The Financial Times APRIL 17, 2017 - by Fiona Sturges


The actor and comedian talks to Brian Eno in the latest in a series of interviews

I'm rarely a fan of the long-form interview. I despair of podcast hosts who allow their subjects to prattle on with little heed to structure or the patience of the listener. But I make an exception for The Adam Buxton Podcast, a show that manages to make a virtue of long and meandering conversation.

Buxton is a British comedian and actor who used to co-host a programme on BBC Radio 6 Music. In late 2015 he turned his attention to podcasting and, since landing the Number 1 spot in the iTunes podcast chart, hasn't looked back. His easy conversational style and clear enthusiasm for his interviewees has led to fascinating exchanges with, among others, the newspaper columnist Caitlin Moran, the actress Kathy Burke, the documentary maker Louis Theroux and ex-Monty Python comic Michael Palin. Buxton is aware that warmth and, crucially, time are the key to getting people to open up.

After a three-month break, the podcast has returned and Buxton's latest interviewee is Brian Eno, the artist, thinker and former Roxy Music synth-wizard who famously left the band when he found his thoughts on stage drifting to his laundry. Here Eno's conversation is so wide-ranging, so packed with ideas that it has been stretched over two episodes. This would normally fill me with gloom, but listening to him expounding on the creative process, the pursuit of truth and the things that make him irritable (which include UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson and being interrupted), it's clear there is no surplus material here.

In his introduction Buxton tells us that before the interview he made some printed cards, a homage to the "oblique strategies" cards that Eno created with the artist Peter Schmidt in 1975. Each featured a gnomic pronouncement or instruction to be picked at random. But while the original cards were designed to help artists get out of a creative rut, Buxton's are made to oil the wheels of conversation - and they work beautifully. The phrase "accidental erasure" prompts Eno to reflect on what happens when creative plans go awry while "what is the point?" unfurls a set of ideas around the definition and function of art. "Art is everything you don't have to do," Eno explains. "That would include not just symphonies and Cézannes but cake decoration and earrings and funny ways of walking."

His theories and reflections are delivered with wryness and warmth, and it's to the credit of both Eno and Buxton that, over two episodes and a hundred minutes, one's concentration doesn't waver.

Alec Baldwin's Here's The Thing podcast on WNYC, in which the actor engages in forty-minute conversations with actors, musicians and other creative types, may sound a bit like a vanity project, but it's actually very good. Baldwin uses his industry connections and insider knowledge to score some big-name guests and speak to them with enormous empathy and directness.