So Let It Be Written…

It gives me great pleasure to say four words for the first time that I hope to be able to say many more times in the future:

I’ve finished my book!

A quick flashback of all that’s happened during this book’s creation leaves me dizzy. Some of my most definitive recordings –  Veritas (AST), 11/11 (Rodrigo Y Gabriela), Dark Roots Of Earth (Testament) –  didn’t exist when typing began. More than two hundred tour dates and incalculable miles of travel have taken place. People I hadn’t met when this book started now feel as though I’ve known them since the beginning of time while a few friendships, including some that seemed as though they’d last a lifetime, have faded away like the closing credits of a film. Cultural icons, not to mention folks I’ve known personally, are no longer living and breathing while few very young ones – offspring of friends and acquaintances – weren’t yet on this planet when the first chapter was written.

The book itself has gone through a lot of evolution. For a time, it was Escape From Berkeley, a title that made sense to me personally but didn’t fully convey the essence of the story. Escape From Berkeley became a chapter title and running theme throughout. I leaned towards a name that had come to mind in the very beginning: The Guitar Chronicles. But by then, numerous books and TV shows were using similar titles, for example: Man Vs. Food- The Carnivore Chronicles. The next title seemed to fit the story best of all and was a play on the film From Here To EternityFrom Geek to Guitar Hero. This evolved into a leaner version, the one title that has felt just right ever since: Geek To Guitar Hero.

There was one more detour with the title: a respected literary agency came on board and suggested (code word for ‘insisted’)  a one word title to appeal to potential publishers. This was so it could be typecast with those numerous musician books out there, you know the ones I’m talking about:  Life (Keith Richards), Red (Sammy Hagar), Slash (Slash) etc…  With respect to these books – they’re all great reads – mine is not another “musician sits down with journalist, hashes out life story” book. Those are co-written and full autobiographies; mine is a self-penned, literary memoir focusing very specific stories. It reads like a novel and is influenced by writers such as Philip Roth, Hiruki Murakami and John Updike to name just a few.

Still, I begrudgingly tried to be a team player. But it wasn’t long before I let it be known that I could no longer live with the generic, one word title that had been chosen for me: Progressions.

The experience of working with this literary agency – not to mention attending book expos, meetings and other research – shed light upon a publishing world going through a tumultuous process. It was not unlike what the music business – still in a tailspin- went through few years ago.  As with music, a global shift from traditional units to electronic mediums has affected everyone on all levels of the book industry; publishers and agencies have been cutting rosters, downsizing and in some cases, shutting down completely. Just as the loss of music retail giants like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores was once unimaginable, the recent termination of Borders and closing of many Barnes & Noble locations is indicative of a similar process. As with major record labels (what’s left of them), not to mention Hollywood studios, the publishing industry is suffering from a terminal unwillingness to support creative, original projects and a desperate emphasis on replicating past successes. The result is an influx of products that are predictable, uninteresting and increasingly formulaic.

Given all this, not to mention my stubborn determination to do this book my way,  I wasn’t all that surprised when the agency stopped returning my correspondence. Weighing options, I decided that rather than soliciting a new agent and continuing to shop a book in a Hurricane Katrina-like environment, I would  self-publish. Friends in the know confirmed that my book should have been a ‘no-brainer’ to publishers, but as things stand, it would be best to just go it on my own. And that’s exactly what I’ve decided to do.

Geek To Guitar Hero will be available as a paperbook and e-book via Amazon, iBooks other retailers.  The book is in its final formatting stages as we speak.  ETA is January 2013. Updated info and links to order will be here on this website.  Exact date is to be determined  but it is coming soon and it’s a thrill to finally announce it on SkolNotes.

Speaking of which, SkolNotes has been an invaluable platform for testing and developing this book’s content. While there are a few sections that originated here, I assure you that the content goes beyond any of these blog posts – the most personal and heartfelt words I’ve ever written. Below you’ll find synopsis of the book and a few quotes from some very discriminating and respected early readers. I eagerly looking forward to sharing this first book with the world.

