Episode 106: Louder Than Bombs with Ed Vulliamy
This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Ed Vulliamy, former reporter for The Guardian and The Observer. He is the author of Amexica: War Along the Borderline and The War is Dead, Long Live the War — Bosnia: The Reckoning. His latest book Louder Than Bombs — part memoir, part reportage — is a story of music from the front lines. In Louder Than Bombs, Vulliamy offers a testimony to his lifelong passion for music. Vulliamy’s reporting has taken him around the world to cover the Bosnian War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, the Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003, narco violence in Mexico, and more. All places where he confronted stories of violence, suffering, and injustice. Through it all, Vulliamy has turned to music not only as a reprieve but also as a means to understand and express the complicated emotions that follow. Describing the artists, songs, and concerts that most influenced him, in Louder Than Bombs Vulliamy unites the two largest threads of his life — music and war. Vulliamy’s book is a wildly exciting and informative journey that covers some of the most important musical milestones of the past fifty years, from Jimi Hendrix playing “Machine Gun” at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 to the Bataclan in Paris under siege in 2015. Vulliamy was present for many of these historic moments, and with him as our guide, we see them afresh through his unique perspective, along the way meeting musicians like B.B. King, Graham Nash, Patti Smith, Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel, and Bob Dylan. As Vulliamy discovers, when horror is unspeakable and when words seem to fail us, we can turn to music for expression and comfort, or for rage and pain. Poignant and sensitively told, Louder Than Bombs is an unforgettable record of a life bursting with music. In this episode host Michael Shields and Vulliamy converse upon the cathartic power of music while waxing poetically about the ways musicians channel and give birth music. They explore Vulliamy’s interactions with B.B. King and his experience seeing Jimi Hendrix mere days before his passing while recounting the importance of a band called The Plastic People of the Universe around the fall of the Berlin Wall, and ultimately celebrate Graham Nash’s aim to change the world through music, and so much more.
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