These days podcasts are another drop in the ocean, with new ones popping up all the time. So how does a podcast like Vantage Point Radio produce over 100 episodes with some of the heaviest hitting names in street art? TomAuto64 and James Bullough, the dynamic duo behind Vantage Point Radio, has crafted a loyal audience that has been tuning in for nearly six years. While the podcast landscape has changed at the hands of its rapid expansion, Vantage Point has kept pace. Its two co-hosts are professionals, and just like many of us reading this, wear many hats, juggling their laundry lists of creative goals. Still, their scope remains the same. Vantage Point connects street artists with the streets they represent, bridging the gap between what’s hanging in the galleries and the people who put them there. But no one ever opts to interview the interviewers. After asking so many questions and hearing others answer them, it’s time for these two podcast gurus to answer ours.
What began with a true passion and love for street art became one of the premier podcasts in Europe.
After a few days worth of WhatsApp voice messages and email threads, coordinating while James and Tom skipped continents like stones on a pond, we painted the base and watched the paint dry. What follows is a beautiful portrait of the Vantage Point Radio philosophy and the ceaseless work surrounding it. What began with a true passion and love for street art became one of the premier podcasts in Europe. We went ahead and summarized their answers into a comprehensive roadmap. In the end, we can all gaze from the Vantage Point that is their podcast. We get an inside look at how an audio medium successfully represents and translates a visual medium that resonates, empowers and informs artists across the world. Truly, as street artists around the world are compelled to paint on walls, so are Tom and James to capture that ethos with Vantage Point Radio. Bravo!
Can you talk about the name ‘Vantage Point Radio,’ and why you choose it?
James Bullough, co-host of Vantage Point Radio: The idea behind it was that Berlin is a focus point for urban art and culture, which gave us a ‘Vantage Point,’ so to speak, over what was happening in urban art in Europe.
His co-host who prefers his moniker TOM AUTO64, answers with the cleverness and wit customary on their podcast: “If we bothered to check online we would have found the other five or so Vantage Point podcasts out there, mostly to do Christian/religious backgrounds,[laughs]. Fortunately, I made sure we grabbed all the relevant web addresses and social media handles. Anyway, it means if you try and find us, just look for the one which doesn’t look like it’s a God podcast.”
“If we bothered to check online we would have found the other five or so Vantage Point podcasts out there, mostly to do Christian/religious backgrounds. Fortunately, I made sure we grabbed all the relevant web addresses and social media handles. Anyway, it means if you try and find us, just look for the one which doesn’t look like it’s a God podcast.” – TomAuto64
You have it written on your website, James, that each episode features an artist(s) in the post-graffiti/urban/contemporary art scene, bridging the gap between the artwork hanging on gallery walls and the artists that created them. Can you both talk about why and how there is a disconnect between the gallery and the artist? How does VPR help bridge that gap?
TomAuto64: That old chestnut: This text was written literally for the first intro of the first show and to be honest, neither of us have bothered rewriting it. I think the idea was something about getting in the minds of the artists or something. Also looking at the story behind some artists who might not necessarily have a public profile (graff writers etc). James wrote it though, so maybe best see what he says.
Jame Bullough: Before I was really painting myself and was just a fan of art. I obsessed over certain artists whose work I dug. There’s only so much info you can put into a magazine article or a video so I never felt like I knew anything about the artists behind the work I loved. From the very beginning, Vantage Point was an attempt to “bridge that gap.” We thought the long format and the music would allow our listeners to learn who the artist are, not just where they come from and the meaning behind their work, but what their personality is like, what their voice and accent sound like; if they were super serious or just kind of a goof, that kind of thing. To me this was all the stuff I couldn’t get anywhere else.
TomAuto64: That said, when we set out, neither of us expected to last more than ten episodes, so when we managed to line up an interview with Buff Monster on episode ten, we were kind of blown away by what we could do. Around the same time, we also partnered up with Urban Nation in Berlin, which had just been founded at the same time as we started, which meant all of a sudden there was a steady inflow of bigger names coming into Berlin we could potentially interview.
James Bullough: I think once we started interviewing guests and they not only had heard of us, but actually listened to the show regularly and they would quote episodes back to us, we realized we may have actually struck a chord.
Before I was really painting myself and was just a fan of art. I obsessed over certain artists whose work I dug. There’s only so much info you can put into a magazine article or a video so I never felt like I knew anything about the artists behind the work I loved. From the very beginning, Vantage Point was an attempt to “bridge that gap.” – James Bullough
If you had a message to tell someone who’s asking, “Why should I listen to Vantage Point Radio?” How would you answer them?
TomAuto64: It’s a tricky sell sometimes, we are using an audio medium to talk in-depth about a visual medium, but there is definitely an honesty and comfort you get from radio that you rarely get in a video interview. People get way more nervous on camera than on mic. Also, the long format interview of the podcast usually enables us to get past the ten minutes or so that most artists can comfortably talk about themselves. Once you get past those standard answers, you find people tend to open up. Beer also helps.
We get a lot of positive feedback from listeners and artists who listen to the show while they are working in their studios. You don’t have to watch you can just listen. I guess the message is if you want to hear what some of the biggest names in urban art have to say about their work while also having a couple of drinks, Vantage Point Radio is where is at.
