Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Interviews and Public Image

So today I was flipping through the new issue of Spin magazine. I know, I know. But somewhere between all the fashion spreads and articles about shitty indie bands with backwards hair, there is usually at least one really good article or interview worth reading. This month, I was thrilled to find an interview with one of my old heroes: Lou Reed. When I was in high school The Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat" and Lou Reed's "New York" were in almost constant rotation on my car stereo. I'll admit I've kind of lost track of what Reed is doing these days, but his impact on me as a budding musician back in the day is something that is still with me. And then I read the article and realized... Lou Reed is a dick. Not 'kind of' a dick, but a full-fledged, swinging donkey genital.

The interviewer was well-researched and asked what I thought were good questions, but throughout the whole thing Reed refuses to answer questions and when he does give an answer it was usually dripping with condescension towards the interviewer, if not outright hostility.

Now none of this changes the fact that Lou Reed has an amazing legacy. Just his work with the Velvet Underground alone has influenced more bands than I could possibly count. He's not much of a singer, but he's written some timeless songs that will live on long after we're all worm food. I have to admit, though, that his demeanor in the interview really turned me off. If I had never heard of this guy before, there's not a snowball's chance in hell I would've bothered to check his music out. (Not like he cares, I'm just saying...)

I haven't even been doing music professionally for a decade yet, but in the short time I've been involved in the music industry, there is no doubt that I have become a lot more cynical. And I've done my share of interviews where I would've chewed my own arm off if it would just make it all stop. But I am always somewhat puzzled when I see artists give interviews like this. It's clear Reed hates doing interviews. Fine. So why do them? Someone of Reed's stature can certainly afford to be reclusive if he so chooses. Just hole up with Laurie Anderson in a bunker somewhere in the Village and be done with it.

I realize all of this sounds presumptuous. I'm a nobody in the grand scheme of things. If you added up every record I ever sold, it wouldn't match the sales of even Reed's lowest selling album. I'm a kid compared to him, and he's undoubtedly forgotten more about the music business than I will ever know. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us struggling musicians can't learn from this.

If you are a musician and you get to the stage where someone gives enough of a shit about your music to interview you, remember that interviewers are a window to your fans. It may get tiresome answering the same questions over and over again, or dealing with interviewers who don't take the time to do any research before they interview you, but consider for a minute that each interview you do may be the first one a potential fan ever reads. What's old hat to you, might be brand new info to a potential fan, and your demeanor towards the interviewer and indeed interviews themselves may go a long way towards planting the seeds for a whole new crop of future fans. And with the music industry in the shambles it is now, very few of us can afford to alienate fans. If you've had a 40+ year career like Reed, perhaps you can afford to do this. But let's be honest... you haven't, and you can't. Be gracious to interviewers, tip your waitress, and try the veal... I promise it doesn't taste like douche.


kent said...

I guess you've missed out until on what a shithead lou reed is. Just remember those long years of digging his music and imagining someone that brilliant was awesome.

Lou has always been a prick. He was a prick when he broke up the original VU. He could have supported Mo and Sterling out of pocket change, but didn't give them a fucking dime until they did a reunion tour a few years ago right before Sterling died. Mo worked for years at Walmart, supporting two kids alone.

Of course, a lot of great artist are shitheads like that. Read up on Picasso some time. But frankly I don't know how Laurie Anderson stand him. Unless she has her prickish tendencies and I just haven't heard about it yet.

Tom said...

Yeah, I realized when I was searching online for a picture of Reed to use that he has the reputation of being an asshole. I guess somehow in all those years of being a fan, I actually hadn't ever seen an interview with him before.

Anonymous said...

I saw documentary on VH1-C about art rock and Lou looked like a complete cock then. I love songs like Sister Ray, Walk on Wild Side and Sweet Jane, but once again we must separate the art from the artist. I love Sinard OcConnor and she is bat shit crazy.