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Interviews

Anil Prasad: Inner Views, Borderless Perspectives

By Published: December 28, 2010
AAJ: How did it work out for you?

AP: It's worked out extraordinarily well. I would say about 98 percent of the reviews have been extremely positive. I'm really happy. I think Boyd's strategy worked. And if there is any music journalist that is reading this who is putting out a book, I would strongly recommend foregoing the traditional book marketing situation unless you're writing a book about Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney or someone who has an existence in ultra-mainstream culture. Instead, go to the people who listen to the music and know and write about music. The other point of the music marketing component is the extremely influential nature of the blogosphere and social media outreach. I think a lot of the reasons this book has achieved any traction is because it's talked about among fans and listeners—people who want to promote the work of the artists contained in the book.

AAJ: Will there be a digital edition of the book?

AP: There are plans for a digital version of the book in 2011.

AAJ: What was it like having other music journalists review you work?

AP: Generally very positive. I guess because the Innerviews website has been around since the dawn of the web in 1994, a lot of music journalists already knew what it was and could make the linkage between the book, the website, and who I am. So I think they've generally been really fair and accommodating. Of course there have been some really silly reviews saying things like, "The cover is very grey. Why is it so grey? Wouldn't some color have been nice?" or "Wow, these interviews are really, really long. Who would want to read such a long interview?" One review went "I've never heard of any of these artists and you probably never have too." [laughter]. Crap like that is pure journalistic laziness, really. I want to emphasize that we're talking about a fractional element here, because the response has been terrific overall. But it is interesting to see what people focus on.

AAJ: On that note, I checked archive.org to see if I could see an earlier version of the site, but nothing was available. Is that intentional?

AP: Yeah, I've done that on purpose. You can't access old versions of Innerviews on archive.org. The interviews on the site, as well as its look and feel, and structure, have become incrementally better over time. The interviews been re-edited and reformatted over time with new graphics added. And while I think there is great value in archive.org, in the case of Innerviews, the best version of the site that you are ever going to see is the one that is up at this moment. No one likes to go back and look at their high school yearbook photos, you know?

AAJ: Stepping back to your formative years as a journalist, you've said that in journalism school you were heavily influenced by your professors' out-of-the-box thinking and alternate methods for interviewing. Can you talk about those methods?

AP: Sure. It's absolutely not rocket science and I don't think you need to go to journalism school to get any of this stuff, although it's certainly helpful if you have the opportunity. Don't ask closed-ended questions. Ask open-ended questions that aren't "yes or no" focused or necessarily revolve around boxed-in answers. You'll see things in the book and the website like, "What's your take on this?" or "Can you elaborate on that?" or "Tell me more about this." They're very simple devices that put the burden of the interpretation on the interview subject's shoulders. I think that's really important. That's where you're going to get the most interesting answers as opposed to something that would result in a yes or no answer.

Another thing of value is really deep research, going into an artist's catalog or looking at previous interviews or articles and pulling out nuggets from their past and cross-referencing against their current project and doing a compare and contrast. If I'm talking to several artists in succession and an interesting topic emerges, I might ask all of them about it. When I interviewed Joe Zawinul, which is still one of my favorite interviews, he said that America is in a state of decline because the number of real storytellers is dwindling. I hit a few other artists with his quote to get their reaction. So many people just took that one and ran with it in interesting and unique ways.

With music journalists, when they receive a CD or downloadable album, it comes attached with a one-to-three page artist biography. For many music journalists, their research begins and ends with that bio. That's why so many interviews read exactly the same. There's a certain amount of carbon copying in music journalism, and there's really no reason it has to be that way. With the web, there's such a wealth of music journalism history to tap into now. In mere seconds, you can Google your way into dozens of articles on the person you're covering and come up with really interesting and novel questions.


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