While chating with Susan Masino, a rock journalist from Madison, she gladly accepted to answer some questions for this interview. There is no one who could tell more about rock than Susan. To live for Susan means to live rock. As a real fan of Rock’n’Roll she has been in the world of rock journalism more than thirty years and met some or the biggest rock stars.
During the 80’s Susan worked in the New York City at SoundWorks Recording Studious, from 1991-96 she published Rock Central a monthly rock magazine distributed throughout southern Wisconsin and nothern Illionois. In Ostober of 1997 she helped launch the 94.1 JJO Local Stage a weekly local music radio hour which she hosted from 1997 to 2004. She has also written the monthly music news column WI Music News, since 1991. Susan is the author of these books: „Famous Wisconsin Musicians“, „Rock’n’Roll Fantasy“, „Let There Be Rock“,“ Family Tradition-Three Generations of Hank Williams“ and „The Secrets of the Universe“. She is also the President of Rock Central Productions in Madison and teacher of History of Rock and Roll at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
How did you become a rock journalist?
I actually started by reviewing a band who were on stage insulting the local paper, and I thought it would be funny if they (the paper) were here reviewing you. At that moment, I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote a funny review and sent it to the paper they were insulting. My review got printed, the band and their management were outraged, and the editors agreed to give me more assignments to review local bands.
You have been in the world of rock journalism over thirty years; can you tell us how it has changed since your beginning?
When I first started out in 1977, there was no Internet, no MTV, no cell phones, so print media was very popular and very powerful. Once our paper here in Madison, Wisconsin established itself with the record labels, we were given everything, interviews, tickets, photography sessions, merchandise, and lavish parties after the concerts. Today everything is done on the phone, and you’re lucky if you get a free t-shirt.
You have a rich career, you experienced working as a journalist, helped launch a weekly local music Radio hour which you hosted (since 1997. to 2004) and besides that you are a writer. So, which of these parts of your profession you like most and why?
I loved doing live radio when I had the chance, and playing music by local musicians. I also love writing about bands and musicians, and trying to help them succeed. Seeing live concerts, and being able to go backstage to say hello to my rock ’n’ roll heroes is my favorite part of my profession. It is definitely living a rock and roll dream!
I had read that you work as a teacher of history of Rock and Roll at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. Can you tell us a little more about this job and your classes?
When I do teach the History of Rock and Roll, it is for the Continuing Education program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is six two-hour classes where we review music from the 1920’s to the present time, and marvel at how rock and roll has evolved over the years.
Three years ago you were in Belgrade as a guest at the concert of Band X, ACDC tribute band. What did it look like? What do you think of Belgrade and its citizens?
When I arrived in Belgrade in November of 2010, I was a guest of BandX, and was there to help promote the release of their debut CD, Wild Ride. During the week that I was there, we did two TV shows, a radio show and hosted a huge promotional party. I also got to visit the NikolaTeslaMuseum and experience BandX live on stage. I thought Belgrade was a beautiful city, the history and the richness of your culture was amazing to me. Everyone that I met was kind, nice, so gracious, and loved their rock and roll! I immediately fell in love with the city and its citizens.
Do you plan to come again to Belgrade and when?
As soon as I can afford a trip to Belgrade, I will be visiting. I was so impressed with how humble, sincere and hospitable everyone was, I can’t wait to come back!
You said that you very satisfied with the band’s playing, have you been listening to some other ACDC tribute or any other tribute band from Serbia?
BandX is the only Serbian tribute band that I am familiar with, but I have heard many AC/DC tribute bands over the Internet from around the world. After seeing them play live, I would have to say that BandX is the best AC/DC tribute band I have ever heard.
Have you been listening to some Serbian bands in general and what do you think of them?
Thanks to BandX I got to meet their good friends, Dragi and Zika Jelic from YU Grupa, and they kindly gave me copies of their CDs and DVDs. I was very impressed with their music and it was an honor to meet them both. YU Grupa rocks!
In your opinion, what has changed most in rock music since the 70ʹs?
Today we are exposed to rock music everywhere, in TV and movies, and in television commercials. There are also thousands of bands to listen to, and everyone can be seen on You Tube. Back in the ’70’s, the only way you got to see your rock and roll favorites was to go see them live in concert. It was rare to see them on television, and seeing them live in person was always a great treat.
Who is, for you personally, the most significant musician that you met and why?
I would have to say Malcolm Young of AC/DC. He is the riff master, and the mastermind behind AC/DC. Malcolm’s vision of what a rock band should be, and his writing and playing helped create one of the most influential bands in rock and roll history. This is saying a lot, considering I have also met Eddie Van Halen, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Bon Scott. All three of those gentlemen were also very significant to the sound of rock music today.
