Quirky “guerrilla” journalist Nardwuar has been bewildering musicians with his unique style of interviewing since the late eighties. Watch just one of his many video interviews and he may seem like a gimmicky persona, but after watching a few and realizing that he never “breaks character” or reveals ulterior motives, one realizes that Nardwuar the Human Serviette (his legal name) is the best (and most punk) thing to happen to music journalism since the Sex Pistols’ first appearance on British network television.
But just as the Pistols treated TV host Bill Grundy like dog shit on their shoes, musicians have been known to give Nardwuar a hard time. Unlike Grundy though, Nardwuar isn’t a dogmatic, probing prick; he’s an enigma who does an immense amount of research and never compromises his absurd personality. Some artists recognize his dedication and love him for it, like Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion, we guess), who has asked Nardwuar back for multiple interviews. VICE’s Kyle Ellison is such a big fan that he recently wrote a “guide to Nardwuar etiquette,” lauding praise upon Snoop and others who have accepted Nardwuar’s goofball image, and lamenting the musicians who show an utter distaste for it.
We’re going to take it a step further and say that an artist’s Nardwuar interview can serve as a litmus test that determines if he/she is an asshole or a champion worthy of the public’s admiration. Here are three MVPs of Nardwuar interviews and, conversely, the three biggest assholes.
Drake and Noah “40” Shebib
Drizzy and his go-to producer riff with Nardo on their shared Canadian heritage, a hilariously McCaulay Culkin-esque photo of Kid Rock, and Drake’s old pastime of jacking it to old photos of Pam Greer. The golden moment though, is when Nardwuar fufills Drake’s wish on “Over” of owning a replica of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” jacket. Warm fuzzy feelings ensue.
The ever-adorable Claire Boucher meets up with our Tam-clad hero on her birthday during SXSW in Austin. They talk about firing guns at a young age, the Vancouver music scene, and her favorite dog. Boucher also sums up Nardwuar’s career in one sentence: “It’s so beyond awkward that it’s not awkward.”
Snoop Dogg (2010 Interview)
As previously mentioned, Snoop has accumulated a few Nardwuar interviews in his day. The most recent, shot in 2010, is by far the best. Maybe it’s Snoop microwaving a blunt before lighting it, maybe it’s his description of Nardo’s style of interviewing as “rather different,” his praise of the Human Serviette’s “courageousness,” his rad Blazers jersey, or the Dr. Dre “Chronic”-spoofing drawing entitled “The Canuck,” but few things aside from an Irish coffee warm my heart as much as this interview. The big boss dogg is truly a gentleman.
While being interviewed with his Transplants bandmate Rob Aston, Barker becomes aggravated by the proximity of Nardwuar’s microphone to his face. While that sounds almost as lame as the Transplants’ failed fusion of rap and rock, Barker goes further and has his bodyguard step in and cut the interview short, revealing himself to be an ultimate asshole. All the shitty music he’s released in the last ten years doesn’t help his case either.
Lasting a grand total of 28 seconds, Beck’s interview with Nardwuar basically never happened. Nardo tries to ask Beck why people should care about his music, and I guess the humor of the question didn’t reach him. Beck comes across as a boring, lazy nihilist who can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes on an interview. Loser indeed.
Frontman Thurston Moore has never shied from an opportunity to say something provocative. While that may do wonders for his perceived “punk cred,” it comes off as self-serving and pompous in the face of an earnest Nardwuar. When asked a simple question about Dinosaur Jr., Moore does a mocking J. Mascis impression, followed by the entire band’s very mean-spirited mimicry of Nardo’s high-pitched voice. They even break one of his gifts at one point. Say what you will about their music, but Sonic Youth have always been assholes of the highest order.
There are many more Nardwuar videos to check out, as well as music by his band, The Evaporators. While sometimes pitiful, his interviews are real-time, unedited windows into the personalities of musicians, and they blow glossy magazine profile stories out of the water. If you’ve ever wondered if you’d get along with your favorite musician, just watch his or her Nardwuar interview.