Sigur Ros Disaster: Our Fault or Not? After the BPP posted video of a disastrous sit-down with the Icelandic band Sigur Ros, fans of the outfit flooded the blog with comments faulting us. We called longtime music journalist Jancee Dunn to walk us through the wreckage.

Sigur Ros Disaster: Our Fault or Not?

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All right. Well, speaking of bands, a couple of Fridays ago, we had on the Icelandic group Sigur Ros for a conversation. I'm a giant fan. And if you haven't heard them, they play this beautiful, spare, slightly unintelligible music. Sadly, the interview was only spare and slightly unintelligible, hold the beautiful. Here's a taste.

How do you guys create a song?

Mr. GEORG HOLM (Guitarist, Sigur Ros): We just sit down and create the song.

BURBANK: That was the good part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Okay. So undaunted, we posted a video of the interview on the BPP blog just to kind of see what people would say. The response was quick and angry, much of it in Icelandic.

Here's a sampling: quote, "This is the most stupid radio host ever. What kind of questions are that? As one of that guys said, this is effing B." And then this one, which I'll paraphrase: "crap questions, crap answers."

Well, this whole thing probably could have been avoided if I'd just read Jancee Dunn's book, "But Enough About Me," before I did the interview. Calling on her experience interviewing bands for Rolling Stone and MTV2, she lays out the do's and don'ts of talking to musicians.

And Jancee Dunn joins us now in the studio.

Hi, Jancee.

Ms. JANCEE DUNN (Journalist; Author, "But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous"): How are you doing?

BURBANK: I'm good. I guess you have probably seen this interview I did. And would you describe my skills as effing B, or just crap?

Ms. DUNN: Well, you know, I'm going to come down on your side, given what I do for a living. I mean, I felt like they could have played along a little bit more. That's just me.

BURBANK: Okay, but let's start by asking you, because you have a long history of doing this stuff.

Ms. DUNN: I do.

BURBANK: Who are the toughest musicians you've interviewed, and did you manage to crack that nut?

Ms. DUNN: No. I've had interviews that are more painful, definitely. I mean, you know…

BURBANK: Than that? Than Sigur Ros?

Ms. DUNN: Oh, yes. I mean, I was a VJ on MTV2. And in the beginning when the channel started, there were - there was really no one listening or watching except the incarcerated. And so, you know, I would have people on that were, you know, still indulging from the night before.

I mean, I had on Green Day, and they were kind of still drunk, I think. And they really, it - I felt a little bit like a day-care teacher. They were really misbehaving, so much so that they had their publicist call me the next day, you know, and it just spiraled down. And in between takes, I would say, can you help me out here, please? And they didn't want to play.

BURBANK: Well, I think we should take this Sigur Ros interview out to a warehouse in New Jersey and try to reconstruct it, NTSB style. Okay, we're going to hear now clip. Let's listen, and then you critique it.

(Soundbite of archived interview)

BURBANK: Obviously, at some point, you decided to get in the same room and start playing music with each other. What was the motivation? You just wanted to make music?

Mr. KJARTAN SVEINSSON (Keyboardist, Sigur Ros): Yeah. Yeah, that's basically it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Okay. What did I do wrong there?

Ms. DUNN: Well, yes, you've done - you answered your own question.


Ms. DUNN: And you - you know, I would always specifically address a person and put them on the spot. Because when there's a bunch of people - I mean, I always pray for a one-on-one, but if it's a bunch of people, the more people there are, the less likely they're going to participate, you know. It's like a New York City robbery. So you need that - you need to specifically address one. And I often - I mean, I put in the book - I often address the drummer, because they're unused to being addressed, and they're surprised and happy and they'll - they're often chatty. What you mistake for surliness is often just rustiness because they're not used to talking.

BURBANK: So I should have probably focused on one person, as opposed to -because I kept looking in all of their dull, Icelandic eyes, trying to find someone who wanted to talk to me.

STEWART: Oh, like, that's not going to get comments on the blog now.

BURBANK: Listen, I moved through all the stages of grief.

STEWART: Good Lord.

BURBANK: I'm set on hating Iceland. That's a stage I'm in. No - but I should have just focused in one person, probably, would have been a good start.

Ms. DUNN: Yes, definitely, because you saw how they would exchange glances, and then one would reluctantly answer.

BURBANK: Yeah, okay, okay. Here, things kind of varied from boring to aggressive. Here was something. Here's the more hostile part of the - oh, can we actually skip to the third (unintelligible), guys? Is that possible? We'll do the kind of hostile clip here.

(Soundbite of archived interview)

BURBANK: Jon, If I could ask you a question that I think you probably are tired of answering, but it's one that, I think, everyone is curious about as soon as they get into Sigur Ros, which is Hopelandic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: You're shaking your head.

Mr. JON THOR BIRGISSON (Vocalist, Sigur Ros): Yeah.

BURBANK: This is the language, I guess, that - is it most of the lyrics? Some of the lyrics? All of the lyrics?

