Friday, September 27, 2013

The Worst Band Interview Ever

I’ve been lucky enough to interview a lot of bands, big and small, in my time.  I’ve done it for ‘zines, magazines and websites.   Along the way I’ve even been able to interview a few favorites of mine, too.  Some of those interviews have been great.  Others were … not.  Only one band, however, stands out as the worst band interview I've ever done.  But first, an explanation of how the whole thing works.

When I interview bands the process starts in one of three ways: I either contact the band myself with the hopes I can get the interview picked up by a magazine or website, I get assigned the interview by a publisher, or a band (or its PR people) contacts me.  When I go freelance, I pick the bands, which means I’m selecting bands I like or that I think have something interesting to say.  When I get assigned a band to interview, it means I either have to accept the assignment or decline it.   When a band contacts me it is much the same way.  I can accept or decline.  I’ve declined a few in my time.  Korn comes to mind.  Its management team wanted to fly me to Los Angeles for a meet-and-greet and set me up with the band for a one-on-one.  I was scheduled to interview the Misfits at the same time, so I declined, which led to Korn’s people saying, “What have the Misfits done lately?”  (At the time, American Psycho was just due to come out after the band’s apparent demise many, many years earlier.)  I replied, “You know what?  Korn is just another boy band to me, and I’d turn it down even if I wasn’t busy.”  That went over horribly, but it’s Korn.  Who cares?  The guys can’t even spell.

This is what it looks like when cartoons come to life.
Back when I wrote for Tattoo Savage I was assigned band interviews from time to time.  I actually helped start its music section, so when something needed to be covered, I was the guy the editor called.  She knew I could make deadline, and I rarely turned down a piece.  One of those bands I was assigned turned out to be so horrible that I can’t even remember most of the interview, only the problems associated with it.  That band in question?  Coal Chamber.

Coal Chamber’s first big release had just come out, and I was reviewing it for the magazine.  The editor at Savage thought an interview would be a good idea.  Since I needed money, I accepted.  I had, as always, a deadline I had to make, so I quickly drafted some questions and called the band’s PR guy to set up an interview.  I got a date and time a few days in the future, and then I waited.

When the time came, Coal Chamber did something no other band has done to me – it skipped out on the interview, which was thankfully to be done by phone.  I’ve had bands be late to interviews (The Offspring had a bus breakdown when I interviewed it right after it broke the Billboard charts, but still made the interview despite being hours late and needing to set up for the show), but this was new to me.  It was unprofessional and annoying.  The band was not a huge name, but the magazine I was interviewing it for was a big deal, so blowing off the interview was not a smart move.

The next two calls I made met with the same results.  The PR guy was an apologist for the band, which means he played his role just right.  He didn’t care that I had a deadline, which was fast approaching, and cared even less that if I didn’t get an interview in then the magazine would have a lot of white space to fill.  Eventually he told me to call in about three days because the band had a break on its tour and some down time, so it would be the perfect opportunity to get my interview done.  The band, he assured me, was excited to talk to me.
Should I have been surprised?  No.

I called and finally got a hold of them, and then they turned out to be the worst thing an artist or entertainer could be: boring.  I’ve had bands that weren’t the most talkative or interesting, but I’ve managed to turn the interview into something worth reading.  A few questions in told me that would not be the case here.

When I interview a band I have some generic questions to fall back on in case the band member is a bit of a bore.  These questions usually lead to interesting stories that I can actually work a readable interview out of, but that was not happening here.  I had to use all my standard questions, and I was getting one word answers to all of them. When I pressed for stories, I would get nothing.  At one point I fell back to one of the questions I hated to ask, but figured it would, at the very least, lead the interview in a new direction that I could capitalize on to save the sinking ship.  I asked one of the members what he would be doing if he weren’t in the band.   It was a throw-away question, but I figured I would have to get something good out of it.  Again, I was disappointed.  “I don’t know,” he replied.  “Working at McDonald’s?” 

Yes, that was his answer, and it was somehow fitting.  If he wasn’t in Coal Chamber he’d be fucking up your order in the drive thru.

I ended the interview frustrated and angry.  I had to take the band’s horrid answers and formulate them into something someone would want to read.  I was able to do it, and it was published, but it was a mess and embarrassing.  I told the editor I would never deal with the band again, and after hearing how it went, she decided that the magazine would be steering clear of it all together after my piece ran.  I’ve ignored the band ever since, too, but whenever I pass a McDonald’s I have to wonder if that guy ever found his true calling.  Who knows?  By now he may have promoted to assistant manager, but I doubt it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me so cold hard cash used to buy anything but Coal Chamber releases.

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