Skip to content

The symbiotic relationship between rock critics and their subjects

Conducting an interview with a musician for the first time in decades had me thinking about the symbiotic nature of the conduct between rock critics and musicians. It is one of the strangest of things because the writer needs distance from his subject so he can impartially comment upon their music. Put it this way, could you accurately review your girlfriends new album? Of course you couldn’t -your judgement is tainted. And so can you be clear about a musician if you like them on a personal level? If they stand you drinks, get you into clubs, share their drugs with you? We like to call that the Austin Scaggs syndrome. On a personal level, when I wrote for mags like East Village Eye in the 80s some of my fellow writers also played in bands and were best friends with me. It was more than difficult to write about their bands -I just couldn’t do it. If forced to I would have said they were the greatest thing whatever I really thought: the friendship would be more important than journalistic ethics.

Or what if you loath them? What if they slung you out of their dressing room? Or forgot to put your name on the guestless? Or, worse, wouldn’t share their drugs? That has happened much more often and I would claim it didn’t matter. I had a big fight with a band once and ripped em in a magazine called Zig Zag. I thought I was offering a true opinion but guess what -ten years later I hppened to hear them again and loved them…

So in that sense it is very helpful to NOT KNOW who you are dealing with except the same manner an average consumer might. Call it a healthy disregard. And yet, and yet, and yet… the person you are writing about is the best possible audience for what you are writing about. To be judged by the person you are criticising is to be assesed by the person who knows best whether you are getting it right or wrong.


But the musician is the last person on earth whose opinion should matter to you. If they like what you’ve written the chances are you’ve missed the point. And remember I called it a symbiotic relationship. It is not a friendship, it is not shared interest. I don’t share an interest with, say, Elizabeth Wight. She is what she is and I am what I am and they are not similar at all.Our relatiosnhip is based upon a shared need but not a shared emotion. What Wight wants from me is publicity, what I want from Wight (as I said to Bret) is the money quote. It’s the two or three quotes (Wight is so unguarded Brit should have his pick) that sells the profile -it proves we got what, say, Hardcandymusic.com didn’t get. It’s as far from being friendly as possible: we have a need that meets in the middle.


There is something else one would hope the Wights of the world want from the Nessings and the Jennings: the sense somebody understands them if only musically. But that’s secondary to pushing the product, pushing the Love Grenades of the world.

Also, and most condeming of all, it is a relationship between unequals. The musician is granting an audience to the writer; the writer is beholding. The writer is an ink stained wretch eaten up with envy. The writer either wants to be the or fuck the or at least claim the talent as friend. The artist feels like he’s being deposed in a court case -say the wrong thing, a slip of concentration, a personal frankness, and the symbiotic becomes toxic. So there is a nerviousness between the two as well.

Of all the things I’ve written  profiles are among the easiest. A good interview writes itself and you just follow the story stopping off at the occasional buzzword: “burlesque”, “emancipated”, “weed”, “masturbation”, “mark ronson”… and being sure to take out anything you said that lead up to the quotes and your job is done.

I’d be interested in what Bret made of Elizabeth; of the mess at the heart of symbiotic relationships.

Leave a Comment





Amazon_Smile_logo-e1623352788338-reupload
ScreenShot2020-10-05at12.00.04PM-reupload

Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at smile.amazon.com

The Daisy Jopling Band To Perform “Who’s Who” At The Transfiguration Church In Tarrytown, NY Sunday May 12th, 2024 7 PM ET

By admin | May 9, 2024 |

The Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown, New York Presents “Who’s Who”, original violin arrangements of iconic songs by The Who performed by the Daisy Jopling Band featuring the Sleepy Hollow High School Chamber Orchestra on Sunday, May 12th, 2024. Location: Transfiguration Church 268 South Broadway Tarrytown, NY 10591 United States Tickets are $25 and can be…

Cyborg Drummer/DJ DRMAGDN Headlining Montauk Music Fest

By admin | April 9, 2024 |

Major Label BMG Records Artist & Producer DRMAGDN Cyborg Drummer / DJ will be making his Montauk Music Fest debut this year in May. DRMAGDN will be the Official Host & MC of The Montauk Music Fest plus play headlining sets on Friday 5/17 and Saturday 5/18 from 10pm-12am at Gurney’s Montauk Resort (290 Old…

RED CARPET EVENT @ Chelsea Table & Stage 4/12/24 Featuring THE AMERICAN RELICS & DRMAGDN

By admin | March 25, 2024 |

On Friday April 12th, 2024 beginning at 6:30 pm ET  there will be a Red Carpet event pre-show sponsored by Tribeca Records at the trendy nightspot Chelsea Table and Stage located in the heart of Chelsea at 152 west 26th street (inside the Hilton Fashion Hotel) in NYC. The Red Carpet will be followed by…

Live Review: Composer Randy Edelman Live at Chelsea T&S “2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” 03/16/24 and Record Release in NYC

By admin | March 17, 2024 |

There was an infinite vitality of velvet green flowing deliciously through the air as Composer Randy Edelman presented his 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre at the trendy new nightspot Chelsea Table & Stage in the heart of NYC on March 16, 2024….. a vivacious close to the spirited Irish Parade. His music is the…

DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer/DJ Debuts @ Chelsea T&S With Retro 80’s Party & Red Carpet Event 4/12/24

By admin | February 29, 2024 |

BMG recording artist, producer and World renowned, Global Touring Electrifying Powerhouse, DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer and DJ will make his debut at the popular, trendy night spot Chelsea Table & Stage (located at 152 west 26th street inside the Hilton Hotel) on  Friday April 12, 2024 @ 9:00PM. DRMAGDN will be celebrating his high energy brand of Electronic Dance Music (EDM)…

Going Steady: New Singles 2-23-24- 2-29-24 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

dance pop, gooey confection

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 2-16-24 – 2-22-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

75K EAUs is abysmal

Our Friend Tony Orlando’s Farewell Tour

By admin | February 25, 2024 |

“I still hit the ball, I just can’t run the bases!!!”

Sneak Peaks: New Album releases 3-1-24 – 3-7-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

contenders for the best punk rock around

Child Bite, Lamb Of God, Pantera At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, February 22nd, 2024, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

A three hours of hard rock, metal not metal, swift, loud, egoless pure metal

Scroll To Top