Friday, 16 August 2013

INTERVIEWS

Future generations and successor species to homo sapiens who study my blog might not remember this, but the dying days of May, 2013, a journalist from the Times did an interview with the Welsh actor Rhys Ifans that did not go terribly well - indeed, it went so poorly that the Guardian has found time to write a series of follow up articles about it, most at least tangentially reflecting on that golden age of the celebrity interview when you got days of unfettered access and got to live in their house and drive their car, adopt their children or whatever.

It struck a slight chord with me, in that among my larger flaws as a journalist is a difficulty in really seeing the point in a celebrity interview, and to some extent interviews in general. Reading all that Guardian analysis about 'the game' of nominally chatting with a celebrity about one subject in order to try and get some information on their personal lives out of them... it just all seems like such a colossal waste of time.

I mean, I do know what the point is, the point is that you help make their project a success and they help you shift some copies of your publication. And beyond that there's something more genuinely worthwhile - at best the interview/profile is as good a piece of written art as any other and it'd genuinely a wonderful thing to have brought into the world.

But still... when I was 20 or so and doing my first interviews as a student music journalist, I did them... I dunno, kind of unquestioningly, almost in homage or imitation of music interviews I'd read in the music press... I didn't exactly stop to question why I was doing them until I went to do one with then up and coming Leeds band The Music, and it was just fucking awful - they had absolutely nothing to say and couldn't say it very well, and by the very act of requesting the interview I'd sort of forced myself into the position where I had to make them seem passable or else why were we running the interview... and why were we running the interview..? People in bands are in a peculiar position where the thing they've done that people love them for is probably one of the single least interesting things on the planet to talk about - people are kiiind of interested in what inspired lyrics, but beyond that... nobody in their right mind gives a shit what influenced a tuning or whatever. And that's not just young bands - when I interviewed Mike Mills of my favourite band of all time ever, REM, he had very little to say, really, and why would he? He was polite and articulate, but the interview was essentially to drum up some publicity for the outdoor leg of the Around the Sun tour, and you know, he's a nice guy who doesn't appear to have any skeletons in his closet, so really all I was doing was talking to a nice middle aged man about some gigs he was going to do and it wasn't very interesting.

And the same with Rhys Ifans, really - he's presumably not a particularly nice chap and probably does have some fruitier anecdotes than Mills, but still - why should he have anything to say for himself? But that accepted, if he doesn't want to talk about stuff, why should he be put forward for a major profile interview? If an actor is happy to actively unburden themselves and chase headlines in order to drum up support for a project that's dear to their heart then that's one thing, but 'the game' of the celebrity interview seems so pointless.

Obviously I'm a monstrous hypocrite here as I do quite a lot of interviews

But that seems like such a depressing use of everybody's time, I just kind of wonder if we'd be significantly worse off if nobody bothered. Not as in, no interviews, but if a celebrity's not doing a project that's close to their heart and they're not prepared to proactively put themselves out there to talk about it, then maybe it'd be fine if they didn't promote it.

I'm aware this is not going to happen, but still, I genuinely think interviews are less of a big deal than is assumed - before Time Out went free we actively avoided celebrity front covers as they tended to sell fewer copies; the irony of the whole Rhys Ifans thing is that in making himself look like such a cunt he has probably both shifted way more copies of the Times than he would have if he'd been nice, but also sabotaged whatever it was he was promoting.

And I know for a fact from Drowned in Sound that in comparison to reviews etc, interviews are much harder to make a success, and I think the reason for that is something wider that reflects back onto the celebrity thing: most people in bands don't really have anything interesting to say... indeed, they're in a peculiar position where the thing they've done that people love them for is probably one of the single least interesting things on the planet to talk about - people are quite interested in lyrics, but very few people are interested in the studio process in anything but the broadest terms. PRs are absolutely mad for interviews, I think they get +20 pr points if they manage to get somebody to do one with one of their band, but honestly, I can't help but feel 90 percent on interviews with new bands are a waste of everyone's time... and what's more everybody knows it, but can't be bothered to admit it.

Errr, you know, I started writing this blog about two months ago, and didn't finish it, and now the events described are really quite distant, but it's an okay first two-thirds of a blog, I'm just going to go ahead and publish it, the moral is I FIND INTERVIEWS A BIT WEIRD WHY DO PEOPLE REALLY DO THEM EH.

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