Chuck Klosterman on the Best Idea He's Ever Had, David Letterman, and Stereogum

Klosterman bought this outfit off a Gap mannequin. Seriously.

Klosterman at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.

Last week, the Phoenix dragged Chuck Klosterman to Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square. This was after the KISS uber-fan nearly ditched us. (He was/is apparently going through something "weird," "depressing," and "fucked-up," which is why he nearly canceled.) We turned the process into a 4600-words-plus feature story. Even at that length, we couldn't fit the whole conversation into the piece. Some outtakes.

On being interviewed...

Who do you best like being interviewed by?

Honestly, I hate saying this, college newspapers. A lot of times with a college newspaper, the writing won’t always be awesome, but the questions are questions that the person asking them actually wants to know. Very often, because I’m a journalist and I write about these rock bands, they're like, 'That’d be a job I’d like' and I’m delighted and amused by the things that they’re interested in. They’ll say like at a daily newspaper, 'What’s it like to interview Britney Spears?' Maybe not that overtly, but 'What is she like as a person, how authentic is she?' A lot of times a college newspaper person will be like, 'What’s it like to interview Britney Spears?' asking like, 'How does that get set up? Where’d you meet her at? What is she wearing? Did you use a tape recorder?' I love talking about that.


On "The Best Idea I've Ever Had," a recent sidebar to his Esquire column that claimed he has "the best marketing plan of the past fifty years." According to the piece, he won't tell anybody his marketing ploy until he finds the right buyer and encourages someone who has a "meaningful position" at a "major corporate entity" to contact him.

Me: What was your best marketing idea ever?

CK: I can’t tell you. You know the only people who contacted me though? Credit-card companies. You have a great idea to make money that preys on people’s stupidity, credit-card companies are there. I didn’t give it to them.

Me: Why not?

CK: I don’t want to fuckin’ help credit-card companies.

Me: Who would you give it to?

CK: Who do I hope contacts me? A product I really really support. Mountain Dew. Some product I would like to help. Or Nabisco. I like Nutter Butters.

Me: Nutter Butters?

CK: You don’t like cookies?

Me: No, I love cookies, but if I had the Best Marketing Idea ever, I wouldn't give it to a cookie company.

CK: Oh yeah, I love them. I support their ideology. Nutter Butters: they're shaped like peanuts, but flat! It’s a good product. It’s the best store-bought cookies there is.


On David Letterman...

CK: The one person if I interviewed that I’d be nervous about would be David Letterman. When I was young -- when I was in sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth grade -- watching the David Letterman show, nobody I knew had my sense of humor and this guy did and he was on television. And he was from the Midwest; it was a really big deal to me. I feel like it would be hard for me to interview him because if you interview David Letterman, there’d be a lot of tough questions you’d have to ask him and I’d want to ask him questions he would want to answer. I’d be very nervous.

Would you ask him the hard questions first?

CK: I’d have to. That’s my job, that’s why I’d hate it. Just because I wouldn’t want to, I’d still have to do it.

Me: But nobody is telling you that you have to ask the hard questions first.

CK: I tell myself I’d have to.


On being approached in public... I ask if this happens a lot and then mention how I'd read one blogger saying that he'd run into Klosterman and he was rude. He asks what the blogger actually said.

Me: It was the guy who runs Stereogum, he said something like, 'Oh, I’m excited to read Chuck Klosterman's new book, I really enjoy his work even though he was rude to me when I tried to introduce myself to him.'

CK: Well, what were his expectations? What did he think? I don’t know. Maybe he thought he would introduce himself I would go, 'I loooooove Stereoblog.' I love it. I can’t wait until we’re best buddies. Let’s hang out and listen to, y’know, Creedence Clearwater Revival B-Sides, you know. But it sucks because he’ll always think I’m a rude guy now. The fact that he wrote it is crazy.

[As we discuss paying for the bill that's just arrived (fyi: I expense it), I explain that even if he doesn't feel famous, music bloggers would be inclined to post about running into him, because, well, he is Chuck Klosterman.]

CK: I suppose I would say that's an example of how the Internet can be bad. I don’t want to be rude to people. Maybe something was going on that day. I don’t remember meeting this guy. I don’t know what he looks like. But the thing is part of me doesn’t care at all – like what difference does it make? But part of me does care, because well, it’s sort of like, it’s just as easy as to be nice to people than to be a jerk. I wasn’t even a jerk!

What does he remember? So he wrote on this blog that he ran into me on the street or at a party?

Me: I think he said you were rude to him on the street.

[At this point, I move onto the blacklisted question he answers on this page.]


On the state of rock criticism:

CK: It’s much easier to be a rock critic now and much harder to make a living at it... The Village Voice has changed. Spin went through that change. Rolling Stone has evolved. There’s not many places left for somebody whose big skill is that they can think about Pavement.

READ THE REST: Hunting the wild Klosterman
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