Posts tagged ‘Roman Mars’

November 8, 2015

lying and truthing

Thanks to everybody who showed up for my Reddit AMA the other day! I’m doing a similar exercise on Product Hunt in tandem with Radiotopiboss Roman Mars, so concoct more questions to fling at us on 12th November, 6pm GMT, 1pm ET, 10am PT.

Podcasting has reached Radio 4! I was on the first episode of Miranda Sawyer’s new series In Pod We Trust, which, incidentally, was one of the rejected titles for what became Answer Me This.

The Radiotopia fundraiser is just over halfway, and the weekly Allusionists continue apace, if ‘apace’ means ‘slightly late and showing signs of mental and physical strain’. Last week, for ‘Criminallusionist’, Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer of Criminal stopped by to talk about the ethics of crime reporting, the effectiveness of polygraphs, and lies.

In contrast, the latest episode is all about honesty: Dave Nadelberg and Neil Katcher from Mortified visit to talk about keeping a diary. I’ve never really done it, because the thought of ever being confronted with written evidence of my own personality is too horrifying. But they almost made me wish I did.


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October 26, 2015

Radiotopia Forever!

Here are the minutes from the past couple of weeks in my realm*:

1. I was recently on the lovely BBC Radio 3 show The Verb. The theme of the episode was ‘backwards’, so I was talking about false etymology and reverse linguistic engineering. There was also wrestling, and those backwards satanic messages in songs. AND they gave me four kinds of cake and free books. It was a great day. Here’s the show on the BBC’s site, but you can also search for it as a podcast.

2. I’m currently in the midst of a spate of weekly Allusionists, each in collaboration with another Radiotopian. Hrishikesh Hirway from the wonderful Song Exploder and charming veteran songwriter Tony Hazzard joined me to talk about vocables – the non-word words in songs like ‘la’ and ‘doo’ and ‘zig-a-zig ah’. You can hear the special Song Explusionist here. The week before that, Roman Mars popped up to talk about his beloved eponyms, so James Ward (founder of the Boring Conference and author of Adventures in Stationery) appeared to talk about the eponymous pens Bic and Biro. Hear here. Three more Radiotopial episodes are in the pipeline. The Podcast Broadcast interviewed me about all this Radiotopianism, which is happening because…

3. It’s Radiotopia fundraising time! A year after the record-breaking Kickstarter that made it possible for me to start The Allusionist, we now need listeners to step in and support the collective long term, with small monthly donations. (One-off donations are also extremely welcome. Even £1 is very useful.)

I don’t want to repeat what I’ve written about the fundraiser here and also last year, during the Kickstarter – those points still stand, but I will update to add that my excitement then at the prospect of becoming a full-time podcaster has only increased now that I am one. This has been the best year of my professional life, and The Allusionist is the most demanding and creatively fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’d love to be able to carry on making it for as long as possible, so if you are able to chip in anything at radiotopia.fm or Paypal, I and the twelve other shows will be Very Grateful Indeed. And we’ll use your money very wisely. Promise. (Conceals order for platinum exoskeleton.)

Just one more thing: I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA this Thursday at 7pm UK time, 3pm ET, 12pm PT, middle of the night most other places. Please come along and ask me about Allusionist stuff, Answer Me This, or any old thing that’s on your mind. You know I live for it.

Here’s my AMA proof, as IF anyone would aim so low as to masquerade as me**:

HZ reddit proof

* which is slumped in front of a screenful of edit software for 12-15 hours per day, LIVING THE DREAM yes yes
** Seriously. Have some self-respect. At least go for someone who’s on telly.

February 9, 2015

Sound Women swansong

Sad times: I’m retiring from the Sound Women podcast. Here is my swansong episode, aptly about podcasting, in which I talk to Theresa Thorn of the very entertaining One Bad Mother, and my new Radiotopian overlord Roman Mars.

I admit, mixed messages ensue. We’re not lying when we say that podcasting is easy; it is not difficult to start podcasting, as the tech and financial outlay are both pretty manageable. (My beginners’ guide to podcasting is here, as proof.) The difficult thing is keeping a podcast going, and for me to be able to make The Allusionist and keep making Answer Me This, something had to give.

I met some fantastic people over the nearly two years of making Sound Women, whom you can hear on the episodes at soundcloud.com/soundwomen or on iTunes.

Recently I’ve really been enjoying meeting other podcasters, especially through the Support Group gatherings. I’m naturally quite a solitary, antisocial person, but podcasting can be such a lonely pursuit and it was so many years before I knew any other podcasters, that now I’m pathetically excited when I meet other podcasters: “Hey colleague! Let’s talk BUSINESS!!”

