Have you read that Quincy Jones’ interview with GQ yet? What do you mean you haven’t? Take twenty minutes out of your day and read it right now. Go on, we’ll be here when you come back. We’ll make a pot of tea and find some biscuits and wait for you.
See what I mean? There is a man who is the very definition of zero f**ks given. It’s an 84-year-old lad just talking all sorts of nonsense about all sorts of things.
Quincy has reached the stage of his life where it just doesn’t matter anymore so he opens his mouth and lets it all out. You want stories about Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles or Michael Jackson or Miles Davis cooking eggs or how to get the best lemon meringue pie or Q’s 22 girlfriends? You got ‘em. As the headline puts it, Quincy Jones has a story about that.
Any of us who’ve ever done an interview will not begrudge interviewer Chris Heath the contents of his tape-recorder after that encounter. We might be jealous or envious, but it’s because we didn’t get there first. Heath was the man who happened to strike gold with Jones and turn up when he decided to be expansive, candid and downright motherfucking hilarious in places.
The reason why we’re talking about this interview is because this kind of interview has become a rarity. When you get to talk to a musician or actor or entertainer or someone who does the kind of interesting stuff that you reckon people might want to know about, you’re lucky if you actually get 10 minutes face to face with them.
The vast majority of interviews are done on the phone, which is not great when you consider how many younger people actually don’t like talking on the phone to begin with. A growing number are done by email, where you’re not sure if it’s the interviewee or the interviewee’s press officer or the interviewee’s teenage kid who is answering the questions. And don’t get me started on those interviews with acts who are just starting out where the act has zilch to say and all the time in the world to say it.
Noel Gallagher on One Direction claiming their new album sounds like an Oasis album. (2015)— Oliver Saunders (@OliverSaunders_) January 30, 2018
Noel is always guaranteed to give a brilliant, funny interview. 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/8Fy5B4AW9T
If you are successful in jumping through those hoops, you’ll then encounter another problem when the subject decides to be shy and reticent. When the recorder is off, they’re all jokes and japes and funny stories. But when the recorder is on, you’re dealing with Corporate Bulls**t 101. The most interesting man in the world is replaced by Guy from accounts (sorry, Guy from accounts if you’re reading this).
The reason why most interviews now are so freaking boring is down a fear of social media. Every single interesting thing that that person says in an interview will now be amplified by tweets, updates and the like. Every zinger will become the stuff of a zillion stupid clickbaity news stories which will combine to keep those words in the ether for even longer. What might sound like a funny line between you and the interviewer in a hotel suite becomes something else when the shame warriors and outrage merchants are finished with it.
As a result, stars tend to shut the f**k up and toe the bland party line. You get tame anecdotes you’ve read before. Flattery and plamás about collaborators and peers. The hard sell about the new album or tour or TV show or project. Before you now it, your allocated 10 minutes are up and you’ve been shooed out the door. It doesn’t really matter: you’ve got your few hundred words and your publication can put the act in question on the cover and everyone is happy.
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Film interviewees probably fare the worst of all in this work flow. Actors are contractually obliged to do promo so they spend a couple of days in a nice hotel dealing with a conveyor belt of interviewers all asking the same five questions. It’s no wonder so many actors end up hitting the bottle or the pills after that. Be honest, you would too.
We need more blagards like Quincy Jones to just say what’s on their mind and to hell with the consequences. We need more stars to stop being safe and actually cop on why we’re interested in them in the first place.
Yes, of course, we’ll find that some of them are not really very interesting to begin with – hello Bono! – and some of them are only interesting because everyone else around them is uninteresting – hello Noel!.
But there are surely some interviewees who can give us a lot more than just the same aul’ guff. They’re the ones we want to hear from. They’re the ones who should be giving it socks. They’re the ones who should rivaling Quincy on the anecdotes’ front.