Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nardwuar Interview

(The following interview was conducted and transcribed by Rick Vandeveerdonk of 1919 Hemphill)

Nardwuar the Human Serviette is a Canadian radio show host who has been interviewing bands and famous people for over twenty years. The amazing thing about him is he always knows wild obscure facts about whoever he's interviewing which usually shocks and/or over impresses the interviewee. He also brings them presents and incorperates different props with his questions. But not in that bad Carrot Top way. If you do a google search of "Nardwuar vs. _________", there's a 1 out of 5 chance he's interviewed whatever band you put in the ___________. He's been mocked up in a Korn video and theres a rumor that Heath Ledger studied Nardwuars interviews for his role in Dark Knight. Nardwuar also just did a split 7" with Andrew WK with his band The Evaporators.
I interviewed Nardwuar over the phone and I was horribly nervous. In my defense I was interviewing one of the most popular interviewers in the DIY universe. Feel free to listen to the forty minute extended interview where he also talks about Henry Rollins, Gene Simmons' love for Fresca, Alice Cooper, mor about Snoop Dogg and lots and lots of musical trivia. You can also hear me embarrassingly mumble out questions and try to be funny. The pitch is slightly fucked up which adds to the embarrassment. HERE

Who are you?

Nardwuar the Human Serviette from Vancouver British Columbia Canada.\par

Of What?

From CiTR UBC Radio and I also do freelance interviews for different publications like Razor Cake fanzine and Roctober Fanzine and Chart Magazine in Canada. And I also like videotaping interviews when I do them in person and I put them on my website or give them to various cable access sort of TV stations. And the word "sort of" is because there aren't too many left of the cable access variety. And also I play in a rock n roll band The Evaporators and in a mysterious band Thee Goblins.

Not to be confused with Goblin or the other The Goblins..

Interestingly enough there's a Goblin in every town. There's the legendary Italian band called Goblin, there's The Goblins from Chicago... Interestingly about that too, is that Jake from The Goblins in Chicago runs Roctober fanzine and that's how basically I met him. He came to a gig in Chicago to see a band and it turned out this band called Thee Goblins were opening and he was in a band called The Goblins and so he ended up befriended us and next thing you know we are doing an 8 track release with Jake from The Goblins. Then he invites me to write for Roctober Fanzine. So he's The Goblins from Chicago. We're Thee Goblins from Vancouver and there's also Goblin Cock and another band called Goblins. I just encourage the more Goblins the better. The more confusion the better.

So you've been interviewing people for how long?

The first interview I did was in high school on September the 26th 1985 and it was with a guy called Art Bergmann who played in a band at that time called Poisoned. Not Poison. Although Vancouver has had a great history of recording heavy metal from hair metal bands like Bon Jovi who recorded Slippery When Wet in Vancouver. And we recorded Motley Crue and Def Leopard as well. But Art Bergmann was in the band Poisoned at the time playing our high school but previously he played in a punk band in Vancouver called The Young Canadians. Who believe it or not had thanked our high school Hillside Secondary in Vacouver in the liner notes to their 12" record "This is Your Life". So when I got his band to play our high school, I negotiated the price of his band playing from $1,400 to $1,398. I was president of the student council so I was really good at negotiations then. I thought "They're playing our high school I gotta do an interview!" So that's captured on video. I have not uploaded that yet on youtube. But hopefully someday I will.

How long have you been doing things for CiTR?

I got my show on CiTR UBC radio in October of 1987. But I joined CiTR Radio in September of 1986. So it took me about a year to get the courage to do a radio show. I was just happy to do announcements. We called them "carts" now I guess you play them off a computer. I remember doing one for Spike Lee's movie "She's Gotta Have It!" and we did public service announcements and ads for giving blood and that sort of stuff. And that was just awesome because you could make these announcements and they would be played at all times during the day and people would recognize you from the announcements. So that's what I did for one year and then eventually I decided "Hmm, well..I know how to use the equipment. Maybe I could do a radio show.". So originally they were gonna give me fifteen minutes but then they said you gotta have a minimum half an hour. So it was 2:30 to 3:00. Now it is 3:30 to 5:00. However I still only have a half hour interview so I fill the other stuff up with music or spoken word or something like that.
And who was the first band you interviewed? Was it DOA? Am I wrong?

