Weekly Watch: Brian Molko Interview

Yes, I can be obsessive. Hush.

I thought this was a particularly interesting watch, because it's by far the most relaxed interview I've ever seen Molko do. The lady doing the interview, Emma Blackery, isn't a journalist -- she's a YouTube face. She has a lifestyle channel and a personal vlog, and has had some minor success as a musician. I have no idea how she ended up talking with them, but given that she's a screaming fan of theirs and her accent is local to the studio where the broadcast they're promoting is being filmed, it was probably a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and remembering to answer her email.

Blackery's lack of experience is relevant here because it means she doesn't actually know what her job is. She's so new, she thinks she's supposed to go have a conversation with the famous person. You can get away with that if you're interviewing someone for a magazine -- you can go down the pub and have a couple of drinks and chat, because you have the luxury of editing the piece later. You can snip out any weird tangents and make sure nothing you think or say gets in the way of the artist profile you're supposed to be doing. And, indeed, writers have gotten some pretty decent stuff out of Molko in the past, probably by doing just that. I can't see his reactions in print, mind, but he at least says interesting things to print journos sometimes.

Interviewing someone on camera is different. Especially if you're not Barbara Walters, with the advantage of a multi-camera setup that can facilitate some selective jump cuts when you snip for time and content. Most of the on-camera interviews Molko does for TV are brief affairs that happen backstage or on the red carpet on the way to some sort of public appearance, either one of their shows or some kind of awards thing. He tends to sort of ramble aimlessly, especially so when he's alone or his bandmates don't really have any comments of their own, and he's the only one who's been handed a mic.

I suspect I know why: It's because professional entertainment journalists know their job is to read a question off their card and then stand there like a human channel bug while the artist talks. It's difficult to tell with a lot of the typical camera angles, but I have a feeling they just sit there, staring at him with a sort of blankly-attentive look while he makes noises. Molko has a habit of slowing like he might be winding down a bit, but then picking back up and adding another clause, which is not how he sounds when he has an actual long and complex thought that he wants to complete -- I think what's happening is that he's trying to read the interviewer's reaction ("Is that good? Is it the answer you wanted? Am I done now?") and they're giving him nothing to go on. It drives him bonkers.

Blackery has absolutely no idea what she's doing and really just wants to have a chat with someone whose work she likes very much. She's got cards with questions on them, but she seems to only use them as prompts, to keep things from getting sidetracked. The whole thing is done in a very conversational cadence -- you'll notice she's not afraid to interject when she has something else she wants to say or ask. It's a perfectly normal turn-taking strategy in ordinary conversations, but it's almost never used in formal on-camera interviews.

She also doesn't simply stare at him while he answers things. He's one of those people whose eyes flicker all over the place when he's trying to get words together, and there's tremendous pressure not to do that when someone else is boring holes in you with their gaze. (I wouldn't be surprised if that's one of the reasons he often does these things with his sunglasses on. It takes a remarkable amount of effort to police your eyelines, and it's less awkward to give up on it if no one can tell where you're looking.) Being a fan, she also isn't taken aback when his mind goes for a couple of brief splashes in the gutter -- as far as I can tell, that's just how his brain works and he never means anything personal by it, but other people are occasionally unprepared.

Molko actually asks her a couple of questions about vlogging in the middle, which she answers with great aplomb, after teasing him about turning the interview around on her. They talk over each other when getting nostalgic over the various entertaining failure modes of cassette tapes.

He's smiling through most of it. Genuinely. He almost never does that. Not that Molko's bad about press -- he learned his lesson young, after his 25-year-old loudmouth self made a couple of wiseass comments that he will never live down -- but for the most part it's pretty clear that he considers these things to be polite but distant interaction with a stranger. Not so here. You get a much better idea of how he can be engaging with an audience in real life.

She seems to be something of a friend now. I'm not entirely sure who has control of the official Twitter account; undoubtedly there is an intern queuing up all of the posts about tickets going on sale, but the occasional raw comment slips through, so there must be a human with an iPhone in the signal chain somewhere. (Molko claims to not use social media, although he does occasionally prod a public Spotify playlist. Olsdal seems to have a Twitter/Instagram.) But whoever it is still knows and recognizes Emma Blackery's name, and retweets her @-mentions regularly.