Who were the most casual and the kindest rock star that you have met?
That would have to be Angus Young. He is the most soft-spoken, quiet and gentle rock and roller I have ever known. Angus can whip a stadium full of 20,000 screaming fans into frenzy and then you will see Angus sitting backstage afterwards drinking tea and smoking a cigarette like nothing ever happened. He is also still the same sweet person I met back in 1977. The only thing that has changed about Angus is that he is now internationally famous and a rock and roll icon. If you met him and didn’t know who he was, you would never know that he is THE Angus Young of AC/DC.
Describe how you see ACDC with Brian Johnson and ACDC with Bon Scott?
When Bon was alive, the group was a very close knit band of brothers who worked for years touring everywhere before they started to break through. Just as Highway to Hell was climbing up the charts, and the band went into the studio to record Back in Black, Bon died. His absence has never been taken lightly by anyone in the band. Losing Bon was like losing a brother, and he is still remembered on stage every time they perform.
When Brian was hired, the band was in a great deal of pain, and Brian was the first person that made them laugh. Once I studied the band and Brian’s history, (for my book, Let There Be Rock), I was astonished by the fact that Bon had actually seen Brian perform when Bon’s band Fraternity was touring in England. Bon got the idea of putting Angus on his shoulders from seeing Brian do it with his guitar player. Having the pleasure of getting to know Brian over the years, he is very much like Bon. He is humble, sweet, funny and kind to everyone he meets. Brian was born to take Bon’s place. I don’t think anyone could have done better having to replace Bon, but Brian has done a brilliant job!
Bands that you met and you will never forget?
It is hard to narrow it down to a couple because I have met dozens of bands over the years, but I would choose AC/DC and Van Halen. I knew at the time that both bands were going to be extremely successful and change the sound of rock and roll forever.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Hearing back from my editor that the book I just spent a whole year or two writing and researching has met their approval, and receiving letters from readers who enjoyed one of my books. That is always an honor for me.
What is the most interesting thing that happened to you during your career?
Probably the synchronicity of being hired to write a biography of AC/DC for Omnibus Press/Music Sales Group. At that point I had already known the band for 27 years, and had never thought I would write a biography of them. It was a huge job with tremendous pressure, but I think The Story of AC/DC-Let There Be Rock is one of the highlights of my career.
What do you think, has the technological progress in the music industry made more progress or more damage to (rock) music?
It’s really hard to say, because it is wonderful that musicians can now record their own music, upload it to iTunes to sell, and post their live videos on You Tube for the world to see. Back in the ’70’s, bands toured all year long to build an audience and sell records. Now you can do it from your own home, but you are competing with millions of bands and musicians from around the world which makes it especially hard to get noticed.
Many years ago, you predicted that ACDC was going to be world famous band. Do you predict the same for some new bands now?
Unfortunately, most of the bands I hear now are already being played on the radio and climbing the charts, so it is rare that I discover a band that I think will make it all the way. I have seen bands that I think could be bigger if they had the right exposure like Aaron Williams and the Hoo Doo, who are from Madison, Wisconsin. They are an incredible three-piece blues band that was nominated for a Grammy for Best Blues Album and Best New Artist in 2011.
You wrote the book „Let there Be Rock“ which is in the same time the official biography of ACDC and which I had pleasure to read. What was the most difficult part while writing this very informative, researched, interesting and warm book?
First of all, thank you very much. I am so glad that you enjoyed my book. The most difficult part would definitely be Bon Scott’s death. He was so much fun to write about that I had a tough time writing about his passing, and I put it off for as long as I could. While I was sitting at my computer one night staring at the screen, I could hear Bon in my head yelling, “I’m dead already, just get on with it!” That made me laugh, and so I “got on with it.” J All together it was a hard project because I knew the band would read it. Once they did, they loved it and Angus Young (during the Black Ice tour), gave me an interview for the updated version of the book. That was a huge relief to hear that they were happy with it, and I am very proud of the final results.
Your newest book is called „The Secrets Of The Universe“ and it is not dealing with rock, but with the laws of synchronicity, numerology and healing with light. Where did you get inspiration to write and can you reveal some details about the book?
The Secrets of the Universe includes seven chapters on seven different subjects. The book covers my love of the spiritual side of life, the paranormal, and the many miracles we witness every day, especially synchronicity, past lives and ghostly encounters. The book does include some rock and roll stories and in the chapter on numerology, I cover Angus Young and Bon Scott’s numbers using their given names and birth dates. I was shocked at how much their numbers matched their personalities and achievements in life. That is what I love most about the Universe: there is always something to learn, somewhere to explore or something that amazes me and that the Universe is full of secrets and surprises.