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Marc Riley On Interviewing Lou Reed
John Doran , February 24th, 2013 12:50

All roads in music journalism lead to one place: a fraught conversation with a moody Lou Reed. Marc Riley remembers his two encounters with Chuckles

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When I was interviewing Lou Reed on the phone, at the end of the interview I said, 'Do you remember an award you got for services to songwriting on the Berlin album by Stereo Magazine?' He said, 'Yeah, it was black wasn't it?' I told him that I had it, and asked him if he knew how I'd come into possession of it. He said, 'I don't know, maybe you stole it off me.' I told him it wasn't quite like that. I told him I'd bought it on eBay. I asked him how it ended up on eBay and he said, 'Oh, you know, I probably threw it out of the window one day.' I said, 'Would you like it back?' He said, 'No, no, it's yours, you bought it.' I said, 'No, you should have it. You're playing the Apollo [in Manchester], I'll drop it off for you.'

So when he came to the Apollo, playing Berlin, I went to the stage door and said to Sarge, the guy who works there, will you give that to Lou Reed's tour manager. I went and watched him do Berlin, with Steve Hunter on guitar, really fabulous. Two weeks later I was sitting down to some food and my mobile goes and it's Lou Reed's tour manager. He said, 'Is that Marc? I've got Lou Reed here for you.'

Tracey was just putting my dinner down, and I obviously went a bit ashen. He said, 'Marc…. It's Lou Reed here.' So we had a conversation for about ten minutes and he was saying that his TM gave him the package while he was on stage doing the soundcheck, and he opened it, and he couldn't believe it after all those years. He said he held it up in front of the band and they all started cheering. He asked if he could pay me for it, but I was like, no, if you're happy, I'm happy.

So that was that, but then against my better judgement I ended up being persuaded to interview Lou Reed again about Berlin for 6 Music, with the premise being that he would go through each song. So I said to the producer, 'Look, it's a concept album and it does hang together, it doesn't need explaining like an album of disparate songs might. It's a story.' But after a long conversation, I ended up agreeing to interview Lou Reed again down the line, bearing in mind I'd already had this conversation with him.

He kept me waiting for ages. I could hear him eating his tea and having a row with his PR about something, so it was awkward before it even began. Eventually he started the interview. So I asked him, 'How did this seed of one song from your first album grow into this big concept album?' And he just said, 'Are you serious?' And inwardly I just went, 'Oh God.' And in the end I just had to say to him, 'I think we're done aren't we?' And he said, 'Yeah, I think we're done.' It lasted about seven or eight minutes. It was a nightmare.

Marc Riley's Baker's Dozen will be published on the Quietus tomorrow.

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Feb 24, 2013 8:17pm

the man simply seems to be one giant asshole.
i've heard that over and over again from people that were unfortunate enough having to work with him....

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Feb 24, 2013 8:25pm

A friend of mine interviewed Lou Reed in Italy for MTV. She was told he would give her 15 minutes maximum, which was about average. Yet, they connected and he loved the interview and her beaming, intelligent questions so much that he let the interview run on for 45 mins. He then gave her and her husband tickets to see him play that night. He infact, he remembers this interveiw so much that he recently posted a picture of himself and my friend on his Facebook page, with him pointing to her as if to say 'she's cool'.

Then again, I've heard stories of him being hen-pecked by Laurie Anderson in a local cafe in Tribeca, whenever he complains about his food.

Maybe he'd rather that he was a she?

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Feb 25, 2013 11:22am

There was a very funny sketch entitled "How To Interview Lou Reed" on the BBC radio comedy show "Lloyd Cole Knew My Father", featuring David Quantick, Andrew Collins and Stuart Maconie. I seem to remember them recommending that you should continually correct him, call him a liar, go for a piss in the toilet while asking him a question, sing one of his songs when he mentions the title, and keep asking him the same question over and over again ("are you gay?").

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Feb 25, 2013 12:24pm

In reply to John:


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Feb 25, 2013 1:03pm

there's a lot of bbc6 stuff on quietus at the mo.

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Mar 1, 2013 7:36pm

Next up - Mark E Smith!?

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