In 1998, my sister invited me to a party in North Vancouver. Her husband has played in a variety of Vancouver indie rock bands. As a result, he built friendships with a few CiTR personnel — and one of the DJs invited him to his birthday party.
I listened to CiTR college radio a lot. Since local radio stations weren’t keen on building a local indie rock scene, CiTR was a haven for me. It was the only radio station that would play bands like Arab Strap or Guided By Voices. In the days before broadband Internet made music streaming feasible, my only ways to keep my finger on the pulse of the underground was CiTR and a tape deck that would record the shows.
One of the hosts, of course, was a quirky tartan-wearing fellow named Nardwuar the Human Serviette. He was known for doing interviews of indie stalwarts like Henry Rollins, Sonic Youth, and Propagandhi. But my very favourite interview was the one he did with Kurt Cobain.
Now I won’t go into detail about that interview, apart from saying it’s legendary. If you get the chance to see it, check out the video embedded below. But I got to admit that when Nardwuar showed up at the CiTR party, I had a burning question.
So I asked Nardwuar, “What was Kurt Cobain really like?”
“He was really nice,” Nardwuar answered, “And had a quick wit.”
That dialogue was the only conversation I had with Nardwuar for 20 years. And in the meantime, Nardwuar’s presence has blown up. He’s done interviews with the likes of Pharrell, Arcade Fire, ?uestlove, as well as numerous — almost annual — sessions with Snoop Dogg.
Quite simply, Nardwuar has moved from being a fixture of the local Vancouver underground music scene to becoming the greatest living music interviewer — bar none — in the whole world. So impressive are his interviews that he’s brought some of the most celebrated artists to tears of joy. And he’s done it with incredible researching skills, and deft whimsy.
Now I’ve met many superstars of social media. I’ve had great personal conversations with Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki. Believe me when I say this, Nardwuar’s social presence is so exceptional, he really is one of the true superstars of the art.
Thus, when I saw him last Saturday at a Smugglers concert, I was awestruck — and I had to talk to him. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure whether to disturb him or not with my fandom. He was quietly eating an ice cream sundae in the Commodore Ballroom. But I overcame my reservations and asked, “Are you the Nardwuar?”
After confirming that it was he in the flesh, Nardwuar let me take a selfie of him.
Then he asked, “Haven’t I met you before?”
That question floored me. The fact Nardwuar recalled someone he met in passing 20 years ago was impressive. It also goes to show why he’s such a legend.
But what thrilled me even more was when Nardwuar gave me this button.
“Thank you for caring,” Nardwuar told me as we parted.
The above keepsake, right here, is why Nardwuar is so exceptional. He’s not Hollywood. He has no chip on his shoulder. He’s just a genuine person who does what he does because he loves it — and wants to share that love with fellow souls.
Nardwuar the Human Serviette might not be a rock star, but he’s sure a superstar.