This is an unusual one. I'm a great admirer of Colum McCann's writing and so was eager to seize an opportunity to speak to him about the challenges of creative writing. The only trouble: his publicist said it had to be done by email. No matter. The guy is understandably busy. So while what he did say was incredibly affirming and helpful, I ended up crafting an overly elaborate intro to balance out the pithiness.
I had the good fortune of interviewing Panti Bliss, an outspoken gay performer living with HIV, who has become an unlikely – but empowering – ambassador for a once-conservative country. You can read it here.
The new issue of Huck is a riposte to 2016. After everything that year threw at us, this is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for the realisation that nothing good ever came from inaction. We meet people who share our belief in agitation – from pioneers who never learned to bite their tongue, to renegades who believe that art can be a weapon. I spoke with filmmaker Ken Loach, punk icon John Lydon, documentarian Kirsten Johnson and music act Dirty Projectors. You can order a copy here.
Sometimes the only way to survive is to pack everything up and start over. But whether you’re drawn to the unknown or driven by a need to cut ties, life lessons have a way of catching up with you. Here I explore three stories of people who reinvented themselves by walking away.
I've just spent a couple of months putting together The Offline Issue at Huck. Following a year of shit-storms, from political upheaval to fake news, we've been digging into the real world. It's packed with stories of off-grid living, analogue values, in-person experience and personalities you can't find on Google. You can order a copy here.
At Huck, we've just published our fourth annual documentary photography special – bringing together some of the world's best visual storytellers to share what they do and why. The articles are short, the pictures are beautiful and, as someone who had the chance to speak with a lot of the photographers features, it's packed with insight from some brilliant minds. You will learn about life just flicking through this.
This story was a pretty unique one for me. It started with some striking photos emailed to me out of nowhere. The sparked my curiosity, gradually drawing me to the seaside town of Great Yarmouth where I spent time with an extraordinary character who has a unique take on life. You can read it here.
When photographer Lee Kirby stumbled across a vagabond in designer clothes, he found himself opening a pandora’s box that would change his life. But for Lee Trosclair, renegade-turned-muse, the story is just beginning. In a world that undervalues art, he’s kickstarting a cultural revolution from an unlikely place.
Royal Trux struck gold when a major label offered them a million dollars and full creative control. But as maverick outsiders, the band proved too eclectic for mainstream tastes. Now, 15 years after breaking up, they’re ready to admit that some journeys never end.
Huck's 10th anniversary special – The Independence Issue – marks a decade of celebrating cultural mavericks, pioneers and outliers. The pairing of original photography and in-depth reportage has been a joy to work on. It features the likes of Marc Maron, Bat for Lashes, a skateboarding punk band from South Africa, Doug Stanhope, DJ Shadow, Royal Trux, Dave Eggers, breakdancing and ballet in Palestine, Shepard Fairey, Cheryl Dunn, Ed Templeton, Steph Gilmore, Chino Moreno, voguing in NYC, Foster Huntington and lots more.
In February, I began a new job as deputy editor of Huck: a counter-culture magazine based in London. My first longform story for the print title was an in-depth look at the phenomenon of false flags... You can read it here.
In the search for reason in an age of terror, some believe that governments plot hoax tragedies to control us through fear. But is this just a way of imposing order on chaos, or do conspiracy theorists represent the enlightened few?
A highlight of 2015 that came late in the year: a chance to interview film composer Ennio Morricone. He was in London for the premiere of Quentin Tarantino's new film The Hateful Eight, which he scored, and that proved the perfect opportunity to delve into the Maestro's illustrious career. You can read the article here.
As soon as I began working on this article, the fact that teachers were reluctant to talk about their role in religious education suggested that there was a depth worth exploring here – a perspective we don't normally get to hear when this issue is being discussed. It turned out to be one of the most interesting – and controversial – assignments I've worked on lately. Many parents I know with children enrolled in denominational schools weren't even aware of how R.E. is applied in everyday tuition. You can read the article here.
Would you consider eating ice cream made from bees? Tortilla chips made from crickets? How about fly larvae sold in supermarkets? This feature for The Long + Short is about what might make the future of food both delicious and sustainable. It's a fascinating area that was a lot of fun to work on - and it has been paired with some wonderful illustrations. My words have never looked so good! You can read the article here.
Since the last update, some of the projects I've been working on include visiting Norway to cover Oslo's Oya Festival, researching and writing a 3,000-word feature on the future of food, speaking to notable personalities about their memories of returning to school (my favourite was comedian Al Porter), interviewing a stuntman, profile the new director general of Engineers Ireland, capturing what it's like to live with just 3% vision, talking to scientists about the significance of Science Week, charting the rise an Irish reggae label, raising awareness about sepsis, documenting the changing nature of Ireland's workforce and even reviewing Fleetwood Mac.
Can online reviews be trusted? And much how do they affect business? This is something I looked into for the Irish Times' Weekend Review. “Save yourself a trip,” reads one review of the Giant’s Causeway. “Visit your local builders’ yard and take a quick look at the nearest stack of blocks – job done.” Click here to read the article and here to read a round-up of delightfully odd reviews.
For this feature on John Doran and his memoir Jolly Lad, I spoke to the writer and editor about mental health, parenthood and addiction. It made for some insightful perspectives on navigating your way through life. You can read it here.
This is a piece for the Irish Times Health section's first-person slot, My Health Experience. It tells the story of my aunt, Ann O'Brien, who contracted a life-threatening lung disease after inhaling mould spores from a pillow while on holiday. You can read it here.
This is an in-depth piece I did about the diminished presence of religious staff in Irish schooling and how they're adapting in the 21st century. It was a difficult one to work on, since it's an issue not many people in Irish education wish to speak freely about on the record, but it made for some interesting discourse nonetheless. You can read it in the Irish Times here.
Much of the last two months were spent working on this feature for The Quietus: Keepin' It Dirty: A celebration of ODB's Return to the 36 Chambers. The idea was to do something that hadn't been done before.
It's a profile of the rapper as an artist, setting aside the controversies he's best known for, and features perspectives from those who knew him best as well as a reflection on a chance encounter I once had with the man himself.
Apart from being the longest article I've ever written (almost 4,500 words), it also proved to be one of the most challenging. Contacting various representatives for all nine surviving Wu-Tang Clan members became a daily test of patience and persistence. Given that the piece had no promotional slant, this involved many cold calls and unanswered emails.
Eventually I ended up with a cast comprising Wu members Raekwon and Cappadonna, Buddha Monk (ODB's close friend, who also mixed the album), producer 4th Disciple (who was present for much of the album's creation), Peanut Butter Wolf (head of Stones Throw Records), Ethan Ryman (who worked on the album as an engineer) as well as ODB's mother!
The response has been amazing. Hopefully this goes some way to challenging the myths and misconceptions that have surrounded Dirty since his death. I should add a sincere thanks to all those who facilitated the process and contributed to the end result.
Huck magazine has just launched its first book, Paddle Against the Flow, which is billed as "a bible of creative advice" compiled from 60 well-known artists. Two interviews that I did for the magazine - Kurt Vile and Don Letts - are drawn from. It's a nicely designed hardcover full of pithy quotes about creative breakthroughs and is published via Chronicle Books. You can read more about it and order a copy here.