One more thing: To all who have been regular followers of this blog – I could not have done this without you. Thank you!




Advance reviews:

“Skolnick’s words are eloquent and insightful—and frequently entertaining. Geek is an engaging read, and, in the context of the author’s dutiful, DIY personality, it makes a whole hell of a lot of sense that he chose not to use a co-writer. The story is his, after all. And for someone who has battled insecurities for as long as he can remember, it’s fearless.” The Village Voice Dec 12

“A surprisingly personal book about his evolution from pained adolescent to one of the most remarkable guitarists in hard rock history. Alex Skolnick holds nothing back in this excellent memoir that describes the passions, pleasures and pains of being a professional musician.” – Brad Tolinski, Editor-In-Chief Guitar World Magazine

“If you come to Alex Skolnick’s memoirs simply expecting the thrash-metal version of Motley Crüe’s ‘The Dirt,’ you’re going to be challenged –  Skolnick is a searching, opinionated and fearless thinker. He opens up the Bay Area 80′s metal scene, shedding light on Metallica and Megadeth and crystallizing the strange moment when major labels were willing to risk money on burnouts pushing the boundaries of speed. Besides, no one in Crüe to my knowledge ever made love to a woman on a bowling-ball return machine.” Ned Vizzini, author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and The Other Normals

“If every child of sixties Berkeley Jewish intellectuals quit playing piano after a brief period of frustrating lessons and, deflated by family failures, was deemed never to be a musician, but then turned fate on its ear to end up not just a prodigy metal guitarist but one of the world’s most agile rock/jazz virtuosos, Alex Skolnick’s memoir wouldn’t be the inspiring read that it is. Here is an honest, raw, articulate story of a life whose problems were forged in the crucible of music into something triumphant.” Bradford Morrow, author of The Diviner’s Tale and The Uninnocent

“Alex Skolnick’s journey from introverted outcast in hippie country to metal/jazz/any style guitar virtuoso is singularly awesome. The Bay Area metal scene comes alive in these pages, from teenage Skolnick’s guitar lessons with the legendary Joe Satriani to all manner of war stores with Testament. Written entirely by Skolnick, the man’s humble yet confident, sensitive and opinionated observance of life shines through like a well placed note on the high E string. ”Anthony Bozza, author of four New York Timesbestsellers including Whatever you say I am: The Life and Times of Eminem and Slash,co-written with Slash; writer and editor for Rolling Stone

“Born of brilliant left-leaning academics into a family fraught with parental inhibition and sibling rivalry, and coming of age amidst the “social experiment gone amuck” that was ’70s-era Berkeley, California, the precocious Master Skolnick negotiated a perilous trajectory culminating in redemption by guitar and a revelatory induction into the Kiss Army. That experience, his subsequent ascension to teen maestro in Testament, and related adventures are detailed in this engaging memoir—including milestones such as the guitarist’s discovery of Miles and Coltrane, and his disillusionment with the music business. Personal photos, pithy pronouncements, and behind-the-scenes disclosures provide context, fun, and occasional titillation.” – Barry Cleveland, Associate Editor Guitar Player Magazine
Geek to Guitar Hero Book Synopsis:

Alex is an awkward, introverted child growing up in 1970s Berkeley, California – a confusing vortex of shifting values, rampant drug use and social confusion. Misunderstood by his family and taunted mercilessly by classmates, he suffers from a paralyzing lack of confidence and low self-esteem. His existence is made tolerable when he discovers a superhero-like rock band, KISS, which inspires him to learn the guitar. While in high school, he auditions for Legacy – a group of hard partying, working class, twenty-something metalheads from the East Bay suburbs. After recording his first album with the group at age eighteen, he defies his Ivy League parents’ rigid academic expectations by forgoing college and hitting the road with metal bands including  Slayer, Megadeth, White Zombie and Judas Priest. As his own band, now known as Testament, rises through the ranks of thrash metal, the world begins to take notice of the young guitar prodigy who, despite being fawned over by autograph-seeking metalheads, guitar fanatics and adoring female fans, still feels the pain, awkwardness and ghosts of his past.  Soon, a blooming interest in jazz and literature reshapes his values and strengthens his musicianship, bringing further accolades from fans and media but causing resistance and tension from within his inner circle. These experiences cause a realization to unfold: that the scene in which he had first sought his freedom and self-identity is fraught with its own perilous limitations, while the education he’d so fiercely resisted from his family can be invaluable when sought on one’s own terms.


