Anthony DeCurtis started contributing to Rolling Stone magazine in the early '80s, and since that time has become one of the publication's most prolific writers. His book, In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life and Work, released this month in paperback form, is a collection of DeCurtis' most interesting and important interviews. The book includes added content from the interviews, including questions and answers that didn't appear in the magazine for space purposes. So here you go, Maximum Ink interviewing Rolling Stone…
MAXIMUM INK: “In Other Words” is essentially a collection of your best and/or favorite interviews. What brought on the decision to put this book together now, rather than, say, another 20 or 25 years from now, at the end of your career?
ANTHONY DECURTIS: I had enough material to make a collection make sense. In 1998, I put out a companion book of essays, reviews, and profiles called “Rocking My Life Away: Writing About Music and Other Matters.” It's a more serious book, while “In Other Words,” being question-and-answer, is a little breezier. I guess, at 55 years old, it was a response to looking at my life in serious terms… But it's not a bid for immortality!
MAX INK: I really enjoyed the book's introduction, as well as the introductions to the individual interviews.
DECURTIS: It reveals much more about me than a normal magazine interview would. That's something I wanted to do.
MAX INK: Today the shoe is on the other foot. How do you feel about being interviewed?
DECURTIS: I try to be as helpful as possible. When you do many interviews… Well, I used to be harder on interviewers, but then you only end up looking like a jerk. Inevitably, as a fellow writer, you're looking for technique. But now I just try to provide as much as I can.
MAX INK: You mention in the introduction that Van Morrison was your most difficult interview in the book.
DECURTIS: Van Morrison was really tough. He was very condescending. You know, I haven't listened to the tape of that interview in twenty years. I went there as a fan, very positive, but it didn't go well. I never want to tangle with my subjects, but if you're not having a good time, let's just not do it, you know? We made it through, but it wasn't pleasant.
MAX INK: Who was the most pleasant or rewarding for you?
DECURTIS: The George Harrison interview was a gigantic thrill. To look across the table and see Harrison was very weird, because in a sense, you almost “make up” these characters for yourself as a fan. But, any of the Beatles or Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, of course, they had such an impact on my generation and subsequent generations.
MAX INK: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets referenced several times in the book. Being a long time rock and roll fan, what's your take on the Hall?
DECURTIS: I'm on the nominating committee, so I know a lot of people there and have a professional involvement. I covered the opening for VH1 and we interviewed lots of people, but Iggy Pop was great in the way summed up the Hall of Fame. He said that rock and roll itself is made in clubs and bars at night amongst many dangers, but the Hall is like a rock and roll picnic where everyone is having fun and celebrating the art form. I think that's an excellent way to look at the organization.
MAX INK: Why did you make the decision to include the film director interviews in the book, as opposed to keeping it purely music interviews?
DECURTIS: The book might have been more cohesive without them. Basically, I asked the publisher what they thought about including them, and they said to have a go with it. For me, it was “more rather than less” for this book. If it seemed like somebody would enjoy an interview someone enjoying the music interviews I put it in. And most of the directors included have a sort of rock and roll attitude, or were somehow influential on rock music in one way or another. It's a nice big book, over 400 pages.
MAX INK: Eminem is the only rapper interviewed in the book. What is your take on rap and hip-hop music?
DECURTIS: The Eminem interview has an edginess to it, so I included it. I did a lot of hip-hop writing at one point. The thing that's fun and exciting about [the genre] is that anything can come up in the lyrics, subjects that are not politically correct. On the other hand, the lyrics do occasionally get into subjects or attitudes that do harm.
MAX INK: What is you current status with Rolling Stone?
DECURTIS: In 1995, I left Rolling Stone to go to VH1. That turned out to be a disappointment, and I only stayed there for one year. Now, I'm a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone. I had a lot of material in the 1000th issue of Rolling Stone, and I contribute fairly regularly.
MAX INK: Your book features interviews with both Keith Richards and Iggy Pop. This is important: Which one would win in a street fight?
DECURTIS: [Laughing] They are very similar types, even physically. They're both very wiry. I think Iggy would take Keith because he's a little younger and more body conscious… Though, if Keith whipped out the blade, it would be a different story. And that's acceptable in a street fight. But if it stayed clean, Iggy would take him.