Guest Post: An imaginary interview with Simon Sweetman

20:46, Nov 07 2013

This week the inmates are running the asylum. You'll remember I asked you all to Right This Blog! So thanks go to Dave (not Doug) for today's post:

Having arrived five minutes early, I am sitting in the Aro Café in Wellington at 9.55am on a Sunday, waiting, and feeling somewhat nervous.  Simon Sweetman and I have never met, and I can only take it on faith that our Music Blogger extraordinaire has received my blog comments in the spirit in which they were intended.  Or, maybe, taken them the other way.  Irony can be very confusing.

Exactly at 10.00am a black, late model BMW glides up outside.  It's him, as I can see the car has personalised number plates - "SWETRS".  By some sort of strange coincidence (perhaps not so uncommon in imaginary interviews), I look over and recognise the five guys from Six60, who are sitting at a window table with a coffee each.  One of them is pointing towards the Beemer.  They all turn to stare. This could get ugly; should I quickly pop out and warn Simon?  I decide to let things run their course - this might turn into the scoop of the 'Right this Blog 2013 Summer Series'.

The café door opens.  Simon Sweetman, in real life, is tall, tanned, athletic looking and handsome.  His internet photos do him no justice at all.  He is wearing a navy Armani jacket over white raw silk shirt, with bone-coloured linen trousers, the ensemble strikingly matched with a pair of lime green jandals.  The bloodstains won't be easy to get out of those fabrics, but the jandals should prove a practical choice.

The guys from Six60 chant, rise up, and surge as a pack towards the door.  I am having second thoughts now.  For once, decency gets the better of music journalism, and I start to hurry over, but it's too late.

One Critic and five Critiqued collide.  A stray tumbleweed blows through, along with some dust whirls and I swear I can hear Ennio Morricone music.


Then silence.

And then - lots of back slapping, palm tickling and hand wiping.  Simon and the boys greet each other like long lost friends.  After a few minutes of the "whaddya been up tos" Simon looks around, I wave, and he wanders over. 

We make our introductions.  I look over to the Six60 table and back to him with raised eyebrows.

"Yeah, bunch of arseholes, but they treat me like some sort of God.  Apparently, every time I slag them off, their sales rocket.  One diss from Mr S", Simon raps," equals money in dere pocket.  Go figure."  I have read some of Simon's website poetry, so this rhyming ability comes as no surprise.  He sits down, picks up the menu and looks through it quickly.  "Nothing new to see here", he says.  He calls over the waiter, a suave African American wearing a 'Kanye' nametag, and orders the big breakfast, with extra sausages.  "Anything for you, Sir?"  I decline, saying I've already eaten, and Simon shrugs his shoulders.

D(nD): "So, should we begin Sweete...Simon?  Can I just start by saying that I'm a great fan of your work?"

S(S)S:  Well thanks. I think almost everyone could benefit from a judicious helping of my musical expertise in their lives."

D(nD)(after a pause): Sorry, bad habit - I was being a bit ironic.

S(S)S:  I know you were.  So was I.

We both laugh, a trifle awkwardly.  As a lead in, it has gone down like a lead Zeppelin.

 D(nD): It doesn't look like you're doing too badly for yourself?

S(S)S: Yeah, well, a few irons in the fire, you know.  I mean, there was a rumour circulating that I'm secretly funded by New Zealand on Air to increase the buzz around Lorde and The Naked and Famous and the like, but nothing has ever been proven.  I know my professional integrity is intact.  If I accepted any money, it was just to reimburse expenses.  And they send me the occasional gift, such as the Beemer, and the odd pair of jandals.

But yeah, book royalties and stuff like that carry me through.  Scratch my back, I'll scratch yours......  If you know what I mean.....

D(nD): So you've written a book?  Tell us about that.

S(S)S (winking): Yeah, you can link to it here: 

D(nD): I know it's been mentioned before, but you have made a cameo appearance in some music videos.  Were those well paid?

