Here is the full transcript of Canadian celebrity interviewer and musician Nardwuar the Human Serviette’s TEDx talk presentation: Do It Yourself! at TEDxVancouver conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Nardwuar the Human Serviette – Do It Yourself! at TEDxVancouver
Welcome TEDxers! I am Nardwuar the Human Serviette from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I do a radio show on CiTR-FM 102, Cable 102, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I also do a radio show on WFMU, New Jersey and I play in two rock-and-roll bands: The Evaporators and Thee Goblins.
The last time I was here at Kay Meek, which basically is West Vancouver High School, was when I was kidnapped as part of a grad prank. And nobody cared. But hopefully, you’ll care today for dootalaladoodoo: Do It Yourself.
I mentioned CiTR radio. At CiTR, you’re not a DJ. A DJ is told what to do. At CiTR, you’re a writer; you’re an operator; you’re a producer; you’re in total control. You can do whatever you want within the CRTC guidelines.
So, I’m up at CiTR. I’m doing my radio show. I play in a rock and roll band. I have a vision to put on a giant rock and roll gig featuring from Seattle, Washington, Mudhoney. I went into follow records in Seattle and got Mudhoney’s phone number, because I asked. I phoned up Mudhoney and bribed Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney with porn. And they said they would play a gig in Vancouver.
I had another great vision for a gig. So Mudhoney are all up in Vancouver, they’re just about to go on stage. I come out on stage and I announce what I’m about to do. What my idea was for the gig was — was that I would hand out pennies to the audience. The audience would then take the pennies and come back to the next Nardwuar gig, hand in the penny and they would get a nickel, yes. Then they’d come back to the next Nardwuar gig, hand in that nickel and get a coin. So they would get rich going to Narwuar Human Serviette gigs. That was my vision.
So, I came up on stage much like I’m here at TEDx, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at Kay Meek. And I said okay, here are the pennies and I started handing out the pennies. And then what did the crowd do with the pennies? They threw them right back at me. They weren’t saving them. I was frustrated. I didn’t know what to do, I could only think of one thing: Tell the crowd to spit on me.
Oh! There’s a picture of Snoop Doggy Dogg. I will say, I was sick for 3 months after that. So not always what you envision comes true. And as I mentioned Snoop Doggy Dogg — Me and Snoop. The first time I was offered an interview with Snoop Doggy Dogg in the year 2000, I didn’t want to do it, I was scared. I knew nothing about Snoop Doggy Dogg.
And then I realized, the less you know the better. If you’re nervous, that’s good. That makes you try to find out more information about the person you’re talking to. I thought really hard. Snoop Dogg. Oh! He loves comedy. Maybe he likes Redd Foxx, the comedian. Oh! and my friend Diane Holme has a Redd Foxx doll. Maybe I will bring, even though I’m totally nervous that Redd Foxx doll to the interview and see if that will break the ice.
Oh, and what do we have here but a picture of me and Kurt Cobain. How did I get an interview with Kurt Cobain? I asked for an interview for Kurt Cobain.
Nirvana were coming to Vancouver for two days in early 1994 at the PNE Forum. I showed up at the PNE Forum, super early. I climbed up on top of the toilets so my feet weren’t visible in the backstage area of Kurt Cobain’s locker room, noticed shaking legs. Unfortunately, I was noticed and they kicked me out, but not before I left a cassette tape in the backstage area right where Kurt Cobain would come in.
What’s on the cassette tape? The cassette tape contains an interview I did with Courtney Love, Kurt’s wife. So I was hoping that Kurt would find the cassette tape, take it home that night and listen to it in a hotel and the next day would know who I was. Yes, you’ve got to shoot for the top but I was discovered and I went home empty-handed, I got no phone calls from Kurt Cobain.
