Gods of Rock
Veteran music journalist Anthony DeCurtis discusses rock and roll spirituality and what it's like to be confessor to the stars.
Rock and roll music played an enormous part in the way author Paul Raushenbush (Beliefnet’s Pastor Paul) came to understand the world and his role in it. As much as any sermon, he says, "Rock lyrics enlightened and challenged me and were instructional in my eventual calling as a Baptist preacher.” So, it is not surprising that he is fascinated with the musicians behind the music. Fortunately for people like Raushenbush, there are people like Anthony DeCurtis. In his new book"In Other Words,"
DeCurtis provides in-depth introductions to 39 of the high priests of rock music, including George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Bono, and Bruce Springsteen. Over his 25 years of rock journalism with Rolling Stone, VH1, and many other magazines, Anthony has interviewed just about every rock and roll artist who matters. Here, Raushenbush talks to him about rock journalism as a kind of spiritual confessional.
One of the things that comes out in this book are questions of spirituality--for instance with David Bowie, his obsession with atheism vs. belief in God.
Oh yeah, when you have the time [for a lengthy interview], more serious things come up than just what the new album's about. For instance, with Trey [Trey Anastasio, from the jam band Phish], he was talking about how music comes to him. It was very spiritual; he has a musical view of how the universe works.
Do you feel that the art of interviewing is a spiritual practice?
If you believe that anything that connects human beings deeply is spiritual, then interviewing is absolutely a spiritual practice. You have to accept the reality of another human being and be prepared to really meet someone, regardless of what you have read about them or what you might know about them. The best interviews are motivated by genuine curiosity, transcending yourself and paying attention to another person; and there is a spiritual exercise to that.
Have you ever had someone put you in the role of confessor?
Well, certainly the interview with Rufus Wainwright about his struggle with crystal methamphetamines--that was right there. However, I did not sit there thinking, "Gee this poor guy," I was thinking about situations in my own life that I couldn't control. It was scary. At one point, he said in the conversation, "I'm kind of uncomfortable talking about my sobriety because that could end right after this interview." Just saying that now I have chills going up my spine, and I had them when he said it. We are all walking that line. I don't see it as a confession in that I don't consider myself exempt from whatever it is that others are struggling with. A Catholic background helps in this regard. The feeling that you are capable of all sin is readily available. You think, "That could well have been me."
Is that a kind of grace? The fact that you can see yourself in that position and not judge them, just be with them?
With the Rufus Wainwright interview, we knew that we were doing something. I mean that story went in the New York Times. It hit hard, and people are still talking about it. The grace for me was that it was real. Whether it was good or bad, we are taking the reality of his life out there and putting it in the Sunday New York Times--deal with it.
But remember, when you are interviewing someone you are having a very private conversation that is going very public--that doubleness is there and so you are also excited by the story.