Mr. BIRGISSON: It's just (bleep) (bleep).

BURBANK: Now, that's not Hopelandic. I think that is English.

What do you do when, okay, so the deal with Sigur Ros is that they sing in this kind of made-up language, but everyone always asks some about it because it's very interesting. But they're very bored of talking about it. What do you do when you're interviewing someone and they're kind of known for one thing and they hate talking about it, but it's the main thing you're interested in?

Ms. DUNN: I put it into my intro and I just say, you know, and, of course, they're known for, you know, I just repeat what you just said, and then try for kind of an off-kilter question. Because, you know, I've just found through sad experience that you never get the answer that you want. You'll never get that fresh take on a question they've been answering a million times, you know.

BURBANK: Well, I read your book yesterday. It's a great read, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DUNN: Oh, thanks.

BURBANK: And I immediately realized I violated almost every rule that you set out. I started out - you're not supposed to say I'm a big fan of your work. You're not supposed to…

Ms. DUNN: Their ice-glaze over, yeah, unfortunately.

BURBANK: It was like, it was like reading - it was like you had been in the room with me when I met this band and tried to talk to them. What, I mean, so it's not about trying to be nice to them out of the gate? That seems like an obvious one?

Ms. DUNN: Well, you just want to engage them right away. And if you say I'm a big fan, even if it's true - and clearly you were - they've heard it before, so you just want them to not to calcify right away. So, you know - and often, I've pulled them aside beforehand and said, what do you want to talk about? Which I even would have asked Jon when he was kind of surly to you, I would have said…

BURBANK: Jon is the lead singer (unintelligible), by the way.

Ms. DUNN: Yes. And I would have said, what is it that you want to talk about? Because at least then, you're vindicated if they don't have anything. And if not, you might learn about their marionette puppet collection, you know, you never know.

STEWART: I also think that - can I jump in for a second?

BURBANK: Please. As a one-time MTV staff…

STEWART: Yes. Jancee and I have a long history of having to go through this nonsense together.

Ms. DUNN: Oh, yes.

STEWART: You can call a band out, too. That's the other thing, I think, people are afraid to do.


STEWART: They're - you know, some of them are kind of punky. They haven't been been around the block, necessarily. You can call a band. If he was hostile to you, and I might have add, why so hostile? Why the cry-cry?

Ms. DUNN: I would have, too. Yes. I mean, you can do it in a non, you know, Tom Snyder versus The Sex Pistols way. You can do it in a very - just as Alison just did, right? You know, hey.

BURBANK: Yeah. It's…

Ms. DUNN: Although it's tough. You know, you're outnumbered. You're sweating.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Ms. DUNN: It's hard.

BURBANK: No, seriously, because what happens is there is an entire entourage, a Sigur Ros entourage…

Ms. DUNN: Oh, Lord.

BURBANK: …you think (unintelligible) has an entourage.

Ms. DUNN: Oh, I saw them. They didn't look so tough.

BURBANK: But they have all these handlers who also…

Ms. DUNN: Arms folded?

BURBANK: …they handle these other bands that we want to get on this show.


BURBANK: Everyone standing around outside this glass. There's like 100 people in the control room. And it's, like I'm, like, how awkward do I wanted this to get? You know, that was kind of what's going through my mind. Clearly, you know, it couldn't have gotten much worse than it was. You did some pretty amazing little tricks of the trade in, like, you bring a little - not gifts, but funny things for people. Like you brought Britney Spears something, you mentioned in your book.

Ms. DUNN: What did I bring to Britney?

BURBANK: Like a press kit of someone who was trying to be the next Britney Spears.

Ms. DUNN: Oh, yes. Yes.

BURBANK: Have you read the book?

Ms. DUNN: You have to remind me. I know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: It's a good book.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DUNN: I do. I…

BURBANK: Why so hostile? Yes. I'm just practicing, I'm sorry.

Ms. DUNN: That was good. I started sweating…


Ms. DUNN: And I look now, I'm now jumping in the after…

BURBANK: Puts you on the defense.

Ms. DUNN: Huh, huh? Yes, I tend to bring them fun facts about themselves that they might not know. Like with, you know, before I interviewed Dolly Parton, I had read in a new issue of Harper's Bazaar that Donatella Versace wanted to dress her. I took a gamble that Dolly had not read that yet, and in fact, she hadn't. And then, the good times can start, you know. I - you bring them a fun fact about them - not about you. Never lead off with I, I'm a big fan. I didn't commit suicide because of your record. They don't care. They don't care.

BURBANK: See, that is the problem for me as giant narcissist, is almost every sentence starts with I.

Jancee Dunn, former writer for Rolling Stone, former VJ at MTV2, author of the memoir, "But Enough About Me." Thank you very much. And let's just, let's go out with a little Sigur Ros.

STEWART: Rush it and I'll ask you to stick around and do a, like a director's cut for the Web site.

BURBANK: Oh, good.


BURBANK: Analysis…


BURBANK: …of the video. All right.


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