Original by Geometria in Russian. As reported to Angela Kulagina
A good interview is like a fine dish: it needs to be served hot, but not scalding. The flavor should be full, but not overwhelming. And there has to be a zest to it, otherwise the impression afterwards won’t be long-lasting. In this interview, the zest is a personality. Two, in fact: the reporter and the interviewee.
The Miller Love Hotel party will take place in Nizhny Novgorod on 17 February 2007. DJ Nina Kraviz, who is also a singer, journalist and producer, is in town for the occasion and before the party, our two reporters prepared a “dish” for readers in Paris City Cafe. Bon appetit!
G: Do you enjoy taking or giving interviews more?
NK: I prefer answering questions.
G: You are a journalist, DJ, singer and producer. All of these professions are creative in nature. Do you believe a person is born with the gift of mixing or writing, or are these skills that can be learned?
NK: I believe that talent is like charm — you either have it, or you don’t. Maybe a person is not an outstanding journalist, but still a good one. A talented journalist doesn’t have to have studied the profession if he knows how to correctly present information to readers, in an interesting way. A good journalist doesn’t have to have natural talent, it could be that all of his skills are the result of long, hard labor. It goes absolutely the same for DJ-ing. You have to work on yourself in both cases, regardless of what abilities you were born with. And every person, no matter what their job is, should adhere to one golden rule: if you’re going to work, be professional about it. If you say “A,” that fact “A” should be checked 25 times. If you say that “A” in music, it needs to carry additional meaning behind it. The most important thing is not to misstate information. In journalism, the industry rule is, if you’re in doubt and are able to omit it, then omit it. If you really think that people need to know about it, then go ahead and write it, but write it in a way so that you won’t be horribly ashamed afterwards.
G: What main mistakes do you see today’s journalists make?
NK: Many of them try to express their own personality through the interview rather than that of the subject’s. I don’t think that’s right. However, a good journalist might be able to express both their personalities at the same time. When information is presented correctly, the reader will have no doubt about the subject’s character, as revealed through the reporter’s words, nor their talent, as a result. The reporter’s first duty is to inform the reader on a topic. This goes without saying, they are not writing simply for the sake of, but rather about a specific person. Secondly, he must send the interview to the person being written about so that they can make corrections, if needed. Failing to do so is wrong.
My best and most straightforward interviews were with foreigners, because it’s harder for them to review: they only check facts (figures, names, dates). Reporters often resort to embellishing details if the interviewee doesn’t seem interesting enough to them.
G: What’s the secret to a successful interview?
NK: The secret is in presenting information accurately, in a structured and exciting way, such that it feels exclusive to the reader. I believe a good reporter does not write, “The apple was fresh and juicy,” but rather, “The apple was bright green and smooth. It had been picked just 2 hours ago and shone in the sun.” Anyone who reads that will understand the apple is fresh and juicy. I always try to avoid using subjective language or making judgments on the subject because it’s the reader’s job to make their own conclusions. A person has to think for him or herself. I don’t like simple-mindedness or lazy thinking in any form. It leads one to a mental wasteland. And the result of such activity is intellectual deterioration.
G: How do you prep for an interview? The same way you prep for a gig in a new city where you don’t know the crowd? Like here in Nizhny Novgorod, for example.
NK: Let’s start with the interview. It all depends on the person I’m interviewing. It often happens that I interview people I’ve known for awhile so I already have an idea of the topics and some questions in mind. If I don’t know the person then I’ll use my personal knowledge about their field and, of course, the Internet. There you can generally read up on everything. Going back to what makes a good reporter, a professional knows how to ask a question in such a way as to elicit a response that will direct the conversation in a planned course. You should never approach a person like some unattainable object. They’re not a stone, they’re alive, with their own feelings and worries. Experience has shown that the more relaxed a reporter is during an interview, the more free his subject feels, and the more honestly he will respond.
Regarding sets. To be honest, I just play the records I like. I love educating people. I don’t subscribe to the European school of DJ-ing. And I don’t own a single record that I don’t like. I know lots of people, DJs, who say that they only play tracks they like but it’s actually not the case. I don’t think that’s right.
G: What’s your top priority, DJ-ing or journalism?
NK: I rarely write interviews nowadays. The publications turn to me only if they want a story on some famous figure that requires major preparation and a musical background. Lately the interviews have been more interesting as I understand DJ-ing better, thanks to frequent play. Even if you take all my interviews that I did at 100%, about 10% were special and memorable, for me as well as for readers, and for my subjects too I think.
G: Do you have a favorite interview?
NK: I have many. For example, with Gonzalez. There was also this scandalous phone interview with Jeff Mills, during which he yelled for me never to call him again. I posed an inappropriate question [about money — Ed.] and that was my mistake. But after some time I realized the mistake also counted as experience. It’s even good that I was able to elicit such acute feelings from an artist who’s given many interviews in his life, who’s probably got everything figured out at home in Chicago.. and suddenly here, raw emotion. Negative feelings are a double-edged sword. Some see emotional outbursts as negative, but for me, they’re displays of emotion. Any genuine flow of emotion from a person is good. A person may look you straight in the eyes, converse with you, even nod their head in agreement, but inside they’re thinking about, I don’t know, a cookie left over at home. There are all kinds of worn-out things in this world: questions, responses, human moods and people themselves. It’s important to stir up these situations, add something fresh to them.
G: When you travel to a new city on tour, do you size up the local DJs and how they play?
NK: I’m pretty observant in general. I always try to watch who’s playing before me. How he or she delivers the vibe through songs, how the crowd responds, especially in cities I haven’t been to before. Usually the openers, I don’t know why, play really hard. This makes it really hard for me to then present the crowd with something fundamentally different, to make that transition. But I do play very diverse music, both hard and soft, everything except simple-minded music.
G: Can you explain what you mean by simple-minded music?
NK: I don’t mean commercial music. Commercial is not at all bad. I like a lot of popular compositions. Sometimes you simply can’t get a crowd going without them. Simple-minded, easily accessible music is just that: vulgar, primitive. When a person listens to it, he doesn’t feel anything. That’s the worst thing. It’s mass-produced music. I don’t mean it’s bad, but I personally don’t accept it. It’s not my thing. Some people can play only CDs, I play only vinyl. That doesn’t mean I reject digital music, only that I am able to play just vinyl. It’s exactly the same with music, I am not able to play simple-minded music.