For the book’s posters and quotes, go to:

51 Responses to So Let It Be Written…

    • Thanks MJ- Hopefully you and others will feel that way when you read it. While I can’t predict what readers’ opinions might be, I can promise that it is a heartfelt account of deeply personal experiences, with a few bizarre, hilarious moments thrown in.

  1. I've read every blog you've posted here and really enjoy your writing and stories. I will order your book the day it's available.

  2. So now, we have to a writer ! We will have a edition in portuguese ? and not say me that spanish is similar, don't it! lol – congrats for your “son”, I hope that write this book was to be as open your ideas to the people, as you make when compose.

  3. Looking forward to the release. I will most certainly buy the paper copy. Well done and congratulations, wishing you all the best.

    • Excellent, thanks. While there are more and more books released as “e-book only” these days, I couldn’t imagine this one coming out like that. I still value the paper book, holding it in your hand and, via the cover, letting others in on what you’re reading.

  4. Alex, author of music and language, much loved and adored for your gifts, and the person you are(more than a Geek Guitarist) that continues to bear witness to that which helps you live and impacts others, by connecting through the creative process, that is an undeniable force in your world and one that many are grateful you have shared, and hopefully will continue to do so in words and music or other new found medium. A Book ! what an accomplishment you should be very proud of this literary piece, Congrats! I look forward to reading it. We all have a story, but not all are willing or able to tell it. I hope the process of writing it was all you hoped it would be. Sometimes your own way is the best way.

    • Appreciate the very kind words and yes, it does feel like a major accomplishment. I first imagined this back in the early 90’s, which is the time period the story goes to. Back then, writing a book was extremely rare among musicians, almost unheard of by those in the hard rock/metal community. Now, as I mention in the book’s foreward, having a book (more like an extended interview of ones life story), usually pieced together by a “real” writer, is about as common as having a product endorsement. So while one part of me wishes I could’ve done it sooner to avoid the inevitable classification with the newly emerged ‘rock memoir’ genre, another part of me understands it had to get done when it did, otherwise it couldn’t have been the story it is. Better late than never!

  5. Hey Alex,
    Congratulations! I look forward to reading it. Your book is a great surprise as I am deeply inspired by your words from the voice within telling you to be true to yourself. I enjoy all your blog posts, poetry, and other writings through the past few years. I wish you nothing but the best.

  6. Hey Alex,
    I've been following your blog for the past year but I've only gotten around to commenting. I'm a 16 year old metalhead from India and have been greatly influenced by your playing for the past 3 years. Like many others before me, I discovered Testament after listening to Metallica and Megadeth and was absolutely blown away by the amazing lead work on Return To Serenity.I immediately went out and bought the Greatest Hits album ( the only one available here) and was hooked. Ever since, I've spread the word around my school, neighbourhood and Facebook about Testament and Alex Skolnick. I've spent months trying to learn your solos and phrasing techniques, the scales and modes you use and even attempted to emulate your bends!
    A couple of days ago I was at the Megadeth gig in my city, hoping that Testament would be next and I could finally see you guys live. Now this might seem far fetched, but literally 10 minutes after that , on the main screen , I saw a Testament video and you announced that Testament would be playing in India on 15th December. Needless to say, I will be there.
    Congratulations on completing the book, I absolutely cannot wait for it!
    Thank you for everything.

