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Pete Paphides Launches New Podcast
Laurie Tuffrey , January 13th, 2014 07:13

Long Player, set to feature in-depth interviews and anecdotes, will start with episode featuring Jimmy Webb next week

Next week, Pete Paphides, the excellent music writer and broadcaster, and radio producer Paul Noble will be launching a new podcast. Called Long Player, it's set to feature in-depth interviews with well-loved musicians, with an onus on them telling stories and anecdotes in between clips of some of their best tracks. The first of the podcast's hour-long, fortnightly episodes will feature Jimmy Webb (above), with Neil Finn, Clint Mansell and Paddy McAloon all confirmed for future editions, and will be available on January 20 via the Long Player website, Pete's own site Hidden Tracks and Mixcloud. Ahead of that, we asked Pete to give us an introduction to the show:

What's the idea behind Long Player?

Pete Paphides: Years ago, I used to do a weekly podcast for The Times, which was huge fun. I noticed that the artists seemed to enjoy them more than print and radio interviews. After a while, I realised why that might be. Print interviews aren't really a level playing field. I get to go off and write whatever I want about the encounter – and even though most journalists (myself included) try and put together a fair depiction of what happened, the artist has no way of knowing that will be the case. So in an audio interview, musicians tend to be more relaxed and there's more scope for the sort of conversation you might end up having down the pub. And because these were quite lengthy interviews, artists had more of a chance to talk about aspects of their career that didn't often get covered.

As a fan of an artist, it strikes me that you want to hear your favourite musicians go off the beaten track a little and talk about those album tracks that fans love but don't often make it into normal interviews. Doing promo can be frustrating for a lot of musicians these days. In his book Tunesmith, Jimmy Webb talks about an encounter with a local radio DJ in which the DJ read out an excerpt from one of his songs only to follow it by saying something like, "Be honest. That's nonsense, isn't it?" I find it a little bit heartbreaking that someone like Jimmy Webb would have to put up with a cynical bit of point-scoring from a DJ who doesn't have a clue who he is beyond 'Wichita Lineman' or 'MacArthur Park'.

And yet that's become the nature of modern promo these days. You have all these great artists with stories to tell, people like Smokey Robinson or Randy Newman – or, getting closer to home, someone like Paddy McAloon or Lloyd Cole – and a typical day of promo might comprise doing breakfast TV, This Morning and three brief radio interviews where you're constantly recapping who you are. And it seems like such a waste, given what you've achieved and what you have to impart.

So I'm hoping that Long Player will provide a format in which those artists can stretch out a little – and once it's uploaded, it'll be there forever, which also appeals to me. I also want these interviews to work as primers for people who have always wanted to get into the featured artists, but didn't know where to start. This was pretty much how I explained it all to Paul Noble, who I knew through his work producing Green Man Radio. He got it straight away. So this is really all a collaborative labour of love between us.

Are there are radio shows/podcasts past and present that inspired you?

PP: A few TV shows actually. What I had in my head was a slightly more informal, music-fan equivalent of John Freeman's Face To Face. I've also been enjoying Malcolm Gerrie Talks Music on Sky. But really, it's incredible how little this sort of thing has been done. I love Lauren Laverne's interviews on her 6 Music show and on The Culture Show, but I wish they lasted longer. There's an assumption that people are too restless to devote their attention to an interview of that length, but I guess we'll see.

You have Jimmy Webb, Neil Finn and Clint Mansell among the first guests - who else would you like to have featured on the podcast?

PP: Literally the first five people that Paul and I decided to approach all said yes. I have a huge, long wish-list. The first few artists featured are all pretty well known, but there are so many more artists who are perhaps not so well celebrated, but nonetheless have incredible stories to tell. Leading figures from the golden age of British library music such as Keith Mansfield and Alan Hawkshaw – these people aren't going to be around forever. Charles Blackwell, the bandleader and arranger who worked with pretty much every major musician in the 1960s. These people aren't going to be around forever. In the last couple of years alone, Terry Callier, Phil Everly, Gil Scott-Heron, Richie Havens have all died. Time is running out.

Linda Thompson is a scream and, once again, just has the best stories – so I would love to invite her onto the show. Same goes for John Renbourn, who we're going to interview in a few weeks' time, and I'm hugely excited about that. He really is a Zelig-like character in the history of folk-guitar. He has worked and performed with Bob Dylan, Jackson C. Frank, John Martyn, Anne Briggs, The Grateful Dead, David Bowie; the list just goes on and on. And his playing is as good as it's ever been, so I can't wait to have him on.

It would be good to get a few more visiting Americans. I mentioned Randy Newman and Smokey Robinson earlier, but also Little Richard, David Byrne, Debbie Harry, Peter Buck, Stephen Malkmus, Dionne Warwick. The list goes on and on. Pretty much any musician who has more than a decade of music making behind them is going to be fascinating company. When I was presenting Vinyl Revival for 6 Music, I tried to secure Robert Plant for the show, but it never came together, so I'll try once again to see if we might persuade him to do this. Also Jeff Lynne, Kate Bush, Ralf Hütter, Thom Yorke, Yoko Ono, Goldfrapp, Pet Shop Boys, Danny Thompson. The list goes on and on.

It would be amazing to do something with The Shadows – something that acknowledges their incalculable influence in the history of the electric guitar and pop in general, because that seems to get forgotten a little too easily. In terms of younger artists who could sustain that sort of interview, you could spend the whole day talking about music with The Horrors. I'd also jump at the chance of having Joanna Newsom on.

Every interview we've done for Long Player so far has thrown up unexpected moments. Neil Finn talked about the hallucinogen-inspired origins of one of his songs. Paddy McAloon picked up a guitar and started playing fragments of songs to illustrate the points he was making. Later he said that had we asked him to play something in advance, he would have dwelt on it and become increasingly anxious about it. It was only our not expecting him to do so that made him comfortable about the idea of doing it.

The Lloyd Cole interview turned out differently to what I expected. He's witheringly forthright about some of his peers. And Clint Mansell is just a joy to be with. I interviewed him for my fanzine when I was 17 and Pop Will Eat Itself had been going for less than a year, so it's been doubly amazing to watch him achieve things that his PWEI self didn't think he was capable of achieving.

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