Rant Incoming

Here’s a bit of a rant.

Watching the coverage of the Glastonbury festival last week I became more and more exercised by the interviews which artists were obliged to undertake moments after leaving the stage. In the case of the Kaiser Chiefs an interviewer was actually waiting at the foot of the stage steps as they came off.

For years I’ve hated the way sports people have been grabbed as they exit the pitch to deliver instant responses to their efforts, usually along the “gutted” or “over the moon” variety. Now this has spilled over into music reportage.

I don’t see how anything really useful can come out of these encounters in either sphere. The questions are usually inane or fawning -or both – and the answers self-evidently cannot be considered. All in all the process only seems to be there to big up the access the broadcaster is entitled to, in a very public way. An exhibition of power and ownership of the event.

To my mind this does a disservice to audience and performer alike. Some of you at least will know that I’m a big sports fan. What continues to fascinate me is the unfolding of the unscripted drama, with actors at the very limits of their capacities, physically and mentally. If the event in question is one of those which only come around every four years or so then it’ll be a pinnacle moment in the sports person’s personal and professional life. For us in the audience if there’s one of the great dramatic encounters then we, too, need some time (shuffling out of the ground or away from the sofa as the case may be) to take in the life-enhancing aspects of what we’ve just witnessed. To be treated to the usual “How does it feel to have won/lost?” in the immediacy of the event is to cut away its magic in a stroke.

Doubtless the performers (athletes) know well enough that they’re not really entitled to any “me” time until they reach the safety of the changing room – the sponsors must be satisfied at all costs. And I honestly have no idea of the interior mental life of a word class athlete. But I’d like to hope that “normal” humanity is still there alongside the monumental focus and determination which performance   at that level requires. This interior human being within the Giant of Sport should be respected.

In similar vein, a main stage Glastonbury performance must be, you’d imagine, fairly high up on any artist’s list of achievements. So to have that moment rubbed in the mud (sic) by the obligatory (non-) chat show stuff moments later must be, er, irksome at least.

In both cases, as the watching punter, I personally get nothing (apart from my rant mode being activated) from these exchanges.

But then I suppose I’m much too old school. I like to take a private second after (and, indeed, before) any show just to think on, just to gather in the taste of the moment. And if analysis of how it was/how it went *is* to come then it’s usually in an informal debrief in the bus or the hotel, hours later. Probably over a glass of red.

But right after the show? No thanks.

Rant over. But doubtless more to come.

37 Comments on “Rant Incoming”

  1. Robin Durie says:

    Robin Marlar was one of the few sports correspondents to lament the passing of genuine analysis in the press of sporting achievement, & its replacement by the endless regurgitation of players’/managers’ words.

    As well as intrusive, and inane, it’s lazy – it fills air-time with, well, air. This air further inflates the monstrous dull egos of the presenters. At Glastonbury, it means we get to see/hear less music.

    But, most of all, musicians express themselves through their music, just as sportsmen & women express themselves through their athletic endeavours. Their poetry is in their movement, in their performance. Rare it is to find a musician or a sportsman or woman who is as eloquent with words as they are in music or in sporting activity.

    The best writers are the ones who can explain to us how & why something is brilliant, make sense of it for us. But here’s a thing – to do so, & to do so well, takes time – it requires reflection, & thought…& the ability to translate years of training into a momentary writerly performance.

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  3. arvonioc says:

    I totally agree.the media show their power to dominate the events and to kill all the magic in it. Even the frustration of tiny peopLe whose only grtification is appearing important bcs they manage the facts and tell to large audience

  4. Chris Blackford says:

    I’m not sure that I agree entirely with Peter on this one. Firstly, with these big events – musical and sporting – relying on major advertising and broadcasting companies to publicise and sponsor them I think the performers should be made aware – if they are not already aware – that they have an obligation to play by some of the rules of the game laid out by broadcasters and sponsors. So, if that means a brief interview before or after the show then so be it. Let’s face it, some lesser-known performers would give their eye teeth to be on a stage/pitch in front of thousands of fans, not to mention the millions watching on TV – so a brief chat is a small ‘sacrifice’ to make.

    As for whether a performer is in a fit state to give an interview shortly before/after a show, well I guess that depends on the performer. Years ago I was scheduled to interview David Thomas of Pere Ubu before a gig in London. Eventually I decided not to go ahead with the interview because I could see that David was clearly very psyched-up and feeling the mounting tension. Some idiot threw a plastic beer glass at him at the end of the gi, which naturally upset David very much, so I decided that an interview after the show would also not be in order. On the other hand, Chris Cutler, who was in Pere Ubu at the time, agreed to do an interview backstage all the way up to the point when he was due to go on stage. Talk about ice cool. Chris exhibited no pre-gig nerves whatsoever and gave me a superbly lucid and informative interview. Maybe he found the chat before the show quite relaxing and a welcome distraction from all the other backstage tension going on elsewhere.

