In these troubling times of fake news and attacks on freedom of the press, journalism is more important than ever.
So when we had the opportunity to interview some YouTubers at this year’s Summer in the City, we felt it was our democratic responsibility to ask them some big, challenging questions. Questions they had never been asked before. Questions like “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever stepped in?”, and “When was the last time you got a dead arm?”.
We’ll be posting these conversations over the next few weeks, and we’re starting with Riyadh Khalaf – who of course is famous for his YouTube channel, the BBC Three documentary series Queer Britain, and Radio 1’s Unexpected Fluids podcast. But we decided to completely ignore all that and instead talk about whale breeding, old trees, and early-noughties popstar Samantha Mumba.
We’ve already cleared a spot on our shelf for the inevitable Pulitzer Prize.
Hi Riyadh. What did your teachers say about you at parents’ evenings?
RIYADH: “‘Riyadh needs to stop talking.’ ‘Riyadh needs to stop talking about sex.’ And it wasn’t that I was talking about my own sex, because I was having none of that – it was that I was just interested in, like, animal breeding? I used to ask my Irish teacher about how whales reproduce and stuff like that. I was that kid that wouldn’t stop talking. Can you tell? Yeah.”
Have you ever fallen in a hole?
RIYADH: “I’ve fallen into an emotional hole before – I’ve been depressed and anxious in the past. I know that this is meant to be a really funny interview! But yeah, a physical hole? I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve tripped up plenty of times, and I’ve stepped in things that I wish I wouldn’t have stepped in, like dog shit.”
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever stepped in?
RIYADH: “Dog shit. But like, really runny diarrhoea dog shit. Like, chunky and watery. Got right into the cracks.”
When was the last time you used a kitchen utensil in an unorthodox way?
RIYADH: “This morning. My morning routine is that I make a pint of hot lemon water, matcha tea, turmeric, and psyllium husk, because I’ve got IBS, and if I don’t take that then I can’t shit. But in order to get all the chunks out of the container that I make it in, I have to use… I don’t know what it’s called. One of those long soup ones? With the holes? Is that a colander? So I had to scoop all the gunk out.”
Tell us something unusual about your family.
RIYADH: “See, for me, my family – everything that they do is just crazy. It’s the oversharing in my family that’s a problem – us talking about how our sex was the night before… And when my mum is telling me about that, I know she’s talking about my father, not just some random dude, so it’s like, [gulps]. Or vice versa – them asking me questions about my sex life, or if I’ve taken drugs. But not in a kind of ‘You shouldn’t do drugs’ way, just a ‘What was that like?’ kind of way.”
If the human race ran out of conventional food, but discovered a way of transforming YouTube content into edible pellets and had to eat them in order to survive, what would your channel taste like and how nutritious would it be?
RIYADH: “What a fucking question that is! Is someone here on acid? Shit. How nutritious would it be and what would it taste like?! Okay, it would be one of those foods where you eat it, enjoy it, but at the same time, it’s really good for you. So it would be kind of like a pizza, but loaded with really, really fresh veg, and maybe a tiny bit of vegan meat. I’m not vegan, but I’m trying to be healthy here. Oh, and there’d be loads of pineapples on it, cos it’s kind of savoury and sweet. It’s a mixture of the two – you can get serious, and you can get kind of laugh-y.”
Do you prefer the way to an exciting event or the way back?
RIYADH: “The way back, because I’m always late for everything. I’ll be late for my own wedding. And every journey to a big event is filled with anxiety, because I know that I’m probably going to miss the start of it. I was late to get here, too, so it’s a constant battle for me. But leaving, I can reminisce, and I can upload all my content that I captured there. Cos I never upload on the spot.”
If you were a scented candle, what would you smell like?
RIYADH: “Oh, Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, Jo Malone. It’s musky, it’s sweet, it’s sexy. It’s kind of signature scent, for me. I’ve been wearing that on my body and in my house for probably five years. And it’s got black wax, so it’s kind of like it’s deep and mysterious.”
What was the first song you ever bought?
RIYADH: “Samantha Mumba, Body II Body.”
That’s not even one of the good Samantha Mumba ones! [We have since relistened to Body II Body and ngl it does actually bang, sorry Riyadh/Samantha.]
RIYADH: “Fuck you, I love that song!”
It’s no Gotta Tell You. [We stand by this bit.]
RIYADH: “There were three songs on it and [Body II Body] was the main one – that was the lead single. So I bought it on a cassette tape, and I had a little cassette player, and I listened to it so much until the tape actually broke. Yeah, I loved it. And then I was in Texas, and I went into a gas station in the middle of the desert, and I found this dusty old cassette, the same one I had bought probably a decade before. It was amazing.”
When was the last time you got a dead arm?
RIYADH: “My boyfriend and I were having a play-fight in bed about two nights ago. I hit him, and then he hit me harder, and then we laughed. Then we made love.”
What do you think when you look at trees?
RIYADH: “I think, ‘What a wonder. What a beautiful, amazing, incredible wonder of nature.’ I am obsessed with trees. I really, really am. Like, as much as Judi Dench is. I fucking love trees.”
So that’s the dream – no more Queer Britain, it’ll be Riyadh Khalaf: My Passion for Trees?
RIYADH: “Oh yeah, I’m going to be like, ‘And this is Angela. She’s a 500-year-old oak.’ I think what I love about trees is that they’re older than us, a lot of them. They look like they’ve got a story to tell. They look like they’ve been weathered. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve seen what we haven’t seen. And by looking at them, you can tell so much about what time of the year it is, what the environment is like… It’s a home for birds… It gives back to the Earth once the leaves drop off… It’s just an incredible, incredible thing… Helps us breathe…”
Okay that’s everything, thank you. You had much more of an answer to that than I was expecting.