Andrew P Street is an Adelaide-built, Sydney-based author, columnist, podcaster and editor. He’s responsible for The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott (2015) and The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat (2016), as well as the regular View from the Street column in the Sydney Morning Herald. His work has appeared internationally in the Guardian, Time Out, NME, Rolling Stone and anywhere else there are freelance dollars to absorb.
• How do you spend your days?
In a haze of disorganisation and barely contained panic.
• Why is writing important to you?
This is going to sound impossibly pretentious, but I’ve always been obsessed with language in general and writing in particular. It’s the closest thing to time travel and mind reading we’ve got.
• What drove you to focus on journalism & writing?
Was there a particular moment you can remember that led you to this field?
Pure accident. My band had dropped a demo into dB Magazine, a music’n’culture street press mag in Adelaide and I ended up getting to know their music editor; he ran into me at a Robyn Hitchcock gig held at a record store in which I occasionally worked and said the immortal sentence “you didn’t pay to get in, so write me a review.” I started contributing pieces and a few years later I was music editor.
Eventually it dawned on me that this writing lark wasn’t a sideline I was doing while waiting for my band to take of but was what I laughingly refer to as my career.
• What drives you professionally?
Caffeine, panic and deadlines. And the admittedly optimistic hope that what I write will help solidify a reader’s own thoughts, and that I’m not just screaming impotently into an endless black void.
• In your opinion what are the three biggest problems facing the developed and developing world?
That corporations have moved faster than governments in determining the parameters of policy; That poverty has been reframed in the west as being a moral failing, not a consequence of economic systems, and that the developing world are somehow responsible for their own situation.
That the larger industrialised countries are using poor regions as a proxy war for their own geopolitical ambitions.
• If you hadn’t become a journalist what would you have done?
I fell into journalism while I was trying and failing at other things, so I assume I’d still be trying to be an astrophysicist indie rock star. In Adelaide, which is not a town notoriously rich in indie rock/astrophysics opportunities.
• What led us to this moment in history?
I’d love to put a pithy answer like “unfettered greed”, but I think it’s probably something more messy like the growing realisation that staggeringly enormous global problems - climate change, displacement of populations, global inequality - are far too complex to be solved by individual governments with terms of three to five years, but are definitely able to be used as wedges for local political gain. The hardening of “left” and “right” into weird, inconsistent dogmas hasn’t helped either.
Seriously, how do right wing governments reconcile the idea that poverty is an individual’s problem, but their sexuality or fertility is something in which the state has a right to intervene?
• What are the lessons we failed to learn during and since the 2008 crisis?
Don’t let a single section of the economy get so powerful that it can act with impunity, secure in the certainty that they’ll never be held responsible for their predatory, irresponsible actions.
• Can you list some ‘Baby Steps’ out of the current economic mess?
In Australia we obviously need to roll back the use of housing as a legal tax haven. It’s political kryptonite because there’ll be losers from that, but there are losers from doing nothing - and at the moment those losers are less electorally valuable.
• If you were a global President what would your first three pieces of policy be?
Universal education, universal healthcare including access to safe abortion, rapid reduction in use of fossil fuels. That’s after getting Guided By Voices to play my inauguration, obviously.
• Tell us something you have been wrong about?
See my earlier answer about being an astrophysicist indie rock star.
• You are stuck in a ski lift for twenty four hours - you can have one person (living or dead) with you who will it be?
My late father. He would be amazed with the way things have turned out in the last three decades, it’d be nice to let him know what I’ve been up to since last we spoke. Also, he was a tall, strong man with an engineering background so he’d quite possibly be able to rig something up with the ski lift, or at the very least be a marvellously warm man to hug.
• Name the book that changed you….
You know my earlier answer about hoping that my writing helps galvanise reader’s own thoughts? I had a lot of ideas about politics and economics which hadn’t really coalesced into a proper worldview until I read Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘God Bless You Mr Rosewater’, which articulated them so elegantly and clearly. The entire thing is basically a humanist manifesto, but his proposed speech to newborns still kills me. I recited it to my son when he turned up: “There’s only one rule I know of, babies: God damn it, you’ve got to be kind”.
• What would you do differently if you were to start all over again?
Oh god, pretty much everything. I like where I am now, but I took a stupidly inefficient path to get here. Then again, I’d not have met my wife or had my son without travelling this way, so I take that all back.
• Give our readers, members and subscribers a piece of advice that has served you well…
God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
• Anything you would like to plug? Now is your chance.
I write a lot, which I push shamelessly on Facebook and Twitter. And hey, why not subscribe to The Double Disillusionists podcast with myself and Dom Knight? Who’s it going to hurt?