INTERVIEW WITH SWANEE
I mentioned here the other week that I’d interviewed John Swan and Dave Gleeson at work, but I didn’t really go in to why, or why it mattered. The interviews are posted now, so I thought I’d make a little note of what happened that day.
Dave Gleeson from The Screaming Jets was first up at 11.30, and John was penned in for 30 minutes later. It was all done to promote the Whole Lotta Love tribute shows those guys are involved with, so I didn’t expect the gig to break my brain. When’s it on, why’s it cool, that sort of thing.
Lazy, is what I’m saying.
Which is not to suggest I didn’t care about the content of the interviews. I prepped as well as I could for both, and was excited to be talking to two very interesting individuals, but I expected them to be fairly straightforward affairs that started when they started and finished when they finished.
Dave was fun; lovely, easy to talk to and generous with his answers. We stayed within our time limit and ticked all the boxes. I got out of there with a minute or two to spare and looked over my questions, realising that because I had pigeonholed the function of the interview they were very pointed. I was wary of that and jotted some notes down the side of the page, a little list of negative mandates: DON’T close that question there, DON’T use this word, DON’T keep it so tidy. Then I called up Swanee.
What a fortunate swirl of chaos and circumstance. I was so conscious of my questions, and of how I needed to change them on the fly, that I stumbled across – quite by accident – a better underlying methodology, as well as some very surprising answers. At my discretion, a fair chunk of the interview was not published. But the sections I withheld, and a few of those I put in, spurred me to take proper interest in the mechanics of translating curiosity in to query, and doing so with enough specificity to be helpful without straying in to the realms of exclusion.
It seems obvious that when you combine genuine interest with questions that don’t get in the way of themselves, people will reveal all kinds of personal, contentious insights, but it wasn’t until I experienced it in harmonious action that I really got hooked.
“I want to be the guy that writes the song… When you’re sitting in the back of the car and necking with the very first girl that you love, you hear that song and it’s a killer. It kills you, and you think, ‘This will be with me forever’.”
“They were the songs that I heard then.
“That was Stairway To Heaven and stuff. I think when I first heard that song, I lost my virginity, my front teeth and my best friend. It was a big day.
“And that’s what I want.”
Which is to say, my encounter with Swanee left a distinct impression on me, and my interviews since then have been markedly more satisfying. The interview I did with Gareth was, I think, the first one out of the blocks. Then there was Bettina Arndt, and as I had hoped, I did roll up to that feeling much more confident. I also got some good answers out of her, even when pressing potentially inflammatory points.
The interview’s over here. The original transcript was golden, and it was very apparent where things kicked in to gear and the whole obsession began. In the edit, it’s more muddled, but I still think it turned out well.
“Robert Plant had said he wouldn’t mind having lunch with me, just to have a chat. But I ended up getting pissed and didn’t turn up, so…”
How does that feel now?
“In those days it wasn’t about not wanting to, it was about not being able to. My problem was such that I couldn’t keep my responsibilities together. If you could find a nice way to put that, I’d love it.”
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you put that.
“But you know what I mean? It wasn’t that big a deal for me. Whereas now, yes, I know that I should have taken it. I could have sat and asked him questions.
“I mean, because we’ve toured with most of the bands in the world, you know — four years with AC/DC, Bad Company, Foreigner, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, everybody else — I’ve got stories for people who want them, or if I ever decide to write a book, and it pisses me off to the nth degree that I didn’t follow that thing up with Zeppelin because I could have asked so many questions and I could have given you some of those answers. It would have been a good interview instead of crap.”