    • Bill Atkin says:

      Sure, there’s the occasional example of an interesting pre/post event interview with an athlete or musician etc., but that’s far from being the norm. We are positively festooned, nowadays, with these pointless “How are you feeling…” type interviews. It’s depressingly unimaginative (of the producers of these programs) to believe that we are hungry for every last molecule of interaction with the participants.

      Personally, I reckon that it’s down to mainstream television’s seeming desire to find the minimum achievable Signal to Noise Ratio.

  5. Bruce Hatton says:

    Well, I went to Sonisphere last year, specifically to see Rammstein.
    There performance was fabulous, but I’m never going to a festival again!
    So much pushing from the drunk teenagers in the crowd, plus the bottles of piss being thrown around at the front! And who came up with the idea of selling the viewers some enormous flags which block the view of anyone more than 20 rows back?
    Now the VDGG concert in Cambridge early this year, even though we shouldn’t be standing at our age, was a model of decorum!

  6. Andrea says:

    …well, I think that mr. Hammill found some more insight for His beautiful songs … call me a fan, anyway !!

  7. Lewis says:

    Without wishing to repeat the observations above, the trend for on the spot comments is far worse in North American sports with players being taken aside during the break between periods in ice hockey for example to answer inane questions (“you’re down 5 – 0 with one period to play: how do you get back into this game?” etc).

    I suppose in sports there is a discernible result or event to comment on, but that does not really happen with a live music performance. I hope we don’t get to the point where a band leaving the stage is asked how they feel about missing the cue for the chorus or flubbing the chord change etc!

    Keep up the good work..

  8. bayernmike says:

    This can be quite annoying agreed, however, I don’t think the media can be wholly blamed for this, all too often musicians especially are keen to exploit the media to get their shows, albums etc. plugged or to plague the world with the bizarre opinions, so maybe the media can be excused for wanting a little back. I do question the worth of these “on the spot” interviews though, they don’t tend to add anything

  9. Andy Holloway says:

    I completely agree Peter, but I’ll say no more ‘cos if I get started I’ll go on and on! This need to know, know, KNOW everything all the time drives me up the wall. I shall now listen to some Sandy Denny to calm down. Bye.

  10. iain mcleish says:

    agreed – my pet hate has been in Athletics particularly
    sometimes emotion which should be private, sometimes incomprehensible gabble, sometimes unappealing e.g. Lisa Dobrivsky – rarely anything which adds to the spectacle
    Was it a goal, Frank?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks for the music – Barbican was great

    • Don’t have a TV, so can’t comment on the spot interviews, but the Barbican was my first VdGG and the best gig I’ve seen. Any chance of another VdGG live album in the near future?

  11. I agree Peter. In American NASCAR too, reporters grab drivers as they climb out of the car after a wreck or some controversy. I think they are looking for something controversial to make their career and post on ESPN or one of our sports networks.
    Sports, as in music, often needs reflective time to put the event into perspective. Artists and athletes cannot always be counted on to provide a relevant comment 30 seconds after they complete their tasks. It isn’t fair to the audience or the performer.
    Baseball broadcasts have started interviewing managers and coaches in the dugout during the game. No good can come from that either, but they have been schooled in the art of the non-committal comment. Reporters are probably waiting for the one who slips.

  12. Yes, another comment. Not to glom the feedback..but since the responses/feedback with Peters’ post seems to be alive & well..I thought I would take the opportunity/take advantage of the exposure to express gratitude to Mr. Hammill for the body of work over the years. Really more-so the quality with some of that body of work. Namely pieces such as ‘Comfortable?”..’Primo on the Parapet’..Anything of course from Ph7, ..Future Now.., The K- albums (pieces such as ‘Don’t Tell Me’ & ‘Just Good Friends’ for their specificness)..’Losing Faith in Words’..’Shell’.. … Really as we’re all quite sure of (tho at times we might take for granted..or just don’t take the time to follow thru with a ‘Thank You Pete’)..just an unprecidented spot-on accuracy with getting to the crux of a particular issue that a song might take on (a song following the format of your standard contemporary song ballad no less…at least in ‘length of song’- 4:30 min. say). It’s odd with Peters’ tunes..cause sometimes it seems it’s not-too-uncommon for a song ‘going thru a theme’ to take a quantum-leap on (for lack of a better word) the ramifications that are implied with that theme; a leap most likely in an introspective direction. So to me this is the double-edged sword thing (if you will allow me) with some of petes songs; Should every song end on a happy note? Does life allways come with a happy ending? As the old New York City subway trains used to say as a (believe it or not) public service announcement that yes..subway trains ‘can’ be overcrowded..each train had a poster which read ‘We never promised you a rose garden’. So..I think with P. hammills’ music it’s not for the holly-go-lightlies of the world. It’s pretty strong stuff which argumentively you could say borders on toxic. But thats our Petey! ……And..that’s about it. I’m pretty tired now (like..who really gives a rats’ ass?)..but I just wanted to get out an expression of appreciation to/for Mr. Hammill. Thats all. Oh..and also for composing real tender-heart pieces like ‘sleep now’, ‘Gaia’ & ‘Vision’. And again, that’s our Petey: if he does’nt depress you for ‘daring to get into his body of work’..he’ll bring a tear to the eye for expressions of sweetness.

