During South by South West, HYPEBEAST was afforded a first row seat to the Nardwuar experience. Between tit for tats with A$AP Rocky, Action Bronson, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and Machine Gun Kelly, we got to witness Grimes hold her own against her Canadian compatriot, Nardwuar. With interview subjects such as Kurt Cobain and Jay-Z to his credit, and over 27 years in the music journalism game on his resume, Nardwuar has the ability to make each interview he does, candidly unique. Armed with a tartan beret, and a tote bag full of gifts, Nardwuar has made a name for himself in the music business as a performer and as a journalist, but rarely has the interview spotlight turned his way. Get a taste of what it’s like to live life as the Human Serviette.
Who are you?
Nardwuar the Human Serviette from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I’m a freelance journalist, and also singer in the rock and roll band The Evaporators.
Welcome to South by South West Music Festival – Austin, Texas.
How did you get the moniker the Human Serviette, and is Nardwuar your real name?
It isn’t my real name, but let’s leave it at that for now. Nardwuar is a dumb stupid name like Sting or Sinbad, Human, is from the Cramps song Human Fly. And if you’ve got clam chowder running down your chin, what do you wipe it with?
You got it.
So you’re a radio DJ, singer in a band, and a freelance journalist. Which did you get started with?
If you want exact dates, The Evaporators formed in high school, February 20th, 1986 and my first radio show was in October 1987. I first started as student council president at my high school. I was in charge of getting bands to play at our dances, and I got a lot of local punk bands to play. Then I went to the University of British Columbia, and started a radio show. I still do a radio show, and after you do a radio show for a while you say, why don’t I put out a record? I’ve put out one record a year since 1989.
Who was the first person you conducted an interview with?
That was on September the 26th, 1985 in high school – I organized a dance for a band called Poisioned from Vancouver and they had previously been in a band called the Young Canadians.
And How did it go?
It was great actually, I really liked it.
I read that the first time you interviewed Snoop Dogg, you were extremely nervous and brought him a gift. Was that the first time you tried gifting during an interview?
That was the first time I had tried an interesting personal gift. I gave Sonic Youth a gift, a 45, and they smashed it.
Do you still get nervous doing interviews?
I’m still totally nervous, before, after, during – my whole life. But in general I’m just nervous about everything, like I’m nervous about how much ketchup to put on my hamburger.
Where did you get the idea to give gifts during an interview?
Well it came from doing the radio show on CITR – you’d interview a band and you’d be like hey what music do you want to hear? They’d look at my record library, get stimulated and pick something out. When I do interviews in person, I can’t bring my record library, but I pick some out I think they’ll like, and bring some to them.
So the plaid pants and the beret, does that help you break the ice, or is that your natural style?
Well I used to wear a skullcap, but Sebastian Bach of the hair metal band Skid Row took my skull cap, and smashed the tape I was using to interview him. I never got my cap back so I had to wear this beret, why do I wear this beret? I always liked wearing hats, and my mom brought it back from Scotland, and I thought it was kind of neat. A few years later I was looking at the Japanese magazine Doll, and I saw an ad for some tartan pants. My buddy Randy was going to Japan, and I told him to bring me back some tartan pants – it was all because of Sebastian Bach of the hair metal band Skid Row.
It seems like artists smash a lot of your things.
In past, I’ve had some problems with heavy metal artists. For a little while I would only do those interviews over the phone, but I’m back.
It seems like at times, like with Kreayshawn for example, you know more about your interview subject than they know about themselves. How much research time do you typically put in to your interviews?
My radio show is every Friday, so that usually gives me a week to do it. It’s not a full week though, like I’m running on the treadmill and I’m like oh Kreyshawn, her mom was in Trash Women… ideas pop in, but generally that week I prepare.
Who’s behind the lens during your interviews?
My friend Joe in Vancouver helps out quite a lot, but a lot of times it’s just whoever will help out. Like today you, and my friend Kurt helped out during my interview with Grimes. What was it like doing camerawork for Nardwuar the Human Serviette?
It was excellent. So are we going to do the hip flip?
Amazing that you mention that, I wish I could have brought it with me so I could see if Obama would do it. I love doing it.
I want to thank you for time Nardwuar, any final words?
Thanks very much for caring – and if people are confused by this, which they probably are, because I’m confused, just check out Nardwuar.com. And if I can do it anyone can do it, and keep on rawkin’ in the free world doot doola doot doo.