On the evening of March 10, Christopher Bollen, the new editor in chief of Interview magazine, met with Off the Record over a cup of Earl Grey at Grounded, a coffee shop on Jane Street. Mr. Bollen, 32, was speaking about a long-lost era when some magazines were so good that it absolutely terrified you to miss a single issue.
“I think people used to feel that way about Interview,” he said. “And people used to feel that way about Details when it first started. There have been these magazines throughout time that people took seriously and felt left out if they didn’t read it. I don’t know where all that has gone.”
He flicked away a gnat that was flying near his head. “But it would be fun to get it back. I feel like I would fail if I just make Interview what it was, or just keep it on one track and then no one even notices a change. If you’re going to relaunch it, you have to go all out.”
Mr. Bollen was offered the editorship on March 4 by editorial director Glenn O’Brien (Ingrid Sischy—whom Mr. Bollen called “brilliant”—quit on Jan. 23, after a 19-year tenure) and said he might change virtually everything about the magazine that Andy Warhol launched in 1969: fonts, designs, contributors, trim size. “I think with anything that’s around for this long you have to keep fucking with the formula or people will kinda maybe get bored of it,” he said. “I think maybe it’s time to breathe new life into it.”
Mr. Bollen is as good-looking as a typical Interview subject: tall and slender, with short, coiffed hair, a few days of scruff on his face and a blue-inked tattoo of the electron atomic structure of carbon on the inside of his right forearm (a “college mistake,” he said). In crisp white oxford-cloth shirt by Adam Kimmel (“He’s my favorite designer”), gray Karl Lagerfeld sweater vest, Dior navy cords and Margiela brown shoes, he was an advertiser’s wet dream.
Yet to Mr. Bollen, for the past four years editor of V, a bimonthly magazine offshoot of Visionaire that catalogs the downtown fashion and art scene, magazines have been too long “pit stops for publicists.” He wants longer stories for Interview, where many pieces used to run at 200 to 300 words, and more radically, to shake up the magazine’s trademark format: celebrities interviewing other celebrities. “Too careful,” he said. Instead, he’s imagining out-of-context writers and celebrities interviewing one another, with a separate writer serving as a liaison to help “coax” revelations from subjects. Other possibilities: more from-the-ground coverage of downtown; a politics page; maybe even a sports page.
Essentially, Mr. Bollen, who has lived in Manhattan since he was an undergrad at Columbia in the late 1990’s majoring in English and American literature, wants to see the city back in the magazine. “The best and brightest people still move to New York,” he said, and they should have a platform. “That’s what I tried to do at V, which was very small. It was really kind of grass roots, where you’re talking to someone at a club and they’re telling you about this weird project they’re doing. And it’s like ‘O.K.? We’re sending a photographer over and we’re doing a story.’”
He rents in the West Village now, a quiet little yellow stucco cottage off West 12th Street, where he wakes up to birds humming in his backyard garden, which has a grill for summer roasts.
“A lot of magazines think they have to appeal to the least common denominator,” Mr. Bollen said. “You know, like, ‘Who’s gonna read this and is 40 and lives in Ohio?’ (I can say that because I’m from there). People want to read what’s going on, and people want to read about exciting stuff. Everyone doesn’t want to read the same interview because the same movie is happening.”
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