Last Thursday was the first interview I’ve conducted in a very long time.  Now I’ve interviewed some pretty bad ass people during my radio years, Dir en gray, Tara Strong, quite a few others, and for the most part it went well.  Last night though, I was actually nervous.

Now, of course nerves hit me the first time I interviewed a celebrity…I remember it distinctly.  I was at the radio show’s first Otakon, sitting down with Japanese pop star T.M. Revolution.  I wasn’t prepared at all, the crowd was gathering, and when he and his entourage arrived, i was terrified.  The interview went off ok I suppose, looking back it was certainly not my best work, but I survived it, albiet exhausted afterwards.  I literally had to control myself from shaking while talking to this poor man.  I was frightened of screwing up, and nerding out at the same time, and as much as I was proud in that moment, I was so happy for it to be over.

Last week though, I sat down to the first interview in ages, my victim: Video Game Developer and Renaissance Man American McGee.  Yes, his real name is American (He says that his mother was a hippy).  This is the guy who is behind such titles as Alice, Grimm, and has played a role in games such as Doom, Quake, etc.  In the video game world, the dude is literally a living legend.  And I was scared to death of him for some reason…at least at first.

He was calling from Shanghai China, so there was a little delay in words going back and forth, but nothing particularly bad.  We got started, and immediately I fucked up.  I always research my targets, mainly to not do exactly what I did here, and ask the same question everyone else asks.  In my research, I found a lot about what he’s done, what he’s doing, but not much personal information.  So I asked how he got where he is today, apparently something that had been asked countless times, that I never found in my research.  Of course, now that I work full time, have 4 kids and a wife, and an generally exhausted, my research wasn’t as thurough as it had been in the past, and I made an elementary mistake.  I’m sure he was annoyed, but ever the gentleman he gave the rendition of his story, a facinating one at that, proof that serendipity in fact does exist.  Then, the journalist in me made a second mistake immediatly after, going too personal.

My interview style has never been what you could call standard.  In fact, my interviews generally follow a few simple rules to make them stand out:

1. Don’t ask the same questions everyone else asks.  This one is hard to implement, but easy to understand.  The dude you are  talking to is just as annoyed that you ask the same questions as everyone else, as are the readers who have already read essentially the same interview countless times.  It makes an interview boring, both for the reader and the audience, and if you do it too early, sets the tone going forward, a tone that is very hard to break out from.

2. Get personal.  Once you have your interviewee interested and confortable with you, you generally get them to say things they haven’t said elsewhere.  This makes for a hell of an interview, especially if you’ve followed rule number 1.

3. Don’t get too personal too quickly.  If you don’t have the trust of your target, they aren’t going to open up.  In fact, they can close up, very quickly.  Once you’ve closed up your interviewee, it will take sodium penthol and a crowbar to get them to open up again.  It’s next to impossible.

I had already broken rule number one, but immediatly followed with breaking rule number three.  I had read previously that American’s childhood shaped the stories in his games, which generally were dark and sometimes terrifying twists on classic fairy tales.  My second question in, “What from your childhood inspired your twisted visions of children’s stories?”  He did well with the question, and while he specifically said he would NOT get into specifics, he redirected the question, telling me how studies have shown that situations in your childhood essentially establish your writing style and how you think about things.  Interesting specifically to me, since being made fun of constantly as a child.  I went back and noticed that much of my writing is self-deprecating, quite possibly a pattern established from MY childhood.

The interview went on for another 30 minutes or so without a hitch, aside from me continuing to be stressed the entire time, but it ended on a good note.  I mentioned the development of a podcast specifically talking to Game Developers and other nerd heroes, and asked if he would be a guest if it launched, which he agreed to immedietly.  Listening back to the interview, I got back on track after my initial screw-ups, and it was really pretty smooth the rest of the way.  He gave my readers so pretty cool insight to some video game current events, and towards the end, his opinions really started to come out.

All in all, a successful interview.  I ended it utterly exhausted, but was certainly happy I did it, and I can’t wait to see it all on paper.  To be fair, as much as I wanted to get to it over the weekend, I haven’t even begun the transcription, and need to crank it out in the next 48 hours.

In other news, I have an article that should be published this week on ToplessRobot.com, and I have about 4 more in the works for them.  I’ll post them as soon as they go live, as well as the American McGee interview.  Take care and happy writing!

J