Friday, 21 January 2011

Internship notes: Jools Holland's loves and hates

I first encountered Jools Holland when I was a small child and therefore perceived him as a tall man dressed in black, outside Blackheath Conservertoire of Music, accompanied by a little boy who shared my sisters' drum teacher. Our paths would occasionally cross.

My dad would say: "That's Jools Holland."

This meant nothing to me at the time, but when I got older I became a devotee of Later With Jools Holland, recognising that a great pianist was introducing a wider variety of artists than those I'd seen on other music shows.

His set-up has a relatively intimate feel, which might be why Later has featured some of the most affecting televised performances I've ever seen.

Adele, for example

I'm not usually a fan of ballads, as they aren't very socially responsible. What if Adele's sobbing, lonely, pyjama-clad fans followed her example and loomed at the object of their heartbreak suddenly out of the darkness?

Why are you here
out of the blue, uninvited 
in your pyjamas 
in the night
outside my window 
with gin?

 I couldn't stay away
I couldn't fight it.
I thought you'd see my face
and that you'd be reminded
that for me, it isn't over.

What would happen next? Please try it and tell me. The internet needs to know.

Adele singing on Later is amazing, though, and makes me cry. If it doesn't move you, then your soul is gone, man. So gone, that it will create an anti-soul black hole and soon, you are going to turn inside out under the pressure and become an ethereal hoover, blasting noise out of one end and sucking the whole fabric of meaningful existence into the other.

Divas and crooners would no longer exist. Lovers would have to make do with DJ Otzi, circa 2002. Remember him?

[The Anti-Jools?]

What I'm basically saying is if Adele's voice leaves you cold, it's a serious matter and you need to get an exorcist. ’Nuff said?

My review of me interviewing Jools Holland

The conversation proceeded briskly. The words 'brisk' and 'proceed' and also 'hootenanny' capture Jools I think. His answers were off-kilter (I laughed a lot) and he speaks much, much faster than eighty words a minute, as I realised when I transcribed the interview.

He was effusive and witty discussing his Loves and noticeably uncomfortable when I got to the tail end of his 'Hates', insisting that he didn't hate anything really, so trying to come up with a fifth, unique thing that annoyed him was tricky.

Were there any places he didn't like?

No… in fact he likes most places, most objects, most animals, most kinds of clothing, all kinds of music and most experiences…

'Nose pokers,' he announced triumphantly. 'People who poke their noses into other people's business.'

'Can you be more specific?' I needed something that could be illustrated…

He ummed and ahhed. 'They know who they are.'

Did he mean journalists? I asked, being a total nose-poker at this juncture, so he narrowed it down.

I was most pleased to be recommended some music. I've since checked out the Unthanks Sisters and Imelda May and will leave you with Imelda appearing for the first time on his show:

Also, the finished article:

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Yay, Tim Minchin

If you don't know who Tim Minchin is, it's about time I introduced you:

This was my favourite phone interview as an intern at Seven, where we'd got Tim lined up for a 'perfect Sunday' piece to promote his DVD, his musical (Matilda at the RSC) and tour.

Since interviewing him, I've trawled dreamily through YouTube clips, watched two hours of 'Tim Minchin: Live' on New Year's Eve and despite my lack of fun-funds, considered buying a ticket to one of his shows, without really having been aware of him before. He was charming.

Here is an abridged version of my transcript, as a bonus feature for you lovely people, because the conversation was actually five pages long. I had a hand in editing most of my interviews, but not this one and there was a lot of good material that couldn't fit in the column.

(Only some of my words are there, in purple, as a street map to wordy wit)

Tim Minchin

(on family life, sexual fantasies, stargazing, and wicked soirées

It’s complicated when you’ve got children, because your ideal Sunday would involve waking up without them… But, assuming that it’s taken as given that I want my children in my life, my ideal Sunday would be to wake up late, and alone with my wife.

Although… probably…

People talk about their ideal Sundays in a very suburban way.

My ideal Sunday would probably begin with me waking up surrounded by beautiful naked women, but that’s not what people want to hear is it? We’re meant to lie about that stuff.

So it's going to be complicated. I want to wake up:
With beautiful women of every race, nationality and creed throughout history.
And: just my wife.
And: with my children.
And: not with my children.


Denmark, West Australia, is that really boring? ’Cos it’s my home. Well, it’s not my actual home, I come from Perth; but the next sort-of city from Perth of any size is about the distance to London from frickin’ Rome.

