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THE RETROCRUSH INTERVIEW WITH SURVIVORMAN'S LES STROUD

Survivorman is one of my absolute favorite shows, and I've been trying to land an interview with the man behind it, Les Stroud for a long time. As you can imagine, he's usually eating barbecued turtle legs in some swamp, or fighting off spiders as big as your face in the jungle, so when I had 10 minutes for a phone interview at 5AM, I didn't hesitate to jump right on the chance to talk to one of the coolest guys on television.

So how are things going with Survivorman right now?

They're going very well. We're just sort of working on a possible third season, getting the deal on that and getting it out there.

What are some of the destinations you have in mind for Season 3?

We're looking at Papau New Guinea, Madagascar, The Sierra Nevadas, The Canadian Arctic, and Iceland. We have a few locations we're setting up just yet.

When you're lining these locations up, from your starting list to what you end up using, what sort of trial and error do you go through where you eventually have to weed a location out?

The locations are based on a couple of parameters. One is simply where I would like to go. But beyond that, when I find a location, I take a look at the eco-system and find one that hopefully I haven't experienced before, or if I have, that it presents new opportunities for survival. Different things that I haven't shown before. So even if it's in the jungle, that it's in a different type of jungle. How would I survive here? Those are the parameters when I figure out which place I'd like to go.

So, New Guinea that you've got lined up, are there still headhunters there?

(Laughs) I don't know. I'm sure there are still some deep and dark tribes down in there. I do know that in the Amazon there are still some tribes that are uncontacted, and I didn't think that was possible, so I don't know what I'm going to get just yet when I get to Papau New Guinea.

Yeah, it's pretty fascinating in this day and age that there's still some tribes out there that have seen relatively little outside contact.

Who would have thought that? I would have just assumed that everyone that could be found had been found and it turns out there are still some tribes that are uncontacted that have been hidden away. If you go in to find them alone, you might never come out alive. And if you go in with a group, you can't find them. They're gone. It's pretty interesting.

I was reading a bit about it and it said that quite some time ago you decided to abandon society for a period of time and just lived out in the wilderness. Could you tell me a little about that?

Are you talking about my year in the bush?

Yeah.

Well it wasn't so much abandoning society, not at all. In fact, it was more based on my love of adventure. And this was a honeymoon for my wife and I, and we spent a year living in the bush. We did it as if it were 500 years ago. No metal, no plastic, we tried to simulate the original natives lived in this area, and spent a whole year like that. It's still one of the best years of my life. It was an incredible experience.

One of the things that always impresses me about your show is just, not only surviving out there like that in these harsh environments, but from a camera operator's perspective, the maniacal dedication you have to getting those great shots. Like going back and forth across a river a 2-3 times just so you can get the right angle. Just setting those cameras up then bringing them back across like that. And in some cases you see your cameras take quite a beating by the time your week is through. What sort of changes with new camera technology are you looking to introduce in upcoming shows?

It's been pretty tricky to stay on top of what's been coming out, and what I can utilize. Because of the nature of where I go, it's pretty brutal on the equipment. Some of these cameras almost become disposable for me. So I have to be careful. I can't have an $8,000 disposable camera. The problem is, some of the new technology right now, they're going to the hard discs. Panasonic and Sony have the ability to record to hard disc. The problem with that is that it's still very expensive and takes a lot of power, and I've got to do a lot of downloading. You just can't do that out in the field. So I'll have to stick with Mini-DV tape another season yet, before they perfect the new technology so I can switch format to a new medium.

But as far as camera gear goes, I'm always looking for the latest stuff. I work with a company called Viosport out in California that makes great little cameras, and underwater cameras. I'm always looking for something new and cool that I can use on my show.

Aside from you playing the harmonica occasionally on the show, a lot of fans, especially American fans, aren't as familiar with the music that you do. Do you think we might see a little bit more of the music side, maybe with your band, in upcoming shows?

I don't think I'll be bringing the band into the show. But I'll tell you what I do have coming up, which is kind of a crossover, is putting together a world tour where I'll be coming to your town and there'll be 3 big screens on the stage and the band and I will be performing live in concert to images I've collected from all around the world. It's an evening of film and music with Les Stroud featuring the work that I've done with Survivorman and other adventures with a bit of storytelling, and music throughout the whole evening. So that's coming up around the corner. It's a nice blend between film and music that I love so much.

Is there one place that you're just burning to go to, but for one reason or another, maybe the countries rules or whatever are keeping you from going?

Well, abroad, permits are always tough. You've got to get all the right filming permits for these places. And the land permits are tough. I can't do anything that I can't do in a park. Some of these places have a lot of rules and regulations, and I'm glad that I'm there, but it means I can't do it there. If I so much as eat a grasshopper or trap a mouse, I'm breaking the law. I have to be careful that I get all the right permits, and that can be pretty tough to do, actually.

Well thank you so much. I love your show and it looks like it's just getting more and more popular. I wish you tremendous success with the future. Oh, and by the way, I heard you were working on some documentaries where you'll be retracing the steps of some historical trips an expeditions?

Yeah, one of the things I have up my sleeve that I'm working on is a thing called Stroud's Legends where, yes, it's a retracing of all the world's greatest explorers.

Wow, that would be pretty exciting to see. How close is that to coming about?

It's going to have to wait for Survivorman Season 3, once more.

Well good luck with that, and I hope you make it through another season!

Thank you very much! Take care!

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

NOTE: You can CLICK HERE to visit Les Stroud's official website, with tons of cool stuff, including many Survivorman and Non-Survivorman DVDs and merchandise.