But the next morning I got a phone call from my buddy Hugh Baker who grew up in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, I think on a Altamont drive, [indiscernible] watching TEDx and Hugh said to me, “Nardwuar, at the Four Seasons Hotel, there’s been a Nirvana spotting.” So we went down to the Four Seasons Hotel. I really didn’t want it, but Hugh said, “Come on, what else he is going to do?” So we showed up, we got into hotel and sure enough getting in the elevator right there was Dave Grohl and I run up to Dave Grohl, I said, “Hey, are we put on the guest list”. He says yes and like yes, we’re on the guest list.
We run on down to the PNE forum, we show up at the media entrance of the PNE forum, I am like “Hi, it’s Nardwuar. Dave Grohl put me on the guest list”. The people at the door are like “Nardwuar, you’ve been in this town long enough to know you ain’t on the guest list.” I’m like no I really am on the guest list and right then and there by mistake Kurt and Courtney walked in the media door. And I waved up at Courtney, I said, “Courtney, it’s me, Nardwuar”. She recognized me, Kurt had actually taken the tape home, they listened to it at the hotel that night.
“Come with me.” The people at the front gate like you can’t take Nardwuar and Courtney turns and said, “That’s my cousin Nardwuar. He can come with me.”
The next thing you know I’m backstage with Courtney Love – “Courtney, can I interview Kurt?” And she said, “You know what why don’t you just ask him?” And it happened, but you know what there’s a fine line that all worked out. Every interview you do is different. You never know what will happen. Case in point — Henry Rollins.
Oh my Goodness! There’s a picture of Jay Z. How did I get an interview with Jay-Z? Let’s backtrack for a moment. Malcolm Gladwell — you say it takes 10 years – 10,000 hours to get good. My dad told me the first 50 years are the worst. So with that in mind, every interview I do I prepare because I know I’m going to keep doing them over and over and over again. I put the same amount of research, the same amount of seriousness into every single interview I do. That’s why I was so surprised when Pharrell Williams of the band The Neptunes and N*E*R*D acted in this way.
And what happened? Pharrell after that interview hooked me up with Jay-Z, because I and he enjoyed interview. Thank you Pharrell. Oh Jean Chrétien! In 1997, the Asia-Pacific Conference came to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I decided to go to one of the final press conferences. At the Asia-Pacific conference there’s a whole bunch of dictators from other lands, namely President Suharto from Indonesia. And I was thinking, hmm, the interviewer’s job is to make the interviewee exciting. You can never say, ‘Oh a prime minister, what a boring person or what a boring person you’re talking to’. Hello, it’s the interviewer’s job to make the interviewee exciting.
So I was thinking and I think a lot what could be really great about Jean Chrétien, what could be really — oh if he loved punk rock and wouldn’t it be great if he loved the punk rock band called The Nomads, that I just made up, and wouldn’t it be great if Jean Chrétien band and Nomads had a song called the Suharto stomp.
So I decided I would ask Jean Chrétien about this fictitious punk band, The Nomads, who had a song called Suharto stomp. Now as I’m driving out to the University of British Columbia, CiTR radio was one of the few stations that was reporting on all the protests that were happening. There were thousands of protesters and they were getting maced, they were getting pepper sprayed. So I thought to myself: can’t this be a punk rock and Suharto stomp we got to throw in some pepper spray as well.
Furthermore before I left and started driving out the CiTR, I made sure my head was shaved, I was wearing a tie, I had a little notepad, so I could be a little junior reporter and I could step up to the mic and ask Jean Chrétien about punk rock and pepper spray.
And there Jean Chrétien said, “For me pepper I put it on my plate”. That quote went everywhere, so every time I did a political interview after that, I was thinking what can I do that top that or what can I do to do something along the same lines? Well, I was sitting in my room and I looked across and I saw a toy that my friend Charlie Stone gave me. He was president of the Hillside Student Congress of Hillside Secondary in West Vancouver, BC Canada, he said “Nardwuar, have this hip flip game, you’ll need it one day”. This is the hip flip game; essentially what it is, is it’s on your waist. It’s on somebody else’s waist, and then you try to flip the flipper around.
