I've been doing interviews for a column in Global Rhythm which, until now, has consisted of folks answering the same questions every month - a standard format into which we slot one unlucky volunteer after another. I decided that was boring (and most of the people we asked to do it thought it sounded boring, apparently, because we got way more refusals than acceptances). So I decided to do two things: 1) broaden the scope beyond "world music people" and 2) tailor each month's questions to that month's subject. You know, like a real interview. Last week, I sat down for an hour with Ryuichi Sakamoto, and this morning I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Christopher Hitchens.
The conversation with Sakamoto was utterly fascinating. He's a smart, funny guy who's almost as hyper-productive as Bill Laswell (the first person I interviewed for the column since starting here) and who totally disregards the traditional division between high art and crass commercialism - he recently composed a ringtone for a cell-phone company, though I forget which one. We talked about globalism, whether technology and high-speed information transfer is good or bad for native cultures, and lots of other subjects.
Hitchens was just as interesting. I disagree with him on Iraq, but I told him in advance I wasn't going to bring that up. I wanted to interview Christopher Hitchens the world traveler and literary critic, and that's what I got. We talked religion (he's against it, for those who don't know, and is currently working on a book that will remind everyone who may have forgotten just how strongly against it he is), literature, and music (just a little). And he told me a very funny story about asking Suge Knight to pose for a picture with his (Hitchens') teenaged son.
Other folks I'm trying to track down: Gustavo Santaolalla, Chris Hedges, Ousmane Sembene, and William Vollmann. Sembene and Santaolalla seem the most likely at this point.