By Christina Whipsnade & Max Dropout
With a cartoon-colored image out of a Saturday morning acetate flip book, a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge, and a bubbling fountain of effervescent enthusiasm that can induce waves of disorientation when entertained by his subjects, Nardwuar has that one of a kind ability to put even Crispin Glover’s charming eccentricities into perspective. While the aforementioned strange boy cult hero might seem odd to begin with, when you add the Nardo ingredient, the most potent natural oddity can seem enhanced to a sublimely absurd level, if not entirely outdone. So frenzied and peculiar, Nardwuar’s celebrity encounters can even reach harrowing tensions, specifically when he gets one the overgrown egos in his crosshair and assails him with a most unique assault style – a caustic tirade spat through something akin to a silly straw, a shape so absurd that it embodies innocence.
But beyond the sweet-soaked pith and the lunacy looming throughout the overbearing personality, there is the expertise and knowledge of what could be a coke- and caffiene-addled staff. Even his subjects are often taken aback by the flow of obscure knowledge with which Nardo hoses them down. But to the best of our knowledge, there is no teeming staff of wired news hounds, nor could there be since there’s absolutely no market for the kind of bullshit this guy spews. Nardo is none other than a veritable spelunker when it comes to fact and even half-truth, which he will never miss an opportunity to dispel. While his knowledge has been lamented as desperate and irritant at times, Nardwuar is a refreshing distance from most mainstream journalists, whose ignorance plagues the pages of almost every international music paper.
In between the televised MuchMusic interviews, his own radio show on the University of British Columbia’s CiTR, and writing for the likes of Razorcake, Nardwuar finds the time to run his own record label, Nardwuar Records, and record with his rollicking pop-punk garage explosion, the Evaporators, and the more mysterious Thee Dublins (formerly Thee Goblins), and other such …blins. As the Evaporators prepare for the release of their new album, Ripple Rock, and the touring that follows, Nardwuar graciously took the time to indulge us with a little interview.
I’m sure this has been asked tons of times, but I must ask again, can you tell us the story behind your moniker, Nardwuar The Human Serviette?
Nardwuar = a dumb stoopid name. Like Sting or Sebadoh or Sinbad. “Human” in honour of the Cramps song, “Human Fly.” “Serviette” = they don’t have serviettes in the USA — only napkins!
You’ve been a cult personality in Canada for the longest time, now you seem to be getting the recognition you deserve, mainly from being on MuchMusic. How’s the broader audience treating you?
Unfortunately I really have no idea. As a freelancer you don’t get too much feedback.
Will you do another special for MuchMusic or was Nard Wars just a one off thing? I say you should have your own show.
Thanks for the kind words! “Nard Wars” was just one off. I would love to do another special (or have my own show) and am really trying hard to get it together.
You’ve encountered some hostility through the years, namely the Sonic Youth incident and more recently, Dave Rowntree from Blur acting all confrontational. I’ve also heard something about Skid Row. Can you tell us more about your harrowing experiences?
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row threatened to “beat me up for fun” and stole my favourite Toque! Plus he smashed the videotape I was using to “capture” the interview. The shitty thing was the tape also contained interviews with Pierre Eliott Trudeau, Sandra Berhard and George Clinton! Pretty much the same thing happened 5 years later with Quiet Riot. They also smashed the tape I was using to film the interview. So it seems I always have trouble with the “hair farming” bands!
My feelings toward an artist changes if I see them treat you with animosity; if they can’t take your interviewing style, then I tend to view them as humorless and self-important. How can anyone be upset by you?
Wow! Thanks for caring! I just like to have fun. I don’t worry about it too much. It’s just an interview.
Do you travel to interviews with a bodyguard? You know, in case any rock stars get out of hand… or are you buff enough to take ‘em on solo?
Oh yeah! When I interviewed Gene Simmons, I brought my friend Canadian Heavy Metal Legend THOR along in case anything went wrong. (Like I didn’t want a Quiet Riot or Skid Row incident happening again.) As it turned out nothing happened! Gene was a sweetie! Although he denied his wife was born in Dildo, Newfoundland.
