March 31, 2011

Week 28: Interviewing 101 - Tips on Talking to the Press

Interviewing 101
Tips On Talking to the Press

Butcherwhite talks with DaveTV at The Parish Room in 2007.

By: Sean Claes
I’ve interviewed people in the music industry for over 15 years. In that time I’m pretty sure I’ve asked the same question about 200 times, each to different bands, each with a unique answer. When your band gets the chance to be interviewed, you should be ready.

Below, I’m going to script a basic list of interview questions that every band should be able to answer easily. I’m going to choose the fictitious band, Dog Faced Cow, as my subject. I usually lead off the interview by explaining who I am and what magazine I’m writing this for… and what city’s show I’m previewing for if it’s a phone call. This way, the band knows that I’m doing a piece that will be promoting a particular show in a particular area. Not just some kid off the street that blogged and bluffed an interview out of the publicity folks.

Full Service interviewed at Backwoods Bash 2008

A good interviewer will do a little research and history searching before interviewing. This way they can know basic information about the band. It also lets the person being interviewed know the interviewer actually knows more than their name. If I was conducting the interview questions may look like this list I scripted.

1. Dog Face Cow was formed in 2008 while all of you were in school at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. How did you guys meet?
2. Originally the band’s name was The Mud Flapper Band. Why did you change it to Dog Face Cow?
3. You’re about to embark on your first national tour opening up for Daughtry. How’d that come about?
4. You ready to ditch the van and hit the bus?
5. (Ask about the band(s) they are playing with) So, Daughtry. Are you a big American Idol fan?
6. In April you released your second full-length CD, “The Udder Cuts.” What is your favorite song on the new album?
7. Tell me about “Cringe,” the first single off the new album.
8. How was it recording in the Los Angeles studio?
9. Was the recording process very different now that your signed to ________ Records?
10. You’ve got a catalogue 2 LPs and 3 EPs deep. What is your favorite Dog Face Cow song ever?
11. You’ve been known to throw a few cover songs in your set. How do you choose them?
12. What is the most memorable Dog Face Cow show memory you have?
13. You’re coming through Austin on ______, playing ______. Last time you played Austin it was at Red Eyed Fly. What are your thoughts on this town?
14. What is one thing your fans would be shocked to know about you?
15. When you’re not on the road, what do you do?

Josh Homme is interviewed by 101x's Toby Ryan at the 2007 Austin City Limits Music Festival.

So, these are the basic questions I’d ask. You see, I pepper in information I learned myself so the person on the other end of the phone will be more comfortable. Good interviewers will do this. 

Of course, I’ve been witness to some really bad interviewers. Sometimes when you’re at an all-day festival or a big music or movie star comes through they will set you up in “group” interview or a press conference. That brings out some beauty questions.

The following are some questions you’ve got to be prepared to answer… over and over… as the basic interviewer will ask you 5 or more of these every time.
1. Who are your influences?
2. Why are you in a band?
3. Do you get a lot of chicks?
4. What kind of guitar do you play?
5. What’s your favorite food/movie/band/song/alcoholic beverage?
6. What goes on... on the bus?
7. What genre are you in?
8. How would you describe your sound?
9. What inspires you to make music?
10. Your favorite place you’ve played?
11. What are your band’s goals?
No matter how silly or monotonous the questions, be sure and answer them honestly while acting like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard such a question. The person conducting the interview is in charge of the flow of the story. In order to have the best chance to get a good story out of it, be a good interviewee.

Don’t be Galder.
Dimmu Borgir. Galder is the bald one.
An interview I ended up not writing was with Galder from the black metal band Dimmu Borgir. He gave me one word answers to my questions, didn’t seem to know much about what I was asking and was generally disinterested. Sure, he could answer the boilerplate questions (the ones everyone would ask) but if I got off the beaten path, he was stumped. He gave me the ultimate answer to one of my questions though.

Q: Dimmu Borgir is classified as “Black Metal.” What is the difference between death metal and black metal?
A: *pause* It’s more evil. Black metal is more evil
That just about made me fall out of my chair. I had to end the interview after that for fear I’d anger the man. And a pissed off Norwegian guitarist was not on my list of things to be hit by that day.

Anyhow, happy interviewing! Hope this helped.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

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