Both the recent street press articles on Spencer P Jones spoke of his tardiness; of being late to get to the phone and late to submit typed answers to questions the 'interviewer' had set.
The difference, nonetheless, could not have been more pronounced. Yes both namecheck the frantic record company guy trying to rally Mr Jones. But Ross Clelland of Drum Media - often lambasted by letter writers for his bias or cursory reviews - does a proper introduction. This is quite a spiffy opening paragraph when you're talking about someone with a musical pedigree:
'The name should be familiar [Jones] musical history runs through legendary names of slightly off-centre Australian music of the past, present, and future from The Johnnys, to the Beasts of Bourbon, to be oft-sighted as a Paul Kelly sideman, to invitations to guest guitar on a list of records as long as your arm - if you are an orangutan (obligatory Year of the Monkey joke...)
Clelland got kept waiting but puts his own feelings aside and does a professional presentation of who it is we're supposed to give a shit about.
But the Brag music editor had her own tale to tell...
"This week I sent these questions through to Spencer P Jones , in an effort to promote some random thing the guy's doing...
1. "I'm a young rock lover who doesn't mind catching new bands every now and again. I've never heard of you. Why should I come to your gig?"
2. Best and most interesting new band(s) on the scene?
3. Right now you're listening to...?
4. Best show on telly? (And "I don't watch telly" is not an answer)
5. If you could have sex with another man - just once - who would it be? (I'm assuming you're of the straight guy end of the queer guy scale here)
6. Inspirations that you'll never tire of?
7. What's the most courageous thing you've ever done?
Fun huh? Not too bland, a little spicy, questions you'd probably want Mr Jones to sit down and answer. A small amount of effort that would go to show that he cares about all you guys out there in Brag readerland to promote himself, and what the hey, maybe engage in a little interesting dialogue. The deadline ticks on. I put in a call to Jones' manager and inform him that the answers haven't arrived. This obviously touches a nerve with said manager, who informs me he'd "fucking kill him" if the answers didn't come in and that he "hating organising artists sometimes." But, he assured me, the answers would come. Hold the space. 4.50pm on deadline and we receive the following fax:
[replica of fax]Georgia Clark -
Find the questions unacceptable. Good luck with your fanzine. Spencer Jones
How Spencer knew I made a fanzine in my downtime from editing Brag is spooky enough on its own, but it was the charm and good nature of the fellow made me blush. The poetry! The love! The sheer generosity of spirit! OK, so given his effort I couldn't be fucked telling you what he's up to that would warrant a mention here in the fanzine-cum-street press magazine and hope that this news piece has incensed his manager enough to indeed act upon his desire to take human life. Good luck with your singing hobby Spence, we're all rooting for ya.
I don't own a Spencer side project and I wasn't into The Johnnys. And if Georgia had wanted to say that she couldn't see how his new disc could get an Album of the Year gong then I wouldn't have minded at all. It would be her opinion and I'm fine with that.
But this vituperative rant says more about Ms Clark than it does about Spencer P Jones. She has done NO research that one can tell and yet she accuses Jones - who's a musician, not a journalist, and would have less time to answer stupid questions than she has to write them - of being lazy!
If she was attempting to be sardonic talking about Spencer's fanzine reference then one has to realise that Brag is relatively new, having emerged from the ashes of Revolver. Same editor-in-chief, same contributors, but not as well known as it's competitor, Drum Media. What should his focus be - writing and performing good songs or keeping track of every rock rag in the country?
Some of the questions ARE bland: I can't see what fun anyone would get from telling the panting public what telly they watch. Or reading what an old lag does on his downtime. If they're going to read the article at all then it will be to find out about a recent overseas tour, a current Australian tour, a support slot, a new release; not whether the bugger has done anything courageous like appearing with the Wiggles or Kamahl.
Question one is a bad start as it asks someone with guest star appearances as long as an orangutan's arm, to justify his status to some young, say, Jerk fan who has never heard of him. It puts him badly on the spot - does he list his accomplishments thereby making him look bigheaded, or does he foolishly hum and hah without cause?
Question 2,3,4,6 & 7 could have been asked of anyone. It might be worth the lead singer of the Worried Hamsters filling this crap out but what advantage does it afford someone who is surely entitled to having some vague reference to his career in the interview instead of "Right now you're listening to...?" There is some ancillary benefit to understanding a band's music through their influences but this is not as immediately worthy as running through some of the tracks on the album and what they mean. Or relating the current release to items in the back catalogue.
Question 5 manages the impossible: it is both bland and offensive. Spencer is a guitarist, not a bon vivant; there is no reason why you should expect him to be a natural wit but there IS a great deal of reason to engage with the work he creates if you want to be the one to publicise him in your zine.
Sure he shouldn't have left his scrawled refusal to the last minute but, it just seems naive that she wouldn't consider that asking a hetereosexual man which guy he'd like to have sex with just the once might not cause some resistance.
What she should have done is what Ross Clelland did: research the background of her subject and ask him - personally - questions about his 'career past, present and future'.