Interview With 'Steel Rainbow' Author Jordan Hart

Steel Rainbow: The Legendary Underground Guide to Becoming an 80's Rock Star came along last month and did what many books in its wake unsuccessfully proved to: Accurately poke fun at an era of bright neon lights, big power rock anthems and even bigger hair!

Author Jordan Hart nails each aspect of an often-overlooked era of  music, from the clothes to the cliche guitar solos in a tongue-in-cheek "how-to" guide. Simply put, anyone who has seen Poison's "Nothin' But a Good Time" music video will get the joke. 

As a self-admitted enthusiast of hair metal bands (yes, still to this day), I often find myself joking with friends about the clothes, guitars, cars and makeup of the hair metal days. Steel Rainbow had me thinking "I thought I was the only one who remembered that!" on numerous occasions, and if you lived through the 80's, this is a book that simply gets it. 

Through 200 pages, you'll be taken through sections such as "Style Guide", Tour Etiquette", and "Music Videos", hilariously illustrated with mock 80's guitars, hair height charts and stage apparel tips. 

Steel Rainbow is a quick read which you can easily knock out in an hour or so and keeps your attention from cover-to-cover. 

Author Jordan Hart was kind enough to grant a few minutes of his time to discuss the book and all things 80's rock. First and foremost, Jordan, we want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Getting started, how did the overall idea for the book come about and how did it evolve from an idea to the book actually hitting shelves? Also, why hadn't a book like this been done before in regards to 80's rock?

Jordan Hart: I came up with the idea for Steel Rainbow in January 2006 while attending college at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. When I was a kid, I tried to hang out at my dad’s work as much as possible. There, the radio dials were always set on the local rock station. Since it was the ‘80s, Hair Metal was dominating airwaves and I was introduced to the genre at a young age. In addition, my dad was a huge Van Halen fan, so I’d always listen to their albums at home when I was bored.

In college we had our own studio spaces. My friends and I would alternate playing DJ, and I would usually work some classic Van Halen and Mötley Crüe into my playlist. Everyone – from students to teachers - cracked up when those songs were played, which caught my attention. To me it seemed like this type of rock put a smile on everyone’s face, regardless of age or musical taste. It was at that point that I thought a book about becoming a Hair Metal rock star could be hilarious.

While the idea was there, I never had time to write the book. Just over five years later in February 2011 I suffered a pulmonary embolism (blood clot), which resulted in a couple of nights in the hospital followed by two months on bed rest. With a new outlook on life, instead of sitting alone feeling sorry for myself I decided it was finally time to write the book so I could stay positive and heal through laughter.

I’m not quite sure why a humor book about Hair Metal hadn’t been done before Steel Rainbow, but it worked out great for me.

PGN: From what I understand, you did all the graphics and illustrations for the books yourself. In a way, was that more fun of a task than actually writing the content itself?

JH: Having a graphic design background, I’d have to say doing the illustrations was slightly more fun than writing the content. Most of them are just so ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing when I was creating them. However, I think the most fun I had was in the beginning of the process, when I was coming up with the individual rules for the book.

PGN: During the writing of the book, who were some of the primary bands you drew inspiration from when referencing the era of hair metal?

JH: I tried to watch as many Hair Metal videos and listen to as many songs as I could when writing the book. Van Halen played a big part because they invented the genre, so I tried to break down everything they did from 1977 to 1984 to see what was copied by all of the period’s other bands. Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, and the Scorpions were huge in the development process too.

Additionally, I forced myself to watch a bunch of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi video footage. I don’t enjoy those particular bands, but they both really played into most of the Hair Metal stereotypes and were good references.

PGN: Admittedly, I'm an 80's hair metal band enthusiast (yes, still to this day) and actually own a pink Jackson and white Charvel. In your opinion, what guitars embody the 80's era? Is there a certain guitar player from the 80's whose guitar itself still stands out to you?

JH: It definitely doesn’t get more ‘80s than a Jackson and Charvel, so nice work on those! I think this answer is twofold. The Stratocaster body style was used by seemingly every guitarist of the time, with the exception of a few custom-shaped Flying Vs. I don’t think you can be a legit Hair Metal guitarist if you don’t play one of those guitars.

More importantly, what I really think embodies the era was the use of custom graphics on every guitar. It didn’t matter what type of six string dudes were playing, every guitar from the ‘80s had unique and custom graphics on it. Oh yeah, razor sharp headstocks were a must too.

I’d say the two guitars that will always scream ‘80s in my mind are the Kramer strat and Jackson V.

