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When Good Interviews Go Bad

Sully Erna, front man for the popular metal band Godsmack, recently got his butt kicked by Jay Babcock from Arthur Magazine. The interview was for a print piece and not a podcast, but it went so badly, so quickly, that its now making its rounds as an audio file and transcript (note: foul language throughout).

The basic problem with the interview is that Sully and Jay had two different ideas on what was acceptable subject matter. Godsmack's label contacted Arthur Magazine in the hopes of getting some publicity and seemingly failed to specify any topics or limits. Godsmack's publicist, Ken Phillips (and therefore likely Sully as well), was under the impression that the interview was about the band's new CD and tour. What it turned into was a screaming, swearing bru-ha-ha about Godsmack's alleged pro-war stance for allowing the use of their music in US Navy recruiting commercials.

I haven't listened to the audio, but the transcript - while kind of making Jay sound like a zealot - also makes Sully sound like an idiot. What's the lesson here? Before doing an interview, ensure there is clear agreement on the topics to be discussed and, if appropriate, topics that are off limits. This is much more important if you're the party that isn't in control of the audio file, but it behooves everyone to have a good idea of what the expectations are.

Before I conduct an interview, I always send the interviewee a 4 or 5 point checklist of what I want to talk about and I stick to it. If, during the conversation, something comes up that's not on the list, I ask my interviewee if he or she is OK with talking about it. This is a podcast, after all, I can edit that part out based on their answer.

Cover your butt because whatever you say will be available to the entire world potentially forever.

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