This pioneering site is where new journalism meets oral history. It contains fresh and archive long-form audio interviews with interesting people, largely uncut and free to the user for non-commercial use. Please also visit our extensive archive of print and photo posts at the main Generalist site here.
Monday, July 21. 2008
Hoppy, one of the legendary figures of the British underground of the 1960s, is someone I’ve wanted to interview for years. The publication of his brilliant book of black and white photos ‘From The Hip’ provided the hook and the occasion to do so.
(A detailed review of this book of ‘lost’ photos, shot from 1961 to 1966, can be found here on The Generalist main site. Worth perhaps reading this first before settling down with the interview].
Information on Hoppy in print is relatively scarce. As he puts it: ‘I have walk-on parts in other people’s movies, which suits me fine.’ I gleaned what I could from Jonathan Green’s two seminal works ‘All Dressed Up: The Sixties and the Counterculture’ and ‘Days In The Life: Voices from the English Underground 1961-1971’, Barry Miles excellent memoir ‘In The Sixties’ and various other memorabilia from the HQINFO archive.
This interview adds to the record a lot of new background material about Hoppy’s early years and the path that led him to develop an interest in jazz and a period working for the Atomic Energy Authority, before getting involved in bohemian and underground scenes whilst becoming a successful photographer.
It concentrates on the period from his birth in 1937 to approx 1961. I think it really gives an impressionistic flavour of the mix of elements that made up the culture of the time, most of which Hoppy was involved in at one time or other.
The interview tries to hold onto a chronological sequence but there were many entertaining digressions en route and many possible story pathways. In addition, there were numerous topics to discuss about the photobook itself and the many interesting photos and characters within it. In the end, I just ran out of time.
So this is very much an hors d'œuvre, as the main course – Hoppy’s seminal activities in the 1960s underground – the UFO Club, the Roundhouse, International Times, the Notting Hill Free School etc. So watch out for Part Two.
Wednesday, June 4. 2008
David was fresh back from a retrospective of his animations in Lisbon, just the latest of a string of similar events that have been staged around the world for audiences interested in his exceptional work. He won a BAFTA with his student film and has since created a perfectly-formed body of films that reflect not only his imagination and skills but also his deeply held spiritually.
I saw David’s films on Channel 4 many years before meeting him. As a lover of animation I was both captivated and intrigued. These were images that stayed in my head. Rewatching them now, they have a beauty and a resonance that keeps on giving. Each are perfectly formed and realised streams of great beauty. One is constantly surprised by the visual tricks and turns, whilst being emotionally disturbed or moved or entranced by the content.
I am not sure how available these powerful animations are but if you can get hold of them, treasure them and share them with your friends.
The works we are talking about in this interview were made in the following sequence: the BAFTA-winning Dreamland Express, the nuclear-tinged Dreamless Sleep, the two collaborations with writer Russell Hoban – Deadsy and Door, available to view on YouTube - the animation-with- live-action Beauty and the Beast fable In the Time of Angels and his latest work, the exquisite Tongue of The Hidden, inspired by one of the greatest of the Sufi poets.
Hear one of Britain’s best animators talking in great detail about the making of these remarkable films.
Saturday, April 19. 2008
Grant and I first met back in the 1980s at a tv production company in London, in whose offices one afternoon, I interviewed the cyberpunk writer William Gibson while Grant filmed it. The resultant footage was never broadcast.
Since those early days, Grant has built up a sizeable reputation in the pop video world and, more recently, has made some standout full-length music documentaries which form the main subject of this interview: ‘Meeting People Is Easy,’ his agonising portrait of a reluctant Radiohead’s world tour; ‘Scott Walker: 30 Century Man’, a fascinating portrait of this legendary recluse in which he appears on camera for the first time; and the shortly to be launched ‘Joy Division: The Documentary’ – a standout piece of work that provides the definitive portrait of this seminal band.
His work throughout is characterised by a unique flair and style, an intensely layered form of collage filmmaking that works perfectly for the subject matter. He remains incredibly modest about his achievements, happy to give the impression that he is making it up as he goes along, and media students will learn a great deal from his account of how, with no formal training, he managed to forge a career that has led him to work with Oasis, Nick Cave, Blur, Tom Waits and many other top bands and musicians around the world.
