He's one of our favourite radio hosts (on CBC Radio's Q); he's an accomplished drummer (he was part of the band Moxy Früvous); he's routinely snapped at stylish parties; and he may or may not have been one of our very first crushes.
Now Jian Ghomeshi has added to his resume by releasing his very first book: '1982.'
The memoir -- a compilation of tales from his personal life with a focus on the year 1982 -- recounts Ghomeshi's days as a teen, trying to capture the heart of his first love (Wendy, the girl in the shoulder pads) and his first passion (New Wave music and David Bowie).
In preparation for the launch of the book -- which hit store shelves this week -- Ghomeshi sat down with us to chat about growing in the 80s, his sense of style and how social media has changed his, and our, lives.
Read the full interview below. And check out a slideshow of images from Ghomeshi's stylish book launch.
You’re a young guy… So a memoir, huh? How did the book ‘1982’ come about?
[Laughs.] Well, I definitely didn’t want to write a memoir in a traditional way. In fact, I had quite an aversion to that idea. So the idea of focusing on one year and one really pathetic experience of being 14, I was cool with that.
Tell me a bit about 1982 and what it means to you.
First of all, 1984 gets all of the attention. It has Orwell and Purple Rain by Prince; there’s a movie called 1984; there’s a Eurythmics song; you know, enough already about 1984.
Some heavy shit went down in 1982: Regan had just been shot; the commodore64 was just coming out; the first compact disc was made; ‘Thriller’ came out; so it was a very pivotal time in terms of culture changing. And one of the things that was happening was this new genre of music and fashion that was born on the fringes of New Wave, which was kind of a post-punk response to both disco and rock and mainstream commercial music. New Wave became my aspiration and obsession.
So what did this time period mean to you?
It was a very difficult time, not just because it was the 80s.
There are two things going on in the book. The reality, in my case, of being a fish out of water in grade 9, which a lot of people can relate to. And, in my case in particular, being a first-generation Persian-Canadian immigrant… Just trying to make all of that work and to be cool like Bowie.
And the other subtext of the book is the cultural differences between the 80s and now. Technologically, things have changed more profoundly in the past two decades than at any time in history. And the way it plays out in particular little ways: like, for example, now you can push a button and become friends with someone; in 1982, it was about summiting up the courage to ask somebody – Wendy, in my case – for their phone number (then there was the drama about having to call her house knowing her parents might answer and that you’re calling from your home where other people might be listening, too).
This shift has had profound implications for relationships, and that’s a big part of the book – how [technological change has] affected us interpersonally.
You know, it’s like going to buy an album in 1982. I talk about going to get the latest Rush album with a friend… It was a three-hour ordeal. And listening to the album, after the journey, was epic. That doesn’t happen today. [In the book I ask whether] our relationship to music is any different when someone has invested time into getting it than if they were to download it by pushing a button. It becomes perfunctory.
On the topic of relationships, how has social media changed what you do? How has it affected how you interact with your listeners?
One of the interesting things that’s come with the success of 'Q,' is I’m not just in radio, I’m in multi-platform journalism. It’s really weird because we have a top 10 podcast, we have a TV show, we have satellite radio and are broadcast in the states, we have a YouTube channel. The way people are consuming things is different. Categories don’t really exist anymore. The benefit is being able to reach a lot of people immediately and to almost develop a community in that way.
I do wonder about and think about the nature of relationships, as in my book. Like even if you are friends with someone – and your relationship is dominated by texting each other instead of seeing each other – how much are you losing; everything is less in-depth… It’s faster.
In the same way, with Twitter, I sometimes give an opinion and I often wish I had a paragraph to explain [the statement] because a Tweet is so open to misinterpretation. Even if it’s not, and it’s a direct point, it can miss some of the nuances you want to convey to your reader.
Speaking of your reader, you’ve built a really loyal social media following here in Canada. And now Q is on PRI, and it’s doing quite well. Are you going to let the Americans take you from us?
[Laughs.] It has come up. Every time I answer this question, my answer ends up sounding corny. But I really believe in Canada. I really want to be part of building the story here. That doesn’t mean I won’t do things in other places, but if I can have a gratifying career – and to feel like I’m making a difference – I’d rather stay here. The priorities for me are not fame or money – I like having things – but that’s not the priority. If I were doing something in the U.S. that didn’t feel as gratifying, I would be miserable; it wouldn’t matter how much money I was getting paid or how much recognition I was receiving.
I have to ask: are you sick of being asked about Billy Bob Thorton and that interview you two did for Q?
[Laughs.] Actually I don’t get asked so much anymore, so that’s good, but there was a while when I could tell how much research someone had done because if that was one of their first four questions, I’d be like, "really.”
Are you excited for season six of the show [Q]?
Absolutely! It’s been an interesting evolution. It was only really two or three years ago that we were trying to get as many big-name guests as we could, and we’ve built it to where it is now. Now we have a whole other problem and managing our own expectations. We can’t do everything. I can’t see every film at TIFF and interview everybody. It’s challenging, but it’s pretty cool that it’s doing so well.
I’m being told I have a minute left, so… Can I ask you four rapid-fire questions?
What’s your favourite food?
How would you define your style?
Why do you love Toronto?
Diversity; multi-racial diversity.
What’s your number one priority right now?
[Laughs.] Being less fat.
Wait. What? You are not fat. And aren’t you a really healthy eater? Don’t you work out a lot?