    • Nice to hear from you. Artists like myself – who defy classification – as well as bands like Testament (the ones that never broke through on a mainstream commercial level) are largely able to do what we do today thanks to young multinational fans/musicians like yourself. You are the ones who recognize quality and based on what sounds good, not what the latest trends, media and others tell them they should like. Here in the West, we can be very puppet-like (can you believe that in the 90's, someone decided virtuosic guitar solos weren't cool anymore and it changed the entire landscape of music – including hard rock/metal – almost overnight? Only in America).

      I'm eagerly looking forward to visit India (the source of much of my favorite music, cuisine and other culture) and it was a pleasure to shoot that message. Technology has been a blessing and a curse to the music world, but one really great thing is that I can shoot a video at home on my iPhone one day, then you and thousands of concertgoers in India can watch it on a big screen the next.

      I hope you enjoy the concert and the book. Thank you.

      • You're so right about how “puppet-like” we can be here in America. And the 90's was a terrible decade for rock music in general, not just the hard rock/metal scene.

  7. Definitely looking forward to this! I've been reading your pieces since the “Skolnotes” days and even if every entry hasn't resonated with me, the way that it has been written is always superb. I also applaud the fact that you are self publishing, that is definitely no small task. Congratulations!

    • Thanks Josh. If everyone were to agree with everything I write, then I'd get a job cranking out homogenized articles for those travel magazines one finds in the seat pockets of commercial airlines. I guarantee you not everyone will agree with all I've written in this book, but no one will accuse me of holding back. Glad you can relate and hope you enjoy!

  8. Glad you've finished your book! I can't wait to read it. I've been reading your blog for a couple of years and I've really been looking forward to your book.

    • So glad to be done with it. These things always take longer than imagined. As great as it is to have a blog, it will be really nice to have a solid document of writing that doesn't require a link or URL.

  9. Alex,

    These are the best words you’ve
    posted to date! – “I’ve finished my book!” One can only imagine the multitude
    of emotions you’re feeling at this moment! I am so filled with joy and
    anticipation! You’ve wanted this for soooo loooonng! CONGRATULATIONS! Big Hug!!

    As man who strives against
    mediocrity, is it a surprise that you would self publish? Why would you
    compromise or conform to the “cookie-cutter methods”being “suggested” (better
    yet – “imposed”) upon you by the publishing industry and their ‘easy bake” oven
    techniques? It would be denying your true self. NFW! You’ve come too far and
    pushed too hard, through way too many situations to concede to someone else’s
    standards. These experiences of the past, when combined with your intuition,
    have given you the ability to recognize -“Their “No” is never Your “Know”.”

    Fortunately, you’re currently in
    a position to self publish. Perhaps, this is one reason why you could not share
    your book until now. In the spirit of metal, it had to be your story, as told
    by you, on your terms. All things tend to happen as they should. We just need
    to trust in the process.

    Alex, I’ve followed your blog
    from the launch of “SkolNotes”. It’s been a privilege to read all the postings
    you’ve shared, see you experiment with different techniques and develop as a
    writer. I remember your changing the blog’s format and making the announcement
    – our little community is growing bigger! Once again, it’s an exciting time!
    The wheel turns and your horizons expand! From blog to book – I am very happy
    and extremely excited for you!!! Enjoy every moment of this success! And yes, I
    still believe! 😉 There is more for you to receive! The best is yet to come!

    Sorry if this is a little long, Just
    wanted to share this with you. You may find it amusing. When I first read your
    blog, I was too shy and/or afraid to respond to your post. Then slowly over
    time, I began to reply; first as “Anonymous”, followed by “N”, and then

    Later that first year, when you were with
    TSO, I gave you a “merkaba”. It was the first crystal I ever purchased. I did
    not understand why you needed it- just trusted in what was happening and that
    you would know what is was about. When giving it to you, which I almost forgot
    to do, I could barely speak. LoL! (A few months later, at Cousin Larry's in
    Danbury, I’d find the courage to shake your hand and introduce myself.) At the
    time, I rationalized that in addition to being a stone of transformation, the
    merkaba represented a balancing of the different energies of your Trio,
    TestamenT, TSO and everything harmoniously coming together for you,

    Looking back, it was about transformation.
    You’ve come so far and achieved so much since you penned the first SkolNotes!
    Congrats to you for the many accomplishments along the way! You’ve earned and
    deserve all the accolades you’ve received! Through it all – there was one
    constant – your ability to stay true to yourself! That, is the greatest, of
    your many special gifts, you choose share!

