The art of Nardwuar

By Peter Hemminger

Anyone who’s watched MuchMusic in the last five years has likely come across Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Clad in bright plaid clothing Don Cherry would be embarrassed to wear, he doesn’t look like Canada’s next top television personality. That doesn’t stop the journalist/interviewer/singer for Vancouver garage outfit, The Evaporators, from listing “talk show host” as a career goal.

“To be able to have my own show where The Evaporators play, and I come running out and sing the theme song, and then interview 50 Cent or [Beach Boy and musical genius] Brian Wilson. I’d love to do that,” Nardwuar confides.

Even without a show, the man who once got the inside scoop on James Brown’s sweat has led a life most music fanboys only dream of. Through the University of British Columbia’s radio station and MuchMusic, he has interviewed countless musicians, actors and politicians.

Despite his dedication to well researched, albeit bizarre interviews, Nardwuar is often written off as a mere novelty. He was told by Henry Rollins “to get fucked,” and that his “act is pathetic.” This seeming lack of respect from journalists and musicians alike doesn’t get Narwuar down.

“I do feel that I’m respected, because I’ve been able to do a show on CITR UBC Radio since October 1987–touch wood. Being on the air continuously since then, certain people in the community have given me a chance.”

Doing whatever he wants involves more than just journalism. Many MuchMusic viewers don’t realize Nardwuar began fronting his punk band, the Evaporators, before his first radio broadcast. But since their first show in 1986, The Evaporators have been dedicated to providing an intensely fun musical experience that’s earned them the title of “Canada’s indisputable best live band” by the folks at Vancouver’s Scratch Records. Featuring members of the Smugglers and the New Pornographers, The Evaporators are more than capable of keeping up with their frenetic front man.

Of course, with a national celebrity for a vocalist, it’s expected some people show up for concerts with absolutely no knowledge of Nardwuar’s musical talents. The Human Serviette doesn’t let that get him down.

“I’m happy if somebody comes just because they’ve seen me on MuchMusic, or heard my CITR show,” he admits. “I’m happy if somebody shows up because they’ve heard the music and know nothing about the interviews.”

But above all else, Nardwuar is happy. He’s happy to be able to do what he loves: to meet his idols, find interesting tidbits of knowledge, and blast out some good old fashioned garage rock. After almost two decades of rocking in the free world, his enthusiasm still hasn’t waned.

“I just go out and go for it. I get excited, and sometimes my voice goes up a bit. It’s like [when I interviewed] Henry Rollins. This is a guy that’s had beer bottles thrown at his head and it hasn’t bugged him at all, so who knows what he’s going to do to me. So I just get excited, and go for it. I think some people just don’t understand, you become a super fan-boy in front of these people. I mean, what else can you be but nervous?”

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