Wow! Exactly you are right! That is the first band I interviewed with. I did not think I was going to do interviews on CiTR. I just thought I would be playing music. But because I got so crazy after my first show I had records everywhere I had to kill the time somehow with half an hour. So DOA were in the studio and I asked if I could do an interview with them and they said yes! And it was Dave Greg the bass player of DOA. What's weird about that show is that Randy of Mint Records in Vancouver said that was my best show and that's when I peaked and I should have quit right after then. Because it was really great that Dave Greg came into CiTR. And we had him playing a bass and I think he did a live Madonna song on the air and it sounded amazing. And Randy from Mint just thought that was the best thing ever and it's been downhill ever since then. So my first show, my best show. And that's the great thing about CiTR radio there's always people offering encouragement. That's basically what I think I sorta stand for. If this idiot can play in a band, if this idiot can do a radio show then anybody can do a radio show and that's what I really love about CiTR is that there's always people offering comments or listeners phoning in. Just a couple of weeks ago somebody was phoning in and said "When did you get a show on CiTR you suck!" I didn't say to the guy "22 years ago" because that was unfair. But that keeps you on your toes. I've been with some other commercial radio stations as a guest and I'm scared, I'm shaking because there might be someone phoning in to criticize me. I think people on commercial radio, they're too complex. They're not thinking about people criticizing because they cut them off. But we at not commercial campus radio we don't cut anybody off

Do you ever get nervous while interviewing people? Have you ever been terrified while interviewing somebody?

I'm nervous right now, Rick.

Yeah me too!

I'm nervous every time when I speak, when I interview, when I go to a store to buy milk I'm nervous. I'm just a constantly nervous person. I think sometimes it helps but sometimes it doesn't help. I guess it doesn't help when your in front of a cop and you've done nothing wrong and you start to sweat and they think you've done something wrong. Or it does help when your thinking of an interview or preparing for a gig or something like that. You think "Oh, we gotta have songs to play in a band!". Well that's obvious. Write the songs down. "I gotta question to ask". I think it kinda drives me in that way. I do drink chamomile tea to bring me down though to make me relax.

Well, you seem very chill in most your interviews. When Sonic Youth was beating up on you I was like "Wow, he's taking it very nicely"..

Well as long as the tape is recording the interview I'm happy. The tape is your friend. Thankfully my friend Scott who is the Evaporators drummer and also in Thee Goblins was recording that and did a great job of recording it so we were able to play it back to you. Sometimes tapes have been destroyed. Like when I interviewed heavy metal band Skid Row the tape was destroyed. When I interviewed Quiet Riot the tape was destroyed. When I interviewed Tom Green, he ordered the tape destroyed. All three of those people all at intervals of five years. So there has been quite a few things you haven't seen that have gone horribly wrong. I don't mean horribly wrong like being arrested. I just mean you don't see how it turns out.

So Quiet Riot physically destroyed your tape or just ordered it destroyed?

Yes, they physically destroyed it. They finished the interview and I did "Doot doola doot doo?...Doot Doo". And afterward they surrounded me in the club and said "We're calling the cops".
And I was like "Why you calling the cops!?"
"Because you're trespassing."
"Why am I trespassing?"
"Because you haven't handed over the tape"
"What tape?"
"The tape of the interview. Hand it over right now!"
"No, I don't hand over the tape!"
So they called the cops. And they called in a description of me. They said "There's a guy here dressed head to toe in plaid and he has this buddy with him filming wearing a Jason hockey mask here at Graceland Club in Vancouver come arrest them, they're trespassing".
And I'm like Oh god, I don't want to be involved with the cops. So I said "okay" and handed over the tape. And then they chased us down the street. They thought I was embarrassing them. I was just joking with the guy. Kevin Dubrow. And rest in peace because he's dead now.

