This week’s TBS Ten profiles the prolific Andrew P Street, where we find out about his obsession with the Senate crossbench and why he regrets not getting into a fight with Lou Reed.
TBS: What do you think the key factor is in you ending up where you are today career wise?
Andrew P Street: Good fortune and helpful people. I never intended to be a professional writer – my career, such as it is, began when my then-band dropped a demo into one of Adelaide’s early 90s street press publications, dB Magazine.
That introduced me to their music editor Alex Wheaton, who knew I worked part-time at an indie record store that was hosting a show by UK cult legend Robyn Hitchcock and that I would therefore be going for free. I remember his exact words at the show being “You didn’t pay to get in, so write me a review.” A few years of regular contributions later and I was music editor myself. Despite that becoming my day job, I still figured music writing was a thing I did while I concentrated on my actual career in indie-rock, which was the only field contracting more rapidly than print media at the time. I know how to pick ‘em.
When my second roundly ignored band split up in the early 00s, I realised to my considerable surprise that I was actually a professional writer with an unexpectedly solid national reputation upon which I could bank. However, in my defence, I have a pretty consistent history of not noticing the screamingly obvious thing jumping up and down in front of me.
TBS: Who is do you consider the most intriguing recent celebrity/political figure to watch at the moment?
Andrew P Street: I’m obsessed with the entire Senate crossbench right now. I find them impossibly interesting, not least because they’re almost entirely a bunch of economic and social conservatives who are inexplicably blocking the government’s socially and economically conservative agenda. It’s basically a reality show, except that it’s worth watching.
TBS: What is the worst way for a person to try and get your attention?
Andrew P Street: Calling me a dick on Twitter. I don’t even engage with trolls: I just block ‘em and get on with my day. I will happily engage with criticism on Facebook, where it’s possible to have an actual conversation, but 140 characters is too little for any proper discourse, especially given my evident verbosity. It is, however, perfect for shouting abuse; the primary reason for which it’s used. That should be the slogan, actually.
“Twitter: Calling You A Fucken Leftard Since 2006.”
TBS: What is your most annoying habit?
Andrew P Street: I could really learn to shut up a bit more. I’m getting better at fighting the urge to get up on my soapbox in social situations, depending largely on how much I’ve had to drink, but it’s something I still have to watch. That being said, if someone wants to know about why we’re never going to encounter complex extra-terrestrial life, then I have what amounts to an uncommissioned lecture series to deliver on the subject.
TBS: What advice would you give a 15-year-old Andrew P Street?
Andrew P Street: All relationships end until you’re in one that doesn’t, and that’s genuinely OK. Being fairly smart doesn’t give you license to be a sanctimonious dick. Now is a great time to learn how to dress. The Cure are nowhere near as good as you currently think they are. You’ll learn all these things in the next decade or so, but you’ll save so much time and have a much happier 20s by getting on board with them now.
TBS: Tell us something NO-ONE knows about you… until now…
Andrew P Street: It’s a bit morbid and disproves the “fairly smart” thing I wrote above, but: overtaking my father was the biggest relief of my life.
He died when I was 14 and I’d worked out the exact day that I would have been on Earth longer than he had, which was a few months after my 40th birthday. And in the classic eldest-son way, I compared myself to him through most of my adulthood. A regular joke was that when Dad was my age he had two properties, a successful marriage, three children, a PhD and the cancer that was to kill him, and the last was the only one I had any realistic hope of matching. So when I finally got to that date with absolutely none of those things achieved, it felt like a weight lifting: “So, I’ve definitively failed to live up to Dad’s legacy. OK. Since I can’t erase that, I can now do whatever I want. It’s especially stupid considering that I know he’d have been chuffed to bits with this writing lark – he was an amazingly loving and supportive father and loved his kids to bits, exactly as our mum continues to do. It’s just that my brain is kind of an idiot.
TBS: What is your favourite pretentious word to say? Mine is dichotomy, in unrelated situations
Andrew P Street: I’m not sure how pretentious it is, but “municipal”. It’s such a perfectly-weighted word, and it evokes that olde-world sense of community ownership and responsibility. Just rolls off the tongue.
TBS: What is the one gift you pretty much always will re-gift?
Andrew P Street: Martin Amis’ “London Fields”, since it turns out that I currently own three copies for some reason. I’m not sure how I’ve accumulated this many. Same edition too. Weird
TBS: What is your favourite inspirational quote or person, as cliche as it may be?
Andrew P Street: “I never thought of myself as ‘depressed’ so much as ‘paralysed by hope.'” – Maria Bamford
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken
TBS: If there is one article you have read that you wish you could have claimed it as your own, what piece would it be?
Andrew P Street: The US music writer (and musician) Sylvie Simmons did a piece with the late Lou Reed for Mojo, which is the single greatest interview I’ve ever read. It reads like a tennis match. He was a notoriously combative interview subject and over the course of several hours of conversation he accuses her of not knowing her stuff, of knowing it too well and therefore having already made up her mind, of not being good at her job, of being too pushy, of being a coward… and Simmons deflects absolutely every volley back over the net with grace and style, forcing him to scramble to respond. He actually cries at one point, playing her some of his favourite jazz records. It’s a towering piece of prose.
I used to inflict it on my interns with “Now, THIS is how you handle an interview” and goddamn, I wish it was my work.
I never got to interview Reed myself (the one time I came close was when he was co-curating Vivid in Sydney, but he pulled out and I instead spoke with his wife/co-Vivid-curator, the insanely brilliant and unexpectedly hilarious Laurie Anderson, which was an utter pleasure), but I know full well I’d have done nowhere near as good a job.