The best Q&As of 2013

Editor-in-Chief Tim Noakes selects his ten favourite Q&As of 2013

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Over the past twelve months we’ve interviewed musical icons and fashion futurists, tech visionaries and political firebrands, art provocateurs and literature legends. Witty, weird, insightful, heartbreaking, entertaining, inspiring – Dazed’s 2013 Q&A archive is all this and much more. The diversity of subjects has been staggering. From Sissel Tolaas dissecting the smell of fear and Brian Eno’s passion for avant-garde sound art and muscular women, to Paul Conroy’s horrific Syrian tales, a prison Skype session with Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina, and RuPaul’s forthright opinion on gender politics, here are ten of my standout Dazed encounters of the year. Let us know what your favourite interview has been, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, turn off the Queen's speech, feed your Mum’s soggy sprouts to the dog and sink your teeth into these instead. I wonder who we’ll be chatting to in 2014? 

BRIAN ENO: BODYBUILDING AND BRAZEN TUNES

Dazed Digital: You seem to be very confident in everything you do. Where does that come from?

Brian Eno: I trust my taste. I trust it completely and I always have done, and I've always thought it isn't that different from everybody else's. Sexually as well as anything else - I remember in the early 1980s when female bodybuilders first started appearing and there was one I really liked, Carla Dunlap. She was Ms Olympia or something like that. She was this amazing black woman, absolutely musclebound, beautiful. And I remember showing this to guys and them going 'eerrgh' (shudders dramatically). They were so horrified, I think because they thought they might like it, because she was so ambiguous sexually. You know, was she a man or a woman? And I thought, 'It won't be long...' (laughs) And now you can find millions of websites about muscular women. So I've always thought that the only difference between my tastes and everyone else's is that  I admit to them sooner.

DD: You're honest with your tastes?

Brian Eno: I'm honest with my tastes (laughs), and I don't feel uncomfortable liking something if others don't like it yet because I think they'll catch up.

DD: And if they don't, fuck it.

Brian Eno: Fuck it! (laughs

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BRIAN ENO: BODYBUILDING AND BRAZEN TUNES
Photography by Dan Wilton

SISSEL TOLAAS –THE NOSE THAT KNOWS

DD: When was the last time a smell overwhelmed you?

Sissel Tolaas: I’m overwhelmed all the time by the dimensions of smells. And because I have such a sensitive nose I smell combinations of smell which are incredible. The wind moves and what I smell is like a symphony of music. But there was one scent I engineered for Smell of World War I. Normally I look for the source, find the smell, copy and re-adapt its molecular components. But for World War I I didn’t have a source. I had references, narratives and descriptions from those who had lived through it, but even so it was very abstract. I didn’t know where I was heading. I just knew that I was trying to copy ‘something’; horse carcasses, mustard gas, earth, wounds, blood. I had to rely on extreme chemical components, and I built up a smellscape that was so disgusting that I ended up shocking myself and everyone else who smelled it.

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SISSEL TOLAAS: THE NOSE KNOWS
Photography by Peter Kaaden

EFFORTLESSLY COOL WRITER JAMES SALTER

DD: Young people write a lot more in their day-to-day lives than they would have done when you were growing up...

James Salter: Well, they have to, because they’re on the internet. They use ‘u’ for ‘you’ and all that stuff, but they are writing. And that is a language, even though it may be scorned. It is communication. And they’re sending messages. I would think the average young person, staying up with their friends, must type out maybe 30 messages a day, maybe 50. So there is a lot of variety. You never wrote 50 letters a day in the old days. You might write three letters in the morning or something. You know this geography better than I do, but whenever I’ve read anywhere publicly, it’s not just an old audience with nothing else to do – there seem to be a lot of young writers in the audience. There are always four or five that come up, and often with a message from other young writers, saying, ‘My friend so-and-so just loves your work, would you sign this for her ­– she’s in Florida.’ And they’ve all written books. I mean, it’s going somewhere.

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JAMES SALTER: EFFORTLESSLY COOL

JON RAFMAN'S SECOND LIFE ART

DD: 9-Eyes and Kool-Aid Man addressed the idea of landscapes. What do you like about that idea?

Jon Rafman: It comes down to seeing myself as an online explorer wandering an endless virtual expanse. I’m trying to draw a historical line with the great explorers of the age of discovery and the romantics’ connection to landscape. I believe in the romantic quest for truth and I value the connection to the world. But the experience of the sublime – being totally, truly connected with nature – seems lost. At least in these virtual online environments, in the way you’re trapped in the screen. You can’t go anywhere you want. On another level there is a sense of the infinite, because the internet is so massive it’s impossible to even conceive how vast it is. I have the same feeling when trying to conceive of all of Google Street View. Never before has anyone tried to capture the whole world from the street perspective. There is a vastness that points to the sublime. Second Life is a whole world that’s been constructed by users, and it’s constantly evolving and changing – even though there’s a melancholy because it never achieved the utopian or mainstream success it was striving for. In all these projects I’m asking whether contemporary man can experience that sublime in virtual or video-game environments.

