Nardwuar, the Human Serviette seems to know everything about everyone, but few seem to know much at all about the 45-year-old journalist. With a fascinating career that spans well over two decades, one that has propelled him from sneaking into backstage areas to rubbing shoulders with high-profile musicians, he's one of the most interesting characters in the music industry.
A couple of Fridays ago, he was speaking at the university that he and I both attended (University of British Columbia—he graduated in '90, I graduated in '12). Nardwuar is one of the most involved alumni. Not only does he still promote the school's radio station, CiTR, but he continues to do his radio show every single Friday. He's been doing the show since 1987.
The room in which the talk was held was packed, chairs placed tightly in rows. Everyone was entranced by Nardwuar, who is not quite as animated as he is in his interviews, but very evidently passionate about his craft. When the talk ended, his fans lingered in hopes of an autograph or a photo. Nardwuar was patient. Genuinely flattered by the attention, he would pose for several pictures with each person, suggesting ways to make each photo better and calling for "quality control" so that everyone had the perfect picture with Nardwuar.
"It's a bit nerve-racking to interview a person who does interviews for a living," I admit before starting the interview.
“It’s good to be nervous,” he says, holding a small bag of apple slices and offering me some. “As I always say: volenti non fit injuria.”
I decline the apple slices, and look back at Nardwuar blankly.
“There’s a latin term called volenti non fit injuria. So, basically, what it means is that, if you’re at a punk rock gig and you jump in the slam pit, what happens? You get slammed. If you’re in journalism, and you jump in the slam pit, what happens? You get slammed. In other words, you accept the fact that you’re gonna get slammed, so once you accept the fact—you’re gonna get slammed—you're alright with it. You accept that these crazy things are going to happen. Most people are fearless once they figure, 'Hey, I’m a journalist. I’m gonna get teased. I’m gonna jump in the pit, and I’m gonna get slammed.' Once you accept that, there’s no problem.”