Have people been this rude to you recently? Because I've watched your Welcome to My Castle DVD with some of the older interviews and everyone's a dick to you. Like Sonic Youth and Jello Biafra..

Yeah Jello is on there drawing with a black marker on my face and then years later we're on his record label. So I guess if you stay in the game long enough, you can work on these people. I guess I've had the luxury that it only took me about fifteen years to win over Jello Biafra.

It looks like you've won over alot of people. The people I've seen you interview back in the day are complete dicks to you. And now, like when you interviewed Jello Biafra and the Melvins. Jello's not doing anything to you. He's just looking at you. Did he just get old? And the newer interview with Sonic Youth they're being respectful to you. Have they grown to love you and respect you?

Well, I tried to interview Sonic Youth when they played the Virgin Music Festival in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago but they blew the interview off. So I said okay, what about doing a phoner the next week and they said it might be possible. Then they blew that off as well. So, I'm having trouble with them. But that's the great thing.I don't think they've changed. They're still the same people and I wouldn't want them to change. Chris Noveselic, I interviewed him on the phone a couple of months ago and he was exactly the same way he was years ago.

Did he rub pizza on the phone?

No, he didn't rub pizza. But he suddenly had to go and that sort of stuff. That sort of craziness. Which is something you should exactly expect. You kinda gotta understand what the situation is. So I'm glad people haven't changed. Plus remember those video interviews on the Welcome to My Castle DVD were just a little sampling. When you do your radio show every week like I have for 22 years. There's going to be some interviews that are crazy or a bit more rude. But generally it's pretty much just boring. That's why folks are calling in to complain. Not to complain because swearing, not to complain because it's too rowdy but to complain because it was boring.
What's neat though about what your saying about people being rude or different peoples reactions for everything. I posted an interview I did with Kathy Griffin and there's also an interview I did with Slipknot that's on the internet. And the Kathy Griffin fans hate me as much as the Slipknot fans. Which I think is amazing! Because do you think the Kathy Griffin fans think they have anything in common with the Slipknot fans? No way! Do you think the Slipknot fans have anything in common with the Kathy Griffin fans? No Way! So I'm uniting Kathy Griffin and Slipknot! So I think I must be doing something good there.

You've interviewed all these people. Have you ever turned down an interview? Because you've interviewed just about everybody. Every terrible band.

I learned this from the Canadian band Sloan who were signed around the same time Weezer was signed. They had that saying "G.G.B.B.". Good Guys, Bad Band. So if they are a bad band I'd probably interview them because they are good guys. I have missed out on different sort of stuff that's happening. I remember Alanis Morsette as a teenager was performing in Vancouver. I didn't wanna check that out.

What about You Can't Do that On Television!?

Yeah exactly. This was before she had the hits. It would have been good to talk to her about You Can't Do that On Television. But I was like nah, I don't wanna do that, that's silly. There's stuff I regret everyday that I could've done that was interesting. But there's always somebody new to interview so it's hard to have any regrets.

And when you do interview those people you find out stuff about them before you see them. Like when you interviewed that guy from Lord of the Rings and the Good Son.\

Elijah Wood?

How did you run into him and how did you know he likes sandwiches?

