Lots of people here must have experience interviewing musicians. Any tips?
I've done a little but tend to make things awkward or insult the person I'm talking to. Someone who's doing it for the first time asked me for some advice so I sent him this, but it's not based on any research or critical thinking, just the experiences I've had to date. Would be interested to get other people's thoughts on this sort of thing.
"I've been doing interviews for a short while now, and though I've still got a lot to learn, there are some things I've learned by making multiple mistakes to date. I'll tell you the things I do, and you can pick and choose what suits for you and what makes sense. Most of the interviews I do are on the phone, I'm not sure how yours are going to be, but I'm sure there are equivalents that can be thought about.
Prepare enough questions so that even if you just get one word answers, you'll still fill your allotted time slot.
Even the most extroverted people sometimes have off days or are sick of giving interviews, so you've got to prepare for the worst case scenario and go from there. I have them printed in front of me and tick them off as I go (if it's a phone interview, face to face is similar, you've just got to memorise them more and wing it a bit).
Make sure that whatever happens, you can understand what they're saying.
Sounds obvious, but the most difficult interviews I've done on the phone have been where there's a lot of background noise, or the signal is dodgy.
Nowadays, if it's on the phone I'm in a sealed room in complete silence. I've got an android app which records phone calls (Call Recorder, needs a rooted android phone) so I can just forget about the recording side of things and not have to be worried about anything other than the interview itself.
Prepare questions for different moods / responses
Out of your list of questions, you might get some surly responses, or find that the person is actually friendlier and chattier than you expected. There will inevitably be some questions you prepare that don't really work in the context of how you're talking. Don't be afraid to drop questions, or go off script and ask more about a particular subject if it's getting a bit boring. Also, if a question down your list makes more sense to come next based on the response to the previous question, then shuffle the order. It's a tough multitasking balance thinking about your questions, the delivery and making it all seem natural, and will come with time (I hope!) and is just one of those things that you've got to keep practicing.
Proves you're not just another clueless interviewer
Sometimes when you're interviewing someone you really respect, you'll be a bit confused about the generic responses you're getting, then you suddenly ask some obscure question about something pertinent that's not in their press release and the interview might take a better turn. So many artists / personalities do an abundance of these sorts of interviews and the majority are with some shitty intern working for a newspaper who knows nothing about who they're interviewing apart from the one page biography their press secretary sent them. As you can imagine, these interviews are boring for both. You don't need to be too proud to point out how much you like someone's work, they love that and when you're interviewing you've got to leave your ego at the door. You're not the centre of it, they are, and you want to bring the best out of them.
Do your homework
Maybe this is just me, but there's so much online you can find out about someone to get inspiration for what you want to ask, including other interviews they've done! The more research you've done, the better prepared you are to lead the direction of the interview and the more confidence you'll have behind yourself. You don't need to be their biggest fan, and you can admit if there are things you don't know, just make sure you don't lie to make it sound like you know more than you do and trip yourself up. A recent interview one of my questions was "I see you've been working with <I forget the name> recently. I had no idea who he was, but Google tells me he's worked on some of the most iconic soundtracks of all time. What was that like? How did it come about?".
Don't talk too much and don't be afraid to awkwardly change the subject
It can feel like a normal conversation at times if it's going well, but you might get stuck talking about a relatively boring anecdote that neither of you really cares about. Don't be afraid to suddenly take the interview in a completely different direction with an entirely unrelated question. It's not about becoming best buddies, it's about getting the best out of your time, so remember it's up to you to try and steer it towards the most interesting subjects. Also, try not to waffle with your questions or answer their question for them. You might ask some obvious questions just to get them to elaborate on a subject. You know you know most of the answer and so do they, but it's a way of getting them to talk and lead onto the more interesting stuff. Don't be afraid to just ask a one sentence question, and if there's a bit of a pause, leave it be, give them a second to think about it.
What they're interested in is often more fruitful than what you're interested in
A lot of the best moments come completely unexpectedly. You might have an idea in your head that questions about one thing are more interesting to you, but much like any conversation, the person you're talking to will be happier and more interested to talk about current things than things which happened years ago. It doesn't all have to be about now, but bare it in mind when working out which questions to ask at which point.
You will make mistakes, there will be awkward moments, and you will listen back and sound like a bit of a tool
None of those things matter and don't let mistakes get to you when (and I do mean WHEN) they happen. I did an interview recently where I accidentally said I prefer their remix albums to their full releases. They laughed it off thankfully, and it ended up being a good little moment that broke the ice a bit. Basically, the mistake turned into the a positive. I also listen back and notice that I use the same "OK" or "alright" way too much and sound like an idiot. Just means that next time I'll try and vary it up a bit, or work on that, but it didn't really make as much of a difference as it did in my head. The main thing is to get the best out of the time you have.
When you're doing it, the time will fly, whether it's going well or badly, it's a genuinely interesting experience and you learn a lot about yourself and them both. Your first one(s) will be the clunkiest, so maybe keep it to simpler questions at first and then if it's going well bring out some of the weirder more obscure ones. Whatever happens you'll get to say you've interviewed some of your heroes and no-one can take that away from you however it goes. If you get an opportunity to interview people you care a little less about I recommend that too. The best interview I think I've done was with <shit band name removed>, and that was mostly because I do not give a shit about their music. Rather than ending up like a besotted teenager, I was able to concentrate on my delivery more and base it on their answers. Wasn't as much fun for me, but I learned something which hopefully will help in future."