Celebrating 15 Years of Innocent Words: Musicians Interview Troy Michael Part 1

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What started on a whim over lunch one day back in 2001 has turned into 15 years of Innocent Words. February 2002 was the first official issue of Innocent Words. We were a quarterly print ‘zine back then, and in some ways, that seems like a lifetime ago. We have gone through countless changes over the past 15 years, and I can honestly say, each one has worked out for the best.

When I started Innocent Words, we had a goal to be a DIY focused ‘zine and I feel we’ve maintained that to this day. I never set out to be as big as Rolling Stone or Pitchfork when I started this; we are as DIY as the bands we cover and we are perfectly happy with that.

Over the last 15 years, I personally have interviewed over 200 musicians/bands, but it’s not about me. I consider Innocent Words to be a small family and I couldn’t do this without them. But as I prepare for an interview, I try to be original with my questions. I don’t want to go through the robotic “10 questions to ask a band with a new album.” One of the best compliments I could get is when I am interviewing someone and they say “that’s a good question, no one has ever asked me that before.”

I am always the one doing the asking and it makes me feel somewhat guilty, even though I have heard some of the most amazing music stories you can think of. During the end of the interviews, I will sometimes ask an artist if there is anything they would like to ask me. It seems only fair.

When IW’s 15th anniversary started coming closer, I thought I’d take it further and gather some of my all-time favorite artists and have them ask me a few questions. To my surprise, I got a lot of responses. So, we are going to spread this out over several issues and make it a series. I hope you enjoy it. You might learn way more than you wanted to about me and Innocent Words.

Thank you all for supporting Innocent Words and reading and sharing our stories and reviews. It means the world to me.

Troy Michael
Founder, publisher, editor, writer, minion

Rosanne Cash (singer/songwriter)

Rosanne: Who was your favorite band at the age of 15?
Troy: At the age of 15 I was deep into hair metal music. It was 1986 after all. Of all the bands out there though, my favorite was Def Leppard. I was obsessed with this band, still am a little bit. I even owned the Union Jack shirt and shorts. I picked up the guitar because of Phil Collen and Steve Clark and I feel like I owe them a debt of gratitude because so.

Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses, Breeders, Belly)

Tanya: You have a wide range of musical loves; can you point to a common thread, however thin, in the music you are drawn to?
Troy: For me, music is very emotional. The highest art form there is. I can go through and pick out any CD and tell you something about that music which happened to me. Whether it is about a girl, or somewhere I was, or even what mood it puts me in. But to answer your question, it all started with rock music, the guitar, which to me is a piece of art in itself. I started playing guitar when I was 12 because I thought I was going to be a rock star and get all the girls. Neither of those things happened. I still play guitar though. I have yet to get the girl. I don’t know why or when, but I developed this unquenchable thirst for music. I’d read the music magazines like they were my bible. Anytime a band would mention another band they liked, I had to go get a cassette or CD of that band they mentioned. Also, to put it bluntly, music literally saved my life and I feel I owe it everything I have.

Edward Hamell

Edward Hamell

Edward Hamell (Hamell on Trial)

Hamell: What was the most exciting interview? Scariest interview?
Troy: I’ve interviewed over 200 musicians and to this day, I still get a little nervous before each one. The most exciting one? I have three: (1) Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam because he was my first “big interview” and I was a huge fan; (2) Phil Collen of Def Leppard because he was a childhood hero and the reason I picked up guitar; and (3) Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top because it’s fucking Billy Gibbons.

I’ve never had a scary interview, but I’ve had two horrible interviews. Both musicians turned out to be real douches. Come to find out, some other magazines had the same issue with this one musician and we vowed never to interview or support her music again.

Hamell: Did you mourn the loss of the print media version?
Troy: We went to web only in December of 2008 and to this day I still miss having a physical magazine in my hands. There was nothing like putting a magazine together then picking it up at the printers, filling up the car, and going out to deliver. I am hoping print comes back the way vinyl has done with audio.

Hamell: Where would you like to see Innocent Words 5 years from now? 10?
Troy: I have always taken Innocent Words year by year. I was very close to shutting it down in 2014, but I was so close to putting out 100 issues and I wanted to make that mark. I do know that I’d like to scale Innocent Words back so I can reach some personal goals like getting my books published.

Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave)

Kristin: What is your guilty pleasure song?
Troy: I always find this question interesting. I don’t think I ever feel guilty about any music I listen to. If it moves me, then it’s good in my opinion. I think one thing people might be surprised to hear is that I like some mainstream hip hop when I hear it in movies or on TV, but I don’t actively seek it out.

Allison Moorer (singer/songwriter)

Allison: Who is the person who has given you the best interview over the years, and why?
Troy: I could kiss ass and say you, because I always love interviewing you. But truth be told, it goes deeper than that. The two best interviews I’ve done are from Phil Collen of Def Leppard and dUg Pinnick of King’s X. The reason I say these two guys is because they were my heroes when I was a teenager and here I am 30 years later interviewing them. They are friends now. So, weird. Also, when I talked to them, they were still music nerds after all these years. Hearing Phil Collen tell me about touching Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple when he was a kid, it was like he turned into a kid telling me that story. Same way with dUg. This guy is my father’s age and still writing amazing songs and playing hard rock. Plus, the guy loves everything from Sly & the Family Stone to Pantera.

Stay tuned for part 2 in our March issue.

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