[INNERVIEWS - Music Without Borders - Extraordinary Conversations with Extraordinary Musicians - By Anil Prasad - (2010)] Editor and publisher of Innerviews, the longest-running online music magazine, Anil Prasad has compiled some of his in-depth interviews with various musicians from a variety of musical genres into a book that makes for somewhat engaging reading. Surprisingly, I wasn't as thrilled with it as I thought I'd be, considering the hoopla surrounding the product details listed on Amazon, along with several reviews. The claims that he asks original, uncompromising, intimate questions that deviate from the usual derivative queries that dominate most publications ("Who are your influences?", "What kind of strings and amps are you currently using?", etc.) are true to a point but, after reading the book from cover to cover, his tendency to utilize practically the same set of questions over and over again, just tailored to each individual, becomes plainly evident, and usually culminate in an inquiry about the artists spiritual beliefs. This tendency becomes both predictable and annoying after the first ten to twelve interviews, particularly the spiritual inquiry - if it's one thing I don't want to hear, it's the religious beliefs an artist subscribes to; after all, these are musicians, not deities, and the separation of church and state holds true in music as well. I prefer my interviews with artists to strip the veneer off the facade and expose the individual underneath the mask, not give additional self-importance to the musician's promoted image. You may feel differently; after all, this is just another opinion. But I have been consuming these interviews for over 40 years and, hopefully, have cultured some refinement by now. And I expect the same from the interviewer as well.
What struck me as unexpected were some of my favorite interviews within these pages - some by artists whose musical catalog I'd shy away from; not because they make foul or rancid music, just music I personally don't care for, for whatever reasons (again, this is an opinion). My absolute favorite was Chuck D from Public Enemy, who provided the most historically interesting comments regarding rap and black musical culture - this guy really has something to say, and never sugar coats his beliefs one iota. For me, his was the most interesting elucidation within. Bravo. Also of peculiar interest were the commentaries by Ani DeFranco, Leo Kottke (and I don't own one of their cd's, but saw Kottke open for King Crimson in 1973 when I was a kid), Bjork, Michael Hedges and Eberhard Weber. Head-turning stuff for sure.
Artists whose interviews I had high expectations for didn't fail to delight - Bill Laswell, Zakir Hussain, David Sylvian, Jonas Hellborg, David Torn, McCoy Tyner, John McLaughlin and Joe Zawinul provided monster reading. Bill Bruford, who's known for being extremely hostile towards interviewers yet manages to steer all interviews into a pompous 'more of the same' style response, again states little of importance (read his biography for further proof), and Jon Anderson's answers are rudimentary for a guy who's fronted one of prog rock's most challenging bands - he's never as deep as he thinks he is, IMO. By his own declaration, he's a by-product of the hippie era (not that I have anything against hippies, unless you're still living like one 40 years later) and some of his ideologies seem naive. Nothing really new here.
Some of these interviews are a bit dated, going back to the late 90's while tacking on more recent verbiage to flesh things out, and a few are simply boring, though this is no fault of Prasad, some musicians (and I'm being kind) simply don't have much to say. As a whole, I found the book interesting but not thoroughly engaging - maybe I'm jaded or cynical or both, but was anticipating a bit more. I would still recommend it for the most part, just don't expect to get your socks knocked off. But it does benefit from a well-rounded collection of artists from diverse genres, each with a different grasp on what they do and how they go about doing it. If you enjoy these types of books, search out 'Rockers, Jazzbos and Visionaries' by Bill Milkowski for another informative, illuminating study of great artists. 3 ½ stars.