A few days ago I was tweeted by Australian podcaster and comedian Alice Fraser, who said she was in London for a few days. We sat in a cafe and chatted for her podcast Tea With Alice, and I’m very glad I hauled myself out of my editing-hole and went; she is a really fascinating person. I wish I’d been recording what she was talking about before she switched the mics on so you could hear it. Anyway, look/listen out for her.

Finally, here’s the latest Answer Me This, in which we learn about coconuts, Grumpy Cat’s finances and Femidoms:

January 29, 2015

Allusionist goes viral

In the latest Allusionist, I find out lots of interesting stuff about how BuzzFeed goads you into viewing and sharing stuff using only LINGUISTIC SORCERY. But never sarcasm or round numbers. Plus there’s a cameo from Roman Mars, complaining that we’re all misusing the word ‘viral’. Read more about the episode at theallusionist.org/viral, and hear it on iTunes/SoundCloud/RSS, or, if you can only be arsed to click once, not twice, right here:

October 26, 2014

branching out

Radiotopia backer

A new project of mine has been bubbling away in secret for quite a while, but I’m excited to be able to divulge it at last:

If Radiotopia succeed in raising $400,000 in their current Kickstarter campaign, in January 2015 I’ll be joining their network to make a new fortnightly podcast. It’ll be all about phrases and etymology and commonplace things we say without realising how weird those things actually are.

I’m cock-a-hoop about this: anyone who has listened to Answer Me This! will have sussed that I have endless enthusiasm for this subject, so I’m looking forward to being able to spend a lot more time indulging my interest. Finally, my degree in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English will come in handy! Which, when you do a degree in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, is not something you ever expect will happen.

I also have great admiration for what PRX and my friend Roman Mars of 99% Invisible are doing with Radiotopia: they are trying to change the way broadcasting is done. The stretch goal that my show is part of aims to correct the gender imbalance in podcasting, and you know from my Sound Women work and posts like this that I am very much in favour of that. In an ideal world, nobody would even have to make the point that they’re encouraging more shows made by women; but while podcasting, like almost all forms of media and entertainment, remains so dominated by straight white men, this is a positive start – and it’s only the beginning of their plans to diversify the field.

More broadly, Radiotopia is making it possible for independent audio creators to have complete control over what they make, whilst being able to afford to make it at all. Because while podcasting is cheap to start – recording equipment and hosting become less and less expensive as time goes on – the biggest cost is one’s time.

WHY? Making a podcast that is even halfway decent requires a hell of a lot of time and effort. If you’re listening to a podcast that you like, know that a huge amount of both went into making a podcast good enough for you to like.

For instance: each episode of Answer Me This! takes half a week to put together. When we were on a weekly schedule, that left me with slightly insufficient time to work on other things in order to earn enough to live – especially as I’m freelance, and a large chunk of a freelancer’s time gets pissed away on jockeying for paid jobs, leaving even less time in which to do actual work.

Even when my bank statements made me cry, Answer Me This! always felt worth doing, because the audience was and is growing, and continues to be so enthusiastic and encouraging. It took years for the show to make much money, and in the past couple of years the albums and Squarespace.com sponsorship have made a remarkable difference to AMT’s fortunes, but it’s still not enough to live off. Over the years I’ve had many ideas for new shows that will probably never be realised, because having been through it once before with AMT, I just couldn’t afford to spend the amount of time it takes to build up a new podcast from scratch again.

Until now!

If Radiotopia reach their Kickstarter goal, after nearly eight years of being a podcaster, they can fund my new show and I will be able to become a FULL TIME PODCASTER.

I absolutely love podcasting as a medium, both as a maker and a consumer: it’s so direct and intimate. It only involves the podcaster and the listener, with no layers in between of institutions or compliance. I can listen to material I’m interested in without a commissioner and scheduler having decided that I’m going to listen to it; and as a maker, I’m not at the mercy of those people either. I didn’t need somebody else’s permission to start making Answer Me This!; Olly and I did it because we could, then the listeners themselves confirmed that this was an OK thing to do. So few things would make me happier than for podcasting to be my main pursuit.

If you can afford to chip in to the Kickstarter, even $1 makes a difference; you’d not only be enabling me to make this new podcast which I think you’ll enjoy, but also you’d be bringing in The Heart and Criminal (one of my favourite new podcasts), AND you’d be supporting Radiotopia’s current roster of brilliant shows: Love+Radio, Theory of Everything, Radio Diaries, Strangers, Fugitive Waves, The Truth and, of course, 99% Invisible.

Also, you’d be preventing Roman Mars exploding from stress.

Click here to make all these wonderful things happen!

PS: I’ll still carry on making Answer Me This!. I plan to keep doing that show until all the questions in the world have been answered.

