Mark Eglinton - Sound in the Signals Interview

Mark Eglinton
Originally published on July 1, 2013 on SoundInTheSignals.com

Official Truth 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera is one of the most talked about metal books of the year. We recently had the chance to interview Mark Eglinton who wrote the book with bassist Rex Brown. Check out the full interview below.

For those who aren’t familiar with you or your work can you kind of give our readers some basic information on what your job is and how you came into it?
Mark: I had done lots of different types of work in my life - but had always denied my desire to write for a living - mainly because it isn't easy to actually make a living. I hit a tough period in life where I was forced to either make  decision to be happy with my career or to surrender to work that I didn't enjoy and I chose the former. From there I quickly got into some nice web'/magazine work which then led to the book side of things. That's unusual however - I was very lucky to skip the many years of magazine journalism that writers sometimes have to do prior to ever getting a publishing deal.

You’ve worked on a couple rock’n’roll books the newest being the Rex Brown book. How did it work out for you to work with Rex and what made you want to get involved and help him tell his story?
I interviewed Rex for the Hetfield book and we kept in touch thereafter. I always thought there needed to be a Pantera book by one of the band and so after putting the idea in Rex's head, he eventually agreed to do it. It did take him a while though! I always liked Pantera and was fascinated by the relationships within the band - that helped drive it, no doubt.

Almost every rock artist book written is co-written or “ghost written” with someone. I’ve always found it kind of intriguing and wondered when as a reader I read the finished book what exactly does the ghost writer contribute to the writing process as far as story structure and making sure the work is cohesive?
I'm sure it varies from book to book - depending on how much time/inclination/ability the artist has. In this case, I needed Rex to focus on one thing: dredging his memory and being honest about it. I also needed him to process some emotions that he hadn't before. From that point on, it's down to me to take the material and structure it in a way that best tells the story, while always keeping the delivery true to Rex's 'voice'. That isn't always easy but it's key to a good, raw memoir. Rex is actually a very good writer and has a great eye for what works structurally and what doesn't so that only added to the collaborative process.

Books like the Rex book can take a long time to complete. How long did it take for you guys to complete the project and how did it feel when it was finally finished?
From first point of contact and delivering the manuscript it was a couple of years. But you're never really finished - it stays with you forever. There's edits, legal edits, copy-edits and then promo ; it's ongoing and still is now, so I have never actually thought " Ok, it's done", if that makes sense.

Was there anything either you or Rex wanted to get into the book but due to length or time just didn’t make it in the final version?
It's a balancing act. My question to him always had to be " Does this add to/ benefit the book as a whole?" and if it didn't, we took it out. Except on the occasions we didn't…haha. No seriously, Pantera is a contentious subject and had to be approached maturely and with total honesty and that was always on my mind when we were working through the material

One thing that is getting a lot of criticism and interest about the book seems to be how he describes Vinnie Paul. How did you guys approach the Vinnie Paul parts of the book? Was it one of those things where if Rex says it and it’s his truth was it just forget the critics and any negativity they might have and go with it? Were there any reservations at all?
We didn't put any extra emphasis on the Vinnie Paul aspect of the book at all and I feel strongly about the fact there's been criticism ( none of it from Vinnie himself however). Yes Rex told his story but it wasn't as if nobody could confirm what he said. Also, while Vinnie takes some heat for his behavior, the other guys ( including Rex himself, importantly) are not immune from some just criticism too. What the fans do not and cannot understand is that these guys all loved each other as bandmates. But being together in tight confines for so long really magnifies character flaws- something every one of us has.
Of course these flaws present in different ways and Rex was merely highlighting how those ways really were - in order to give some much needed balance to the Pantera picture. While the death of Darrell and its impact is something that nobody can relate to on Vinnie's level, everyone always assumed that he was a paragon of virtue and that all the blame for Pantera's breakdown lay only with Rex and Phil. That's not true - they all had a part in it and Rex wanted to say so - which is entirely his right ; it's his book - not Vinnie's or Phil's.
Also, the tedious suggestion that Phil was in some way responsible for Dime's death needed to be dismissed too ; it's utter delusion on some of the fan's behalf and if Vinnie were to look at the facts coldly, it's delusion on his part too. Personally - and this is my view based on what I know and nothing that Rex has ever said : to carry this kind of hate and bitterness around for a lifetime must only add to the huge pain that Vinnie already carries for the loss of his brother. I'm not him and don't feel what he feels obviously but I would have thought that this might just be the time to offload some of the burden and at least sit down with Rex and Phil again. Nobody ( other than fans) is suggesting a Pantera reunion. It can't - by definition - happen anyway because a key part of the band is no longer alive. But if the three could get in a room, shake hands and then go their own ways in life, I think it would allow Pantera's legacy to be what it should be : as one of metal's most important bands, rather than that title being  eternally obscured by all the personal tension surrounding their breakdown.

You wrote a book about James Hetfield, which was pretty well received. When you work on a book like that what were the main things you were looking for when you interviewed people? Who do you think was your favorite interview when you were gathering information for the book and what is your favorite part of the book?
I was frustrated by both the format and what had to be left out of that book, if I'm being honest. I had some great interview material that simply had to be left out for legal reasons which really would have added to the insight. When doing the interviews, I was looking for personal insight into Hetfield's character, not so much his music, because one drives the other, in my opinion. It was almost there, but if the missing material was included, I would have been a lot happier, while also probably defending a lawsuit !!

The Rex book and Hetfield book are quite a bit different. One book having a ton of involvement from Rex and one having less (or no) involvement from Hetfield, which one did you find it easier to work on and put together?
I much prefer working with someone else so Rex's was more enjoyable. You get to live vicariously through someone else for the duration of the book and then you get t leave - look at it that way.

You’ve had the chance to write some great rock books. In a dream scenario who would you like to work with or write a book about in the future?
Nobody in particular and to be perfectly honest, I don't limit myself to rock books or even music itself. Ghost-writing is less about the subject and more about the personal interaction. Rex and I got along really well on the whole and that put him in  a position where he felt comfortable to share emotions and thoughts he'd never divulged before. I told him to remember that any book he writes will outlive him, so it's important to get it right. It sounds morbid but it's a fact of life. There are no re-dos. I've had lots of offers since Rex's book came out but it has to be the right project for me. If I'm going to be spending two years of my life on a book, it has to resonate with me and I'll never, ever do a project for a paycheck. Life is too short for that. That said, a call from Rob Halford would not be unwelcome!!

I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have any closing comments you’d like to make?
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the ghost-writing process. It's one of those jobs that's hard to understand.  Rex and I have been delighted by the support we've gad for his book and we're grateful to all the people that have gone out and spent their money in tough times to get a hold of it.

You can keep up with Mark and all his projects: HERE.