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Have phone, will travel!

Pin-up girl on the telephone. Probably soliciting.
"Hallo, is that Johnny Depp speaking? I'm your four-o-clock phoner..."

I know why my neck cricks. It’s because of all the bloody phoner interviews I have to do. Pinching the phone between shoulder and ear, frantically scribbling (or typing) in a one-handed shorthand hybrid that even I can’t decipher afterwards… Explaining the awkward pauses away with sorry, I have to write that down, I’m doing this old school, ha ha! (Call me techno-challenged…)

Coping with the one-second delays in between questions and answers, wondering if the person on the other side has disappeared when in fact their voices are still wending their way over the phone lines… Getting startled into a neck spasm when an officious-sounding PR person suddenly butts into your conversation, going “last question, time”.

And all this after struggling to actually get connected to the remote hotel in Kazakhstan somewhere, the latest leg of your victim’s tour, trying to decipher the concierge’s accent, getting put through to the wrong hotel room (I swear I spoke to a prostitute once), ending up phoning the muso’s cellnumber (I have your cell now!) as a last resort…

And all this without a single chance of getting your CD autographed or taking a photo to prove that yes, I actually met this awesomely famous person!

I’ve mentioned before that I really loathe phoner interviews. And I’ve done so, so many of them that you’d think by now I’d be used to them… Some people I’ve even interviewed twice. One songstress started laughing at me when she realized I was still using pen and paper. I was just chuffed that she actually remembered our previous talk.

Not that face-to-face interviews are always that successful either – I’m looking at you, arrogant Adam Levine! And you, gloomy Chris Cornell! I’ve come close to just picking up my trusty notebook and walking out of the room during a few choice moments… Journalists are people too, you know!

My first phoner ever was with Chad Gracey, drummer for Live. He was on a train somewhere in France, on tour with the band. (I’ve gone on to speak to Ed Kowalczyk too – twice.) I was at home with my family, who were all huddled around the phone, making excited squeaking sounds as I chatted to a member of one of our favourite bands. It was on speakerphone. And I borrowed my dad’s little Dictaphone to record the whole thing – one of those old-school ones that worked with miniature tapes and usually carried legalese such as “and henceforth you shall no longer come within 100km of said plaintiff” or “please type up two copies of this contract”. I’ve still got that little tape somewhere…

I’ve had some weird experiences doing phoners. Like interviewing Gomez, a band I loved, and a phoner I was actually excited for. I gave up writing anything down after question two – I simply couldn’t understand a single word of the heavily accented English coming my way. So I just murmured polite uhms and aahs and tossed in a question every now and then. It was bizarre.

Or starting an interview breezily with who I thought was the guitarist/vocalist/drummer/you name it of the band – only to discover that the schedule and names had been shuffled, nobody had told me, and I was now woefully unprepared to talk to this person. Winging it? I’ve done it.

Then there was the phoner, I can’t even remember with who, where the guy started cursing – really rudely – halfway through a conversation. It turned out there was somebody else in the room with him that was annoying him. But it kind of put a damper on proceedings…

There have been some cool moments too, luckily. The aforementioned moment where a muso actually remembered me. Having loads of fun talking to Fink. Getting to interview Katy Perry when people were still, like, who? And asking her all the weird questions about fruit and cats. She’s awesome to interview: you don’t have to go all serious and deep on her.

Sometimes, doing a phoner just makes you wish that you could meet a particular person face-to-face. Unlucky for us Saffricans, even with all the bands that are making there way here, there are loads that have yet to show up. Like We Are Scientists. Yes, they’re obscure – but they’re incredibly funny, and interviewing bassist/vocalist Chris Cain just made me wish I could sit him down for a glass of red wine and a chat while admiring his mustache. Check the interview here.

And Emma Richardson from Band Of Skulls is so talented that I’m pretty sure hanging out with her would up your coolness factor instantly.

I suppose all things considered phoners aren’t that bad… And I really should stop bitching about it. After all, you get to talk to the weirdest, most random people all across the world… Peeps who are just as awkward as you are over the phone. You connect for a brief period of time and share the same space… And hey, if things go south? You’ll probably never have to talk to them again… Except if they’re Ed Kowalczyk. Or Hilary Duff. Yes, really.

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Published inMusicPersonal ramblings


  1. My favourite phoner was Eagle-Eye Cherry. He answered the phone himself, no obnoxious PR, he chatted comfortably about staying in the Chelsea Hotel (like the Leonard Cohen one) with his dad, about his sister’s career, we shot the bull and I kind of wished we could hang out and be friends forever. I could actually hear him, too, which always helps.

    • I love those! And Jax Panik today was awesome, so much fun, went on for like half an hour!

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