    • I know..another comment (glom glom)..but consider this a p.s (i’ll be quick)….Namely the song ‘Fed To The Wolves’. The lyrics..so apt, powerful & sad. But in these times such a necessary tune. Tho you might look at a piece such as this as something that just had to be addressed..the issues really wrote it themselves… I do want to commend you P. Hammill for the courage to ‘go there’. …An attempt to take a subject ‘to task’..and succeeding.

  13. Anonymous says:

    If I gave an interview, give a noncommittal answer. But no chances.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I remember listening to a Zappa album years ago (I think it might have been a bootleg) of a Zappa show broadcast on TV in The States (I think). It picks up conversation between Zappa and a female journalist just as Zappa is about to step on stage. She asks him ” Well Frank, are you going to give us a good show tonight”. You could almost see the withering look he must have given her. He then proceeded to rip her to bits for a few minutes all of which went completely over her head as she carried on with more inane questions. Priceless.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Total agree with you Peter, one particular female Radio 1 DJ comes to mind, asking inane questions, such as How was it for you? That was to one of the audience straight after the Artist’s set!

  16. Anonymous says:

    So, Bono, why exactly did U2 move their business from Ireland to Holland? Funny, no-one asked that!

    • Short answer;because (correct me if needs be) The Rolling Stones did it first. Corporately speaking where The Rolling Stones went, first U2 will follow. If musicians will set themselves up to be the musical equalivalent of Wallmart (the rhetorically obvious sold to the socially conservative) they will work by Wallmart’s rules…

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not sure ranting against musicians for their financial decisions is constructive. The top earners are certainly an exception to the rule that musicians in general do not make a lot of money from their activities, but without this structuring they could be shelling out 80% of their cash to taxes, and has been the downfall of many bands in the past.

      I really don’t care if these guys make plenty of money: they’re peddling art and entertainment, not illegal drugs, or weapons, or overly-expensive and unnecessary pharmaceuticals, or fossil fuels. They’re doing no harm whatsoever. You have a choice whether or not to buy their stuff, they don’t have you locked in and they’re essentially luxuries.

      Railing against musicians for their financial success smacks of envy.

      Joe, somewhere north of Bristol

  17. Today all has becoming very big business where humanity comes second place after making profit. Human thinking is not old school Peter, we don’t have to agree with how things are today,maybe that is progressive( oh no…:-) ) thinking rather than being conservative and walk in between the lines

  18. 1 last comment/ Speaking my mind. Yea Rant. ‘Could be worse; at least your not an Alcoholic, right? ‘Just thinking about you Peter

  19. Dave says:

    Fascinating blog as ever.

    As Peter might recall, we’ve engaged in email correspondence before, via my work in football – viva Halfords Lane! So in defence of the post-match interviewer, while I do agree with the tone of the blog – that we are all there to glorify Sky TV rather than Manchester United/Liverpool/Swansea – access in football is a very thorny issue.

    The days of the footballer going to the game with the fan on the bus is 50 years gone, the days of the top footballer earning a sum that is vaguely within the orbit of the normal supporter is 25 years gone. The days of the footballer being cossetted, of him wanting as little to do with the outside world as possible, and of his club desperately trying to ensure that he says as little as possible as infrequently as possible is with us. Trying to book an interview with a Rooney or a Gerrard or a Lampard is nigh on impossible these days, so grabbing two minutes with them post-match, even when they talk in carefully coached banalities, is a golden opportunity. Sadly, that’s the level of discourse we are now frequently at, not helped by the fact that many players are less adept at stringing words together than they are passes.

    All of that said, footballers are now on a different financial planet purely because of the money pumped in by Sky. But as their play is more exposed, so they want to give less of themselves, and that is wrong. A player in the ’60s got paid £50 a week to play football. A player of today, whether he likes it or not, gets his £50k a week to be a media figure. But they rarely want to play ball, which is why we get these post-match nonsenses.

