The Art of Interview

February 8, 2011

As writers, we have undergone hundreds of interviews at syntax. It’s not a lot, but count the minutes and cocktails and, it is. Each time I sit to wait for my interview, I wonder: why am I doing this? Apart from the idea of whether or not anybody really cares/reads, I wonder: why am I doing this?

The answer, is simple: because the interview is a sacred station. The interview provides an island of intimacy – where two or more people (I’ve interviewed seven people at once – Denver’s amazing Everything Absent or Distorted, before) are provided space to land, in honesty. In earnest. This is a place where secrets are sacred and where honesty is the only currency.

Interviews, for me, have proven to be transformative. Sometimes I’ve never met the interviewee. But nearly every time, there is a bond that I share with the interviewees – for years. Possibly, for ever. This is on account of the profound kind of intimacy that an interview begs. I believe that, if you are reverent to that fact: you will gain more – in your final write-up as a result of the answers bestowed upon you. But the interviewee will also gain more: for it is not often that we take the time to break down our lives in such calculated ways. For bands, this can prove to be an enlightening and progressive experience. For me, as the conversationalist and writer and witness: it always is enlightening. Moving. And yes, sacred.

The interview could and should be taken with this degree of seriousness because while we are talking about music and art and careers and ambition, we are mostly talking about: humanity. This is what everything, absolutely everything comes down to: a human relation. A human story. And these develop over decades, as a personal life: A personal story filled with transitions, follies, triumphs, passion and darkness. These are the only things that people really own at the end of their life: these stories. These experiences. These, are sacred.

We spend so much of our social time submerged in niceties, in handshakes and greetings and salutations that barely amounts to small talk: altogether pedestrian interactions and hollow conversations. If not that then we are typically just emotional trampolines for the person standing in front of us, going through who-the-fuck-knows-what and bouncing this moment’s emotional leak onto another, in a river rush of urine-colored vomit.

We bastardize words: we steal them away from their profound meanings and attach them to a gesture that, for the most part, would be more succinctly articulated by simply waving our hands. That’s all that most social interaction is: a manner of a hand-waving done verbally – a more-complex way of identifying and recognizing another being. In most daily interactions we stray from heartfelt meaning. We stray from deep connections. Instead, we haphazardly, recklessly shed pieces of ourselves, our psyche, our state of being – little pieces flitter off in this conversation and that one, in the same way we bounce, aimlessly, around the parades of our parties. Or, we do the opposite: we guard those sacred, hidden places in us for fear that they will be manipulated, bastardized.

Interviews are a reserve of rescue from this hideous malnutrition. Interviews find their light in personal histories, private accounts of existence, raw nerves, solemn swears and yes, even: secrets. The treasure is always that fucking weird and amazing moment when the interviewee prefaces a comment with: “I’ve never said this out loud to anybody before…”

It’s quite possible that I’ve steadily become more discontented in my interactions with my fellow humankind precisely because of this reason: because typical, pedestrian conversation bores me – it gives little and doesn’t enable me much room to give back much without appearing as a madman who is unable to control his emotions, or tongue.

This is why I continue to show-up to all those interviews: because I am moved by those interactions in ways that I otherwise crave in my daily life. Interviews are, typically, honest. If you create an authentic, safe place: They’re real. I feel alive within them; and I always feel better afterward. Interviews fill my need for touching the vulnerable. Interviews can provide people with a place to be brave and open one’s rib cage a little. Afterall, most musicians are exhibitionist – only craving the right moment to display their infinitude of emotional, creative, flashy wealth. I tell you: pull that out of them: and you will have something bright to show the rest of the world.

Certainly I believe this idea of what an interview is to be, to be an high mode of living. And you bet: the interview has transferable skills that, I believe, should be employed in daily life. By everyone. It would, afterall, make life much more interesting and meaningful.

But mostly, I’m a dopamine junky. Mostly, I’m just a voyeur who wants to be an exhibitionist a little more. Mostly, I just love secrets.

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