10 January 2004

Bredonborough A grey damp day



A grey, damp day.

20.36 The Sun & Moon.

The publicans have been away all week. The young man standing-in behind the bar plays inappropriate music. Any music played here is inappropriate. But Mary usually has it off, or quiet, or from the Sixties. There are not many public places nowadays where you hear Cliff & The Shadows doing The Young Ones. But tonight, horror of horrors, the front bar is a smoke-filled choke-zone. It is awful. This is a Saturday night, after all, and quite full for this pub. But all the windows and doors are closed and, close by the corner snug where I sit to compute & ruminate, three people arrived & lit up, adding to the fumes of the other smokers in the front bar.

Smoking takes place despite appeals to reason & the presentation of impartial information. The latest government tv health commercials are terrifying: huge gobs of muck that fill the arteries after one cigarette are graphically displayed, being squeezed from tubes. But smoking is a level of addiction that reason cannot easily displace. My dear Mother would have seen these commercials and said it's the only pleasure I have left. As she did, only weeks before dying of lung cancer.

The pubs in Bredonborough observe a voluntary code. At the Sun & Moon smoking it is in the front, non-smoking in the back. The back is also the restaurant & a vibe-free zone. It is not a place to sit & wurtle gently on a pint of cider in a glass with handle. It is not a place to ruminate. It is not a place I would otherwise be found. Nevertheless, here I am, the only person in a room that is closed. But one joy of being a local in your local pub is that your behaviour, in the main, is tolerated even if not quite understood.

Atypical non-violent behaviour that is not-quite-understood is often, in England, described as eccentric. This is a description that has frequently, although not so much in recent years, been ascribed to this diarist.

I do not dress up to resemble a tree, that I might attract birds to nest in close proximity to my person. This is an example of behaviour that I would describe as eccentric. It would be an acknowledgement that I was unable to determine the motivation & driving force of the tree-dressing person. If the motivation were utterly divorced from (whatever we might understand as) reality, then the description would probably be sound.

This morning, while out Googling, the subject/object of my search was mentioned in a quite unrelated context; and I found myself reading comments by a writer whose request for an interview had been declined. The writer was in conversation with a second person, one who found my declining-to-be-interviewed an example of eccentricity. Actually, the second person had already come to that conclusion years before & this was a convenient opportunity to present their viewpoint. Despite my clear & ongoing & rampant eccentricity, then, two approaches to the interview question this spring immediately forwards:

firstly, why would anyone wish to be interviewed?
secondly, why would anyone wish not be interviewed?

As background information, during the past 34 years I have spent more time in interviews than playing music in public. This is not an exaggeration, and an astonishing statistic. So why spend so much time being interviewed? The quick answer is, because I considered interviews to be part of my work.

Part of the aim was to present information to a public forum, despite the remarkable level of noise in the delivery medium - often the music press. Very often, the interview was the excuse for the interviewer or editor to present their own views; and the subsequent distortion frequently undermined the little that was on offer from me. But, occasionally, an authentic statement got through.

And, more often than that, not. The story of the English music press is another story, and not a nice one, and the story of the press is another story as well. But unless you have direct experience of the before, during & after of several hundred interviews, this statement might not convince nor persuade.

Part of presenting information was to present purely professional information: in another word, promotion. In a professional context, if an artist is unwilling to take on interviews, this is perceived and understood as a declaration of artist non-compliance, an unwillingness to "support the product". This undermines the support a record company provides for a release. In Virgin standard contracts, the artist is formally compelled to undertake interviews (I refused to sign the contract and the KC Virgin releases took place on an as if basis). But if promotion is all that is involved in interviews, life is too hard. And sometimes, it has been.

In 1999 I was asked to do a large overview-of-KC interview for a major music mag. David Singleton suggested that advertising space, on the scale of the interview coverage, would cost DGM £25,000. I did the interview, and it was with a good interviewer. (He told me later that the editor had told him to emphasise disagreements between the ex-Crims.)

Today, there is a clearer channel available to present information to the public than the print media: the internet. This diary is an example.

The third reason to do interviews was to provide me with a pointed stick. Online diarizing has substantially the same effect.

So, why would one wish not be interviewed?

Distortion for a beginning;
the emphasising of negativity for a close second;
thirdly, some information is private.

I regularly decline interview requests from authors who are interested in Gabriel & Bowie, because creative contacts involve contact on a level that goes beneath the surface, and this information is privileged. This applies even where Peter Gabriel explicitly gave his permission, regardless of what might be said. Peter is a genuine Good Guy in the business; but nevertheless, the information is private and personal. This involves simple courtesy, and politeness, that I lacked as a younger man.

So, if little of value can be said in public, better to say little. And the little-of-value-that-can-be-said has probably already been said.

Fourthly, because most interviewers suck. Alternatively put, the quality of interviewing, at best, rarely goes beyond the professional; and the professional level, in itself, is an achievement. Currently, the professional level does not attract me. A really good interviewer can take the interviewee to a place where what is true & available can be re-discovered & revealed. On these rare occasions, an interview is a joy. Questions asked by Guitar Craft students can take me to this place, and sometimes do, and with a frequency that is unparalleled in professional interviews. This is because those questions are real.

Fifthly, interviews have increasingly become a trivialisation of my life, particularly since there is less of it available than 35 years ago, and a waste of the little energy I have available. Currently, I don't do interviews even for my own work.


Why would anyone wish be interviewed?

1. to present information;
2. to promote;
3. to present a personal challenge.

Why would anyone wish not be interviewed?

1. distortion;
2. negativity;
3. privacy;
4. poor interviewers;
5. triviality & waste.

But perhaps it is only eccentricity that leads me to suggest this is a reasonable presentation of why I accept & decline interviews.

Of those characters who have publicly suggested (in their own interviews) that they consider my behaviour eccentric, and where I have their acquaintance, I note two main points:

1. the commentators have (as far as I am able to perceive) little or no notion of my motivation & what drives me;
2. I have not given them what they want of me.