Painting in silence is unnerving and I don't like it. I prefer the sound of life to accompany me which is not easy to do when you are stuck alone in a studio. Music doesn't really do it as the tempo and mood of the music can profoundly and unhelpfully effect the way I paint. Also it just, doesn't quite do it. So I listen to people talking. This is perhaps not surprising. Studies have shown the being a the company of other people, a coffee shop say, increases creativity and productivity.
My favourite thing to listen to is Test Match Special. That of course is not always on, so for those other occasions I reach for podcasts. I also listen to these on other occasions, travel etc. These are my favourites.
1. Uncanny Japan
I like my myths. I spent along time trying to find a good podcast about myths and eventually found Theresa Matsuura's Uncanny Japan.
Theresa is an American ex-pat living in Japan in a city whose name I keep forgetting on the coast of Japan. She has a lovely lilting soft lyrical voice which those of you with ASMR may find activating. Theresa is a horror writer of the dark mythic vein and these podcasts are the produce of her research. At least once a month she will treat you to a very well constructed 15 minutes or so about some aspect of Japanese Myth.
It is well produced there is always some ambient background noise to signal the season for you, crickets, frogs, cicada, the ocean, the sound of local festivals in the background, while her voice scampers through the particular myth. I discovered this a couple of months ago and am scampering through the back catalog, and have yet to catch up. I particularly like the episodes where she ties the myths into her own life and so my favourite episode so far is the Demon Gate. Check it out it's really good.
2. Adam Buxton
Ah, Lord Bucculese of Ramble Chat, otherwise known as Adam Buxton. Adam is a relatively well known British Comedian and is now a giant of the podcast world. He is at time of writing rapidly approaching 100 episodes.
So what do you get, you get around an hour, sometimes more, of rambley chat with usually one (sometimes but much more rarely two) guests. They are usually other Comedians but not always. There are film- makers, such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Garth Jennings, Gretta Gerwig and of course Joe Cornish with whom Adam was at school (as indeed he was with Louis Theroux). The course of the conversation is very much driven by the guest and the best ones are the ones in which Adam really chimes. He often gets much more personal and interesting thing than people give up in more formal interviews. I haven't listedn to the whole back catalogue, who has the time? My favourite so fart though as been his meeting with Aishling Bea.
Each episode is delightfully book-ended by waffly intros by Adam, as he walks his dog Rosie, who is very much a feature of the show. It is delightful and never fails to lift my spirits.
3. Have you heard George's Podcast?
This swept the board at the recent podcast awards and if you listen to it you will immediately hear whey. Have you heard George's Podcast is really really good. George is a poet from west London, from the area around Grenfell tower and that incident and the injustices that particularly the black community suffer feature predominately in the podcast. It is therefore not one for salving the sole, but one for serious listening and to move you and make you angry.
This is excellently produced, in glorious lyrical style. His voice and his passion carry you right into the podcast and the issues he is talking about. He's a smart and interesting man and I am glad that I have discovered him and his excellent podcast. I shall watch his career with interest.
4. We have ways of making you talk.
I have a strong interest in history (although rarely in podcast form), My father has an obsession with military history and inevitably some of this has been passed onto me. I was therefore intrigued with We have ways of making you talk when it appeared a couple of month ago and have been listening it to it ever since.
It consists of comedian Al Murray and historian James Holland talking about the second world war. It would be safe to say it is for those already interested in the second world war. A fair amount of previous knowledge is assumed and this and the nature of the subject matter means that this is not for everyone. It is however for me. They take an interesting take on the matter, looking at the unknown stories, examining artifacts and answering peoples questions.
It is done with an certain amount of humour but they are a knowledgeable pair and the chemistry between them is good. They have certainly taught me a few things. My favourite episode so far is this one, where to my great joy they answered my question about the Night Witches, with whom I have a minor obsession.
5 David Tennant does a Podcast with ....
David Tennant is very charming, and this charm is on display on his podcast, David Tennant does a Pocast with... It is similar in tone to the Adam Buxton podcast so if you like that chances are you will like this, although the style is more slick and professional. It is also much more focused on acting, the experience of acting and the effect of fame, except for one surprising episode with Gordon Brown.
There are some interesting snippets in this and by far my favourite one is the first one with Olivia Colman Tennant seems to get on with everyone and the warmth between him and his podcastees, particularly Colman (or Collie as he calls her, she calls him DT) is very touching. If you are interesting in acting and the process of acting and the experience of fame, this is one to check out. It is also just lovely.
It is currently on a break and and I am keenly awaiting its return.
6. Off Menu
One of my favourite radio programs is Kitchen Cabinet, and one of my favourite TV programs is MasterChef the Professionals I like hearing people talking about food in an interesting way and there a couple of podcast in this vein, the first of which is Off Menu.
The format is relatively simple, our two affable hosts, Ed Gamble and James Acaster getting their guests to construct their favourite meal. It can be very funny and often gives some very good food and restaurant tips. However some of the guests don't really work. Strangely iIchard Osman fell very flat, while the weirdly maternal flirtatiousness of Grace Dent made for what I think is my favourite episode. It is this inconsistency that means it is not higher up the list. It is also on a break for the moment but I will be listening again when it returns, and yes I already know what my meal would be, just waiting for the invitation.
This is difficult to describe this podcast other than to say it is about food. Lecker is the brainbaby of Lucy Dearlove and is about all aspects of food, eating it, cooking it, the emotional importance of food, how people made their way into a career in food and other related matters. Lecker by the way is German for delicious.
Dearlove is a professional audio producer and she tailors the production to the feel and emotional impact of each episode. Some of the episodes then it is her chatting to someone, in one notable episode she takes herself out of the frame altogether and you just have the voice of the subject. Each episode can be very different and Dearlove is a considerable talent.
8) A history of the World in 100 objects.
I remember hearing some of this when it was on radio 4 at the time , Neil MacGregor the then director of the British Museum takes us through the history of, well not quite the world, but certainly human en-habitation of the world in 100 objects. Each episode is about 15 minutes, and packed full of information. MacGregor is an engaging and knowledgeable host and each episode experts both historical and cultural comment on the object in question.
You wouldn't think that a radio show based around an object wouldn't work on the radio or podcast but it really does. You get evocative descriptions of the object itself, as well at its history but MacGregor deftly uses each object as a matrix through which to consider the world at the time.
I am working my way through to hear it all this time. I have just head about the HMS Beagle Chronology. It will be a bit sad when I reach the end.
9) Book off.
The premise of Book Off is a simple one. Two literary types, often authors (not always though, David Tennant was on it once) promoting a new book are introduced and chatted about a bit before then getting 3 minutes each to pitch a book they think everyone should read. The host, whose name temporary escapes me then decides the winner.
If you are in need, or want book recommendations then this is a good place to go, it has turned me onto a few interesting authors. Sometimes though, it can be a but dull, being very much at the mercy of the guests.
10) Houston. We have a Podcast.
Do you like science? Do you like space travel? Do you like hearing about the difficulties and challenges of space travel and how they are overcome? Then Houston, We have a Podcast is a podcast for you. Interesting and high powered people from Nasa come and talk about a number of things. This is a recent discovery for me and I am still working my way through the fascinating episodes on the International Space Station. It is fascinating stuff. I suspect this may rise up my rankings as I listen to more of it.
NASA have quite a few podcasts out there so if this is an area that interests you, they are somewhere to look.
Anyway this is my top ten, I do delve into others from time to time, but these are the ones I keep coming back to. I hope you found this interesting. Next week, we return to art.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.