Tips for Interviewing People on the Phone


While writing for the Gauntlet, I had a disastrous phone interview with Henry Rollins (of Black Flag and Henry Rollins Band fame). I had been so psyched to interview him that I skipped a class during mid-term season. Lesson learned? Don’t ever talk to your heroes: it will ruin you. I made a list of some other lessons I learned on that catastrophic phone interview:

  • Test your equipment beforehand The phone was so screwed up that Henry sounded like he was talking through a straw. Try a phone interview with some other punk icon like Jello Biafra or Johnny Lydon first, so that way you know everything is operating properly.
  • Don’t ask a question that’s been asked elsewhere If you ask Henry the same question that was asked by a Hungarian DIY punk zine back in 87’, his hand will literally punch you through your receiver, and then strangle you. Make sure your questions are not only relevant, but fresh and unique.
  • Don’t ask about about their workout routine (or other personal things) People get hostile when you wander into uncomfortable territory. “If you were an Egyptian Pharaoh, what three things would you bring to the afterlife?” is a safe question, but is irrelevant.
  • Don’t mention that you missed one of their gigs or haven’t read their latest book You may as well say “I stopped giving a damn about you a while ago.” It’s about the same.
  • Don’t waste their time Every minute you are talking to them is a minute they could be doing something else. Have your questions ready, have your equipment ready, and have back-up questions to roll with the punches. They’ll be happy, you’ll be happy.