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JON RAFMAN'S SECOND LIFE ART
Photography by Dan Wilton

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE

DD: In the past 20 years, how much do you think gender politics has changed?

RuPaul: It’s like a pendulum – it swings back and forth. When a culture is in lots of fear, like post-9/11, gender issues have to go underground because people feel very unnerved by them. Today there’s a feeling of openness but there’s still some shame involved, mostly with gay people. We like to say how open we are and how far we’ve come, but the truth is, we still have so much further to go in terms of real openness. There’s this feeling of trying to assimilate, and personally I have no interest in trying to assimilate into the status quo. It’s boring as fuck.

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INTERNET PIONEER ROBERT CAILLIAU 'S WORLD WIDE WEB

DD: What do you think of Ray Kurzweil’s theory of Singularity, the idea that the human mind will be surpassed by artificial intelligence? 

Robert Cailliau: There’s a whole lot brewing under the surface with artificial intelligence and nano-machinery. I think it’s a little over-optimistic, but there’s definitely something brewing. But would I install a chip in my brain so all the information of the internet was a thought–process away? I definitely want the service provided, but I don’t want it to be controlled in the way it is controlled now. If you could sell me the chip in which I could have instantaneous internet access without memory loss and all the rest of it, I would say, ‘Yes, but how can I trust the guy who sells it to me?’

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ROBERT CAILLIAU 'S WORLD WIDE WEB
Photography by George Gatsas

PUSSY RIOT INTERVIEWED IN PRISON

DD: You said that things were not understood correctly – how did you want to be understood?

I don’t want us to be perceived from a certain limited angle. I just want our message to come across clearly. I am talking especially about the creative side of the matter. 

DD: So what was your message? 

Our action was half creative, half political. A massive problem with this country is the absence of a sense of humour. Nobody found it funny, when in reality it was quite humorous. What is happening to us might seem very tragic, and it is of course, but it does not deny the fact that we tried to bring out the humour in the difficult situation our country is in, showing it in a funny and absurd light. Highlighting the actions of the elite but in an absurd way, to make them look at themselves in the mirror...But nobody saw it the same way as us. Instead, people thought that we were determined to offend – though I haven’t encountered a single offended person throughout my imprisonment. I can’t really talk to anyone outside of prison, but here no one has been offended. Some people here were strongly affected by propaganda, and even repeated, word-for-word, press statements including those by Putin about the offensive band title etc. It is amusing how effective propaganda is, actually. 

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PUSSY RIOT INTERVIEWED IN PRISON

TRI ANGLE RECORDS BOSS ROBIN CAROLAN

DD: Does Tri Angle have a different musical canon?

Robin Carolan: Totally. I said something like ‘Sugababes are more important to me than the Beatles’ on Twitter once, and I got completely hammered over it. People were horrified! But I wasn't trying to get a rise out of anyone. I grew up listening to Sugababes and their first album had a massive impact on me. The Beatles didn't. Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin didn't. They're just not relevant to me. I don't like the idea that a certain canon is forced upon a newer generation of artists.


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Rob Carolan
Robin Carolan Photography by Bibi Borthwick

WAR JOURNALIST TURNED CAMPAIGNER PAUL CONROY

DD: What do you think needs to happen in Syria?

Paul Conroy: There should have been a humanitarian intervention a long time ago. Two years is too long to just sit by and watch people die. We should have disabled Assad’s air force, then there’d be no more helicopters with barrels of TNT dropping them on bakeries. They fill a barrel full of high explosives, find a spot where people are queuing for bread and drop a barrel of TNT on civilians. Not one single finger has been raised to prevent a death in Syria at the hands of a mass murderer. Not only have they been bombed, shot at, raped, burned and pillaged, but if they do get out, they sit on the Turkish border freezing to death in –10˚C in the snow, with very little protection. The only real aid that’s getting in there is smaller private charities. We haven’t seen that huge international reaction like we have with other catastrophes and disasters – it just hasn’t happened.

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PAUL CONROY
Photography by Peter Kaaden

DESIGNER FOR THE NEW AGE IRIS VAN HERPEN

DD: What attracted you to 3D printing?

Iris Van Herpen: Working with handcrafted techniques or a sewing machine gives you a lot of possibilities but also a lot of restrictions. 3D printing is an entirely different language. The complexity and detailing of it almost resembles old historic crafts. It lets me think in total three-dimensionality, instead of first imagining something in 3D, then drawing it on paper in 2D and then creating it for the body in 3D again. For me, it’s a dream. Printer-wise, there are limitations in terms of size and flexibility, but I’m collaborating with two companies who have managed to create a flexible 3D printer. I’ll be showing some flexible 3D prints for spring/summer 2013 couture. It’s a really big step forward, because you suddenly have actual clothes. In the future, it might even fill the gap between haute couture and ready- to-wear. Everyone can have their body scans on their computer and order any clothes exactly in their size with one push of a button.

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Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen Photography by Jussi Puikkonen
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