Lately I have been really digging listening to interviews. Because you listen to music all day at work on your headphones and you’re gonna get bored with it and just want some talk that’s interesting. That’s when I found Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Who the hell is Nardwuar? He’s a crazy plaid clad, irreverent, hysterical, slightly effeminite interviewer from British Colombia. A celebrity from nowhere, if maybe the local college radio scene. That in itself wouldn’t be noteworthy, it’s his interviewing style that puts even the most well touted celebrity off guard.
This guy is a touch bizarre, but he’s very, very good. Every interview starts with “Who are you?!” Wham! A microphone in the face without any further ado. No patronising “OK we’re rolling” or any of that. Then comes a blitzkrieg of questions so left of field, so hysterically rambled out, yet so intricately researched, the subject of the interview doesn’t know whether to be outraged, complimented or just plain flabbergasted. It can and often does go either way. Oh and he’s the master of the segway. Particularly any segway that links the subject to his beloved Canada. Once Michael Moore was so taken back, his only response was ‘OK I thought it was coffee, now I know this guy’s on crack!’
Initially I was mistaken for thinking that this guy was some Canadian prime time personality. But he appears to have worked for a college radio station CITR for at least 10 years. On Nardwuar’s Youtube page, you’ll find a bunch of short sub 5 minutes interviews. But the on full podcasts of his radio shows, he plays some of the most bizarre flea market stuff you’ve ever heard. From promotional records for record manufacturing companies, to advertising jingles of the 1960s. It’s often said but seldom true, Nardwuar is eclecticist in extremis! This eclecticism stretches out to his interviewees, ranging from emo, to hair metal, gangster rappers to pop to the prime minister of Canada.
If you’re talking qualities though, he’s not just a whiny guy in a polyester suit. There’s also a strength of character in Nardwuar, not just celebrity that’s not always found in his subjects. Often interviews take a turn for the worst but he holds it together so well. Some subjects (especially major label punk rockers who sell their music for shampoo commercials) really don’t get it and react pretty badly. Even the dorky looking guy in glasses from Blur repeatedly bullied him until walking out of the interview. Albeit it seemed to be taking the piss, just a little rough. Nevertheless, he always takes retorts and shoves in his stride and keeps plugging away at his subject till he gets his interview.
In his interview with Nirvana, Courtney Love (accompanying Kurt) said “you sooo want to create a scene around yourself don’t you?”. It was like water off a duck’s back. Alice Cooper didn’t do so favourably. When Nardwuar kepy shouting down the phone ‘hey stoopid’ the minders came on the line and hung up. Sebastian Bach formerly of Skid Row once stole his plaid hat causing psandemonium amongst Canadian college students to get it back.
Once he even managed to unravel the usual good guy Henry Rollins. In 1998 he got particularly short with him over his petty questions (it really does depend on the celebrity and personality of his interviewee) and gave him the ultimatum of one more question. Nardwuar dropped the minutia and the hysteria a bit, but stayed true to himself. Nardwuar responded to him with a choice of 5 incredibly well researched ones. It turned the whole interview around to the point that Rollins ‘got it’ and walked away happy.
What makes a Nardwuar interview truly entertaining though is what the English call ‘taking the piss’, something truly rare in a North American talent. In other words, he brings them down to their human level. Porno magnate Al Goldstein came across as the absolute prick he makes himself out to be. Gene Simmons didn’t go much better (not that he came off bad, he just came across as the upper class, Israeli businessman he really is). So you guessed it, there’s no human side to some people! Yet it’s supposedly scary guys ones like metal bands (Cradle of Filth, Motorhead and Megadeth) or punk bands (like the Rancid, the Damned and the Sex Pistols) really respond to it and give far more of themselves away than they normally would do in an interview.
He even has the versatility to make Kelly Osborne and Franz Ferdinand briefly entertaining! But someone of this manic and eclectic nature is always going to be unpredictable. I guess you never know which way a Nardwuar interview is going to go. It could be two minutes or an hour. Some great piss takers like Blur and Rob Zombie really have pulled one over Nardwuar. In the aftorementioned Blur interview, the band members stripped off glasses and hat to expose the real Nardwuar, exclaiming ‘see we really like this guy!’ It’s a true battle of wits. However, Nardwuar will usually spin it so both interviewer and subject come out on top. How perfectly Canadian!
If you’ve read this far, check out his web page. A word of warning, his extensive interview libraries are addictive and sadly just not updated often enough. Leaving on a good note though, as he would close off ‘keep on rocking in the free world Nardwuar and do-doo-da-do-doo. Do-doo.’ Interviews are seldom this entertaining. Ba Boom!