Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Herbie Hancock

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37th Annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented by Shell - Herbie Hancock Quartet - April 29, 2006

It’s 1:30 a.m. and I am just finishing up an edit of my interview with Herbie Hancock.

For the entire conversation, Mr. Hancock talked about music and kindness couched in Buddhism and Humanism (he’s a Buddhist and a Humanist) and the need for music to bring people together.  Now, I’ve listened to Herbie Hancock my entire life.  From Monster to Dis is da Drum; everything before and in-between.  And there is nothing he’s done that I haven’t enjoyed.  Today, I got the chance to ask him every question I could think of about who he is, not necessarily what he does.  I mean, I’m not versed in the language of music.  I don’t understand synthesizers or beats.  But I know how his music makes me feel and I know how hard living is sometimes.  And I wanted to know how much of what I feel does he feel?  How much of what he feels does he wonder if other people feel?

It turns out, quite a lot on both counts.  And when the conversation was over, I realized I had talked to him for 63 minutes when my time slot was for 15.  He ignored the clock and kept talking.  He said he was glad to get the chance to express some of the things he was thinking about the world and the way he sees his place in it.  And when I hung up, all I could say was “Wow”!

OK, so I am looking for music to edit into the interview and I go to his most recent work, “The Imagine Project”.  It seems to be a reinterpretation of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, only with guest voices Pink (who I love), Seal (who I love) and a bunch of other amazing musicians like Jeff Beck, India Arie and Oumou Sangare. And at the center of it all, there is Herbie Hancock, the man who just gave me an hour of his time to ask him the most personal questions I could think of, wearing headphones and jamming behind a studio piano.

And I’m thinking, how can I thank this man for the gift he’s given me?  And I realize the answer is to produce the best interview I can, but not just his.  I always thought my goal was to produce good interviews, but sometimes, good sounds like mediocre.  I always knew I wouldn’t try to produce perfect interviews since that is a goal that would surely kill me.  I’m hard enough on me as it is.  But watching him, at 74, a virtuoso, doing what he so deeply loves and doing it with a mind that has probably forgotten more than many people will ever know, I see that my goal should always be to shoot for making excellent interviews.

Because he’s all about excellence and deep down, I love things excellently done too.  I can’t talk to Herbie Hancock for an hour and not come away thinking I can certainly work to do what I do better.  He reminded me that it’s OK to love what I do.  I just need to make sure I do it well and that it helps bring people together.

Hear my interview with Herbie Hancock here.

See the video for The Imagine Project here.

Written by Interviewer

September 19, 2014 at 15:30

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