Phoner Interruptus: Musicians Say The Strangest Things

Frank Iero of My Chemical RomanceOver the years, working for MTV News and even before I landed this gig, I’ve interviewed a lot of celebrities. It’s one of the perks of the job, interviewing people whose work you’ve always admired (which, for me, would include any of the members of Jane’s Addiction, Mike Patton, Carcass and Portishead) — at times, you even get to speak to those whose work you don’t admire (like, say, Hinder).

I’d say about 40 percent of the interviews I’ve done have been in person — an artist is in town and they’ve got something to promote, so they swing by our Times Square offices for a little face time. The rest of them are what we in the biz call “phoners,” and these interviews involve calling the subject at his or her home or hotel room to talk shop. These types of interviews are less controlled, basically because there’s no publicist around to interfere. But these types of interviews are also just like any other phone conversation you’ve ever had — call waiting can disrupt the flow of conversation just as easily as a screaming child or a misbehaving pet.

Ask any music journalist, and they’ll have at least a couple of amusing stories about “phoner interruptus.” I can recall interviewing Jane’s guitarist Dave Navarro once while he was running on a treadmill at his local gym — an entire phone conversation filled with panting and strenuous, heavy breathing. Sometimes, you’ll be on a call with someone and they’ll stop you mid-sentence to place an order. “Sorry, I’m at the drive-thru … can I get a number seven, large, with a Coke?”

Usually, we omit such interruptions from our online stories because they’re simply not relevant to the piece. (We do the same thing when people say “um” or “you know?” a lot in interviews.) Musicians drop phones, get choppy reception, do their dishes, cook entire meals, nuke bags of popcorn, drive while screaming at other motorists, do their grocery shopping, and even have other conversations with people in the same room as them, all while you’re trying to figure out why this or that band decided to take the concept-record route with their new LP. I once interviewed Chad I. Ginsburg, guitarist for CKY, while he watched an entire episode of “Blind Date.”

So, as a service to our readers, to give them an even better understanding of what it’s like to work in a Newsroom, I bring you this recent excerpt from an interview I did with Frank Iero, guitarist for My Chemical Romance. (Going forward, whenever there’s a hilarious occurrence of “phoner interruptus,” we’ll be bringing it to you here.) Basically, I was chatting with Frank about his new side project, Leathermouth and he was telling me about the approach he took with the album’s lyrics when something happened.

“There’s two songs on the record — one’s called ‘Murder Was the Case They Gave Me’ and … hey, hey … quit it … sorry, man, my dog’s eating his own sh– … and the other one’s called ‘Bodysnatchers Forever,’ and it was weird, man. I was sitting in my apartment, playing the songs, and the words kind of came to me, and I was really proud of them, too.”