On Rock Star Friends

The biggest problem in rock journalism is that often the writer’s main motivation is to become friends with the band. They’re not really journalists; they’re people who want to be involved in rock and roll. ~ Chuck Klosterman

A friend of mine sent me this quote a few days ago. This is why the music biz needs you! she gushed.

On the surface, Klosterman’s statement rings true for me. I think most rock journalists are, at heart, big music fans and big fans of the idea of rock and roll. You have to be. And we all know how easy it is to get lost in that idea, or get caught up in the hubris, or get too “into” bands—even local bands—with the sexdrugsrockandroll veil over our eyes. The prospect of befriending a big rock star is super tantalizing if you’re caught up in the mystique.

As for me, what I “geek out” about are not the rock stars themselves—or merely the music—but the freedom that they have to be fully creative. I love hearing about that, and I like talking to rock stars the same way I like talking to strangers in a bar: it’s a risk but it’s usually fun, even if it’s all at arm’s length.

But to be real, live, hang-out friends with a rock star? Playing Scattergories together over crudites? For the most part, no.

It’s not about ruining the illusion. Illusions are meant to be used and quickly destroyed. I am very comfortable with the idea of famous rock stars making sandwiches, arguing with their family, and farting audibly. I also have enough non-famous musician friends to no longer be awed by the bullshit of rock and roll. The only rocker mythos I don’t dare disturb is Led Zeppelin’s because, let’s face it, their whole Aleister Crowley/Lord of the Rings thing is fucking awesome.

We salute you, Dark Lord Jimmy Page!
But if I’m being completely honest with myself, it’s more about the fact that I’m totally not cool enough to be friends with a rock star.  
Plus, nobody likes journalists and music journalists are like the D&D-playing younger step siblings of the journalism world. The awkward tag-alongs of journalism. We are the dorks to the rock stars’ gods, and everyone knows it.

I think every music writer feels a little bit like a fraud; I know I do. How could we not? If we don’t feel that way a little bit, then we’re living a bigger illusion than the believers in the hype surrounding those we interview. We write about people way cooler than us instead of living way cooler lives ourselves. Even the “rock stars” of rock journos (such as they are anymore) are met with annoyance and indifference. The clout these big-name music writers once had is a thing of the past, and those guys themselves are like Quakers—once (and still occasionally) revolutionary, but facing extinction.

And yet we all continue. We occupy a strange place in the world, getting creative about others’ creativity, working purely for passion and fun, and doing our best to keep up with the same imploding music industry that’s confounding even the most talented and established musicians. 

The big question is… where do we go from here? A few things are for certain: Music will always matter and people who love music will always matter; therefore, people who write about music will always matter somehow because meaningful conversations will always matter—even between dorks and gods.

I think there’s only one thing to do: How ’bout it, rock stars? Want to grab a beer sometime?