PPS: Earlier this year, I interviewed Roman for our Radio 4 documentary about podcasting, in which he outlined the principles that compelled him to start Radiotopia – as well as saying a lot of very interesting stuff about 99% Invisible and podcasts in general. You can stream or download the interview here (alongside interviews with several other great podcasters I spoke to) or here or right here:

August 12, 2014

Podcast Clinic: the Roman Invasion

From Skitch

The next Podcast Clinic is coming up – it’ll be 6-7.30pm on 3rd September at the Candid Cafe near Angel. Visiting dignitary Roman Mars will be there to share his podcasting wisdom, the quantity and quality of which is immense.

All details are on the Podcast Clinic page, which is where I’ll post information about future quarterly Podcast Clinics. So if you’re keen to come along sometime, check back there every so often.

At the first Podcast Clinic, I was very excited about the ideas that were kicked around; people came along with really interesting plans for podcasts, and I can’t wait to hear the results.

PS Here I am interviewing Roman earlier this year, for Podcasting: The First Ten Years on Radio 4:

PPS More interviews with marvellous podcasters.

PPPS If you’re really set on this podcasting malarkey, on 20th September the Guardian are running a podcasting masterclass. I’ll be talking, as will people with far more chops than me: Bugle producer Chris Skinner, Guardian podcast producer Jason Phipps, software developer Drew White and Radio 4’s Film Programme producer Craig Templeton Smith. Book tickets HERE.

May 9, 2014

podcasters on podcasting

It was an absolute joy interviewing so many great podcasters for Olly’s and my BBC Radio 4 documentary Podcasting: The First Ten Years. It was not such a joy having to cut down the many sage and inspiring things they said to tiny soundbites, because 56 minutes of airtime are very quickly filled. So here are full-length versions of several of the interviews I did, in case you are particularly interested in podcasters talking shop.

I’d get squirrelly if I didn’t sit down and talk to people once or twice a week. I would be accosting people in the street if I wasn’t doing the podcast.


I don’t mind telling you I was really quite intimidated to speak to Marc Maron. How do you interview someone who’s done nearly 500 highly-feted interviews on his own podcast? But he was very pleasant to me, and talked candidly and reflectively about podcasting turning around his career, how it can interfere with his relationships, recreating his own garage in a film studio, and stocking up on tea and biscuits for Iggy Pop.

I don’t want to hear about rimming in the airport at 8am.


We’d all agree with Dan Savage there. The eminent sex columnist and campaigner was writing Savage Love before Google existed, so he was effectively the search engine for all sexual problems and proclivities. The column branched out into a podcast, and Dan says: “I used to think of column as most important thing and the podcast was a side-gig, but now it’s the other way round: the podcast is much more important than the column.” Dan describes the intimacy of talking right into people’s ears while they go about their business, having to be a perfect child, and never being shocked by listeners “because I figure, if it exists, someone somewhere is effing it.”

A podcast is just a stretch of time with audio in it, and you can do whatever you want within that stretch of time; so I’d like to hear people doing whatever they want within that stretch of time.


Since it began less than two years ago, Welcome To Night Vale has been a phenomenal success, and when I spoke with its creators and writers, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, I understood why. They wanted to make a podcast that wasn’t like any other podcasts that they’d ever heard, because those already existed. Mission resoundly accomplished.

Fun fact: one of the Night Vale guys had never used Skype before we did this interview, so by forcing him to get it, I felt like one of the bad kids in the playground giving him his first cigarette. I hope I didn’t start him on a slippery slope to…I dunno, Snapchat?

Now, there are about five steps too many to get a podcast.


This was the third time I’ve interviewed Roman Mars and since we met at SXSW last year, we’ve also become real-life pals. I’d love for him to teach me everything he knows, but I suspect that’s what everyone wants from Roman. At least I can benefit from his wisdom dispensed here. He talks about the necessity of podcasters putting in the effort, his record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns having to justify spending time away from his family, the socialist principles behind the Radiotopia collective, and how 99% Invisible fans are willing to fund the show but NOT to hear Roman swear at the dead.

The whole plan was for me to support the family by being a lawyer and Jesse would make his adorable little public radio show and podcast and pay some of the bills that way. Instead now I work for the company and we’re trying to pay off my law school debt!


But thank goodness things did turn out that way for Theresa Thorn and her husband Jesse, otherwise the rest of us wouldn’t get to enjoy the fruits of the Thorns’ podcasting empire Maximum Fun. Theresa’s podcast One Bad Mother is absolutely charming, even if like me you’re not particularly interested in parenting; she tells me about oversharing, having babies to beget podcast material, and MaxFunFans bonding with each other in real life.

