Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interview > Climb Talk Radio

Here's a question... what do John Long, Royal Robbins, Jim Bridwell, Lynn Hill, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham,  Josh Wharton and Alex Johnson all have in common, other than being super famous climbers? Read on and all will (hopefully be revealed)...

A while back Noodles was schmoozing around the interwebs looking for some climbing news and he stumbled upon a link to Climb Talk Radio on youtube.com. What he found was an interview with Ian Powell, you know Ian Powell; the guy who was in Rock & Ice a while back, you know the guy who started E-Grips and has just started a new company called Kilter.

What was super interesting was his interview took place with Clark Shelk, you know the guy who owns Pusher and Revolution; you know the guy who pretty much invented the modern crash pad as you know it!! 

So Ian and Clark on the radio, they're both known to be a little wild and will drop an f-bomb or two sitting infront of a camera being interviewed... how awesome was it? Pretty damn, here's a weee taster :)

Now, we contacted Climb Talk to interview them (an interesting turn of tables for them we're sure) and Dave McAllister was happy enough to drop us a reply to what we wanted to know... enjoy!!


1) Name and job?
Dave McAllister, Co-host ClimbTalk and freelance writer and day-time blue collar dude

2) We stumbled upon Climb Talk Radio... how long has it been going?
I wasn't around for it's inception, but I think we're at about five and a half years now.

3) Tell us a little about how this all started, obviously being in Boulder helps a bunch :)
Mike Brooks, a pretty legendary Boulder climber (he has his own page in the Eldo guidebook for his hundreds of bold first ascents, many free solo), kicked off the show over a half decade ago, after compiling a ton of audio interviews and doing a brief stint on Boulder community television with another co-host.  He's addicted to climbing media, just churns it out like a fiend.  I have no idea what drives him to never miss a show, never miss an event.  Anyway, he burned through a couple co-hosts, the tv show went under and he did a demo for the radio station, and a bit over three years ago he asked me on the show for an interview about my climbing overseas.  We'd known each other for years, and initially I ended up dropping by the shows to record, transcribe and post the suckers on my website.  Eventually I wound up behind the mic.

4) Boulder is full of climbers, how hard is it to get people to come and be on the show?
Obviously getting people like Clark on isn't hard, he probably didn't know where he was :)
Clark may not have known where he was, but that dude is as sharp as a filed tack.  He can definitely drop some industry knowledge that will put your head spinning. 

But, getting guests isn't all that easy, even considering our location.  Back when we were on twice a month, it was way easier with a two week prep time.  Now that we're on every Friday night, it's a stretch.  Although this country is full of amazing climbers and business folks and writers and photographers, they aren't the easiest people to wrangle in for an interview on a college radio station, despite the fact we have an iTunes feed and all of our shows are archived either there or on archive.org.  And it's the only streaming live climbing talk show...ever, I think.  But, people are busy, they're traveling or training or 17 pitches up a project in the Valley.  It's tough to put it all together on a weekly basis, especially when Mike and I have full-time jobs away from the show.

I think the crux of the issue is that Mike and I aren't the most promotion savvy guys.  We don't post a bunch of media all over the internet, we don't hunt for sponsors, we don't make fliers and tee shirts and stickers.  All of this, probably, to our own detriment.  Without that kind of push in today's podcast world, you're going to be cast by the wayside a bit, even though we've had the world's best climbers on numerous times, from interviews with John Long and Royal Robbins and Jim Bridwell and Lynn Hill to Daniel Woods and Dave Graham and Josh Wharton and Alex Johnson.  We've had most of the film guys and a ton of writers, heads of companies, Access Fund guys and gals and a lot of regular folks who bleed and sweat climbing.  But, again, mostly because we don't have time but also because we could give a shit about advertising ourselves, we haven't really cultivated the national audience that a lot of these interviews deserve, especially since they are live, unedited, and unscripted in any way.  I reckon if we did a better job promoting the show and getting it out into the national consciousness, our booking would become less of a crux...

In the end, though, it's a climbing talk show, and even the most random climbers have stories stacked in the back of their brains that would make the average non-climber go pale and shit himself.  When the clock is ticking to the eleventh hour and we don't have a guest, we could always pull some hippy climber out of the Boulder ped mall and ask him his opinion on the banning of marijuana on the World Cup circuit.  Bam.  Hour filled.

