New Interview Techniques PDF Guide
Current points out a new interview skills resource is available. Virtuoso Voices, an interview clip service, presents some new ways to think about interviewing performing artists and interviewing in general. The discussion began based on the “Interviewing Performing Artists: A Practical Guide” session at the 2008 Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio (AMPPR) Conference in Mobile, Ala. The result is a 25-page PDF interviewing techniques manual called Interviewing 3.0.
Some highlights include Wally Faas, who reminds you to avoid interjecting your reactions like, “No kidding,” “I didn’t know that,” “Hmmmm” or “Wow.” Fass says when he used to do that, it was a natural reaction as a partner in a conversation. But, as a listener, one finds it distracting. Laughing at an interviewee’s jokes is the one exception.
Radio host Greg Kot says of interview techniques, “Do not interrupt the answer. Let the person finish, and then pause a few ticks more before following up, especially if you’re dealing with a sensitive subject. The pregnant pause can be your friend. In a live interview it can be awkward, and often the interviewer rushes to fill in the dead space and then quickly changes the subject, which lets the interviewee off the hook. It’s worth it to wait it out more often than not. Remember, not all interviewees will be as skilled with words as the interviewer, and they sometimes need time to formulate answers, or to think of what they want to say. Don’t rush them, and above all don’t talk over them. The words you stomp over could valuable, and lead right into your next question.”
David Brown, host/producer, KUT’s “Texas Music Matters” and former host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” who says music interviews generally fall in three categories: a) the up-and-comer who’s genuinely grateful for your attention and is eager to be ‘led along’ by the interviewer; b) the second-tier ‘almost famous’ who’s more critically acclaimed than commercially successful and has already received a certain amount of buzz, and c) the commercially successful and/or established artist. Here’s what David Brown suggests for each category:
As: Unless well schooled in p.r., the artist may well need your help to be put at ease. If taping, assure the guest that this is editable. Talk a little in advance before you’re ‘on’, and casually (but never insincerely) flatter them and their music. You, the interviewer, will probably have to frame the ‘what makes them special’ in your lede. The interview can be a great place for the listener to meet the artist and make an initial personal connection. Subjects like family and home can be goldmines. If interviewing a band, focus on one musician (the leader)—otherwise, the nervousness of everyone else tends to make the interview dissolve into giggly small talk and useless chatter.
Bs: These are the hardest to get right. It isn’t unusual for B’s to wear sunglasses in the studio and radiate ‘rock star’ attitude, but this is usually just a mask for insecurity. Chat with the artist a few minutes before the interview gets ‘rolling’, and try to make a human connection (the travails of the road, the fans, hometown small talk, etc.). Not only does this ease the artist, often during this pre-interview you get a sense of what matters to them. Play off that. Don’t hesitate to ask the artist what he/she wants to talk about. Ask about the future: ‘How do they define success’? Biggest creative obstacles at the moment?
Cs: Generally these are pretty easy. C’s have often done a million interviews, and most feel they haven’t anything to ‘prove’, so you won’t usually get much attitude. The challenge here is to think in advance of a narrative arc for the interview—a ‘backstory’ or theme that will make your interview memorable. Sometimes, this can be a direct riff on the theme of an album and how it relates to current events, or a progression of work. Another approach is a ‘state of the art’ interview, where you give the artist a platform to talk about culture, the music industry, songwriting, innovation…sometimes these can even make news. Since C’s are already commodities on the cultural landscape, hearing what they have to say about other facets of life from the political to the spiritual can make for compelling listening, while subtly providing insight on the artist’s music.
The interview techniques PDF booklet is a great resource for community media producers.