Iâ€™ve just unearthed a treasure trove.
Then again, maybe not.
Somewhere in my basement, I just found a box of cassette tapes. Not just dubs of albums or promo mix tapes distributed at the New Music Seminars and CMJ conventions I used to attend during the 80s â€“ but some highly unique stuff from my days as both a college radio music director and arts editor at the Georgetown University campus paper.
The tapes say things like â€œT-Bone Burnett interview.â€ Or â€œThe dBs.â€ Or â€œInterview with Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil.â€
You know what? I recall every single one of these interviews.
You see, back in the day, I was pretty aggressive when it came to whatever cool acts came to town. Plus I had the added bonus of representing both Georgetownâ€™s newspaper and radio station. Bands could do the equivalent of killing two birds with one stone.
Never mind that the paper was the secondary one on campus and the station was distributed via carrier current i.e. only on campus as a weak AM feed. Nobody needed to know that.
So I made plenty of friends with record company reps and got them to promise me interviews when one of their bands came to town. Or sometimes I would just attend the concert and see if I could wheedle myself backstage with my tape recorder.
Burnett was a lengthy conversation recorded in the basement dressing room of the old 9:30 club, in which he not only talked about his latest album â€œProof Through the Nightâ€ but waxed philosophically about music and life. Garrett and I discussed politics, perched on two bar stools in the backroom of the Bayou. My friends and I followed the dBs to Charlottesville, VA, when they opened for R.E.M.
The most memorable interview, however, was about as unexpected as a certain bassist showing up inÂ a Michael J. Fox movie one day.
I canâ€™t even remember how I got in to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Dec. 6, 1984 at the old Ontario Theater in D.C.â€™s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Their first album had just been released and they were opening up for General Public. I think an EMI rep called me up and offered me both tickets and an interview, Frankly, as a fan of the English Beat, I was more excited to see Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger for the first time than these guys. I mean, for even in that era of free-form college radio programming, their first album was definitely different. Songs like â€œReal Men Donâ€™t Kill Coyotes” were an acquired taste. You could definitely count me as among those only lukewarm to their unorthodox style.
The show turned out to pretty raucous. As you can imagine, this wasnâ€™t exactly a match made in heaven. Though they didnâ€™t do anything too outrageous from their immediate past, such as wearing nothing but socks over their genitals when they performed, the band shouted obscenities at the audience from the get-go and were pretty much booed off the stage. Once the set was over, I rushed back to do my interview, wondering whether I could complete it before General Public took the stage.
I neednâ€™t have worried. The minute I announced whom I was and presented my small Sony handheld tape recorder, Flea, the bandâ€™s bassist, swiped it from my hands. If I didnâ€™t mind, he announced, he would be the one conducting the interview with Anthony Kiedis, the singer.
A little bit stunned but also curious as to what would follow, I didnâ€™t protest at all.
The next four-plus minutes were pretty wild. My guess is that Flea and Kiedis were frustrated from the show, already sick of the tour and wanted to have some fun for a change.
With Flea as the interviewer and Kiedis as the interviewee, a rapid fire conversation ensued. They insulted each other and other members of the band. They each claimed responsibility for being the true brains behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They bragged wildly about how successful their songs had become,. They used words like â€œbonecrunching mayhem funkishâ€ and â€œpsychedelic groovebathâ€ to describe their music. They did a short rap together, They even found time to insult my radio station for not playing enough of their music. (Truth is, I was probably the only DJ who played them at all).
Fleaâ€™s initial questions wre probably repeats of the same queries they had been getting the last few weeks from clueless college kids. Deciding enough was enough, Kiedis departed from the usual script and gave the answers he truly wanted to give.
At least at first. Then the two buddies simply decided to try outdo each other with escalating outrageous claims.
And then it was over. Flea handed me back the tape recorder and more or less ordered me out of the dressing room. As far as my involvement was concerned, we were not going to have a traditional interview.
I never did anything with the interview other than to play it for a few friends over the next few days. Because the band hadnâ€™t quite hit it big yet, the main reaction was a lot of shrugs. Here was another asshole band that thought it was hot shit. We had seen too many of them to be excited about what the two musicians had to say, as amusing as the conversation was.
Truth is, I probably thought so too.
Then, a funny thing happened: The Red Hot Chili Peppers started getting bigger. And bigger. And bigger.
Fully a quarter of century later, they are still among the biggest alternative bands in music, leaving their fellow 80s acts in the dust â€“ including General Public, the band that they opened for that night.
A postscript: Thanks to that brief encounter with Kiedis and Flea, I didnâ€™t wind up missing a song from Dave and Roger.
I never wrote an article based on this interview (I mean, who could?) And it never aired on the radio station. (For one thing, Kiedis uses the F word at one point â€“ pretty verboten at a Jesuit school where the previous FM station, WGTB, had been shut down by the Georgetown priests for airing a simulated orgasm). But thanks to the magic of the Internet and mp3 ripping software, you can now hear it in its entirety.
Over the next few weeks, Iâ€™ll be going through my tapes, ripping some of the interviews and seeing what interesting things I can glean from them.
But I can promise you this.
Thereâ€™s nothing quite like this â€œinterviewâ€ in my collection.
Flea Interviews Anthony Kiedis (download)