who the specific guests would be, I just went back to the start of the show—Episode 001: Steve-O (Jackass)—and worked my way chronologically through the back catalogue, pulling out what I believed to be the strongest and/or my personal favourite conversations as I went. I then transcribed the highlights from each episode along the way, and I wound up with an average of 2-3,000 words per episode. And books of this kind are usually around 80-90,000 words in total, so 35 guests just seemed like a good number to go with. I guess I’m a pretty methodical person in that sense; there’s always method to my madness.
As far as the guests go, just so people have a vague idea of who to expect, here’s a short list of some of my favourites and/or the ones that really stand out for me: Andrew W.K., B-Real, CJ Ramone, Doug Stanhope, Kyle Gass, Laura Jane Grace, Michael Monroe, Monique Powell, Nick Oliveri, Steven Van Zandt, Steve-O, Tom Green… As you can see, there’s a lot of crossover, and a lot of these artists come from similar scenes, eras, and cultural backgrounds. If you came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, and you lived on a steady diet of alternative music & comedy, you’ll absolutely love this book.
You’ve split the chapters into themes, and you cover everything from childhood and punk rock to success, drugs, politics, and creative partnerships. Plus a lot more. What are some of your personal stories from the book?
I particularly love all the old New York stories courtesy of people like Clem Burke from Blondie, CJ Ramone, Tommy Victor from Prong, who also used to be the sound engineer at CBGB, and the “Mayor of the Lower East Side” himself, Mr Jesse Malin. Jesse played his first gig at CBGB when he was twelve years old, and he’s friends with all the New York cats and legends. He’s been on the scene since forever, and he’s still plugged in to what’s happening now in music, too. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Billie Joe Armstrong is a friend and a fan of Jesse, and the stories he has are incredible—especially the one he tells in the book about Joe Strummer. Jesse also wrote the foreword to the book, and I was so humbled and honoured by what he wrote. He’s an absolute legend.
There’s some pretty touching and harrowing stuff in the book, too. It isn’t all rock ‘n’ roll tales of fame, fortune, and fun, although there is plenty of that in there of course. Laura Jane Grace and Mina Caputo discuss their experiences coming out as trans, Monique Powell from Save Ferris and my friend Amie Hawick—a famous therapist and writer—talk about feminism and the #MeToo movement, Tom Green describes surviving cancer, Steve-O discusses beating addiction, Al Barr from Dropkick Murphys talks about the opiate crisis in America, I get into mental health and depression in great detail with quite a few guests, and there’s some really beautiful stories about friendship, parenthood & community in there as well.
I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved. And I can say that because I’m only in the book about 10% of the time. The rest of the time, it’s all the guests sharing their amazing stories, experiences, and insights. I kind of just set each chapter up and then get out of the way.
It sounds like a great read, and definitely one for everyone interested in alternative music and comedy. Presumably, there’ll be more volumes down the line?
Most definitely. I’m already working on Volume Two, which will feature another round of American artists: Gene Simmons, Tommy Lee, Chuck D, Perry Farrell, Buzz Osbourne… people like that. Then book number three will be UK centric, which I may also split into two volumes. With 200 episodes to choose from, I’m not exactly short on material.
I’m incredibly proud of every podcast I’ve ever done, too. I think there’s great stuff to be found and taken from all of them—even if I do say so myself. I have been doing this for over a decade after all, so you’d hope I’m able to conduct good interviews by now. If not, it’s probably time to pack up and try something else.
You’re perfectly within your rights to be proud of what you do. We’re big fans of Life In The Stocks here at Pod Bible, and you’re right: there’s an extremely vast back catalogue of conversations to choose from. Why don’t you tell us about a few of your favourite episodes, which people should check if they’ve never heard Life In The Stocks before.
It all depends on what you’re into, I guess, but if we’re going purely on the strength of the conversation, then I’d say the Gail Porter episode is as good a place as any to start. The Kate Lawler episode is another one of my all-time favourites as well. They’re a couple that are outside the realms of music, but still music related in that they’re both TV & radio presenters—not to mention two of my favourite people. The John Lydon and Shaun Ryder episodes are fantastic, too. Two UK legends right there.
The Tom Green episode is well worth checking out, just because it’s nothing like what you’d expect. We’d go deep: we talk about death and the meaning of life for about half an hour. The Gene Simmons episode might also give you a different perspective and opinion on him. And it’s hilarious. He’s just a ridiculous person. But I rate him, and it’s great interview. Have you had enough yet? Ha ha! There really is something for everyone in there: James Lavelle, Dom Joly, Stephen Graham, Tommy Lee, B-Real, Doug Stanhope, Alice Lowe, Perry Farrell, Ralph Steadman, Wayne Kramer, Pauline Black… you name it.
Any good guests or exciting news about upcoming stuff that you’d like to share?
I’d really love it if people just checked out the podcast, if they haven’t heard it already. It’s available in all the usual places. And if you like the show, please subscribe and give me a follow on social media (@mattstocksdj), that way you can keep updated with all the new podcast developments.
I’ll be relaunching the podcast after a short break in February, and I’ll going into Series Three—I do 100 episodes per series because I’m hardcore like that—with Alice Cooper as my guest. So that’ll definitely be an episode you don’t want to miss.
Thanks for letting me chew your ear off about all things Life In The Stocks, though. I promise I don’t talk this much on my podcast—I like to give my guests the floor, and allow them the chance to shine. But thank you for giving me the opportunity to do the same on here. I really admire what you guys are doing for the podcast community, and I really appreciate your support.
Cheers, Matt. All the best with the book release and Series Three of Life In The Stocks.
Life in the Stocks: Veracious Conversations with Musicians & Creatives (Volume One) is out NOW and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells, and you can get signed copies direct from the publishers: rarebirdlit.com