As far as interview collections go, I’ve got to come right out and say it, potential calls of smoke-blowing aside: this one’s no Born to Rock, that’s for sure. That’s a pretty unfair statement, I know—Todd Taylor’s interview collection is pretty much 100 percent music-centric, while Christopher makes much more varied leaps in his subject material—but the point here is not really the material covered as it is in the manner in which it’s presented.
Divided into subsections of science, media, technology, music, culture, and literature and featuring interviews with various individuals falling under each heading, there was not one real moment where I was captivated or really that compelled to continue reading Follow for Now. The majority of these interviews are almost painfully dull to read. While dudes like Nardwuar, Todd Taylor (again: sorry, guy, gotta call ‘em where I see ‘em), or Dan Sinker of Punk Planet are masters at the interview—doing copious amounts of research, keeping things spontaneous yet structured, and not necessarily being afraid to ask challenging questions when someone starts to shoot their mouth off, Roy Christopher seems to have done every goddamn one of these interviews through email. There’s not a glimmer of spontaneity to be found and much of the time these things read less like interviews and more like promotional one-sheets for whatever product, project, or idea the subject’s espousing. For example: the sense of genuine personality that barely shines through the fog in the interview with guerrilla artist/design star Shepard Fairey is definitely the rarity here, and due more to the force of the dude’s personality and less to Christopher’s questions. Again, it feels as if either a) all the life has been stringently edited out of these interviews or b) they really were done through mass emailings.
There’s just not much interesting material being covered, even in the music and literature sections, which I feel a lot more comfortable with than, say, the science section. Like when Christopher interviews Milemarker—and time has still not proven to me that they were anything but a pretty boring band made up of some decent writers—and in lieu of trying to make Al Burian squirm a bit or trying to bring a bit of life to a band that’s always been celebrated for its coldness, he asks them “whom they read and respect.” Honestly, man—I couldn’t give a flying shit how some space-rock band has been using their library cards.
It’s quite possible that Follow for Now was sent to the wrong reviewer. And yet you look through an issue of Razorcake and it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the interview can be a pretty entertaining format. When it’s done well, it can be riveting, serious, and informative (take the Christian Parenti or Howard Zinn interviews for example) or just downright hilarious. There’s a pace to an interview, a flow, a give and take. Follow for Now unfortunately seems more interested in the ideas being presented regarding technology, media, literature, etc. than the interviews themselves.
Considering the number of subjects involved—and to Christopher’s credit, I recognized very few of the names involved, which definitely aided in my lackluster enthusiasm—the book probably would’ve made an amazing—or at least interesting— collection of essays. As it stands, when he asks scientist and author N. Katherine Hayles “…Your self-referential analysis of the rhetoric of chaos theory tempted becoming fractal itself. Is language really able to exhibit emergent properties in the same way as other emergent systems?” I want to punch him in the arm and be like, “Now tell her a joke, dude; bring the thing to life, then take it back to something on-point.” But he never does—the ideas are important, not the fact that interviews like this are boring as hell to read—and Follow for Now stays mired, over and over again, in its own poor formatting. –Keith Rosson (Well-Red Bear, 4717 Stone Way N., Seattle, WA98103)