Originally published in HISKIND Autumn ’17, out now.
Far more than Woman’s Hour’s most loyal fan-following, Will Young and Chris Sweeney’s Homo Sapiens podcast series is, undoubtedly, your new favourite listen for all the right reasons.
The brainchild of UK pop icon Young and acclaimed director Sweeney, this venture into the world of podcasting takes its inspiration from BBC Radio 4’s prestigious Woman’s Hour programme before adding a uniquely LGBTQ+ twist courtesy of your new favourite power-duo.
Following the format of a weekly conversational debate, each episode examines a diverse array of LGBTQ+ issues with the likes of journalist Owen Jones, beloved musician John Grant, trans actress Rebecca Root and Queer As Folk creator Russel T Davies joining as guests.
Equally as sharp and witty as it is casual and (understandably) necessary, Homo Sapiens owes its reception to the intelligent conversations and unique use for the ever-growing platform of podcasting.
Over much-needed caffeine in Dean Street’s Soho House, the two tell all on how the show came to be, queer art and the rise of podcasting as a platform for LGBTQ+ voices.
With such a unique concept behind Homo Sapiens, where did the original idea stem from?
Chris: We both listen to Woman’s Hour loads and, on the 70th anniversary show, they revealed that 40% of their listeners were men and how that effects the show’s content. Honestly, that made me laugh which got me thinking that no one really has a show like ours so why don’t we just do it? The concept means we can talk about anything we want to say with an LGBTQ+ perspective which makes it so easy to do.
Whilst podcasting is by no means new, the surge in popularity is undeniable…
Chris: Lots of people actually don’t know what they are or do. They’re unfamiliar with that oddly laid-out section of iTunes that homes the podcasts.
Will: It’s definitely a new territory which is why it’s so freeing. People find podcasts quite relaxing too, like an extension of an audiobook.
Chris: A lady told me that she watches reruns of Bullseye with the volume down whilst she listens to ours…
The rise in podcast popularity has allowed for a fresh, modernised way for the LGBTQ+ community to voice themselves in an alternative format. Is this something you noticed before creating your own series?
Will: A good aspect of modernisation is everything is more accessible and immediate with more space for everyone’s voice. LGBTQ+ exposure in mainstream media is often within a category, so you get your five minutes and then it moves on. More people want more time to be heard which they can do with a podcast and for the LGBTQ+ community, that’s really liberating. We can talk about whatever we want and it’s normalised within the context of our podcast.
Chris: Growing up, we only had the Littlewoods catalogue underwear section and that’s where you got your kicks from. There was really no other way of seeing hot guys in next to nothing and it’s something gay men of my generation understand. To me, these podcasts are an extension of that as it is common ground between LGBTQ+ people that doesn’t get discussed in mainstream media.
What were the criteria for the guests chosen?
Chris: Our own brief stated we wanted people who’d done something for the LGBTQ+ community as well as representing a current affairs issue. We wanted to talk to people that we knew we would want to listen to, a prime example being our mutual love for John Grant.
Will: In terms of gay men in the public eye, he’s totally unique. He’s so honest and authentic and not afraid to say anything as he knows himself so well.
Chris: Someone told us we should do an outtakes show, missing the point entirely. It’s scary sharing things about growing up LGBTQ+ and we acknowledge that with our guests. LGBTQ+ people are very used to sitting on a secret and that can potentially be carried through life.
In the first episode, you discuss how dancing with a male mannequin in the Let It Go video affected Will’s perception as an artist and, perhaps, his career. If the same video was given a present-day release, do you think it would receive the same reaction?
Will: I think the media perception of it would be the issue. People have told me that videos with two men are niche when it doesn’t even register with me. I thought it was interesting how people decide how something will be marketed based on the relationship of the two in the video. I recently watched a documentary on queer art, explaining how Coronation Street viewers had no idea that queer art was being broadcast into their living rooms as the guy who wrote it was gay and modelled a lot of the characters on drag queens. Now when I think of Annie Lennox and Bowie, I realise how powerful what they were doing actually was.
Who would be the ideal guest?
Will: I’d really love to interview Ru Paul. Is that too obvious?
Chris: He’s done a lot for America in terms of bringing attention to the LGBTQ+ community and alternative topics. I think that’d be a fascinating conversation. Oh, and Michelle Obama, obviously.
Listen to Season 1 of Homo Sapiens now at http://homosapienspodcast.com/