5) The format of the show is pretty loose and fancy free, is that on purpose or does it depend upon the guests that are on that evening?
That's actually a pretty good question.  I can't speak for Mike, but I prepare pretty relentlessly for every show, which makes me seem a bit of a cyber stalker to some of our guests.  In other words, I bring pre-written questions to the table.  However, this isn't Charlie Rose in his dark room with note cards and a guest uncomfortably fidgeting on the other side of a ginormous round table.  This is a show that happens in a basement studio in a college town with two climbing dudes manning a pirate ship, of sorts.  We don't try to steer the conversation through a predetermined outline.  Really, if it comes off as NOT an interview, we've done our job.  Speaking for myself again, I don't want to interview people, per se.  I want to have a conversation.  We spend time with every guest before the show in the "lounge," bullshitting and sussing out what lights them up.  We talk to them on the phone or via email before the show.  I've interviewed some of the guests in freelance gigs, so we already have a relationship.  So, hopefully, by the time the red light pops in the studio, we're comfortable and ready to just go into cruise control.  The best interviews are when I get to about 20% of my questions because we're falling down tangential rabbit holes.

Every time Arno Ilgner is on I don't even know what to do with myself.  His philosophies on climbing and mental preparedness fascinate me so much that I lose my mind in the interview and just lean into him with personal questions about where in the hell he cobbled all of this together.  I mean, would you rather hear Arno talking about how to fall correctly or how he fused the teachings of Don Juan from Carlos Castaneda together with Dan Millman's metaphysical take on physical performance and mental balance?  Like, Arno, did you eat peyote in the desert or not?

And Dave Graham.  Gimme a break.  You're wasting your time if you go into an interview with him with more than an entry question.  The dude will riff whether you want him to or not.  Best to embrace the riff.  I mean, really, his riff is probably gonna be better than mine anyway, so sit back and relax and find a way in when you can.

In the end, if it's not loose and freewheeling, it's not the show I want to do.  I think Mike would agree.  Athletes that give us canned answers make me want to scrape out my eyes with a shrimp fork.  Finding the way around those canned answers is the trick, and asking canned questions isn't the road to solving that trick.  A regular, real conversation is.

6) There's obviously you and your co-hort that host the show, you're never seen; are you that ugly or international men of mystery?
Amazingly, we are both incredibly hideous looking AND international men of mystery.

7) You're all climbers, any favorite areas to go climb? Yes we know you have world class bouldering on your doorstep
That's always a rough question, because the areas you're passionate about today are the areas you've dismissed ten years from now (sometimes).  I've been in a bouldering phase for a number of years now, although I came up trad and sport climbing, and I reckon my favorite areas in the States are Bishop and Joe's Valley.  I've been to Bishop every year for the last 12, Joe's about twice a year, and I love 'em ridiculously.  But, for my dollar, having climbed in India and Thailand and pretty much extensively in Asia, the most beautiful place I've ever climbed in is Rocky Mountain National Park.  The setting is friggin' stupefying; alpine lakes, snow covered peaks, deep conifer forests...you really can't beat it.

I mean, I live in Colorado, next to Utah, which is hours from Nevada and California.  I'm spoiled.  And I'm from Iowa, so in the end, it's all gravy.


8) If the weathers crap outside do you go inside? If so where and why?
I prefer the gym to outdoors!  The air conditioning and unsolicited beta and shirtless masses doing their best Sharma scream impressions!  Wait, no.  Yeah, I climb indoors for sure.  Colorado is great, but when it's 95 degrees out and you get off work at 5:00 and don't feel like driving to altitude, it's time to hit up the gym.  I actually live in Denver and commute to the show every Friday night, so my gym sessions are mostly spent in the Denver Bouldering Club.  Eight minutes from my house.  A lot closer than Mt. Evans in rush hour...

9) Anyone coming into the show soon that should be worth a listen?
Well, it's such a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants deal that I rarely know who is coming onto the show until Tuesday or Wednesday.  That's part of the promotional crux.  We recently did some shows with Alex Honnold (while he sat on a portaledge seven pitches up the Nose), a couple former Navy SEALs who have become first ascencsionist bad asses and Access Fund advocates, Layton Kor's climbing partners Steve "Crusher" Bartlett and Bob Culp, had Jason Kehl on last week, and this coming week with USA Climbing Team member and ABC Team coach Garrett Gregor...I seriously have no idea who will be on in the coming weeks.  It's a week by week hustle....

10) Swearing is off of the cards, are there any subjects that don't get talked about?
Oh, fuck yes.  Swearing definitely impacts the show, as folks have to dig down deep to not drop those F or S bombs.  Had we the forum to swear and go blue humor, it would definitely be a spicier show, but there is something to be said about restraint.  Pulling the reins back on language really does nothing to curb the humor and often you find it focuses the guests to hone in more on locution and being succinct.  After all these years, I can barely tell that we aren't allowed to swear.  Still, with all the "shits" that are dropped on the show (Christian Griffith, I'm talking about you)...if the FCC was actually listening we'd be off the air with a huge fine to tow.

To be fair, there's only one F bomb that has ever been dropped.  In my first year we were wrapping up the show with some phone-in interview, let him go, and were doing our outro.  Mike gave me the thumbs up, which I thought signaled that we were free from the air.  But, I noticed the needle on the board was still jumping when I was talking to Mike.