My article about the Joy Division film, based on this interview, appears in the just-published May 2008 issue of Dazed and Confused
A full account of Grant Gee’s work can be found on Wikipedia.
My enthusiastic review of JOY DIVISION: THE DOCUMENTARY can be read on The Generalist. I saw one of the screenings in Britain in early December and was knocked for six.
Interview - Size: 51.76MB Length: 1:15:29 CND Link - Direct Link
Tuesday, February 19. 2008
Its 8pm in the evening and Nick Davies has had a long day, lecturing to journalism
students and dealing with various aspects of the firestorm which has broken out as a result of the publication of his new book ‘Flat Earth News’ [Chatto & Windus], a landmark investigation into the state of journalism, centred on the British ‘broadsheet’ papers.
Davies has an impressive journalistic cv and a unique position at The Guardian – Special Correspondent - which allows him to conduct lengthy and detailed investigations into such matters as the criminal justice system. In other words, the kind of ‘old school’ journalism that is going out of style.
Nick’s thesis is that, due to cuts in staffing levels and the advent of 24/7 rolling news websites, journalists are now having to produce many more stories in less time – what he calls ‘churnalism’ – meaning there is less checking of facts and more reliance on wire stories and pr releases. As a result, untruths blossom, as in the Millennium bug
and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
This is a passionate and deeply felt book which has raised many hackles. You can find out more about Nick Davies and the ongoing controversy on the main Generalist site.
Sunday, December 23. 2007
Photo Credit: Jeff Nuttall in the Hancock Room at the Chelsea Arts Club, 4th November 1985. Photo by Ed Barber. Copyright reserved.
Back in August 2005 I wrote up for The Generalist my memories of my two encounters with Jeff Nuttall – the poet/playwright/artist/ musician who, as time has gone on, can now be seen as a key figure of the British counter-culture of the 1960s.
In a sense the Audio Generalist began with Jeff Nuttall. When he died in January 2004, at the age of 70, his friend and comrade Mike Horowitz [see previous interview] – with his usual commitment, energy and passion – put together ‘Jeff Nuttall’s Wake on Paper: a keepsake anthology of the life, work and play of a Polymath Extraordinaire’ and ‘Jeff Nuttall’s Wake on CD’, which includes a wide range of Jeff’s jazz cornet-playing, singing and spoken word communication.
Both are still available here [http://www.poetryolympics.com/jeffnuttall.html]
Part of the spoken word content was an extract from this interview,
which is now made available here - in full - for the very first time.
Jeff was the first ‘real artist’ I ever met, when I was about 19 in Worthing. We met again in 1985, when I was 35 and he was 52, in the (Tony) Hancock Room (of all places) in the Chelsea Arts Club – and had a conversation (centred round his best-known work - the seminal ‘Bomb Culture’) which has a strength and vision about it
that deserves a wider audience.
A full account of the above can be found on The Generalist’s main site at Jeff Nuttall: Bomb Culture and Beyond
Interview #1 - Size: 13.03MB Length: 49:00 CND Link - Direct Link
Wednesday, November 21. 2007
It was a rather overcast, oppressive and edgy autumn afternoon in Ladbroke Grove, My ring on the bell of the flat where Mike has lived for many years, woke him from a nap. He let me in and led me on a short pathway past cascading oceanic waves of archive material heaped willy-nilly, down some short steps into a tiny kitchen where we sat and had tea and talked round the formica table, crammed up together for more than one intensive hour.
The interview is in two parts; the first is a wonderful recounting of Mike's wartime childhood experiences where he first read and wrote poems, sang and learnt to perform. He tells of his Blakean scholarship years in Oxford, the early years of hitchhiking round Britain performing jazz and poetry events, the nascent 'beat movement' in Britain. He recalls the seminal poetry event at the Albert Hall he helped organise ( the grandly titled 'The First International Poetry Incarnation', held on 11th June 1965, indelibly recorded in the film 'Wholly Communion') and the long and continuing history of his journal New Departures, the formation of the Poetry Olympics and his involvement and encouragement of poets from many cultures.
Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Bruce, Dudley Moore, Stan Tracey, Spike Hawkins, Adrian Mitchell, Christopher Logue, Kathleen Raine and Linton Kwesi Johnson are just some of the people fondly recalled for their roles in shaping the post-war poetic history of Britain and beyond.
