Friday, April 23, 2021

What Peter Buck -n- Slash Taught Us About Being Rock Stars!



The general consensus among music fans is that most rock stars enjoy nothing more than talking about themselves. This may be true for some, sure, but anyone who has ever interviewed rock stars for a living knows that, sometimes, the best way to get them talking is to go in the opposite direction altogether.

As proof we offer up two examples; the first being R.E.M.'s Rickenbacker-rockin' Peter Buck, whose influence as a guitarist weighs large, but pales in comparison to his influence as "taste-maker to a generation", which Buck accomplished by giving some of the absolute best interviews of the period.

Up until that point, I'd never seen a rock star of that magnitude go out of his way to share the spotlight so selflessly, which Buck did on many occasions by turning the interview into a virtual tip-sheet for obscure musical oddities and up & coming bands alike.

What made Buck so special as an interview subject was that he didn't care whether you were from Time, Rolling Stone or a high school fanzine that didn't officially exist (yet); as long as you were asking questions and rolling tape, Buck was going to deliver a master-class on humility, confidence, and, yes, rock & roll.

Now, we've all known a chatty Cathy or two in our days, but what set Buck apart from, say, David Lee Roth, was that he hardly ever talked about himself, choosing instead to give the most rapid-fire factual dissertations on why Velvet Underground and Wire had changed his life or how great a demo tape given to him by a fan had been and then you'd read a few months later that said band now had their own deal.

Whereas a Rick Nielsen may have mentioned that he dug Roy Wood and the Move on numerous occasions, in a single interview, Buck could make you feel something for a band you'd never heard and, in doing so, probably helped sell more Velvet Underground albums than anyone else, all things considered.

Buck's eagerness to talk about other bands beyond just his own taught this interviewer a trick that has served me well on more than one occasion; such as the time I interviewed Slash after a concert.




Since, I was already at this particular concert to take photos for a music magazine, I reached out to his management and wound up interviewing Slash after a show. Problem was, I hadn't cobbled together any questions AND a drop-dead beautiful woman just happened to be shamelessly throwing herself at the legendary GNR guitarist, making conversation difficult at best.

Feeling like a head of cattle in the photo pit, after the show, a few journos were wrangled into a "quiet" room and granted ten minutes to pepper Slash with questions about the tour (Snakepit) and, of course, GNR (no comment).

Three questions in and the interview was dying on the table. 
  
Rather than ask the next question, which mentions Axl by name, yours truly calls an audible.

"I'm a kid with a guitar sitting in a bedroom in Iowa," I says to Slash, I says. "What 5 albums do I need to hear?" 

Slash immediately ushered the woman out of the room, pulled up a drum throne, and looked me square in the eyes.

"Do you know how long I've been waiting for someone to ask me that question?" 

The next hour flew by like Christmas, interrupted only by his PR person valiantly trying to keep Slash on-schedule (to no avail), but, eventually, we both had to get back to our respective lives or else we'd still be talking, I imagine.

As if that weren't bad-ass enough, Slash emailed his manager further clarifications to his Top 5 the next day, which the manager then emailed to me. 

That, my friends, is how you do an interview.

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