DJ, film critic, comedian and TV presenter, Leeds lad Alex Zane is one of the rising stars in the media firmament. He talks to VQ about his life now and his memories of Leeds.
1.What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a new 6 part series of Rude Tube for Channel 4, we’ve found 300 brand new internet clips for it which include some amazing stuff, like a dog that can talk and a man attempting to eat the bhut jolokia, one of the hottest types of chili on the planet. Apart from that I’m busy doing stand-up.
2. What do you miss about Leeds and how often do you return?
I spent the first 19 years of my life in Leeds so whenever I come back, which is at least once a month, I have so many memories of great days and nights out. I miss being too young to get into pubs so spending my Friday nights drinking cheap cider in Roundhay Park.
3. How do you think Leeds has changed since you were a child?
Well, there wasn’t a Harvey Nichols when I was there and you could drive up the now pedestrianised Briggate. The area that is now The Calls with its swanky hotels and restaurants was, during my childhood, the go to place if you wanted to get mugged. Where The Fab Café now sits there used to be a pub called The Pig and Whistle, that used to be one of the best places to drink if you had long hair. But the BP garage on Roundhay Road where I used to work is still there.
4.You worked as a barman when there was an Indie Joze at the Victoria Quarter. Tell me more.
One of the greatest times in my life was working at that place. If you can imagine it, there was a time before the café/bar existed in Leeds, Indie Joze Coffee Shop changed that, it was the first of its kind. I’d go from school, where I’d been the only pupil out of around 2,000 to carry a briefcase, to being a barman at one of the coolest place’s in town - so I loved it. Kerry, the guy who owned it was so laid back, the atmosphere was wonderful. Girls who would have previously shouted “Don’t come near me Briefly Boy” we’re asking what I was doing later, it was amazing. It was a sad day when, having left Leeds, I returned to find it had been replaced by a Café Uno.
5. How do you think VQ has changed since you worked there?
It’s still the same, obviously when I was there I knew a lot of the people who worked in it, so it was that lovely experience of walking through what is the coolest shopping arcade in the city and being able to do that casual nod at all the familiar faces there. I felt like John Travolta at the start of Saturday night fever.
6. Who are your favourite fashion designers?
I love nice suits. A good suit is about the only thing I’ll spend money on without immediately feeling guilty. Vivienne Westwood would be my go to designer, or Dries Van Norten.
7. What items of clothing will you be buying for autumn/winter?
These are my favourite seasons, also, I like wearing layers. What will I be buying? I’m not sure, probably a nice coat and a tweed suit.
8. You’ve admitted in the past that you weren’t the coolest kid at school, so how does it feel to have a range of the coolest jobs on the planet?
Strange. When I did my stand up show in Edinburgh this year, it was odd how many people came up to me afterwards and questioned whether it was true that I had spent my teenage life playing Dungeons and Dragons, or bird watching with my Gran, or being the kid at school who everyday was given the same packed lunch of peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches, a block of cheese and a hardboiled egg by his mum. Everyone tried to swap bits of their packed lunch in school and I can tell you, it is impossible to swap a hardboiled egg. I used to envy people with Wotsits.
9. You were once in a band called Batmaus. Have you ever been tempted to try another bid for rock stardom?
As far as I’m aware, you still have to be able to either sing or play an instrument to be a rock star. I can do neither. After my first gig in Batmaus which was at a pub called The Crown in Boston Spa, I came off stage and my mum went “You’re like me, tone deaf”. I’m much better at doing jokes, something I learnt how to do from having to apologise between songs for how bad the band were.
10. You’ve worked with and interviewed some pretty impressive personalities. Do you have a favourite? Why?
Burt Reynolds, I grew up with Smokey and the Bandit being my favorite film. I met him once in LA doing an interview, that went well enough for him to say at the end “What’s your name, I’ll remember you?” to which I replied “Alex Zane”.
The following day I walked into a whiskey bar on Sunset Boulevard with my friend and Burt Reynolds was sitting in there. I turned to my friend and said, “I know Burt Reynolds” to which my friend said, “No you don’t”. In an attempt to prove myself right, I took my friend over to where Burt was sitting, said “Hi Burt, I interviewed you yesterday” to which Burt Reynolds replied “Oh yeah, Alan right, Alan Zone”.
11. Is there a dream interviewee on your list that you’ve yet to meet?
I’ve actually done everyone now. It was Johnny Depp, but I interviewed him at the premiere of Alice in Wonderland. No matter how cool I think I may look sometimes, standing next to him I felt like I was flashing back to that day at school where I had my briefcase in my hand and going “Mum, why, during winter, do you make me wear thick blue tights under my school trousers?”
12. As a film critic, you’re obviously a huge fan of film and have even appeared in a few. Have you ever been tempted to go down the acting root in a big way?
I wish I’d been the shark in Jaws. Aside from that, no.
13. What is your favourite film of all time?
Jaws. I watched it when I was five years old. I have not been in the sea since. I failed my 25 metre swimming exam because I thought a shark was in the pool and climbed out. I can’t have bubbles in the bath because I need to see the bottom in case a trapdoor opens and a shark swims in.
14. Which actor do you most admire?
15. How did it feel to be back on stage doing stand up at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?
Great. It was something I’ve been meaning to do for years, but I’d been too busy doing a breakfast radio show in London. If there’s one thing that doesn’t work with stand up it’s having to get up at 5am the following day. But after my two year stint doing that, I decided it was time to go back to where I started. My first Edinburgh was 1998, which was the same year as my very first gig, at The Dry Dock pub in Leeds. Lovely pub, terrible gig.
16. Would you fancy going back on the comedy circuit?
I am back. I did a show last night at a theatre in London. It was lovely, although this morning my head hurts and I can’t find my phone. I think I may have been a bit drunk. It’s difficult not to have a few after the show, although these days booze is everywhere. There’s an estate agent in London that actually has a bar in it, I think if there’s one time in your life you want to be sober it’s buying a house.
17. Do you have any future projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Just finished another series of Rude Tube, busy doing stand up so I’m ready for my upcoming tour.
18. Finally, how would you sum up your life at the moment?
My cat needs to go on a diet.