The Absurdist That Defined Modern Journalism Ideals: Nardwuar

Let’s kick off the beginning of this blog with a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: music. Specifically a certain human serviette – Nardwuar!

Nardwuar and Pharrell Williams: never has there been a more iconic duo.

The man has truly been around. First debuting in as early as 1985 at Hillside Secondary School, Vancouver, Canada, Nardwuar has since then moved onto becoming a very successful celebrity interviewer, spawning a few dozen interviews with high-profile musicians like Snoop Dogg (who he’s interviewed 8 times since the turn of the century), Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Drake, Slipknot, Kendrick Lamar, N.E.R.D, Flea, Sleater-Kinney, even non musicians like Eric Andre of “The Eric Andre Show” fame and Anthony Fantano, one of the most famous music critics with the Best Teeth in The Game, all during his more than 30 year career. The Human Serviette as Nardwuar likes to call himself, has been prolific in the head-space of the internet and modern-day journalism as a whole through his certain knack for finding information on the people he’s about to interview through any means possible. Whether that means cracking through remnants of information in decade old web pages or reading countless of books and autobiographies to find out what they had for breakfast one morning in July, Nardwuar will find out and will bring it up. Unashamedly so.

Whilst that may boast its own downfalls sometimes (see this video to witness the interview where Kid Cudi “has to leave” after being terrorized with his recently deceased uncle’s vinyl collection) it does communicate one central need in investigative journalism that most lesser and even “high brow” journalists miss – the finding of truth. By reporting an artists whole career and life back to them, Nardwuar is attempting to hit certain nerves and crevices to essentially extricate the reality of these people’s lives and core beliefs. By representing a goofy image and stereotype of a typical nerdy, geeky outcast, Nardwuar is aiming to be a more trust worthy and genuine interviewer, someone who these common rap folk and hardcore rock enthusiasts can be taken aback by yet ultimately¬† are coerced into being subverted by. The sheer amount of tough and hugely popular artists that end up pouring out their genuine itself to Nardwuar, who has chosen by his own fruition to delve deep into and seek out to interview these people in the first place, after being smothered in love and gifts that truly matter to them, it’s absolutely mad!

Heck, the most negative and aggressive responses Nardwuar has gotten has been mainly from indie acts – people you would assume would be most at the guy’s side. Brit pop band “Blur” had a run in on Nardwuar in a hotel room wherein drummer Dave Rowntree¬† resorted to playground level bullying tactics and name calling. Only 8 years after the fact did the drummer finally admit it, when he was running for politician of the London’s Labour Party!

That aside, Nardwuar’s tactics in detail include a heavy amount of research and a dedication to tailoring questions in a way that Nardwuar knows almost immediately what the interviewee might say. A typical Nardwuar question might be in the form of “Can you tell more about this [Insert a specific topic] I heard you did/were/played [Insert obscure event in person’s life]” to which the man on the other side of the questioning might be a little bit nervous or stunned by how Nardwuar even procured such information about them. This in turn leads to another series of questioning, all the while on the continuous search for even more information and the truth. Nardwuar exhibits a deeper understanding into the minds of his captive live audience. He knows that interviewers before him have most likely asked everything about these celebrities in terms of the usual, mundane things. Most people who are going to be watching a Nardwuar interview are most likely doing so either for Nardwuar himself or the person that Nardwuar is interviewing. In that sense, the fans that happen on these interviews already know about the new album, already know about the boring things like their life at present in their mansion by the Bahamas. What remains unknown is the past and Nardwuar, someone who is noted to have a bachelor’s degree in History, realizes the potential for exploitation. He often finds the deepest roots of music in these people’s lives and gifts vinyls from around their childhoods that have a huge meaning to not only them but their generation and their families. He does this all with a big happy, cheery smile too!

What can we learn from him?

Well, I truly believe, as an aspiring journalist myself, that the ideals and integrity he displays are the crux of any good journalist outlet nowadays. Take for example Nardwuar’s clear love for his topic. He doesn’t just observe music; he examines and interrogates everything about it. His repertoire isn’t something to underestimate either seeing as he fronts the garage rock band “The Evaporators” that are still going strong today and plays in “Thee Goblins”. Music isn’t just something that he statically enjoys – Nardwuar has displayed countless times that he is intrinsically a walking talking music encyclopedia with archives dating back to the 1950’s. We should also peer into the idea of research and how valuable doing it is. Have you ever watched a video of a clearly awkward encounter with an interviewer that most likely has no inkling of knowledge on the people they are talking to? I have, in so many disastrous times. It’s bad for both parties involved! People like Nardwuar envision the artist’s vision as they talk to them and do the best they can to respect their history and how they’ve made it into the industry. As Nardwuar exposes the past, the artists themselves (willingly or not) expose themselves to the camera and their true nature.

In every interview, Nardwuar seeks truth. He seeks the proper portrayal of those that have previously been thought to been almost godly. He attacks the fallacy of their tough, hard demeanors with acts of kindness and generosity. It’s why big acts like Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams choose by their own free will to come back to him and, in Pharrell’s case, even pay homage to him! The influence that just one – I repeat one – man has had on a group of social demigods and giants is mind-blowing:

It’s a world gone mad!


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