    Was the merkaba a vehicle of change? Who
    knows? It matters no more. In retrospect, I know, I was transformed. In your
    postings, I found words and shared experiences that encouraged me to let go of
    the past, trust in myself, have faith in my abilities, do what I love, build a
    holistic practice and find balance the between the holistic and corporate
    worlds. Thank you Professor Skol! I shared this, because, it’s important for
    you to know – you’re music, Louder Education, blog, and now book – are touching
    people in ways you have yet to discover. You’ll be hearing many more of these
    stories of gratitude. (Please forgive me, if I haven’t been able to respond to
    your posting as often as I would like. There are many things I’ve wanted to
    say. It’s been a matter of finding time. As you have grown comfortable in your
    moccasins, I’m still learning to walk in my new ones. Time, as you know, is
    something we can always use more of while striving to chop wood and carry multiple buckets of water.)

    Looking forward to reading Geek to Guitar Hero! Congrats!

    As always – Sending Light, Love, and Energy!
    Continue to be well and feel well!

    P.S. We had fun
    visiting with you in the “Rolling Cocoon”. Thanks for an
    awesome show! Remember, it’s about synchronicities.
    Perhaps, at another occasion, when there’s more time, I’d love to share with
    you some experiences of using “Veritas” during Reiki sessions.

    • Thanks Naomi for your nice words and gifts. The knowledge that someone out there will be positively impacted by your work is the best incentive to keep going, even when it takes years and the establishment hasn't and may never get it. It feels right to follow Rollins' lead and be 'punk rock' about this book (not in in terms of sound and fashion of course, but in attitude). There has been a lot of growth- indeed the more I've written the more I've learned to say more with less. Not sure what role a crystal might play scientifically (I'm a bit of a pragmatist with these things) but hey – they certainly can't hurt and look great! And whatever one's personal beliefs may be, at least holistic thinking doesn't seem to have the negative side of most religious doctrines. I, for one, can't think of any wars, murders and oppression ever starting over crystals and chakras.

  10. I'm so excited for this book I can hardly contain my joy! I've been counting down the days to November and am hoping to get an early Christmas present from my parents, which will NO DOUBT be this book! Congratulations Alex on all your success! You continue to be a huge influence on my life as both an artist and a person!

  11. Hey Alex, I'm very glad to hear you've finally made it and it will be out soon! You are not only an amazing musician and a kind person, you are also a talented writer ! I read your posts from the early days, and I enjoy your style more and more. But, aren't you too young for a biography?? haha ! I guess you'll have further nice stories to relate in the future 🙂 Anyway, I can't wait to find your book !!! Thanks !!!!
    (I think you meant 'Haruki Murakami' instead of Hiruki Murikami).

    • Arnaud- I appreciate the kind words. Yes, I'm too young for an autobiography and this is NOT an autobiography. It's a combination of essays in chronological order, in the style of this blog, I suppose the word 'memoir' is ok. There will be more stories in the future. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for the typo, fixed now…

  12. Alex, you are such a good writer… I love reading your post… such a sense of personality… you can really see that throughout it… I am excited to read your book…. inside the mind of such a great guitarist sounds very mysterious and very interesting 🙂

  13. Congrats!~ this is great news. The Rock and memoir genre of Books stay valuable! Kids in school will be using your book for reports and finding inspiration for years to come!( Not to forget adults, but- we love this! ) I say books are gifts that can be opened again and again. ~~ Sending some good vibrations to the east coast – in hopes that it will get better soon, somehow! One of my favorite writers Douglas Preston, wrote Talking to the Ground: One Family's Journey on Horseback Across the Sacred Land of the Navajo, among others, he makes the point that if we humans don't figure out that the weather is so much bigger than we are we will continue to perish because of it. Be Well. Liz

