Elise Krentzel (Author, Under My Skin)
Drama, Trauma, and Rock ’n’ Roll!
Elise Krentzel is a vision.
Wearing a peach colored shirt and matching thick-rimmed glasses, she dials into the Zoom call from her car, looking and sounding like the intelligent, street savvy, suffers-no-fools aunt I wish I had another of.
The conversation is meant to discuss her new, self-published memoir: Under My Skin: Drama, Trauma, and Rock �n� Roll, detailing her journey � the first part of it, at least � from abused youngster growing up in 1950s and 60�s New York City, to having an eventual taste of rock and roll stardom � not by singing songs, but by writing about them.
Elise Krentzel is a journalist. From writing music reviews for her own enjoyment to eventually working at Billboard Magazine, she�s done everything from tour with KISS to bring punk music to Japan.
And after enough tragedy and triumph to fill several lifetimes, she�s not only found time to write her life�s story down into a quick, yet captivating read, but to have a moment of true kinship with another woman inside the journalism industry as we discuss our love of the written word and rock and roll.
Let�s start out by talking about this book. I read it and loved it. How did the book itself come to be?
�This is book one of three books. I have wanted to write this story for thirty five years, and in one form or another, I did write it. I�ve written over a hundred short stories, and one-quarter of the book is about my rock journalism and going to Japan with KISS. Probably twenty years ago, I wrote one whole book, not published, just about the KISS tour. So I�ve been writing it over the years, and during COVID, I finally found the time to just sit down and do it.�
Any plans to publish those short stories in an anthology?
�I would like to do that. On the other hand, many of the stories in this book were based on the short stories.�
I�ve always been fascinated by memoirs, and the author�s recounting of experiences that happened many years ago. How much reference material did you have to draw off of, as you are recounting very specific conversations and events?
�I document everything, and I have kept diaries since I was eleven. I scoured through diaries, letters, notes, short stories, anything that I had. I�ve always been an early adopter � I was using word processors in the eighties, I was using email. By the nineties, I had a Mac. All this to say, I love documenting things.�
�I also have a memory, and certain things did stick. Now, were those the exact words? No one will ever know.�
�To that end, the notion that a reader never really knows if what the writer writes is the whole truth� It would have been so easy to just fictionalize this whole thing, to tell it in the third-person, to remove yourself not only as the author, but as the person who experienced these things, one level away from the trauma.�
How important was it for you to claim all of those experiences as your own, both the triumphs and the tragedies?
�Exactly. You are such a great interviewer, I just have to tell you that. That�s the key to the whole book. I had to not only relive those experiences, I had to be ready emotionally so that I could be objective. And that�s why I was able to write it in the first person. I�ve overcome all of that trauma, I�ve processed it throughout my life � years of therapy and this, that, and the other. And now there�s no animosity, no sting, nothing toward anyone in the book!�
That�s extraordinary. I tried to put myself in that space as I was reading, and I don�t think I�d be able to do that. I�d be so bitter and angry.
�I was! I was for a good part of my life, but that�s no way to live. Our suffering comes out in all sorts of ways. The people who are suffering so bad � like the narcissists of this world � all they ever do is make others suffer. And I�m sure there were people who suffered because of me because I was insufferable.�
The courage it takes to relive and recount those experiences is palpable. I can�t wait to get a hard copy and hold it in my hands to see if the words bleed through the page. I don�t think a PDF manuscript really does it justice.
�I was sure most people were going to download the PDF, but nuh-uh, she laughs. People want the copy!�
I can see why! Any plans to do a book tour?
