Lonely Planet Writer

Meet a traveller: Phil Weller, heavy metal travel journalist

A notepad, a guitar and the open road. That’s all music and travel journalist Phil Weller needs for his next trip. We caught up with Phil to find out about his travel dreams, disasters, and his plans to tour Europe’s best rock and metal music destinations.

Where was your last trip?

My last trip was a weekend to exotic Sheffield in England. I was looking for somewhere cheap and easy to get to, in order to write a sample chapter for my book about heavy metal travel. It’s a city I’ve never been to before and I really enjoyed exploring it. It's an intimate place and there are some great walks in the area. The cathedral is lovely, there’s a good handful of rock bars and there are some really interesting nuggets of history to the place.

Where is your next trip?

That’ll be my book research, touring across Europe to discover all the local rock and metal music scenes and painting a big picture about the community across the continent. I’ll be on the road for three or four months visiting places like Rome, Paris and Berlin (attempting to speak the languages and making a fool of myself in the process). I also want to go off the beaten track and visit smaller destinations that aren’t your archetypal rock and metal cities: I’m told Roeselare in Belgium is home to ‘one of the best rock bars ever’.

The surreal colours and shapes of Gaudi's creations in Barcelona, Spain - a highlight for this travelling journalist. Image courtesy of Phil Weller
The surreal colours and shapes of Gaudi's creations in Barcelona, Spain - a highlight for this travelling journalist. Image courtesy of Phil Weller

What is your first travel-related memory?

I remember going to Mallorca with my mum and two older brothers when I was about three or four years old. All I can remember is people being amazed at how blonde I was and swimming a lot. Oh, and being spun in a swing by my brothers until I became incredibly dizzy.

Aisle or window seat?

So the choice is between leg room or a nice view? I’m going to go with leg room, these spindly things have gotta go somewhere!

Do you have any travel habits or rituals?

I wouldn’t say I have any rituals as such. As long as I have my notepad, a good book, my iPod and a guitar, I’m pretty content.

Favourite city or country or region?

I’ll go with Spain on this. I love flamenco music so that’s a big pull. I went to Park Güell in Barcelona a few years ago. It was a baking hot day and this beautiful park was littered with buskers of all types. There was a flamenco guitar duo playing in a shady area and I could have watched them for hours.

What is your best or worst travel souvenir?

A few photos and the memories usually suffice. I do like to find the tackiest gifts I possibly can to bring back to my friends and family though. I’m sure they get the joke.

What is the best or worst piece of travel advice you’ve received?

'Always pack toilet paper.' – Michael Palin.

Music journalist Phil Weller is planning an epic trip around Europe's rock and heavy metal destinations. Image courtesy of Phil Weller

What’s your biggest travel fail?

I had a direction fail recently when I was supposed to travel by coach from Sheffield to Leeds, both in northern England. After a bit of misdirection from a snappy coach driver, I boarded a coach and got talking to a lovely cockney lady. Before I knew it, two hours had flown by. I realised I should have reached my destination an hour ago, so I searched my location on a maps app to find out I wasn’t going north to Leeds, but south on a non-stop coach to London. The laugh I got from my brother when I rang him up, more than 300km from my intended destination, is etched in my memory. Brotherly love, eh?

Quick, an asteroid is going to hit the earth in one week! Which is the one travel dream you’d rush to fulfil?

Wherever sells the cheapest beer, I suppose? Might as well go out in style. I’d go for LA’s infamous Rainbow Bar & Grill. I'd have a few Jack and cokes, and get Lemmy to regale his finest tales of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery to me. Alternatively, I’d finally visit the Aztec temples in Chichen Itza. Ever since I first saw and read about them when I was a child I’ve found them really alluring.

What advice would you give a first time traveller?

Pack toilet roll and always double-check the destination before settling in for a long journey.

Phil Weller is about to embark on a travel odyssey to write about Europe’s rock and heavy metal music destinations, from bars and underground venues to famous musicians’ graves and sights from heavy metal history. You can learn more about Phil’s project over on his kickstarter page and follow him on Twitter.