GOSPEL ACCORDING TO…
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO… Blindboy
Who is Blindboy? A storyteller? A poet? A journalist? A historian? A musician? If you listen to The Blindboy Podcast, you’ll know that he’s all of the above and more. We caught up with podcasting’s most versatile man for Issue #016, to discuss his thoughtful approach, similarities between podcasting and professional wrestling and much more along the way…
PB: TELL US ALL ABOUT YOUR SHOW! WHAT’S YOUR PODCAST ELEVATOR PITCH?
Blindboy: My podcasts are monologue essays on whatever topic I’m genuinely passionate about at that moment. I’d consider them to be pieces of writing, because I approach a podcast like I would a piece of writing. I try to bring the structure, prose and storytelling of fiction, to subject matter that is factual.
WHY PODCASTING? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE FORMAT THAT APPEALS TO YOU?
I’ve worked for a decade as a writer and performer in TV. Because TV is quite a passive medium, you have to compromise creatively to grab the audiences attention. You’re competing with whatever app is on their phone, or the other channels on the TV. So, in a lot of cases, this means being louder, and brighter, and brasher. Unless the audience is absolutely there to watch your TV show. But in most cases, they’re not, you’re trying to reel in the uninitiated. As a creator, that’s minus craic, and it means creating a piece of work that you can’t fully stand over.
Podcasts aren’t passive. A person who’s listening to a podcast has made an active choice to listen to that podcast. They’ve created a space for themselves to be entertained . They’re less likely to be scrolling through an app. The experience of consuming a podcast, is a lot closer to reading a book.
As a creator, you now have room to be subtle, to take time, and to deliver a more thoughtful piece of work. I can make what I want to make, what I’d like to consume if I wasn’t me. Which is a pure privilege to do. That’s what I love about podcasting. It’s closer to a literary form.
WHAT‘S THE SECRET TO BEING A GOOD PODCAST HOST?
Be genuinely passionate. If you’re curious, and excited about what it is you’re chatting about, then your listener will experience that as entertaining and engaging. Be congruent and authentic. Let the words that you speak, match the emotions that you’re feeling in that moment.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A GREAT PODCAST GUEST?
For me personally, it’s when I’m talking to a person who’s curious and passionate about their area of interest. When I chat with a guest. I want to learn, in the moment, and to get excited about what they’re telling me. I could be speaking to a vet who drains the rectums of cocker spaniels. But if they love what they do, then I’m there, I want to learn. That’s my job, as a person who hosts the occasional chat on my podcast. And I think, as listeners, we love to hear that. Because podcasts operate using the mechanics of empathy. There’s a dramatic technique in professional wrestling called Kayfabe. It’s an unspoken contract, between the audience and the wrestler. Where we the audience are consciously aware that the wrestling match is fake, but we ignore that, and submit to the emotion and spectacle.
When we listen to a podcast, we do that too. We plant ourselves in the conversation. We’re not listening to two people we’ve never met on our earphones. We’re smack bang in the middle of a conversation with our friends. A good podcast feels genuinely social. It’s not passive. It’s active. We suspend disbelief in order to do this. We tell ourselves a little lie. Just like a professional wrestling match. It’s kayfabe.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK TO BEFORE YOU STARTED OUT AND GIVE YOURSELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I came quite late to podcasting. Late 2017. I really really wish, I started earlier. Back in 2010. The weekly process of putting out work, would have massively benefited my creativity in other areas. Creating a piece of work is very important to my sense of personal meaning and mental health. The discipline of creating something and delivering each week has been really beneficial to me on a personal level.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR WORST PODCAST MOMENT SO FAR?
Pretty obvious one, but I have a fucking corrupted flash drive full of amazing interviews that never got backed up. I’m hoping I can get some cunt to retrieve the files.
WHICH EPISODE OR EPISODES OF YOUR PODCAST MEAN THE MOST TO YOU?
I did three podcasts on the history of disco music and how it became post disco and eventually house/techno. I’m a musician and producer. I think about music for about 70% of my day. A drum sound, a synth line, a melody. I care about these little details very deeply. They fill me with joy and wonder. Music is symmetrical vibrations of air that make us feel emotions. So translating that complexity into words, is very cathartic for me. Those three podcasts allowed me to explore an area that I’m really excited about, and to create a space where I’m verbalising very intense feelings using storytelling and metaphor. It was immensely enjoyable to do that. And If I ever tried to speak about music like that in a twitter thread, It would read like I was a pure prick. It required the congruity of my voice and emotion to not sound like a gowl.
Another podcast episode that I have a special fondness for is called “Boscos Throat”. I recorded it live on a street corner in San Francisco, using a stereo microphone, so that it captured a sense of 3D space. The podcast is a monologue. It was my thoughts on San Francisco at that moment, mostly whispered and hidden so that no one would interrupt me. But people would pass, or sit beside me and chat to each other. I had the podcast written, I knew what I wanted to chat about and how. But being on a busy street corner introduced chaos into the process. Most of the time, that chaos would be un-listenable, but on this day, it worked. So the end result felt like a fully produced radio play, written in the moment, with characters dropping in and out. Pure Participatory art. Dogs barking, trams going from left to right, the rumble of trucks. I’m really happy with that piece of work.
WHICH PODCASTS DO YOU TAKE INSPIRATION FROM?
I’m not a huge podcast listener. I enjoy Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast the odd time. This American Life. The Irish History Podcast. Of course Distraction Pieces, which was one of the podcasts that made me want to podcast. I did a podcast before, about podcasts. It was called “Krapps Last Jape”. I explored the idea that the first ever podcast was a Samuel Beckett play from the 1950’s called Krapps Last Tape. It’s an absurdest piece, about a man who records himself talking every day of his life, and then listens to them back. At the time, this would have been batshit mad as a concept. But now, it’s simply about a fella with a podcast. But the work of Beckett is something I’d consider to be an inspiration when I podcast, in particular, when I try to create “the podcast hug” as I call it. He has a play called “Not I” from 1973, it’s just a mouth, talking. It strips down speech, and listening to its bare minimum. There’s an intimacy to it. Where the words are both for an audience, but also a bit of a private monologue at the same time. I think that had an influence on me. I’m hugely inspired by the work of Joe Frank too. He was an American Radio host, who read out absurdest short stories that were specifically suited to be being heard, rather than read.
Being Irish also, I can’t detach myself from the tradition of the Seanchaí . It’s a form of Oral storytelling, unique to Irish culture that informs the way in which we tell stories, whether we are aware of it or not.
FINALLY, WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE PODCASTS?
The last podcast I listened to was Our Thing by Sammy the Bull Gravano. He was John Gottis enforcer in the Mafia. He’s simply a great storyteller.
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