Lynn Barber, the demon of Fleet Street, talks interviewing; the good, the bad and the bollocks
Barber started her career at Penthouse Magazine, writing about the parameters of sexuality. “It trained me never to be embarrassed and never to show shock or disgust.”
The secret to a good interview, according to Barber, is getting people to talk. “I am genuinely interested in them at the point I am interviewing, I want to understand them”.
But it’s not always plain sailing, the real disasters are never written up and the ones that make the cut are not always perfect.
“If someone else did it better, that’s slightly frustrating, or sometimes every conceivable question has already asked, what more is there to get?”
For Barber, contemporary artists are a favourite but can be difficult to interview. “The reason they are artists is they don’t trust words very much and they express themselves in other ways. To find a way of interviewing that isn't bollocks and has an attachment to reality is a challenge.”
Stewart Lee is a writer and stand-up comedian. He has written for radio, television, theatre, newspapers and magazines and performed as a stand-up comedian all over the world. His first novel, The Perfect Fool, was published in July 2001. He is co-author with the composer Richard Thomas of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which was denounced by the good folk of Christian Voice as “crude, offensive and blasphemous in the extreme”.
David Stubbs joined the music magazine Melody Maker in 1986, and worked there for 12 years. His most famous creation, Mr Agreeable periodically reawakens over at The Quietus.
He has also written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire, When Saturday Comes and Uncut, and was a presenter of the Resonance FM football show Café Calcio.
David is the author of numerous books, including Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko but Don’t Get Stockhausen. His latest book is Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany.
Dylan Evans is an academic, philosopher and journalist. He has written several popular science books, was named by the Independent as one of the 20 best young writers in Britain, and was once described by The Times as “the sort of polymath who makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your brain.” He currently lives in Guatemala. Dylan is the author of The Utopia Experiment.
Andrew Mueller is a Contributing Editor at Monocle, and broadcasts regularly on its radio arm, Monocle 24. He also writes for The Guardian, Uncut, New Humanist and Bluffers, among other titles, and has reported from more than 80 countries. He is previously the author of "Rock & Hard Places" and "I Wouldn't Start From Here", and was partially responsible - in cahoots with Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlan - for the acclaimed 2012 musical historiography "The North Sea Scrolls". His country band, The Blazing Zoos, will release their second album in 2015. His latest book is a memoir, It’s Too Late to Die Young Now: Misadventures in Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Helen Scales is a marine biologist, freelance researcher and broadcaster. She appears regularly on BBC Radio 4, Sky News and the BBC World Service, and has presented documentaries on topics such as whether people will ever live underwater, the science of making and surfing waves and the intricacies of sharks' minds.
Her doctorate involved searching for giant endangered fish in Borneo; she's also tagged sharks in California, and once spent a year cataloguing all the marine life she could find surrounding a hundred islands in the Andaman Sea. She is the author of a book about seahorses, Poseidon’s Steed, and her latest book is Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells.
A regular officer with the 11th Hussars, he left the Army to write.
He has published four novels, and numerous works of non-fiction. His books include The Spanish Civil War; Inside the British Army; Crete -- The Battle and the Resistance, which was awarded a Runciman Prize, and Paris After the Liberation, 1944-1949 (which was written with his wife Artemis Cooper).
Stalingrad, first published in 1998, won the first Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature in 1999. Berlin - The Downfall 1945, published in 2002, was accompanied by a BBC Timewatch programme on his research into the subject. D-Day - The Battle for Normandy, published in June 2009, has been a No 1 Bestseller in seven countries, including the UK and France, and in the top ten in another eight countries.
His last book, The Second World War, published in June 2012, was translated into twenty-one languages. His latest book is Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble.
Jonathan Meades is a writer, journalist, essayist and filmmaker. His books include three works of fiction - Filthy English, Pompey and The Fowler Family Business - and several anthologies including the recently published Museum Without Walls. His latest book is An Encyclopaedia of Myself. He has written and performed in more than 50 television shows on predominantly topographical subjects such as shacks, garden cities, megastructures, buildings associated with vertigo, beer, pigs and the architecture of Hitler and Stalin. His most recent show was Bunkers, Brutalism, Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry, Some of these are available on The Jonathan Meades Collection DVD. See also the YouTube channel MeadesShrine. He lives in Marseille. Jonathan has been our guest on Little Atoms eight times.
