When I first moved to Melbourne seven years ago, I looked for signs that I’d done the right thing and seemed to find them everywhere. How the swoosh of the tram seemed to add a kind of sonic full stop to every moment, for instance. Or how you could take a wrong turn in the city and end up somewhere entirely unexpected. The fact that coming across Dumbo Feather, a magazine that publishes long-form interviews that tumble over lo-fi pages, was one of those signs meant that I was pretty excited when they commissioned me to interview Paul Allam ,the founder of Sydney’s much-loved Bourke Street Bakery, late last year. Here’s my recipe for striking interview magic.
- Do your research
There’s nothing more disrespectful to your subject than showing up to an interview cold. Spending some time really understanding your interviewee’s back-story is the surest route to asking the right questions.
- Use more than one recording device
Flat batteries, unruly technology, disappearing apps…I’ve learnt about interview heartbreak the hard way. These days, I record important interviews with my dictaphone and use the Audiomemos app on my Ipad for back-up.
- Jump on interesting segues
Sometimes, the off-the-cuff remarks and surprise asides are entry points to sparkling new angles. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper.
- Channel your best conversation
Forget about ego – the best interviews feel like generous exchanges, where the interviewer brings as much to the table as the subject. This doesn’t work in every circumstance but if you aim for this dynamic, you’re halfway there.
- Learn to love transcribing
Unlike most journalists, I really enjoy transcribing interviews. Sure, the process can feel laborious, but I’ve always felt that it’s important to handle the raw material of your story before it can properly take shape.