#3. Nick Cave vs. Billy Corgan
It's 1994, and Australian rocker Nick Cave doesn't seem pleased to be at Lollapalooza. Fortunately, MTV had the foresight to have fellow rock star and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan conduct the interview. But when Corgan asks him how he came to be at the festival, Cave flatly answers, "Well, my manager rang me up and told me that I was gonna do this." Fascinating!
Wearing sunglasses and an expressionless face, Cave begins answering Corgan's next question, then realizes how boring he sounds and abruptly switches tack, complaining that he's already done this "same interview with MTV" and asking Corgan if they're his questions (they're not).
If they were, his second question might have been "Did you know that the length of one's hair is equal to one's father's disappointment?"
You'd think after a few decades in the business that Cave would understand that part of being a celebrity is answering the same questions repeatedly, especially when you're at a big event on national television. The good-humored Corgan doesn't do himself any favors by mistakenly calling Cave's band English. In Corgan's defense, Cave moved to England, and some of the band members are British. Corgan apologetically points this out, finally displaying the level of respect and preparation his subject apparently demands of mindless Q-and-A sessions. But this only makes Cave crankier. He ends the interview by telling the 27-year-old that he has "the mentality of a teenager." Poor Corgan had a thankless assignment at the festival; he also got to grind through a challenging interview with MCA from the Beastie Boys.
#2. Billy Bob Thornton vs. Jian Ghomeshi
Billy Bob Thornton was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the monotone protagonist of 1996's Sling Blade (and won one for his screenplay). If this interview with Canadian radio's Jian Ghomeshi to promote his band, the Boxmasters, is any indication, he apparently stayed in character for 13 years. Having warned the show's producers that he didn't want to talk about his film career, Thornton takes umbrage with Ghomeshi's introduction, in which he makes passing -- and understandable -- reference to Thornton's storied cinematic work. Thornton then provides only sullen-teenager responses, all variations of "I don't know what you mean," as the other Boxmasters suffer.
Reality is now ... disengaged.
Ghomeshi redirects his questions to the band members for a while, but re-engages with the movie star about five minutes in. Big mistake: Thornton rambles nonsensically about a magazine he subscribed to as a kid called Famous Monsters of Filmland. Seriously -- listen to it, it's an amazing feat of digression. At seven minutes, Thornton finally expresses his frustration that Ghomeshi brought up his film career, as it suggests that music is merely a hobby of his, and asserts that an interviewer would never ask Tom Petty if music was his first love. (No, but if Petty, say, started acting in movies, you might mention that he had something of a music career beforehand.)
"My first love was a chick named Lisa Cohen," he deadpans, answering once and for all the much-debated question of whether Thornton ever had a Jewish girlfriend. The host calls a truce at 10 minutes, and the two adversaries limp to the finish line. Side note: Early issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland from the '50s and '60s often go for several hundred dollars on eBay. No word yet on whether Thornton is planning to adapt it into a movie, with him playing the soundtrack.
#1. Sigur Ros vs. Luke Burbank
If you thought Billy Bob Thornton was passive-aggressively taciturn, he has nothing on Icelandic band Sigur Ros, who, in 2007, talked with Luke Burbank on NPR's Bryant Park Project. Although "talk" is a stretch; the band members mumble, laugh nervously, pause excruciatingly, occasionally whisper a word or two, and generally behave as though Burbank is conducting the entire interview while they commit an especially grisly murder. Imagine the most strained conversation you've ever had, multiply it by 10, and put it on live radio.
You might think there's a language barrier. Perhaps they're more comfortable communicating in "Hopelandic," the invented language they sing in. Until, that is, Burbank asks them about it, and one of them says of the language, "It's just fucking bullshit" (censored by NPR).
The interview was so horrible that NPR later did its own postmortem, with Burbank gamely asking a veteran music journalist to critique his interview skills. She points out, for instance, that he should have targeted individual members instead of the band as a whole, not asked the questions they always get asked, and called them out on their surliness. Because that wouldn't have made things even more awkward.
For a less aggressive interview, perhaps Burbank should have interviewed Sigur Ros' fellow Icelander Bjork.
For more unruly rock stars, check out The 6 Most (Certifiably) Insane Tales of Rock Star Behavior and 7 Beloved Celebrities And The Awful Shit You Forgot They Did.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out What They Really Meant: The Billy Bob Thornton Tantrum.