  14. Hi Alex, so excited to hear that you are releasing a book and eagerly awaiting reading your musings as much as I looked forward to hearing the latest Testament album. You have been since the release of the New Order my fav guitar player and that has not changed at any time, I have loved listening to the AST as much as Testament. So looking forward to seeing Testament next week in Manchester as not seen you guys live in ages, and hopefully one day an AST tour in the UK.

  15. Congratulations on the book release, Can't wait to delve into the pages, but i'm having bit of a job tracking it down here in the UK, could you point me in the right direction, Don't mind getting it shipped from the U.S, but even has it as Out Of Print .

  16. Hey Alex !

    Do you have more infos on how to buy your book in paper format ? Amazon says “Publication Date: December 10, 2012
    Out of Print–Limited Availability.” I've been checking the page quite often and was waiting for the release date to order it …

  17. Hey folks- check out the first published review!

    “There might be writers who look at a guitarist who writes his own book
    with a jaundiced eye. However, Skolnick's words are eloquent and
    insightful—and frequently entertaining. Geek is an engaging read,
    and, in the context of the author's dutiful, DIY personality, it makes a
    whole hell of a lot of sense that he chose not to use a co-writer. The
    story is his, after all. And for someone who has battled insecurities
    for as long as he can remember, it's fearless.”

    – The Village Voice Dec. 2012

  18. Quote from The Village Voice (first published review)

    “There might be writers who look at a guitarist who writes his own book
    with a jaundiced eye. However, Skolnick's words are eloquent and
    insightful—and frequently entertaining. Geek is an engaging read,
    and, in the context of the author's dutiful, DIY personality, it makes a
    whole hell of a lot of sense that he chose not to use a co-writer. The
    story is his, after all. And for someone who has battled insecurities
    for as long as he can remember, it's fearless.”

  19. First published review 🙂

    “There might be writers who look at a guitarist who writes his own book
    with a jaundiced eye. However, Skolnick's words are eloquent and
    insightful—and frequently entertaining. Geek is an engaging read,
    and, in the context of the author's dutiful, DIY personality, it makes a
    whole hell of a lot of sense that he chose not to use a co-writer. The
    story is his, after all. And for someone who has battled insecurities
    for as long as he can remember, it's fearless.” -The Village Voice

    Full Article:

  20. congrats, hope to get it with a gift certificate this season. I liked the 'escape from berkeley' title better. “guitar hero” sounds like a trivialization of your human gifts and life's experience.

    Well, thanks for another great year of prolific musical innovation a book and a few great blogs as well. Hope you bring AST to Asheville.

  21. Hey Alex. I don't want to leave a lengthy comment, but I just wanted to say that you're one of my favorite musicians, let alone guitarist, of all time. I've followed your blog off and on for the past year or so. Coming back to see what's new and finding out that you're releasing a book that you wrote all on your own is a wonderful surprise. I'll be pre-ordering this on Amazon momentarily. Thanks for everything. Take care.

  22. I wasn't entirely sure what to write. I'm here because last weekend I was cleaning out my house and found a stack of rocker trading cards from the 80s/90s — in which there are some Testament and Alex cards. It made me reminiscent and I did the obligatory “where are they now” Google while listening to The Ballad and Return to Serenity… then I discovered that Testament is playing the Filmore tonight. I had to do a shout out because I spend most of my life travelling and am rarely ever in the same city at the same time as a cool concert. It seemed fortuitous…so… shout… have a good show. On another note, I'm interested in reading the book… but am wondering if there's a plan to sell it as a digital copy. Being on the road all the time it's hard to carry around paper books.

  23. Hey Alex,

    A signed copy of your book has made its way from McNally Jackson NYC to France !!!

    Looks very good. Can't wait to start the reading 😉


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