Interview by Patrick McGuire, Illustration by Michael Deforge
What was your first job?
Doing the Real Estate Weekly, which was a paper in Vancouver that nobody really cared about, but they still wanted it distributed to all these houses and I would deliver it every Friday for about ten years, and I saved up the money from that to put out the first record I released in 1989 called Oh God, My Mom’s on Channel 10 which is a compilation record of some of my favourite rock and roll bands and some interview snippets with Joey Shithead and Jello Biafra.
Have you always been a confident, social person? Do you ever find it difficult to approach people in interviews?
Oh, everyday I’m scared. That’s why I still do interviews. In general, I’m just as scared when I go to the checkout stand at the Safeway or whatever. Like, I have the wrong vegetables or I’ve written down the wrong thing or something like that.
Any recent freakouts?
Nothing recently, but it basically goes back to watching TV and feeling that some people aren’t doing what they should do. I’m nervous all of the time, but what inspired me to do interviews or do music, basically, was Arsenio Hall.
He was doing his show once, and he was interviewing Sharon Stone, and she’d acted in a whole bunch of B Movies, the Alan Quartermain and Lost City of Gold movies, which I loved and Arsenio Hall asked her something to the effect of “what sort of movies have you done?” and she said “well I’ve done a whole bunch of movies, I don’t really want to talk about them”. And I’m sitting there at home like, “my God, I love those movies! I love the Alan Quartermaine movies!” So I was like, if I was doing that interview, I would have asked about that.
Nardwuar interviewing Nirvana in Vancouver, 1994.
How did your Nirvana interview come together?
Courtney Love set up the whole thing. It just was interesting trying to get the interview, because Nirvana had been playing in Vancouver for two days, so on the first day I went down to the PNE Forum with my buddy Hugh and we hid on top of some toilets, hoping we wouldn’t get discovered. But, we did, and I said, “Hey! I’m the president of Sub Pop Records!” But of course they didn’t believe me and kicked me out. Then the next day my buddy Hugh said “come on, I think they’re staying at the Four Seasons”. So we went down to the hotel and bumped into Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl recognized me from being in the band The Goblins, which was pretty weird because in that band I played with a sheet over my head.
He said he’d put me on the guest list. So I went down to the gig and I wasn’t on the guest list. The people were teasing me like “Nardwuar you’ve been in this town long enough to know you’ll never be on the guestlist”, then right at that moment Kurt and Courtney walked in the wrong door, they said “you can’t take Nardwuar!” And Courtney said, “yes I can, because Nardwuar is my cousin.”
You interviewed Killer Mike recently, are you a big fan? I had heard of him, because he’s done a lot of guest appearances. I think because I didn’t know much about him I was more eager to find out more information about him, and that’s my whole thing. The less you know, the better, because it spurs you on to want to do more.
What are your research methods like?
You can ask your friends, you can look through books... A lot of is just remembering. Sometimes people give you too much credit. They don’t want to be interviewed by you because they think you’re going to discover something about them that they haven’t told anybody, which actually you haven’t discovered. We all know Tommy Lee did porn, but it’s funny sometimes before the interview the publicist will go “please don’t ask about porn or the video being reissued by Hustler Magazine” and you’re like “what? I didn’t know it was being reissued!”
So are you a music savant or just an excellent researcher?
I’m not a music savant and I’m not even really an excellent researcher. I guess I’m just somebody that cares.