Transcribing interview tapes is, for most writers, an absolute pain. When an interview subject talks about themselves for an hour, they can easily say 8000 words. A standard length for a newspaper articles is only 1000 words, and of that most will consist of the writer’s own opinion and backstory about the subject. From an 8000 word transcription, maybe 300 of the subject’s words will ever be published. It makes the hours it takes to transcribe a tape even more unbearable. Once the best quotes have been cherry-picked, the original transcriptions are usually forgotten.
I have been thinking about the interviews I’ve conducted. Not the finished articles, which can be edited, or skewed towards a title’s editorial line, but the actual interviews themselves. I wanted to go back and hear again what these people had to say for themselves, in full. I thought these transcriptions could be interesting and perhaps, for someone in someway, useful.
The majority of the interviews I’ve done I will not revisit. But there are also many that I want to listen to again, and to post here in full. Most are on old microcassettes. My old dictaphone machine broke years ago. To listen to these again, I had to order one deadstock off Amazon. If I hadn’t, and wasn’t doing this, the tapes would have stayed in storage, untouched, and useless.
The tapes will be transcribed with precision, with spoken sentences half-finished and ideas coming out of nowhere to veer the conversation somewhere entirely new. If a sentence is cut off mid-way, I won’t add the words that would have been said, or punctuate it with a question mark or full stop. These would all be tidied up in a finished piece. I wanted to try and represent how speech happens.
I will only tidy up the words and sentences if they are impenetrable. I will respect whenever any subject has asked for something to be off the record (usually when that happens, I turn the tape off anyway). I will post transcriptions here occasionally, and may also do some fresh interviews with people I admire now, so that the transcriptions are a mix of old and new.