Tag Archives: Rock

The truth about rock interviews (by a rookie)

After one year and a half as a contributor for RockZone magazine, I still see myself as the rookie of the team. Much stuff yet to learn, and apparently some shit to swallow, according to a couple of fails I’ve gone through.

It’s been a year since I had my first phone interview with great Dave Wyndorf, of Monster Magnet, and the experience was awesome. The fact that he’s an artist I’ve been following for years was an advantage, but also the guy loves talking and interacting, so everything went nice and easy.

I must be humble and confess that I definitely need more experience. I still get sweaty minutes before a  phone call, and if you were listening to the recordings you’d notice I’m nervous for a couple of minutes till I start focusing. Still I’m already able to distinguish between a good and a bad speaker, and it’s very easy to identify their mood, decisive for a successful or terrible interview.

phone

Like I said, I had the best start. I understand it now as the first timer luck, there’s no other explanation. After that, everything’s been a bit more like a rollercoaster, with peaks and fails, and the ugly truth.

Interviews are not like having a beer with a friend, even though there are occasions and people which might make you feel extremely comfortable, but let’s have something clear: an interview is fuckin’ promo, which means the least the interviewee should do is to be polite with the journalist. I’m not saying nice, which also makes things, reviews, and that personal point of view from the interviewer reflected on the text, even better.

What makes an interview worth? Personally speaking I reckon the most interesting stuff has to do with going beyond this promo part. If you have to talk about an album, you better try to get some meaning, find out curiosities and push the interviewee to talk about more personal facts. Everybody is gonna tell you their last album is the best up to date, but you have to understand why. In case promo is to be with an upcoming tour be creative about what we can expect from that, but I guess the best is to make them think. Films, family, influences, science…you name it. Put them in the position they feel like revealing something new and divert from the main path. Readers are eager to read something outstanding, and for that it’s necessary to push the artists.

Months ago I had to interview Ann Wilson of Heart. That interview together with Neko Case’s were the greatest to me, because we dealt with things which didn’t have to do with their music but their experiences and positions on certain issues. With Wilson, as per Jordi’s request, we dug into the Seattle scene back in the early 1990’s and we ended up talking about the loss of Layne Staley. With Neko we dealt with hypersexuality in music and talked about Lady Ga Ga. Believe me, it was awesome, plus it was face to face.

Probably because I’m not very experienced I’ve never had an interview with a young band. I guess it must be tough because of their short career, and you cannot bring out old stuff, so that’d be a challenge.

I haven’t told you about my two last fails. Well, the first was a disaster. I’m not naming the band because I still got hope I will manage to do something with them eventually, but I got very disappointed with the lack of seriousness they showed. I was meant to have a face-to-face interview with them and spent many hours waiting for their call to meet them for the chat. When I arrived, I had to wait for 20 minutes till the singer showed up and explained that they had to eat something first to it will take a little while. Well, I waited on the street for almost 2 hours till I got pissed off and joined some friends for a beer at a bar. When I met them they told me it wasn’t personal and they were too hangover, so we could do a phoner or I could send them the questions via email. By the time I didn’t care anymore. I was the only Spanish journalist willing to have an interview with them, because they aren’t getting press covered properly in this country. I can see why now.

axl and slash interview

For the second, the phone call was agreed at a convenient hour at lunch time so I could make it at the office without interfering in my work. I tried to reach the guy 4 times unsuccessfully, with the fuckin’ answering machine jumping all the time. I had to notify my boss at the mag, send an email to everybody (boss, manager, singer) advising it was impossible to reach him. He replied 4h later apologizing asking if I could do it then. And I did, but I had to ask my real boss for this favor, and luckily he accepted because we’re not too busy these days. Apparently his phone had run out of battery (first world problems). The interview was excellent even though I was a bit stressed with the situation but, how come you let your fuckin’ phone die when you have an interview scheduled, man? Really, I couldn’t believe it.

Thus this is my truth about rock interviews up to date. I hope I improve and don’t have to face many incidences, but to be honest, this is harder than I expected. I only wish they keep coming so I can focus better and learn the most of them.

AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER…

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.

With this sentence Henry Hill starts narrating his story in one of my top 5 favorite movies ever, Goodfellas, by Martin Scorsese. I feel like adapting it to the story of my life, so I’d say my line:

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a rockstar.

And I’m not kidding. Unfortunately it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll, and if you don’t have luck nor talent, among other requirements, such goal is impossible to be achieved.

Nevertheless I’m proud to say, this is the longest crush I’ve ever had, and still feel as passionate, if not more, as the very first moment I had that feeling.

Not many can recall when I decided to become devoted to rock. I do. It was 1982, 30 years ago, no less, I was 5-6 years old and I listen to Miguel Ríos singing this song.

It was the coolest song I had ever heard, and all the guitars, the vibe, the energy and the chorus were awesome. I just wanted to yell “Bieeeeeee-veeee-ni-doooos”. I believed myself one of  the  mentioned children of rock n’ roll.

My neighbors were also diehard fans of the song, so we used to play to be a rock band, basically singing this song, with these black plastic tennis rackets as guitars, using a pen or a rule as the mic, wearing bandanas and sunglasses and putting some makeup. Sure in case my parents read this, they won’t remember such wild performances, because we used to “rehearse” at my neighbors’.  Their parents didn’t pay much attention so we felt free. Still, perhaps there are some home videos hidden somewhere, with us acting insane.

In those years my father had bought a Yamaha acoustic guitar, and he tried to play typical Beatles love tunes. It took him 10 years approx, to start considering moving to the dark side and plug a guitar to an amp and enjoy distortion. He didn’t bother us much with the acoustic guitar, because he seldom played it, but his change to electric was hard for all the members of the family, including the dog, till he finally accepted receiving guitar lessons.

