Week 11 : Interview (Chen&Lee)

The process

Subject:

As the interview project got introduced, I immediately thought of a person that would be ideal as my subject. Tyler Page, a fantastic artist, who has nothing short of a wild story. I met Tyler in Oakland, California this summer while traveling, and her charisma took my breath away from the first dialogue we engaged in. Her views about life were refreshingly different and I knew there had to be some story behind such a perspective outlook. Luckily for me, she happened to be coming to Shanghai only a few days after we discussed the project in class, and I knew I had to use this opportunity to channel my admiration for her character  in this medium. I also took into account that this interaction will be the second time of being with each other, which meant there was no ice to break anymore, and we could just dive into the story that amazed me so much. 

Preparation:

This stage of the process required my attention to detail to be extensive, as I wanted to create an environment, and prepare the setting in which Tyler would feel comfortable enough to open up. I began, of course, by renting the recording equipment: shotgun mic with muffler, tuscan recorder, batteries, headphones. Location wise, a balcony of our friend has the perfect atmosphere for this type of ‘vibe’: fairy lights, blankets and pillows on the floor, etc. Due to my above mentioned relationship with the interviewee, I chose to conduct a semi-structured interview. This meant I had large-scope topics in mind, as well as a few specific details that intrigued me in each, and I was going to let Tyler take the interview flow by her feelings. This tactic was possible only due to the fact that I have already interacted with her, and knew her strong sense of character – I wouldn’t have to ‘pull’ information out of her. The three large topics I wanted to touch base with were: background —> childhood, development of identity; creative outlets —> singing, photography, writing; values —> how they’ve changed over time, how they influence the present, and how they shape the ideas about future. My plan was to open with a general question introducing the topic, I had a preconceived idea of the extent of elaboration that I will receive from the initial cue, then listen for key details that are intriguing or lack context, and follow up with a few questions for expansion. As we met up in Shanghai, we took some time to see the city together with a group of people and then planned the interview time a few days after her arrival. The day of the interview, we all went out to the Bund and then had dinner before coming back on the balcony in the evening. I prepared snacks and drinks, as well as a pack of her favourite cigarettes — by this I hoped to be implying the length of the session as well as ‘chill vibes’ which would create a more conversational setting than an official interview (due to the topics I was interested in investigating).

Interview:

A group of us were all messing around inside the house, listening to music, enjoying the weekend, when I looked at Tyler and gave her a nod – it was time. I asked my friends to turn the music a few bars down, as Tyler and I went into the balcony space. The only unavoidable technical difficulty was the heating system which was connected to the outside through one of the balcony walls, which periodically turn on every 10 minutes of so, for a good minute of ‘drone’ – like noise. I actually placed a furniture piece in-between the AC and where we were sitting, propped the recorder and the mic onto it, and hoped it would at least block out the primal wavelengths of the noise and mic relation. We began just having a conversation while I was adjusted the tuscan settings, and testing the volumes. The full track contains about 5 minutes of small talk before I even ask my first question. I opened up the ‘official’ start of the interview by one of the techniques Leksa had shared with us in class: giving a brief purpose of what we were doing through a sense of a ‘compliment’/why I had chosen her in particular. The opening line followed something along the lines of “Ever since the first day I met you, back at the BART station, you stood out to me as such a unique character who channels their charisma of life so powerfully, you draw people in. Through this conversation, I want to unpack how you’ve reached this point in your life…” The recorded interview with Tyler alone reached about 35 minutes, when one of our friends visiting from New York City popped her head out in need of a cigarette break. I asked for about 10 more minutes as we were in the mists of an amazing conversation that boarder-lines a ‘sensitive topic’, but Tyler said it was okay and she did not mind. As we finished up the last few questions, and I said my thank yous, marking the ‘official’ end of the interview, the two of them continued the discussion further. As I held the tuscan ready to end the recording session, I decided to give it a minute before doing so as they started developing some very very interesting perspectives. I actually managed to get about another half our of our conversation, which developed from my last topic of values, to discussing how the influence of other people alter our reality, our perceived identity. When the conversation began to simmer down, and a few more people come out to the balcony, I asked Tyler to sing a few notes to the mic, which she was very happy to do. Post-interview all of us had a dissuasion of the importance of communication, and Tyler said at first she was just excited to talk about her life, but the atmosphere really made her reflect on the topics of discussion, and especially being in China at the time and thinking about these things made an impact on her perception of herself.

Editing:

This was the part I was most excited about. Sadly I had to chose one, of the three sections I approached, and cut that specific section into about a 5 minute segment. I listen to the whole recording twice. First just listening and writing the time on a sticky note (in minutes) of sections that peaked my interest, and then the second time actually begging to cut parts that were less significant out. This was now my raw material. I released the audience of my interview — the class, which meant that if I were to share some of the philosophical perspectives and analysis from the interview, there would be absolutely no context in understanding how such a young woman can speak so forward-thinking. Her background story was what drew my attention to conducting the interview with her in the first place, and with that I chose to represent her story as the main focus of the track. Also for contextual detailing, I decided to mimic a podcast style preview, where I narrated two parts “Here’s a quick glimpse of Tyler Page” right after the signing segment that opened the interview and before her initial words (actually I faded the first part of her voice, to overlap with my narration, as my phrase ended, the value of her voice increased), my opening line was also the begging of the fade-in of the ambiance music – which increased, and dropped base of a specific word cue from Tyler “she grabs the pliers and says *base drop* I’m pulling out my teeth”. At the end of the first section she giggled at the fact that my first question took about twenty minutes to answer, and she said “and that’s that *haha* I guess that was the answer *haha* to your first question”. I think that was a very intriguing transition, especially as I chose to make this a preview of a supposed podcast, to where a lot of overwhelming-at times information was shared, and then the audience hears that that was only the first question. I then say “Tune in. Monday at 8” to captivate the listeners, and want to come back to hear more. With my last phrase the ambiance music fades out, and another segment of her singing a note plays. I also chose to include some of the ambiance noise from the balcony itself, because as she finished singing we were all in awe and clapped which serves as a nice ending cue for the preview.

Some Evaluation:

When the project was first introduced, and Ann said we may not conduct it on people that were most familiar with at school, I honestly got a little taken back. Finding someone who I would feel comfortable enough talking with, and to make them feel comfortable enough with me sounded so bazaar at first, especially in the context of Shanghai where I am limited to a very small pool of international (which I would also be interested in talking with, and who spoke English well – as I’ve experienced the language barrier to be a very difficult task to edit on a track). As I began setting up the logistics, I began getting more and more excited. When I saw Tyler at first, I was already over the moon and just wanted to sit down and do it as I felt so prepared. I am very grateful for this assignment, because it did not feel like work at all, and I learnt so much both from Tyler and the editing process afterwords. I also gained confidence through this experience, like no other, and am very happy to share my final product. For self-critique: I do believe some of the transitions are a little bit jumpy in terms of the context, but this was unavoidable when compacting large amount of important information into a limited amount of time. I would say a 15-17 minute limit would allow me to give a short background (around 4-5 minutes – as done currently), some one-on-one diving into the arts (also around 5 minutes) and to conclude it with the conversation when the third person entered purely due to the concepts we were developing. 

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