So I thought why don’t I just ask Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of Canada to see if he would do the hip flip.
And then I asked Jack Layton of the NDP, and he did the hip flip too. So it was logical to approach Stephen Harper, and see if Stephen Harper would do the hip flip. Stephen Harper did not do the hip flip but I learned something — you always learn something. I learned that when the security is carrying you away, not if but when they are carrying away, you know they have the security is like a one arm and then the security the other, you know like protesters they like drag, you know, like drag their feet behind, don’t do the drag of the feet behind thing, lift your feet up, so you get like crowd surfed away by the security, hit it right there.
And what should happen a few years later, I met up with Jean Chrétien 10 years after APAC and he did the hip flip. I also said to him, “Mr. Chrétien, 10 years ago in 1997, I asked you of pepper spray. For years, you’ve told people in your memoirs and reporters that it was a group of people asking of pepper spray, it was me that asked you about pepper spray and punk rock. In fact, that is totally famous, that’s even in this book right here Canadian History for Dummies.”
And he turned to me and said, “That’s because you’re a big dummy!”
Ba-boom, more political intrigue happened when Stéphane Dion became the Liberal leader. So I decided to show up by myself at a town hall meeting with my friend Matt Leaf; he had a giant mohawk, I love these, like walks right into the town hall meeting with the giant mohawk, that’s the way to go. Do it yourself to show up at the meeting. Some of the giant town hall meetings sort of like this — I walk up to the mic with my game, the elliptical rattles — like it’s like making all the snowies, so of course the security comes over. I’m not asking a question right away, like I’m lying to ask the question and security comes up to me and they take away the hip foot fame, they say he’s not going to — remember like they’re whispering in my ear, I’m waiting to ask the question standing up, that nobody actually sees security talking to me just kind of whispering to me, he’s not going to do it; he’s not going to touch anything — to which I said hold on, look all these pictures I have all these other leaders doing the hip flip, they’re like no, he’s not going to touch anything. And then they whisper further in my ear: ‘Do you have to do this game? This is embarrassing for you.’
And immediately I thought of the Latin term and I’m not sure if I pronounced this right or not, voluntary non fit injuria, which basically means if you go to a punk rock gig and you jump up a 4 Slam dance, you might get hit. So basically what I was telling this lady was once you become a member of the media become the media like Jello Biafra says you’re going to get embarrassed — when you’re in the entertainment industry you’re going to get embarrassed. So it made no difference to me and I decided to step up to the mic and attempt to see in this town hall meetings I showed up, if Stefan Beyond would do the hip flip.
Oh Snoop Doggy Dogg, I truly believe though that if I had that hip flip and hadn’t been taken away that I could march down the aisle, I’ve got Stefan to do the hip flip. There’s something that you don’t see too often and I think that’s why I keep doing interviews. Snoop Doggy Dogg handing a blunt to the cameraman who’s helping film the interview I’m doing with Snoop Doggy Dogg in 2010. That’s why I’m still doing it because — not the blunt but just because I love doing interviews. Every interview you do you learn something. The minute you think you know something is the minute you should quit. As I was mentioning, if you’re not nervous you shouldn’t be doing the interview. And I learned a hell of a lot and I will keep learning, there’s so much to learn. I have no idea — no no no idea about this particular use for a microwave and a joint.
And there’s Lady Gaga, yes I’m so glad you guys noticed that doll sitting there on — we still continue to – so there’s Lady Gaga right there and I think it’s important to notice Lady Gaga, Snoop Doggy Dogg, I mean these are big people but really ultimately who cares if you have an audience at all; it doesn’t matter because the internet never forgets. You should interview everyone because you never know what will happen.
I talked to Lady Gaga and eight months later she was on Larry King, she went from the Nardwuar show to Larry King and eight months and 1 billion YouTube hits. Do it yourself – do it yourself; Lady Gaga.
So basically if I can do it, you can do it too. Thanks for much TEDx.
Thanks so much TEDx. Keep on rockin — and keep on rockin in the free world.