20 Favorite Interviews Of 2011

By Andrew Bansal

People often ask me, “What’s your favorite interview from among the ones you did lately?” So I figured, I should make a list of my favorite interviews of the year. As compared to the other three lists I did so far this year, this one was the hardest, by a long way.

In terms of interviews, 2011 has been a frustrating year for me. Quite a few of my confirmed interviews didn’t happen as scheduled. It was either due to incompetent tour managers or simply because of musicians acting unprofessionally and blowing me off for no apparent reason. As a result, the number of interviews I did this year was far lesser than the 439 I did in 2010. Nonetheless, this year to date I’ve done 381, which is still a lot, and I enjoyed each and every one of them. Hence choosing 20 favorite ones from these was by no means an easy task. The following are what I came up with as my favorite, in order from #20 to #1. I’ve also included the interview links in case you wanted to check them out.

#20. Jeff Paulick (Lazarus A.D.) - It’s always fun talking to Jeff. On this particular occasion, he really opened up and talked in detail about touring life, the next Lazarus A.D. album, and his penchant for deadly, spicy burgers. He is purely an interviewer’s delight, because once he starts talking, it takes a while for him to stop.

#19. Joel Grind (Toxic Holocaust) - This was my second time interviewing Joel. The first time was at the Grove of Anaheim in 2010. Things were a bit too hectic and unorganized that time, and this was more like the setting I was looking for. It was a few hours before the show, in a quiet and pleasant surrounding, and I had him for a good length of time. It turned out to be a very informative interview, as he talked in great detail about a variety of topics. It was a delightful conversation for me.

#18. Frederik Akesson (Opeth) - I didn’t know what to expect from this one, because Mikael Akerfeldt has always been the spokesperson of Opeth, and I wasn’t able to score an interview with him. But I was pleasantly surprised by Akesson’s demeanor, and his good-natured answers. He was completely down to earth, and even apologized to me for making me wait a few minutes past the scheduled interview time, which is a rare thing for someone who’s in a band of such stature. I obviously enjoyed the interview, but I was glad I kept it interesting for him as well.

#17. Paul Gilbert - It was an absolute dream come true to be able to interview this guy, my favorite guitarist. If this wasn’t an email interview, it would have definitely been in the top 3 of this list. But because it was done through email, there was no direct interaction during the interview. Nonetheless, it felt great to get this opportunity, and the conversation turned out to be as good as I had always imagined it to be. Hopefully someday I’ll get to do a face-to-face interview with him.

#16. Mike Portnoy - I was never interested in the overly documented Dream Theater-Portnoy drama, and kept my questions restricted to what he is doing musically at present, and his future plans. And I think he enjoyed the fact that for once the interviewer was not asking him about Dream Theater. I found this a very cool experience.

#15. Billy Sheehan - This is a musician I always wanted to talk to, and I’m extremely glad I got to do it in the form of a phone interview. He was very professional, precise yet pleasant with all his answers, which made for a really enjoyable interview for me.

#14. Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) - This was special for many reasons. The content of the interview was pretty unique as we talked about the security tackle incident from a few days past. Joey recognized me from the previous couple of times I had interviewed him, and even thanked me for the support at the end of the interview, which was very cool and totally unexpected. A genuinely good guy and always great to talk to.

#13. Katon De Pena (Hirax) - I was simply taken aback by how pumped and enthusiastic Katon was during the interview. Normally I’m the excited guy in the conversation and the musician treats it like an everyday thing. But this was totally different. Katon seemed glad to be talking to me, which was a huge honor in itself. He went on to share some awesome stories from the old days, and spoke on a variety of topics. One of the most high-energy interviews I’ve ever done.

#12. Biff Byford (Saxon) - This was another one of those dream-come-true moments. Because the band hadn’t toured in the States for a long time, I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever get to see them perform here, leave alone do an interview with frontman Biff Byford. The interview had it all, as we talked about the new album, touring, the old days, and even cassette tapes. It was surreal, to say the least.

#11. Craig Locicero (Forbidden) - Through this interview, Craig totally lived up to his reputation of being one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken guys in the metal world. Besides the Forbidden stuff, I was glad that I was able to talk to him about his Omega Wave podcast. This is a guy I’ll never get tired of speaking to, and hopefully I’ll get another chance sometime soon.

