Monday, November 9, 2009
I MAY ALSO KNOW NUFFIN.
Marina & The Diamonds Interview
From the top:
I started contributing to State mag in Ireland, and one day I got an email looking for someone to interview Marina Diamandis, better known by her nom de guerre Marina And The Diamonds.
I had just seen the "I Am Not A Robot" video and loved it, so I threw my hat into the ring. I didn't do any of the publicity legwork, so all I had to do was wait for my time slot. Artist interviews, if you're curious, are almost universally loathed by the artists who do them. But they don't hate doing them out of conceit, or at least most don't: they hate doing interviews because it's time-consuming and they're busy people. There are other factors too, but not in this case. In this case, Ms. Diamandis was working on her album, and had to find a time during the day that she could stop work and talk to me.
The first scheduled timeslot was at 2:30pm GMT. GMT as in Greenwich Mean Time. This means the interview was at 6:30am here at my apartment. Easily the earliest i've ever had to wake up, but what was I expecting right? So I wake up at 6am that day and find out that it has been rescheduled for the next day two hours later. So it was half-good news.
The next day i got up at 7, headed to the Union office, and got set up. Then I received an email asking if I could call her phone, as opposed to her calling me. The Union office phone barely calls Los Angeles zip codes, so there was no way I could use that. My cell phone, though it would charge me a ton of money, would work but it always makes for a terrible recording. So I downloaded Skype and used what credits I hadn't already spent on a previous interview for a phone call to London. Well, as soon as Marina's manager got a hold of her and then sent me the go-ahead. It ended up being about an hour later, all told.
I mention the delays and hiccups not because they upset me. They're part of the game you play as a music journo, and I've got no clout to use to make anyone work around my schedule. The point of mentioning this is that I was very excited to talk to Marina and if getting to do it meant waiting at the computer all week, so be it.
As to our interview, it was one of the strangest i've ever been a part of. Marina is aggressive, opinionated, and witty; but she's also still fairly new to the industry and fairly new to interviews. Also, on my end, my experience doing interviews seems to have served to make me feel invincible on the phone, leading me to stutter and pause for long stretches and barely notice it. I swear i took at least 3 twenty-second breaks just to read an old blog post of hers or look back over my notes, the whole time muttering "umm"s and "ahhs" and pretending to start a sentence. I don't remember where I heard the comparison of interviews to sex, but it certainly fits here. It was a sort of awkward and pleasant experience dotted by brief moments of discomfort and apology (TWSS).
At one point, after discussing the sexual nature of music videos, I pointed out that in the 'Robot' video, she appears to be nude (the video is all shoulders-up, so nothing too racy). It probably sounds a little silly, and perhaps even sounds like a cop-out, to say that I wasn't expecting her to actually consider the implications of it. But she did. It became clear as she responded that the whole complex structure of the thing was unfolding in her mind. Perhaps she suddenly saw herself as part of the same machine she found so bizarre. Perhaps she suddenly questioned her ability to accurately express herself in the media ever. There was suddenly blood in the water, and it wasn't clear whether it was hers, mine, or Shakira's.
(I suppose I could have overestimated the drama of this situation, but that's what it felt like at the moment. Drama.)
I did my best to get back to basics. I tried to reinforce the fact that I was a fan of hers. I was trying everything I could to steer the story back to an up-and-coming artist with talent to burn and a passion for her fans. To a certain extent, it got there, but that moment still lingered. I felt like I'd let her down as a scribe, failing in my one duty to promote her with my words. That's a little self-centered on my part, but it's true. I ended the interview with a reference to Cheese Whiz (which is a distinctly American entity and confuses Brits, apparently) and then she totally burned me after I told her I was in Los Angeles writing for an Irish magazine. I believe she said something to the effect of "Are they running out of writers in Ireland?" Oof. She got me.
Anyways, this morning I read her blog post titled "I KNOW NUFFIN." and got really self-conscious. First of all, I'm not going to assume she's talking about my interview, because there's a strong chance she isn't. I'm not the only gig in town, and definitely the only gig in the world. Some things add up. First, the time frame is right, and she says 'he' when referring to the journalist. And we did talk about her comments, their impact as she becomes more famous, and Shakira. However, she also calls me 'wise and kind,' and that's maybe 50% true at best. I considered leaving a comment (i'm still considering it) and I sent her a tweet asking if that's what she meant. I don't think she'll respond though. I should have asked anonymously. Now I look like i'm grandstanding.
Her main concerns are that a) she comes across as unintelligent when she blogs, and b) contradicts herself or sets herself up for negative publicity by expressing herself (this is a complete paraphrase, read her blog and make up your own mind). She obviously wanted to use her blog to dialog with fans, to pull down the wall between the artist and the audience. This is indubitably admirable, as virtually no artists today attempt that on a genuine level. They drop a tweet here and there, and they have someone post stuff on their blogs and update their tours on myspace, and that's it. Marina, on the other hand, blogs extensively. She leaves twitter messages about how she's feeling, even when she's not feeling positive. She gets involved.
Unfortunately, she cannot easily create the 'round table' of fans that she wants. I won't say it's impossible, but it hasn't been done. And if you're going to do anything truly new, it's going to be an uphill battle. Her comments will remain elevated, and she'll be judged, constantly and unfairly, by them. So the question becomes: is it worth it? Yes. It totally is. Playing with other people's notions of celebrity and beauty and sexuality lie is the soul of what it means to be an artist. There will always be criticisms, and many of them will be unfair or just wrong. But criticisms can also be positive. They allow us to get out of our own mindset and see ourselves the way others view us. To immediately toss out these perspectives as inconsequential would be juvenile.
And there's no law of celebrity that says you have to be the same person with the same beliefs for the entirety of your career. If Marina truly considers her blog a place for honest dialogue on the internet (oxymoron?), and I believe she should, then she has permission to be malleable in her opinions. After all, to be open to discussion doesn't mean you'll just 'hear' differing views, but that you'll listen to them sincerely. And why shouldn't we be open to criticism? Nobody has a monopoly on the truth, and those that claim to are the most deluded of all.
My hope is that Marina continues to blog, and sing, and say whatever the hell she wants despite those who would judge her. After all, it's not modesty that makes a Diamond, it's pressure.