A while ago-in the run up to Christmas-I reviewed the new(ish) book Conversations With McCartney, by Paul Du Noyer. (Click here to read) But, what does he think, past the book?
Hello Paul, thank you for agreeing to this interview. When growing up, did you aspire to be a music journalist?
No. I always thought it would be wonderful to write for newspapers but I knew nobody in that world and more or less forgot the idea. Then, just after I left college, the NME advertised for new writers; it was around the time of punk rock. With a Biro I hand-wrote the sample review they asked for, got invited for an interview and soon became a freelance reviewer for them. That led, via proof-reading and sub-editing, to a staff job.
How did Conversations With McCartney come to fore?
In the course of my career as a music journalist I got to interview McCartney many times and finally decided I might have a whole book’s worth of material. He gave me the necessary go-ahead, so that’s where Conversations With McCartney comes from.
What would be your ultimate tip for interviewing somebody?
Do as much research into your subject as time allows. Everyone likes to think you’re really interested in their careers. And let them talk freely – you can always edit the interview later.
How has your relationship with McCartney developed over the years?
I think I just became a familiar face, and someone he trusted. We have a home town in common and a deep interest in all kinds of music. I think we just hit it off on a personal level, but I always say we’re friendly rather than friends. It’s just a professional working relationship – but I try to make the interviews enjoyable for him.
How do you think journalism is changing?
It’s changed beyond recognition since I started in the late 1970s: in those days we had music weeklies with big paid-for circulations and lots of advertising revenues. It was easier to make a freelance living and eventually get a staff job. Nowadays we’ve largely moved on-line or else to free distribution, so the economics are much more precarious. On the plus side there are far more outlets than ever before, including blogs.
Do you think that a degree is needed in the industry?
When I started out there were very few journalism courses and people tended to gain practical experience, on fanzines or local papers. I did a degree in economics, which proved irrelevant to my eventual job. So, I don’t think a degree is essential.
Would you ever consider writing a sequel?
I think I’ve written enough about Paul McCartney but I hope to try a new subject eventually.
What is your advice for aspiring Journalists?
Get a good grounding in the formal rules of English, the spelling and the grammar – we can all speak English but writers have to look professional. After that feel free to play with language: if you’re having fun with it then your readers might, with luck, share that pleasure. Research everything as much as time allows. Try any and every outlet that’s available. Consider some training in sub-editing, as well. And don’t restrict your subject matter: approach everything in a spirit of intelligent curiosity.
Random: Can you whistle any tunes?
Nothing that anyone would recognize as a tune!
Thank you very much, Paul, for answering my questions. Don’t forget to buy his book, which you can buy here.