I remember the first recorded interview I did (1972). It was with Bill Walsh and Jack McDaniel, two local businessmen who organized the Fall Festival Parade every year in the little town where we lived. When I got back to the studio and dubbed the audio from a cassette to reel-to-reel tape, I was horrified to hear how awful I sounded. Long, rambling questions. It still makes me cringe.
I grabbed a splicing block, a grease pencil and some splicing tape (look ‘em up) and sliced out my questions. But first I had to record the questions without sounding like a moron… and then — oh so tediously — splice them back with the answers. Yes, the interview still sounded like shit.
No idea how many interviews I recorded during the next 40 years. A bunch. And I don’t think I got much better at it. Looking back it’s easy to see what I was doing wrong: talking too much. I mistakenly thought I was and equal part of the interview. A natural hubris, I suppose.
Few things infuriate me more than listening to an interview with someone who really has something interesting to say but never gets to say it because the interviewer continuously interrupts. Or eats up vast amounts of time with endless, rambling questions.
In recent years I’ve found a way to address this failing of mine. I write out every question I want to ask (trying to stay close to 10) and do my best not to vary. But more often than not, when I listen to the interview, I find I can delete my questions entirely, leaving the listener/viewer with what they came for.
There are some interviewers who add more than they detract. I’m fond of Daniel Tosh’s interviews (if one can really call them that). I like James Lipton’s (Inside the Actor’s Studio) style. But — like me — most interviewers simply can not shut the fuck up and let the subject talk.