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.
Tuesday, May 22. 2007
It’s been 20 years since I last saw Julien and suddenly there we are yakking away again on the balcony of the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton. The sky is a beautiful blue and, as the beers go down, he visibly relaxes. He is in the third week of promotion for his new and splendid documentary ‘Strummer’ and is here to do a Q&A session with the audience, moderated by Ian Haydn Smith, after they have seen the film.
He had been editing a pop video until 5am that morning and was wearing wraparound shades as a result. He was heading back to his home in Somerset that night and then was off to the Cannes Film Festival, followed by the Berlin Festival, then flying direct to Australia, where he is filming an opera on-stage as well as on the streets. Then on to Seattle and New York I think he said. No rest for this man. Meanwhile he is laying plans for his next major project – ‘Kinkdom Come’, a full length documentary on the Kinks.
I had been chasing Julien for weeks and this was the only opportunity we could snatch for a chat, in the cinema’s café, which means there is a lot of ambient atmosphere on this recording – people coming and going, sirens in the street, the sound of the bar staff in action. But Julien’s voice cuts through the clatter and what he has to say is, as ever, interesting and thoughtful.
‘Strummer’, now out on a general release with a DVD package with added extras to follow, is his celebratory tribute to his friend Joe Strummer, who is still sadly missed. It is a brilliant piece of work which follows his equally stunning and valuable documentaries on the Sex Pistols. (‘The Filth and Fury’) and on the history of the Glastonbury Festival. All three will stand for all time as important records of these major cultural figures and events. It’s about time he was recognised and celebrated as one of Britain’s most innovative and hard-working filmmakers.
See official film site
Tuesday, April 17. 2007
It’s been ten years at least since Nick and I met face to face but, as with all true friends, it seemed like just yesterday. We’re at the Academy Hotel in Bloomsbury, Nick being over in the UK from Paris, his home for a couple of decades, to promote the new version of his book ‘The Dark Stuff’, his legendary collection of rock journalism.
First published by Penguin Books in 1994, a revised edition with additional material came out from Da Capo Press in the US in 2004 and now Faber are issuing another new edition with even more new essays: ‘Sly Stone’s Evil Ways’, ‘A Portrait of Serge Gainsbourg’, ‘Phil Spector’s Long Fall From Grace’ and a concluding piece ‘Self-destruction in Rock and Elsewhere.’
Inspired by the New Journalism in general and the legendary Lester Bangs in particular, and captivated by the raw power of Iggy Pop (who writes a brilliant foreword that begins ‘I read this nasty book with an unusual degree of interest …’) Nick was to revolutionise British rock journalism through his stand-out work for the NME in the 1970s and 80s.
He took us behind the masks and the pr and actually made you feel that you were in the room with some of the most talented and disturbed musicians in modern music. Rereading these encounters with the likes of Syd Barrett, the New York Dolls, Miles Davis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young and Brian Wilson, to name just a few, the thrill of his work is still intact. Younger readers discovering him for the first time in this new edition will recognise that he is the real deal.
Uniquely amongst rock scribes, Nick lived the life to its fullest, undertaking a Dantean journey which included his well-publicised battle with heroin addiction, which he has long conquered.
He is man of great passion and integrity as you will hear in this interview. Age has only enhanced his gravitas and given his words added depth. The passion still burns brightly and will find full flower in the major book he is now writing
Listen to this man and you’ll realise that modern rock journalism has become flaccid, tame and commercialised by comparison and that we need his spirited writings more than ever. “I am in the soul business,” he says and that fact shines though in everything he says and writes.
Tuesday, April 17. 2007
In the decade since his suicide, Kurt Cobain has become a worldwide cult figure on a par with John Lennon. Everett was the first journalist to write extensively about the ‘grunge’ scene in the US Pacific Northwest, flying out there in 1989 on assignment for the Melody Maker. It was here he met Nirvana for the first time and established connections and friendships that were to provide him with a unique understanding of what has become a legendary part of rock history.