Masha Gessen is a journalist who has written for Slate, Seed, the New Republic, the New York Times, and other publications. Her previous books include Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier, and her latest is Perfect Rigour: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century.
First broadcast on 22nd April 2011.
Bruce Hood is currently the Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol. He has been a research fellow at Cambridge University and University College London, a visiting scientist at MIT and a faculty professor at Harvard. The author of Supersense, and most recently The Self Illusion, Bruce also presented the 2011 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Bruce has been our guest on Little Atoms twice.
Interview one first broadcast on 31st July 2009.
Interview one first broadcast on 28th September 2012.
Iain Sinclair a poet, film-maker, essayist and the author of many acclaimed books, including Downriver (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize), Lights Out for the Territory, London Orbital, Edge of Orison, Hackney: That Rose-Red Empire, Dining on Stones, Ghost Milk and American Smoke and London Overground, his account of a one-day walk around the orbital railway.
He is the editor of the anthology London: City of Disappearances and has also written and presented a number of films for BBC2’s Late Show, collaborated with Andrew Kötting onSwandown and By Our Selves, and co-directed several documentaries with Chris Petit, including London Orbital and The Falconer. He was born in South Wales, went to school in England and university in Ireland, and now lives in Hackney, East London. In this interview we talk about two new books, London Overground and Black Apples of Gower.
James Bridle is a writer, artist, publisher and technologist usually based in London, UK. His work covers the intersection of literature, culture and the network. He has written for WIRED, ICON, Domus, Cabinet, the Atlantic and many other publications, and writes a regular column for the Observer newspaper on publishing and technology. In 2011, he coined the term “New Aesthetic”, and his ongoing research around this subject has been featured and discussed worldwide. His work, such as the Iraq War Historiography, an encyclopaedia of Wikipedia Changelogs, has been exhibited at galleries in the Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, and has been commissioned by organisations such as Artangel, Mu Eindhoven, and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC.
Eleanor Saitta is a hacker, designer, artist and writer. She makes a living and a vocation of understanding how complex systems operate and redesigning them to work, or at least fail, better. Her work is transdisciplinary, using everything from electronics, software, and paint to social rules and words as media with which to explore and shape our interactions with the world. Her focuses include the seamless integration of technology into the lived experience, the humanity of objects and the built environment, and systemic resilience and conviviality. Eleanor is Principal Security Engineer at the Open Internet Tools Project (OpenITP), directing the OpenITP Peer Review Board for open source software and working on adversary modeling. She is also Technical Director at the International Modern Media Institute (IMMI), a member of the advisory boards at Geeks Without Bounds (GWoB) and the Calyx Institute, and works on occasion as a Senior Security Associate with Stach & Liu. She is a founder of the Constitutional Analysis Support Team (CAST), previously co-founded the Seattle-based Public N3rd Area hacker space, and works on the Trike and Briar projects.
Paul Wolinski and Joe Shrewsbury are one half of 65daysofstatic, an instrumental band from Sheffield, as comfortable crashing samplers to mine glitches as they are putting guitars through too much distortion. Influenced by a technologically dystopian present and an apocalyptically likely future, they tend to be found filling venues, galleries or headphones with different kinds of noise in their ongoing efforts to find the limits of what ‘being a band' can mean.
The Space Lady is a street-performing singer based in Colorado, USA. Originally beginning on the streets of Boston in the late 70s, she has recently begun playing again. Often seen performing in 1980's Boston, and then a decade later in San Francisco's Castro community – where she would play and sing for hours on end for the gay scene, and got her apt moniker – The Space Lady's winged helmet and setup of a Casio battery-powered keyboard, vocal mic and echo & phaser controls became a small but striking phenomenon. Her sound is a blend of synth-laden pop and proto-techno that evokes the iconic soundtrack artists and early electronic composers such as Suzanne Ciani. The Space Lady has been recognised alongside Daniel Johnston and Jandek on Irwin Chusid's seminal Outsider compilation Songs in the Key of Z, and her lo-fi synth minimalist interpretation of Peter Schilling's Major Tom featured on Erol Alkan's Bugged Out mix last year, as well as John Maus' 2011 Rough Trade set.