We happen to have a family home in Denmark, which is sort-of embedded Karri forest ocean-side, right on the bottom of West Australia. It’s beautiful, with the best beaches in the world. It’s full of hippies – Reiki healers and shit – but that's only in town. We have a Round Earth house, on ten acres of karri forest near this ridiculous, naturally protected bay with rock formations that stop the ocean coming in.

What would you have for breakfast?

Croissants and a glass of champagne. You have to start the drinking really early for it to be a good Sunday.

And, then what?

Go back to bed…

For how long?

For however long it takes to have sex with beautiful women of each nationality, race and creed throughout history. I reckon an hour?

(*Giggles*) Where would you go, with this horde of women?

Haha! We’d have a bus. No, we wouldn’t have a bus. We’d all have individual hovercrafts and I guess we’d go to the beach, but it’d be simultaneously sunny and shady so that the flies don’t come. If you could arrange that for me, that’d be good. I think it might cause some sort of terrible wormhole flux, but we should try it if we’re going to have a perfect Sunday.

I'll do my best to sort that out for you.

Thanks. My horde of women can go away now because it’s starting to sound a bit stressful. The trouble is, if you buy the Antarctic lady an ice cream, the Japanese lady would want an ice cream and then before you know it, everyone would want an ice cream.

We should dump the horde of women because that’s all so superficial. Maybe I’d start feeling guilty about all the women, and inadequate. So they’d have to go away on their hovercrafts, and then maybe I could just have my wife back again. That’d be good.

And, maybe my children could come for a visit and go away again – with somebody to carry my son, who’s so fat he can’t walk. That way I don’t have to have a sore back. They could bring him to me, and I could say: ‘hello, fat son'.

What would you do?

We'd go swimming. I’d be a really good swimmer, like a dolphin. Not like Ian Thorpe, like a dolphin. It’d be good if it was effortless so that you could go underwater for an hour.

We’d have a really long lunch, a basic Italian ploughmansy salad-based lunch, but it’s the wine that matters and I don’t know if it’s Pinot Grigio, but it’d be dry and summery… Maybe Rosé? Maybe both.

I like playing sports, so we could play volleyball. All the beautiful women could come back to play volleyball, in just enough clothes that it’s scintillating but not so few that it’s pornographic.

Then what?

Then bed.

How long for?

Two hours. I think.


To sleep. None of this perverted stuff you keep encouraging. Because, after all this morning booze, and swimming and volleyball, you’d be shattered… maybe just an hour and a half, because otherwise we’re not going to have time for whatever else we’re going to do.

What do you like doing in the evenings?

I don't know, performing live comedy in front of large crowds? It is quite fun, my job, although the trouble with my job is that I actually like doing it more than anything else. But it'd mean I was stressed for the whole day beforehand, so I don't want to do a gig.

I think, having my twelve best friends for dinner on a long table, starting at five with bubbles, and then…

That’s what I like best: dinner parties.

It should be a round table. I have a great frustration with dinner parties because people are always inclined to pair off, and that shits me. I like parties where it’s all-in and there’s a conversation that everyone’s contributing to.

Although… Some of the best parties in my life have been with about twenty people, in shearing sheds. Shearing shed parties.

I've never heard of one of those. What's a shearing shed?

A shearing shed’s where you shear sheep! My granddad had a farm in Chittering, which is near the Swan Valley in West Australia. He had this shearing shed that he and my dad built with their bare hands in the sixties – huge shed.

And, when the century clocked over, we had a party. All my friends had loads of gear and we had a huge PA and strings of party lights.

You walk about fifty metres out, away from the shed, out into the night, out into the darkness and you look back. There’s glowing lights and your friends are all there dancing on bales of wool…

You can see stars. If you come from the UK, especially London, stars like you would never have seen in your life. It’s ridiculous.


Yeah. They’re wicked. Your friends need to be close friends and you need to be isolated from urban areas. You need to put yourself out in space, because you want to get in that sort-of reflective, semi-morose at the passing of time, semi-elated by the passing of time, mood.

And I’m not a drug-taker myself, so, just a couple of beers and cool music that’s iconic.

What's your favourite band?

My favourite band? Well it’s complicated because I don’t listen to music, ever. I probably listen to ten hours of music in a year. I don't know why. That’s probably just a weird thing about people like me who spend eight hours a day writing music.

What kind of music would you have, then?

You need a gay DJ, otherwise it’s not going to work. I’ve just written a song called "If the Pope owned a disco", and it’s about how if the Pope owned a disco, no-one’d come to the Pope’s disco ’cos there wouldn’t be any gays to start the dancing. I don’t even know if that’s offensive, I can’t tell any more, I’ve stopped worrying. If I start offending the wrong people, please let me know. I think I’m offending the baddies. Am I?

