• Hero4

    Behind The Scenes: Jack Mills on interviewing Mariah Carey fort Wonderland magazine. Photo by Terry Richardson

Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes: We ask Jack Mills what it was like to interview Mariah Carey for Wonderland

Posted by Liv Siddall,

What I love about Wonderland magazine is that each issue gets more and more Wonderland every single time. They stick to their pop culture, cheesy-without-being-tacky, fun-championing guns in a big way, which is why when I saw their new issue had a huge feature on Mariah Carey, I couldn’t wait to tuck in to its heavily-glossed pages. The interview with Mariah was conducted by deputy editor Jack Mills (who also edits Rollacoaster) and after reading the interview with Mariah, we had a million questions about what it must be like to interview such an infamous, sparkling enigma. So read on to find out as we asked Jack all about it…

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

At Wonderland I deal with feature ideas, written commissions, celebrity bookings, that kinda thing. I basically spend most of my time on Bandcamp, watching Nardwuar interviews or hassling people for pre-circuit Vimeo film streams. Same over at Rollacoaster – but issues are tailored more specifically to London Fashion Week crowds, so things can get a bit more “London” and underground and weird. Which is amazing.

How did you feel about going to interview Mariah Carey? How did it come about?

I was excited for it because she’s such an enigma. Various sources told me that she’s one of the most unpredictable interviewees going – three hours late on purpose, perpetually vanishes mid-shoot and so on. Truth is, she was ridiculously welcoming and nice – only the three hours late thing came true (it was more like four). 

My old boss Adam was gunning for the cover a year or so ago – specifically a Dem Babies x Mariah thing, which probs would have been bigger and better than the Kimye shoot (i.e. the most obsessed-over magazine cover of the decade so far). My hangover was lifted one morning when I picked up the phone to Mimi’s publicist who was ready to make it happen.

  • Wc

    Behind The Scenes: Jack Mills on interviewing Mariah Carey for Wonderland magazine. Photo by Terry Richardson

How does one go about researching Mariah Carey? Did you listen to the back catalogue?

I’ll admit I was never a Mariah messiah; but I did know that she’s an incredible force for good around the world and has changed the face of pop music in a few ways. Plus, Fantasy is one of those rare cross-generation tunes able to instantly lift a party crowd.

Basically, I printed off every interview with her I could find (the internet conjured up around 25 – I don’t have Lexis Nexis), whacked on some Bobby Darin tunes and paced nervously up and down my hotel room staring at a Chicago show sign outside. I downloaded everything she’s ever recorded too, which was helpful. I tend to avoid Instagram and Twitter and stuff like that because they’re so press-driven and policed.

What were your preconceptions about Mariah before the interview?

Mariah has polished, premier league diva skills. She’s totally amazing at it. The thought of it made my balls freeze over.

Where did you meet her?

The Greenwich Hotel (which is owned by Robert De Niro) was an ideal setting because it’s so ridiculously over the top: one minute you’ll spot an incognito Rhys Ifans frantically toking on a vape (this happened), the next you’ll take a wrong turn and end up in one of the penthouse suites’ scented saunas (again, happened). It was a really stormy night, and (perhaps for dramatic purposes) Mariah had left her windows wide open. It was all pretty surreal.

  • 2

    Behind The Scenes: Jack Mills on interviewing Mariah Carey for Wonderland magazine. Photo by Terry Richardson

Were you nervous? 

It kind of saddens me that I never get nervous before interviews anymore. Even when I accidentally left Isabella Rossellini waiting, you take it in your stride. But I was a sad stain of a writer for this one – very, very traumatised.

We’ve all heard stories about Mariah – how did she come across in person?

That she was completely committed to the interview. Within moments you can tell if an interviewee is done for the day or genuinely wanting to talk. My glass was almost always full; she had so many insightful, interesting things to tell me about her past and how they led her to this point. She was seemingly interested in hearing my point of view – she wanted to know my favourite tunes (not just of hers), what I thought of recent collaborations and so on. She was totally eccentric too of course, and started whistling and swaying and breaking into song every five minutes, which was rad. Not once did I get a hint of negativity from her – she avoids bitchiness or hostility at all costs, I think.

