Thursday, 10 December 2009

Missed Opportunities

I've been lucky enough in my time as a sort-of music journalist to have conducted some awesome interviews; the kind which leave you on an inexplicable high afterwards. And I'm not talking about interviewing Thom Yorke or Thurston Moore (apparently I'm not high-profile enough to do them - bastard media monopoly). No. Whilst I've talked with Pitchfork darling Anthony Gonzalez from M83 and my hero Alberto Ferrari from unknown Italian legends Verdena, a few other barely known names spring to mind as being the best interviewees I've ever had.

The first to claim this modest title is Miko Sirén who is the drummer from the reasonably successful cello-led metal band Apocalyptica. The second is Robin Staps, the brains behind prog-metal band The Ocean.

Miko turned out to be a tremendously gracious and friendly interviewee whose music knowledge and tastes stretched far, far beyond metal (in fact he admitted that he never really liked metal at all!) We had a really long discussion about jazz, why Finland is producing so much music nowadays, and the most 'metal' classical composers. I seriously thought afterwards that had we met in other circumstances, we could've become friends. No, really...
If you're interested you can read the full interview here.

The same goes for Robin Staps; what a smart, open-minded, articulate and inspired individual. Instead of the usual dull question and answer sessions consisting of turgid and degrading stuff like "What was the inspiration for your latest album?" and "What does your band name mean?",
we ended up talking about Berlin as a muse, poetry and krautrock. Unexpected and brilliant. As before, if you're interested, you can go ahead and read the full interview here.

However, having done such cool interviews, there still remain three people I'd love to have interviewed more than anybody else, including the aforementioned indie-stars who will only speak to The Guardian, Mojo and a few other boring rags.

Let me tell you about them.

Once upon a time on a cold winter's evening I found myself at the Camden Underworld to do my first proper interview ever with a German black metal band called Endstille. I didn't have a clue who Endstille were (although I subsequently decided they were the best black metal band I'd ever heard) and after I had tentatively met with the drummer outside the venue I had to blag my way through his knowledgable extreme metal talk on the way back inside which went something like this:

Him (looking at a flyer he'd picked up): Ah man, you know these guys? They're fuckin' awesome!

Me: No, not really...what are they called?

Him: Seriously? Man you should know them, they're English!

Me (lying): Ah yeah...I think I have heard of them actually...

We went backstage and it was all very exciting in that legendary venue with its beer encrusted floor and its stained black walls, full of torn stickers and peeling paint. To cut a long story short, I ended up doing the interview with the wrong set of questions due to a mix-up in who I was supposed to be interviewing so I had to bullshit to the band, asking open ended questions to seem as if I knew something (anything!) about them. To top it off I didn't even have a dictophone or anything similar (these days my mobile phone suffices) to record the damn thing so I sat there awkwardly on a stool with an untouched beer in one hand (I don't drink but took the beer so as not to be rude) and was furiously scribbling down anything I could hear with the other.

None of this is the point though.

The point is that a band called Dark Funeral were headlining the gig. Dark Funeral, if you didn't already know, are a notorious satanist black metal band from Sweden and if the name hasn't given you an idea of what they sound like then check this out:



Yes, they are ridiculous. The drummer is amazing though.

Anyway, before I got waylaid reminiscing about my first ever interview, I was going to reveal who the three people I would love to interview more than anyone else in the world are, and no, they're not members of Dark Funeral.

I felt like a moron at the gig wearing my black coat, comfy blue jumper and cropped hair amid the leather, spikes and greasy, long hair of the rest of the crowd. But then I suddenly noticed I wasn't the only misfit in the venue. Just in front of me, guarding the entrance to the backstage area, was a black guy with dreadlocks, sitting on a stool looking surprisngly unperturbed by the disturbing music and menacingly dressed crowd. At that moment I wanted more than anything to interview him on what he thought about the music that night, and I still do. What was going through his head as songs like 'Hail Murder' and '666 Voices Inside' were introuduced by a topless, six-foot Scandinavian satanist with black and white war paint smeared across his face is anyone's guess. This man is one of the three people I really wish I could've interviewed over and above anyone else in my journalistic 'career'.

I saw the other two people I would love to have interviewed at the same gig, which explains the lenghtly description of it in this article.

Dark Funeral were still playing as I looked over the crowd from my perch on a raised platform just next to the stage (out of reach of the mosh-pit, naturally) and noticed a young boy of about 14 or 15 years old. Fair play, I went to gigs at that age and he wasn't interesting in that sense. No, what was interesting about him was who I saw standing immediately behind him.

I can only assume that it was his grandparents.

Honest to God, I do not tell a lie. The kid's grandparents were standing behind him, watching Dark Funeral's intense black metal tear the room to shreds with ear-bleeding ferocity. Two small, white-haired pensioners gazing with obvious shock at the psychotic ridiculousness of what was going on in the most-pit and onstage. Etched into my memory forever are their faces; curious, yet a little shocked; the sort of expression you might see on a child's face after it's been hurt but before it starts to cry. I wanted to interview them so much, and I still do. What on earth were they there for? And what on earth did they think? Did they know what to expect? Or did they, through some perverse trick that nature is playing, actually like the music? My guess (and my vain attempt to rationalise the unbelievable situation I saw before me) is that they wouldn't allow their grandson to go to the gig alone so instead of stopping him from going, they came to an agreement that he could only go if they accompanied him. Admirable. And liberal. Although I doubt they ever did it again. I wish I wasn't so shy and could have gone up to them and simply asked all these questions.

Alas, twill never be. However, the memory of these people, bigger misfits than me at that gig, still makes me smile. What awesome interviews they would have made compared to the many mundane ones I've since done with supposed 'rock stars'.

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