Anthony Bozza is one of my favourite music writers. He started his career as an intern at Rolling Stone magazine. Remember how good Rolling Stone was in the ’90s? Remember the in-depth, revealing, insightful artist interviews? More than likely what you were reading was Bozza—he wrote many cover stories for them including a defining portrait on rapper Eminem for his debut release, as well as many other features and countless articles for the magazine. He went on to be a contributing editor affording him the freedom to work out of the office. The time away from office politics giving him the space to pursue writing his first book, Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem which became an international bestseller. Since, Bozza hasn’t looked back going on to co-write books with Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee (Tommyland), Guns N Roses guitarist Slash (Slash), comedian Artie Lange (Too Fat Too Fish)—all bestsellers! He has also written books, Why AC/DC Matters, a book on INXS, I Am the New Black, the autobiography of 30 Rock and SNL star Tracy Morgan and has a book with Wyclef Jean of The Fugees fame set for release. Bozza has written for Spin, The New York Times, Maxim, The Guardian/Observer, Q, Mojo, Paper, Nylon, Blender and Radar and is co-founder of Igniter Literary Group with best-selling author Neil Strauss. If all that wasn’t enough Anthony is about to sit down with notorious rocker and celebrity Courtney Love next month to start interviews for her memoir!
It was so amazing to be able to chat to Anthony about all he does. It meant so much to me to be able to speak to another writer that loves interviewing as much as I do and someone who is an incredible success making it on their own terms, following their own path and creating some of the raddest work out there on entertainment icons of our time. Anthony Bozza I salute you. Thank you for being so darn awesome!
ANTHONY BOZZA: I went and saw [The Who’s] Roger Daltery do ‘Tommy’ [a rock opera] last night. I have a friend that’s working on the tour. That was pretty fun, except I have to say – I’m going to put this on my Facebook page too – whoever got paid to do the animation during Tommy needs to realise that animation has progressed since 1990. It was really bad. It was like pathetic bad. It was weird, it looked like some student project. Maybe it was. I’m going to find out. It was excessively simple and bad. They should have just shown stills from the film [laughs]. Other than that it was an excellent show.
Thank you for speaking with me, I have a huge respect for your work. It’s so nice to be able to finally talk to someone who cares about interviewing as much as I do.
AB: Thank you. I really like interviewing, it’s definitely always a challenge, each one is definitely different. It’s great. It’s really cool to talk to people and try to figure things out about them and to figure out how to get them to talk about stuff [laughs]—that’s the challenge that I like.
How do you go about interviewing? Do you do a lot of research? How do you go about trying to get people to talk about things?
AB: I don’t have any regular thing I do. Every single person is different. The one thing that I always do is tons of research that’s for sure! I try to ask things that might be a little different. If you can think of something that you haven’t seen discussed in an interview I would go for that. Know your subject inside and out and that’s really about it. I don’t have the one question that always works. People ask me ‘what’s your secret question?’ or ‘what is the one thing you always ask that works?’ and I don’t have one. It depends on the scenario, it depends on where the subject is at in their career or in their mind – you have to be very present when you interview. You have to pay attention to all the cues.
I find for me it is a very intuitive thing as well. I find, as you were saying, you have to be really present. So many times I’ve read, watched or heard interviews where the artist touches on something and then the interviewer doesn’t pick up on it and goes straight on to the next question. They totally miss some amazing opportunities because they’re not present, they don’t recognise something when it’s handed to them.
AB: Oh, I totally agree. A lot of times I find that people talk too much. That’s one thing I’ve found when I see other transcripts and people don’t realise that they’ve talked over what could have been something that was great. Like you were saying there’s windows of opportunity people miss.
I also find with a lot of artists they tend to repeat themselves when answering questions. They’ll say the same thing in multiple ways.
AB: So in other words they’re not just moving on to another topic [laughs]; they’re just giving you the same stuff and you’ve got to find a way to keep them for doing that.
Ah ha, that’s it! What first interested you in interviewing?
AB: I didn’t really set out with that particularly in mind. I got an internship at Rolling Stone when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I’d missed the deadline to work at the magazine as an intern but after his suicide the book division obviously needed to get a memorial book out quickly so they pretty much took the people that would have got selected. They grabbed the resumes of the people that had just missed the deadline and I was one of those. I worked on that tribute book and I worked in the Rolling Stone book department as an unpaid intern for a whole summer. A few months after that once or twice a week I was working in a bar. I was a history major so I really got into research, it’s in my nature and I really enjoy it. I started working on the Encyclopaedia of Rock N Roll – it was the updated edition 10 years later. For a lot of those entries they didn’t know how to find some of the people, they needed help updating some of the entries – this was before Wikipedia [laughs]. It was 1994 so there was a lot of phone calls and stuff. They just let me do a lot of them. They asked me ‘Do you want to try and track down Giorgio Moroder?’ He was the famous disco producer who produced Call Me by Blondie and all of these amazing songs. I was like, hell yeah! I found his office in Italy and was talking to him in broken English. I got on the phone to some really legendary people and when I did that I really, really dug that – I thought this is really cool!
I pretty much had my eye on getting into the magazine. I started working in the Rolling Stone research library. I started doing record reviews for other magazines for free and then Rolling Stone started letting me interview people. I was into the Smashing Pumpkins, I went to school in Chicago and they were my local band, they were just starting when I was there. I got to interview James Iha! It was really funny because the dude barely speaks. It was a hilarious interview because he was just like ‘Yeah. No. Yeah.’ one of those kinds of interviews! I just started to do the interview thing whenever I possibly could because it was really fun, that’s kind of it. There was an opening for an assistant in the music department so I pretty much jumped on it and never left… well I mean obviously I did leave but you know I stuck in there until I got to do what I want which is write cover stories [laughs].
When was it that you decided to leave?
AB: I wanted to write my book about Eminem. I pretty much had set out to do everything I wanted to do there. I was there for eight years and I had written seven cover stories. I was at the point where I didn’t want to become a higher up editor because I didn’t want to deal with the politics of the magazine and all the other stuff an editor has to deal with, I wanted to write. I asked to be a contributing editor which would basically be a contact where I’d owe them a certain amount of stories, a certain amount of assignments per year but in return I’m not in the office anymore and I can work on outside things but I can’t write for Spin or something. That’s the way I went, I didn’t want to have to deal with going to a million staff meetings [laughs].
In the year that I was a contributing editor I came up with my proposal for my Eminem book and sold that and never looked back!
That gives me so much hope, it really does. I get so frustrated with some of the publications that I write for because I feel limited in what they want me to do, I feel like it’s always about selling something. I love nothing more than being able to do the in-depth interview and really show different sides of my subject and that they’re so much more than whatever they’re promoting.
AB: Yeah definitely. That’s so good.
Do you ever get nervous interviewing?
AB: Not really, not at all. A lot of what I do now is co-writing with people so it’s a different relationship altogether. It’s like jumping the fence to the artist’s side in a way. If I’m co-writing with someone I’m kind of already on their team, I have to make them look good so it is a different relationship. I don’t really get nervous anymore, I guess there is people that would get me nervous. The actual act of doing it doesn’t fluster me at all.
It was just announced a couple of weeks ago that you’re writing a book with Courtney Love?
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