PGN: The book focuses heavily on the role — or lack thereof — of bass players in 80's music, obviously in a joking manner. That said, are there any bassists from that time period who you feel are the exception to that rule?

JH: (Laughs) This has been a hot topic. So many people have come up to me and said, “What do you have against bass players?”

For the record, I fully understand the importance of bass players and know that they are rock music’s unsung heroes. However, if you listen to any Hair Metal recording, the bass track is nearly inaudible. Songs from the period were all about vocals and extra-loud guitar work. The rules in the book are an observation, not an opinion.

As the book mentions, Nikki Sixx is except from all of the bassist rules found in Steel Rainbow. I think he is the best player from the genre, plus he wrote almost all of Mötley Crüe’s lyrics. It blows my mind how many people don’t know that. Kip Winger was good too, especially since he was the singer and bassist.

PGN: I've always felt a lot of the 80's guitar players get overlooked in the grand scheme of historical players, simply because of the over-the-top imagery of the bands of that time. Guys like George Lynch and Warren DiMartini who were solid players in their own right. Do you feel that's the case, that a lot of these guys were much better players than their image would have you believe?

JH: Totally agree. A lot of the guys from the period were awesome guitarists, but unfortunately their outfits and antics have and probably will continue to outshine their playing.

If DiMartini would have hit the scene in the ‘70s, I think his skills would be much more appreciated. Unfortunately, he’s kind of tied to the stereotypes of Hair Metal.

PGN: Changing gears, are you familiar with the current band Steel Panther? How closely do you think they've nailed the tongue-in-cheek 80's gimmick? 

JH: My good friend David always says, “Nobody’s doing Hair Metal better than Steel Panther right now.” He’s exactly right.

As embarrassing as this is to admit, I hadn’t heard of them until after I wrote the book. I know it sounds ridiculous, especially since we both utilize the one word synonymous with Hair Metal –“Steel” – in our names, but I had no idea who they were. My weak excuse is that I’m from Wisconsin, and we don’t hear about awesome things right away.

Last winter my publisher brought them up to me when we were finalizing the book for print. Since that day, I’ve been a huge fan. The lyrics they write are so ridiculous and hilarious, they could only work in a Hair Metal setting. If it were 1986 those guys would be the richest dudes on the planet. Unfortunately every time I’ve been in LA this past year they’re out of town. My goal is to see them before the end of 2012; I know they usually play The House of Blues on Sunset every Monday so I’ll have to make it happen.  

PGN: In an era where bands live and die by their tours and stage shows, what — if anything — can up-and-coming bands take away from glam rock, both musically and in terms of overall presentation of live shows?

JH: I think Hair Metal showed us that entertaining the audience is the key to a successful concert and tour. It seems that in this digital age of music the only way a band can make money is by touring. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for a band to have a great show. Obviously the music will always be what’s important, but impressing the audience is huge.

I’m not saying a band’s success depends on how many split kicks the lead singer does, I’m saying that bands need to engage and entertain the audience like some Hair Metal acts did…sans the shower of embers and explosions of confetti.

PGN: Being a guitar player yourself, how fulfilling was it doing a column for Guitar World

JH: Man, it was surreal. My mom bought me my first issue of Guitar World when I was seven years old. I never thought that someday I’d be asked to be a contributor. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career.

PGN: Lastly, before we get going, you also run a website called Talk a bit about the site and what readers can expect when they check it out.

JH: My whole life I’ve been a closet nerd. Most of my friends had no idea. They knew I loved video games and movies, but had no idea I would spend my free time collecting action figures and comic books. I felt that I couldn’t be the only person in the world who was a secret mini nerd.

Two years ago I started 10% Nerd for all of those people like me. The site’s tagline, “stuff for the little bit of nerd in everyone,” pretty much sums up its platform. I try to find little morsels of awesome that nerds and non-nerds alike can both find interesting.

For more on Steel Rainbow: The Legendary Underground Guide to Becoming an 80's Rock Star, you can visit and follow Jordan Hart on Twitter at @Jordan_Hart

To purchase Steel Rainbow on paperback, please visit the following locations:


Barnes & Noble:

(Editors Note: You guys thought I was kidding about my 80's guitar collection, didn't you!?)


Please contact me about that pink Jackson guitar?

March 18, 2014 at 5:09 PM comment-delete

I would REALLY like to buy it, and won't waste your time...I collect flashy guitars from the 1980s, and pink is my favorite color! Even if NOT currently for sale, please email me!

March 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM comment-delete

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