His six-hundred page heavyweight tome on Nirvana is unconventional in style and approach, full of digressions and personal rants and raves, of highly detailed footnotes, extensive interviews reproduced verbatim. It suits his subject and gives the book a feeling of authority and authenticity. This is someone who was really there and is determined to tell the story in his own unique way. Most famously known for having introduced Kurt to Courtney Love, he refreshingly questions whether the legend has any truth in it at all. He believes that spontaneity is at the heart of all great rock music. He distrusts the music business and fame and continues to champion great underrated bands and musicians as Editor-in-Chief of Plan B magazine.
In his book, he writes: ‘Nirvana were a band, A fucking great live band that also benefited from judicious radio-friendly production and the fact that their lead singer had baby-blue eyes. All the other stuff is extraneous. Listen to the music. Listen to the music. Why do you feel the need to know more?’
Everett is great company, has passionate beliefs and a good sense of humour, doesn’t take himself seriously and looks back on his adventures with wry amusement and sadness. Everett True is not his real name. Enough already. Listen to the interview. Listen to the interview.
‘Nirvana: The True Story’ is published by Omnibus Press.
Wednesday, November 29. 2006
Recorded in a hotel coffee lounge, a few doors away from the BBC’s Broadcasting House, this interview was an assignment for the NME, conducted shortly after the publication in paperback of ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’, the third book in the Hitchhiker’s sequence.
It began: ‘Douglas Adams is a carbon-based bipedal life form, well over six foot and burly with it, with what are politely called generous features. He's 30 and looks 40.’
When the waiter came, Douglas ordered a large champagne cocktail. It was around 11am. He asked me what I was having and I decided it was wise to drink the same. I think we had three each during the interview; it may have been four. Douglas seemed in full control, except he began talking more intensely. I had problems focusing.
This interview captures many delightful sides of Douglas, whose legacy through ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’ continues to entrance, amuse and delight. He and it seem to have come from a simpler time. His integrity and inventiveness shines out of all his creations. He was very human.
''I suppose I'm a terrible worrier,' he told me, 'and by suggesting that underlying everyday events there are appalling explanations, that is my own way of attempting to justify that fact.'
Read the original NME article
Wednesday, November 29. 2006
Few films in recent times have attracted as much condemnation as ‘The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael’ a first feature by two 25-year-old South Coast filmmakers (Thomas Clay and Joseph Young). It is graphic, powerful, disturbing, lyrical, realistic and accomplished. Shot almost exclusively in the rundown coastal port of Newhaven in East Sussex, this is a crack-ridden street-level grand guignol drama of considerable power.
The official film synopsis reads: ‘Three teenage boys are drawn into a world of temptation and violence. Bored, troubled, excluded, unable to accept or even to recognise moral boundaries, the boys' actions move inexorably towards a shocking act that will horrify their sleepy community and expose its deepest, hidden fears.’
One of the few British films to be selected for Critics Week at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, it was been feted by Liberation, sold throughout Europe and Latin America (and recently released in the UK with an 18 certificate). The British press has demonised it as a sickening threat to public morals. Recently Pete Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian: ‘The combination of high arthouse ambition, uncertain acting and brutal violence left me with a nasty taste in the mouth.’
The condemnation centres on an extremely graphic rape scene (shades of ‘A Clockwork Orange’) which is very hard to watch and disturbing in its intensity.
I was the first journalist to see the film (on a widescreen TV in Joe’s front room) and recorded this interview straight afterwards. I was still shaken by what I had just seen. The press barrage had yet to come.
I felt at that time it was a brave film and an accomplishment for two young filmmakers to have pulled off. The film made me feel uneasy and made me question my own judgements and feelings. Have filmmakers got a right to show unacceptable things in the name of art to wake us up to the reality of our brutal world? Is this a work of exploitation or a shocking view of the nature our times, told by young filmmakers closer to the street than their critics will ever be.
We thought long and hard about whether to run this interview. It is recorded in a noisy pub, the conversation is often a bit scattered and the sound quality is variable. On balance though, we thought it was important to be able to hear what the filmmakers themselves have to say about it all. After all, you're unlikely to hear them on mainstream radio. Let us know what you think.
The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (U.K.)
