Legendary New York DJ would rather suffer root canal than interview this rock star
Scott Shannon is currently the co-host of the “Scott and Todd in the Morning” show on WPLJ in New York, host of The True Oldies Channel, and the official voice of The Sean Hannity Show.
A legend of American radio, Shannon is one of several disc jockeys honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame.
Shannon spoke to Insider Journalism Secrets about how to interview some of the biggest music acts on the planet – and who he’d rather NOT interview.
By SCOTT SHANNON
“The hardest person to interview is a person who takes themselves very seriously and they are introspective. Like David Cassidy. I would rather have a root canal than interview David Cassidy!
“Jon Bon Jovi over the years has gotten more introspective about his life and family. If you want to make him happy, talk about his kids and what fatherhood means to him.
“He’s very proud of his accomplishments as a rock star. You then point out, ‘How have you managed to last so long without going on the oldies circuit?’
“He really doesn’t want to be considered an oldie but a goodie. He doesn’t have any comebacks because he’s never gone away. So you avoid the sensitive issues and try to put them in a good light and try not to embarrass them.”
“The first thing you have to do is learn about the person. You have to have background. Nothing is worse than someone coming up and saying, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ No. You’re supposed to know about your subject.
“There can be elements about their lives that you let them relate. Many times I’ll say, ‘Tell me how you got to where you are today. I know your background but tell me why you made it in the music business when other people didn’t.’
“I’ll say, ‘What kind of advice would you give young songwriters who are trying to get started?’
“In other words, you make them go out of the box. They had a gazillion questions already and they have been asked every asinine interview question ever. Like, ‘What is your favorite color?’ Or ‘Do you ever get stopped on the street for an autograph?’ “You have to talk to them like a regular person like you’re sitting at dinner talking to someone.
“I interviewed people from the time I was a kid but not with a recorder. I would just ask them questions because I was curious. And you always have to have one good question in your pocket. If all else fails break glass and grab the fire extinguisher. I’m curious and I want to know about the people. I want to know why they wrote that song. Why did they used those words to craft that title of their book? How did they come up with the title of that book? What advice would they give someone.
“[Sometimes you ask a question they don’t like]. You can always laugh and apologize. ‘I’m sorry that was a horrible question. I’m a little nervous being around you.’
“I’ve had bad interviews in my life because some people just don’t want to be interviewed. Some people are being interviewed because it’s in their contract or being interviewed because they’re trying to promote their album. So if you ask them something interesting about their life, they really don’t want to deal with it. They want to talk about how great this album is. Usually the worst the album is the more they’re out promoting it because they have too.
“You don’t see Adele doing a lot of interviews; she didn’t have to because it’s a great album. ‘Let my music speak for me.’ What are you going to ask Adele? ‘Why don’t you lose some weight or are you still mad at these guys?’ She’s had those questions a million times. I would go with something like, ‘Is there anybody you would like to write with or sing with? How are you going to top yourself?’ She probably has heard all those, too, but you have to do something.
“That’s why it’s important for you to think ahead and try to plan…most of the time I don’t use but half my questions.
“And I let the tempo and flow of the interview dictate. If the person really enjoys talking to you, you don’t need to ask a lot of questions. It just goes naturally.”