Apart from the rush of occasionally getting to hear a hotly anticipated album a few days ahead of its release, one of the biggest perks of being a music journalist is interviewing famous people. This year we got to hang out with Laura Marling at her house in East London, spend a weekend in Fayetteville with J Cole, and have afternoon tea with Ty Dolla $ign, who rolled into a fancy London establishment on a swegway - and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
We know you're busy, so here's a run-down of our favourite interviews we've published this year, all packaged up in one neat post making it easier to point-and-click while you enjoy the last few days of 2015 by inhaling bargain prosecco for breakfast.
Daniel: I met Mark in a pub in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. He was late as he got lost on the way. A bottle of Peroni with a double whiskey was his tipple and we went through a few of those during the interview. Mark is a bit like a restless little kid during; he’s always wriggling around and shuffling in his seat. He’s quite unique in that he will ask you a lot of questions himself in an attempt to suss out whether you know your stuff or not. He swears profusely and profoundly and constantly treads a conversational line between insanity and genius.
Emma: The first thing I learned about Claire Boucher is she is so tiny that when she pulls a veggie burger towards her face to take a bite, her entire head is momentarily obscured, like a lunar eclipse. The second is that she is a no-nonsense genius. Although the way the media has treated Boucher over the years has caused her to add a caveat to everything she says lest it lead to misinterpretation, you come away from a conversation with her feeling invigorated by her passion for the things she loves, impressed by her self-assurance, and hopeful for the future artists she will no doubt pave a way for.
Hannah: Painfully awkward at times, this was the first time I’ve interviewed someone with totally disparate real life and artist personas. He didn’t look near me for most of the interview and I remember feeling like I’d had a transcendent breakthrough when we finally made eye contact across a Diet Coke. Andrew W.K. is an exceedingly intelligent bloke and gets very deep and intense with topics quickly, which was good because so do I. So this ended up being a great chance to write a piece on a man who had low-key alt-cult status for anyone my age and a brilliant opportunity to talk about my fave topic, good old debilitating mental health problems, with the Party King himself (2001-present).
Grant: It’s easy to talk shit about rappers and be cynical about their motives from the comfort of our keyboards. And often it’s correct that the image they’re trying to portray in order to sell records is very different to what we might catch behind the curtain. Having spent a weekend in Fayetteville around J Cole, the DreamVille crew and his family I can confirm that he is refreshingly authentic. 2014, Forest Hills Drive, took Cole from the B-List to rap’s upper echelon, and it was a pleasure to watch it happen.
Sam: There's not many people you would fly halfway across the world to interview for an hour, but Elton John comes somewhere near the top of that list. In the interview, his vibe is basically to take your question and then use it as a lens through which to view the entire history of popular music - from Frankie Valli to Fetty Wap. He was also just a laugh: he swore in every sentence, would get stuck in if he disagreed with you, and was open to talking about everything. Also we went to his show and genuinely you haven't lived until you've seen Elton John do Tiny Dancer at the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace. Basically, I'm still stanning.
Nilu: It’s not every day that you get a chance to sip Dom Perignon and try to convince Ty Dolla $ign to marry you for a US Visa. As I write this, it’s raining outside (and a little bit inside) and I’m sitting in bed regretting the fact that I told him I had a boyfriend.
Ryan: Talking to Amber Bain and watching her perform live, you get the sense that this is just the beginning for The Japanese House. It seems – or at the least we can hope – that Bain is likely to write about human-kinds most beautifully fragile moments for years to come. And who knows? Maybe she’ll have a revered place in the consolidated record collections of today’s young couples. Perhaps her record - the 2015 debut; the one with the ocean artwork - will even be on display on their wall.
Joe: As I walked to Laura Marling’s house on a terraced street in East London, all I really knew was that she had spent the last two years leading a somewhat nomadic life in America, from driving the entire country to living alone in LA. I'd made a load of stereotypical assumptions based on what I know about artists who move to California to get away from it all. Particularly folk singers. And I half expected my morning to be all spicebush teas, peace symbols, Tom Robbins quotes, cherry acoustic Fenders, and vintage Joni Mitchell 12”s. She did have a colour-coded book case, but the rest was unfounded.
Emma: Meeting Marilyn Manson is like meeting a member of the royal family or the president - if they spent every waking hour wearing corpsepaint, black leather gloves and intentionally trying to make you as uncomfortable as possible. How do you greet an artist like Marilyn Manson? What does you ask a man who has musically flourished over two decades, been blamed for more school shootings than anyone else in America, and shacked up with everyone in Hollywood? How do you break the ice with someone who answers every single question with an unrelated story about, for example, how he may or may not have made Zac Efron snort a line of cocaine shaped like a swastika? Turns out, if you give him a pink stuffed unicorn you impulse-bought from a card shop ten minutes before hand you’ll get on like a church on fire.