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.
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.
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.