October 15, 2007 by A.C. Rhodes
inadvertently insulted an interviewee or had an otherwise very awkward moment during an interview? C’mon, make them blind items, if you must. It’ll be fun.
Category: Question of the Week
Yes, I’ve had several awkward moments in the interviews I’ve done and that’s usually when the interview gets good. That moment of silence that makes me what to say something to fill the silence but should really be left open to give birth to a new side of the interviewee.
I’ve had moments where the interview jumps in an starts asking me questions that I didn’t expect. This happened when I interview the lead singer of the Noisettes. She found out that I’m from Chicago and started asking me all these questions. I was a great moment in the interview so I transcribe it as it happened. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work that easy. and the moment of akwardness doesn’t translate as well from the recorder to the printed page.
All in all , i’ve learned to seek out and live for that awkward moment because usually the interview is flat if it doesn’t happen in someway or another.
Long time ago, I was to interview Grace Slick for a radio program. Though a great fans of the Airplane (this was pre-Starship, thank God), I knew her reputation as a strong, and frequently harsh, personality with little patience for idiots.
So of course, I (inadvertently) acted like an idiot: stammering my questions, lengthy pauses, and so on. Finally, she suggested we stop for a couple of minutes to take a breath. Though she may not have realized why I was acting the way I was — straight-up fear — she recognized the problem and couldn’t have been nicer in handling it. And after that, everything went fine.
Fortunately, the interview was on tape, and I edited all the embarrassing stuff out.
OK, so this isn’t exactly “inadvertent,” but … Once, after being pestered by a publicist who obviously never really read any of my writing, I gave in and did an interview with Tom DeLonge from Blink 182 when they were trying to prove they weren’t pop-punk with that last album of theirs. Most of the questions were of the “Why in God’s name do you think you can get away with this crap?” vein. To his credit, I didn’t get a rise out of him.
My first professional interview was with John Cale on the “Mercenaries” tour, which came to Chapel Hill at a little club called the Mad Hatter (formerly Town Hall). I think the late George Scott had set it up for me at the request of Will Rigby, who also helped out on the fanzine I was doing, Biohazard Informae. So I’m ushered in and there’s Cale, a giant in fatigues and Castro-sized cigar. Aside from the problem of the batteries on my recorder failing near the end of the interview, one of my first questions was along the lines of, “So, since the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed has gotten a lot of attention while your career hasn’t really gone anywhere. How do YOU gauge your career?”
CALE (stiffly): “One step at a time. One step at a time.”
I interviewed Stephen Bishop earlier this year and told him how thrilled I was that his 1980 album Red Cab To Manhattan was available on CD Baby and that I had bought a copy. There was a bit of silence on his end, followed with a funny “Can we not talk about that?” Bish was being a cool guy and went about offering the disc on the site as it was out of print and not a sanctioned WB release and was apparently informed that he couldn’t do that. The album has since been removed from the site. A shame, really. That’s about the only semi-awkward moment I can think of. Bish was definitely a cool guy to interview, and we talked easily for almost two hours mainly just shooting the shit and discussing the good old days of the music biz back in the ’70s and ’80s, his cameos in John Landis’ flicks, his knowing some of the original SNL members, and lots more.
Two: The singer for Interpol wasn’t impressed when I asked him about the band’s clothes (after he said they never heard Joy Division or new wave, where else would you go with a band in suits?), and the keyboard player for Brazilian Girls had no interest in any question. The interview lasted five minutes, and even in an edited Q&A, you can feel me bailing on the interview.
One of the writer’s for Paste had an interview with Paul McCartney. He was so nervous about it that he was nibbling on almonds waiting for the phone to ring, and when he picked it up, he started choking. He finally had to explain to paul that he was “choking on nuts” and Paul said in response (brilliantly i might add): “There’s a lot of that about.”
I put the whole thing on the podcast. Listen to the outtake on one of the episodes of the Paste Culture Club podcast. http://www.pastecultureclub.com. It’s the episode from 06/08/06. Really worth the listen.
Mine was when I interviewed Wattie from the Exploited. It was about 1985 and his band was doing this group tour with other hardcore acts like The Boneless Ones and D.R.I. In other words, it was a mish mosh of the ‘nth degree.
So I interviewed him in the club’s basement abandoned bowling alley (where swing bands used to play and there was once an athletic club).
A friend who had suggested that he would be a good interview encouraged me to ask what Wattie thought of Elvis Costello. Elvis had recently made a dig about Oi bands, naming the Exploited in particular.
After asking what some of his favorite bands were (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band came up, as did Madonna – go figure), I inquired about Costello. It turns out he’s a huge fan. Then I relayed EC’s anecdote about Oi bands and his band.
“Really,” he started in a thick Scottish accent, “well fuck him, he’s a four-eyed bastard then.” But between saying he was a fan and hearing what Elvis Costello said, I saw his expression fall and it made me feel lousy, like I had set him up (which I guess, inadvertently, I did).
In retrospect, I would have researched more on my own instead of relying on friends. Wattie turned out to be a pretty nice guy. I burned out a set of AA batteries, playing and rewinding, trying to figure out what he was saying, though.
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