Interview: Rob Sheffield 

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The L:What is the difference between writing a music profile and writing about your personal connection to music?
RS: There are similar elements in both. You're writing about someone's personal connection to music. There are certainly other perspectives to have on music. For musicians, it's about personal connections, and ultimately I'm interested in listeners and our personal connection to the music that musicians make. I like hearing behind-the-scenes stories but in my writing I'm more interested in what is going on in a listener's mind and a listener's soul-what it means to surrender to recorded music.

The L:Why do you think people have such a love/hate relationship with the 80s?
RS: I think it used to be more of a love/hate relationship. People could only acknowledge it by loathing or in a goofy way. Now, people appreciate the genuine inspiration and invention and open-hearted experimentation that was going on in the 80s. You see new bands doing something new with something that comes from the 80s.

The L:What appealed to you about David Bowie?
RS: There are so many different David Bowies. My favorite period is 76-83. David Bowie is always so passionate and romantic and open to new areas of emotional and textural experimentation for music. Early in his career, during the Ziggy days, he was messing around with gender roles in an obvious and adolescent way, and when he moved on to the Let's Dance phase, he explored gender roles in a more adult way. He went from a boy dressing as a girl to a man playing a woman and playing around with boundaries. I'm the kind of Bowie fan who will tell you that Earthling is a great album. I think there are about six of us.

The L:Who did you first see in concert and when?
RS: A triple bill at Sullivan Stadium, outside Boston: The Police, The Fixx and Flock of Seagulls in 1983. A night of magic.

The L:Why do you think one-hit wonders were so prevalent in the 80s?
RS: You're asking me as new wave fan and I'd argue that there were so many brilliant bands that there was only room for them each to have only one hit at a time. Biased answer. What makes that time exciting is that people were chasing the moment, chasing the beat, chasing the latest style. A real explosion of artists surrendered to that moment entirely. Artists weren't careerists. Just in it to make one big score. I find that rapturous and beautiful.

The L:How did you become a new wave aficionado?
RS: The 80s was a great time to grow-up because there was music that was very romantic about being confused about girls and boys, gender and sexuality, sex and romance.

I really related to those rock stars-they didn't present themselves as all-conquering heroes or sages. They were Goth kids. Even Duran Duran, they had this self-parody image where they made fun of the old-world idea of Casanovas. That was the kind of rock star that was really cool and exciting at the time.


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