Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed, Neil Gaiman And The Art Of Interviewing

Following the news of Lou Reed's death over the weekend, there's been lots of conversation about the man, as usually happens when a celebrity dies.  My own 'relationship' with the singer is extremely limited, to put it mildly.  I enjoyed a few of his popular songs, including "Sweet Jane" by Reed and The Velvet Underground, which Tammy introduced me to several years ago (and which has been covered quite a few times over the past forty years).

By far the most interesting thing I've read out of this current flurry of Reed-mania is Neil Gaiman's interview with Lou from 1992.  I'm a firm believer that there's an art to conducting a good interview, and it's a skill that seems largely lacking among those who do the most interviews.  I used to love Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show style back in the 70s and 80s because he not only asked interesting questions of his guests, but he also went to the places that you wanted him to go, even if you didn't know it until it happened.  By the time Snyder was done with his subject, you understood the person (rather than the persona) in ways you never would had anyone else been asking the questions.

Neil's talk with Lou Reed is fascinating in a different way, though.  The article that precedes the interview provides the perfect scene-setting to allow you to understand how big a deal it was for the writer to land that gig, as well as to observe the slow, steady transformation that unfolds in the singer's attitude toward his interviewer.  You can track Reed's growing appreciation for the intelligence and insight behind the questions, and the openness that Gaiman elicits out of him in response is extraordinary for such a short conversation.

It's a weird confluence of coincidences that Neil Gaiman's return to Sandman debuts in two days (Sandman Overture) and I'd just suggested The Velvet Underground as the letters column name for the comic series, Velvet, that came out last Wednesday.  Everything ties together.

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