The second part is dedicated to Michael’s major work ‘A New Waste Land’ – the product of ten years effort, described in more detail on our main site here
This long-form illustrated poem – which combines many moods, styles and influences – rants about the Labour Party’s betrayal of its roots and beliefs and the catastrophic effects of the Blair/Bush and Clinton foreign policies, and rails against the New Philistinism and extremist fundamentalism. This is backed up by a giant addendum to the main work, which provides an extensive collection of his research relating to the subjects and themes in the poem.
The work’s positive and visionary aspect comes from the repeated discursions throughout the poem into the thoughts, lives, ideas, images and actions of a kind of personal ‘heavenly host’ of artistic spirits, who continue to offer us succour, support and inspiration in these benighted times.
Horovitz explains the strength and inspiration he draws from T.S. Eliot’s original 'The Waste Land', explains its prescience and deplores the fact that, since the poem’s first publication in 1922, the barbarism in the world seems to have got worse. He hopes his book will find its place in the global movement searching for the authentic New Jerusalems.
For more information, read previous postings on the main Generalist site:
The Poetry Olympics Twenty05 - Wholly Communion Renewed
For more on T.S.Eliot and 'The Waste Land' see:
William Burroughs & T.S. Eliot Fighting in the Captain's Tower
A Meeting with Burroughs At The Chelsea
Interview #1 - Size: 37.42MB Length: 54:34 CND Link - Direct Link
Interview #2 - Size: 22.20MB Length: 23:58 CND Link - Direct Link
Monday, October 22. 2007
This a highly relevant two-part interview, recorded more than 15 years ago, on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit. It has an interesting resonance given what has happened since.
Gore was in London on the occasion of the publication of his book ‘Earth in the Balance’ in which many of the issues that feed into ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ were first outlined. It confirms Gore’s long-term and deeply-held views on the environment.
The first tape was recorded during a meal at a restaurant in Covent Garden; the second tape, in the back of a limo speeding towards Gatwick Airport.
To read an article that I made from this interview and which explains more of the background to the interview: see the following entries on The Generalist’s main site.
‘I Bought Al Gore Lunch: Real As Rain’ (Posted 26th Feb 2006)
+ ‘Gore Nobel News’ (Posted 18th October 2007)
See also the subsequent post ‘Al Gore 2: An Inconvenient Truth’ (Same date).
Interview #1 - Size: 22.56MB Length: 40:32 CND Link - Direct Link
Interview #2 - Size: 23.57MB Length: 40:44 CND Link - Direct Link
Monday, October 22. 2007
Some measure of his importance can be gained from the fact that, in April this year, a special tribute was held in his memory by the international writer’s group PEN in New York, featuring Salman Rushdie amongst many other distinguished authors.
The literature for the occasion described him as follows: ‘a visionary journalist and world-besotted fabulist, and one of the great travellers of the 20th century (true heir to his hero and subject of his last book, Travels with Herodotus). Kapuscinski was a living link between Bruno Schulz and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with whom he was still team-teaching classes to young Latin American journalists only a few years back. Above all, he was a dear, sweet man – brave, kind, and fiercely clear-seeing.’
The Generalist is proud to present the two interviews I conducted with him the 1984 one being, to my knowledge, the first interview he ever gave in Britain on the publication of ‘The Emperor.’ Both can now form part of the historical record and are available to biographers, scholars, readers and listeners for free.
There are marked contrasts between the two: the first was conducted when he was virtually unknown to English readers. His voice is quiet and intense and it is clear that he is concentrating hard on his English to try and clearly explain himself. By the second, he has become famous and celebrated and is confident and much more outgoing.
I was fortunate to develop a close friendship with Ryszard which is documented alongside a through review of his life and work on The Generalist’s main site here. I hope the two sites together form a suitable tribute to this remarkable man.
Friday, August 10. 2007
Michael Gray is best known as the author of ‘Song and Dance Man’ the first ever book-length critical study of Bob Dylan’s work, published originally in 1972. Over the years it has grown and developed to the point where ’Song and Dance Man III’, published in 2000 and reprinted five times in the years since, is now 918pp long including the index.