On the other hand, I had two cousins, who, strange as it might be, because they were genuine nerds, played some instruments. One loved plying banjo, and the other one was into drums.

Thus, I was all the time dreaming I was the singer and the leader of a band featuring my dad and my cousins.

When you’re still a kid, but start thinking for yourself, showing likes and dislikes, and also your will and determination taking shape little by little, everything looks forward growing old. It’s curious now, the insistence of the adults on reminding you eventually stop being a kid, probably is envy, because childhood means freedom, being careless, and concerns, in most cases, deal with toys, cartoons, food you don’t like and other awesome stuff.

Anyway, there was this question constantly asked by parents, acquaintances, teachers and adult community in general:

What you wanna do/be when you grow old?

Remember one time my teacher asked this. Answers were the usual: doctor, nurse, soccer player, fireman, cop, teacher, princess, ballet dancer, mechanic, gardener… But she wasn’t ready for my reply: “I wanna be a rockstar, a rock n’ roll singer”. At that moment you could notice my teacher’s astonishment and shock, she asked me the same again, so I gave the same answer, and she requested an explanation for that.  When I told her about my father and my cousins, and my wish to start a band with them, she looked nervous. You have to remember I was attending a private nun school, thus they didn’t approve something like that. Thus, for the first time, our teacher asked as to remain silent and quiet, left the room, and went straight to the office, to ask for my parents’ number in order to call them immediately to report the shocking news. Of course they knew already, so it wasn’t big deal for them.

Since then, I’ve tried to be the singer of some bands and projects, because I love singing, but at the end of the day I must admit my voice is pretty horrible and annoying, I’ve played drums from time to time, never committing to a further stage unfortunately, I’ve thought of working for bands as manager, become a promoter…Nah! Eventually you reach the point you have to assume your role in music: I’m an avid consumer, I purchase albums and attend shows, and seems that lately I can write about music, which is very pleasant and positive, and makes me feel I’m at least contributing a little bit, to support rock and bands.

Someone said to me I didn’t have to worry, because deep in my heart I was a rockstar, and my attitude, commitment and passion were proof enough. I like to think in such way, thus, at 35 I’m proud to say, I am what I’ve always wanted to be.

MASKS OFF! POP SOMETIMES ROCKS

Mockery against poppies and cool people has been a constant in my life. I know, I’m bad, can’t help it! You know, I love rock n’ roll, and prefer leopard and leather rather than cute shoes, vintage skirts and t-shirts with stripes, I’m too rough to be charmed by the love for cuteness and the beautiful things. Trash Vs. Spotless. Agnès, for instance, belongs to this second kind, it’s funny how different we are regarding aesthetics. I’m too rough for that in my daily attitude (of course I love beautiful things, but you know what I’m talking about).

Well, let’s get serious, I was kidding…only a bit J I’m quite basic in my appearance, and all this modern and cool fashion is something I cannot really comprehend, a pair of jeans, a nice tee and my sneakers and that’s enough for me.

Toi, cut the crap. At the end of the day, appearance marks huge more difference than we think, but what I’m interested in, right now, is music.

Music sensivity, for some people I include myself in, comes with the age. I guess this has to do with energy and rage.

During your teen days, you know everything and no one can step on your way, even less advise you on how to do things, no way! Still I’ve never been a troublemaker or too hard to deal with, my parents’ headaches had to do more with my appearance and my lack of interest regarding college, they weren’t even worried about my Saturday nights or who I was hanging around with, because my friends were exactly the same, and we weren’t bad at all as to our parents be in guardian mood.

Music came to my life all as to mark the difference with the rest of my friends’ trend. As I’m very passionate with things, I became a freak, moving away from the standard likes, and it’s true, I wasn’t too comfy either, unable to share my love for certain things, it was like talking to a wall, there wasn’t reply back, thus I had to start searching for people like me, which, at the end of the day, no matter how different and special you feel, there are always people like you somewhere. And I did find friends with same interests and musical taste, rock places, so I was well settled in the path to follow to what I am nowadays.

Considering my introductory musical decade was all the 90’s, and that I’ve always been loud and spirited, beside my hyperactive condition, it’s easy to figure out my course: Seattle 90’s, 70’s classics, stoner, punk rock… never been into Nu-Metal, though.

The fact is that as years pass by, eventually you high spirits give you a break and yield space for more stuff. It’s the actual turning  point in which your mind and taste start to be open to new sounds and sensations, and you become a diehard music lover for good. At least this is my personal experience.

You find yourself enjoying Pet Sounds and Diary of a Madman all the same, and such experience is so pleasant! You can change style radically at just a push on the play key and feel great

Well, all this mini summary of my musical evolution (I think I’ll talk about it more in depth) was an excuse to talk about the more I’m discovering new bands, the closer I find myself to Pop. And no, I don’t mean Spanish pop, or mainstream classified pop. By pop, I refer to all this new wave of American bands, labeled as many different styles, Americana, folk…whatever. I share with pop lovers my passion for The Avett Brothers, Dr Dog or Midlake, to put examples.

If I was told I’d assist to a Pop Festival, I’d had laughed OUT LOUD. But I already spent a day at Primavera Sound just to see Neil Young and The Jayhawks, and would do it again if necessary.

And I’m gonna be surrounded by cool people in freak hairdos once again, because John Grant, one of my latest discoveries, is closing the Faraday festival in Vilanova, a town close to Barcelona, on July the 3rd, and missing him is not an option. I’m so happy about this confirmation…can’t wait, in just a week, I’ll be at two festivals. Life can be great sometimes, don’t you think?