Innerviews: Music Without Borders Book Review
By Bill Meredith
Musicians rave about being interviewed by Anil Prasad, who established Innerviews.org in 1994 as the Internet's first and longest-running music magazine. If you've visited the site, you may already know the reasons why. If you haven't, then the Innerviews book gives you examples from 1994 to 2009.
One reason is the short biographies that precede the conversations with each subject; another is Prasad's well-thought-out questions. But the primary reason is likely that his interviews don't result in stories, but rather Q&As—making Innerviews somewhat of an online version of Terry Gross' Fresh Air show on National Public Radio, albeit without the possibility of interruption.
Prasad interviews pop star Ani DiFranco, late folk-blues artist Chris Whitley, and hip-hop frontman Chuck D of Public Enemy, but most of his choices lean toward jazz/fusion musicians. It's the genre Prasad seems most passionate about, and where he gets the most in-depth results.
Banjo master Béla Fleck talks about how he used to push musicians too hard during recording sessions; bassist Stanley Clarke discusses declining Miles Davis' invitation to join his band in order to remain with Return To Forever. Drummer Bill Bruford's accounts of playing jazz and progressive rock are in-depth but never long-winded, and pianist McCoy Tyner gives his unique philsophy on being a bandleader and sideman. Fittingly, keyboardist Joe Zawinul (1932-2007) gets in the last word in the alphabetical list. In a 1997 interview, he discusses the breakup of Weather Report, musical storytelling, and his own mortality. Like nearly all of Prasad's interview choices, Zawinul was a great soloist, and proves best at answering questions the way he played—improvisationally.