Not content with this mountainous achievement, Gray has also authored the equally monumental ‘The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia’, a treasure trove of facts, opinions and insights, and has now turned his considerable talents to a fascinating and detailed biography of the blues singer Blind Willie McTell, best known most as the composer of ‘Statesboro Blues’, a song that afforded The Allman Brothers Band a million-selling record.
Combining extensive and unparalleled genealogical research into McTell’s origins (much of it conducted by his wife food writer Sarah Beattie) with a number of long trips to the Southern states, Gray has revolutionised our understanding of Blind Willie about whom precious little was previously known. In addition, he sets McTell in his historical and social context and brings to life the prejudice and barbarity that still existed in the Southern states during his lifetime.
Michael Gray, in person and in print, has a unique style very much his own, as you will hear on this hour-long interview, recorded at the office of his publishers in Soho Square.
‘Hand Me My Travellin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell’ is published by Bloomsbury (£25.00)
More details and links to be found on The Generalist’s main site.
Monday, July 30. 2007
Californian-born Marybeth Hamilton teaches American History at Birkbeck College, University of London and we’re in her office there one recent Wednesday afternoon talking about her fascinating new book ‘In Search of the Blues: Black Voices, White Visions.’
What began as a project about Little Richard turned into an examination of the myth of the Delta Blues - that blues originated in the Delta and that the sound typified by Robert Johnson, Skip James et al is the real ‘uncorrupted’ primary blues music. Such assertions have found their way into most of the major blues histories and are by and large accepted as gospel truth.
Marybeth Hamilton’s book makes these comfortable certainties hard to sustain. In clear and measured tones, with a clarity of thought and a depth of research, she takes us in the footsteps of the white song hunters and record collectors who went in search of uncorrupted Afro-American voices, carrying their prejudices with them.
The myth of the Delta Blues, she argues, arose in the early 1960s in the mind of a virtually destitute occult eccentric outsider James McKune whose legendary record collection of just 300 carefully selected ‘78s that he kept under his bed inspired a group of aficionados and fellow collectors called the Blues Mafia.
This is a real gem of an interview with great sound quality (but with strange noises off from time to time which add to the atmosphere somehow). For deep bluesologists and blues newbies alike.
In Search of the Blues is published by Jonathan Cape [£12.99]
Thursday, July 19. 2007
Expect the unexpected. When I arrive at Jonathon Green’s London flat for our 2pm interview appointment it is to find that taping is virtually impossible due to the fact that two men with angle grinders are cutting up a set of large metal water tanks on the roof of the apartment block opposite – and making a searing din in the process. We were both flummoxed as to what to do but decided to sit it out. Three hours later, after several coffees and much catching up with each other, the grinders clocked off at 5pm. We had outlasted them and were then able to capture the following bravura interview.
Jonathon is one of the world’s leading lexicographers of slang – a subject which is of endless fascination. Over the last 25 years, he has published numerous dictionaries and other related books on the subject but his meisterwork is the yet-to-be published, as-yet-untitled, 3-volume slang dictionary which will be the most detailed book of its kind ever published.
What makes it so special is not only it’s huge extent - it will contain some 100,000 headwords, accompanied and underpinned by more than half a million citations.
He and his partner Susie Ford have tried to supply for each word or phrase, and for each alternative meaning of that word or phrase, a citation in every decade from the word’s first use to the present day.
To see an example of their work - that Jonathon has given exclusively to The Generalist - go to our main site here:
Jonathon is hopeful that his dictionary will be published in 2009. It will also be available on-line and he and Susie will continue to update it ad infinitum. Dictionaries in the digital age are never completed but always evolving.
Mention is made throughout the interview of Jonathon’s book ‘Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made.’ [Jonathon Cape 1996/Pimlico 1997]. The full history of all the main characters mentioned in the interview can be found there.
Tuesday, June 19. 2007
Dazed & Confused magazine has selected this site as one of the Dazed Digital 50 - their pick of the best of the web.
Readers are invited to rate the sites and the winners will be announced in a future issue.
You can vote for us here.
