These are the collected interviews of Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis, a highly respected veteran music journalist. This book is the end result of 25 years talking to, taking apart, and diving inside the heads and hearts of music's - though he does take a peripheral look at directors and actors - most elite and eccentric players.
He demonstrates, time and time again, his mastery of the Q&A form - question and answer - as he tackles such diffident and typically closed-mouth individuals as Van Morrison ("Whenever I'm asked about the interview I enjoyed the least - or hated the most - I immediately bring up this 1985 encounter with Van Morrison") and King Crimson brainchild Robert Fripp ("Do I find a personal need to do interviews? Not at the moment," replies a typically churlish and always challenging guitarist in response to Anthony's opening gambit, "Do you enjoy doing interviews?"). In this latter give-and-exchange, he manages to turn Fripp's statement back on himself in extracting some intriguing nuggets, and in the Morrison conversation mentioned above, he, well, he turns what could have been a disastrous encounter into a mildly entertaining game of intellectual ping pong.
In the opening chapter, "Introduction: The Art of Talk," the author explains the delicate balance that is the interviewing experience and that a handful of well-intentioned questions and a headful of specific knowledge is only the pre-requisite in producing a well-crafted and emotionally charged Q&A piece. And he's right.
This may be inappropriate as a reviewer but, like DeCurtis, I am a music journalist, and I've had the opportunity to sit brain-to-brain with Robert Fripp and Frank Zappa and Ginger Baker, musicians notorious for their dis-interest in interviews and, more specifically, interviewers. So, when he says, "Being able to read the person in front of you is one of the intangible skills of the interview," he knows of what he writes. This is not brain surgery, it is not complex physics, but it is untangling the machinations of another human being who, at that particular point in time, may not want to be untangled.
DeCurtis has compiled a wonderfully eclectic selection here and anyone interested in knowing more than a musician's inseam measurements needs to read In Other Words.