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Double dipping

June 11, 2010

Since returning to Athens a few weeks ago, I’ve felt pretty out of the loop. When I left in mid-April, I felt like I had a lot of momentum and in general had things under control. When I got back, I had to start over again, corralling people for interviews and stuff. All of a sudden, though, things are picking up again. I interviewed Andrew Rieger yesterday, Bill Doss and Pete Erchick today, and should be able to knock out a couple more before the weekend is out.

The interview with Rieger went well. We sat at a picnic table outside my apartment for a little more than an hour, and I sweat through my shirt and got sunburn on my exposed skin. But I got plenty of good stuff.

I interviewed Erchick and Doss (pictured above playing a show at Little King’s Shuffle Club in Athens) together at Doss’s house. It was the first time I’ve been able to interview to people at once for this project, and only because it’s so hard to pin two people down at the same time and place. But I had been working on both of them for a while, and they had plans to record together tonight, so I stopped by for a couple hours and interviewed them together.

This sort of interview has a few benefits.

For one, it makes everyone a bit more comfortable. I’ve only known each of these guys for a few months, tops, but they’ve been friends and bandmates for about 15 years. They’re at ease with each other there, at least more so than they’d be one-on-one with a relative stranger. Plus, the more the merrier, and merrier people are more likely to give good answers. That’s not to say I didn’t ask any uncomfortable questions, but when I did, they were more apt to answer them as opposed to the old “no comment” routine.

Second, they can play off each other. Whatever the likelihood is that one of them remembers a specific fact, the odds go up with two people. Numerous times throughout the interview, Erchick came up with a date when Doss would blank or Doss would think of a name when Erchick could not. As a pair, they were able to paint a picture more vivid than either could paint on his own.Plus, they’d occasionally dive into inside jokes with each other, giving me ideas for topics of conversation that I would never have otherwise known to mention.

Last, it makes things a lot easier for me. There’s always an “acceleration of intimacy” when it comes to interviews, but when you don’t really know somebody, it can sometimes be difficult to tell when they’re kidding around versus when they’re serious or when a topic is particularly touchy and requires more tact. With another person there, I can gauge their reaction and make mine accordingly.

Of course, there’s a reason not all of my interviews are like this. They’re usually much more difficult to arrange, and people are much less likely to say anything negative when others are around, whether they have something negative to say about the present company or merely about people the present company might hold in high regard. Plus, when you get two friends in a room together, it’s inevitable that they’ll banter with each other here and there, so on the whole, the interview is less efficient; that is, a two-hour interview with two people will usually yield less usable material than would two separate one-on-one interviews of an hour apiece.

It’s hard to say which is better in absolute terms, but I’d wager the best approach has a solid mix of one-on-one and group interviews.

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