Always wanted to interview artists/bands backstage at the venue they’re playing, but don’t know where to begin and what you have to do? Worry no more! Here are some tips and tricks from your own ‘roving’ reporter! Let’s begin!
Recording equipment: Could be anything! A voice recorder, a telephone, a tablet, a microphone, a Revox Tape Recorder that weighs twenty kilos… What is most important is that your ‘recording device’ sounds good and clear!
How to ask the artist/band: Go to their official webpage and search for contact details. Sometimes the band/artist has their own ‘private’ email address on their page, but the bigger artists/bands mostly don’t have their email on the website. Best way is to contact their band/tour manager. Write a short but clear email. Tell them you want to interview them at a certain venue and if it is possible to do the interview backstage. Tell them which radio/magazine the interview is for and give a short, clear summary (plus website link) about the radio/magazine. Once you have ‘permission’, make a clear appointment with both the artist/band/manager and the venue, so the venue knows that you’re coming (ok… sometimes I forgot to call, stupid me… Don’t be like me, haha). Be on time, unless outside forces you can’t control are making it impossible (stuck in traffic, terrible public transport, etc.). Make sure the band/venue knows you will be arriving later, and let them decide if it’s still ‘ok’ to do the interview on a later point of time, since every band/venue has a certain time schedule to deal with. However, don’t expect that your interview will be on the agreed point of time. It could be that there will be no interview at all with the band/artist because of problems during sound check or other more important things. Sometimes I had an interview planned in the early afternoon but somehow I ended up interviewing the band only half an hour before the gig in the evening. Make sure you can keep yourself ‘occupied’ during the day when the interview isn’t on the time you had planned. Sometimes the venue lets you hang out backstage, but if they ask you to leave and come back later, don’t make a fuss about it. Just stay polite and return to the venue later.
Be prepared. Always search for information about the artist/band. Ask relevant questions! Did they just release an album or are they busy making an album, or is there a change in the line up? If the artist/band is not well known you can ask the ‘standard’ questions too (for example:”How did the band came together?”). Sometimes it’s actually quite fun when you’re not prepared at all, but I do not recommend it.
Make sure you have enough questions, but not too much. Bands usually have half an hour max for an interview backstage. Make sure you set up your equipment quickly, or make sure your recording equipment is already on ‘stand by’ before you have the interview.
No artist/band are the same. Most of them like to be interviewed, or else they would never have scheduled an interview at all of course. Some are quite open, some can talk for ages while you haven’t even asked a question yet, some only give short and clear answers. Don’t demand an artist to keep the conversation going, that’s your job!
But what if I’m very nervous? No worries! I’m always very nervous when I’m going to interview an artist/band, the bigger the artist/band the ‘more’ nervous I get. Just make sure you’re prepared enough, but never ‘over prepare’. It’s not a job interview! Just see it as meeting some new people at an event and you would like to know more about them.
Very important: stay curious, stay interested and stay humble… But I’m sure you will. Sometimes the artist ‘moves’ away from the question and starts to talk about something else. Don’t interrupt the artist and tell him/her to stay on the subject, but ‘go with the flow’ and let them talk. Ask relevant questions when you want to know more and if it’s interesting. You don’t have to stick to your own questions you have on your paper.
Always thank the artist/band for making time for the interview! Ask the artist/band if they would be interested in a copy of the interview. Sometimes they love to collect their interviews, sometimes they don’t.
Most important: enjoy doing interviews! If you’re feeling you’re not enjoying it anymore, take a break. The break should be as long as you need to, could be a couple of weeks, could be forever…
Interviews that are getting broadcast on the radio: Edit your interviews, but not too much. Get rid of some ‘uhms’ and ‘aaahs’, to keep a bit of the flow going. Keep the funny, spontaneous moments that happen in your interview, a band member that suddenly joins in for example. Edit out non relevant things, like an interrupting staff member that tells you that you only have 5 minutes left for the interview.
Interviews for a magazine/website: Try to stay as close to the original interview, don’t ‘create’ your own story (like some magazines do, sadly). Keep the jokes and spontaneous moments in your interview. Sadly some jokes lose their power on paper, or when you have to translate them to another language, so you need to think which jokes are suitable and which need to be left out.
Still have questions? You can ask me anything, feel free to contact me! grendelhq[at]gmail.com!
Listen here to all my interviews I’ve done so far (like Steve Hackett, Adrian Belew, Theo Travis and a lot more): https://www.mixcloud.com/iris-hidding/uploads
Big hugs, and good luck! 🙂
Iris, aka Ier