Toby Litt is a writer of impressive breadth and daring. Over two decades as a published author Litt has spanned crime, romance and the down right weird in his novels and short stories. Famed for naming his novels in order, from A to Z, his writing is anything but predictable. As well as his acclaimed handiwork, Litt is a university lecturer in creative writing at Birbeck in London, has written comics, songs and even worked on an opera.
I first interviewed him ten years back in Sheffield, and it's a pleasure to renew our acquaintance with an intimate meeting among the books in his Birbeck office. As well as detailing the tracks he couldn't live without (it's a great mix!), Litt reveals how he narrowly escaped a baseball-bat beating as a teen, the influence of living above an antique shop and the secret to creative writing*. Stream it here, listen through the Acast app for an enhanced version or download the podcast through iTunes by typing 'Desert Isolation Discs'.
Time for a chuckle. Mark "MJ" Hibbett is one of the most unique, funny and intelligent figures on the British indie pop scene. The man knows how to write a tune and, what's more, get a crowd going. He's been making music since forming his first band on the way home from a school art trip in 1981 and, along with his troupe the Validators, has been gigging for years. His list of accolades include releasing the first ever internet single and getting loads of recognition from the likes of the BBC and Rolling Stone.
He's got a great new album out, Still Valid, and here we chat about that, gigging, footy, his ambitions to become a doctor (oh yes) and how he turns a room of people sceptical about him into a room who love him. Stream above, listen to it on Mixcloud here or you can download the podcast through the Acast app or by typical Desert Isolation Discs into iTunes. Please do subscribe.
Nick Helm is a man so rock'n'roll the discipline is not even big enough for him.
A fine musician - in fact his latest album, Nick Helm is Fucking Amazing is out this month - he's also made his name as a comedian and actor, providing heavy entertainment to the masses. His star has shone brightest in hit comedy Uncle, in which he plays a layabout musician trying to make it big and he discusses how nerves could've killed the whole show off.
Ahead of his All Killer Some Filler live show at the Kentish Town Forum in London, I quizzed him on the music he couldn't live without. A massive film buff, Nick tells of his love of Kevin Cosner and what his most dubious video shop rental was as we meet at the Pleasance Theatre. The podcast can be downloaded via iTunes or Acast (where it has loads of lovely photos to accompany it) by typing in Desert Isolation Discs, streamed above or on Mixcloud.
Whether it's tinkling the ivories or tapping the keyboard, James Heather is a master in his endeavours. By day, he promotes some of Britain's most innovative artists as head of communications at record label Ninja Tune. By night he works on his own fantastic compositions.
It's a pleasure to turn the spotlight around on the man who has spent the last 14 years bigging up the likes of Bonobo, Cinematic Orchestra, Kate Tempest, Wiley and Young Fathers to talk about his own life. We discuss the secret to promotion, the joys of touring, his football fever, being posted on lookout for the threat of Somali pirates and overcoming a life threatening accident. We also pontificate over his own music - originally inspired by listening to Beethoven under the bed covers. It can be found on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. The podcast can be downloaded via iTunes or Acast (where it has loads of lovely photos to accompany it) by typing in Desert Isolation Discs, streamed above or on Mixcloud.
Broadcaster Ruth Barnes is a certified selector. After a career spent largely in music radio – she knows how to pick a tracklist. With an all-female playlist on her Amazing Radio show The Other Woman and through work with everyone from BBC 6Music to Resonance FM, Ruth has adeptly curated choice cuts for years.
She’s achieved an absolute shedload – working as a continuity announcer for BBC One and Two, voicing long reads for the Guardian and Economist and creating documentaries for Radio 4. She’s also worked hard to further the cause of women in the male-dominated radio industry. The Independent described her as a "pop pioneer who knows what women want". Over a pint of Guinness, she talks women in radio, her most interesting interviewees and what she wants to do next. And all with a special guest – her daughter Roisin! Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Acast or stream it on Mixcloud.
As the frontman of caketronica starlets Yunioshi, Mr Rob Garner has toured everywhere from festivals in Canada and Iceland to local gigs when he's been living in Nottingham or London, where he's from.
A designer by day and an axe wielder by night, he's also played in other bands including Spaceships are Cool and the ridiculously weird Revenge of Calculon. I was very happy to host him on the podcast as his love of music has massively influenced me and his eclectic choices don't disappoint! Hear him talk schoolyard rapping and reveal something rather surprising about his nan's taste in music. (Extra bonus: Some rather special guests). Download the podcast or iTunes by typing in Desert Isolation Discs or stream it on Mixcloud here.
Alex welcomes Rob to the hi-tech home studio (inc dinner tray)
Gordon 'Mac' McNamee has played a crucial role in the way the UK has consumed soulful music - from reggae to house - over the last four decades. As founder of Kiss FM, he - along with the likes of Norman Jay, Trevor Nelson and Paul 'Trouble' Anderson - helped bring black music to London's rapidly evolving 80s club scene. He took the pirate station on to FM and continued to manage it when taken over by Emap. Now at the helm of new station Mi Soul - which has just landed on DAB radio - Mac retains the relentless passion and unique humour which trademarked his most triumphant years.
Whether it's playing out at the Margate Soul Weekend or getting behind the decks of Mastermind's sound system at Carnival, he's still got it. Here he talks me through his life - from hearing Valerie Singleton swear and the euphoric atmosphere at the pirate station to coping with managing creatives and bosses and his subsequent years away from the limelight. A true gent and a gleeful music fan, this is one to give a spin. Stream below or download and subscribe as a podcast here.