You had gone to New York, you only had an hour, as a journalist how were you managing to get what you needed whilst she was plying you with prosecco? 

Well, she kept answering my questions – completely unprompted. I only got about six in, in total. Plus, we swayed off topic for about 20 minutes (something about David LaChapelle spray-painting her ass for the Rainbow album back-cover), and the whole thing went massively over time (it was meant to be a half hour slot).

When writing the article, what were you trying to get across to your readers?

It’s always difficult writing about a seasoned celebrity: undoubtedly everything you want to say – anything especially noteworthy from her past – has been said a million times before. With this kind of challenge it’s about unfurling the story as you’ve interpreted it. Try and tell it like no-one’s told it before and in your voice. Setting the scene is important too – what details from the day (i.e. setting, lighting, her clothes, her room) can you incorporate to make the reader feel welcome and included?

Has the experience with Mariah changed your opinion on celebrity in general?

Only that, as ever, it’s crucial to go into any interview with a completely open mind. Tragically, as a journalist lofty opinions of certain talents can be quashed when you meet them in person. It’s great when you end up striking a genuine connection with someone you know has 15 interviews to do after yours.

Do you think your Mariah interview has taught you anything about interviewing or journalism?

Know your stuff, but don’t get intimidated by someone you’ve never met.

Fave Mariah track now?

When I Saw You from Daydream. The tune kind of creeps up on you like a serpent; the chorus constantly rises and falls in rhythm and dovetails between minor and major keys. Like most of her songs, everything from melody to tempo to lyrical punch is lifted in the moment of delivery because it’s always so intricate; but this one takes a particularly rare kind of skill to pull off.  

  • 3

    Behind The Scenes: Jack Mills on interviewing Mariah Carey for Wonderland magazine. Photo by Terry Richardson

  • 4

    Behind The Scenes: Jack Mills on interviewing Mariah Carey for Wonderland magazine. Photo by Terry Richardson

  • 5

    Behind The Scenes: Jack Mills on interviewing Mariah Carey for Wonderland magazine. Photo by Terry Richardson

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Behind The Scenes View Archive

  1. Main1

    Think about the sheer amount of books, articles, lectures and podcasts there must be floating around the earth on what makes a good record sleeve. We tend to consult designers, or record labels about the images that, thrown against sound, create something that sticks with you your whole life, that you could probably draw from memory. It’s rare when get an artist who creates the music and the artwork that makes it shine, but Tim Presley does.

  2. List

    Just over a year ago to the day, Erik Brandt bought a piece of wood and stuck it to the side of his garage in Minneapolis, inviting graphic designers from all over the world to make type-based posters for him to exhibit in this secluded outdoor gallery. The response to his project was immense, growing from a select few, invite-only contributors to a sprawling mass of over 500 submitted pieces that he’s shown in the last 365 days.

  3. List

    Whenever we sit down and discuss magazines that we admire here in the studio, WIRED is a title that comes up again and again; revered and respected for its content, its design, its agenda-setting and its remarkable consistency. But change is in the air and the August issue which hits newsstands this week sees a major redesign led by WIRED UK creative director Andrew Diprose. We caught up with him to chat through some of the changes…

  4. List

    Since last week, I’ve acquired an intriguing new edition to my desktop, which lives alongside my work during my primarily computer-focused day. Mountain is a new game, or perhaps it is better described as an ambient companion, for iOS, Mac and PC, and it’s been rotating and humming and engaging with me at all hours of the day. Its creator is the prolific animator David OReilly, the mind behind the alien interactive game in HER, and the writer, director, producer and animator of the mind-blowing Adventure Time episode A Glitch is a Glitch.