#10. Michael Romeo (Symphony X) - I consider myself fortunate to have been in some unbelievable situations this year, and talking to Michael Romeo was one of them. It was an amazing experience, as I asked him just about everything I wanted to, specially the latest Symphony X “Iconoclast”, an album I adore. As talented and mind-blowing as he is as a guitarist, he was really nice to me and never at any moment seemed full of himself. When it comes to conducting yourself in interviews, you won’t get many better role models than Michael Romeo.

#9. Misha Mansoor (Periphery) - This was a total geek-out session. We talked mainly about gear. Nearly 20 minutes passed, and only then did we stop. We were so immersed in the conversation that none of us realized how much time had gone by. Other than the Periphery stuff and his gear set-up, it was very cool to hear him talk about his Dream Theater influence. Strongly recommended for gear nerds.

#8. Ted Aguilar (Death Angel) - There was a glorious air of familiarity in this conversation. This is a guy I had previously interviewed twice already, and besides the interviews, I had seen the band six times this year, all from the front row. To say that we knew each other at the time of this interview is already an understatement. This was probably the most natural interview I’ve ever done. It had an unrivaled flow to it, and time simply flew by.

#7. Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) - Jon spoke in great detail about new vocalist Stu Block, and a multitude of other things. From the two times I’ve talked to him, specially this particular occasion, it’s clear to me that he absolutely loves doing interviews, and makes the interviewer’s job extremely easy. I’m a huge, huge fan of Iced Earth, but this conversation made my admiration for the band grow even more.

#6. Mark Evans (ex-AC/DC) - I was completely surprised to land this interview to be honest. Original AC/DC bassist Mark Evans was promoting his book, and doing a round of interviews for it. I happened to be one of his interviewers, and it was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had, as I listened to his answers in amazement. While preparing questions, I always imagine an interview before it actually happens. This was one of those rare interviews that went much, much better than I had imagined. It still feels like a dream.

#5. John Petrucci (Dream Theater) - This was a very special interview for me, as John was kind enough to answer each and every question I had for him. For him to actually give me 22 minutes of his time, on the day of a big LA show, was just huge. It showed that he was genuinely enjoying the interview and wasn’t doing it for the sake of it. He is undoubtedly a great musician, and turned out to be an equally great interview subject. This is one interview I’ll never forget. Even though it’s now almost three months since the interview happened, it’s still so fresh in my mind that it feels like it was done yesterday.

#4. Joey Vera (Armored Saint) - It’s hard for me to even express in words as to how much I love Armored Saint. This was a very big interview for me, and I am really glad to say that it went over perfectly well. Joey came across as a consummate professional, keeping the interview informative as well as entertaining at the same time. Not only did he give me a great interview, he went out of his way to make sure I was on the band’s list for the show. It was indeed a memorable day.

#3. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns ‘N Roses) - This was another interview that unexpectedly landed in my lap. It was quite sudden and out-of-the-blue. He was unbelievably nice to me, and even adjusted his schedule just for me. Even though it took me forever to transcribe this interview, I was very, very satisfied with the end result as it turned out to be one of my best interviews. Everything Bumblefoot said in this interview is just priceless. A classic example of a true musician, a guy who simply loves playing and talking about music.

#2. Devin Townsend - Interviews with Devin are always up there with the most enjoyable ones. During this interview, he gave me the highest compliment any musician has ever given me, by saying that one of the reasons he enjoys playing in LA is because he gets to talk to me. Needless to say, I enjoy talking to each and every musician I interview. But with Devin, it’s that much more special because he seems to equally enjoy talking to me. A nerdy, fun-filled discussion from beginning to end.

#1. Lemmy (Motorhead) - And finally, I rate the interview with Lemmy as my favorite interview of 2011. I was really nervous before this one, but Lemmy managed to make things comfortable by easing me into the interview and not rushing through it. As soon as I walked in, he first offered me a drink and casually talked to me for a couple of minutes. That went a long way towards breaking the ice, and the interview was simply an extension of that casual initial conversation. I felt a great vibe from him straightaway, and we hit it off really well. He spoke a lot more than he usually does in interviews, and said some of the funniest things I had ever heard while doing interviews. It was one of the absolute greatest highlights of my life so far, as Lemmy turned out to be the coolest musician I have ever spoken to. He proved that you don’t have to be a dick to be a rockstar. A legend in the truest sense of the word.

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