I had a job interview earlier this week, and after our discussion, the representative from the outlet asked if I could send them some examples of my writing. I dutifully responded with a clutch of relatively recent pieces I’d composed for The Mid, TODAY, MSNBC and MTV News, along with a link to the blog you’re currently reading.
Just to be thorough, though, I decided to dig a little deeper and include some pieces I’d done during my days at TIME, notably Bono’s eulogy for Joey Ramone (I didn’t write it, obviously, but I orchestrated it and interviewed him for it, as I recounted here). I was also pleased to find that several interviews I’d conducted for a special music issue of TIME back in 2001 were still to be found online.
Here’s the backstory. TIME decided to devote an entire issue called “Music Goes Global,” which went out of its way to highlight artists from a wide array of genres from all corners of the planet. While I was technically still just a News Desk Editor, my reputation as a pedantic music fiend had managed to open a few doors, and I was asked if I’d like to contribute. I said yes, of course, and spent much of that spring and early summer working on it.
My assignment was to conduct interviews for a series of sidebars they were going to call “Postcards.” The directive was to choose distinctive artists from major areas. To represent Europe and the British Isles, we chose Shirley Manson of Garbage. To speak for Asia, I chatted on the phone with martial arts action hero Jackie Chan (who is also a singing sensation in his native Hong Kong). For Africa, I spoke with Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour. I spoke with former Fugee Wyclef Jean about Haiti and the Caribbean. Lastly, I selected Mike D. of the Beastie Boys to talk about New York City.
The interviews were all pretty memorable for me. Shirley Manson was affable, chatty and hilarious. My phoner with Jackie Chan was something of a nightmare, being that Jackie’s English wasn’t all that hot, and without being able to see him face to face, transcribing the conversation was a true chore. For my interview with Youssou N’Dour, I had to travel to a strangely clandestine destination in an unassuming brownstone up in Harlem on a swelteringly hot day. N’Dour was a little standoffish, and used an interpreter, despite the fact that I believe he speaks English fluently. By contrast, Wycleft was an amiable chatty-cathy, giving me much more than I’d ever need.
The Q&A I was most excited for, of course, though, was Mike D. As a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Beastie Boys and fellow native New Yorker, there was plenty I wanted to chat with the founding Beastie Boy about, and he was game to oblige.
Given prevailing themes of this weblog (NYC and music, basically), I thought it was ripe for inclusion. I remember being surprised to learn that Mike was an early fan of Elvis Costello. I’m not sure if his project with Bhangra artist Bhagavan Das ever saw the light of day. I sought some of his music out on YouTube, and it’s not really my thing.
Anyway, I was quite pleased to find it online, despite the fact that the preamble I'd penned for it (and each of the surviving "Postcard" interviews, for that matter) was strangely excised.
CODA: Unfortunately, the “Music Goes Global” issue had something of a anticlimactic fruition. The tactile issue of the magazine hit newsstands on September 15, 2001. Four days earlier, two planes slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center, changing New York City — and the world — forever. In the immediate wake of that tumultuous event, no one really gave that much of damn about a TIME special about music. Such is life.