Nell Zink was born in 1964 in southern California and grew up in rural Virginia. She attended Stuart Hall School and the College of William and Mary, where she majored in philosophy.
Rather late in life she got a doctorate in Media Studies from the University of Tübingen, Germany. She works as a translator for Zeitenspiegel Reportagen and lives in Bad Belzig, south of Berlin. She is the author of the recently published novels The Wallcreeper and Mislaid.
Neil Denny conducted a series of "Fireside Chats" with some of the many speakers at the FutureEverything conference in Manchester on 31st March and 1st April 2014.
Adrian Hon is CEO and founder at Six to Start, co-creators of the most successful smartphone fitness game in the world, Zombies, Run! Six to Start have won various awards for their game-like stories and storylike games, and their work has been displayed at the MOMA and Design Museum. He has spoken at the main TED conference in Monterey in 2001 (about the human colonisation of Mars), as well as various SXSW, GDC, Economist, and other such tech and gaming conferences. Adrian Hon is the author of A History of the Future in 100 Objects.
Emer Coleman has a wealth of experience spanning technology, open data, social media, communications and engagement and organizational change. She has worked extensively with local, regional and central government variously as Director of Strategy, Assistant Chief Executive, and Director of Digital Projects (City Hall London) where she established the London Datastore. Before founding Disruption Ltd she was Deputy Director of Digital Engagement, Government Digital Service (Cabinet Office) described by Tim O'Reilly as “one of the best teams working in digital government in the world”. She is also part of transportAPI a startup that is powering change and innovation in transport. She is a contributor to Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation published by Code for America in October 2013.
Emma Jane Unsworth is a journalist and won the Betty Trask Award for her novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Portico Prize. Her short story 'I Arrive First' was included in The Best British Short Stories 2012. Emma’s latest novel Animals has won a 2015 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize.
After fifteen years writing strategy for advertising agencies, Alex Hourston took a break to go back to university and her first love, books. She completed a Masters in English and started a PhD, but put it aside when the idea for her debut novel In My House surfaced. She is currently working on her second novel, an exploration of infidelity and emotional inheritance.
This podcast also features Naomi Alderman discussing the work of Tim Parks
Lynsey Addario is an American photojournalist whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, National Geographic, and Time Magazine. She has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo, and has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Genius Grant and the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. She is the author of It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War
Timothy Garton Ash is the author of eight books of political writing or “history of the present”. They include The Magic Lantern, The File, History of the Present and Free World. His latest is Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name.
He is Professor of European Studies and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His essays appear regularly in the New York Review of Books and his weekly column for the Guardian is widely syndicated in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Garton Ash has received many awards for his writing, including the Somerset Maugham Award and the George Orwell Prize.
Adam Curtis is a producer, writer and director of television documentaries such as Pandora's Box, The Mayfair Set, The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares and The Trap. Curtis' programs, though always about serious issues, maintain a sense of tongue-in-cheek humor and are characteristic in their extensive use of archive footage. In his film making, Curtis strives to find meaningful connections between historical situations and often focuses on the impact different ideologies have had on modern society. Adam's latest series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace begins on BBC2 on 23rd May 2011. Adam has been our guest on Little Atoms twice.
Interview one first broadcast on 21st November 2008.
Alom Shaha was born in Bangladesh but grew up in London. A teacher, writer and filmmaker, he has spent most of his professional life trying to share his passion for science and education with the public. Alom has produced, directed and appeared in a number of television programmes, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Nuffield Foundation. Alom has represented the community in which he grew up as an elected politician and volunteered at a range of charitable organisations. He teaches at a comprehensive school in London and writes for a number of print and online publications including The Guardian. Alom is the author of The Young Atheist's Handbook.
First broadcast on 20th July 2012.