There’s something about sitting on a beat-up leather sofa while your musical heroes struggle to put on a clean pair of denim shorts that reminds you that some things are universal.
The first time I interviewed a band, it was not pretty. I woke up three hours early in a tent at 2000 Trees Festival, freezing despite the southern sun and absolutely petrified. I huddled under a taco truck before the festival officially opened and used the spotty on-site website to hurriedly scrawl down some questions for a band I knew absolutely nothing about.
When I got to the press tent, I accidently set in the chair of the correspondent from Kerrang! Magazine. The site I was working for wasn’t big enough to warrant its own place at the press table, so I stood awkwardly in the corner, praying someone would leave before the band arrived so that we could actually sit down.
When they eventually did, my short-sightedness, lack of research and general awkwardness conspired against me in a big way, leading to a 45 second stand-off in which me and the band’s vocalist tried to figure out if the other was the person we’d be instructed to meet.
Despite all that, it was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my entire life.
I came away shaking. The guys I had interviewed had more accolades in the pockets of their beat-up leather jackets than I had gathered in my entire career. They had been on tour over 18 times, broken up, got back together, and must have answered the questions I timidly put to them hundreds of times.
So why did they seem so happy to talk to me? Why were they treating me like I was worthy of their time?
I had assumed up until that point that everyone could see that I was play-acting. I was only 17 after-all, I could barely do my eyeliner and I thought that wearing dark red lipstick in a place where there were no mirrors was a wise choice. I expected to feel patronised because I deserved to be, I was just a little kid going through the motions of being a grown-up until I inevitably got found out.
For some reason though, that never happened.
That first band treated me with a kind of professional courtesy I’d never experienced before, but also a respect and active interest that made me feel much older, and more legitimate, than I ever thought I could.
Being a journalist was a superpower.
My “AAA” lanyard was a cape that allowed me to masquerade as a cool industry professional without ever revealing my identity as a shy teenager with a panic disorder and bad skin.
Of course, the fear never went away. I’ve conducted countless interviews since, and always there’s the pervading sense that I’m not good enough, that I could never ask anything original, that the bands in question were only being nice in order to stop me noticing their thinly veiled contempt.
But those fears exist behind the mask, and while I’m in costume I can be unrecognisable. For all they know, I live out my life in a state of self-assured calm, able to leap tall deadlines in a single bound.
There was also a single interview that changed my attitude towards failure entirely, and forced me to battle the great twin evils that are Wagamamas and sound-checks, in a triumph that I have referred to ever since as my Almost Famous moment.
You’ll have to check back for that story though, in part two maybe?