You should read my interview with DJ Wubson posted earlier in the week.
That interview was a lot of fun, and it got me thinking about what I like to see in an interview about music. As a questioner I try to ask prompts rather than pointed questions, to get exposition. I try to ask basic questions too, and not get embarrassed about my lack of knowledge on a subject. Likely if I don’t know something about a nuance of music making or culture, my readers won’t know either.
My favorite music interviewer is probably Noz from Cocaine Blunts. The dude is a fantastic writer and really brings out the best from his subjects. His interview with Pimp C is a better tribute than any conventional eulogy a writer could offer.
What makes this interview so good? I think part of it is richness; Noz and Pimp C invite a number of reader interests into the fold. I read this interview first for a history lesson, then for a glimpse into the autobiography, then again for song/ band suggestions.
An interview with an artist should draw upon ranges of that artist’s knowledge not normally seen in their public music and performance. The rap listener knows Pimp C for the nasty, high-pitched drawl and those beats. They might know about his jail time and the probably know about his drug problems. But they don’t know, or at least don’t consider, his extensive knowledge and stories about a specific period in rap history. Pimp C’s tumblr would probably look terrific.
But no, this interview is the best because Pimp C is the most candid subject in the universe and sounds like he hasn’t been asked the right questions from someone as savvy as Noz in forever. On the writing side, Noz can be credited for asking questions that are simple enough to be taken in different directions, but complex enough to demonstrate a familiarity with the artist’s catalog and demand/interest in an in-depth answer.
Take the innocuous “How did you go from making tapes to signing with Big Tyme?” on page 2. This doesn’t appear to be a big deal question at first. Sure it’s cool that Noz knows to ask about such intimate details about Pimp C’s history but isn’t that knowledge sort of arcane. Noz realizes, though, that this is bound to be a revelatory period of Pimp C’s life: the period around when you’re just getting signed is unique and exciting journey for every artist.
So that’s some of the things I aspire when conducting interviews. (These skills cross over to other interview scenarios, for example some of this stuff I picked up while doing interviews for research while abroad). I want to come prepared, to have a strong grip on relevant background information and a general idea of what I want the subject to talk towards. I want to establish a friendly rapport with the subject that will allow them to open up and respond freely. Really I just want to have a good conversation with someone about a passion of theirs – this is usually an easy enough job.