    I suspect access at the top money end of the music industry is similarly restricted, and I suspect that’s why we are going down the similar post-match route when broadcasters can get access to them. Utterly pointless in most cases, for the very reasons Peter outlines. Which is why more musicians should be writing blogs like this. A vain hope perhaps…

  20. MickB says:

    Perhaps a united front is required. Something common amongst all performers, whether musical, theatrical, sporting, etc. A retort that really shows up the interview for how crass it is. How about a weary look direct to camera, a shrug of the shoulders, a roll of the eyes and a long ‘Duuuuuuh’? Kids have been using that response successfully in the playground for decades, if not for ever. If everyone started doing that, they’d soon find another approach.

  21. Finally..after more than 2 decades the question is finally answered: “Where do the actors go? After the Show..” Why, to the Reporters of course! Back to you Jane.

    …. Hi Pete. Good rant. And expressed intelligently & interesting(ly).
    …this thought came to mind (and thought I’d take a chance & express it. Tho it’s kindof dark)..on the subject of Sport Figures & success. Was just thinking of the original movie from the 1970’s RollerBall. An American movie with American actors..but a good performance by John Houseman. The theme with that tho is more of Exploitation of sports stars..& tables turning eventually. So really, I guess I’m a little off context. Still tho, good style with that flick.
    Hehe. Let me just ad this; it strikes me as poignant. Then I’ll end. I wanted to make sure John Houseman ‘was’ British born so I checked the Rollerball movie on Wikipedia. Let me just type this quote from the very first description of the Flick.
    “In the film, the world of 2018 is a global corporate state, containing entities such as the Energy Corporation, a global energy monopoly based in Houston which deals with nominally-peer corporations controlling access to all transport, luxury, housing, communication, and food on a global basis”

    ….. So you can see where this is going; 2011 right now…. yea. Should be right on time by 2018.

  22. Instant analysis is usually way off the mark. Bob Dylan’s 1966 tour is stuff of legend now. Mu father was one of the people who walked out on the electric set.

  23. Andrew Wales says:

    There seems to be an assumption within “the media” that TV coverage will be improved the more the viewer can be brought “inside” the event and are as far as possible made to feel as if they are actually there, shoulder to shoulder with the performer/participant sharing in their “experience”. In reality, if that happens at all it is more likely because of something intangible than any words that might spill out of the performers mouth, seconds after they have come off the stage. Indeed where I see it most occurring, in the coverage of football matches, all this need for constant “reaction” achieves, is to fuel the perception that footballers are not exactly intellectual colossi! Unfortunately, I fear, the assumption that this is a “good” idea won’t go away too easily in an age where “social networking” is chipping away anyway at traditional concepts of “privacy”. Thus, one can only live in hope, that eventually people will see how futile and pointless these types of “interviews” are…

  24. Excellently made point. That kind of amateur camera wielding faux reportage is both obnoxious and sloppy journalism. Far from allowing the audience some kind of hallowed insight into the performer’s world.

    In my experience. Just to catch my breath, a cold drink and a towel to wipe the face, is what I want after a gig.

    And then the beers obviously.

    Sadly though, as an addendum, I saw the Kaiser Chiefs play at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield, so I couldn’t muster sympathy for them if you held a gun to my head :o)

  25. quchi says:

    “go on and rip the back right off my shirt”
    “trying to get back to the real…
    Uh-oh, here they come, ready for their meal:”

  26. Ross says:

    Be it soccer, rugby, music or (currently) tennis, having stupid questions asked of exhausted performers immediately upon conclusion of the contest/concert irks me and generally has me heading for the kettle! I totally agree and align myself alongside your rant – good shout.

  27. James Rose says:

    Best thing you’ve written in years. (Joke!)

    Seriously, ‘access’ to performers is overrated. We don’t really want our ‘stars’ to be men of the people. We want them (you) to be focused, demonic, touched by something we mortals will never understand. Even Paul Scholes.

    • Hehe. I can’t read any further; past the opening with this comment. Look out Peter H..here we come; The cracking of the egg begins..& inside stirs a little baby energy vampire

  28. robtarz says:

    I could not agree more!

  29. tatankayotanka says:

    Hear, hear. There is a huge conceit in the media that they can bestow meaning on an event through their presence and interventions, the imposed experience needs resisting on all fronts.

  30. Richard Vernon says:

    “The questions are usually inane or fawning -or both – ……”

    For a second I thought you were talking about the BBC’s relationship to the monarchy……..

  31. Bob Daniel says:

    All part of the continuing rise of “Spectacle” over substance, I suppose…

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