S(S)S: Not well paid enough - there should have been danger money for working with those monkeys in the Basement Jaxx video.  I mean, where was their head at?  Normally I like all creatures, except rats and fish, and then it's mostly the smell.  If I smell a rat, or something fishy, then I can't keep quiet - I just have to say something.

D(nD): You do have a certain legendary animosity towards hipsters?

S(S)S: Can't stand them.  I had all the back editions of the Farmers Lingerie Catalogue, and then someone pointed out all the hipsters in them.  Had to ditch the lot.  Maintaining your credibility is crucial in this business.

D(nD): Tell me a bit about your childhood, and what influenced you when you were growing up?

S(S)S: Well, of course, I was psychologically scarred from a very early age just by living in Hawke's Bay. That has never left me.  Salem's Lot could have been an allegory for Havelock North.  I mean, my parents were fantastic - my first memory is of my mother reading me The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen.  But that very night, a drunken idiot driving home from the Mission Concert veered off the road, across the lawn, smashed our fishpond, and ploughed straight through the wall and into the back of my dressing table.  Smoke and mirrors everywhere.  Not to mention pieces of goldfish.  And one stray squashed rat - unlike Annabel Fay, or that Lana Del Rey - no one knows where it came from.  Although like them, the smell lingered for weeks, even months.  The nightmares only stopped when I moved to Wellington.....  But the weather's not so good, Al.

D(nD): That does explain a lot.  Could you clear up another thing - when you write a positive piece, and there is no arguing that most of your blogs are positive, you might get twenty or so comments.   A 'not so positive' piece might get two hundred.  Why is that?

S(S)S: I guess people feel more strongly about the music they listen to, or at least have heard of.  Most people only consume the fare dished up by MTV, iTunes and commercial radio, and a lot of that is particularly dire.  I listen to a wide variety, and a lot of it deserves to be heard, so I want to share the discovery of some of that music.  I turn up to the page each day, and do the work.  All very well to write a two sentence smartarse comment once a week.  Anonymously.  In work time.

D(nD): Hmm.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you once said you spent 168 hours a week on music, then the rest of your time was spread between work and family.  Is it hard to achieve a balance, especially with a young family?  And, as your mum would probably say - are you looking after yourself?

S(S)S (after doing a quick tote up using his fingers and toes): That does sound about right. Of course, Katy and Oscar can be included in a lot of the activities involving music.  And I multitask a lot, such as sleeping and exercising.  

D(nD): Do you worry that Oscar might take up the pots and pans when he gets older, and get caught up in that whole rock and roll lifestyle?

Simon Sweetman leans forward, sniffs and looks at me as if he has just found dog-doings smeared on the bottom of his jandal.

S(S)S: You didn't have sardines for breakfast did you?

Unfortunately I did, on toast, so I take it as my cue to wrap things up.  That, and my word count is fast running out.

D(nD): Well, thanks Simon, for agreeing to do this (imaginary) interview.  It's been a real pleasure taking the...talking to you.

S(S)S: Yeah, from the tone of some of your blog comments I thought you might have been a bit of a prick.  But having met you...

I wait for Simon to continue, but he leaves it at that.  As he walks back out to his BMW, he gives a parting wave to the boys from Six60, who all enthusiastically wave back.  Matiu Walters, their lead singer, yells out "Don't forget to mention us as often as you can" just as Simon exits through the door.

Not five seconds later Kanye arrives back at my table with Simon's food.  He says, "Yeezus - you must have upset him!"

I pack my things up and think about the long return trip to the cultural backwaters of Hawke's Bay.  The next musical highlight on the calendar there is the Mission Concert.  The 2014 artist hasn't been announced yet; the Bay grapevine has it that Elvis may be touring around that date. Fleetwood Mac has also been rumoured.

The concert has featured several artists brought back from the dead, but if they manage to resurrect Elvis for the Mission, I'll be there with bells on.  And, I dare say, if it turns out to be Fleetwood Mac, Simon Sweetman will be there, otherwise immaculately dressed, with jandals on.  If you happen to see him and wonder if you should say hello, make sure you do.  He's the sort of guy who can take a joke.

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