Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Beware the Interview

Artist: Bent Leg Fatima
Album: Bent Leg Fatima
Source: Promo

Before I started writing about music, I always assumed that interviewing musicians was the best part. You got to meet the artists that you dug, they'd spend time deep in conversation with you about their awesome music, and invariably they'd hand you a guitar and invite you to rock out with them.

But the reality is, more often than not, quite different. Nine times out of 10, you don't actually meet the artist at all--your article is going to be timed to promote an upcoming album and/or local tour date, so you talk to them on the phone, either from home or on the road ahead of their local appearance (with the advent of the internet and mobile hotspots, some bands started asking for e-mail questions). Because of this, they usually don't have that much time for you; if it's a pre-album press junket, it's even worse, as you get a strictly set number of minutes just after/just before other interviewers who just asked/will ask the same questions you've prepared. And only once did anyone ever ask me to play with retrospect, I think the band was kind of messing with me.

Don't get me wrong--an interview can be kind of fun, and often you get some cool quotes and maybe even some interesting conversation (Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips was, unsurprisingly, a good talker and quite the conversationalist). There are also surprises: to date, the single best interview subject I've ever encountered was...Carrot Top. Yup, the annoying prop comic. Say what you will about The Top, but he gives good interview: he took the serious questions seriously, and goofed off like a pro when the funny Qs came around. Writing up the piece on him was far easier than, say, the Q&A I did with Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan, who is one of my all-time favorite artists, but kind of a difficult interview to be sure.

Bent Leg Fatima might stand as one of the single most disturbing interviews I've ever done. They were a small, local Philly group, so this one was in person, at the drummer's loft apartment in Northern Liberties. They were fairly new on the scene, and this self-titled long-player was their debut effort. They were largely unknown, which meant there was a lot to ask them about. Piece of cake.

I'm not sure how it happened, or if it was somehow my fault, but the members of BLF slowly and steadily broke down under my interrogation. They seemed both shocked and worried that I, a music writer sent from a local paper, would be asking them all these questions about themselves and their musical process. Little things set them off--I still remember asking one of them something to the effect of, "Did the record turn out the way you'd hoped?" and he went wide-eyed in panic. "I don't know," he spit out, and then started stammering and rambling about not having thought about goals and the final record being something other than what he'd thought would come from the process of entering a studio.

One after the other, they got flustered, a little antagonistic, then apologetic, until finally they were just kind of stepping all over the questions in an attempt to say something, anything, in response to my questions.

The fact that BLF didn't last too long did not come as an outright shock to me (though some of the band did evolve into Need New Body, which to the best of my knowledge is an ongoing concern). Maybe they were high, maybe it was an act, or maybe they genuinely got thrown off by even the dim glare of the light I was shining on them.

SISOSIG? Despite the picture I paint of Bent Leg Fatima as people/interview subjects, the record is actually pretty damn good. I remember the press release suggesting that it was "Beefheart-ian," but I don't hear too much of the good captain in these loose psych-rock grooves. It strikes me as the sound of a more aggressive, somewhat less sprawling Piper at the Gates of Dawn, with nice little fragments of melody bubbling in and out of a lysergic stew. I've not kept up with their latest incarnation, but this one is a mid-level keeper that will never re-wire my mind or any such thing, but is a perfectly enjoyable listen.


  • is the article you wrote based on this interview online? i did the obligatory googling and came up empty. I'd love to see how it turned out.

    By Blogger brian g howard, at 10:30 PM  

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