Interviews are hard. First you have to come up with questions, ones no other journalist has asked before. This means research and research can take up a lot of time. Then, you get to conduct the interview, either via email or over phone. In person interviews don’t happen these days unless you’re Rolling Stone or the New York Times.
Now, let’s say you have your interview questions and you have your interview time, you still have to conduct the interview. Were you lucky enough to get your subject on the phone? Good. I hope everything goes well with your recorder. After you get your subject on the line, double check and make sure the conversation is getting recorded. You’ll thank yourself later.
Personally, I have difficulty with phone interviews. I’m an observer. I watch body language. Non-verbals are hard to come by over the phone. Maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but there are other concerns to keep in mind, like, how to keep a disinterested subject talking.
Here’s where small talk skills can come in handy. Lob some soft ones about your subject’s hometown, their favorite sports team, or their favorite tv show. Everyone’s on twitter. With a little digging you can make pretend connections. Then, once you have your subject blabbing away, come back to the more thoughtful questions.
Yes, interviews suck. That’s why I don’t do very many of them. I have a full time job, and the last thing I want to do when I get home from 8 hours of work is sit down and transcribe and edit out hundreds of umms, yeahs and likes.
Unfortunately, I can’t help you with your transcription. That hell is all yours.
Where I can help, however, is with the research and question part. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking into this young band of Danish punks, Iceage, and have stumbled across more than a few troubling connections to white nationalism.
Most journalists, just ignore this stuff. I mean, if it was really an issue, Pitchfork would have asked them, right? Wrong. The pre-release interview made no mention of white nationalism or racism and in the Best New Music review for You’re Nothing, Brandon Stousy only had this to say on the subject, “When Iceage released their excellent 2011 debut, New Brigade, a large part of the discussion was dedicated to the nihilistic but crush-worthy Danish punk group’s ages (at the time, ranging from 18 to 19), and the fact that they sounded much older than that. You also got stories about their bloody live shows and, later, online handwringing about them baiting controversy Joy Division-style by apparently flirting with fascist gestures at one of those shows.”
There’s more to the story — Iceage’s flirting with fascism, racism, and white nationalism extends to more than one show, and best of all, you can be a part of it. Just pick any, or all of the following questions for your scheduled interview with Iceage. Yes, I am literally giving these questions away. Just ask them and pretend to be surprised when you get vague, elusive answers. That’s kinda their thing.
1. In the video for “New Brigade,” the members of the band are seen running with torches, throwing smoke bombs and wearing Klansman hoods. This is a peculiar choice of imagery, especially when paired with the final verse of the song. “This is a blood path/Betrayal is a sin/Pointlessness in surroundings/Cannot ruin things/Can you keep a promise/Alliance is our home/We’ll stay together/In Brotherhood it shows.” Exactly, what type of battle are you preparing for?
2. In previous interviews, you’ve stated how your songs are open to interpretation and that you don’t have any political agendas. Can you explain the feeling of seeing young Copenhagen punks giving you Nazi salutes at your shows? That has to be troubling, right? Have you ever tried to connect with those in the scene and explain how racism is against the punk ideal? Under what circumstances would you pull the plug and address a nasty crowd?
3. Let’s talk tattoos. There is one tattoo visible on your website, in particular, that I’m interested in. It appears that guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth has the logo of Death in June tattooed on his arm. Was Death in June an important influence to the band? Some contend Death in June as a mouthpiece for white nationalism and hate speech. They were even barred from performing in Chicago because of their views. Is there an aspect of Death in June’s story that is particularly appealing to Iceage?
4. Where did the idea for the official Iceage tour knife come from? It seems a strange item to sell at a merch table, especially when one considers the violence around the skin culture of ’80s UK punk.
5. How are race relations in Denmark? As the birthplace of the famous Muhammad cartoon, I assume that there’s still tension between natives and Muslims. Is the Copenhagen punk community active in improving relations?
6. Speaking of the punk community, in the past you’ve shared the stage with a band who performs in blackface. They call themselves White Nigger. Now that’s extreme! In the US, it’s considered to be in poor taste to do such a thing these days. Describe a time where you’ve encountered hostility for pushing the boundaries of what isn’t acceptable behavior towards minorities. Has there been a time where you had to say to your mates, “Guys, you’re taking things too far!”
7. What is the significance of the band’s logo? At first I thought it was inspired by the classic anarchy symbol, then I read how the band aren’t very political. Then, after some clicking around, I found it had a striking resemblance to ancient runes used by white power groups, in particular, the algiz rune.
8. Now, would you like to clarify anything? It seems your band has many coincidental ties to white power, but in other interviews you’ve always been evasive about these ties. Other artists, Bowie, Siouxsie Sioux, Joy Division/New Order, had dabbled in fascist imagery, but later backed off from their provocative stances once they realized it wasn’t an image they really wanted to portray. Is Iceage concerned about these links? Which aspects of the band’s past would you like to take back?
9. Oh, I almost forgot to ask about those cartoons. Do you see now why people would assume they were drawn, not as a comment by someone witnessing racial tension, but by someone stoking racial tension? For a band who doesn’t take political stances and a band whose songs are open to interpretation, we keep coming back to white nationalism and racism. Why is that? If I hadn’t been introduced to Iceage through the mainstream music press, I’d be wondering if Iceage was a Nazi punk band.
10. Last question. I promise. This one is multiple choice. Would you categorize Iceage as A) Casually racist B) Supporters of White Nationalism or C) So ignorant of global race issues that we thought it would be extreme to use white nationalist imagery to promote our band?
Journalists, get to your journalism!