There’s something about sitting in a TV studio that is inherently terrifying. The fear doesn’t reside in the compact room itself, staring into the mechanical eyes of a few cameras and the wandering pupils of a small gathering of people, but rather in the implications of what stands to come next. Every movement you make, every word you say, will be sent out over the air, open for the public to watch, criticize, playback, rewind, fast forward and do whatever the hell they want with. That kind of fear stands in any TV studio.
When that TV studio belongs to mtvU, that fear is only amplified.
That fear can paralyze you when the band that very well could be the next incarnation of The Strokes or The Arctic Monkeys is sitting across the studio from you, and unfortunately paralysis isn’t the best thing to come down with when the producer says, “Whenever you’re ready.”
Of course, luck of the Irish, it was me seated across the room from that band last Wednesday afternoon, placed in front of a camera in a studio owned by the most iconic organization in the music industry, hoping, wishing and praying that after three years as one of the College’s resident music snobs, I’d be able to channel everything I knew about genres, guitars and garage-rock to shoot the breeze for a scant 30 minutes.
On Wednesday, Oct. 3, I was filmed on an episode of mtvU’s “My Shot With.” and given my first real opportunity in the world of music journalism: an interview with Canada’s dance-punk wunderkind, Tokyo Police Club. The band has toured with Cold War Kids and currently is playing a few dates with Bloc Party. They’re on the verge of making their big break in this country.
Somehow, I was sitting across from them. Me. My only brush with music greatness was opening for Dog Fashion Disco, a defunct but popular movie-metal band, at CBGB’s over a year ago.
As I was walking into the studio, one of the producers looked at me and asked me how I felt, and immediately I blurted out, “50 percent confident, 50 percent terrified.”
This wasn’t the kind of opportunity that I could laugh off if I messed up. I felt my stomach turn to lead as I locked eyes with Dave Monks, lead singer of Tokyo Police Club.
We shook hands and something struck me just before the producers readjusted the cameras and kicked off the shoot. Dave is 20. So is half the band. So am I. None of us are even legally allowed to drink in this country.
These guys must have gone through the same nerve-wracking, pulse-pausing situations I was going through, and there they were, standing tall, surging through their young careers.
Then I peered down at my question cards, re-considered all the hours I had poured into studying this band and formulating the sheet, and remembered something else relatively important.
I was there because mtvU believed I knew something about music. The college music channel had recently reinforced that.
On Oct. 2, I took part in a conference call with several of the nominees for mtvU’s upcoming “Woodie Awards,” a yearly award show that honors the best and brightest in the college music scene. For an hour I was locked in with several “Woodies” nominees, all while jockeying to get a question in against 40 other young music editors.
While this was a great story opportunity, we all also secretly knew what the real score was. Ask the right questions, impress somebody at mtvU, and get your foot in the door.
Guess I have big feet.
Ten minutes after the interview a producer from mtvU, Jennifer Downes, called and told me she was impressed by my questions and invited me to interview Tokyo Police Club in the studio the next day.
Here is where the earlier described terror and paranoia set in. I only began listening to Tokyo Police Club two weeks ago, and even then in limited capacity.
Fast-forward to Oct. 3 in the studio, where I’m staring at Tokyo Police Club, hoping my questions won’t bore them, hoping I won’t ask them things they’ve been asked a hundred times before, hoping I don’t do something stupid like drop the cards and validate everyone of their responses with a star-struck nod and utterance of a “That’s so cool/awesome/great!”
We started out with the basics. Questions about the awards show, about how they felt being in the company of such lauded acts as Talib Kweli and Modest Mouse. The conversation was pleasant, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. I was asking all the general questions, playing it safe until I calmed down.
After five questions we were joking around and everyone, especially me, had settled in. That’s when the part I was really scared of began: questions about video content, song-writing structure and musicianship; the internal workings of a band; the creative design and process. It’s like looking under the hood of a car; it’s the only way to truly understand how the thing works.
It has always been my firm belief that a band that is truly confident and passionate about what they’re doing will not recoil at these questions. I’ve seen bands get offended when you try and get inside their heads and figure out how they function.
Thankfully, Tokyo Police Club was not one of those groups. Vocalist Dave Monks and drummer Greg Aslop seemed elated as they spoke quickly and concisely, explaining the reasoning behind their fast-paced songwriting and recording style with the same bluntness that resonates in their music. There was no veneer. No bullshit. These guys knew who they were. That’s as true as a band can be to their music, and that is something I greatly admire and appreciate.
I met Tokyo Police Club as a star-struck 20-year-old. Hopefully, I left with a little bit of their respect. Either way, no matter how it plays out on the air, I am sure that “My Shot With…” Tokyo Police Club is something I will not soon forget.