In the course of an average week, I have the privilege of speaking with many pop-music artists. I've interviewed people like the godfather of soul James Brown, country king Garth Brooks, punk-rappers 311, prog-rock pioneers Yes, retro-rocker Lenny Kravitz and thrash-metalers Pantera.

The list goes on. And so do the absurdities.I remember talking with Joe Jackson - no, not Michael's and Janet's daddy; the Joe Jackson who hit No. 6 in 1982 with his new-wave jazz tune "Steppin' Out" - and I asked him a universal question: "What were your musical influences as a child?"

I wanted to know who inspired him to play music for the first time. This was 1993, and he was just at the point where he was going to switch to classical music. So I thought the question was pertinent.

Instead of a list of admired artists, I got a simple answer: "That question sucked."

"Pardon me?" I asked, not believing what I had just heard.

"I have a hard time answering such a vague and unimportant question. Go to the next one, please. I don't have all day."

Then there was "Cyco" Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies. The interview was one of my first, and at the end of the session I asked if he had any "last words."

He laughed and said, "Why, are you going to execute me?"

There are more, but I wanted to share a fresh one before my space runs out.

Last week I interviewed Tom Araya, the bassist and lead vocalist for Slayer. We were discussing how brutal the new album, "Diablo In Musica," is.

"We wanted to make this album one of our strongest," Araya said. "We really bashed away at some . . .," then he paused and said, "Could you hold on a second?"

In a tender voice, Araya said away from the phone, "Ariel, honey, don't put that in your mouth. You'll get hurt. Come here and sit on Daddy's lap for a while."

Back on the phone, he said, "Sorry about that, but I've got a 2-year-old daughter who's my pride and joy. I really hate leaving her and my wife when I have to tour.

"Anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah.

"Well, we wanted to really make this album a hard, smacking Slayer album . . . "