Nardwuar the Human Serviette has been doing interviews with musicians since the 1980s. Throughout the years, his eclectic interview style and ability to unearth some of the most obscure factoids has astounded, confused and even angered some of the biggest names in the industry. This yea, Nardwuar is celebrating his 30th anniversary on CiTR radio in Vancouver.
On September 21, starting at 9 p.m. U.T.C., CiTR 101.9 FM radio will play 20 hours of Nardwuar interviews. Nardwuar’s band The Evaporators will also take the stage at The Hall in Vancouver on September 23, with a pair of shows to come at the Drake Underground in December in Toronto.
Picking just 10 interviews from Nardwuar’s Video Vault is quite a challenge, but here’s one man’s attempt at highlighting some of his best work:
This is the first interview I show to people who are new to Nardwuar, because it captures the essence of what his interviews are intended to be: a dive into an artist’s past with memorabilia that allows the artist to explain a part of their journey. From the moment Nardwuar pulls out Carl Sagan’s “The Music of the Cosmos” vinyl, which was a huge influence for Pharrell growing up, you can see just how engaged Skateboard P is. He even stops in the middle of the conversation to let Nardwuar know that this is one of the most impressive interviews he’s ever had. This interview also goes down in Nardwuar lore because it helped spawn the next interview on this list.
Pharrell was so impressed with Nardwuar that he convinced Hov to do an interview with the Human Serviette; Jay claims Pharrell called him a hundred times on the day of his set at the Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia, and that Nardwuar drove six hours to interview Jay. The entire exchange is a bit awkward, thanks to the fact that Hov refuses to put out the cigar he’s smoking even when he has to awkwardly hold a poster gifted by Nardwuar with both hands. Perhaps because it all came together so last minute, Nardwuar didn’t have the most obscure artifacts for Jay. Still, seeing Jay-Z stumble through the iconic Who are you? Question and have to complete the interview with a “doot doola doot doo” from Nardwuar makes this interview a worthwhile watch.
Throughout the years, certain artists and bands have reacted negatively to Nardwuar’s interview style. Perhaps because of his overwhelmingly kind approach and his unusual attire, rock bands were usually Nardwuar’s main nemesis, including Sonic Youth—who infamously smashed a record Nardwuar intended on gifting the band—and Skid Row. For me, the most uncomfortable one remains this 2003 interview with Blur, where band member David Rowntree took off Nardwuar’s hat and glasses and physically bullied the host. Shouts out to Nardwuar for keeping his composure and making the best of the interview. Years later, Rowntree apologized and blamed his behaviour on cocaine (Nardwuar claims he never received a personal apology). Either way, he learned his lesson, and has since only done interviews with heavier bands over the phone, claiming: “It’s more safe.”
Some might prefer Drake and “40’s” 2016 hour-long interview when he revealed some great tidbits including beating Stephen Curry at ping-pong and making a song with Beyoncé that didn’t make the Views album. But this earlier interview with Drake, taken before his meteoric rise to fame, has way more entertaining moments. From seeing Kid Rock on a Rap Pack music trading card, to Drake admitting he used to get off to Pam Grier, to getting a fucking red jacket with some zippers (!), you can see throughout the interview just how giddy Drake is to finally land an interview with Nardwuar, which is saying a lot.
Nardwuar and Snoop were hooking up for the fifth time in this 2010 interview. All of Nardwuar’s interviews with Snoop are worth watching, but this one lands on the list for two reasons: find me another interview that starts with Snoop microwaving a blunt for 11 seconds in his Vancouver hotel room because it helps “trap the ingredients.” Also, Snoop admitting that he wore a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey on Arsenio Hall’s show because the logo reminded him of a blunt is the most Snoop Dogg explanation ever.
When it comes to music knowledge, few can match Questlove from the legendary Roots crew. Obviously, this made him the ideal guest for Nardwuar’s interview format. But even though Questlove came prepared for Nard’s most obscure facts, even he didn’t last a few minutes before he was astounded when Nardwuar presented him with a Motortown Revue poster. This is basically two music buffs just nerding it out, there’s also an extended 46-minute version for anyone who really want to nerd out.
This was one of the last interviews with Kurt Cobain. Nardwuar was able to get backstage after a show at the PNE Forum in Vancouver in 1994 thanks to Courtney Love, who spotted Nardwuar just as security was about to remove him from the arena.
There’s no Nardwuar interview experience better than seeing an artist get increasing impressed and also flustered at just how exactly Nardwuar knows so much about them. While certain rappers (like Kid Cudi or Busta Rhymes to name a few) might not have necessarily understood Nardwuar’s interview style or appreciated his research, Kendrick Lamar was very much game for his interview in 2012. My favourite part of the interview is near the end at the 10-minute mark, when Nardwuar asks about Kendrick’s rap partner from the 7th grade. The namedrop has the Compton, California native completely baffled for a few seconds.
All of A$AP Mob was in the building for Nardwuar’s interview with the fashion-forward rapper, which gives the entire thing a wonderful energy. This video is filled to the brim with great moments: the elaborate intro of the entire A$AP crew is incredible, Nardwuar putting Ferg and Rocky in genuine disbelief is amazing, the late arrival of Yams (R.I.P), and the closer (which is arguably one of Nardwuar’s best outros ever).
When you have two of the best entertainers in the music business going back and forth, you know it’s going to be good. Definitely stay for the last two minutes of this legendary interview which includes DJ Khaled giving Nardwuar an all-time pep talk and flipping the interview on him, and watch how seamlessly Khaled responds to Nardwuar’s “doot doola doot doo” with his signature catchphrases. It’s like watching two heavyweights size up each other for the right to be the most endearing music personality in the biz.