�I would love to. This is a self-published venture, so I�ve been doing book tours all over Austin, Texas, because that�s where I live, but if anybody wants to invite me, I�m available and I would love to!�
�I feel like there are a lot of people who would really go for this story. When you think about music journalists, the first names to come to mind, Jan Wenner and others � they�re all men. And the stories you�ve told, told from the perspective of a woman � what a novel concept, even still today, and how sad!�
�Even today, still. Look, I wasn�t a groupie, I was a journalist�not that there�s anything wrong with groupies. Cassie Valentine from the Go-Gos, Blondie, Patty Smith, they all wrote their memoirs, but they�re musicians. But how many female rock journalists were there in that time? Very, very few. Very few.�
To that end, what was the secret to breaking into the journalism industry in the time that you did, and is there a way for kids to do it now? Does technology make it easier?
�I guess, because of this toxic blend of my family, there was a good side to it. Because there were no boundaries, I could do whatever I wanted. And what I wanted more than anything else was to grow up and get out of my house. I loved music, I was raised on music�and in that period, it was life changing. I think it may have been the greatest period for music in history. We took those lyrics to heart, they really represented us. Y�know, The Who � �we won�t get fooled again�� It was formative. It gave me my political, social, and moral viewpoints.�
�And I was always writing, and one day, it was just an ah-ha moment. I might have been fourteen. And I said, �I�m gonna be a rock and roll journalist� because I love music, and I love writing. So what I did was, every album that I bought, I would write a record review. Every concert I went to, I would write a concert review. Every article I read about a band, I would try to find a different angle.�
�And then I started sending in those reviews, and eventually, one was published. It took some years, but it was published. And then I was off and running. Dissolving into giggles, she continues, I would get back letters of rejection. I�ll never forget this one from Stereo Review � they said, �don�t you dare ever try writing another article, because your writing is terrible.� But I didn�t care. All those rejections only fueled my willpower to succeed.�
Do you think that �toxic blend� you were exposed to helped to develop the thick skin necessary to get rejected and keep at it?
�Yes, but I was used to rejection. I was rejected by my mother on an emotional level, I was rejected by my schoolmates in primary school, save one or two best friends� I had a steely will, and a very soft heart. In Israel, the Israelis are called in Hebrew, �sabra.� And what is that? A sabra is a fruit of the cactus. It�s prickly on the outside, and soft on the inside. And that was me.�
�And for millennials who want to become journalists, the whole field is different now. But what�s different? It may not be print, it may be online. And if you�re going into music journalism, specifically, it may be difficult to make money from that. Musicians can hardly make a living at all, these days. If you really want to be successful at it, I would go for feature stories � The Atlantic, Rollings Stone, Time, People, whatever it is � that get published both in print and online. And that takes gumption. It�s not gonna happen overnight.�
�You can also find groups that put out their own magazines, and start with one of those to build up a following. Start your own YouTube channel, do TikTok, do Snap(chat), just get your voice out there consistently.�
It�s so wonderful to talk about these things with you in this capacity. My heart is so full right now, I can�t really explain it other than that!
�That�s so beautiful, I so appreciate it! I really want to be a lighthouse for millennials � girls, boys, I don�t care. Things just seem to be so insurmountable today, because we are bombarded by information, and just a piece of advice on that � tune it out, man!�
You mention in the book that you spent time with KISS, obviously, and you mention interviewing Paul Simon. What�s the most memorable interview you got, and what�s The One That Got Away?
�The most memorable interview was with John Lennon. I was the only foreigner allowed in the room when he toured Japan � and only Japan � to announce Imagine. And the one that got away was David Bowie. I never got to interview Bowie. She laughs again, It�s tragic, my Ziggy!�
In the author blurb at the back of the book, it says that you brought punk to Japan. Tell me how that went.
�That�s in book two, she laughs, but I�ll give you a little synopsis of that. I lived in Japan for almost six years, and I worked for a publishing company, then I went off on my own, and I had a booking agency, and I brought to Japan, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, The Clash, Billy Idol, and a boatload of other people.�
So what�s the timeline on those other two books?
�Book two will probably be released in the first quarter of 2023, and book three, I would imagine 2024.�
Thank you so much for speaking with me today. I look forward to talking with you again when those other books come out!
�It was a pleasure, I really enjoyed it!�
Interviewed by: Ashley J. Cicotte
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