  5. Main9

    It takes a special something to be able to photograph at gigs and festivals, you have to really not mind being covered in the bodily fluids of swerving waves of people, or potentially having your ankles and your camera shattered into a thousand pieces. Lord knows what things Greg Neate has seen in his last decade of photographing the much-loved and notoriously raucous ATP festival. His photos are often taken in prime crowd spots that even rubber-boned teenagers can’t reach – so how does he do it? We asked him some questions about his memories of ATP and what he loves most about photographing crowds. You can also see Greg’s photos on show at Neate at ATP at the ATP Terminal on Dray Walk until 13 July 2014.

  6. List-1

    We’ve discussed Peckham Print Studio’s work on the site before. The south London-based screen printing studio keep popping up at events and exhibitions all over the Capital, showing anyone who’ll watch how to pull a super-tight screen print and use the process to make the best of their artwork. As well as workshops and events, they also print commercially for the likes of Kemistry Gallery, Ozwald Boateng, Sunspel and Urban Outfitters. But what makes these guys really interesting (aside from the quality of their work) is their approach to their online presence. Having just re-launched a website that’s leaps ahead of their competitors we caught up with Mike Guppy, the man who built it all, to find out about how and why it was done.

  7. List-2

    With the amount of press attention he’s been getting over the last couple of weeks in the run up to his debut exhibition at London’s Howard Griffin Gallery, you’d think photographer Bob Mazzer would be somewhat overwhelmed. This is not the case. Over the past 45 years he’s been taking photographs of the people he meets on the London Underground, but it wasn’t until Spitalfields Life starting posting them on their blog last year that it all kicked off.

  8. List

    Every time a new erotic title comes through the door we wonder how long they’ll survive. There’s so many “intelligent” magazines out there with a penchant for nudity that we assume only a few will last more than a couple of issues – even if the quality is superb. One title in the erotic stable that continues to grow and develop is Odiseo, a publication from Barcelona’s Folch studio that’s more of a book than a magazine. In it you’ll find a sensitive approach to erotic subjects and a wealth of illuminating opinion pieces all of which subvert what we’ve come to define as erotic in the digital age.

  9. Main1

    What I love about Wonderland magazine is that each issue gets more and more Wonderland every single time. They stick to their pop culture, cheesy-without-being-tacky, fun-championing guns in a big way, which is why when I saw their new issue had a huge feature on Mariah Carey, I couldn’t wait to tuck in to its heavily-glossed pages. The interview with Mariah was conducted by deputy editor Jack Mills (who also edits Rollacoaster) and after reading the interview with Mariah, we had a million questions about what it must be like to interview such an infamous, sparkling enigma. So read on to find out as we asked Jack all about it…

  10. List

    In 1936 a Penguin executive passing a bookstand in Kings Cross station overheard a woman asking for “one of those Pelican books” and so, worried rivals might start imprints named after birds, he moved to snap up the name for his employers. With its distinctive blue covers, Pelican made a name for itself publishing “concise, accessible and intelligent” books which aimed to “capture the current state of knowledge in their field.”

  11. List

    When the seventh issue of Boat Magazine dropped through our door a couple of weeks ago we interested to see that it had undergone a redesign. For the Lima issue, London studio She Was Only had refreshed the look and feel with a new masthead, a new approach to layouts and some nice new visual tricks. We spoke to the studio’s Craig Scott about their involvement in the globetrotting magazine.

  12. List

    Graphic designer Mark Porter is synonymous with the far-reaching 2008 redesign of The Guardian newspaper, and not content with mastering one huge media’s look and feel, he’s now turned his talents to TV. RTL is the biggest commercial network in The Netherlands and RTL Nieuws produces news bulletins, business, weather and traffic across its channels.

  13. Main

    Here we are with a brand new rather self-explanatory feature called Behind The Scenes. We’ll kick it off with the lovely Michael Renaud, who has taken time out his busy schedule to chat with us. His time, I assume, is usually filled up with really boring, mundane stuff like commissioning the world’s best illustrators to make hilarious comics, listening to cool music and chatting to photographers about bread.