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June Garber

2007 the interview show In Review

When Good Interviews Go Wrong - Guest starring The Black Lips

By Scott Wood


Whenever I tell someone that I am going to interview a band, typically, I get a big “oh cool!” from whomever I am talking to, as if they are imagining me with some “star” in the back of a limousine. I won’t deny that sometimes doing this can be a lot of fun. However, most of the time, doing interviews means spending a lot of time waiting in empty clubs at 5pm with no one to talk to but a frustrated promoter, the sound and lighting guys, and maybe some other journalists.

My interview with The Black Lips was supposed happen at sound check at around 6pm-ish. But, as with many bands doing a show in lonely Vancouver, there was a problem crossing the border. Apparently, The Black Lips bassist, Jared Swilley, has a criminal The Black Lips
The Black Lips are idolized by drunk hipsters everywhere!
record that he neglected to mention to the border guard. And they found him out. Since Swilley was going to be denied entry, in a show of solidarity, the whole band had decided not to do the show.

Right after the promoter gave me an update, I sighed to myself. This only meant more waiting. I looked over at the opening act, local gals calling themselves Vancougar, who were being interviewed by MuchMusic. Behind me, the promoter was barking advice at the band over his cell phone, “You never lie to border guards!” He was determined to get the band here come hell or high water. There was no way he wanted to refund a sold out show.

Fast forward to 10pm that night—I shall save you suffering through the waiting part. I text Joe from The Black Lips. It turns out most of them have decided to come across the border and do the show. He tells me they are at the venue and they are going on in 15 minutes, so if we need to do the interview, it has to happen now.

I rush to the venue. Backstage, the promoter walks past me exclaiming, “Finally!” as if I am the only other one who can understand his suffering. I nod at him in empathy before I cram myself into one of Richard’s On Richards tiny dressing rooms.

The room is packed, me with Cole Alexander and Joe Bradley from the Lips—Cole is tuning his guitar and Joe is knocking back Heinekens. Also squirming around is the kid fulfilling the band’s contract ryders and his assistant, plus some drunk hipster and his fag hag hairdresser handler. In the room next door, Ian St. Pe quickly teaches the bassist from one of the opening acts The Black Lips songs, so he can replace Jared Swilley. I imagine Jared alone at the border sitting on his suitcase, playing sad songs on a harmonica.

Most interviews happen in relatively subdued settings. The subject and I trot off to a quiet corner and chat for 15 minutes. In this room, everyone’s concentration is split in a million different directions. I am fighting for space and attention.

As I click on the recorder, I prep the band. This interview is for a university alternative radio station, so they don’t have to worry about swearing or censoring themselves. The drunk hipster rudely interrupts, demanding to know which station I am from. My show, the interview show, airs weekly on CJSF 90.1FM, the alternative community radio station broadcasting from Simon Fraser University.

“Don’t do the interview!” The drunk hipster shouts then slurs his words. “CJSF. No one listens to Burnaby…!”

Sometimes CJSF enjoys a healthy cross-town rivalry with CITR, the radio station belonging to the University of British Columbia. A lot of the time, the two stations are comrades against an increasingly hegemonic mainstream media landscape. But to some, CJSF is CITR’s annoying copycat little brother.

After all this, I am not having any more of this hipster’s obnoxiousness. “Ah, you are from CITR then? Hmmm? Well then, I’ll have to tell you to shut the fuck up, or we’ll have to go outside and settle this cross-town rival style. We’re doing an interview, right?” I smirk to let him think that I am making a joke. I am a big dude who enjoys the mosh at a Deftones concert; my detractor would be in trouble at a half-price hoodie sale at AA.

He turns around and shuts up. I start the interview.

For those of you who don’t know, The Black Lips are an upstart band from Atlanta. They have a rabid hipster following, I laugh-I mean what interviewer has ever been heckled? yet buck a lot of trends of other “cool” bands—and this is what makes them so interesting. They make a rough strange garage-surf-punk hybrid they call “flower punk.” They have recently been signed to Vice Records—the label run by the ultra-cool magazine and now internet TV station—which is the home of more polished ultra-cool acts like Bloc Party, Justice and Chromeo.

Black Lips shows are already legendary for the routine inclusion of blood, nudity, urination and spontaneous make out sessions within the band. This seems like the perfect place to start the interview since the band is about to go on stage. Cole’s guitar strings are flailing about in his hands and Joe is on a dedicated search for the next Heineken. 

The drunk hipster starts shouting, “No no no…!” trialing off. He is convinced that I just don’t “get” the band, if I ask that question.

I laugh—I mean what interviewer has ever been heckled?—and continue on. A few questions later, the drunk hipster interrupts again, this time hollering unintelligibly. Black Lips guitarist Cole Alexander turns red, embarrassed for me.

Since this doofus won’t shut up, I shove the microphone in this hipster’s face. What does he have to say that is so important? What knowledge does he have that so desperately needs to be shared?

Put on the spot, he sputters into the mic. We make eye contact. It dawns on him that his drunk talk is largely incoherent. And the whole thing is being recorded. Then he stops and flees the dressing room.

I can interpret some of his blather and I almost feel for the guy. Almost. Drunky was upset over an article running in The Georgia Straight about the Lips. He thinks the article has accused his beloved the Lips of being racist in their song “Navajo” because it talks about Pilgrims and Native Indians diluting bloodlines.

This was a question I was prepared to cover, but the plan was to warm up the band a little before getting to the heady stuff. Anyhow, I let Drunky’s interruption lead into the question. Cole Alexander is still embarrassed about the whole thing. He mumbles something about how the band has talked with real Navajos who don’t have a problem with the song, so why should anyone else?

We finish the interview and Cole Alexander from the band pats me on the arm in sympathy. Despite the fact that I vanquished my heckler, Alexander’s answers were unfocused—the guy was tuning his guitar while answering—and Joe Bradley kept leaving intermittently to find more beers, so he would come back in and give non sequitur answers. Now, it is moot, they have to go on.

On my way out, I find Drunky sulking in the hallway. I grin at him and say, “Hey hipster! Where’s your enthusiasm? Your favorite band is about to go on.”

“Yeah…” He mumbles at the ground, “Don’t push your luck.”

I grin wider, wink at him and say, “See you in the mosh.”

Strangely enough, I didn’t see him in there.

Tune in to the interview show with host Scott Wood, every Monday @4:30pm on CJSF 90.1FM where you can hear him get heckled by drunk hipsters when he tries to interview bands like The Black Lips. You can also listen online at www.cjsf.ca.
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