Transcribing Is a Bitch: The Collected Craig Hlavaty Interviews

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My last official day at the Houston Press is tomorrow, so these past two weeks I have been sifting through my body of work here at Rocks Off, almost seven years of words. I've been gleefully overdosing on nostalgia here at my desk, and I have (almost) no regrets. I'll have some more words on my departure on Friday, including a rundown of all the concerts I covered.

While I was compiling this blog of interviews I have undertaken for the Press, I got sad, because I started thinking about the ones that got away, the ones that I couldn't do because of time constraints or scheduling conflicts: Dave Grohl, Merle Haggard, Ozzy Osbourne, Dickie Peterson, Slash, Marilyn Manson, Joe Walsh, Willie Nelson, Jim James, Ronnie James Dio... the list is long and annoying.

Then there are the interviews that went horribly. Sometimes both parties, myself and the subject, were rushed, agitated, or otherwise mentally checked out. Sometimes the artist was really not into being interrogated while in a bumpy tour bus or smelly van, and it came out in the copy.

Even worse is when you don't know how to pronounce the musician's name and he or she calls you out, making the rest of the 15 minutes painfully testy and the interview turn into a vanilla preview.

Sometimes you don't even get to talk to the mack daddy in the group, and have talk to someone else who has been tasked with doing press. I assume that the Beach Boys' Al Jardine was actually a bit more insightful than Brian Wilson would have been, though Wilson would have been one for the scrapbook.

Do I have any tips for those of you aspiring to write about music and interview musicians? Sure I do! Of course I didn't always follow these rules myself, as you will see.

  • Be natural. They are just people like you and me. Unless you get to talk to Daft Punk. They are French robots.
  • Be conversational. Don't just ask what is on your notepad. Don't be afraid to pry. Pretend you aren't on the phone but having a meal together. Naked.
  • DON'T INCLUDE EVERY LITTLE THING FROM YOUR INTERVIEW IN THE FINAL COPY. Excise wisely. Too many bloggers these days think they need to be court reporters.
  • Do your homework. Know when albums and singles came out. Know how pronounce band names and proper names. It's just polite. Trust me.

The Dwarves' Blag Dahlia Tells One Hell of an Emo's Story The Dwarves (who will be in town soon at Fitz) have a storied history with Houston, as lead singer Blag Dahlia told me before Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009.

The Pixies La La Love You Before the Pixies came to Houston in late 2010, drummer Dave Lovering told me about new Pixies music and his side career as a magician.

Aerosmith Returns With New Album Aerosmith's Joe Perry told me that if music didn't work out he would've been a Sea Shepherd, and admitted he and Steven Tyler's volatile relationship is what makes the band tick.

ICP's Violent J Talks Texas, Faygo & The Juggalo Family J turned out to be a jolly fella on the phone, and we talked about all the varieties of Faygo that can be had in the Midwest, plus his Houston baby mama.

The Beach Boys' Endless Summer The Beach Boys' Al Jardine gives me the lowdown on the band's 2012 summer tour, which didn't end in the best way. Wilson had his own bus, and the rest of the old-guard Boys share another, but it was Mike Love that scuttled the traveling show.

Photographic Memory Before he was a globetrotting troubadour, I talked with Robert Ellis about his second LP, Photographs.

Henry Rollins Has a Lot to Say. Surprised? I geeked out with Henry Rollins ahead of one of his speaking tours in Houston, and we talked about Glenn Beck, collecting cassette tapes, and the Stooges.

Pop Princess Katy Perry Katy Perry is pretty much untouchable now, but in 2009 she was still a year away from being nude and covered in cotton candy, and still interested in talking to pervs at an alt-weekly. I wanna say that she hit on me, but then again, I am sure she purred over the phone at every male reporter at that point in her career.

Billy Corgan's Everlasting Gaze I talked to Billy Corgan for an hour, or I should say, he complained about the music industry for an hour while I listened and recorded it. It took two parts.

The Cult's Weapon of Choice I got cosmic with The Cult's Ian Astbury for two hours, losing track of time along the way. He also remarked on then-tourmate Laura Jane Grace's recent spotlight in the rock press. He gives great hugs too.

Perry Farrell Is Doing Just Fine Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell talked about the death of Osama Bin Laden and booking Black Sabbath on Lollapalooza ahead of the band's Bayou Music Center date last May.

Judas Priest's Rob Halford One of my first "big" interviews. Halford was gentle and easy, and could bear with me as I gushed about British Steel. He even knew how to pronounce my last name.

Lemmy: Keep Us on the Road My crown jewel: 30 minutes one-on-one with Motorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister. We talked about Angry Birds and whiskey, naturally.

Talking With C-3PO Himself, Anthony Daniels Hearing the voice of C-3PO on the other end of my phone was too much for my Star Wars-loving soul to deal with, but I held it together.

Talking Politics, and Almost No Music, With Punk Legend John Lydon The Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. man remarked on the American and global political climate, and then had to get off the phone to have dinner with the wife. Punk rock!

Keith Morris Talks OFF!, Politics & Touring In 2012 This interview went longer than we expected, with Morris schooling me on modern punk touring. I still need to get "You don't interview people the way the rest of the lame-dick rock press does" printed on a shirt.

Scott Stapp Knows You Hate His Band Hey, someone had to do it. OK, no one had to, but it was one for the proverbial books. In 20 years, we'll all laugh at how much we hated Creed.

Soul Power: Huey Lewis & the News Man, I think Huey mainlined coffee directly into veins before this chat. It was like talking to a hyena on crank. He also spilled tons of beans on the recording of Sports. It might as well have been a Kraftwerk album he said.

Inquiring Minds: Jay Reatard The stupid digital recorder broke, so I had no direct quotes. Amateur shit. Reatard passed away a few weeks afterward, sadly.

Roar of the Panther: Steel Panther's Michael Starr Such decadence and depravity, and Chad Kroeger-ness! Starr (center) and I randomly ended up meeting at a Which Wich in Midtown weeks later, true story.

Justin Townes Earle Is Not Going Electric JTE spoke with me about his newest album, and gave me some fashion tips, which didn't make the cut in the blog.

Phil Anselmo Talks Solo Records, New Down Material & Pantera's Legacy Speaking with Anselmo was way more familial than I thought it would be. He asked me about Houston metal, and I name-dropped Venomous Maximus. They toured with Down just months later. "The Kid" is a man of his word.

Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx: The Rocks Off Interview Nikki, you never followed me on Twitter like you said you would...

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