Toe-curling moments of cringe and creepiness, Getintothis‘ Chris Burgess takes a look at some of the worst music interviews of all time.
The celebrity interview can test the nerve of any journalist or TV show host. Faced with bored, egotistical, self-important artistes on their seventeeth interview of the afternoon, while record label executives and PR men try to direct proceedings from behind the scenes – I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?
An interview turning awkward can be down to a number of factors, from a band being ‘tired and emotional’ to a journalist poking questions that a musician might find too intrusive, there are many, many ways an interview can be derailed.
Such cringeworthy interviews are extremely common, so much so that we could have made this a top twenty or even thirty. Notable exclusions include such incidents as Courtney Love throwing stuff at Madonna, Billy Corgan arguing with Nick Cave, Mansun being immature douchebags, the infamous Bob Dylan Time Magazine interview or pretty much any band that went on Popworld with Simon Amstell.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Killswitch Engage
This 2008 interview can be firmly put down to one of the most uncomfortable and nervous interviewers we’ve ever seen. Notable for his lack of any research whatsoever, Zambooie.com’s ‘Greg’ even admits to having epically failed by the end of the longest seven minutes of his life. Killswitch act as you think a metal band would, by taking the piss out of him ruthlessly.
Starting badly, with falling equipment and a couple of jokes that don’t land anywhere, Greg stumbles and stutters, losing control of the interview and asking nonsensical questions about the band’s shoes and voting records, before getting their names wrong and calling them a ‘Pantera rip-off’.
This is why you should do your homework, kids.
Sample dialogue: “So what’s the new album called?” “As you die on camera.”
2. S Club 7
There ain’t no awkward like S Club awkward.
Literally seconds after being grilled about their finances by the aggressively probing, Paxman-esque figure of Claudia Winkleman, the band’s PR manager interrupts an otherwise unremarkable interview with the popsters.
It’s a WTF moment of over-reaction that really shouldn’t have happened, and left a cloud over the singers’ farewell moment. Interestingly the band have recently reunited, most likely for the money they missed out on first time round.
Sample dialogue: “I’m not having that, I’m not having you ask that question!”
3. Stone Roses
John Squire and Ian Brown manage to huff and puff their way through this horrendously boring interview on Music Box in 1989. The interviewer failing to engage with the pair in any way with her increasingly bland and dull, yet curiously psychoanalytical line of questioning.
Their body language is defensive from the off, and although Brown plays along in a semi-mischievous way, you can tell the pair would rather be anywhere else in the world, looking down at the floor and giving half-arsed answers.
How this either makes good TV or makes you want to buy a Stone Roses record is anyone’s guess.
Sample dialogue: “If you’re the best band in the world why aren’t you number one?” “Because the record isn’t out yet”
4. Father John Misty
This one is slightly more difficult to work out, in terms of what actually has gone awry in the interview, and from where it started.
The rather obtuse and difficult uber-twat Father John Misty starts off in amiable, if dryly sarcastic form, before taking exception at the mention of oven gloves, whereupon he seemingly tries to cram in as many long words as possible and condescend to the BBC 6 Music pair.
It doesn’t really work, as Radcliffe and Maconie, veterans of the radio interview, give as good as they get – trying to cut Papa Misty down to size by undermining his pretentious sarcasm simply by politely not putting up with his crap.
Sample dialogue: “Me and my manager have come up with an algorithm that…umm…correlates to merch sales”
5. Major Lazer
Flatlining the interview straight from the introduction, iHeartRadio’s singularly-named Kennedy decides to take Major Lazer on backstage at Lollapalooza in 2013. Focusing on Diplo and not “the other 2 people”, the band pretty much decide not to play ball with the caustic host.
Jillionaire and Walshy Fire are out almost immediately, mumbling their way through answers and derailing proceedings as Kennedy mishears answers and comes to the very poor conclusion that sarcastic character assassination and spouting inane facts is the way to get things back on track.
A simple case of a band not in the mood to be interviewed paired with a self-important attention seeker of a host. No-one comes out of this well.
Sample dialogue: “Who’s the most annoying person you’ve worked with?” “Probably you!”
6. The Fall
Putting Mark E Smith on television is always bound to go one way or the other. Putting him on breakfast telly seems like a very bold move. Having him sit next to Marc Riley, who had literally punched Smith in the face the night before, seems to be asking for trouble.
Literally hours before this interview, Mark E Smith had seen the other members of The Fall letting off some steam after an Australian tour performance by daring to dance in a nightclub. Believing this to be misrepresentative of the group’s punk ethos, Smith exploded with rage, arguing with the band, leading to Riley punching the frontman and giving him a black eye. Unsurprisingly this led to Riley’s sacking.after the conclusion of the tour.
To be fair, the then-bandmates seem articulate if not especially forthcoming. The awkwardness lies in the fact that these are two men who hate each other’s guts, with the poor interviewer completely oblivious. The body language telling.
Sample dialogue: “They’re just happy guys!”
7. Sid Vicious
If we’re honest there probably weren’t that many interviews with Sid that weren’t awkward, but this one takes the biscuit. Vicious, incoherent and full of smack, simply keeps falling asleep – much to the chagrin of girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
She’s as annoying as he is lethargic, stripping off clothes, moaning and dropping lit cigarettes every ten seconds. Unlike Sid, at least she doesn’t start snoring – which is always a sign that an interview is going badly.
This is less of an interview and more of a sad glimpse into a mental breakdown. It’s punk as fuck, but not in a good way.
Sample dialogue: “What was the question?”
8. Lou Reed and Lauren Laverne
Awkward in many ways and creepy to the extreme, Lou Reed’s chat up lines to interviewer Laverne (35 years his junior) are pure cringe.
Reed, not previously known for his willingness to engage with journalists, was speaking after an interview for BBC2’s Culture Show. Having been a model interviewee throughout, Reed was clearly smitten with Laverne and decided that the moment was right to ask her out.
Sample dialogue: “I guess you’d be one of the London journalists that I’m really in love with”
9. Ginger Baker
Ahh the fearsome Mr Baker. One of the greatest drummers the world has ever seen, yet a complete and utter sociopath with it.
American documentary maker Jay Bulger’s notorious 2012 film Beware of Mr Baker is one of the great music documentaries – detailing the life and times of the fiery Cream drummer. Going as far as moving in with Baker in his South African home, the whole film serves as one extended awkward interview, with Baker’s explosive personality tested to the limits by the over-inquisitive and pretentious Bulger.
Needless to say it doesn’t end well for him.
Sample dialogue: “Are you really going to hit me with a stick?” “I fucking well am!”
10. Shane MacGowan
Rambling, drunken and hard to understand, Shane MacGowan is always a handful at best of times. Here he is well and truly sozzled in this Belgian TV interview, alongside the late, great banjo player Tom “The Beast” McManamon – equally as pissed.
More carer than interviewer, the Belgian host tries his best to direct proceedings, before quickly giving up and letting MacGowan sing bastardised versions of Danny Boy and talk about nurses he has loved.
So far, so weird, but nothing out of the ordinary for a Shane MacGowan interview. Until, that is, McManamon tries to leave the room and mistakes a mirror for the door, ploughing into it headfirst in comedy You’ve Been Framed fashion..
Undeterred, the pair continue to drink poteen and sing snippets of songs, leaving the interviewer to quietly slip away into the night.
Sample dialogue: “I’ve hurt my head”