Read some of the press criticism of the film around the time of the Cannes screening, together with my judgements made at the time. http://hqinfo.blogspot.com/2005/06/great-ecstasy-of-robert-carmichael.html
Monday, October 16. 2006
Chris was waiting for his 650pp uberbiography of Joe to come out when we talked – the result of some 3 1/2 years research and some 300 interviews. Chris had been a longtime buddy of Joe’s anyway, having met, interviewed and befriended him over many years. So the book, which the first flush of reviews suggest is a five-star job, is pierced by Chris’s love and respect for John Mellor, the real man behind the giant public persona of Joe Strummer.
What is great about Chris is his energy and humour which comes across so vividly in this interview and which makes him such a brilliant music journalist. Since his days at the punk and post-punk NME in the 1970s, he has written ‘copiously’ for mainstream papers and mags, published 14 books, including a major work on Bob Marley, and crafted the screenplay for ‘Third World Cop’, still one of the most successful films in the Caribbean ever.
He tells me: ‘”I’ve never known a band that cried as much as the Clash.” For this and a hundred other insights and revelations, sit back and enjoy the Strummer saga straight from the mouth of the man who knows.
Interview Part 2, MP3 Size: 13.4MB, Length: 29:23
Sunday, October 15. 2006
Ralph Steadman (pictured left in his Hunter S. Thompson outfit) is, without doubt, one of the greatest illustrators of our time. The style of his savage, splenetic, controversial work was developed during 10 years of working for Private Eye magazine in the UK before he left for America to meet his destiny – in the form of his first assignment with the legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson. Their marriage of talents established a gonzo monster which not only defined the times we lived in but also has been hugely influential in both journalism and graphics.
In addition, in a string of wonderful books, Steadman has re-imagined Alice in Wonderland, explored the lives of Sigmund Freud and Leonardo, toured the vineyards of the world for his award winning book ‘Untrodden Grapes’, and written his own novelised autobiography.
The subject of this interview is his brilliant new book ‘The Joke’s Over’ a touching, affectionate, honest memoir of his rollercoaster ride with Hunter S., who remarks, in the book’s introductory quote: ‘Don’t write Ralph. You’ll bring shame on your family.’ Happily Steadman has ignored his friends trenchant advice and given us a wonderful sense of the scary and hilarious adventures the gonzo duo experienced in their travels.
This interview was recorded in Steadman’s wonderful half-timbered studio at his house somewhere in Kent. The tape begins with Hunter S. Thompson’s last answerphone messages to Ralph, who played them from a small digital recorder into our mike. These are exclusive to The Generalist. The quality is not wonderful but we hope will give you enough of a feel of the man and his voice.
Interview Part 2, MP3 Size: 10.2MB, Length: 22:17 - CDN Link - Direct Link
Saturday, September 30. 2006
During the last 35 years I have been fortunate to meet a wide variety of extremely interesting people during my journalistic career whilst working for major newspapers and magazines. There is nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to sit down and talk at length with people whose work and life you respect and admire.
As the years have gone, the pile of tapes and latterly minidiscs have accumulated in cardboard boxes and for at least ten years I have been thinking about how it might be possible to make these interviews available in another form.
Fortunately, some fifteen years into the digital revolution, all the tools are now available to make this happen and it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the new companion audio site for THE GENERALIST which, for almost a year and a half, has been successfully reaching out to readers around the world with a special brand of alternative and underground news, facts, thoughts and information. Check it out here.
My aim is to make available, to begin with, two original interviews a month, alongside extraordinary archive tapes from way back when. The interviews will be run at full length where possible with a minimum of editing to allow for the laws of libel and to maintain the interest of the listeners.
These real-life tapes will take you into the centre of intimate conversations which sound totally unlike mainstream radio. We believe we are pioneering a whole new style and approach towards journalism on the net.
We hope it will encourage other journalists around the world to make their tapes accessible to a broader audience. Such tapes represent a huge archival resource of great value.
This site - most importantly – is to be free its users. In order to maintain the site in the long term, we are seeking advertisers and sponsors who can see the value in what we are doing.
We hope you enjoy the experience and that you’ll join is on this journey. Please let us know what you think and use word of mouse to alert friends and colleagues.
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The Generalist wishes to thank the following for their generous contributions:
Peter Mobbs (for Liberty)