Did I expect to be in for an interesting ride? Yes. Am I amazed to be still on that ride? Yes.


I have a lot for which to be grateful/ungrateful to Ewan Spence, because without him I might never have become a podcaster at all. And then where would I be? (A: still working on my own in my living room most of the time.) Being interviewed by Ewan for a podcast way back in 2006 was what gave Olly the idea to start a podcast with me.
Ewan talks about how he came to be Scotland’s first podcaster, and subsequently the Edinburgh Fringe podcaster and THE Eurovision Song Contest podcaster – he’s out there backstage in Copenhagen right now!

Keith loves the fans so much, he married one!


Keith and the Girl have such hardcore fans, there are more than 130 KATG tattoos and counting – and even a few horrific-sounding (and looking) FLESH BRANDINGS. Frankly I’m relieved that Answer Me This! fans are comparatively restrained in their affections… I don’t know how Keith and Chemda manage to do a podcast DAILY – they even released an episode on the day their romantic relationship came to an end – but I’m glad they do: they’re very frank, funny and smart.

Podcasting became this opportunity to try something different, something new, see what worked.


I dragged Chris Skinner out of a post-knee-operation cloud of anaesthesia to talk about making some of Britain’s earliest podcasts, as well as The Game, the Dave Gorman podcast, and my brother’s podcast The Bugle. Speaking of which…

The internet is the 21st-century equivalent of shouting at traffic.


It was a bit weird interviewing my brother Andy, so naturally I asked him about the sibling rivalry that everybody assumes plagues us. He and his Bugle co-host John Oliver speak about relishing the complete creative freedom of podcasts, making each other laugh, and how Listeners paying for podcasts is “like higher rate taxation: voluntary, but if you’re feeling philanthropic you might want to do it.” Afterwards Andy said he and John had never actually talked to each other about most of the things I asked them about in the interview, so it was nice for him to find out why John wants to carry on doing the podcast even though he’s now Big Johnny Showbiz. (Apparently the contract for his new gig specifies that he is allowed to continue Bugling, you’ll be relieved to know.)

The whole playlist:

August 2, 2013

manifold noises

I’ve already done three podcasts this month, and it’s only 2nd August.

Episode 4 of the Sound Women podcast is out now at iTunes and SoundCloud and is bursting at the seams with interesting radio stuff.

To hash over the findings of the Women on Air report, which I posted about before, I gathered together a crack team: founder of Sound Women Maria Williams; Emma Barnett, Sunday Drive presenter on LBC and Women’s Editor at the Telegraph; and Tony Moorey, director of content at Absolute Radio. As the token man in the room, I hope Tony didn’t feel too picked on.

Ruth Barnes interviewed Caroline Barker about her career as a sports reporter on BBC 5 Live and the World Service, amongst other stations, and why Father Christmas compelled her to start her own production company.

I also spoke to Camilla Pia, playlister at BBC 6 Music. I’m always really interested to learn about what goes on behind the scenes in radio (and TV, and film, and myriad other industries), and as Camilla says, if she’s doing her job properly, the listener shouldn’t even be aware that her job exists.

Next: Matt Hill, producer of the Guardian’s Media Talk podcast, let me host a special edition of the show all about podcasting, wherein I interviewed my brother Andy! Which was weird. We don’t really talk about our podcasts much in Real Life. The show also featured producer of Hackney Podcast Francesca Panetta, Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown and Richard Herring producer Ben Walker, Maximum Fun founder Jesse Thorn, 99% Invisible‘s Roman Mars, and some guy called Olly Mann.

Also, I should have mentioned earlier our spot on BBC 5 Live’s Saturday Edition last weekend, as we discussed Caroline Criado-Perez’s resilience in the face of vicious Twitter abuse. I went off on one about why I think it’s unwise to dismiss terrible online behaviour just as trolling; to me, ‘troll’ is a term through which one can dehumanise behaviour which is very human, unfortunate as that is.

I don’t mean that to say, “Guys, trolls are human too! Protect the trolls and their rights!” I mean: abusive, insensitive, dangerous, calculatedly offensive behaviour online is performed by actual sentient human beings, who possess the same faculties as the rest of us, and I don’t think the problem will be rectified if one loses sight of that and hides their actions under a blanket term, especially this one which sounds so childish and daft. Anyway, if you’re interested, you can download the podcast of the 27th July episode here.

On a more cheerful note, there is Answer Me This! Episode 265, where we learn about the origins of Amazon, hamburgers and straitjackets, and also why you should keep your genitals clean. I really don’t know why there’s any question about that.

PS A post I wrote last week about why I don’t like sport.

PPS My husband did a TEDx talk, which I’d better remember to watch.