You're interviewing one of your teenage idols in an hour and you've only come up with one question.
The only saving grace of an excruciatingly long train to London was the time it bought me to conjure up things to quiz Jepha on.
Should I ask what his favourite song is? Should I ask how the flight was? Should I ask if his underwear matches his socks today?
Having broken fully into music journalism in the last year, this was my first ever interview. With the band I'd looked up to from the age of 11.
The Used have been a constant reminder to me that life goes on. Without them, I wouldn't be here today, as cliché as that sounds. Without them, I would never have considered music journalism as a career. To think I'd be sat in the same room as Jepha, never mind interviewing him, is something I still have yet to comprehend.
Shaking like a leaf, I arrived at the KOKO an hour early just to be on the safe side. Gauging the location of the box office, I anxiously struck up a conversation with the girls at the back of the queue in the vain hope I'd distract myself from the inevitable. I'd lost all ability to form coherent sentences.
Great start Ali. If you keep this up when you meet Jepha, this whole thing will go to shit.
Time ticked down agonizingly slowly. The rain beat down but I can't say I even noticed it until later. I texted the PR contact.
That's it, no turning back now.
Rushed through the stage door past a nonchalant Bert and countless crew, I was seated in a room and Jepha was ushered in. 15 minutes on the timer, and go.
The leather seats didn't help conceal my initial nervous fidgeting, but they didn't last long. The moment Jepha began answering my albeit rushed questions, I felt at ease.
I furiously scrolled through my notes. He twiddled a carabiner clip through his stretched ears. We gushed about old songs like 'Pain' and 'Blue And Yellow'. I shared my Used tattoo with one of the four guys that inspired it. We declared our love for spicy food.
Before I could blink or even gather my thoughts, time was up. We took a farewell selfie and soon enough, I was back outside in the rain.
What the fuck just happened?
I waited 3 hours to meet The Used at Download last year and the moment I got to their table, I couldn't find the words to say how much they mean to me. 15 minutes in the same room with Jepha and I blurted it all out. At last.
They say never meet your heroes. I say fucking do it.
I told myself back in the day that I'd write and write and write until I met The Used and thanked them for everything they've done for me. Then and only then could I truly say I'd made it.
Dear 11-year-old Ali,
You made it, kid.