"Motherfucker, what's wrong with this mic!?" I shouted into my microphone.  Mike couldn't have looked any more pale had he just given birth to a fainting goat.

"Aaaaand," he said, "stay tuned for 'Blues till Dawn,'" flipping off our board and falling on his hands.  I haven't cursed once live since then...


11) Any funny stories that you want to relate about having the show?
That's an entire interview unto itself.  When you're doing live radio, shit going sideways is a way of life, not a silly exception you don't quite know how to deal with.  We've had guests bail at the last minute, leaving Mike and I to blather on about gym climbing for an hour.  We've had Chuck Fryberger turn our shows upside down until I thought both Mike and I would go insane.  John Long admitted to doing steroids on our show, for the first time. The co-host that preceded me fell asleep, drunk, his head resting against the foam mic, as Jason Kehl tried to tell a serious story about climbing overseas.  "Is he asleep?" Jason whispered to me.  I looked over and nudged him, pot smoke billowing from his arm, and said, "Yeah, he's tapped out..."  This same guy asked Royal Robbins "what the ledges were like and could he get a tent up there" during his FA assaults in the 60s in Yosemite.  We once had a counselor that said she specialized in climbing therapy show up, with a body guard, who turned out to be a sex therapist.  An hour of talking about why climbers have such soft dicks ensued, in hyperbole.  

12) How hard was it for Ian Powell to not swear when you had him on?
That dude is like a politician.  He didn't even come close to swearing!  Perhaps that had something to do with the piece of paper we presented him before the show, which said "NO CURSING" and which he held in his lap the entire hour, occasionally looking down at.  We liked him so much we had him on twice in three weeks, once with Clark and once with Matt Samet.  You asked about swearing earlier, which dovetails into talking about things that can't really be talked about outside of VERY late night radio and on satellite radio.  The deepest veins winding down into drugs and crime, irrevocable and bad decisions and all that.  Had we the opportunity to get down to the heart of the matter with Ian -- despite FCC constrictions -- those shows would have been ten times what they were.  He's got a fascinating story, and I'd love to interview him in my own time.  He's had a helluva rocky road, which he paved himself and entirely owns...  He's also paving his comeback trail, which I have no doubt will be filled with success.

13) How hard was the entire show to set up? Are you in an established studio somewhere or are you in a basement?
We actually work out of a fully functional radio studio on the campus of CU.  It's hot as shit, cramped, full of vinyl and CDs, and it's pretty much heaven.  We get a different time slot every semester, shifting time with college-aged DJs, who look at us like freaks.  Imagine that:  college DJs looking at us like freaks.  The dudes wearing Patagonia ball caps and La Sportiva Boulder shoes and that white dusty shit on their hands...we are the freaks in the studio, which is pretty amazing when considering those hipster college DJs which know more about the underground indie scene than Spin Magazine writers...


14) Any tips for anyone that's thinking about setting something like this up?
Do it.  Find a way.  Here's the thing:  who else is cataloguing these amazing voices in our climbing world?  Who is putting this down in perpetuity, on a weekly basis?  We've been interviewing famous and interesting climbers for over five years, recording and saving all of it, whether people are listening or not.  We do not get paid and we are not sponsored.  Mike and I do it entirely out of love for this sport that has changed our lives and shifted the entire paradigm of how we see the world.  I remember almost fainting when John Long said he dabbled with steroids shortly after he quit climbing professionally.  I've been brought to tears by climbers talking about surviving avalanches in the Himalaya.  I've laughed like a hyena listening to Kelly Cordes, dropped into an existential tailspin listening to Jim Bridwell, been amazed by talking to Honnold half way up the Captain -- on live radio, and boggled by Killian Fischhuber and Anna Stohr's stories of being sponsored by the Austrian military!

The rub is, there is room for more, and we want more.  There are other podcasts out there.  Hell, we had Chris Kalous from the Enormocast as a guest on our show!  He should be our rival, but that's not how it works, not in the climbing world.  We aren't mags fighting for ad space and the best writers.  We are all here to hear stories, a harbor so rich in our sport that it's ridiculous.  Go out and buy Podcasting for Dummies.  Interview your friends.  Like I said before, the most banal climbing stories would still blanche the face of a professional linebacker in the NFL. What we do, hyperbole aside, is truly life and death for the love of scaling a rock.  How ridiculous and awesome is that...

15) Where can people hear you?
radio1190.org every Friday night at 9:00 pm, streaming live.  We also have an iTunes podcast (which is currently under a little reconstruction).  You can also find us on Facebook.  And, if all else fails, www.archive.org searching ClimbTalk will bring you every episode we've ever done.  You can find me there for feedback anytime, as well.

14) Anyone you want to thank?
Mike Brooks, the man with the plan and the fella who kicked this all off.  Also, all those suckers who said "yes" and continue to say "yes" to all our interview requests.  And you, Jeremy, for giving us a bit of space to stretch those promo wings that we don't know how to use!

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