Um, I think so?

Good. If I start offending the wrong people, let me know.

I'll give you a bell.

Haha yeah drop me a text: 'Tim… Tim… You’ve lost your way. Why that orphan song?'

I have got a song called In Defence of the Fence, it’s an anthem for ambivalence. It’s a little bit about outrage at the cat bin lady, and Russell Brand, and people dividing the world into black and white instead of having a considered viewpoint. I go pretty hard at Che Guevara and the Dalai Lama.

Where do you see yourself at this party? Do you like to be the centre of attention?

Nobody’s going to say yes to that question, because you sound like a fuck-head. I’m perfectly happy holding court if I’m in a funny mood, but I’m not often in a funny mood. I’d rather be listening to other people and laughing. I get plenty of attention at the moment if I’m honest.

Anything else?

I really believe in lighting. You should light every moment of your life, with discretion.

So yeah there would be cool lighting and, err, what else? Booze…

And, a bit of nude soccer. It’s good getting drunk and playing nude soccer in the night under a floodlight – not a very good floodlight.

I spent a lot of time getting nude in my youth. That’s something that doesn’t really happen so much in the UK. We had another party, in a different country setting on a different New Year’s, where we all ended up nude on a rock. It was like a scene from Hair, but slightly less twee… no it was about as twee. About the same twee.

Where was the rock?

Ha! The rock was in York, another Western Australian town named after a European place.

You could get fans going on pilgrimages.

To my parents? To the rock? See, I’m going to start sounding like landed gentry. My parents have a house in York, on a rock. It’s made of corrugated iron and glass. It's just like a shed, on a rock, but it’s fuckin' wicked. More stars. It’s about stars.

Coming from country Australia, having experiences in your youth of desert stars. You get pretty attached to that, as the source of a sense of self.

Is there anywhere you’d recommend?

For scouting for stars?


Everyone should drive across the Nullarbor Plain. You drive across the desert in Australia, from Perth to Adelaide, and stop on the Great Australian. Pull off the highway on the Nullarbor Plain, into a car park. It's just a car park, but there’s a sheer drop of a hundred metres or so into the southern ocean.

There’s no lights or electricity or anyone there. It feels a bit
murdery, which I don’t think happens as often as [indistinct] has you believe, but it’s pretty wicked.

You spend the night there, and get up when the sun comes up. It’d take two days to get there so we’d have to have more magic transport.

Would you end the day there?

I think a day, ending with friends, sitting outside under the stars with wine is good. It’s not quite as stupid or interesting as waking up with a menagerie of beautiful women but if we’re going to start sexist we might as well end sentimental eh.

Where would you go to bed?

If we could just be magically transported back to my London house because I just moved house four days ago and now I’m in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I really want to be back in my bed in my new house, so…

That’s boring. I’d like to go to bed in… I like… It’d be quite good to go to bed under a mosquito net in aforementioned outdoor setting. Have you ever slept on a beach?

No, I'd really like to.

Maybe we should go down to the beach and go to sleep there, but you’ve got to get it right. It’s a romantic idea but it’s just shit and sandy, so you’d want a sort of raised platform. Logistics always get in the way.

There’s a place called Woody Island off the south coast of Australia that the seals go to. They have quite a lot of eco, semi-camping experiences you can do, and lots in the dead centre of Australia as well, where you can stay in luxury tents: permanent tents on wooden platforms with mosquito nets.

It’s pretty cool. If you like the idea of camping but don’t like the logistics of camping – blow your money on one of those things.

So, I don’t know! Just stick me somewhere in bed, Alex. As long as I can wake up magically with no hangover and do it all again.

(*Nervous laugh*)

Did I pass?

Well, I thought that was brilliant.

Good. I hope you have fun writing that up.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Internship notes: Pam Ferris interview

I have just finished a three month internship at the Sunday Telegraph's Seven magazine, and am uploading my interviews here.

First up, Pam Ferris…

She stormed into my childhood as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, and I recall the mixture of glee and horror with which I watched her sniff out children and devour chocolates in their wrappers. A character actress, she told me she had been acting since she was fourteen when she was simply 'driven' to do it.

Pam was stonkingly direct. On answering the phone I'd suppressed a panic, because I hadn't been told to expect the call that day, but she seemed unruffled and waited while I flapped around for a dictaphone.

The 'loves and hates' interviews are often frivolous but Pam's was quite political. One hate that didn't make the final edit was 'organised religion'. She came across as a woman of conviction - her love for carers was founded in empathy, and struck a chord. What couldn't be conveyed on paper is how warm the timbre of her voice is, and how often she laughs.