Nobody gets into smalltown news reporting for the chance to interview celebrities.
But if you stick around long enough, somebody famous – or maybe just semi-famous – will pass through.
Then you might get a call from a publicist, that goes something like this: “[So-and-so] is doing a show at the [pauses to look at the schedule]. . . The Outlaw Inn? on the 25th of this month. He’s available for a phone interview if you’re interested.”
OK! Sure! Why not?
I’ve done enough of these by now to not get too excited. For most of these people, it’s a matter of going through the motions. Their attitudes generally range from annoyed or bored to polite and professional, but eager to get it over with.
“Slave Lake? Where the %#@! Is that?” you can hear it between the lines.
The legendary Ian Tyson [if he does say so himself] was the first and also the worst. He was irritated, disinterested and made me not want to be there. The experience actually set me up well for the ones to follow – I had very low expectations so I was seldom disappointed. The best part of the Tyson interview was sitting through the sound check at the High Prairie Sports Palace. He and his band sounded great.
Who else? I reached Kim Mitchell in a Toronto car wash, some time prior to his show at the old ‘Zoo’ in Slave Lake. He was polite, but distracted – as you’d maybe expect from a guy shining up his wheels 3,000 kilometres away. He gave the impression he didn’t have a clue where I was calling from. No surprise, really.
The same goes for Myles Goodwin of April Wine. He was in full-PR mode on the phone, but was a bit vague on where in the world I was calling from. I didn’t see the show; probably just as well, because I heard he reacted angrily when somebody tried to take a photo of the band in action. That’s exactly what I would have been doing, had I been there. I told him on the phone of the time my brother and I missed an April Wine concert in Fort St. John, back in the 1970s, when our VW Beetle broke down on the way there.
Jim Cuddy was a treat. Listening to him mostly, but the chat was nice, too. He is a nice guy. I mentioned to him that I’d read about him in Dave Bidini’s book The Tropic of Hockey. Even a guy as nice as Cuddy, Bidini wrote, can turn into somebody quite different on the ice.
Jim laughed when I brought that up.
“Let’s just say Dave embellishes,” he said.
OK, let’s say that. Except I don’t find it hard at all to picture a normally mild-mannered guy losing his cool as a result of something happening in a rec hockey game. I saw it often enough playing oldtimers in Slave Lake for 20 years.
By the way, if you want to see Jim on the ice, check out the Kathleen Edwards video for her song I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory. Cuddy plays the tough guy; Marty McSorley the romantic. Paul Coffey is in there as well.
Where was I? Interviewing musicians? The best [and by that I mean the most fun to talk to] ones are self-deprecating, funny and not taking the whole ‘celebrity thing’ seriously. Exactly as you’d want them to be. The worst take themselves too seriously. Kind of like politicians, now that I think about it.