Musicians and journalists: both can be unbearable sods, can’t they? Which is why interviews don’t always go exactly to plan. Pointless questions. Rude answers. Interviewers who haven’t done their research properly. Bands who have such disdain for the media that they just huff off halfway through. Disaster can and often does strike, resulting in the most brutally awkward and cringey viewing. Just try these seventeen nail-biting encounters on for size…
Nick Cave vs Billy Corgan
No-one is spared Nick Cave’s legendary withering disdain – not even fellow musicians. Here, Billy Corgan steps in on behalf of MTV to ask the Bad Seeds singer some cookie-cutter questions about playing at Lollapoloolza. “I’ve done this same interview before,” complains Nick. “Are these your questions? I’ve already done this with MTV.” Billy responds by going off-script and fails miserably, dubbing the Bad Seeds an “English band”. It goes down predictably badly. “We’re not English,” snaps Cave, later telling Corgan: “You have the mentality of a teenager.”
Blur vs Nardwuar
When you have to issue a public apology for your behaviour in an interview, you know you’ve fucked up. When Blur were interviewed with the most bizarre and brilliantly goofy interviewer in the game, Nardwuar, drummer Dave Rowntree proceeded to call him “dozy bollocks”, squaring up to the Canadian and at points in the interview throwing his hat and his glasses across the room. Rowntree later issued a statement on how ashamed he was of bullying the journalist, blaming it on cocaine addiction.
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Sinead O’Conner vs the BBC
“Well that was the greatest interview I’ve ever done,” says O’Conner. Sarcasm, thy name is Sinead: her appearance here is the stuff of toe-curling legend and barely concealed hostility.
Courtney Love vs Madonna
In which the Hole singer barges in on a 1995 interview with Madonna and throws makeup at her and accuses Madge of being mean about her. Classic.
Bob Dylan vs Time Magazine
A legendary clip from the Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back, in which a spiky, motor-mouthed Bob goes on a lengthy rant to a bemused reporter and rubbishes the Time journalist. “I don’t think I’m a folk singer, but you’ll probably call me a folk singer,” he snarks. “Sure, I read it [Time] on the airplanes, but I don’t take it seriously. If I wanted to find out anything I wouldn’t read Time magazine. I’m not gonna read Newsweek. I’m not gonna read any of these magazines. They’ve got too much to lose by printing the truth, you know that.” Decades later, Dylan disciple Johnny Borrell paid (possibly unwitting) tribute to Dylan’s take-down of journalism when he declared: “You’d find out more truth by just walking down the street with a musical instrument than by looking at any of the news outlets.”
Simon Amstell vs The Kooks
For a brief period, Channel 4’s Popworld was essential weekend viewing: a tongue-in-cheek, heavily sarcastic piss-taking of the great and the good of pop that was as funny as it was awkward. Here’s former host Simon Amstell at his rude, whip-smart best, tormenting Kooks frontman Luke Pritchard about his break-up with singer Katie Melua.
Lou Reed vs everyone and anyone
The much-missed Velvet Underground singer made mincemeat of virtually every interviewer he crossed paths with, with just a few notable exceptions (witness his surprisingly friendly chat with Lauren Laverne here). It’s too difficult to pick just one out, but here he is enjoying making a pack of Australian journalists squirm in typically curmudgeonly fashion.
Mansun vs Thailand TV
Now, this one is really uncomfortable, as Mansun make themselves look like arrogant, childish fools and giggling like schoolchildren, as well as the old ‘put your back to the TV host and wear your sunglasses on the back of your head’ stunt. An old ‘classic’.
Rivers Cuomo vs Dylan Lewis
A hungover and jet-lagged Weezer frontman “umms” his way through a remarkably stilted encounter on Australian TV and seems to be on his own personal quest to avoid eye contact for as long as humanly possible.
Jay Mascis vs anyone and everyone
Dinosaur Jr man Jay Mascis is by all accounts a great dude, but a reporter’s nightmare. In 1989, the world-renowned guitarist spoke to Spin, who were desperate to understand how he’d mastered his instrument. “I like listening to guitar, but to me it’s never loud enough because it’s so weird and undynamic an instrument,” he told them instead, leading to the following exchange: “You really don’t like to play guitar?” “No.” “Why do you do it?” “Dunno.” Watch him below in characteristically chatty form.
Mark E. Smith vs anyone and everyone
And completing the triumvirate of legendarily spiky and confrontational interview subjects is The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, who seems to revel in being as difficult as possible. There’s countless clips that serve as proof of his irascible charm – here’s a particular humdinger with Lauren Laverne.
Sex Pistols vs Bill Grundy
One of the most controversial interviews of all time, even if it seems tame by today’s standards: TV journeyman Bill Grundy made the mistake of having young punks The Sex Pistols in 1976, and then tried to goad them to say “something outrageous”. But aside from Lydon’s muttered “shit” under his breath, it only took a real turn for the worse when Siouxsie Sioux, who was with the band, started bantering with Bill. “I really wanted to meet you,” she teased, prompting Grundy to respond “Let’s meet after, shall we?” Guitarist Steve Jones responded by insinuating that Grundy was acting like a letch, sneeringly calling him a “dirty sod”, “dirty old man”, “dirty bastard”, “dirty fucker” and “fucking rotter”.
Bee Gees vs Clive Anderson
A watch-through-your-fingers disaster in which Anderson went about dismantling the Bee Gees for 10 painstaking minutes, until each member ended up walking out one-by-one. It’s a flurry of sly piss-taking jabs, one after another. “You’re hit-writers, aren’t you?” asks Anderson at one point. “Well, I think that’s the word. We’re one letter shy.” Later, he jokes: “I didn’t realise you were real brothers. I thought you were sisters actually.” And then the band, unwisely, admit they used to be called Les Tosseurs. “You’ll always be Les Tossers to me,” retorts Clive. Eventually, all three have enough and storm off, but not before Barry Gibb has the final word as he explains why he’s off” “You called me a tosser, pal.”
Grace Jones vs Russell Harty
Let this be a lesson to you: ignore Grace Jones at your peril. Fed up of being ignored by host Russell Harty, she decides to chide him for turning his back on her and then gives him a series of wallops.
Serge Gainsborough vs Whitney Houston
Sometimes, it’s not even the interviewer who makes the whole chat unbearable – it’s the other guest. Serge Gainsborough, for example, didn’t make the smoothest impression on Whitney Houston when the pair appeared on a French chat show together. When Serge starts whispering sweet nothings at Houston, she asks host Michel Drucker to translate. “He thinks you’re great,” he insists – but that’s not the whole story. “You are not Raegan, I am not Gorbachev,” interjects Serge. “I said I want to fuck her.” Cue awkward silences and embarrassed faces everywhere – save for a shameless, laughing Serge, who looks like he’s having the time of his life.
Madonna vs David Letterman
Madge again! The Queen Of Pop meets The King Of Chat Shows for an uncomfortably sleazy head-to-head that ends with Madge labelling her interviewer “a sick fuck”.
Stone Roses vs Music Box
It’s 1989, and The Stone Roses are the gobbiest, boldest newcomers on the block… or not. See the marvel of Ian Brown’s miserable stony-face and catty answers below.
Father John Misty vs BBC 6 Music
Misty is known to be a tough interview subject, but his sit down with Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo was just painful listening.