Well he was shooting a movie in Vancouver called "Try Seventeen". And a friend of mine was working on the movie and said "well, why not come town to the wrap party and talk to Elijah Wood?". I had actually dropped by a tape to Elijah Wood ahead of time at his Hotel wherever he was staying, So he had checked out my tape and at the cast party I went right up to him and he was totally into it. He had actually been familiar with a bit of my stuff and that sometimes helps... when someone at least approaches it with a positive attitude. Sometimes people are ticked off like "This guy's an asshole!". And if they're told that right before an interview its gonna make them clam up just a bit. It's pretty hilarious though. You can't tell like a gangster rapper such as Snoop Dog "Oh watch out for this guy. He's an asshole, he's really tough. He's gonna try to trick you!".
Gangster Rappers like Snoop will be like "C'mon bring it on!". So that's kinda funny.

Did Snoop Dog every give back the stuff he stole from you?

No and I'm quite upset about this. He just played in Vancouver two weeks ago and I went down the gate and they said he would do an interview. I came back later and he blew off the interview. I've tried to interview Snoop eight times and I've only gotten to him four times. This is especially disheartening because the last time I talked to him in 2007 he said "The next interview we were gonna do is at my house and you can have all your stuff back". Here we are in Vancouver and I can't get an interview set up with him. And the three interviews I've tried to do since then he blew me off. He has a Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali record of mine. And he also has a Whispers record and a Blowfly record too.

All the information you get before you talk to these people you get in an amazing short amount of time. Are you willing to mention how you get this information?

Usually through connections and stuff like that.

That's what I assumed. The DIY punk rock connection.

Totally! And that's usually what's the best! For instance, when I interviewed Glen Danzig. I was thinking how could I get some good questions for Glen Danzig? I talked to Mike LaVella from Gearhead Magazine. And he used to live in Pittsburg and he'd been a big Misfits fan. In fact he had been over at Glen's house. So he had tons of information. Then Mike LaVella said I should talk to Tim Kerr of the Big Boys.

From Austin.

Yes, and another connection actually regarding Texas and all that. When I interviewed Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols I found out through my friend Grant Lawrence from rock n roll band the Smugglers that when the Smugglers were on tour they played with a band called The Sons of Hercules from Texas! Whose lead singer Frank was in a band called The Vamps. Who actually opened up for the Sex Pistols! So I was able to ask Frank of the Sons of Hercules about the Sex Pistols show in America. So yes, it's just from the indy rock connections that exist.

That's what I actually hoped and figured. I actually asked somebody who did interviews how they prep and they told me just to check the interviewee's Wikipedia page. But your asking things people already know about!

Wikipedia is useful because it shows you what not to ask.

All your interviews usually end with the "Doot Doola Doot Doo" thingy. What is the weirdest reaction you've gotten with that? The Michael Moore one terrified me.

The best one was probably James Brown. Because I went "Doot doola doot doo" and he went "I'm not gonna go Wop Bobba Loo Bop a bim bam boom!". I was like "No. Doot doola doot doo.." and his back up singers went "Doo Doo.". But I was totally wrong because that was incredible. Because he totally did it! He basically did the best one. The worst one of all time pretty much was and the one that "got me" was Rob Zombie. At the end of the interview I went "Doot doola doot doo" and he just walked away from the speaker phone he was doing the interview on backstage at a giant Korn gig! He just walked out of the room and I kept going "Doot doola doot doo. Doot doola doot doo..." and seriously like twenty minutes later somebody came over and said "What going on there?"
"Well I'm waiting for Rob Zombie to go 'doot doo'."
"He left the room like twenty minutes ago"
"Well, can you go 'doot doo'?"
"Okay..doot doo."
And it ends right there.
So that was quite amazing, As much as that was kind of maddening it was kinda genius of him just to walk away and i just kept on going and going and going.

I guess I'm basically done. Unless there's anything you'd like to add.

Well, thanks so much for caring. I really appreciate the interest in all things Nardwuar the Human Serviette. And if people are interested and confused about what I said cause god knows I am, please check out also you can check out Nardwuar on Twitter and there's also clips on Youtube. But everything is linked from my own website there. And keep on rocking in the free world and doot doola doot doo...

...uhh doot doo?

For an audio recording of the interview featuring extra material, click here.



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