Tuesday, June 19. 2007
Upstairs at the Lansdown Arms, Lewes 22 February 2005
Photo: Mick Hawksworth
Recorded at the Thistle Hotel, Barbican, London. It was a bitterly cold day and Jack had just flown into town with his daughter for a short but intense British tour and to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards. I was interviewing him for a piece in The Telegraph. We sat at a small table in the hotel restaurant and Jack regaled me with stories and songs. About Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. About sailing ships, cowboy poets and rodeo clowns. About Jack Kerouac and adventures in Ireland. Settle back and enjoy.
Full text of Telegraph article here
The full story behind this interview and my encounter with Jack can be found here:
Read about Aiyana Elliott’s documentary ‘The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack’ in ‘Legend of Folk: Jack and Aiyana Elliott Ramble On’ by Pam Grady.
Tuesday, June 19. 2007
Photo: Alan Toussaint by Grant Scott. An award-winning portrait photographer, Grant Scott is creating a photographic archive of performers appearing at the Brighton Dome over the course of one year. ‘The Dome Sessions’ project will culminate with a major exhibition held at Brighton Dome at the end of 2007. To see more of Grant Scott's work visit grantscott.com
It was a rare privilege and opportunity to meet one of New Orleans most important musicians when Allen Toussaint came to play a concert at the Brighton Dome, on a double-header with the New Orleans Preservation Band.
Throughout a long and sustained creative career as a writer, arranger, producer and pianist, he has known and worked with remarkable figures in many areas of New Orleans music including Fats Domino, Dr John, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey and The Meters, who were the house band at his studio for many years. His contribution to the city’s music was recognised in 1998 when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.
His life and work are deeply grounded in the Crescent City and it has taken Hurricane Katrina to dislodge him to New York City for a period, while he waits for his house to be rebuilt.
At the age of 69, his energy and enthusiasms of music remains undimmed. Next month he will return to Britain as part of a European tour with Elvis Costello, playing material from their excellent 2006 collaboration ‘The River in Reverse’.
He is looking immaculate with an extremely stylish suit and some fine and very natty black sandals with white socks. His manner is extremely polite and reserved.
This recording illustrates the difficulty of this on-the-run audio journalism – and its unexpected rewards. We began our conversation in the back stalls of the virtually empty Dome and had just got settled and working our way into a conversation when there was a most unexpected interruption of a celestial kind (I won’t spoil the surprise).
There is an abrupt transition and the conversation picks up. In between we had walked down into the backstage labyrinth of the Dome and found his dressing room. The air conditioning is so loud that we decamp across the hall into a large cupboard of a room with big mirrors with bulbs round it – a makeup room of sorts. We sit there in front of the mirror and that is where we get in deep to some serious musical conversation. You can hear his fingers constantly moving on the table as he demonstrates the shapes and styles of certain musical chords. There is magic in the air – and maybe the ghost of Professor Longhair.
A great conversation with Harry Shearer, best known as Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap, on Le Show, Shearer’s weekly syndicated public radio programme In Sept 2004
New York Public Radio WNYC’s Soundcheck. (September 2005)
Costello, Toussaint Team for New Orleans CD
See THE GENERALIST for more information
Saturday, June 2. 2007
We’re in a small conference room with smoked glass walls in the office of the publishers Chatto & Windus, on the second floor of Random House publishers on Horseferry Road, London. Jon comes in looking smart as button and right from the off the conversation flows.
Jon is one our best music and culture writers, who cut his teeth on Sounds and Melody Maker in the 1970s and The Face in the 1980s and penned the single best account of the punk period in his wonderful book ‘England’s Dreaming’, for which he is perhaps best known.
Since then he has continued to write prolifically for the mainstream papers and music magazines, to compile some excellent cd collections and produce documentaries, while writing another major work – ‘Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945’ – that has just been published and is the major focus of our interview.
We begin with Jon’s own teenage years and trace the whole genesis of the project, reflecting on the punk years in the process. We examine the book in detail, which runs from the invention of the concept of adolescence by one of America’s first famous psychiatrists to the invention of the teenager as the ultimate consumer in the late 1940s – a fascinating journey.
In addition, Jon has much to say about Nick Hornby and Tony Blair, the digital revolution, why music shouldn’t be free, and the death of Nirvana. Never less than fascinating, hear one of the sharpest minds around in full flow.
See The Generalist’s main site for more information and links on Jon Savage.
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