James Bullough: I look at it like this… if you are into art of any kind you will dig the show and even if you’re not, you’ll probably still dig it. It’s a room full of creatives talking about their craft and telling interesting stories about their lives and their work and playing music that each artists selects to tell you more about who they are. We keep it relaxed but energetic and sometimes downright hilarious. There are a handful of other art podcast but I honestly feel that the vibe we’ve cultivated with Vantage Point is unlike any other show and keeps it fun and entertaining to listen to.
The long format interview of the podcast usually enables us to get past the ten minutes or so that most artists can comfortably talk about themselves. Once you get past those standard answers, you find people tend to open up. Beer also helps. – TomAuto64
You began VPR in 2014, since then you have produced over 100 episodes and featured some heavy hitters. Can you talk about what has gone into reaching that level of success? Would you call it a success, and if so, why?
TomAuto64: A lot of hustle, a lot of good luck and good timing. Also, when we started we were pretty much the only podcast covering mural and urban art. There were definitely some graff podcasts, but nothing specific to urban contemporary. Once we got a few bigger names under our belts, it meant when we approached people at other festivals or just cold emails, we had a bit of clout behind us and it all kind of snowballed from there. It was a mixture of a lot of hustling and persistent contacting people we wanted to sit down with, a few bold moves, and also James and his relentless harassing people when he was out painting at festivals meant that when they did finally come to Berlin, there was a bunch of the ground work sorted.
James Bullough: Dan Witz was a big one for me because he is an artist I have admired for so many years, and he’s such a huge inspiration to me as a studio artist. I learned a lot from talking to him for an hour. But some of our best and most entertaining interviews were with artists who have really big personalities like Ben Eine, Olek, Dave the Chimp, and Tristan Eaton to name a few. If I was recommending a specific episode for a new listener to check out, it would probably be one of those.
Can you describe each other as co-hosts?
James Bullough: Tom and I are like a married couple who have figured out what each others strengths and weaknesses are and have decided to let each person focus on what they do best. There is a lot of overlap, and we tend to make all decisions together but when you boil it down I’m a talker and Tom is a doer. He drives the ship, he makes sure the ship is gassed up and everything is working, he makes sure we’ve got everything we need on deck and all the passengers are ready for the ride. I supply the beer and sometimes the access to the destination and then hop on the loudspeaker and chat everyone’s ears off.
TomAuto64: James is a natural talker, sometimes too natural [laughs] and even though I have a background in radio and have absolutely no issue talking on mic, it tends to be the case he just gets on a roll and as a result, I am not so present in the interviews. This is partly through design and also circumstance. Given he is a mural painter, he has a bit more curiosity about technique and the business side of things. Also, James will make a few notes whereas I am much more relaxed about the interviews, but it means once he gets going it can be tricky to get a word in edgewise. That said, as I am the one doing all the post-interview editing and cleanup. Whenever he waffles too much, I may occasionally tighten it up a bit. He always jokes I make him sound intelligent; which isn’t true. I just make him coherent.
I don’t know, my role apart from co-hosting on the podcast is to handle all the production side of things, so apart from hearing James on the show, pretty much everything else behind the scenes is me, the editing, the website, the socials, all the stickers, t-shirts, sticker packs, so I guess I am in the shadows a bit. James is the razzle dazzle.
That said, it’s been a crazy ride thus far and having James there the whole time has been awesome. He can be a pain, but I’m sure I’m no walk in the park either, which is maybe why we haven’t killed each other yet.
Can you talk about what’s in the near future for VPR? Upcoming artists? Locations? Something you are particularly excited about?
TomAuto64: For the next few months at least we are still working through all the episodes we recorded at Artscape Festival in Sweden this year. We try not to announce too much who we have coming up, but a big one which I have been looking forward to is Frau Isa from the Weird, if only as I am trying to collect interviews with all of the Weird members and having Frau Isa means we are one step closer. Apart from that, just trying to hustle the next meet-up to get the next batch of shows. A few plans at the moment, but nothing concrete. Something will eventuate it always does. And if it doesn’t, we make it eventuate. But yep, more shows, more guests, more Vantage Point. If you are running a festival and want Vantage Point up in your biz, hit us up.
Want to thank anyone or plug anything? Now is the time 🙂
TomAuto64: First and foremost, got to give a huge shout to Mim Berlin. My wife puts up with so much bullshit with me and this podcast. The amount of time I have spent flying around the place while she is left home holding down the fort is uncountable. So, yep, big love there for sure. Also, shouts to the unstoppable Yasha Young for hooking us up with Urban Nation back in the day and allowing us to do what we have through that organization. Shout out to STOHEAD for gifting us the amazing Vantage Point logo we use and for making our shit look legit. Also shout out to 47 Brand hats for that huge box of Vantage Point hats you sent us when we reached out 100th episode, that was amazing. And of course to all our guests and listeners. Naturally, without your support we would not be here doing this… Damn, that felt like an Oscars speech. I’d like to thank the academy [laughs].
James Bullough: Yeah, thanks to all of our past guests and all the festivals and projects around the world who have invited us to come take part and interview the artists involved. And most of all the fans and devoted listeners, especially the ones who write us and come up to talk to us all the time and tell us that they love what we’re doing. It makes the whole thing worth doing.