Did Beck tell you to fuck off? What happened there?
I just think he didn’t like joking around with me. You can decide for yourself by checking out: http://nardwuar.com/vs/beck_hansen/
Do you not mind getting slightly ruffled in exchange for a good interview? An example would be the Damned interview where Dave Vanian rubbed a banana in your face.
No, I mean, that was an honour! I love the Damned! I just don’t like people taking my stuff! (Like HELLO SEBASTIAN BACH!)
Who are some of your favourite interviewees? You seem to have a good rapport with Jello Biafra.
For people that I have talked to more than once, Jello is definitely the man. When I first talked to him in 1989 he hated me! And now in 2004, my band is signed to his record label! Actually if you pop the new Evaporators CD into your computer, you can watch twelve years of me interviewing him condensed into ten minutes. Oh, I also love to talk to Snoop Doggy Dogg!
How much time and research do you put into your interviews? Or are all these facts always in your head?
It’s impressive the details you tend to dig up! Everything is researched (yes my life is that pathetic). I know very little myself. I just have the time to waste to look up obscuro facts. Most people are leading a real life and don’t have time to research stoopid interviews. I usually spend a couple days on each interview subject.
You’ve interviewed your fair share of metal gods; did you grow up listening to these bands? Was it a thrill to finally talk to them?
I was only turned on to metal bands in the last ten years… (gosh, that sound like a long time) by my friend Mark Kleiner! He has been in great bands (the Sisters Lovers, Jungle, the Mark Kleiner Project) and is truly an incredible talent! His knowledge of the rock scene is unsurpassed and Mark even has the shirt that Peter Tork of the Monkees wore in the movie HEAD! (Which I wore while interviewing Peter Tork!)
Any dream interviews you would love to do? I’d love to see a Nardwuar vs. Morrissey interview; you need to make this happen!
That would be a dream come true! I have talked to Johnny Marr, but no Morrissey! Can you make this happen for me Christina?
Nardwuar, I’m trying, but Morrissey isn’t returning my faxes. Can you tell us a bit about your bands, the Evaporators and Thee Goblins? Are you working on new material? Any plans to tour?
We will have a new Evaporators album (Ripple Rock) out in early 2004 on Nardwuar/Mint in Canada and Alternative Tentacles in the USA. We are doing a short west coast tour in January, and are also going in the spring to Canadian Music Week in Toronto and SXSW.
What’s Nardwuar listening to these days? We want to know what’s on your turntable!
The Fallouts, the Deadly Snakes, Harold Ray Live in Concert, the Misunderstood (that article on them in ‘Ugly Things’ magazine really got me hooked!), Junior Senior, David Clayton Thomas, WFMU Radio (via the net), the Unicorns, the Night Train Revue, Zapp, Cameo and Flip Wilson.
You have great style. Where do you shop? Do you have multiples of your trademark hat? It seems to be a favourite among would-be thieves.
A lot of my stuff came from the Good Jacket, a now-closed clothing store in Vancouver. Sean Raggett who ran the store was the first singer in the Riff Randells (on Mint Records). He always set aside the coolest stuff for me to wear. Also, after years in the Evaporators I have accumulated a whack of clothes from all sorts of thrift stores, etc.
What’s next for you? Are you planning to put out a DVD? Who are you interviewing next?
The new Evaporators LP (with free Dublins 7 incher) is out in January. I am hoping to talk to Chris Rock next, although I am not sure it will happen.
Any bands you think we should be looking out for?
The Clones! A new band from Vancouver, B.C., Canada led by Jeffy, who plays bass in the New Town Animals.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me! Any parting thoughts?
Thanks you Christina! Keep on rawkin in the free world! And dootdoola doot doo…!
Doot, doot! I’ve always wanted to do that!
Very special thanks to Nardwuar for taking the time out to answer our questions. For more information on Nardwuar and access to his phenomenal interview archive, go to www.nardwuar.com