SKF NOTE: These last few weeks I’ve started digitizing my drummer interview audiocassettes. That is, I’m recording copies of the interviews to my MacBook from a cassette deck. As I do so, I’m discovering, or reminding myself, of interview “do’s” and “don’ts” that may help upcoming music writers.
Sometimes, either by my invitation, or because of circumstances, other people took part in my interviews with drummers. When a guest adds to the conversation, the interview — it’s wonderful. But when a guest talks more than me (the interviewer) and/or the drummer I’m interviewing — the whole mood sours.
A chronic “me too” syndrome, is one example. That’s where the drummer I’m interviewing shares a story like, “One of my best drum teachers was a local piano player nobody ever heard of: Thomas Kraft. Well, Thomas Kraft had a lot of on-the-job experience. He taught me about what other muscians like and don’t like in drummers. That helped me tremendously.”
Immediately, a guest with the “me too” syndrome pipes up with a similar — sometimes not so similar — story about himself. “Me too” stories almost always add nothing of value to interviews. Instead, “me too” stories waste time, kill momentum, and in extreme cases, force the interviewer to ask the “me too” guest to stop interrupting.
Interruptions always make transcribing interviews much harder. Trying to hear an accurate quote while two people talk at once, or while a “me too” guest habitually finishes the sentences of the musician you’re interviewing.
With the advent of digital sound, I’m finding “me too” guests make it very difficult, in some cases impossible, to create digital sound bites from audio cassettes.
Given the chance to go back in time and do over drummer interviews with “me too” guests present? I would make it clear, upfront, that the purpose of this interview session is to hear what the drummer has to say. My job is to help the drummer tell his or her story. If the “me too” guest can do that too — great. Otherwise, stay home, please.
To be clear, I’ve had people with me on drummer interviews who, by their knowledge, maturity, ability to listen to other people, and knowledge of the drummer being interviewed, made the interview much, much better.
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