Great radio interviews

May 18, 2011

I'm a big fan of radio, and one format I particularly enjoy is the long-form interview. Here are some of the interviews I've really enjoyed in recent months, available as podcasts or downloads, and some reasons why you might enjoy them too.

Philip Elmer-Dewitt interviewed by Dan Benjamin on The Pipeline

I'm a fan of Dan Benjamin's 5by5 radio network. I'm less keen on the wide ranging discussion-show formats but when he conducts one-on-one interviews with people he obviously respects his interviewing style really brings out the best in his guests.

Radio Daze

In this interview with Philip Elmer-Dewitt they discuss the long career of this prolific ex-Time writer. Elmer-Dewitt is remarkably self-effacing, but I was inspired by the tale of his transition from technical writer/programmer to eventually Science Editor of Time magazine. The day-to-day accounts of his working life and tales of the discipline he's cultivated are truly fascinating. There's a lot of wisdom in this interview!

Morrissey interviewed by Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs

The recently-launched Desert Island Discs archive website has made hundreds of interviews from the long-running Radio 4 show's archive available to "download and keep". Throwing in some of my favourite band's names into the search box led to this gem from 2009.

Kirsty Young asks pointed, revealing questions often as simple statements to be refuted ("You're not traditionally romantic") but Morrissey is more willing to engage than usual ("I think I am"). He talks freely about his childhood, the cult of celebrity, why four years of the Smiths over-shadows the rest of his career and along the way gets chance to play some great records from The Ramones, Iggy & The Stooges and The Velvet Underground.

Ian Mackaye interviewed by Jesse Thorn on the Sound of Young America

I'd not heard of this show before Dan Benjamin interviewed Jesse Thorn on The Pipeline. It appears to be very popular across the Atlantic, being syndicated widely via NPR. As I clicked through the back-catalogue of shows I came across this interview with Ian Mackaye, guitarist in one of my favourite bands, Fugazi, and head of Dischord records.

In the interview Mackaye talks more about his personal philosophy rather than the music - what it's like to run a business with principles, how it feels to inspire an entire youth movement and the passion he has for the Washington DC community. Mackaye is a great talker with conviction and experience; he rarely gives interviews so this was a real treat.

Carsten Dominik interviewed by Randal Schwartz on FLOSS Weekly

I'm not quite the regular listener I once was to FLOSS weekly. Randal Schwartz is a knowledgeable and competent interviewer, but he doesn't have the easy-on-the ears style of former co-host Leo Laport. I still tune in when the topic or guest looks interesting though, and did so for this interview with Carsten Dominik, creator of org-mode for Emacs. I spend a good portion of my working life inside the venerable old editor, and organise my thoughts and projects using org-mode.

Org is on the surface a simple, useful piece of software, as Dominik makes clear its inception was certainly a case of scratching a personal itch, but its the community that has driven the development of its vast array of other features. Listening to Dominik's passion and theories on community management in open source software was very motivating, and the fact that he developed the software alongside a busy scientific life must say something about the power of org-mode as a time management tool!

Peter Buffet interviewed by Stephen Dubner on Freakonomics Radio

It's difficult to find radio programming that is not scared of numbers or the statistics behind news stories. Stephen Dubner has made a career out of asking the kind of questions that others seldom do, or at the very least presenting the research that others are doing to his audience in a compelling way. He's recently started a radio show too, and some of the episodes are interesting interviews. In this episode he talks to Peter Buffet - composer, musician and youngest son of Warren Buffet.

As you can expect, the topic of his famous father is never far away, but it was the discussion about his early family life that I enjoyed, and the conviction Peter Buffet had to follow his own path. It was an enjoyable interview, Dubner let his guest speak without the clever verbal tricks of some of his other episodes.