The Five Best and Worst Musicians to Interview

In honor of Evan Dando and his band The Lemonheads being at the Prophet Bar tonight, I thought I might share with the readers of DC9 some of the pitfalls of being a music writer. Sure, there are tons of positives: free shows and CDs and access to cool people (some of whom you may actually admire). But for every moment of fun, there have been some serious headaches, the biggest of which is the interview process.

Almost 99% of interviews are done over the phone. And that's where the trouble can begin. Bad cell phone connections, background noise and a host of issues can quickly derail any interview. The thing that ruins most Q&As is the testy or unresponsive interviewee. With that in mind, here is my list of the five best and five worst musicians I have had the pleasure (or pain) of speaking with.

The Worst

5. Aaron Lewis of Staind This dude rambled on about Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Need I say more? Plus, his country album sucks.

4. Scott Ian of Anthrax This guy got pissed because I had the audacity to mention the fact that his band has had several lead singers. "In my mind, we've only had two," he said. Facts are facts, even in metal land.

3. Joe Satriani Even though it's been nearly a decade since Rolling Stone put out a list of the top 100 guitarists, Satriani was still pissed that he was left off said list. Can we suggest moving on?

2. Maynard Keenan of Tool With one and two word answers to nearly every question, Keenan more than lived up to his band's name.

1. Evan Dando of The Lemonheads By far, the biggest douche I've interviewed. "I didn't even know I was supposed to do an interview," Dando told me right after his road manager handed him the phone. He's often admired by the ladies, so I compared him to John Reznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. "I haven't had work done to my face. I'm not made of plastic," he replied, sounding like a petulant child. Every answer after that was either incomprehensible or inaudible. Afterward, I felt like I had just had an argument with a fifth grader.

The Best

5. Danzig What a surprise! His handler told me, "He doesn't like questions about The Misfits." So my first question was, "How come you don't like questions about The Misfits?" Danzig laughed so loud, my ear still hurts. After that, it was a cake interview.

4. Al Jourgensen of Ministry Another surprise. Even with a bad connection, Jourgensen fought through it like a trooper. Funny, insightful and honest, the leader of Ministry was like a weird uncle talking about memories from the war.

3. Richard Thompson Now, here's a real guitar player. When I asked Thompson if he ever got sick of playing any particular song, he said, "If I'm sick of it, I'm sure as hell not going to play it."

2. Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac Seems that fairly close to the time of this interview, Buckingham had remarried and was trying to have a relationship with his 13-year-old stepson. When I told him I also had a 13 year old, Buckingham began a long series of questions about parenting. When I told him I couldn't spend my 15 allotted minutes talking about such things, he put me on hold, told his publicist to clear his schedule, came back and talked with me for almost an hour. When I asked him about being in a legendary band such as Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham deadpanned, "If you want to talk about being a celebrity, I will give you Stevie Nicks' phone number."

1. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds One of my heroes lived up to the hype. I had received a long list of questions not to ask, so I just tried to have a conversation about McGuinn's place in music history. At the end of the interview, he asked if I had a copy of his three-CD set of traditional folk songs. When I admitted I did not, he asked his wife for a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote down my address. Three days later, I got a signed copy of the set in the mail. Simply incredible.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers